Chapter 17: Woad Of Bull

Slartucker carried Tyranicus to the Avernum 4 Forum, where he was sure he wouldn't be disturbed. He set Tyranicus down gently. "Oh, Nine-Headed Cave Cow, I humbly request that you reincownate Tyranicus. Graze dead!"

Slartucker waited for several minutes. Nothing happened.

He sighed. "Oh, cowerful Nine-Headed Cave Cow, it is I, Slartucker, your humbull and faithful servant. It behooves me to ask you to reincownate Tyranicus, for people are disappearing and no one knows why. There is much at steak and he may be able to provide us with answers. So if you would reincownate him, I shall be udderly grateful. Graze dead!"

A sudden breeze, smelling of hay, blew through the forum and ruffled Tyranicus' hair.

---

Schrodinger placed his hand on the scanner. The security system recognized him and the door to the Moderator Board unlocked. He stepped inside.

"Oh good. You aren't missing," Stareye said.

"What exactly is going on?" Schrodinger asked, "Nikki told me to come here. He seemed pretty upset."

"People are missing, presumed dead, and we don't know why at the moment," Drakefyre said, "Arancaytar is one of them."

"Oh. Has there been any attempt to revive them?"

"There are a few... complications preventing that," Stareye said.

"I'll grab Student of Trinity and we'll resume work on the summoning machine then," Schrodinger said.

"Yes. You two focus on that," Stareye said.

Schrodinger turned to leave and found himself face-to-face with Slartucker.

Slartucker stepped inside. "I've got good news and bad news."

"Well, tell us," Kelandon said.

"The good news is that I was able to revive Tyranicus. The bad news is he can only speak in the native tongue of the Nine-Headed Cave Cow." Slartucker opened the door all the way, revealing Tyranicus.

"Oh my!" Saunders said.

Schrodinger gasped.

Alorael started laughing.

Tyranicus had been brought back to life as a blue bull.

---

Andraste stared at the Periodic Table idly. Then an idea struck her. "Hey, Thralni, you don't happen to have your chemistry set around still, do you?"

"No, I'm afraid I sold to get the money to attend a Trivium concert a few months ago."

"Hmm. Oh well, we can still revive a few people. There has to be a bar of silver and lead around here somewhere. And isn't copper used in pipes?"

"Copper wire might be easier to get," Student of Trinity said.

Schrodinger poked his head into the General Forum. "Hey, SoT. I need your help with the summoning machine."

"Coming." Student of Trinity exited.

"I'll go look for the silver and lead." Thralni exited as well.

"But none of this is going to help Aran! It's not like there are bars of osmium in Avernum, you know!" Nikki said.

"Hmm." Niemand looked thoughtful.

Andraste shrugged. "It's enough to get started, at least." She picked up her clubs. "Now, where's the best place to look for copper pipes...?"

---

Tyranicus mooed angrily and stepped towards Alorael.

Alorael quickly got his laughter under control. "Sorry."

"We're so proud of you," Saunders said.

"So, back on topic, we have Tyranicus back but no way to understand him?" Drakefyre asked.

"At the moment, yes. Cave cow is one of the most difficult languages out there. I know surface cow reasonably well, but the inflection is totally different. Still, give me some time and I think I could..."

Slartucker was interrupted by hammering on the door.

"What is it?" Drakefyre asked.

"Andraste broke the sink! Water's going everywhere! The kitchen is flooding!" Dryth'tor said.

Stareye sighed. "I'll take care of it." He went over to the Admin Panel and flipped a switch.

---

Andraste was up to her ankles in water. With one hand, she tried to hand Zorro the piece of copper pipe she had smashed free. With the other, she attempted to stem the flow of water.

Zorro stood well away from the spray of water.

"Just take it!" Andraste threw the copper. It landed at Zorro's feet. He picked it up, dried it off, and stuck it into Galactic Core. There was a flash of light and Ephesos appeared.

"Yay!" Andraste said.

Ephesos hurried out of the way of the spraying water. "What is going on?" He looked down at his bare feet. "And where are my boots?"

The water pressure dwindled until the water flow stopped completely.

"Double yay!" Andraste said.

"You know, copper wire would have worked just as well and wouldn't have gotten us so wet," Zorro said, "Scratch that, you probably would have electrocuted us both."

"Well, thanks Andraste and Zorro," Ephesos said, "Are the admins around?"

Stareye pulled the kitchen door open. "What's going on? Ephesos!"

"Right. That takes care of that. Stareye, there's someone plotting against Spiderweb."

"Who?"

"I'm not exactly sure. Jewels called him 'Ecksian'. He's trying to create an army of bots. But we can stop him now, before his army is built up."

---

Ecksian was taking a break for brunch. He reviewed a few of the latest threads while eating a cheese sandwich from the rats' supplies. He nearly choked on it when he saw the one called Ephesos had been revived and was reporting to Stareye. He threw down the sandwich and ran downstairs to the archives.

"Stop what you are doing! Pack up! Pack up! We've got to move aga--" Ecksian tripped over a sheet of metal and fell into a bookcase. The bookcase swung sideways, revealing a trapdoor.

Ecksian pulled the trapdoor open and peered down. It was too dark to see anything. He pointed to a couple of bots. "You two, grab a torch each and follow me."

---

Thralni returned to the General Forum with silver and lead from the Avernum Trilogy Forum. He handed the bars to Zorro and stared at the well-armed group of Spiderwebbers standing in the middle of the forum. "What's going on?"

"They're going to take care of the guy and his bots who killed Ephesos." Zorro revived Salmon almost absently.

Salmon looked around. "Hmm. So there's Ephesos. Funny shoes, though. Where's Tyranicus?"

"You'll see eventually." Zorro scratched an eyebrow before reviving Lazarus.

"Where are my swords?" Lazarus demanded.

Ephesos joined the group. "It happened to me too. Just go find a replacement. Hurry, Drakefyre's getting impatient and he wants you to go along."

"Why me?" Lazarus asked.

"You know where the abandoned message board is," Ephesos said.

"Okay, then." Lazarus headed toward the Tech Support Forum.

Salmon pointed at Ephesos' bright red sandals. "So I take it your boots went missing?"

Ephesos looked slightly embarrassed. "Yes."

"Huh. I'm glad nothing of mine is missing," Salmon said, "Well, except for my fishing rod, but it was broken, so I was expecting that."

"Yeah."

"Oh, cheer up. Put on a Santa hat and you're ready for Crimbo," Salmon said.

"Er, what?"

"You know, all red and green and festive."

Ephesos stared at Salmon blankly.

"Oh, never mind."

Lazarus returned, armed with a shortsword. He joined the group.

"Good. Let's go. Lead the way, Lazarus," Drakefyre said.

"Um, okay." Lazarus opened the door and stepped out of the message board.

---

Ecksian stared at the underground room. It was huge and decidedly non-euclidean. A copy of the Necronomicon sat on a pedestal in the middle of the room. Elsewhere, there were notes, blueprints, and half-finished projects.

"Hmm. He was quite the tinkerer, wasn't he?" Ecksian asked.

The bots looked at each other in confusion.

"Yes?"

"No?"

"Never mind," Ecksian said, "This is the perfect place to hide out. Let's head back up. You two will help me move all the useful files out of the Endeavor room and bringing them here."

---

Drakefyre, Lazarus, and the other Spiderwebbers approached the abandoned message board carefully.

"Is there a back way out?" Drakefyre asked.

Lazarus shook his head.

"All right. Thuryl, check Shadow Vale. Andraste, Smoo, check around back to make sure we aren't missing anything," Drakefyre said.

"Aww, but I'll miss all the good fighting," Andraste said.

Drakefyre glared at her.

"All right, we're going," Smoo said.

"Imban, get us inside," Drakefyre said.

Imban kicked the door in. Everyone charged inside, yelling wildly and brandishing their weapons.

Nioca looked around and dropped his hands. "This place is empty."

"Thank you for stating the obvious," Rakshasi said.

Lenar opened the window and looked out. "You just have to be different, don't you?"

The Silent Assassin sat on the ground below the window, rubbing his head.

Lazarus motioned outside. "Arancaytar said he was killed in Ermarian. Maybe Ecksian is hiding there."

Around back, Andraste picked up a leaf. "Where did this come from, do you think?"

Smoo shrugged. "From an oak tree. Where else do oak leaves come from?"

"But there are no oak trees nearby!"

"The wind blew them here?"

"No, it couldn't have. These leaves are green still, not dried up."

"What do you think it means, then?" Smoo asked.

"I think it means I should have put more points into nature lore. There's something odd here but I can't tell what," Andraste said.

Chrrrk!

Smoo knelt down. "It's a cricket. Are you one of Ephesos'?"

The cricket nodded and pointed at the ground. Other crickets crawled out from under leaves and pointed at the ground too.

"What do they want?" Smoo asked.

"I think they want us to dig," Andraste said.

The crickets nodded.

"I'll go get some of the others," Smoo said.

Andraste used her club as a rather ineffective shovel. "You do that."

---

Tyranicus paced the Moderator Board impatiently.

Randomizer sat in a corner, meditating. He opened his eyes. "Do you mind? I'm trying to concentrate!"

Tyranicus snorted at him.

"Fine. I'll go elsewhere." Randomizer got up and stormed out of the room, nearly bumping into Slartucker and Ephesos.

Ephesos grabbed a book off the shelf. "I don't know anything about shapeshifting, Slartucker. This book might have something, but I doubt it." He looked at Tyranicus. "Still, I'll try."