Chapter 24: Escape

Once everyone was awake, Spiderweb continued preparing for war. In the General Forum, Slartucker had taken charge of giving the rats all elements. Zeviz tried to teach the white rats the isotope version of the summon element spell.

Randomizer sat at a nearby table and watched them. "Hey, you! Keep waving your paws around like that and you'll smack someone else in the face. Sheesh, were you taught by a stage magician or something?"

Zeviz came to the table to run some helium through the mass spectrometer. "Please don't hassle them." He sighed when it came back as a mixture of isotopes.

"Well, it's obvious none of them are skilled enough to learn the spell. Where's Garzad? He looked like he was higher level, he might be able to pull it off."

"I don't know. He picked out an element, but I haven't seen him since then. Maybe you could look for him?"

"Sure. Tell the rat with a chunk missing from her right ear that she's not pronouncing aluminum right, will you?" Randomizer left.

In the Tech Support Forum, Schrodinger and a few rats worked on the summoning machine. Nioca prepared the infirmary as best as he could. Stareye supervised a group of Spiderwebbers he had chosen to sort out all the supplies Jewels had brought back from her website.

"This is boring," Jeran Korak said.

"Yes, Nalyd agrees. He wants to learn necromancy, not organize!"

"Boring? This is... this is harassment! He's forcing us to do menial labor like we were... were... serviles! He's clearly biased against us and should be removed from his position immediately!" Emperor Tullegolar said.

"Oh, shut up, ET," Dintiradan said, "Your constant whining doesn't make the job any more enjoyable. Stareye, are you sure the Lurker and I can't try to make more improvements on the Deth Ray? Or help Schrodinger with the summoning machine? Or anything else at all, really?"

Stareye shook his head. "No. I need you all here for a while still. We're making progress, but there's a whole lot more to go through."

Azuma tried not to look relieved by the news.

The Lurker waited until Stareye was focused on untangling a knot of wires before nudging Dintiradan. "What are we going to do?" he whispered.

"Don't worry. We only need one more night to complete the chair and I can work on the script whenever I have a few minutes. Stareye will be too busy to keep an eye on us sooner or later," Dintiradan whispered back.

Nioca tapped Stareye on the shoulder. "Um, are you sure you need Dintiradan? We're completely out of energy potions and I don't know how to make more. Dintiradan knows how to, though, doesn't he?"

Stareye thought for a minute. "I think he does, but don't ask him yet. Dikiyoba and Ephesos should be back before too long."

---

Dikiyoba carefully corked half a dozen vials of clear potion and then stepped back from the table.

Sunbranch sighed in relief and wiped the sweat off his forehead with his sleeve. "We're completely done, right?"

"Yes. What do we do now?"

One of the yetis growled and pushed the two of them away from the table. The other yeti left. He returned a few minutes later with Duwithia.

"Excellent timing. There was a cave-in. Killed at least two slaves. The potion is completely ready to go, right?"

Dikiyoba nodded.

Duwithia reactivated the antimagic spells on them. "Grrrch, take them back to the slave compound. Rrruu, take these five vials to Storeroom B. Afterwards I want you both to help guard the slave compound. I've sent most the slaves there until the cave-in situation is dealt with." Duwithia picked up the sixth vial and left the workshop.

---

Toby-Linn had been prying crystals out of a tunnel wall when she heard the rumble of falling rock and several yells. She threw herself to the ground and shielded her head until she was sure everything was stable again. She stood up and saw that she was completely cut off from the others.

She walked over to the mound of rocks. "Hello?! Can anyone hear me?!"

There was no answer. She climbed up towards the ceiling to see if there was a gap she could squeeze through, but there wasn't.

She climbed back down and called for help again. There was still no answer. She picked up her shovel and started to lever rocks away from the pile.

---

Shard of Fire, Archmage Alex, Lord Grimm, and the Silent Assassin were setting traps between the Spiderweb Software Message Board and the nearby Google station.

"You still have the carrots, right?" Archmage Alex asked.

"Yep." Shard of Fire passed them over.

Lord Grimm read out a list. "Let's see, do we have everything? Colony of fire ants?"

The Silent Assassin nodded.

"Check. A dozen bottles of poison? Check. Electrified fun noodles? Check. Three boxes of raisins? Check. A large towel with a hole in it? Oh, come now. That's just uncalled for."

The Silent Assassin shrugged and emptied the ants and raisins into a trap.

Shard of Fire searched her inventory. "I still have a can of silly string. Do you want it for anything?"

Archmage Alex thought for a moment. "No. Unless... do you happen to have an angry ferret on you by any chance?"

"I might." Shard of Fire pulled several items out of her pocket. "Aha!" She handed Archmage Alex a small but thoroughly enraged ferret.

---

Duwithia returned to the cave-in. Murrrhal was carrying away a badly injured wanderer as gently as he could. A couple of yetis were the only other ones around.

"Are there any other slaves caught by the cave-in?" Duwithia asked.

One of the yetis growled.

"Okay. Stand way back." Duwithia examined the fallen rocks closely. She wedged the vial between two rocks and stood back as well. "FIREBLAST!!!"

The vial exploded violently when it was hit. Pulverized rock flew everywhere.

Toby-Linn was knocked backwards as the remaining rocks shifted. She scrambled out of the way. After a minute, she stood up again. "Hello?!"

"Yes, I'm here. Is there enough room for you to crawl through?" Duwithia asked.

Toby-Linn climbed up the rock pile again. She lay on her stomach. "I think so."

"Good. Bring out the tools and any crystals you have with you."

Toby-Linn grabbed the shovel and bag of crystals. She pushed them in front of her as she crawled across the rocks. Her back scraped the ceiling several times.

Duwithia saw her get stuck when she was almost out. "Grrrl, help her."

The yeti climbed up the rock pile, moved the crystals and shovel out of the way, and pulled her out.

"Take her back to the slave compound. It's getting late. We'll quit for the night and start again earlier than usual tomorrow to make up some of the lost time."

---

Ephesos woke up when he heard whimpering. Murrrhal was trying to splint a wanderer's broken leg. The wanderer had a few other fractures, tons of bruises, and several deep gashes as well.

"What happened?"

"Cave-in. Now go back to sleep."

Ephesos ignored him. "You can't heal that much damage with a first aid kit. You need magic."

"That isn't possible, as you well know!" Murrrhal finished with the broken leg and started splinting the broken arm.

"Ow. That hurts."

"If you don't, he'll die."

"There's not much I can do about that."

"I can heal him. Go get Duwithia."

"No, not Duwithia," the wanderer groaned.

"Ab... absolutely not!" The bandage Murrrhal was tying broke when he pulled too hard. The splint fell off.

"Ow!"

"This is stupid," Ephesos snapped, "You're making it worse!"

---

Iffy had dozed off several times, but it was so cold he never slept long.

He opened his eyes and sat up miserably. He'd had a weird dream where he had accidentally opened a box and liquid nitrogen had started to pour out. Then his parents had started yelling at him, telling him he was stupid and made everything worse.

He wiggled his fingers a bit. They were numb, despite the thick gloves he wore. "I am not stupid."

Oddly enough, the yelling hadn't stopped. It was faint, but he could definitely hear an argument going on somewhere.

"I may be delirious, though."

---

Murrrhal put the wanderer into a bed. He went to the door, but paused. "There's really nothing more I can do for him."

Ephesos glared at him.

Murrrhal shrugged and opened the door.

Just then, Iffy crashed through the ceiling in a shower of loose rocks.

"Ow. I guess the floor wasn't very sturdy there." Iffy stood up slowly.

Murrrhal and Ephesos stared at him. The wanderer just whimpered.

"Iffy, get the shovel! Knock him unconscious with it!" Ephesos said.

Iffy reached for the shovel, but Murrrhal picked it up first.

Murrrhal swung the shovel at Iffy. Iffy ducked and drew his spork. Murrrhal swung again. This time, Iffy parried. The sharp edge of the shovel sliced off a spork tine.

Iffy and Murrrhal circled each other, waiting for the best chance to strike.

Ephesos leaned out of bed as far as he could and scooped up the spork tine. He used it to try and pick the lock keeping him chained up. "Come on, open!"

Murrrhal swung the shovel again. Iffy threw himself to the ground and kicked out. His foot hit Murrrhal's knee. Murrrhal staggered backwards and hit his head on a bed post. He lost consciousness.

"Now what?" Iffy asked.

"Chain him up."

Iffy did so. "Now what?"

"Does he have any keys on him?"

"I'm afraid not."

"Looks like we have to do this the hard way, then. Do you have any tool use?"

"No. But I have a few points in mechanics. Will that work?"

Ephesos handed him the broken piece of spork. "Well, it's better than what I've got. What are you doing here anyway?"

"Andraste, Salmon, Drew, Jewels, Marlenny, Niemand, Riibu, Goldenking and I came here to get barbed-wire. But I got lost. I don't know where the others are."

Ephesos sighed. "I hope they're around somewhere to rescue us, and not the other way around. Now, we need a plan. Hey, what's your name?"

The wanderer managed to sit up. "Faylander."

"Do you have any ideas?"

"No."

"Okay. So, we're going to have to get past Duwithia, Coleridge and the other ninjas, and a whole bunch of yetis."

"The other ninjas left already," Faylander said.

"Okay, that's good. Is there anyone else who might be able to help us?"

"You might try the Ratt. He should be in the kitchen."

Iffy finally managed to pick the lock.

Ephesos stood up carefully. "Thank you. If we succeed, we will be back for you. Iffy, we've got to be very stealthy from now on."

---

Randomizer found Garzad sitting by himself in the Avernum Trilogy Forum.

"Hello," Randomizer said.

"Hey."

"It would be real helpful if you could learn the summon element spell, you know."

"I know. Later. The other rats don't trust me anymore. I'd like to stay away from them for now." Garzad rubbed his tail absently.

Randomizer nodded. "That's tough. What did you do?"

"I didn't do anything. But I was set up so it looked like I was a traitor. Some of them think I'm the reason the flamers attacked."

Randomizer nodded again. "I remember someone accusing me of something similar to that once, a long time ago. It turned out okay in the end."

"Why? What did you do?"

"Killed him, took his stuff, and ran off to become an adventurer."