Chapter 13: Making Muffins Cower

Dintiradan and the Lurker peered into the Geneforge Forum. The demon muffin was scavenging anything remotely edible.

"Didn't we just do this with Zephyr?" Dintiradan groaned.

"Technically, those were imps and a regular demon, not--"

"You know what I mean. So, do you see Iffy anywhere?"

"No, but don't you see the fangs on that thing? I think it's pretty obvious what happened to him."

"Right, right. Normally, I'd suggest that you hit it with Homeland a couple of times, but it's a demon muffin, so it's probably immune to soul-crushing, sanity-destroying, brain-killing, kitten-murdering, just-plain-awful damage," Dintiradan said.

"Oh, come on. Homeland isn't that bad."

"No, it's worse. Anyway, I guess we just have to slip by it somehow, before it runs out of things to eat here and comes looking in the Blades of Avernum Forum. Or goes to eat everyone in the General Forum. Lead the way."

"I don't think that will work," the Lurker said.

"Why? Are you faster than me or something?" Dintiradan asked.

---

EcksianBot and Zeviz arrived at Ermarian.

"Head to the Endeavor Room. EndeavorBot will ask you what you want. And probably a bunch of other questions too; it's kind of lonely. Give it the form, tell it to hurry, and ignore the other conversation." EcksianBot pulled Zeviz's hood low over his face to conceal his blank expression.

"Braains?"

"Er... I don't think you're supposed to say that. Now go."

Zeviz shuffled into EndeavorBot's office.

"Oh! Hey! Hi! How are you?" EndeavorBot was delighted.

Zeviz held out the request form. "Hurry."

"Oh, yes. Of course I'll hurry. Er... are you sure we can't talk for a while first? I mean--"

"Hurry," Zeviz repeated.

"Okay, okay. Sit down; I'll be right back with my Master." But EndeavorBot showed no sign of leaving.

"Braaains?"

"Oh, yes. He's very smart. But I suppose you know that already, being a member of Spiderweb and all."

"Hurry!"

"Well, aren't you the cheery one? I'm going." EndeavorBot flew out the window.

Outside, Ecksian had joined EcksianBot. They saw EndeavorBot leave.

Ecksian checked his dagger. "Let's go."

---

EndeavorBot flew through the upper window of Spiderweb. Alorael was asleep in his chair, his sniper rifle held like a teddy bear. It flew into the General Forum and poked Arancaytar awake.

"What do you want?" Arancaytar grumbled.

EndeavorBot held out the request form.

"Look, I know privacy is important and all, but it's the middle of the night. Why didn't you wait until morning?"

"He told me to hurry."

"Okay, who is it?" Arancaytar looked at the signature. "Hmmmph. He must have accidentally released something. Is he waiting there?"

"I think so."

"Right. Let's go."

"Are you sure I can't stay and--"

"No."

Dintiradan burst into the General Forum. "Demon muffin in the Geneforge Forum!"

Arancaytar ran for the door. "Come quickly!"

Spiderwebbers crawled out of their bedrolls as the door slammed shut behind Arancaytar.

"Did I hear you say 'demon muffin'?" Stareye asked.

Dintiradan sighed. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but yes. In the Geneforge Forum. Really vicious. The Lurker and I were trying to get back here to warn you when the muffin attacked us. The Lurker, er, tripped and the muffin killed him before he could rise."

"Who will volunteer to hunt the, uh, demon muffin?" Drakefyre asked.

"If we find Iffy, are we allowed to kill him?" Tyranicus asked.

"No," Stareye said.

"Can I at least hurt him really badly?"

"No. But thanks for volunteering."

"But I didn't--"

"What use is Tyranicus? He'll just get killed," Shard of Fire said.

"And you too."

Shard of Fire sighed.

"I'll go," Slartucker said.

"Thank you. Imban, will you go with them?"

Imban shrugged. "Sure."

---

"Stay away!" Garbage Gatherer repeated. Behind her, the nymphs were all hiding underneath Filth Finder.

A regular giant rat pulled on the blue rat's tail. "Come on back, H'uk'n'l. Don't frighten them."

H'uk'n'l stepped out of the alley. The giant rat coughed nervously. "Sorry about that. We didn't mean to scare you. We just have a few questions to ask."

"What sort of questions?" Garbage Gatherer asked.

"It's a long story. Basically, someone stole our plans for a defensive bot and we think whoever it was is in this area and attempting to create these bots. Have you seen anything--"

"Yes!" Filth Finder said.

"You have? Excellent!"

"But while I want to see him dealt with, as he's responsible for killing one of my children, I'm not entirely sure I want you to be the ones who do it," Filth Finder said.

"What do you mean?" the giant rat asked.

"The only group of rats I know of that come in rainbow colors attacked Spiderweb, murdered my wife, and killed many of my children."

"Dear!" Garbage Gatherer said.

"Uh... well, while we are, er, were the group of rats that..."

"Excuse me, coming through." A very young purple rat pushed her way past H'uk'n'l and the giant rat. "What he is trying to say is that Attorosi is dead. His closest followers are all dead. Almost all of the rats who participated in the attack are dead. We are a completely different group of rats now. And while we will gladly make whatever reparations we can, we cannot be held responsible for a crime we didn't commit. Please, come with us to the rest of our group and tell us what you know about the thief. He's already murdered one of us and one of your nymphs. Who else would he kill?"

Filth Finder and Garbage Gatherer looked at each other.

"There is safety in numbers," Garbage Gatherer said, "And even if we can't warn Spiderweb, they can."

"Lead the way," Filth Finder said.

---

Arancaytar pushed the door to EndeavorBot's office open. Zeviz sat motionless at the desk, his face obscured by shadow.

EndeavorBot darted into the room and hovered in Zeviz's face. "Yay! You waited!"

"EndeavorBot, leave him alone. Now, let's see..." Arancaytar stepped into the room, pulled out the request form, and looked at it closely for the first time. "Wait, you came here this late at night to release information? All of it? That seems rather odd for you."

"Braaains?"

Arancaytar took a step back. "What the--"

Ecksian had been hiding behind the door. Now he crept up behind Arancaytar and quickly slit his throat. EndeavorBot screeched and swooped at Ecksian. He grabbed the bot and smashed it against a file cabinet repeatedly. "EcksianBot, go to the archives and start looking for the information I need."

"But what if PiperBot sees me?"

"I dealt with it already." Ecksian tossed EndeavorBot's remains into a corner.

"Oh. Okay." EcksianBot left.

Ecksian pulled a set of keys from Arancaytar's pocket. "Zombie!"

"Braaains?"

"Quit that! Go downstairs and watch for intruders. Stay where no one can see you and come get me if someone enters."

"Braaaains?"

"I don't care how many extra A's you stick in, it's still the same word and you are not allowed to say it!"

Zeviz shambled off.

---

Imban, Slartucker, Tyranicus, and Shard of Fire stepped into the Geneforge Forum. The demon muffin was gnawing on a branch pulled from one of the wiry trees that grew profusely in the Geneforge Forum. Several other trees had already been eaten down to ground level.

Slartucker stepped forward. "Udder destruction!"

A blast of energy struck the demon muffin, knocking it down. Imban rushed in and stabbed it several times. The demon muffin chomped down on Imban's sword, snapping it. Imban backed away quickly as the muffin spat out the broken blade.

"That's never a good sign." Tyranicus launched a javelin.

Shard of Fire slung several rocks. One hit, stunning the muffin. Imban stabbed the muffin again with the broken sword.

"Out of the way, Imban!" Slartucker yelled, "BOVINE THUD!!!"

Imban rolled out of harm's way as a giant cow fell from the sky onto the muffin and bounced away, leaving behind something that looked more like a pancake than a muffin.

"Is it finally dead?" Tyranicus asked.

Imban prodded it a few times. "I think so."

"Do you think Iffy is around here somewhere?" Shard of Fire asked.

Slartucker held up the shredded remains of one of Iffy's shoes. "I doubt it."

Tyranicus leaned against a tree. "Good."

A limb held to the rest of the tree by only a few splinters suddenly snapped and landed on Tyranicus' head. Slartucker and Imban hurried over to pull it off of him.

"Who wants to take bets on whether that branch killed Tyranicus or not?" Shard of Fire asked.

"What's the point in betting?" Imban asked, "His neck is clearly broken."