Chapter 15: Zorro's Revolution

Iffy felt light-headed. So far, they had hiked up and up and up. "Can we take a break very soon? Please?"

"Don't worry," Andraste said, "We're almost to the pass. We'll rest there."

"Oh. Okay." Iffy struggled on for a few more minutes before stumbling and falling face-first into a snow drift. He flailed around a bit before Drew and Andraste hauled him out.

Drew took Iffy's pack. "Goldenking, you help Andraste carry him. I'll handle his stuff."

After another half an hour of walking, the group reached the summit of the pass. Niemand pulled beanbag chairs out for everyone to sit on. Drew got a fire going to heat snow for hot cocoa.

Jewels examined Iffy. He was semi-conscious and a little blue. "Quick! Iffy's freezing to death! Everyone, group snuggle! It's the only way to save him!"

Drew glared at Jewels and helped Iffy drink some cocoa.

Iffy managed a weak smile. "I... I d... don't th... think mu... muffi... ins are m... meant to b... be f... frozen. Especially n... not th... the f... flaming k... kind."

"Probably not." Drew brought him more cocoa.

"I bet the rapid change in elevation didn't help much either. Andraste, how high are we? Maybe 8000 feet or so?" Niemand asked.

"Nope." Andraste took a deep breath. "IT'S OVER NINE THOUSAND!"

Andraste's yell echoed several times. Then a distant rumble made Riibu jump. "What was that?"

"Avalanche," Drew said.

Iffy went to the fire for a third cup of cocoa. Salmon elbowed him away. "Save some for the rest of us."

Marlenny rolled her eyes. "There's plenty of mix and we can always heat more water."

Goldenking stood on a boulder and looked out. "Someone help me with my geography here."

"Well, the mountain immediately to the west is BFM."

"The really, really big one?"

"Yeah. And to the east we have the Mesa of Insanity."

"Which would make those cliffs closest to us the Cliffs of Insanity, then?"

"Right. Now, if you look out, you can see Crystal Mountain. It's the one that looks all torn up."

"Why does it look like that?" Marlenny asked.

"Mining. That's why there's so much barbed wire fencing on it. Everyone wants to stake out their claims. To get there, though, we'll have to pass by Yeti Mountain and Mt. B'cuzitz'thair. Oh, and Troll Mountain. The yetis shouldn't be too much trouble but we'll have to be careful around the trolls."

"Troll Mountain? Where? I don't see it," Goldenking said.

"Don't worry, I'll point it out when we get closer," Andraste said, "Are we ready to move on again?"

"Only if we rest sooner next time," Iffy said.

"Don't worry, we will. Let's move, people."

---

Ephesos finally woke. He got out of bed slowly. "Did I miss anything?"

Dikiyoba was mixing potions. "Not much."

Attorukkip burst into the forum. "Ephesos, please, I need your help!"

"Of course, Dikiyoba could be wrong about that."

---

While ***** spoke with Stareye and Drakefyre, Nikki found Nicothodes sitting in the corner. "Hey, thanks for letting me borrow your pencil. It's completely undamaged, I promise." He held out the lucky mechanical pencil.

Nicothodes snatched it instantly. "You stole it!"

"What? I didn't steal it. Riibu gave it to me. She said you wanted me to have it. Where's Rii--hey!"

Nicothodes lunged at him. He dodged just in time.

"What do you think you're doing?!" Nikki ducked as Nicothodes tried to stab him again.

The Mystic scurried over. He pushed his pack at Nicothodes' feet, tripping her. Then he grabbed the bag and dashed away.

Nikki followed him. "Thanks."

"Oh, no problem. I know what it's like to be accused of stealing without a smidgeon of proof." The Mystic coughed. "Schrodinger."

Dintiradan sat on the stairs, watching everything that happened below. Unfortunately, he couldn't hear anything that ***** and the admins were saying. He was half-tempted to lower the Lurker over the banister to eavesdrop, but that could only end very badly.

He noticed Ephesos, Dikiyoba, and Attorukkip leaving. Dikiyoba carried a full inventory of alchemy supplies. "Hmm. Ephesos doesn't look like he should be traveling just now, does he?"

The Lurker shook his head.

"I wonder what could be important enough to make him leave, then. Oh well, I guess we'll find out later."

Zeviz also noticed the three of them leave. He sighed, approached Zorro, and summoned a piece of hafnium.

"What is that for?"

"Keep it, in case I get killed."

"Oh, so now I'm responsible for you people while you're still alive? Isn't it bad enough that I'm constantly reviving everyone who gets killed? No, I quit!"

Zorro was loud enough that Dintiradan could hear him. "Stay here." Dintiradan left the Lurker on the stairs and sneaked down.

"Look, we could be in real trouble," Zeviz said quietly, "Randomizer can't cast the summon element spell, Zephyr can't cast the summon element spell, Ephesos just left, Dikiyoba just left too, and who knows whether we can rely on Drakefyre? So keep it, just in case."

Dintiradan cleared his throat. "I have a suggestion."

Zeviz turned towards him suspiciously.

"Yeah, I know, I'm being helpful again. I'll turn into an anti-hero I'm not careful. Anyway, I couldn't help but overhear that Zephyr can no longer summon elements. But he can still use Galactic Core, right? Train him to take Zorro's place and Zorro can become a back-up. Zephyr's basically good at heart, despite being completely crazy, so it would be a shame to leave him to the likes of ET. And I'm surprised ET isn't already by his side, telling him how weak we all are and how ET is the only one he should trust and..."

"All right, we get the point," Zeviz said.

"Excellent, I'll go tell him."

"No, I don't think you will."

"Who else is going to tell him? I don't think he trusts you after messing up that summoning spell of his."

"I trust you even less."

"Will you two shut up? I'm trying to concentrate on my game. Here, I'll handle it." Zorro got up and walked over to Zephyr Tempest.

"What do you want?" Zephyr Tempest grumbled.

Zorro handed him a spare copy of Galatic Core. "This is yours. You're in charge of reviving people now. Have fun. Don't let anyone bother me."

"You're giving the responsibility of reviving people to me?"

"That's what I just said, isn't it?"

"Wow. Um, thanks."

"Yeah, sure." Zorro returned to Zeviz and Dintiradan. "There. Problem solved. Now go away."

Dintiradan was upset that Zorro had interrupted his plan but didn't show it. "Thank you." He returned to the stairs.

"But you still have the hafnium and it's unlikely that Zephyr would--"

"I said go away. I mean, unless you want me to retroactively throw you into the moat."

"No thank you. Bye." Zeviz left quickly.

---

Garbage Gatherer woke in a small cell. The only thing in it was a bucket of water. The entrance was blocked by strands of sticky silk. She could vaguely hear guards and other prisoners nearby but no one was in sight. She quickly checked the web walls. They were all solid.

With nothing else to do, she settled down to wait.

---

Once again, Filth Finder got off the Google vehicle. The only building nearby was an abandoned tavern. He scuttled over and peered through a window. No one was in sight, just tables and a karaoke machine.

"All right, stay close to me." He led the nymphs inside. "Hello? Is anyone here?"

There was no answer.

"Can we look around?" Dreck Disperser asked.

"Not yet. There might be someone here."

The karaoke machine suddenly turned on. Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down...

Filth Finder swore and kicked a nearby chair, sending it clattering across the floor.