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Chapter 21: Victory

Chapter 21: Victory

Nikki said, "I don't know. I guess we'll just have to pick one."

"Left," Riibu suggested.

Iffy, Riibu, Garzad, and Nikki went down the left passage. Before long, they came to a long flight of stairs. They started climbing.

Stareye sat on the top step, looking tired.

"Turn the sanctuary spell off," Iffy whispered.

Stareye jumped up when he saw them. There was another flight of stairs ahead, as well as a passage to the right. Stareye ran right.

"Stareye, wait! We aren't going to hurt you!" Iffy ran after him. "Come on, you three!"

There was a crash from above as half of one of Ecksian's bots rolled down the stairs. Ecksian and two other bots ran down behind it. Riibu and Nikki stepped out of the way. Ecksian collided with Garzad.

"Out of the way!" Ecksian drew a dagger and tried to stab Garzad. Riibu stepped forward and caught Ecksian's arm mid-swing. Then she knocked him unconscious.

Nikki stabbed one of the bots. "Why didn't you just kill him?"

The Lurker bounded down the stairs and killed Nikki and the final bot with two swings of Homeland. Riibu and Garzad tried to run. The Lurker killed them as well. Then he scooped up Ecksian and ran down the right tunnel.

Meanwhile, Iffy and Stareye emerged onto a platform. Below them was a huge furnace. Outdated articles and other trash were carried on conveyor belts onto the room and dumped into the furnace.

Iffy heard the commotion behind them. He climbed over the railing. "Come on, Stareye. We can hide under the platform."

Stareye took one look down and then backed away from the railing. "I can't. I'd fall."

By now, Iffy was completely out of sight. "But it's not safe to stay up there, either."

The Lurker set Ecksian down and stepped onto the platform carefully. He pulled out a bottle of skribbane. "Come with me, Stareye. I can take you back to Spiderweb. Don't you want to return to Spiderweb?"

"Don't listen to him! He killed the others!" Iffy yelled.

Stareye was mesmerized by the skribbane the Lurker was drinking. "Spiderweb?"

"Yeah. Spiderweb."

"Don't trust him! He's lying!"

Stareye nodded and stepped forward.

Iffy heard Stareye move and slammed his fist against the platform in frustration. "No!"

Stareye followed the Lurker off the platform. They both ran back when Iffy shouted again.

"Arancaytar is down there! I can't reach him in time!" Iffy swung over to one of the support beams and began climbing down as fast as he could.

The Lurker looked down. Arancaytar was visible on one of the conveyor belts and was already halfway to the furnace. Then he looked at Stareye. Stareye was staring back at him expectantly.

"What do you want me to do? I can't climb down in time either." The Lurker looked down again. This time, he spotted the emergency stop button near the furnace. He hurled his empty bottle at it. The bottle shattered on the button and the conveyor halted. The Lurker climbed over the edge of the platform, reached the support beam, and began climbing down.

Iffy reached the ground. He grabbed Arancaytar and ran. The Lurker was only halfway down. He pulled out another empty bottle. He couldn't kill Iffy with Stareye watching. "Look, you know I can knock you unconscious from here. Hauling you and Arancaytar back up would be annoying, though. It would be easier on both of us if you just surrendered."

Iffy looked up at Stareye, then down at Arancaytar. Then he ran.

The Lurker sighed and threw the bottle.


"This is dumb. Why are we waiting here? Why don't we go join everyone else at Spiderweb?" the Ratt asked.

Niemand watched the figure standing in the tree. "Because Ephesos is still watching us. I don't want him to know which way we went." Niemand waited until the Ratt was gone before turning to Toby-Linn. "I noticed that you haven't been altered. Do you not trust it?"

"After this accident? No?"

Niemand looked thoughtful. "Oh, I doubt it was entirely accidental. But do you think we could convince the others not to trust it?"


The new Spiderweb Software message board was going up quickly. Enough support beams were already in place for the shape of the board to be visible. It was a squat skyscraper, somewhat larger than its previous incarnation, and decidedly Euclidian. As the largest forum, General was the ground floor. The other floors above it each contained two forums.

At the very top, Salmon and Tyranicus fearlessly levered another beam into place. Alorael kept an eye out for pedestrians. A few floors below, other Spiderwebbers were putting up smaller beams. On the ground floor, the first siding was going into place.

Dintiradan sat at the edge of the construction site with a copy of the blueprints. He constantly checked it to make sure everything was according to plan. There was a portable summoning machine nearby. Zephyr Tempest waited for Lord Grimm and the Silent Assassin to summon more supplies and carry them off before approaching Dintiradan.

"What is it?" Dintiradan asked.

"The rats at the Waystation died. There must be some sort of problem. Do you want me to revive them now?"

"Not here. Follow me." Dintiradan led Zephyr Tempest into his office in Ermarian. Zephyr Tempest revived Attorukkip and the other rats who had been at the Waystation.

"What happened?" Dintiradan asked.

"Something went wrong with the stat script. Ephesos, well, went off the deep end."

Dintiradan sighed. "Do you know what the Lurker was doing to get him under control?"

"He wasn't there when it happened," Eieeoia said.

"What!?" Dintiradan said, "Where is he?"

"He went after Ecksian," R'd'p'a said.

"How? When? Why didn't he report to me first?"

A'p'd'r and R'd'p'a explained. Dintiradan stared at the ceiling and sighed again. Zephyr Tempest suddenly looked as if he had something to say.

"Well, you can stay at Spiderweb for now until I can come up with a solution. You may go," Dintiradan said.

When the rats were gone, Zephyr Tempest said, "Nikki, Riibu, and Garzad just died."

"Then go get Danielle and Randomizer. Quickly."

Zephyr Tempest left. He returned a few minutes later with the two other mods. Dintiradan now had several shackles in his hands.

"What do you need us for?" Randomizer asked.

"Some of the traitors died. We're reviving them. Randomizer, I want you to cast an antimagic spell on them. Danielle, you'll disarm them. I'll handcuff them. If we do it right, they won't have time to cause trouble."

Danielle nodded. "Right."

Zephyr Tempest revived Nikki first. Both he and Riibu were handcuffed and shoved into a corner without problems. However, when Garzad was revived, he managed to squeak out "Traitor!" and lunge at Danielle before Dintiradan grabbed him.

"Now what do we do with them?" Zephyr Tempest asked.

"You and Randomizer should go. I'll talk to them. Danielle, you keep watch just in case one of them gets loose somehow."

Randomizer and Zephyr Tempest left. Zephyr Tempest remained nearby. It was more convenient should anyone else die and he might overhear something interesting.

An hour later, Jewels hurried past him and knocked on the office door. "Dintiradan, it's me. The Lurker wants to see you."

Dintiradan stepped out. "Where is he?"

"At the Google station." Jewels remembered that Zephyr Tempest was nearby and whispered the rest of her answer.

Dintiradan nodded thoughtfully. "Let's go."

It was dusk when Jewels and Dintiradan arrived at the Google station. Iffy, Arancaytar, and Ecksian were still unconscious. Stareye looked uneasy when the Lurker stepped forward to talk to Dintiradan, but said nothing.

Twenty minutes later, Dintiradan called all the mods together for an emergency meeting. Stareye was interviewed briefly and then left in the care of Nioca.

"How does it feel to be back?" Nioca examined Stareye for any signs of injury.

Stareye shrugged.

"That's it?"

"It's hazy. I can't... it's not... there are only... pieces." Stareye sat down. "But this... I know this... is not the same."

Nioca sat down beside him. "Yeah. It's not."

Three hours later, Dintiradan gathered everyone together in front of Spiderweb. It was getting dark, but enough people had cast light spells that it was still easy to see. The mods and Stareye stood on one side of Dintiradan. Nikki, Riibu, and Arancaytar stood on the other. "Let's start with the best news, shall we? You'll note that Stareye is back with us again, and is showing significant improvement."

Stareye realized just how many people were staring at him. He quickly hid behind the mods.

"You call that an improvement?" Nayld muttered.

"Yes," Nioca said.

"Also, Jewels and several others brought back the traitors. I have spoken with Arancaytar, Nikki, and Riibu. I do not expect further problems from them. Hopefully, the others will soon see reason too." Dintiradan nodded at the three Spiderwebbers. They joined the crowd.

"If I was in charge, I would have banned them," Nalyd said, "A week at least. Maybe two."

"Then it's a good thing you aren't in charge." Nioca absently played with a small hole on one of his sleeves.

"Next, Ecksian is dead. The war is well and truly over."

"Wait, he's dead? How did he die?" Nioca asked, "Stareye told me that--"

"Bah. Who cares how? Let's see the body!" Nalyd yelled.

"I assure you that Ecksian is well and truly dead. I would not consider him dead if he merely fell off a cliff or something survivable like that. And no, I will not permit you to raise the body as a zombie," Dintiradan said.


Dintiradan ignored him. "And now for the bad news. There was an incident at the Waystation. Ephesos was corrupted by some sort of script malfunction. Tomorrow, the Lurker will take a group over to deal with the situation. If you're interested in going, talk to him."

"Oh, that's awful," Nioca said, "I wonder what happened?"

Nalyd laughed. "Well, it's about time. Blasted druid had it coming. Come on, let's go talk to the Lurker."