Chapter 3: Enough Is Enough

In the Exile Trilogy Forum, Zephyr Tempest lit five candles and placed one at each tip of a massive pentagram. Then he looked up and groaned.

"Hello." Nalyd drifted just a few feet away.

"I summoned a huge hoard of imps and sent them after you. How could they all fail to eat you?" Zephyr Tempest demanded.

Nalyd just shrugged.

"Okay, fine. Since I obviously can't get rid of you, you'll have to help me. I can't be interrupted once I start the summoning spell. You saw what happened when you distracted me while I was summoning that demon, and the creature I'm summoning now is much more powerful. The vampire and demon were just practice."

"What is it? A lich?"

"Nope. It's something much more powerful than that. But first, I'll summon a few imps and send you with them to the Avernum Trilogy Forum to make sure no one gets in here."

"But Nalyd wants to see what you are doing. He is curious."

"Well, you can't. But you will be first to see it once I've summoned it."

"Hooray! Now where are those imps?"

---

Now that the imps in the Announcements Forum were defeated, Nioca and Ephesos patched up the wounded. Tyranicus, Actaeon, Niemand, and Jewels had all been killed by the imps. Drakefyre and Stareye looked over the survivors.

"Do you think Zephyr managed to summon anything else, or was this it?" Drakefyre asked.

Stareye shrugged. "I don't know."

"Well, I'm taking a small group of Spiderwebbers after him. It'll be quicker to capture him that way. Oi! Imban, Thuryl, Slartucker, Student of Trinity! Come with me!"

---

Zeviz and Randomizer entered the Avernum Trilogy Forum cautiously. It was unoccupied, but a large pentagram caught their attention.

Zeviz knelt down to inspect it closely. "Well, it's breached." He pointed out the scorch marks that wiped out one section of the pentagram.

"Not surprising, really."

"Actually, I am surprised Zephyr lost control of the demon. Not only is this pentagram unusually large, but it's also competently done."

Nalyd entered the forum, leading a dozen imps. Randomizer spotted them immediately.

"Zeviz, we've got company."

Nalyd drew two bone daggers. Randomizer and Zeviz cast haste on themselves. The imps charged wildly.

"Lookit that, two mages without meatshields!"

"I love easy battles!"

"Raaargh!"

Randomizer and Zeviz waited calmly until the imps were in range before launching a barrage of acid and lightning at them. Three imps fell but the rest scattered to avoid being an easy target.

Zeviz blasted another imp out of the air with a lightning bolt. "Retreat slowly, Randomizer. Don't let them get behind us."

Randomizer took a few steps back and hit a fifth imp with his spray acid spell. Suddenly, Nalyd threw himself at Randomizer. Randomizer winced as a blade grazed his side.

Zeviz brought down the sixth imp. Another one jumped onto his back and reached around in an attempt to dig its claws into his neck. Zeviz grabbed its hands and attempted to pull it off. Yet another imp tackled his legs, causing him to collapse. "Random, help!"

Randomizer dodged Nalyd's next strike and kneed him in the groin. Nalyd stumbled back and collapsed. Randomizer whirled around, took careful aim, and doused both of the imps in acid without getting any on Zeviz. The imps shrieked and thrashed about for a moment before dying.

The remaining four imps ran for the Blades of Exile Forum.

"Get back here and help!" Nalyd snapped. Zeviz trapped him in a forcecage. Nalyd fumed and struggled uselessly.

"Are you okay?" Zeviz asked.

Randomizer held his side. "Could be worse. How about you?"

"A few scratches. I'll be fine. What do we do about the surviving imps and Nalyd?"

"The imps will be trounced by the first group of people they run into. I vote we let the imps go, kill Nalyd so he can't attack us again, and go after Zephyr."

"I can't just kill him when he's trapped and helpless like that."

"Yeah, you really need to get him out of that forcecage so you can aim properly."

"That's not what I meant."

"Fine, let him go. But if he attacks us later, it's not my fault."

Zeviz let the forcecage dissolve away. "Nalyd, what is Zephyr planning?"

Nalyd stared sullenly at him.

Randomizer raised his hands to cast spell. "He asked, what is--"

Nalyd answered. "He's trying to summon something really big. I don't know what."

"Bigger than the demon?" Randomizer looked stunned.

"Nalyd, get out of here. Randomizer, we have to stop him!" Zeviz sprinted for the Exile Trilogy Forum.

---

Zephyr Tempest stood near the pentagram. His eyes shone an icy blue as he finished a complex incantation. Then the pentagram began to shine the same color as his eyes.

Zeviz and Randomizer entered unnoticed and stopped short, horrified, as a small split opened above the pentagram.

"Yes! Yes! Come forth, mighty snorguff! I, Zephyr Tempest, have released you from your snowy prison! Come forth and serve me!"

"A what?" Randomizer asked.

Zeviz shrugged. "I don't know. Whatever it is, we can't let it escape. Any ideas on how to close that portal?"

"Destroy the pentagram?"

"That might do it."

The portal widened, revealing an overcast sky and a ground buried in snow. A huge beast covered in shaggy white fur approached it.

"Now!" Zeviz launched a massive fireball at the pentagram, charring most of it out of existence. The split almost closed up, but the creature grabbed the edges of it with its seven-clawed paws and began to slowly push it apart again.

"Nooo!" Zephyr Tempest launched a spray of sharp, icy darts at the other mages. Zeviz cast a jet of fire that evaporated them in midair. Randomizer cast an acid spell at the beast's paws. Some of the hair fizzled off but it was otherwise unharmed.

"The snorguff is immune to acid, fire, ice, lightning, physical damage, mind control, and anything else you can think of!" Zephyr Tempest shrieked, casting another spell.

"Where are you getting this from?!" Randomizer dodged the ice chunks and fired an acid spell back.

Zeviz stared at the portal, racking his brain for a way to close it. The creature had opened it almost wide enough to climb through. Maybe a... yes, an antimagic field would definitely work. He launched the spell. It collided with the portal in a blinding flash of light. Sparks and the smell of ozone filled the air. The creature struggled to hold the portal open. The sparks crackled even more viciously. Then the beast lost its grip and the split healed itself with a resounding zap.

"Noooooo!" Zephyr Tempest completely snapped. He cast a spray of huge icicles at Zeviz. There were far too many to dodge or melt. Zeviz didn't stand a chance. Zephyr Tempest prepared to cast a spell at Randomizer next, but Randomizer had already launched a glob of acid him.

---

The four Spiderwebbers that had fallen to the imps sat in a circle, talking quietly.

"Why aren't the mages or Ephesos reviving us?" Actaeon asked.

Zeviz fell into the forum and slammed into the ground. Jewels and Niemand helped him up.

"What's happening out there?" Niemand asked.

Zeviz was still a bit dazed. "Huh? Zephyr, uh..."

Zephyr Tempest landed in the Miscellanous Forum as well. He immediately staggered upright. "Zeviz! You... you ruined... everything!" He hurled himself at Zeviz, but Niemand held him back.

"Well, that explains why the mages haven't been reviving us, I suppose." Actaeon said quietly.

"I ruined everything? All Randomizer and I did was prevent that... that monster... from getting loose," Zeviz snapped.

"I had complete control of it! Or at least, I did until you interfered."

"Oh, like you had complete control of the vampire you summoned last week, or the demon and imps you summoned tonight?"

"I only lost control of the vampire and demon because Nalyd distracted me. It's his fault!"

"And the imps? You wanted them to kill everyone?"

"No! They were supposed to kill Nalyd!"

"Well, they certainly did a good job of trying to kill everyone." Tyranicus stood well away from the mages to avoid being caught by any stray spells.

"If I had had more time..."

"You make too many excuses, Zephyr. And too many mistakes. You are completely irresponsible with your magic."

"I am not!" Zephyr Tempest tore free of Niemand. Actaeon, Jewels, and Niemand hurriedly joined Tyranicus.

"Stop it." Zeviz ensnared Zephyr Tempest in a sticky mass of webs.

"You don't even know why I was trying to summon the snorguff!"

Zeviz sighed. "Fine. Why?"

"I was summoning it to protect the boards in case of attack."

"Are you completely insane? The only things that have attacked us lately have been summoned by you!"

"What about the spambots?"

"Okay, let's look at this. Occasionally, we get approached by a spambot. Most of the time, Alorael snipes them. Once in a while, one manages to get inside. It makes a few threads before the mods and administrators can deal with it. Annoying, but no real harm done. Your... snorguff or whatever it was, would have been very hard to kill and it's highly unlikely that you could have controlled it. In other words, it's exceedingly dangerous. Much more dangerous than the occasional spambot."

"I keep telling you, I wouldn't have lost control of it!"

"What about the vampire and the demon and the imps? You do not have a good record here, Zephyr! Look, you were over the line and I'm done talking about it." Zeviz turned away. Zephyr Tempest glared daggers at his back.

---

Drakefyre, Imban, Thuryl, Slartucker, and Student of Trinity entered the Avernum 4 Forum and almost immediately tripped over a mound of garbage.

"What is this?" Imban asked.

Student of Trinity peeled away a layer of trash until he exposed an antenna. "It looks like a dead GIFTR. I wonder how it died."

"The imps, of course!" Filth Finder snapped from somewhere in the darkness, "I don't know why you let these things keep happening, but we are through here. We will find a safer place to live. Good. Bye."

"Wait! Ephesos could revive him--her?--for you," Student of Trinity said.

"I don't want anything more to do with you humans and your ways," Filth Finder snapped.

"But..." Slartucker began.

"No!" Filth Finder shouted. Then he scuttled away.

"I wasn't expecting that," Student of Trinity said.

Slartucker shook his head sadly.

Drakefyre tapped his foot impatiently. "We're supposed to be looking for Zephyr, remember?"

Suddenly, the four imps dashed into the forum. Imban and Thuryl drew their swords and the battle was over before it even began. Nalyd staggered into the forum next.

"What are you doing here?" Drakefyre snapped.

Nalyd debated whether to answer or not, decided he was in enough trouble already, and said, "Nalyd didn't do anything. It was Zephyr. And maybe Randomizer and Zeviz. But it wasn't him."

"Doing what?" Drakefyre asked.

"Summoning something. Nalyd doesn't know what."

Drakefyre sighed and snapped his fingers. Shackles appeared around Nalyd's wrists. "Right. Student of Trinity, escort him back to the others. The rest of you, follow me."

When the others had left, Nalyd sat down. "Nalyd isn't going anywhere, no matter what you do to him."

Student of Trinity thought for a moment on how to best deal with the situation. Then he shook his head. "I sure do miss the old ways of dealing with lawbreakers."

"What old ways?"

"Why, instead of dragging people back in handcuffs, we used to drag them back by their ears. And then when they got back, we'd hang them upside down and throw spam at them until it was time for the trial."

"The trial?"

"Yep. It used to be that instead of having the administrators and moderators deal with all infractions, we'd have great big public trials, and everyone would have their say. You can imagine the types of punishment the people who got injured or killed by the accused would come up with. They were never pretty. In the end, though, we usually decided that the infraction was caused by maintaining too much sanity. So we tied them up so they couldn't move and threw them into the fluffy turtle pit. Have you ever seen a fluffy turtle feeding frenzy?"

Nalyd shook his head.

"Well, let's just say they aren't too particular about what they bite in their quest for the last scraps of sanity. Occasionally, they'll bite into an ear or lip. Once, I saw a guy who had his entire nose bitten off. Nobody caused problems after being thrown into the fluffy turtle pit like that. Yep, those were the good old days. In fact, I was talking to Drakey the other day about bringing them back. I said, 'Drakey, these newfangled punishments don't work as well as the old ones. Why don't we bring them back? ' and Drakey was like, 'Well, if there are any more problems getting people to do what I say, I'll think about it.' And I... hey, what are you doing?"

Nalyd stood up suddenly. "Take Nalyd back to the others."

"I was right in the middle of a good story, you know."

"Take him back, like Drakefyre ordered."

"Fine, be that way. Kids these days!" Student of Trinity looked outwardly annoyed but chuckled to himself as Nalyd walked back towards the Geneforge 4 Forum a little faster than necessary.