Chapter 2: Rivalry

Synergy, Ephesos, Dikiyoba, Randomizer, and Zeviz sat in the Nethergate Forum. Synergy flipped through his book eagerly. "So many options. What should I start with?"

"Spray acid!"

"I recommend starting with light. Simple and not much risk of mishap." Zeviz practiced a few gestures for the spell he was learning.

"It's kind of a useless spell, though. I want to learn something like haste or daze."

"Just start with light and work your way up, okay? The last thing we need is another crazy mage," Ephesos said.

"But it's Synergy--how would we tell?" Randomizer cackled.

"Because when the New Age buzzwords start flying, they'll be aimed directly at you." Synergy winked.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah."

Dikiyoba flipped through the alchemy book impatiently. "This is not helpful. Dikiyoba knows all of the useful ones already." Dikiyoba turned a page and came across a tattered and folded piece of paper. "What's this? It looks like it came from a different book."

Ephesos took it. "The format looks familiar, somehow. I might have looked through it recently. I'll go check." Ephesos left.

Zeviz scratched a quick rune on the ground. "Stay back. I'm attempting to create a barrier."

Everyone took a few steps away. Zeviz performed a complicated string of hand movements. The air above the rune began to shimmer.

Randomizer felt his skin tingle. "Wait!"

Zeviz let the beginnings of the barrier fade away. "What is it?"

"I don't know. It was weird, though. Go ahead and try again."

"All right."

Randomizer was ready this time. The moment the air began to shimmer, his hand shot out. A blast of white magic hit the shimmer, which faded away instantly.

"Antimagic," Zeviz said.

"Antimagic?"

"Yes."

"Aha!"

---

In the General Forum, Dintiradan checked the Deth Ray's sight to make sure it could be aimed at the main entrance, the stairs to the guard tower, or the Tech Support Forum. He wasn't happy. Once again, he was defending Spiderweb instead of taking it over. In fact, it was tempting to just join Ecksian. But Dintiradan would never be able to trust him, and bots did have a tendency to turn on their masters. No, it was better to hold Ecksian off and then take over the board immediately afterwards.

The Lurker yawned and leaned his head against the Deth Ray.

Dintiradan poked him. "Don't touch it. Go take a nap if you're tired, because we've got a lot to do tonight."

"You can't still be interested in that stat script."

"Shh! Of course I am. It's the best idea we've had in ages." Dintiradan gritted his teeth and started wiring a self-destruct button into the Deth Ray. As much as he hated to do it, there was simply no way he would let Ecksian get ahold of his Deth Ray.

Emperor Tullegolar had similar thoughts. "Azuma, take Nalyd and teach him as much as you can. I know a bunch of rats were buried in the G4 Forum. We're probably going to need to convert them all to undead after Ecksian has been defeated."

Azuma cringed. "O... okay. Come, Nalyd."

"Yay! Nalyd is so happy! Necromancy! Wait. Happiness is bad. Nalyd is so unhappy! Necromancy! Yay!"

Nicothodes sat slumped in a corner. "I looked everywhere and I still can't find it. It's gone."

"Well, you can just get another pencil, can't you?" Riibu asked.

"Not like it. Sherbiebaby gave it to me when we last parted."

"Oh. Well, I'm sure it will turn up eventually. In fact, I'll help you go look for it." Riibu walked away quickly.

Delicious Vlish, Alorael, Saunders, Thralni, and a few other Spiderwebbers stood near the door.

"No, Alorael. The fluffy turtles cannot carry you. You'll just have to walk," Saunders said.

"What? Me, walk? You must be joking."

Delicious Vlish sighed. "So, are we going to go anytime soon?"

Alorael sighed. "Fine. Let me go get some skribbane and then we'll go." Alorael left.

Nemesis joined the group. "I'm coming with you. Jeran won't shut up about the sword of his."

"I've heard you talking about your dainslaifs before," Saunders said.

"I know, but not nonstop. Just listen to him!"

"...surrounded by three huge demons. Most people would have died, but I knew what I had to do. I laughed and beheaded one of them in a single swing. The other two ran off, because they knew I'd be after them," said Jeran Korak.

"Impressive," Dryth'tor said.

"Ooh," Iffy said.

"Yeah. Happens a lot. Why, just last week..." Jeran Korak said.

Saunders shook her head.

"Can't you do anything about it?"

"Well, I suppose I can try. Leave your dainslaifs here and get an ordinary sword, would you?"

"Um, okay. Where is this going?"

"You'll see."

---

Stareye and Ephesos were in the Moderator Board. Ephesos searched through a stack of books. Stareye paced nervously as he spoke to Jeff through a communication crystal. "Sorry to bother you. Yes, I know. Do, um, you know anyone named Ecksian? Any threats? No weird e-mails? Good. Well, we're not sure, but we suspect he'll attack the board shortly. No, no, I think we can handle it. Just... just don't release A5 yet. We can't really deal an influx of new people at the moment. I don't know... maybe a week? Yes, I realize that. You... you will? Thanks a lot. No, no, that's fine. I'll call you again within a week. Thanks again. Bye." Stareye set the crystal down quickly.

"That sounded like it went well. No problems?" Ephesos asked.

"Not really. He wasn't happy, but he agreed to it. We aren't going to get the next shipment of supplies, though since it was supposed to come with the game release, but I think we can manage," Stareye said.

Alorael entered and threw a few skribbane potions into his inventory.

"Alorael," Stareye said, "While your group is out there, see what sort of supplies you can get ahold of. We're going to need whatever you can find."

---

Lazarus and Niemand sat in the Blades of Avernum Editor Forum. Crumpled pieces of paper were scattered all around them.

"I sure wish Ephesos or Nikki were available to help us," Lazarus said. "We're so close, but I'm all out of ideas."

"Well, go find Kelandon or Nemesis or someone then."

Lazarus stood up. "I think I will."

---

"Did you take Nicothodes' mechanical pencil?" Schrodinger asked.

"No," the Mystic said.

"Let me search your bag."

"You can't do that."

"Yes, I can."

"Fine!" The Mystic kicked his bag over, spilling everything out. "See? It's not there! Look all you want, but I didn't take it."

"Did you hide it somewhere, perhaps?"

"No! Look, it's not my fault somebody's stuff went missing, okay? So I stole some stuff before. So what? This time, I didn't steal the pencil."

Riibu was passing through the Tech Support Forum and overheard part of the conversation. She stopped. "Um... Schrodinger, um, you don't, you know, have any proof he t... took it or anything, so, um, you, um, have no reason, er, to accuse him of it. In... in... in fact, I bet he's willing to help me look for it."

"What? I most certainly am not!"

"Oh, s... sorry. I... I thought you might. Well, you can just stay here, I guess."

The Mystic looked at Schrodinger. "You're right. It is a good idea." He followed Riibu into the Announcements Forum. "Thanks for getting me out of there."

"N... no problem." Riibu thought about telling him that she had taken the pencil, but that would cause too many problems. It was best to keep silent for now. "I really am looking for it though, so I guess I'll see you later." Riibu stepped into the Geneforge 4: Forum.

---

Ephesos returned, carrying a battered and dirty book. "Well, I found it. It has a section on creating spell scrolls, so I figured you'd be interested." He handed it to Dikiyoba. "Just be careful with it. It's seen better days."

"Spell scrolls! So I can still cast my favorite spell!" Randomizer said.

"Well, if you do want spell scrolls, Dikiyoba will need lots of paper, ink, and a quill. It recommends against using anything else, for some reason."

"I'll get right on it. Then I'll test my antimagic spell on Zephyr. One of the new guys is a necromancer too, right? This is going to be fun!" Randomizer ran off.

Synergy created a spark that immediately flickered out. "Incredible!"

Ephesos glanced at the divine restoration spell and slammed the book shut in frustration. "Why does this spell have to be so ridiculously complicated?"

---

Back in the General Forum, Saunders approached Jeran Korak. "So, I hear you've got a pretty nice sword."

"Pretty nice? It's the best. It's got three times the chance of a critical hit and..."

"I don't need to hear what it does. Because the power of the sword doesn't matter. It's how the person uses it that does."

"Pff. What's your sword, then?"

"+15 fluffiness. No more, no less. It's served me very well."

"What kind of enchantment is fluffiness?"

"Now, see, you're missing my point. Turn around."

Jeran Korak turned around and found Nemesis' ordinary sword at his throat.

"You see what I mean?" Saunders asked.

"Yeah. That'll teach you to wave your gigantic Final Fantasy sword in other people's faces." Nemesis smirked.

Jeran Korak pushed Nemesis' blade aside with one hand and punched him in the face with the other. "It is not a Final Fantasy sword! It's my sword!" He drew it and swung at Nemesis. Nemesis parried.

Andraste nudged Salmon. "500 meat that Nemesis wins."

"Deal."

Nemesis blocked or dodged all of Jeran Korak's attacks easily. "Come on, at least make it something of a challenge."

"Give in to your anger, Jeran!" Emperor Tullegolar said.

"Psh. Star Wars references are so last year, you know," Salmon said.

"Stop!" Saunders yelled.

Nemesis and Jeran Korak halted.

"I don't want to see any more fighting," Saunders said.

"He started it!" Nemesis said.

"No, you started it," Jeran Korak said.

"Enough."

Nemesis and Jeran Korak glared at each other for a moment more, then walked to opposite sides of the forum.

"You owe me 500 meat," Salmon said.

"Do not. Saunders broke the fight up, so it doesn't count."

"You didn't make an exception for the fight being broken up. Therefore, you still owe me 500 meat."

"Oh, fine. I'll send it to you tonight."

Randomizer approached them. "Salmon, do you happen to have a spare fishing rod I could borrow?"

"Maybe. It depends on what you want it for."

"Dikiyoba is trying to make spell scrolls, and for that you need a quill. I don't think we have any, so we'll need to make one. And I figure there's only one place to get a decent feather." Randomizer indicated Emperor Tullegolar's hat.

Andraste tried not to laugh. "We should totally do it. Right, Salmon?"

"Well... I suppose I'm convinced. Let me go get it."