Chapter 2: Some Mages Never Learn...

Sometime during the night, Dintiradan awoke with a start. Some inner sense warned him that something was wrong. He sat up, smacked the Lurker awake, and peered through the darkness.

Click click.

"What's going on?" the Lurker muttered sleepily.

"Shh!" Dintiradan said.

Click click.

Other people were stirring now, making it difficult for Dintiradan to focus on the noise.

Click click.

Then Dintiradan realized what the sound was. Claws. Big claws. A monster was loose in the General Forum.

"Chrrrk! Chrrrk!" Ephesos' crickets had realized it too and sounded the alarm.

"Light! We need light!" Dintiradan yelled.

Zeviz held up a glowing orb of light, revealing a huge demon. The demon snarled and lunged at him. Zeviz scrambled out of the way. The orb flickered out, plunging the forum back into darkness.

Dintiradan groaned. He hated any mayhem that didn't bring him one step closer to conquering the board. He found a torch and struggled to light it. Around him, people searched blindly for weapons. Finally, it flared to life.

"Repel spirit! Repel spirit!" Bolts of green magic flew from Ephesos' hands and blasted into the demon. The demon roared in pain and sent an arc of lightning at Ephesos. He threw himself into the ground and the lightning slammed into the wall directly behind him.

Student of Trinity snatched up his sling and launched three rocks in quick succession. All three bonked off the demon's head, causing it to stagger wildly.

"If I can handle demon muffins, I can deal with this demon too!" Iffy ran towards the demon.

"Out of the way, you idiot!" Tyranicus snapped as he tried to aim a javelin.

The demon whirled around and launched another lightning bolt at Tyranicus. Distracted by Iffy, he didn't see it until too late.

"Not aga--!" The lightning killed Tyranicus instantly.

Lord Grimm's scythe sliced off one of the demon's hands and the Silent Assassin plunged his dagger into the demon's back. Another repel spirit from Ephesos and a potent spray acid from Randomizer brought the demon down. Its corpse burned away until only a small pile of ashes foul-smelling smoke was left.

"Whew! I don't think I've had that much excitement in a long time," Lord Grimm said.

The Silent Assassin glared at him.

"Yes, I remember the cream pie traps you set up all over. But those were exciting in a different way," Lord Grimm said quickly.

Ephesos knelt by Tyranicus' body and pulled out a Balm of Life.

Stareye looked around. "I don't know how a demon could have gotten in except by a mage's summoning. Randomizer and Zeviz are here. Archmagus Micael hasn't been seen in a while, which leaves..."

"Zephyr," Drakefyre growled, "Remember the vampire he 'accidentally' summoned last week?"

Tyranicus sputtered on excess potion and opened his eyes. "I certainly did not appreciate being sucked dry by that thing."

"But where would Zephyr be?" Riibu resumed visibility now that the danger was past.

"I don't know, but we need to find him," Stareye said.

"Yaaay!" Andraste ran into the next forum, waving a club around wildly. People followed at their own pace until only Tyranicus, Ephesos, Riibu, Zeviz, and Stillness were left.

Stillness looked stunned. "Was... was that a demon?"

"Yep. Welcome to Spiderweb Software, leave your sanity at the door," Ephesos said.

"Tyranicus, how many times have one of Zephyr's experiments killed you?" Zeviz asked.

"Three, no wait, four times this month alone."

Zeviz scowled. "I've had it with Zephyr being irresponsible with his power and giving mages a bad name." He strode off towards the Tech Support Forum.

Well, I basically agree, but don't you think your odds of catching him are a bit low with everyone else already ahead of you?" Ephesos caught up to him. Tyranicus and Stillness trailed behind.

"Don't mind me," Riibu said as they left the forum, "I'll just keep the forum safe from, um, marauding dustbunnies or anything like that."

---

Zeviz, Ephesos, Tyranicus, and Stillness stopped short when the entered the Announcements Forum. The hallway was a mass of Spiderwebbers fighting a horde of imps.

"Frack," Tyranicus said.

"It looks like my odds just improved. See you later." Zeviz slipped unnoticed through the battle until he found Randomizer. Randomizer cackled loudly as he shot a glob of acid at an imp flying overhead. The imp fell, screeching.

"Random, we need to find Zephyr and deal with him before he summons anything else," Zeviz said.

Randomizer grinned ferally. "By blasting him, you mean?"

"Um, I was going to start by talking to him, but if that becomes necessary, then..."

"Great!" Randomizer grabbed Zeviz's sleeve and pulled him to the other side of the imps. An imp saw them leave, but before it could point them out, it was bashed senseless by a blow from Andraste. Three imps leapt at Andraste, but she bashed one of them. Another was brought down by an arrow shot by Marlenny.

The third ducked Andraste's next blow. "You post slower than a quadriplegic mailman!"

"Say what?" Andraste asked, faltering for a moment.

The imp ran. Andraste managed a glancing blow to its back before it slipped away.

Another imp sized up Dintiradan. "Hey helmet-head, what are you going to do, tell me 'None shall pass' and bite my kneecaps off?"

Dintiradan looked bored. "Nonsense. I have minions to do that."

The Lurker came out of nowhere and slammed the imp over the head with Homeland, killing it instantly.

Yet another imp pointed at Arancaytar. "Whoa! Stop the battle! This guy has to lecture me on the technical aspects of wands for the next hour!"

"I do not--" Arancaytar nocked an arrow to his bow. "--look like--" He pulled the bow back and aimed it at the imp. "--Harry Potter!" He released the arrow with a loud twang.

The imp quickly grabbed Tyranicus and pulled him into the path of the arrow. Arancaytar dropped his bow with a sigh and drew his dagger as another imp lept at him.

Finally, only one battered imp was left, ringed by Spiderwebbers.

"Do we have to kill him?" Dintiradan asked, envisioning another minion forced to help in his quest for world domination. "Couldn't we enslave it to do some of our grunt work instead?"

"Hmm. Do you think it could serve as a replacement for Cheeseball?" Nioca asked.

The imp bared its fangs at Dintiradan. "Do you really think I'd submit to fetching and sweeping for a human? I may be forced to work for haakai and liches, but I'll never work for you!" It spread its wings and flew at Ephesos, screeching, "Hey, you stupid hippy, I bet you couldn't even fight your way out of a tree!"

Ephesos raised a hand in preparation for a spell. "Not a hippy. Druid."

The imp managed to stick its tongue out at Dintiradan before it was blasted back to the netherworld by Ephesos' spell.

---

Meanwhile, Zeviz and Randomizer were cautiously crossing the Avernum 4 Forum.

"What is that object up ahead?" Randomizer asked.

"I don't know."

It turned out to be the body of a giant intelligent friendly talking roach.

"Poor thing. It looks like the imps got the best of it," Zeviz said.

"Good riddance." Randomizer rolled his eyes.

Zeviz looked around uneasily. He had a feeling they were being watched. "There's nothing we can do here. Let's keep moving."

When the mages were gone, three GIFTR emerged from the darkness and scurried over to the dead roach's side.

"Sis!" Grime Grubber cried.

"What do we do now?" Garbage Gather asked.

"Gather up the rest of the nymphs. We'll give Sewage Spotter a proper burial, and then we'll get out here," Filth Finder said, "First the thing, then the rats, and now the imps. This place may be dark and quiet, but it is not a safe place to raise children. Oh, and if anyone gets the opportunity, spit in the short mage's food."