Chapter 9: Missing The Magic

Ecksian halted a safe distance away from Spiderweb, cupped his hands around his mouth, and shouted at the guard tower, "Hey! You up there! I'd like to enter! Can I?"

"Maybe," Alorael called back.

"Maybe! What do you mean, maybe?!"

"It means, I might let you pass and I might not. It depends on how I feel."

"And how do you feel about letting me pass at this moment?"

"I think I can let you pass."

"And will you think that way until I get inside?"

"Probably!"

Ecksian scowled and then sprinted towards the message board. Alorael watched him with amusement but made no move to shoot.

Ecksian slowed to a walk to cross the bridge, as it was quite narrow. He glanced curiously into the moat. "After that, I wouldn't be surprised if they had some sort of monster in it." He opened the simple wooden door and stepped inside.

"Hi! Welcome to Spiderweb Software. Leave your sanity at the door!" Iffy said.

"Er, right." Ecksian pulled out his sanity and left it in the jar that sat by the front door. Then he sat at a table.

Dintiradan approached him. "You wouldn't happen to be a lurker, now would you?"

"I don't think so. I'm just waiting for an interesting conversation to start up," Ecksian said warily.

"That's what they all say." Dintiradan wandered off again.

"Attention, everyone. Last chance to vote in the poll. I'm going to calculate the votes in a few minutes," Slartucker said.

---

Zeviz and Randomizer entered the Avernum Trilogy forum. Randomizer was nervous.

"So, what is it?" Zeviz asked.

"Well, it's, er, you see, um... oh, just watch this." Randomizer held up a hand. A minute passed.

"I, uh, don't see anything happening."

"Exactly! I'm trying to cast a light spell, but for some reason I can't."

"Ah. Can you cast other spells?"

"Not that I know of. I tried scrying last night; nothing. I tried to summon several different elements; not a single atom. I can't even cast spray acid!"

Zeviz flinched as Randomizer pointed at him. A few white flakes fell from Randomizer's hand to the ground.

"That looks like baking soda," Zeviz said.

"Yeah, well, that's better than the last three times I tried it, I guess."

"But Randomizer, baking soda is a base."

---

Dikiyoba filled a small pot with water and set it over the fire. Then Dikiyoba poured in a flask of green liquid and added a pinch of mandrake.

Tyranicus entered and tapped Dikiyoba on the shoulder. "Do you know if--"

"Not now! Dikiyoba is busy!"

"Yes, but..."

Dikiyoba added another pinch of mandrake and stirred it in. "There is a risk of this potion exploding if it isn't made properly. Dikiyoba would rather not be distracted. Especially not by someone accident-prone."

The potion began to boil. Tyranicus backed off quickly.

On the other side of the forum, Schrodinger, Student of Trinity, and Arancaytar checked over the summoning machine one more time.

"See anything wrong with it?" Arancaytar asked.

"Nope. It looks good to me." Schrodinger wiped grease off his hands with a towel.

Student of Trinity hit the power button. The machine hummed to life. "No problems yet. Now all we need is something to summon."

"We really ought to keep a stockpile of manganese around for Tyranicus," Arancaytar said.

"Oh, haha." Tyranicus said, "One of these days..."

Dikiyoba pulled the pot off the fire. "Now, what did you want?"

"Do you know anything about crafting magical items?"

"Not much. Why?"

"Well, I'd like to make a luck charm. I'm so tired of getting killed all the time."

Jewels burst into the forum with a copy of the periodic table in hand. "Do you have that summoning machine ready yet? Ephesos needs to be revived and I can't find the mages!"

"As a matter of fact, we were just deciding what to summon. Ephesos has copper, right?" Student of Trinity asked.

Jewels nodded.

Student of Trinity took the periodic table and slipped it into the summoning machine. He hit a few buttons. The machine hummed louder and then ground to a halt, spewing smoke.

"Drat." Student of Trinity waved smoke away from his face.

"Guess I'd better keep looking for the mages, then," Jewels said.

---

"This happened right after we dealt with Zephyr. Do you think there could be some connection?" Randomizer asked.

"Maybe, but I don't see what," Zeviz said.

"What about your antimagic spell? Can that affect magicians in the long term?"

"No, I've never heard of such a thing. Although I don't know much about antimagic or mages losing their powers."

"I guess we have to do some research, then. There are some books in the Mod Board, but not many."

"You can look there. But it's probably something pretty obscure, so I'll go try Google." Zeviz started to go, but Randomizer stopped him.

"Wait. It's a lot faster to take the secret exit."

"We have a secret exit?"

"Yeah. The admins installed it after they took out the SubTerra and RWG forums. It's supposed to be an emergency exit in case we ever get trapped somehow. The admins probably wouldn't be too happy, but I don't think it matters who uses it." Randomizer led Zeviz around a small hill and halted between a gnarled cave tree and a mossy boulder. He pushed a knothole and a trapdoor slid open at the base of the boulder.

"But if people can get out this way, don't you think people could slip in this way too? That's probably why Stareye and Drakey don't want us to..."

"No, it's one-way only. This tunnel leads under the moat and comes up at another trapdoor nearby. But that trapdoor can't be opened from the outside, so you'll have to come back through the main door."

"Neat. Thanks." Zeviz climbed down the ladder into the secret tunnel.

---

Many people crowded around as Slartucker pulled the lid off the ballot box. Imban stood beside him, ready to take notes.

"What's this all about?" Ecksian asked.

"One of the mages recently got banned. It caused a bit of debate over how much magic is acceptable or not. Slartucker's poll is meant to gauge public opinion," Stew Boy said.

"Fascinating," Ecksian said. He watched Slartucker intently.

"As a reminder, the first question I asked was 'What do you think about magic here at Spiderweb?' The second was the same, but with scripting instead of magic. So..." Slartucker pulled out a piece of paper and unfolded it. "We have one 'We have exactly the right amount of magic' and one 'We need more scripting and fewer regulations'."

Imban wrote the votes down.

"Next..." Slartucker read another piece of paper. "We have one 'Magic should be banned completely' and one 'Everyone should do as much scripting as they want'. We also have one 'Everyone should do as much magic as they want' and one 'We have exactly the right amount of scripting'. There's also a note here that reads 'I want my magic now, Drakey.'"

"Heh. That was Synergy!" Marlenny said, "Wasn't it?"

"It might have been." Synergy shrugged.

"And next, we have... oh, for the love of the Nine-Headed Cave Cow! 'Nicothodes should totally beat Dikiyoba.' This is a poll about magic and scripting, not a poll about the deathmatch!"

Nikki had his arms folded across his chest. "Well, it should be."

Slartucker shook his head. "One 'We need more magic and fewer regulations' and another 'We need more scripting and fewer regulations'. And then we have..."

---

Jewels bumped into Randomizer in the Nethergate Forum. "There you are! I've been looking all over! Ephesos got killed somehow, and since the summoning machine isn't working, you need to revive him!"

"Well, I'd love to, but... but... I can't," Randomizer said.

"Why not?"

"I just can't."

"Well, then, where's Zeviz?"

"He, uh, left for the day. You'll have to wait until he gets back."

"Oh, this is ridiculous," Jewels said.

---

EcksianBot hovered nervously around the abandoned forum, completely repaired but a good deal more anxious. It could have sworn that it had seen Lazarus twitch once or twice. But he was safely tied up and one of the fighting bots stood over him. The six repair bots were busy making more fighting bots. Another five fighting bots were ready to be activated when Ecksian got back. The other two fighting bots stood guard at the door and window. One of them called EcksianBot over. "Master, look. A Spiderwebber is passing. See?"

EcksianBot watched Zeviz pass. "Yes, I see him."

"Can we attack, Master?"

"No," EcksianBot said firmly.

But someone else was watching Zeviz. Zephyr Tempest crouched on a rooftop. When Zeviz had passed, he stood up and began to draw a pentagram. "I knew he'd leave Spiderweb eventually."