Chapter 12: Back In Action

Five days after Spiderweb's collapse, three vehicles pulled into its closest Google station. Ephesos, Dikiyoba, Toby-Linn, the Ratt, Chatter, Attorukkip, Eieeoia, ScurfFiend, and Ru'vay climbed out of two of them. Terry stepped out of the third.

"What are you doing here?" Terry asked.

"We've been... away. It's a long story," Attorukkip said.

"Do you think Spiderweb defeated the bots yet?" ScurfFiend asked.

Two dozen bots emerged from hiding places and charged towards them. Several of the bots called for additional help.

"Dikiyoba guesses that would be a no."

"DIVINE RETRIBUTION!!!" Ephesos yelled. Two bots were killed. The rest kept charging.

"We're not going to be able to fight them off. We should retreat," Eieeoia said.

"Good idea. Take care of that, would you? DIVINE RETRIBUTION!!!"

"SMITE!!!" Attorukkip yelled.

As Eieeoia ran over to the ticket machine, a cloud of smoke rose out of the ground and formed an insubstantial humanoid.

"Gah!" Eieeoia jumped away from the shade.

"REPEL SPIRIT!!!" Ephesos yelled.

A protective barrier formed around the shade and the spell bounced off, leaving the shade unharmed. The shade lunged toward Ephesos. Chatter stepped into the shade's path and tried to claw it, but the shade darted to the side, sank its claws into him, and kept going. Chatter collapsed, completely paralyzed.

Ephesos faced the shade. "DIVINE RETR--" The shade scratched his face. "--IHUON!" He fell over. "Hi ih ih ah-ay ee?"

"Do not attack again unless you want me to assume that you are an enemy who should be killed. If you are here looking for the Spiderweb Software Message Board, it has been destroyed by forces outside of Spiderweb Software's control. The temporary replacement board is the Bucolic and Completely Harmless Waystation. The release of Avernum 5 has not been affected in any way and you may get help about it or any other Spiderweb game at the Waystation. The Waystation is also the place to go if you wish to help get the Spiderweb Software Message Board up and running again. Please note that the Waystation is unofficial and not endorsed by Spiderweb Software in any way. However, rest assured that the Waystation strives to be as friendly and helpful as Spiderweb Software Message Board was. Thank you for your patience and understanding during these unfortunate circumstances. If you wish to go to the Waystation, the address has automatically been entered into the ticket machine."

"Hu hihy'h hay," Ephesos said.

Eieeoia looked to Dikiyoba. "Now what?"

"Just get us out of here!" Dikiyoba ducked an attack from a bot. Another bot whacked Attorukkip in the head with the flat of its blade, knocking her unconscious. The bot picked her up and started to carry her off. Dikiyoba drank an invulnerability potion and a haste potion. Then Dikiyoba ran after the bot.

Toby-Linn and the Ratt picked up Ephesos and Chatter. They ran for a vehicle. ScurfFiend shepherded Ru'vay into the vehicle as well. It took off.

Terry lost an ear to a bot's sword as he ran for a second vehicle. "We're not going to make it!"

Another bot attacked the shade. The shade shrieked and lunged at it. Shards of metal and bits of wire flew everywhere as the shade's claws tore into it. Then it launched itself at another bot. ScurfFiend, Eieeoia, and Terry made it to the second vehicle.

Dikiyoba halted suddenly. At least thirty more bots were running towards the commotion. Dikiyoba turned around and sprinted towards the second vehicle. The moment Dikiyoba stepped inside, ScurfFiend slammed the door shut. The vehicle took off.

"What will happen to Att now?" Terry asked.

"I have no idea," ScurfFiend said.

After about half an hour of traveling, the vehicles halted. Everyone stepped out. Toby-Linn and the Ratt still carried Ephesos and Chatter. A second shade materialized in front of them.

"Welcome. If you are here looking for the Bucolic and Completely Harmless Waystation, simply walk two blocks in that direction, then take a left. It's straight from there. You can't miss it," the shade said.

"Er, we met another shade just like you who paralyzed two of our friends. Is there any way you can unparalyze them?" Toby-Linn asked.

"One moment." The shade closed its eyes.

The Ratt looked around nervously. He felt like he was being watched. He shuffled a foot and nearly squished a large spider that was scurrying by him.

After a minute, the shade opened its eyes. "Yes, I have been instructed to do that." It stepped forward and touched the claw marks on Ephesos and Chatter. The scratches healed up. Ephesos and Chatter stood up. Ephesos healed Terry's ear.

"Yay! Thank you!" Chatter said.

"Okay, who is in charge of this Waystation place? It had better not be Drakefyre or Stareye," Ephesos said.

"Dintiradan is the current administrator of the Waystation. He will answer all of your questions. At the time of my last update, Stareye is at the Waystation. I do not recognize the other name," the shade said.

"What? How could you not recognize Drakefyre's name?" Ephesos asked.

"One moment." The shade closed its eyes again. After a minute, it opened them again and continued. "I have informed Dintiradan of your arrival. He says he will answer your questions personally at the Waystation." Slowly, the shade faded away.

"Fine. Let's go get to the bottom of this nonsense." Ephesos walked down the street the shade had pointed to before. Everyone else followed him.

When they reached the Waystation, they stared. The message board was now painted goldenrod. Goldenking and Zephyr Tempest stood guard outside of it. They both glowed slightly. Their eyes, however, glowed brightly; Goldenking's gold and Zephyr Tempest's icy blue.

"Yikes!" the Ratt said.

"So you finally decided to join us, huh?" Goldenking asked.

"What happened?" Dikiyoba asked.

"Oh, Dintiradan will explain everything." Goldenking held the door open for them, "Just go through the first door to your right."

Once they stepped inside, the Ratt got the feeling they were being watched again. He nudged Toby-Linn. "Does something feel off to you? Like we're being watched or something?"

"Well, I did just see something scuttle across the floor," Toby-Linn said.

Ephesos pushed open the first door on the right. Inside was a small waiting room. Chairs lined the walls. Dintiradan sat in one of them, letting a large spider run along his arm. He also glowed slightly.

Chatter rushed inside and held out a claw. "Ooh, that's a pretty spider. Is it friendly? Can it talk?"

Dintiradan tipped the spider onto Chatter's arm. "It can't talk, but it's friendly. Just be gentle with it." He stood up and bowed as the others entered. "Welcome to the Waystation. I don't think I know some of you, so introductions seem to be in order. I am Dintiradan."

Toby-Linn, the Ratt, ScurfFiend, Eieeoia, and Terry introduced themselves. Ru'vay cowered behind Eieeoia and eventually ScurfFiend just said his name for him.

Dintiradan nodded. "But I believe Attorukkip was supposed to be with you. Where is she?"

"We were attacked by bots. She got carried off," Terry said quietly.

"I see. Give me a sec." Dintiradan closed his eyes. "Yes, I was afraid of that." He opened his eyes. "The shade I stationed at Spiderweb was destroyed. I'll have to gather information in a different way. Chatter, I need the spider back, please."

"Aw, okay." Chatter gave the spider back to Dintiradan.

Dintiradan set the spider on the ceiling. "Find ADoS and bring him here."

The spider crawled off.

"Now, I know you have questions, but I'm curious about what happened to you over the past week."

Dikiyoba shrugged. "Not much. We had to do a bunch of work for the Mage Guild and then we had to sit around while they came up with the right spell."

"And then we tried to go to Spiderweb only to have Attorukkip get captured by the bots because your freakin' shade paralyzed me," Ephesos muttered.

"Well, if you hadn't attacked it... anyway, you all have your ability to use magic back again, I take it?" Dintiradan said.

"Yes," Dikiyoba said.

"Good, good. No adverse effects?"

"Not that we're aware of," Ephesos said, "Now, seriously, what did we miss?"

"Ecksian's bots destroyed Spiderweb, as you are well aware. That was five days ago. A few others and I were able to escape in time. This was a message board I had for my own use but it was the only place we could think of to go. One of the other survivors was Zephyr Tempest. We came up with a script that gave him his summoning spells back." Dintiradan caught Ephesos' glare. "Oh, don't look at me like that. How else were we supposed to revive everyone? Anyway, after we revived everyone and got the place fairly well organized, we sent word to Jeff. We explained what happened to Spiderweb but that the Waystation was ready whenever he decided to release A5. He did."

"How did you contact Jeff?" Dikiyoba asked.

"Zorro took me there. He's been there several times, so he knows the route and the best way to approach Jeff with news like..." Dintiradan's voice began to shake. He took a deep breath. "Anyway, moving along. Besides dealing with all the newbies, we've been experimenting with scripting. We've discovered all sorts of useful stuff so far."

Toby-Linn heard Ephesos swear under his breath. She shuddered. She wasn't following most of what Dintiradan said, but there was something unnerving about him. Judging by the way Ru'vay clung to Eieeoia's tail, she wasn't the only one who thought that.

The spider crawled back into the room. The Almighty Doer of Stuff entered right behind it with a parrot on his shoulder. "What do you need me for, Dintiradan?" Like Goldenking and Zephyr Tempest, the Almighty Doer of Stuff glowed gently all over but had strongly glowing eyes. In his case, they glowed gray-green.

"Remember the patrol I had you send your fliers on two days ago?"

"Around Spiderweb? Yes."

"Could you convince them to do that patrol again? Attorukkip has been captured by the bots. We need to find out what happened to her."

"Who?" the Almighty Doer of Stuff asked.

"One of the rats. Remember?" Dintiradan waved his hand towards the others in the room.

The Almighty Doer of Stuff finally saw them. "Oh! Hi, Diki, Eph, and... uh, anyway, hello. This is Mr. Stickybuns, by the way. Say hello, Mr. Stickybuns."

"Awk! Welcome to Spiderweb!" the parrot said.

Dintiradan cleared his throat. "The patrol, ADoS?"

"Oh, I suppose I can do that. When do you want it sent out?"

"As soon as you can."

"Now? But..."

"Yes, now. I want them to find Attorukkip. If they somehow end up with a chance to rescue her, they should do so. If not, they should come back with a report on her condition and where she is being held. Obviously, they shouldn't put themselves in any more danger than necessary."

"What if they can't find her, though?"

"If they can't discover what happened to her after an exhaustive search, they should return. But only after they've put a lot of effort into the search. They can't just fly overhead once and call it good."

"All right. Do you need me for anything else?"

"No. You can go now," Dintiradan said.

The Almighty Doer of Stuff hurried out of the room.

Dintiradan looked to the rats. "I'm sorry about that. He gets wrapped up in one of his experiments and forgets about other people sometimes. Shall we take a tour of this place?"

"No. I want to speak with Stareye," Ephesos said, "And I want to know why the shade said it didn't know who Drakefyre was."

"Oh right, you weren't there for it. Drakefyre left Spiderweb before the attack. We don't know why or where he went."

"He left?" Dikiyoba asked.

Dintiradan nodded sadly. "Yes. You can ask anyone about it."

"Fine. I still want to see Stareye," Ephesos said.

"All right. But I'm warning you, you won't like what you see. And I can only take a few of you to see him. I'm afraid all of you would scare him. General is along the way. It should be lunch time soon, so I can drop the rest of you off there for a short time to get something to eat and to talk with everyone else. We can do the tour of the place after lunch. Come on." Dintiradan left the waiting room and approached a set of large doors at the end of the entryway. He pushed them open and stepped inside. The others followed.

The General Forum was in the middle of lunch preparation. Several rats set up tables and chairs. Others carried trays of food out.

The Ratt examined one of the dishes. "Hey, you forgot to put the guacamole on this."

The rat stared at him. "It's fruit salad."

"Exactly! Fruit salad isn't complete without some guacamole mixed in."

A green rat set down the table she was carrying. She rushed over to ScurfFiend. "You're alive!"

"Yep. We made it, somehow."

A giant rat came over. "Haha, Terry, how are the Attorists doing? Still as crazy as ever?"

Soon, all work in the General Forum had stopped as the rats all rushed over. The Ratt snuck into the kitchen to look for guacamole.

Chatter followed him. "Are you sure that's a good idea?"

The Ratt opened a cupboard. "Yes. Now help me look."

Dintiradan looked at Ephesos, Dikiyoba, and Toby-Linn. "Well, that worked out nicely. Follow me."

Dintiradan took them down another hallway to the infirmary. He knocked on the door.

Nioca stepped out. He had glowing purple eyes. "Yes, what do you--oh, hello you two. Where have you been this whole time? And who are you?"

"Toby-Linn."

"Pleased to meet you. I'm Nioca."

"They're here to see Stareye. Would you please tell them what to expect?" Dintiradan asked.

"Ah. Yes. Well. You see, when Spiderweb collapsed, Stareye was hit with enough radiation to give him a bad case of radiation sickness. At the time, I didn't know a spell to cure him and neither did anyone else, so we had to resort to a script. What happened next was completely unexpected. You see, most of us have altered ourselves with scripts three or four times now and never had any problems. We used the exact same script on Tyranicus and Alorael and they both were perfectly fine. But Stareye, he... he developed a severe case of amnesia. We can't figure it out. I've tried potions and spells but nothing seems to work. I even tried divine restoration."

"You tried what? And... and what do you mean 'didn't know a spell'. You know one now?" Ephesos said.

"Divine restoration. It didn't help at all, unfortunately. And my curing spell is all theoretical, of course, but it should work," Nioca said.

"Ah..." Ephesos stared at Nioca.

"How bad is Stareye's memory loss?" Toby-Linn asked.

"He forgot everything. He doesn't even recognize his own name or remember which boot goes on which foot." Nioca opened the door. "Stareye, you have visitors."

Stareye was kneeling at the window and staring outside. He didn't react until Nioca gently turned him around. Then he sat on the ground and stared at them all blankly.

"He looks awful!" Toby-Linn said.

"When will he get better?" Ephesos asked.

"Well, it's only been a few days, and I'm sure there are lots of spells I haven't yet tried and..." Nioca faltered. "...I don't know."

"Right," Ephesos said, "Dintiradan, tell me exactly how this scripting stuff works. We'll see what I can do."