Chapter 13: Trapped

Dintiradan, Dikiyoba, and Toby-Linn left Ephesos in the infirmary and returned to the General Forum. People were showing up to eat now. Most had been altered, but there were a few holdouts.

Student of Trinity was one of the holdouts. He sat at a table with Slartucker and Niemand, trying to understand their most recent experiment.

"Okay, so you think spatial-temporal anomalies in the Avernum universe causes differential NPC aging. I understand that. What did you do to test it?" Student of Trinity said.

"Well, first we wanted to create a model that shows where the areas of greatest distortion are located so we would know where to test. Here are the equations we used to create the model." Niemand pushed a piece of paper over.

Student of Trinity read over the piece of paper. Then he pointed to a number. "This is the time that has passed between games, correct?"

"Yes," Slartucker said.

"Hmm. Okay. What do these equations over here mean?"

"Well, over here, we estimated the age of each character who makes multiple appearances or who we know died of old age. Then we calculated how much they aged between appearances and where they lived during this time. Those equations you're pointing to are our equations to determine how much people who moved between locations--Tor, for instance--aged in each location," Niemand said.

Student of Trinity flipped the paper over. "It keeps going! Er, I'll have to look at it later, I guess. How did the model turn out?"

"We, er, ran into a bit of a snag. Every time we ran the script that would create the model, it came out like this." Niemand passed Student of Trinity another piece of paper.

Student of Trinity flipped it over a few times. It was solid blue on both sides. "Did it fall into some woad or something?"

"No. We spent the rest of the morning making sure the equations and coding were correct and checking for sources of contamination. We couldn't find any problems. Previously, we had a crafting experiment that just turned a pair of pants yellow and you'll recall the time when Nalyd ended up with a magenta pile of bones, so we want to do some more testing on that. All going well, we'll figure out what the problem is and have the model ready by dinner," Niemand said, "What did you do this morning?"

"I watched Synergy and Randomizer test the new spell they were working on."

"Ooh, the one they called Overkill, you mean? I wanted to be there for that. Did it work?" Slartucker said.

"Well, yes and no. It definitely obliterated the dummy they aimed at, but the lightning aura effect mistargeted and hit the three of us as well. Even with all the protective gear and spells I had on, it killed me in two rounds. By the time I was revived, Danielle was yelling at them for destroying most of the floor."

"Did they fix the problem yet?" Slartucker asked.

"I don't think so."

"Hmm. I could--"

"No. I've been trying to get you here for this experiment for two days. It'll take me forever to get it done by myself because I don't know the series half as well as you do, so you're not going to leave before it's finished," Niemand said.

Slartucker sighed. "You're right."

A few tables over, Lazarus prodded the food on his plate suspiciously. "What the heck is this stuff?" He glared at the Silent Assassin. "Have you been messing with our food again?"

The Silent Assassin frowned and shrugged.

"He says he had nothing to do with this." Lord Grimm leaned over and examined Lazarus' food. "It appears to be guacamole."

"What sort of imbecile puts guacamole on fruit salad?"

"Oh, that would be me," the Ratt said, "Don't you like it?"

Lazarus and Lord Grimm stared. The Silent Assassin golf clapped.

Dikiyoba looked around the forum. "Have there been many problems?"

"Well, that depends. Do you count ET flipping out and getting himself banned a problem or a relief? I tend to see it as the latter." Dintiradan grinned, "I mean, obviously Stareye losing his memory was a big problem and we had a few people decide to leave, but other than that, it's been pretty smooth."

"Who left?" Dikiyoba asked.

"Arancaytar and a rat named Garzad. I didn't know Garzad very well, but I was pretty surprised by Aran's departure. It's quite a shame."

"What about the Lurker? Dikiyoba doesn't see him around."

"Oh, he's just out picking up a few things for me at the moment."

---

The Lurker crept down a street, listening carefully. He could hear an argument happening somewhere ahead, but he couldn't tell who it was yet. He moved towards it.

Arancaytar and the innkeeper were gathered outside a small inn. A crowd of people had gathered around them.

"Get out of here!" the innkeeper said.

"Look, I've been running around for days. I need a place to rest for a bit. Please," Arancaytar said.

"There will be no spambots in my inn," the innkeeper said.

"I'm not a spambot! I want a room so I can sleep. I'm not about to sell you anything!"

"Excuse me." The Lurker pushed his way through the crowd. "That bot has caused difficulties at other inns as well. I need to retrieve it so it doesn't cause any more problems."

The innkeeper took one look at the Lurker's glowing skin and orange eyes. "Go right ahead."

Arancaytar shot up into the sky. "Traitor!"

The Lurker pulled out an empty skribbane bottle and threw it. It smashed against Arancaytar's head. He blacked out and fell from the sky. The Lurker walked over and caught him before he hit the ground. The Lurker tucked Arancaytar under his arm, nodded at the innkeeper, and walked off.

---

Ephesos entered the General Forum and sat down between Dintiradan and Toby-Linn in a huff.

"What happened?" Toby-Linn asked.

"I can't believe I just got shown up by Nioca. He's a complete... a complete... well, never mind. Dintiradan, when can I use one of your scripts?"

"After you finish eating, I'll finish the tour. Then anyone who wants to be altered can," Dintiradan said.

---

Arancaytar woke up in a small cell. There were no windows, so the only light came from torches in the hallway beyond his cell. The walls, floor, and ceiling were all solid stone. He searched them carefully for secret doors or switches but found nothing. The only object in the room was a thin mattress. The door was made of thick, closely-spaced bars. Arancaytar flew up to the door and examined the lock. It was sturdy, complicated, and well out of his reach.

Arancaytar flattened himself against the door to look out into the hallway. All he could see was a blank wall with torches. "Hello? Is anyone else here?"

"Shh! We get in trouble if we talk. I'm Garzad. Emperor Tullegolar is somewhere to your left."

"In trouble? From who?" Arancaytar whispered.

The echo of a door opening and closing came from the left of Arancaytar. Footsteps approached. "Lunchtime!" Jewels said cheerily.

Emperor Tullegolar rattled the bars of his cell. "This filth again. I'm an emperor and I demand better treatment!"

"You are delusional and disrespectful. You will stay here and eat what I bring you until you learn how to behave." Jewels walked past Arancaytar's cell with a bowl of food and a dirty plate on a tray. She glowed and had red eyes. "Do you have anything you want to say?"

"No, thank you," Garzad said.

"Are you ready to apologize to Dintiradan yet?"

"Absolutely not."

Jewels sniffed. "Be like that, then. Enjoy your meal." She came over to Arancaytar. "You don't eat, right?"

Arancaytar shook his head.

"I suppose you're wondering why you're here."

"I'm here because the Lurker knocked me unconscious and dragged me here."

Jewels shook her head. "No, no. You're here because at the moment you're a dangerous rogue. A threat to the orderly society we're trying to set up."

Arancaytar's jaw dropped. "A threat? I can't even find a place to spend the night!"

"But what would you be doing if that wasn't an issue?"

"I would be telling everyone who seemed interested in Avernum 5 to get the game directly from Jeff and to stay the heck away from here because you have all gone mad!"

"Exactly! That's why you'll stay here until you learn how to be civilized."

Arancaytar realized his mouth was open again and closed it.

"Any questions?" Jewels asked.

"N... not yet," Arancaytar said.

"Okay. I'll be back for dinner. I'll speak with you some more then." Jewels walked off. A short time later, the door opened and shut.

"Does she come here all the time?" Arancaytar asked.

"Three times a day every day," Garzad said.

"She's absolutely insane," Emperor Tullegolar said.

"Have either of you tried apologizing to Dintiradan?" Arancaytar asked.

"Hah! As if!" Emperor Tullegolar said.

"Once. He asks lots of questions and can usually tell if you're lying," Garzad said.

"Has anyone made it out of here?"

"Not that I'm aware of. Now, we have to stop talking. Remember what I said about it getting us in trouble?"

Arancaytar sighed and settled down on the mattress. He was well and truly stuck.

---

Iffy walked down a hallway aimlessly. He chewed on a fingernail. It seemed wrong for Spiderwebbers to be led by someone who called himself an Evil Overlord. Admittedly, he hadn't seen Dintiradan do anything really evil yet. If anything, he kept people from getting away with some of the nastiness that frequently happened at Spiderweb. So Iffy was confused. He declined every time Dintiradan offered a script for him to use and spent his days wandering around the Waystation.

Iffy accidentally tore off a large chunk of fingernail. He winced and stopped to shake his hand out. "Ow!"

"Oh, did you hurt your hand? Let me look at it," Jewels said.

Iffy jumped. "Er, er, hi Jewels. No, I'm fine. Where did you come from?"

Jewels pointed to the pair of dirty plates on her tray. "I'm just checking around the area to make sure it's clean. I found these dishes just lying around. Can you believe that?"

"Funny, I didn't see any dishes lying around when I walked past... but I guess I wasn't paying much attention," Iffy muttered.

"Did you have lunch?"

"Uh, not yet. I'm not really hungry."

"Well, lunchtime is almost over, so you'd better hurry if you want anything." Jewels walked past him towards the General Forum.

Iffy thought for a moment. Then he began inspecting the hallway carefully. After several minutes of searching, he found a dark stone that didn't look quite right. He pressed it. A section of wall slid away behind him, revealing a door. He tried to open the door. It was locked. He tried to pick it for several minutes. Eventually, he had to give up. It was far beyond his ability.

He pressed the stone again and the wall slid back into place. He chewed a fingernail again. Had that been where Jewels came from so suddenly? What was down there? How could he get in to find out?

---

An hour later, Dintiradan stood on the platform in the middle of a scripting laboratory. "Ephesos, I'm sure you are familiar with this?"

Ephesos nodded. He watched Dintiradan from the wall with the other eight people who had just arrived.

"Would you like to be first, then?"

"Alright." Ephesos stepped onto the platform.

Dintiradan stepped off the platform and put the script on the large rune. All the runes on the platform began to glow. "Don't worry, this won't hurt."

When the light died away, Ephesos looked at himself. "I'm not glowing."

"No, it takes a few alterations to get that. Try your divine restoration spell. Let's see if that works."

Ephesos took a deep breath. "Okay. Let's see then... RESTORATION!!!"

"How do you feel?" Chatter asked.

"Just fine."

"Can I go next?" the Ratt asked.

"You may. Does anyone not want to be altered?"

Toby-Linn bit her lip. "I'm not sure yet. Can I have some time to think about it some more?"

"Of course. You can either stay here and watch or go do something else, whichever you wish."

"I'll stay for now."

"Ru'vay shouldn't be altered. He's too young," Eieeoia said. ScurfFiend nodded.

"What do you think?" Dintiradan asked Ru'vay.

"I... I want to be more powerful. I don't want to be captured ever again."

"I think he's old enough to decide for himself. Don't you?" Dintiradan asked.

"Yes!" Ru'vay said.

"Well, I suppose..." ScurfFiend said, "I mean, there don't seem to be any problems with the scripts.

Iffy stepped into the room. "Er, er, Dintiradan, can I be altered with them too? I've changed my mind about it."