Chapter 5: Ascension

Dintiradan, Danielle, and Zephyr Tempest stood in the Blades of Avernum Forum. Niemand and a few others had spent several days creating scripted defenses there but Dintiradan's chair had remained hidden. Now he pulled it out of its hiding spot.

Zephyr Tempest shuddered when he saw the runes on it. "I... I wasn't thinking clearly when I said I wanted to help. It's okay, though, she can still help you, right?" Zephyr Tempest pointed to Danielle.

Dintiradan put a hand on Zephyr Tempest's shoulder before he could run away. "What seems to be the problem here?"

"I just remembered how much it hurt the last time and I don't really want to--"

"Nonsense. This won't hurt a bit. Actually, you might have a headache afterwards, but that's nothing a curing potion can't fix." Dintiradan carefully picked up a rock as he spoke. Suddenly, he slammed it against Zephyr Tempest's head. Zephyr Tempest lost consciousness instantly.

Dintiradan set Zephyr Tempest in the chair and positioned him carefully. "Fetch me two sleeping potions and a curing potion, would you? See if you can find any unshackling crystals and a wand of forcecage as well."

Danielle left.

Dintiradan made a few final adjustments to the script and pressed it against a rune on the back of the chair. Soon, the runes glowed blue. Dintiradan removed the script and stepped back as they began to spark. After a minute, the sparks died down and the color faded from the runes.

Danielle returned. "I have the potions and the wand, but there was only one unshackling crystal."

"That will work. Give me the crystal and curing potion, please. Be ready with that wand, too."

Danielle handed them over. Dintiradan used the crystal on Zephyr Tempest. He woke up slowly. "Ow. My head."

"You probably want this." Dintiradan handed him the curing potion. Danielle kept the wand out.

Dintiradan waited a minute for Zephyr Tempest to recover. "How do you feel?"

"Okay, actually. All my summoning spells are back! Can... can I go now?"

Dintiradan thought for a moment. Zephyr Tempest didn't seem to be any crazier than usual. "Sure. But don't tell anyone else about this or use any of your summoning spells yet. You'll be able to use them again soon, but for now we have to work in secret."

"Okay!" Zephyr Tempest left.

Danielle gave the wand of forcecage to Dintiradan and climbed into the chair. Dintiradan began altering the script for her.

---

Stareye let Student of Trinity and Niemand into the Moderator Board.

Niemand looked around nervously. "What do you need us for?"

Stareye sighed. "I know this isn't exactly the happiest time to join us, but with DV demodded and Randomizer suddenly missing, well..." Stareye held out two moderator sashes. "I'll make a formal announcement and sort out forum responsibilities once this mess is behind us."

"Don't forget the krazy kwilting!" Saunders said.

"Of course not. Welcome!" Alorael said.

"Er. Wow. Thanks!" Niemand said.

Student of Trinity took a sash wordlessly, looking doubtful.

---

Garzad had spent as much time in the Avernum Trilogy as he could since he had arrived at Spiderweb. For now, it was easier to avoid confrontations with the rats who still thought he was a traitor.

When Cheese arrived with all the rats who couldn't fight, he hid until they had all left through the secret exit. Then he started towards the General Forum.

When he entered the Blades of Avernum Forum, he froze. Danielle was there, and she was glowing slightly. "Hahahahaha!"

Dintiradan reached for the wand, but Danielle snatched it out of his hand.

"Fools! You were fools! Don't you see? I was always one of your best candidates for moderatorship. I defended the board against noobs and answered stupid questions from potential customers. Always. Remember when Ik'phm'thy retired? Remember? My name came up as a replacement. She told me I was likely to be selected. And then what did you do, *****? You chose Cheese. An idiot like him for mod? What were you possibly thinking? And then G'ree't'l grew up to be so unbearably responsible and you welcomed in Attorukkip and somehow she became immensely popular and I realized I had lost my chance. After all, when was the last time you asked me to lead an expedition away from the board? Ages ago!"

Dintiradan thought about using Homeland but decided against it. Instead, he tried to cut her off. She ignored him.

"But then... then I heard the news that Attorukkip and G'ree't'l were both dead and I realized... my old dream... I had a chance again. So when I happened to be walking by and saw Fatalclaw come out of the Mod Board, too distracted to notice me and in too much of a hurry to make sure the door had closed completely, well, I slipped in. I read the note she left. Her constant babbling about a traitor had given me an idea. Garzad was easy enough to frame. I felt bad, but it was worth a shot, right? And it worked! I was finally a mod!"

Garzad had heard enough. He ducked out of the forum before Dintiradan or Danielle noticed him and ran back to the Avernum Trilogy Forum and the secret exit.

Meanwhile, Danielle continued. "Temporarily, supposedly, but I was going to work hard enough to make a permanent position for myself. Only then the flamers attacked and all the mods lost their positions when we came here. But now... well, now it's a guaranteed position, don't you think? Hahahahaha!" Danielle stopped laughing suddenly. "I'm... I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me."

Dintiradan looked around anxiously. "A rant like that is just asking for some hero to show up to try and stop us. Have you ever done anything like that before?"

Danielle shook her head. "No. Normally, I'm very good at keeping this sort of thing to myself but this time... well, I just felt like I had to, I guess."

"I see. Well, it's probably just some latent Evil Overlord urge emerging due to the sudden power, then. It happens to the best of us. I'll give you a copy of the Evil Overlord List later. For now, welcome to my Legion of Terror. When I have control of this board, your position as mod is most certainly assured." Dintiradan began altering the script once more. Then he sat in the chair and uncorked the sleeping potion. "Just stick it to the rune back there."

"Like this?"

"Yes. Now step away." Dintiradan drank the potion and fell asleep just as the runes began to glow.

---

***** tapped his claws on the table. "Look, as much as I'm glad for Niemand and Student of Trinity, did you really need to bring us all in here for this?"

"No. But I do need you for something else," Stareye said, "Since the last time we were attacked, Drakefyre and I created certain defenses. I am certain they will work. However, deploying them would probably cause extreme board instability, so they should only be used in a dire emergency."

"Because even if we won, the board would just collapse on our head ten minutes later? I get what you're saying," Synergy said.

"Possibly. Still, I think it's time I show you what it'll do and how to activate it. Obviously, word of this must not leave this room."

Everyone nodded in agreement.

---

When Dintiradan awoke, he was amazed at how different he was. His thoughts were clearer, more organized. He stood up and walked around a bit. He was definitely much quicker and stronger. Plus he glowed, much more than Danielle did. It was an unfortunate side effect that he hadn't known how to counteract before. Now that he had been changed, though, he thought he could see a way. No one would know he had been changed until it was too late to stop him.

"Are you okay?" Danielle stared at his hands.

"Yes." Dintiradan realized a few wisps of magic were flying off them. He had been right, then, to only give himself only a few important spells and to avoid giving Danielle any. He concentrated for a minute and the flow of magic stopped.

"Why did you get spells and I didn't?" Danielle asked.

Dintiradan was expecting rage. Minions could be so provoking at times. Instead, he felt perfectly calm. Studying the Evil Overlord List had obviously taught him to recognize and control his anger, to redirect it towards useful ends. The next challenge was to answer the question without being arrogant or condescending.

"I wasn't exactly sure how this would turn out and the spells were the part I was most uncertain about. I only give myself a handful of spells, in fact."

"Will I get some spells too?"

"Yes, of course, but not at this moment. Instead, I need you to fetch the Lurker and bring him here. If anyone tries to stop you, make an excuse. You have high leadership now, so they'll believe you."

"Right." Danielle left.

Dintiradan sat down and looked over the script. Now that he had been changed, it looked crude and unwieldy. He made the adjustments necessary for the Lurker and pulled out a clean sheet of paper. It would be easier to create a whole new script to hide the glow. He had just finished it and was checking it for errors when Danielle returned with the Lurker.

"Wow. Dintiradan, you sure look... different. Can I have Homeland back now?"

"I know. Please, sit down. I'll return it after you're finished."

The Lurker sat in the chair. Dintiradan cast sleep on him. He ran both scripts. Then he cast unshackle mind to wake the Lurker up.

"How do you feel?" Dintiradan asked.

"Fine, I guess. Why aren't I glowing?"

Dintiradan handed Homeland back and held up the second script. "Because of this. Danielle, take his place. I'm pretty sure it won't hurt this time. Do you want to be awake or asleep?"

Danielle shrugged. "Awake, I guess." She winced several times while the script ran but said nothing.

Then it was Dintiradan's turn. He gritted his teeth while the script ran. When it was over, it took both scripts and set them on the chair. Then he cast a fireball at it. The chair and script went up in flames.

"What are you doing?!" Danielle looked shocked.

"Making sure no one else can get their hands on it. Don't worry, it'll be easy enough to recreate later."

"The three of us are nowhere near powerful enough to stop all of the bots, though. Or take over the board."

"Yes, I know. I'm afraid it can't be helped. It takes time to adjust to all this new power. But I'm sure something will turn up soon enough. Now we have to get back, or someone will notice we've gone missing and get suspicious."

---

Shard of Fire looked over her shoulder. The bots were gaining on them. She tripped and fell.

Fatalclaw turned back and helped her up. "Keep going!" she yelled when she saw Thralni hesitating.

"Fire!" one of the rats in the guardtower yelled.

The hail of arrows and javelins slowed the bots down long enough for Thralni, Deathwhisker, Zeviz, Shard of Fire, and Fatalclaw to cross the bridge and make it inside.

Lazarus slammed the door behind them. "Someone had better tell the mods to collapse the bridge and turn on those pylons."

The door shook as several bots hurled themselves at it.

---

Garzad peered around the corner. The bots were too close now for him to escape or return to Spiderweb. Instead, he scurried into the nearest building and shut the door. Hopefully, they would pass him by.

"Finally!" Randomizer said.