Chapter 18: Duwithia

Nioca and Nemesis sat at a table. Nioca had a spellbook out, but glanced at the front door so often it was obvious he wasn't reading it. Nemesis stared at the ceiling.

"When do you think they'll get here?" Nioca asked.

Nemesis shrugged. "Soon, I guess."

Nioca glanced at the door again. "Well, I wish they'd hurry up."

"I just hope they know how to behave properly. I hate having to put up with noobs."

"Why wouldn't they?" Nioca glanced at the door again and saw it start to open. "They're here!" His yell was loud enough to attract everyone's attention.

Student of Trinity entered with Arancaytar on his shoulder and closed the door.

"Oh. I guess not." Nioca said.

Student of Trinity noticed the odd silence. "Er, the rats will be here very soon. But they've had a very long day. I think it would be best if we let them have a forum to recuperate in for tonight and leave the rest until tomorrow."

"Aw..." Shard of Fire put several cans of silly string and a bag of carrots back into her inventory.

"Can you take me to the Mod Board now?" Arancaytar whispered.

"Of course." Student of Trinity headed to the Announcements Forum and knocked on the Mod Board door.

Schrodinger opened it. "Everything's ready. Come in."

Student of Trinity stepped inside and closed the door. Arancaytar looked around as best as he could. "Who else is in here?"

Alorael toyed with a bottle of skribbane. "It's just me."

Arancaytar sighed. "Well, could you please leave?"

"Well, I'd love to, but Drakefyre told me to stay here."

Schrodinger took Arancaytar and set him on the table. "Relax. Student of Trinity and I are the only ones repairing you. No one else will come near you. Now, are you ready?"

Arancaytar sighed again. "I suppose so."

Meanwhile, Emperor Tullegolar returned to the Geneforge 4 Forum. Nalyd had already uncovered another rat skeleton and started on a new grave. Jeran Korak dug beside him half-heartedly. Azuma stood to the side, uncertain of what to do.

Emperor Tullegolar picked up a shovel. "Azuma, reanimate the skeletons and get them to a good hiding spot. Jeran, let Nalyd and I handle that grave. You fill in the other holes. Hurry, the rats will be here very soon."

---

Ephesos awoke with a start and sat up. "I'm sorry I fell asleep, Att, are you rea--" Ephesos stopped short when he realized he was lying in a bed in a small infirmary, not leaning against the ticket machine near Bots Aplenty. One of his legs was chained to the bed. "Oh. The ninjas. Diki? Att? Can you hear me?"

The door opened and a scrawny nephil with a scar on his forehead stepped inside. "You finally decided to wake up, I see."

"Look, I don't know what's going on, but I'm leaving." Ephesos attempted to cast smite on the chain.

"No, don't--"

"Ow!" Ephesos got a massive headache. He grabbed his head with both hands.

The nephil reached into his pocket and pulled out an unlabeled prescription bottle. He held out a pill. "Don't try another spell, or you'll make it worse. Here, take this. It'll help with your headache."

Ephesos took it and examined it carefully before swallowing it. His headache slowly went away. "So. Who are you, where am I, where's Dikiyoba and Attorukkip, and why can't I use magic?"

"I'm Murrrhal. This is the last active mine in Crystal Mountain. Like me, you're now a slave. The others who were captured with you are already with the other slaves. The reason you can't cast spells is because Duwithia put an anti-magic spell on you." Murrrhal touched the scar on his forehead. "All the slaves have it. It will prevent you from using or being effected by any magic whatsoever."

Ephesos sighed and felt an identical scar on his forehead. "Great. Just great. Who's Duwithia?"

"She's--"

Murrrhal jumped in fright as the door opened again. A mage and a ninja walked in. The mage's robe and the ninja's outfit were made from aluminum foil. Both their faces were completely obscured.

"Well? I see he's awake, so how is he?" the mage asked.

"H... he just needs a few days to rest. I... I think," Murrrhal said.

"Good. Coleridge, put him down at half-price for now, with the other half when he recovers. Then tell the frat boys we're ready for another party."

The ninja bowed and left.

"Any problems?" the mage asked.

"N... no." Murrrhal said.

"Good." The mage left.

"I take it that was Duwithia?" Ephesos asked.

"Yes. She... she runs the place. You probably won't have to deal with her much, but..." Murrrhal watched the door nervously. "...watch out for Coleridge. You can never tell whether she's around or not."

"But why use slaves? Why not just hire miners?"

"Mining is dangerous, so you have to pay the miners a lot. This way, all she needs to worry about is getting booze for the yeti guards and giving the ninjas a few crystals for bringing in new slaves. Plus, well... she's crazy."

"Ah. Of course."

---

The mess hall was not far from the infirmary. Inside, the slaves were eating dinner after another day of digging for crystals. They were a mix of noobs, 1337 h4x0rs, filthy hippies, lolcats, and wanderers. Yeti guards watched them closely from the corners.

One of the wanderers, a human in tattered robes, scurried about offering more food to everyone.

"More soup, Giantreed? No? How about you, i dint do dat?"

The lolcat nodded. The wanderer refilled his bowl and moved on.

"Anyone else? 9\/\/|\|505, more soup?"

The door opened and a dozen yetis led Dikiyoba, the rats, and the 1337 h4x0rs inside. The yetis shoved them towards an empty bench. The wererat promptly hid beneath the table. Four of the yetis focused on Attorukkip, as she fought every step of the way.

"Come on, Diki! We can escape! We can still revive most of them!" Attorukkip bit one of the yetis on the arm.

The yeti responded by whacking her on the head with a paw. She slumped onto the bench, unconscious.

"Oh, you shouldn't have done that," the wanderer said.

The yeti snarled at him and left. The rest either left or joined the other guards.

"Hi! I'm the Ratt. How much soup do you want?"

"o giv it a resrt cantwe eat n piece 4 once" A noob threw his spoon at the Ratt.

"Oh. Okay." The Ratt finished filling the newcomers' bowls in silence.

Another wanderer convinced a few noobs to move so the new 1337 h4x0rs could join the others. Then she sat down next to one of the blue rats. "Hi. I'm Toby-Linn. Who are you?"

The blue rat shook her hand. "I'm ScurfFiend. The purple rat is Attorukkip and the wererat under the table is Ru'vay."

"I'm Eieeoia," the other blue rat said.

"Dikiyoba."

Toby-Linn nodded. "Well, I'd say it's nice to meet you all, but as you can see, it's really not."

"of cors it is it means teh gaurds will go get drink 2nite nad let ys slep in 2morow"

---

Andraste groaned as the Spiderwebbers approached Mt. B'cuzitz'thair. Even from this distance, they could hear loud music and see a huge bonfire.

"What do you suppose is going on?" Niemand asked.

"I have no idea," Andraste said.

"Will we have to go somewhere else?" Iffy asked.

"No. There are several caves. We'll have room."

When they got close enough, Andraste had them hide their packs and pull out their weapons. They crept closer to the bonfire. Several frat orcs and a yeti stood around it, laughing at a dirty joke and chugging beer.

"Ugh," Andraste said, "It looks like we'll be spending the night outside after all."

"Hey, bra, I bet you can't jump through the fire." The music was so loud it was hard to hear the frat boy speak.

The yeti snorted. "No way, grra. You do it."

"Hang on, I'll get a pledge. Hey! Cody! Get over here!"

A frat orc in a maid outfit and carrying a tray filled with shots of whiskey hurried out of the cave. "Yesh?"

"You can jump through the fire, can't you?"

"Um..."

Drew stepped out of his hiding place. "Hey!"

"Where did you come from, bra?"

Cody sighed in relief and sneaked back into the cave.

Drew shrugged. "We hiked. So, you're having a party here?"

"What'sh it look like, grra?"

"Is there a place not being used my friends and I can have for the night?"

The frat orcs thought for a moment.

Finally, one said, "Bra, I got one word for you and your friendsh. Keg. Shtand."

"I think that'sh two wordsh, bra."

"Hey, Jewels, do you want to take up their challenge, or should I?" Drew asked.

Jewels ran out of her hiding place. "Both of us! Bring it!"

"Wait," Andraste said, "You aren't actually going to..."

The frat orcs and yeti led Drew and Jewels inside.

"This is ridiculous!" Andraste said.

The yelling and growling inside the cave got loud enough to almost drown out the music. A few minutes later, Drew stumbled out. "W00t! We're in!"

"Where's Jewels?" Andraste asked.

"Shtill inshide. She shtarted a game of beer pong." Drew had them retrieve their packs and led the group to a small cave well away from the main party. The music was still clearly audible. "We should be fine here. Oh, and if anyone wantsh to join the party, you're more than welcome to."

"Is there anyone sober enough to explain how they managed to hold a party way out here?" Niemand asked.

"No, but I'll ashk anyway. Shee you later." Drew left.

Andraste sighed. "Niemand, you stand guard for a few hours. Have Marlenny take your place. Marlenny, you will wake me up once your turn is done. Everyone else, try to get some sleep. Tomorrow will be a long day."

Andraste watched for a while until she was sure Iffy was truly asleep and Niemand would stay awake. Then she plugged her ears with the corners of her cloak and tried to sleep.