AMCW storylines Ambrosia

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It is early morning, the low point of activity in the guild hall. Lord77 enters from the kitchen after passing through the portal that connects the hall to his temple. The sounds of his footsteps, normally crushed by the clinking of beer glasses and shouting or laughter by the bar, echoes off the solid block walls as he passes through the common area. His destination is the back, one which he seldom has traveled lately, the last time to deliver a gift of contrition. Things have been too hectic in life to allow for it, he surmises.

At the end of his trip, another portal awaits. Passing through it soundlessly, he enters the temple of his brother, Azzageddi. Although time has passed, Lord77 can still negotiate the hallways of the temple with his eyes closed. A juvenile attempt to prove this to himself ends up causing a collision with one of the inhabitants as he turns a corner.

“Oh, excuse me!” He reaches out a hand to help the young monk up. Then he realizes he’s actually knocked down a nun—the shaven head and unisex clothing had him confused for a moment.

But the girl ignores his hand and springs lightly to her feet, then bows to him. “Forgive this one for her clumsiness, oh deity,” she says. Off to the side, an older monk, Mountain Hawk, tries not to laugh.

“No, no, it was my fault—I wasn’t watching where I was going,” the god exclaims.

“The safest path is the one where you can see the obstacles,” Mountain Hawk advises.

“Yeah, well, I was not quite seeing,” Lord77 relents.

A small smile causes a net of wrinkles to spread across the monk’s face. “You make light of a heavy journey. You are here to see the master of this house whose mind has been troubled. I wish you success in your purpose to calm it.” The monk bows to the god and then continues on his way, his protégé trailing behind. She looks back at him over her shoulder very briefly, and he can swear she’s trying not to laugh as well.

Lord77 shakes his head in wonder. “I swear those monks can read minds,” he says to himself. “Nothing ever seems to get past them.”

Continuing on his path, this time with eyes open, he reaches the door of the sleeping chamber. Closing his eyes momentarily, he listens and quickly perceives Azzageddi’s tone very nearby. Raising his hand, one knock is all that is needed as the door swings open.

“Good morning, Lordy,” Azzageddi greets him, shirtless, his bared arms heavily tattooed with the words of the binding spell that connects him and Feather, the god-bound sword. Over his shoulder, Lord77 sees Mitzi sit up in bed. She smiles at him as she pushes her hair out of her eyes.

“Morning, Azz. Hi, Mitzi” Lord77 responds, “Azz, Dad sent me to get you and Feather and bring you to the castle. You ready?”

“Yep. I’ve been looking forward to seeing the place. It’s in Lancre, right?”

“Correct,” Lord77 agrees. “It’s built aside a vein of background magic. Dad selected the spot originally because of the high energies. Lancre is famous for that.”

“Well, first stop,” Azz says as he pulls on a brightly colored aloha shirt, “is the chamber where I’ve been keeping Feather. Shall we?” He looks at Mitzi. She nods at him, encouragingly.

As Azzageddi lays a hand on Lord77’s shoulder, Mitzi calls out, “Lordy! Thank you…and both of you—be careful.” Azz smiles at her, and Lordy nods, and then with a BAMPH! they are both in a large chamber, a bubble carved out in the lava channel beneath Azzageddi’s temple.

Hanging before them is a large apparatus, clamping a large sword in place. Owl’s Feather Floats on the Breeze. The clamps are made of magical materials, adamantine and soulsteel, and even orichalcum like that from which the sword itself is formed.

Lord77 looks around. “No natural entrances, huh?”

“Right,” says Azzageddi. “No way in or out except by magic. And shielded, so no way to find it magically so as to transport oneself in unless you already know where it is. You’re only the third person, after Mitzi and me, to be in here.” Azzageddi reaches out a hand. The gears turn, loosening the clamps and leaving the sword floating in midair. The script on his forearms, extending down to his hands and even his fingers, glows red.

Lord77 sees sweat break out on Azzageddi’s forehead. Then the sword arrows directly at him, as if attempting to kill Lord77. Just as he’s instinctively throwing a magical shield up to protect himself, Azzageddi shouts something in Mardian, and the sword changes course, the haft slapping into Azz’s palm.

Breathing heavily, Azzageddi says, “Sorry about that, brother. Let’s take care of this once and for all.

Reaching out and taking his brother’s arm, Lord77 says, “And here we go,” as the gods disappear.

Nestled in the mountains of Lancre stands Lord01’s castle, ancient yet timeless. Not the most impressive or ornate of castles, it is possibly the oldest. Although never approached by an invading army, or for that matter, door-to-door salesmen, the castle still carries an aura of impregnability, obvious to any who possess the ability to see the octarine glow, a glow which is fed by the veins of magical power that bracket the fortress.

Of the few local inhabitants in the area, most believe it abandoned. Yet stories of strange sounds and lights, or tales of the few that dared to approach it becoming deranged, made others believe the castle is haunted by a crazed hermit. All these beliefs were true at some point of time.

Nagele once challenged Lord01 on the use of derangement spells surrounding the castle as to whether that was too cruel to the locals.

The god’s response was “Meh. Not my fault they’re short-brained enough to try to break in. Turn them nuts and maybe they won’t have the chance to sire any kids with that bad trait.”

Nagele gave up on the issue after that.

This doesn’t mean that all visitors are unwelcome. In fact, at this moment, a once empty room in the Lord’s Hall is gaining two travelers.

BAMPH

Lord77 and a Feather-toting Azzageddi arrive in the middle of the hall. A brief scan of the immense room shows they are the only inhabitants. Azzageddi looks at Lord77 with a “What now?” look.

“He knows we’re here, and he’s coming,” Lord77 answers the unvoiced question.

Moments later, the ancient god enters the hall from an adjoining hallway.

“About time you two got here. Finally done with all your partying?” Lord01 grumps.

“Well, actually dad, we do have a Hogswatch celebration to attend,” the son responds.

Shaking his head, the ancient god inquires, “Where’s your girlfriend? And junior?”

“I’m going to get Susan next, dad. I thought you might want to get things going with Azzageddi first. As for Norman, he’s busy with a project at school right now, and frankly, I think you scared him off.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you gave the impression that his life may be endangered with this drink you have,” Lord77 explains.

“Pah…wimp. Well, go. I have to chat with your devil friend anyway about that nasty-looking sword of his,” Lord01 dismisses.

“Uh, that’s Azzageddi,” Azzageddi reminds.

“Right…right. Sorry,” Lord01 responds absentmindedly, waving his hand.

“I’ll be right back then,” Lord77 states, checks his ring for Susan’s whereabouts, and disappears.

“Now, Azz, let’s chat about your oversized knife there and what we should do about it.”

“I’ve had it contained in an access-proof chamber below my temple and locked within magical clamps. But,” lifting his sleeves and revealing the binding tattoos. “I’m still bound to the sword and its callings.”

“Well, let’s get you to the warehouse and look at relieving you of that issue,” Lord01

“Warehouse?” Azzageddi questions.

“It’s a name. Just a place I’ve been using to protect the bound weapons.”

Seeing Azzageddi’s concern, the ancient god explains.

“You know the little trick your young friend, the one who taught my son to not stick himself with a sword, did with his place that slowed down time?”

“Yes. Ravenvalykre. I recall you had a name for it,” Azzageddi responds.

“Right. His was sub-time – a slowing of time. There is the reverse of that too…hyper-time,” Lord01 says and continues. “The spell to establish them is fairly complex. I’m impressed your young friend was able to cast it. But anyway…One of the things I learned is that no place is magically impervious. Death can travel through any magical shield, and as I learned, his granddaughter. Then, there’s the tart.”

Noticing Azz’s facial change, Lord01 waves his hand in apology.

“Yeah…yeah…uh…Nyrini. Look, I have a lot on my mind over the millennia, and names never really stick much. So, if I go to descriptors, don’t take it too personally.

“Anyway,” the ancient god continues. “Nyrini has a different trick that passed right through my magical shield, and then there are those tricky gloves that Never More’s girl…See! His name I remembered!…well, his girl used to get into my library. The point being, no magically shielded structure is completely secured. So, I hid my warehouse in time.”

“How so?” Azzageddi inquires, getting curious.

“I built a structure for storage, magically shielded it, and then cast a low-speed hyper-time spell on it. It’s somewhere in the near future, and moving away. The only access is through portals in this castle and my library, keyed to myself, my son, and Nagele.”

“Hmm…sounds secure,” Azzageddi considers.

“As best as I can figure it out, it is. I even asked Death one time if he could find it. He couldn’t. That was enough for me.”

As the gods finish their discussion, Lord77 and Susan Sto Helit appear. Lord77 has an exasperated look on his face, and Susan’s stoic facial expression belies the sharpness in her eyes. Azzageddi knows that look too well, and feels sympathy to his brother as this was obviously not a happy trip.

“Ah, my dear,” Lord01 greats. “Morrigan has been looking forward to seeing you.”

“Hello, ancient one. Azz,” she nods at Azzageddi. Internally, he flinches. “I have been looking forward to this too,” she adds flatly.

“Good. Well, take a right out that door there and up the stairs. Morry is in a waiting room primping something or other.”

“Thank you.” Susan replies again without emotion and walks to the end of the room. As she exits, she looks back at Lord77, with a look that spells out great costs for this effort.

Azzageddi catches the glance and turns to Lordy. “Not happy, huh?”

“No. Not really,” Lord77 responds. “This is going to cost me.”

“Women…” Lord01 mutters. “Well, let’s get to the warehouse. Son, Nagele is in the library, please join him to review what we’ve done on the weapons so far. This shouldn’t take Azz and me too long.”

The ancient god exits leading Azzageddi towards the warehouse portal, leaving Lord77 alone in the hall. Before exiting to the library, he stares at the door through which Susan had just exited.

“This is definitely going to cost me,” he mutters to the empty room.

Azzageddi feels Feather twitch in his hand as they arrive in the octarine-glowing “Warehouse”. The images flooding his mind from the huge sword make him think of an attack-trained dog suddenly in amongst a whole pack of enemy dogs, growling and wanting to go for the throat. Around him are arranged the weapons and armor of the Godbinder, recovered from that evil deity’s lair. Each weapon is held in devices made of magical metals, ensorcelled to keep them helpless, and each piece of armor is likewise mounted for display but bound tightly. Some of the armor seems to be missing. He immediately recognizes one weapon, a whip made out of vertebrae. It is dead, killed by Feather in the previous battle, broken and laid out on a workbench for examination. Azz remembers what it did to Nyrini, after she volunteered to go in and lure the Godbinder out of his shielded inner sanctum.

And there is another one, securely locked up with clamps against a wall: the sword the Godbinder used to slice off Azz’s arm. And that he impaled Nyrini with, almost killing her. Twilight’s mother. One of Azz’s dearest friends.

He very nearly allows Feather to have its way. He comes so very close to the edge, peering over into an abyss. Just give in, he hears as if it is his own mind. Let Feather kill every last one of these monsters. And the Old One, too. He wants to keep these horrible weapons, study them—use them? Can you trust him? Let Feather take over and we’ll make everyone safe. We’ll destroy every threat. Everyone who would hurt those you love. Every. Single. One. Then, everyone can be at peace.

“Hey!” Lord01’s harsh voice cuts through his thoughts—through Feather’s thoughts. “You okay?? You were starting to…change.”

Azzageddi starts breathing again, gasping, and fights off the sword’s influence. “You need to get this thing away from me. Now.”

“Don’t you go all devil on me! Come over here. I have a place reserved for that nasty piece of work.” Lord01 shows him a contraption similar to that beneath Azzageddi’s temple, all gears and clamps. “Just place it in there. … Uh, devil? Oh boy…”

Suddenly a burning pain in his hand brings Azzageddi back from a moment of darkness. Feather drops to the ground with a BOOM, its full weight returned, glowing red with heat. Azz staggers back, sees his hand smoking, smells roasted flesh. Now there’s a smell that brings back memories, he thinks hysterically. “What—what just happened?”

“You were changing again! And you looked like you were about to try to kill me!”

“I…am sorry. Feather…took over. He has never done that before. I didn’t know that he could.”

Lord01 looks down at the rapidly cooling sword. “It gave it all it had, trying to take you over. Must’ve realized it was going to be imprisoned for good—and away from you.” He looks appraisingly at Azz. “Yeah, the sword sees you and it as a good match, devil. Figures in your hands, it can accomplish its goals.”

“He wants to kill, and never stop killing,” Azzageddi says, still breathing heavily.

“Yep,” chuckles the old god. “Like I said, good match. Explains why it didn’t try so hard with the bunny.”

“Mitsumi.”

“I know her name! I like her—she’s got moxie.” Lord01 smiles, then grimaces. “But the sword didn’t like her. Not powerful enough for its purposes. So it just messed with her enough that you would take it away from her. Then it figured it could work on you nice and slow, until it had you. It panicked just now. Lucky for me, it was focused so much on taking you over, it wasn’t paying attention to me, and I knocked it out. Here, let’s get it into its cradle and put baby to bed.”

They both laboriously lift the inert sword into the clamps, and Lord01 gestures, starting the gears turning. Just before the clamps lock the sword in place, Azz hears it in his mind again, inarticulate screams of rage, until the clamps set and the sword once again goes inert.

“You know,” says Lord01, “I was seriously thinking of trying to talk you into keeping those tattoos. Just in case we needed someone to carry this sword again into battle. After all, with my contraption—which includes spells to put the sword to sleep,” he says proudly, “combined with the Warehouse being out of step with time, you shouldn’t have the slightest problem with the sword getting into your head again.”

“I will never bear Feather again,” Azz says flatly, finally healing his blackened, bleeding palm.

“Oh, I agree. Way too dangerous. That sword’s a lot more powerful than it let on before. So let’s break that binding. Over here.” Lord 01 indicates a seat at a worktable, upon which lie two scrolls.

As Azz sits, he looks around the room some more. Again he recognizes a few weapons and pieces of armor from the Godbinder’s panoply, but there are more he had not seen: an axe that looked like a great seashell, a writhing squid-thing that was perhaps something akin to the living bola that had entangled Nyrini’s legs. One thing just looked like an egg pierced by five equidistant holes around its equator. “What is that?” Azz asks.

“No idea,” mutters Lord01 unrolling the scrolls across the table. “There’s a few pieces like that. I get the sense they’re very powerful, but I don’t know what they do. That’s why I need to study these things. There’s no guarantee there aren’t more Godbinders out there, biding their time. We need to know how to defend against them. Here now, put your forearms on the vellum.”

Azzageddi does so, laying his palms flat on the soft, thin calf-leather scrolls. Then Lord01 enacts the same magic Azzageddi used to take the tattooed binding spell from Mitzi before, transferring the spell from one type of skin to another. The Mardian writing flows like water from his forearms, hands, and fingers onto the sheets, ending up as script filling the scrolls. Azz raises his arms, flexing his fingers, then shaking his hands.

“How’s it feel?” grins the old god.

“Like I’ve set down a huge weight that I’ve been carrying a long time.” He looks at Lord01. “Thank you.” But as Lord01 rolls up the scrolls, he asks, “Are you sure you should keep those, here?”

“Ha!” Lord01 barks. “As if! No, I’ll be keeping them elsewhere, don’t you worry. And it’s best if I don’t tell you where. Carrying that sword is like an addiction, I expect. You might just find yourself having withdrawals. Now let’s get out of here. All this octarine is giving me hives.”

“The tone seems darker than that, Nagele. Don’t you think?” Lord77 poses to the Arch-Chancellor.

“I’m still getting the hang of this tone thing myself, Lordy. But, I tend to agree. To be on the safe side, let’s put it in the uncertain pile and let the Ancient look at it,” Nagele responds as he holds a Manica, or segmented armguard. “You have to admit, that Godbinder was well equipped.”

“You weren’t there for the fight, Nagele. There wasn’t one place I could strike him with Claiomh Solais where it wasn’t repelled by another bound piece. That bastard was a godbound-wrapped turtle,” Lord77 explains.

“I think I am glad I wasn’t back yet. Although, I might have been chasing butterflies around the grassland about then,” Nagele chuckles and then Lordy joins.

“How is it that you’re not at the university?” Lord77 inquires, changing topics.

“Oh, I have Carlyle running the admin stuff right now. I thought it best to give him some time at the helm without me around. Sort of a growth opportunity. Have others see him as an authority.

“Plus,” Nagele adds. “What I’m doing here is important. Getting the Ancient’s library coded and available for others to study is one of my main goals. Helping out on all this armament was just my way of paying him back.”

As the Arch-Chancellor finishes his explanation, Susan Sto Helit steps into the room. Nagele sees her first and rises, which causes Lord77 to turn to see who entered.

“My lady of souls! A pleasure to see you again!” Nagele greets, stepping forward and taking her hand.

“And a pleasure to see you again too, Arch-Chancellor,” Susan replies. Then turning to Lord77, she adds. “I’ve taken the tour of the castle with Morrigan and seen all the recent adornments. I’ve suggested that she take you on the same tour.”

Lord77 flinches slightly, but wisely responds. “Yes, dear.”

“Well, I have to handle some things back at the hall. I’m sure we’ll have time to discuss our trip here later, won’t we dear?” Susan adds, gaining a slightly greater flinch from her lover.

“Uhh…yes, dear. Of course.” the god answers as if there was any other answer that was possible under the circumstances.

Giving the god a small kiss on the cheek, Susan summons her scythe. “I look forward to it.” Turning again to the Arch-Chancellor, Susan bids a farewell and disappears.

“Is it just me, or did she seem a little…upset?” Nagele asks.

“My hope is that it is only a little, Arch-Chancellor.” Lord77 responds as a commotion from the hallway causes both gods to turn to the doorway.

Sticking his head in the doorway, Lord01 says, “Nagele, son. Take a break from that and come on over to the study. I just had a cask of Ambrosia sent up and thought you might like to try some.”

Setting down the armor pieces, both agree to join and follow the ancient god to the study where Azzageddi is seated at a table, tasting his first glass of the magical elixir.

“Arch-Chancellor, welcome!” Azzageddi states greeting Nagele. “Grab some glasses. I think you’ll find this a delightful drink.”

“I hope it’s strong,” Lord77 says as he pours a glass. “I need something to forget the look that Susan just gave me.”

“Still unhappy, is she?” Azzageddi asks softly to this brother as Lordy takes a seat across from him.

“She says she’s looking forward to talking about our trip here when I get back.” Lord77 responds quickly draining the first glass.

“Ouch."

“Yeah…time for round two. Whoa, this stuff packs a kick, dad!”

“You might want to take it a bit slower, son,” Lord01 suggests as he sits down at the end of the table. “Besides potent, this stuff has some magical properties to it that will play havoc with your realities if you let it build up.”

“You didn’t see Susan’s look before she left, dad. My reality is pretty much screwed right now. Havoc away!”

Mitzi is chatting with Sasha and Pasha when Susan returns to the bar, her facial expression an unhealthy mix of annoyance, frustration and sheer exhaustion. “Susan? Is everything all right?” the bunny asks in concern, while Pasha mixes a first-aid Ankhian Bunny. “Provided you don’t ask me what kind of curtain pattern would match a gold thread-embroidered burgundy-red velvet bed cover with tassels on all corners, yes, everything is just lovely!” Susan hisses, letting herself gracefully collapse on a barstool. She sighs. “I have just spent the last 2 hours being interrogated on my views regarding the advantages of using traditional-pattern tapestries or panels of cork for a… what did she call it?… chamber for sensory deprivation and meditation.” the goddess shakes her head in sheer fatigue. “I swear, little one, that Morrigan makes the full saga of the ‘273 Days of Klatchian Wars’ look a lot less violent than decorating a simple living room. Thank you, dear,” she adds, as Pasha sets the glass in front of her.

“No problemo,” Pasha replies. “And hey, with cork you could tack up memos and posters of your favorite musicians and stuff!”

Mitzi looks at her sympathetically. “I am glad that Azzageddi and I share similarly simple tastes in decoration. Although some of those Hawaiian masks on the walls…”

In the background, the chanting of “ship ship ship” grows louder, adding assault to injury on Susan’s nerves.

“I swear if these children keep going on about this ship, I will put them in a real one and throw them into the jaws of a real Kraken this time!” she mutters before taking a nice, long sip of her drink.

Mitzi smiles. “Yes…they are rather enthusiastic, aren’t they?”

“I am either getting very old or just very tired, little one,” Susan says with a sigh.

“Or maybe just stuck in the same routine,” Nyrini suggests, leaning across the counter to get a beer from Sasha. “When was the last time you actually went out. You know, to a bar that’s not actually inside your place of work?”

Susan contemplates the question for a moment. “Hmm… let’s see… It has been a while… I am pretty sure there was a comet involved and people were saying it announced the end of the world.”

“Have you noticed that people keep announcing the end of the world?” Nyrini notes. “Sorta gets old. I mean, when’s the world gonna get the memo? Like, hello! You should be ending! Read the friggin’ signs, already!” she rants.

Susan glances at Nyrini but doesn’t respond, her silence a testimony to her exhaustion.

Mitzi offers Nyrini a meaningful look before suggesting, “Well, Susan, why don’t you go out for an evening? Nyrini certainly knows some interesting places

“Yes, I remember the type of place Nyrini used to drag me to…” Susan grumbles. Then, after a moment, as if rattled by some sudden realization, she adds, “But, you know what? To Hell with it. Lordy and Azz are still at the castle and it’s not as if the world is going to end in the meantime. Lead the way.”

“That’s my Big Sis!” Nyrini cheers. “Prepare, Mitz! This is gonna be fun!”

“Wait! I’m coming?!” Mitzi exclaims, eyes wide with surprise.

Nyri rolls her eyes at this. “Well, duh!”

Mitzi thinks it over for a moment, then smiles. “Pasha, Sasha…could you watch Twilight for a few hours? Sorry about the short notice…oh, I can finally wear that dress I bought last year ”

“Sure, an’ dinnae worry ‘bout it!” Sasha replies. “You ladies need a change o’pace!”

“And we ain’t had much time with Twi for awhile anyway!” Pasha adds.

“This stuff is gooooood,” drawls Lord77 as he sips his Ambrosia. He looks over at Azzageddi. “Brother, you’re being awfully quiet. Everything okay?”

Azz looks up from contemplating his drink, and smiles. “Oh yes. Yes. Very much so. I’m just feeling so…free.” He chuckles. “I really can’t tell you what a relief it is, Lordy. I think tonight I may have my first good night’s sleep in months. Since Mardi, really.”

“Well, then, let’s celebrate!” Lord77 laughs and tops off Azz’s glass.

Azzageddi almost protests, but then shrugs a little and changes his mind. “Thanks. I think that’s a great idea!” He waits until his glass is full and then takes a healthy swig of the magical drink. It makes every cell in his body tingle with a pleasant warmth.

Nagele smiles and says, “Before you get too deeply into your well-earned celebration, Sergeant, I have a proposal for you.”

Azz grimaces at the word “proposal,” recalling last night’s comedy of mistaken intentions with the rings. “What is it, Arch-Chancellor?”

“I believe the Unseen University needs to bring in some new blood, to shake things up with the current faculty. They have, how should I put it…ossified under the previous administration. Now it’s not easy to bring in regular professors, but we can hire visiting profs to teach one or two special courses. I’m planning to recruit several, and those who show real aptitude may end up becoming full professors.”

Azzageddi nods. “I don’t really know much about how universities work, but all that sounds quite logical. The newcomers, if carefully chosen, should force the old guard out of established negative habits, improving things for everyone. Although conflict will be inevitable for awhile.”

Nagele smiles craftily. “You sound like you have some experience in this area.”

Azz shrugs. “I’ve trained a lot of troops, mostly soldiers. I was usually the disruptive element—the new guy brought in because the old guard couldn’t adapt to new realities.”

Nagele’s smile broadens. “Perfect.”

Lord77 tries to hide a smile. “Here it comes…” he murmurs under his breath.

Azz catches this and looks concerned. “Um…what exactly did you want to propose, sir?”

Nagele sips his drink before replying, then says seriously, “Our students have been involved in a number of scandals recently. You know of a few of them—selling their services to criminals and such. But there have been more cases we’ve handled in-house, and I am afraid that the old adage ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ is viewed as nothing more than a quaint saying by the current generation. I aim to change that.”

Azzageddi looks at him with a growing sense of dread.

“Lord01 has a higher opinion of you than you might realize, Azzageddi,” says the Arch-Chancellor. Lord01 snorts at this but says nothing, glaring at his son, who is stifling laughter. Nagele continues, “When the new semester starts, I want you teaching a course on ethics. There is no one who needs a good grounding in ethics than a wizard—well, except perhaps a god.”

Alarmed, Azzageddi exclaims, “Now wait just a minute! I’m no professor! I’m a cop!”

“A cop who used to turn raw troops into soldiers, and now turns the most unlikely candidates into responsible members of the Watch,” says Nagele.

“He’s got you there,” chuckles Lord77.

“Well, ‘responsible’ is highly debatable,” Azz protests. “Anyway, that’s actually more Susan’s line, or Mitzi’s. You should be asking them to do this!”

“Don’t think I didn’t consider Sergeant Sto Helit quite seriously,” replies Nagele. “In fact, I may well be asking her to teach a different course quite soon.”

“Wizards are not soldiers!” Azz insists. “It’s a completely different mode of teaching! You think they’re going to respond well to my going all drill sergeant on them? They’ll storm out of the class and complain to their rich parents!”

“I’m sure it will be a learning experience for you as much as for them,” Nagele replies calmly. “Considering how much you have changed your life already, I am confident in your resourcefulness and adaptability.”

Azz shakes his head, the effects of the Ambrosia starting to really kick in. “Anyway…why ethics? Me?? Lord01 has told you what I am, hasn’t he?”

“That is exactly why I chose you. Ethics are not instinctual. They are learned, and they are refined by our social experiences. We must struggle to become ethical creatures. You,” Nagele looks apologetic, “have had to struggle more than most. And yet you have come farther than most.”

“I still have a long way to go,” Azz grumbles.

“That you recognize that is crucial,” Nagele says, gently. “You will be influencing the next crop of UU graduates, the movers and shakers in the wizard world. Many of them go on to take on apprentices, or even to teach at other, less important schools of wizardry.”

“Yeah,” says Lord77, clearly feeling the effects of Ambrosia himself. “Like that one place, uh, what was it called, Pigwarts?”

“Hey, watch it! I did a semester there myself,” Azz shoots back.

“Oh right,” Lord77 laughs. “The old Alma Mater!”

Azz’s eyes narrow as he looks at Lord77. “Hey, why are you finding this so funny?” Lordy’s look of alarm is enough to confirm Azz’s suspicions. “You son of a—!”

“Ahem!” harrumphs Lord01.

“—sorry,” apologizes Azz, still glaring at Lord77. “So you set me up for this?”

Lordy spreads his hands. “Hey, who else do I know who worries so much about whether an action is ethical or not? You’re perfect for this!”

“The point is, Azzageddi,” intones Nagele, trying to bring the conversation back on topic, “what will you have these wizards teach their students? That any old magic is fine as long as it brings wealth? That the mundane mortals of the world are mere serfs for wizards and slaves for gods, to be used for any purpose at all?”

Azzageddi’s shoulders slump. As he realizes he cannot avoid this, he feels annoyed at how easily manipulated he is when it comes to the just treatment of mortals. He sighs. “When does the semester start?” he asks hopelessly.

Nagele smiles and takes another sip. “Oh you have months to prepare. I very much look forward to seeing what you come up with. Please consult me any time you have questions, or want me to look over your preparations. We’ll get this course into shape together, never fear.”

Azzageddi drains his glass, then says, “Yes, Arch-Chancellor.”

“Oh please, call me Nagele.”

“Well, goodnight Mended Drum! We’ll be here all night, so feel free to keep the drinks coming!”

As they come off the stage to scattered applause, Mitzi mutters to Nyrini, “I can’t believe you got me to sing. And I really can’t believe you got Susan to sing

Nyrini waves her off. “Ah, Big Sis acts all serious and all but she’s a party girl waiting to happen! You should see her when she gets ‘playful’! Total animal!”

Mitzi grins. “That would be something to see.” She looks around at the seedy tavern, the disreputable-looking customers. “Susan…why did you want to come here?”

Susan takes a seat at one of the evenly murky tables. “I used to hang out here a lot during my Academy days,” the goddess explains, gesturing to the bartender to bring over a bottle of the foul, homemade rotgut whiskey the bar has become famous for (mostly in hospitals around the city). “Whenever I wasn’t being banned, of course,” she adds half to herself.

Mitzi’s eyes widen. “You? Banned?” She sits back and appears to be trying to wrap her head around this.

“It is a long story, little one,” Susan replies. “But let us say I was younger and tended to flock with people with a rather… exuberant modus vivendi. I was also an inexperienced drinker.”

Mitzi is so stunned by this, she barely notices Nyrini pouring three shot glasses full of the whiskey, neat (a word that could hardly be applied in this case, although the whiskey did kill the small organisms crawling around in the dusty glasses). Mitzi manages to bring her glass almost up to her mouth before she catches a whiff of the oily, almost palpable odor rising from the liquid. “UGH! This smells like old socks!”

“That’s why you don’t smell it before (or even after) you drink it, little one,” Susan says, nonchalantly. “Oh, and you shouldn’t taste it either. Just swallow and watch out for the kick.”

“And that’s how you do moonshine shots without passing out before you actually take a swig!” Nyrini says happily. She downs her glass and fills it up again, looking somewhat disappointed. “Aaawwww… this isn’t the stuff that used to make you go blind for a couple of seconds after drinking, anymore!”

“Seconds?” Susan questions. “You must be talking about the better vintages. The really cheap stuff we used to drink would leave you blind for a couple of minutes and/or make you deaf for the rest of the night. We used to consider it a blessing on open mic nights with the werewolves…”

Mitzi is holding her glass up to the dim lamplight, peering into the liquid dubiously. “Are we sure this is remotely safe for mortals to drink?”

Susan gestures vaguely at the people gathered in the bar. “Most of the people here are mortals, little one. Well, relatively mortal, at least…”

Mitzi looks around at the customers again. “I think a few of them might have passed away at the bar and just been left there for a few years.”

“Hey, what’re we supposed to do with those? Bury them?” Nyrini retorts, looking around. “You know, we really should liven up this dump.”

“Want a fast way?” Susan asks, pointing at a ceiling beam that looks suspiciously similar to all the other ones. “See that ceiling beam? See the knot in the wood? Shoot it with your crossbow.”

Before Mitzi can protest, Nyrini complies, summoning her crossbow and shooting the beam deadcenter in the right spot. The beam creeks ominously and, for a minute, nothing happens. Mitzi exhales in relief.

“Hey!” Nyri protests “Nothing happened! You said it’d—”

Suddenly, the beam breaks in two and a portion of the ceiling collapses. Wood and plaster hit the floor, closely followed by a large bathtub with a fat gentleman in it. The man is singing opera at the top of his lungs as he rubs soap on his shoulders, his eyes closed in operatic rapture. Once he finally finishes his aria, he opens his eyes, takes one look around…

…and screams a perfectly pitched ladylike scream.

Nyrini laughs so hard she nearly suffocates, while Mitzi looks in speechless shock, first at the man, and then at Susan, who merely smiles and whispers, “It always works.”

Just as the regulars start reacting to the impromptu rain of bathtubs and fat men with cries of “C’Mon, not again!” and “At least last time it was a banjo player!”, a rather disheveled-looking man runs into the bar, his head shooting left and right as he yells,

“Are there any cops here?! C’mon! There’s always cops in here and I need a cop!”

Mitzi looks from Susan to Nyrini, trying to decide whether to identify herself as a cop or shrink into her seat in shame at having been a party to causing such property damage, but as always, duty comes first. She catches Susan’s small nod of approval and stands up, smoothing her green cocktail dress, clears her throat, and asks, “What is it, Arnulf?” in an authoritative voice.

The man looks the room, trying to identify the source of the voice, then spots Mitzi and walks up to her table, removing his hat and holding it shyly in his hands.

“I… I didn’t know you cops had decided to change uniforms, Miss Mitzi,” he stutters. “The… the green looks good on you, Miss. Goes with the… uuhh…” he gestures at a spot vaguely above his head. “Ears.”

Mitzi looks slightly nonplussed at this and glances at Nyrini, who is still chuckling, before asking again, “What’s the problem?” She appears to be trying to ignore the continuing commotion behind her, as the fat man struggles to get out of the bathtub.

“Problem?” Arnulf asks, rubbing his head in confusion while still staring at Mitzi in high heels. “Oh, right! There’s something goin’ on at the Double-Tailed Siren! I saw all them people leaving the place screaming in panic and then turning around as if they’d run out of screamin’, march in, and then march out carrying diamond-studded torches and winter-collection designer pitchforks. Someone’s in for some really classy lynching, Miss!”

“Lynch mobs are never good news,” Susan intervenes. “Maybe it is best if I investigate this incident myself, Sergeant,” she adds, rising from her seat. She doesn’t wait for the bunny’s reply before summoning her scythe and vanishing into thin air.

Mitzi looks at Nyrini, then back at the devastation, and says, “Please remind me never to wish to see Susan’s playful side again.”

“But you haven’t even gotten to see it yet!” Nyrini cries.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this,” Mitzi says doubtfully, “but would you follow her, to make sure she doesn’t get into more trouble?” She thinks it over. “Yes, actually that is a completely insane suggestion…” She surveys the damage again. “I…had better offer to take a report here. I’ll see you back at the Watch House. I just hope I don’t have to arrest myself.”

“If you do, don’t go for the orange outfits. They’re soooooo not your color!” Nyrini jests, then looks at the killer glare the bunny is aiming at her. “OK, OK! I’m going already! See ya later!” She looks around one last time, grumbling, “And there goes a perfectly good girls’ night out…”

Polishing off another glass of the finely aged Ambrosia, Lord77 attempts to place it back on the table. He looks at the table… tables… (whoo… why’s it wobbling?), aims at the point in between and puts the glass down, cringing slightly and half-expecting it to crash on the floor. Relieved that the glass wobbles on the wooden surface, but doesn’t fall, he sits back…and misses his chair.

“Brah, looks like you’re pretty toasted,” Azzageddi laughs, and misses his mouth with his glass, spilling some of the precious liquid on his shirt. “Oh mannnn…does this stuff stain?”

“Me?!” Lord77 says with mock injustice, crawling back into the chair. “Uh uh. I’m…fine! Jush dandy! Did’n you…did’n you feel that discquake? I swear there was one!” Looking down at his now empty glass, the god adds. “We ought to tell Godofbeer about this stuff.”

Azzageddi seems to snap out of a daydream at these words. “Wha- Who?” His head shoots left and right certain that he heard something, until he finally focuses his drunken eyes on Lord77.

“Godofbeer!" Lord77 gestures vaguely. “Yah no, big guy.” The god tries to point at his own head but ends up tapping it hard. "Helmet.” He winces and rubs his head in pain.

“Oh..right.” Azz responds on reflex. He suddenly brightens up. “You know? We oughta tell’im ’bout this stuff!”

“Right!” Lordy enthusiastically agrees. “Yeah! We sh’ld totally do that!

Do what?” Azz inquires, trying to think through a fog that no lighthouse could pierce.

“I…” Lord77 ponders and then shrugs. “I don’know. I forgot.”

“Well, both of you look like you’ve just about hit your limits,” Lord01 comments from the end of the table. "You’ve been draining my stock pretty well. Why don’t you get back to your places and sleep it off?”

“Tell ya what, Lordy,” Azzageddi slurs as he attempts, poorly, to rise from his chair, then makes another attempt, and finally succeeds on his third try. “Let’sh just walk back and let this stuff wear off.”

Lord77’s eyebrows furrow as he tries to consider that suggestion. “Dat’s a…loooong… I mean we’d have to… and then…” he trails off. “What was I just sayin’?”

Azzageddi shrugs “I d’know…”

“OH! It’s a loooooong walk, brother. We’re in Lancre, you know,” Lord77 says, pointing at the wall, then checking where is pointing and correcting his finger to point out the window.

Azzageddi, gripping the table hard to keep vertical, forces himself to rethink that suggestion. “Yeah, maybe you’re right. How ‘bout we pop to the edge of the city, then, an’ walk from there? I don’ wanna show up in front’a Mitzi like thish…”

Lord77, now barely vertical himself, takes a risk by nodding his head in agreement. Waving at the ancient god, he states. “Thanks for the hooch, dad. Greaaaat stuff. But, Azz is right. We gotta get back.”

Now looking at Azzageddi. “Soooo…What’yah think, sarge? Wanna walk back from the Fronts?”

“Shooor. We’ll blend in with the other drunks there,” Azzageddi agrees and both gods disappear.

兎神兎神兎神兎神兎

It’s early evening as the two gods appear in an alley in the bar district. The area is already active as local business staff fill the establishments.

“Ugh…” Lord77 moans, looking around. “Why’s the place movin’ ‘round? I don’ r’member dis street movin’ like this!”

“Yeah,” Azzageddi agrees, stumbling a little. “That shtuff really kills the cells, and then shticks aroun’ ta bayonet the wounded.”

“No…well, yeah. But not that,” the toga clad god attempts to clarify through some very non-clear grey matter. “It’s where we is…are…whatever. This bar here’s full of’em snooty types. I hate the place. Was by here when I was tracking the alca…alko…the booze-changin’-to-water guy.”

Pointing a shaking arm towards the building, Lord77 continues. “If I was one of those smite-em gods, I would have smited-ed dem all on the spot!… or someth’n like that.” His brows furrow for a moment, then a bright smile suddenly comes to his face, his eyes grinning with malice. “I know, brudda, we can scare ‘em!”

“Huh? Why?” Azzageddi, thoughts bumping into Ambrosia-fabricated walls, attempts to comprehend.

“Cuz, they’re uppity ones! You know! Those Hiney-kin drinkers. You remember the lot from when we were recurui… startin’ on the force. And! And… and… and…” He leans on Azz and whispers very closely, “they were rude to me last time, brah.”

“So, we should…ugh…scare ‘em?” Azzageddi again tries comprehension but quickly realizes the futility. “Wait…are we talkin’ about the same people?”

“YEP! Really knock them off that high horsey,” Lord77 explains (well, tries to explain given the fact that language is pretty much off limits at this point).

Connecting A to Z through a path that uses no letters, Azzageddi finally sees the logic in the action, a further testimony to the strength, effectiveness, and overall hallucinogenic properties of Ambrosia. He sums up his epiphany in one word. “OKAY!” Then, brows furrowed adds. “How?”

“Uhh…hmm….I know! Turn into that devil thingy, and run into the place. That will make them pants their wet.”

“Nooooooo!” Azzageddi moans. “I hate the devil form. Besides, it takes a long time to revert back, and I don’t want to walk around here in horns. People’ll throw rocks at me…”

Lord77 chuckles at this. “Remember that one time that troll threw a balcony? Still had the old crow waterin’ her flow’r pots on it!” he bends double with laughter. ”That was funny!

With Azz remaining quiet, Lord77 finally calms down and ponders the problem for a moment…then another moment…then considers the word “ponder” before coming back.

“I got it! I’ll grow horns too, and then I know a spell that will revert you to normal quickly!”

“Horns, Lordy? I…don’t know…why?” Azz sounds like thinking is becoming a Sysiphean endeavor.

“Yeah…illushun…uhh…make believe ones! Watch!” Lord77 excitedly announces and then waves one hand while muttering. “There! How’s that?!”

Azzageddi squints as he tries to focus on both Lordies. Finally, he gives up and closes one eye. “Uh…you only got one horn, Lordy. Right in the middle of your forehead. Nice unicorn effect. Can we show that tah Twi? She’d love it!”

“What?! Oh, damn…” Lord77 growls, again waving and muttering. “There, two now!”

Azzageddi squints with one eye, then the other, and since they somewhat agree with each other, decides it’s a good time to respond. “Yep. Two. One in front, one in back. You coul’ be a walkin’ coat-hang’r.”

“Oh, crap…Well, they’ll just have to do. Your turn.”

“Yeah, OK,” Azzageddi relents. First, with a clumsy gesture, he sends away his clothes so they won’t be ripped to shreds when he changes forms, replacing them with a pair of oversized shorts that he has to hold up with one hand. Then, concentrating hard, he begins to grow and change to a red-black color, wings sprouting from his back, tail, hooves, the works. “There, how’s that?” He rumbles, his voice now a deep bass. “Hey…why’d I do this again?”

“’Cuz!! ‘Cuz…” Lord77 struggles to reason. “Aaah, forget it!! S’just perfect!,” he announces. “Now, let’s go have fun.”

Both gods turn and burst into the front of the bar where tables, packed closely together, are filled with local business types, many of whom are sipping their Hiney-kins. After creating general mayhem, including threats of immediate damning to Hell if they don’t treat people better, the two gods quickly exit the bar and speed back towards the alley. (Well…speed is a bit generous. More like manage to not fall on their faces as they stumble back into the alley.)

Both gods halt, breathing hard and laughing.

“Did… (wheeze) D’you see the guy at the bar?!” Lordy exclaims. “I think he crapped himself!”

“Yeah, and the guy that spewed his beer all over his buddies?!” Azzageddi gasps with laughter, his talons on his knees. He wipes his eyes and flaps a claw at Lord77. “OK, OK, OK. OK. …. OK… now do your magic, and let’s get outta here.”

“Right…right…” Lord77 replies and pausing a moment (to gather his… uuhh… thoughts?) begins to cast a spell. “This’s easy to fight off, but let it settle. It might itch a bit.”

Azzageddi grits his teeth as a full-body itch spreads over him. Once it passes, he looks down and sees he has returned to his normal human form. He quickly catches hold of his now ludicrously large shorts just before they fall.

“That’s a great trick, Lordy! How did you do that?”

“It’s an immortality supr… spereshhhhhhion… Damn it! OK… su-pe-ression spell,” Lord77 states as he scratches his shoulder.

Azzageddi tries to summon his regular clothes back once, then again, before Lord77’s words penetrate. “Wha—I’m mortal?!” Azzageddi exclaims.

“Not ta worry! It’s reversimable!” Lordy quickly ripostes, tapping his nose with his finger. “I gotta few tricks, yah know?!”

“Well, c’mon! And were’sh your horns?” Azzageddi asks.

Lord77 concentrates. “Whatt’ya mean my—uh oh,” he mumbles scratching himself again.

“UH OH?! What UH OH?!” Azzageddi demands.

“Uh…the spell appears to be area effect, not targeted…Man, this ‘s’mbarrassin’.”

“What the Hell does that mean?!”

“Um… I may…sorta…kinda…made a m’stake an’…” Lord77 hangs his shoulders as he confesses. “I’m mortal too. I can’t cast the spell.”

Just then a crowd carrying torches and pitchforks (they always carry torches and pitchforks, but at least these are high-class designer ones) spills out of the bar and turns the corner. Seeing the two defrocked gods, they shout and charge.

“Oh crap!” both yell and begin running further down the alley away from the crowd.

“Don’t you have any other tricks, Lordy?!” Azzageddi yells, suddenly feeling very sober.

“I’m mortal, remember!” Lord77 yells back, the drunken haze dissolving under the panic.

“So are the wizards! They can cast spells!” Azz responds.

“Oh, the tame stuff! Right! Turn here!” Lord77 exclaims and cuts down a side alley, followed by Azzageddi.

Coming to a quick halt, Lord77 waves both hands and yells a spell. Suddenly, a sandworm, similar to the one that the god raised at the end of Azzageddi’s beach party, leaps from the ground and turns the corner the gods just passed, traveling towards the angry crowd. Screaming is then heard, followed by the sound of rapidly retreating feet.

“Damn, this is hard!” Lord77 says gritting his teeth as he holds the spell. “Remind me to compliment Norman on his spells. It’s sooo easy to cheat with Godpower.”

Finally slumping against a building, Lord77 releases the spell. Azzageddi pants hard from exertion and the effects of mortality and Ambrosia, and leans against the opposite wall, looking down at his fellow…well used-to-be god. “Got any bright ideas now?”

“Well, you can start by telling me why exactly I just got called here to get you out of trouble,” a sharp answer in feminine voice arrives from a little further down the alley. Both spin to see Susan Sto Helit, scythe in hand and eyes flashing anger, standing before them.

“Uhh…hi dear?” Lord77 greets her sheepishly as he attempts to stand straight, make himself as small as possible and look very, very sober, all at once. The reduction of adrenalin and the lingering effects of the Ambrosia overcome his fleeting attempt at vertical and he falls, face down, between the other two gods.

Azzageddi leans over his prone partner and clutches his oversized shorts with one hand. Refusing to look up at the steaming goddess, he whispers loudly. “I don’t think an illusion ‘s gonna help us this time, Lordy.”

“Well, you can start by telling me why exactly I just got called here to get you out of trouble,” Susan Sto Helit hisses, standing before the two very drunk (and in Azzageddi’s case, half-naked) gods, her eyes burning an angry icy blue.

Not far away, the sandworm Lord77 has summoned is already disappearing and the crowd can be heard heading back in their direction.

“Uhh…hi dear?” Lord77 greets her sheepishly, suddenly standing up straight as a lightning rod just before falling, face down on the filthy floor of the alley just as a small voice cries “Tiiiiiiiiiimbeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer!!”

Susan turns to her left to see Nyrini there, trying to stifle a serious fit of laughter.

“You know, you’re not really helping their case…” Susan mutters.

“I know, I know. But c’mon! That was funny!” Nyrini replies, chuckling at the sight of Azzageddi whispering loudly and poking his fallen partner in the ear while trying to hold on to his family-sized pants. “What are we gonna do with these two? I mean, they’ve clearly drunk their way to the bottom of the barrel.”

Susan looks at the pitiful scene in mild disgust for a moment. Eventually, she sneers, “The same thing we do with every disorderly drunk we find on the streets.”

Nyrini nods at first, then her eyes widen and her jaw drops as realization dawns. She shakes her head.

“Wait, wait! You mean, book’em?! Sis, that’s Lordy and Azz! Your boyfriend and your—” she pleads, pointing at Azzageddi, who is right now trying to get Lord77 back on his feet while trying to counterbalance the weight of his friend’s inert body with a tail that is no longer there. “By the way, is there any kind of, like, special name for whatever kind of friendship you two have going on?”

Susan sighs at the sight of Azz losing balance and falling on his back with a “Ooof!” as Lord77 lands on him, belly down. “‘Old friend’ will do.” Her expression hardens again. “And yes, dura lex sed lex. We are taking them in to sleep it off in a jail cell before the mob takes them to sleep it off with the fishes.”

“You’re talking about river Ankh, here…” Nyrini reminds her.

Susan glares at Nyrini for a minute, a look the young goddess has learned to survive by sheer denial that it is happening to her.

“Very well,” Susan concedes, “before the mob takes them to sleep it off with the ridiculously heavy pieces of garbage, old statues and sunken treasure no one would be crazy enough to claim… and the occasional clueless fish. Now help me get them out of here, please.”

“Yes, ma’am!” Nyrini salutes brightly, prompting another glare from her sister.

Each of the goddesses manages to prop one of the gods up, sparing them additional embarrassment as they teleport them back to the Watch House. There, they’re met by Mitzi, who has just returned from the Mended Drum.

“Oh, Susan, did you find the probl—Lord77 and Azzageddi?!” The bunny rushes to greet them, mildly confused at the sight of the two gods. “Ugh, they don’t look so good,” she comments, her nose twitching at the sickly-sweet scent of the Ambrosia on the gods’ breath.

“To my great regret, yes,” Susan states, deadpan, while she wraps an arm around Lord77 and forces him to stumble forward under her grip.

Nyrini holds Azz just below his armpits and helps him onward. “Come on, Mitzi. Sue’s gonna throw’em in the clink!” she announces in obvious amusement.

“What? Why? What happened?” the bunny asks in confusion, following the goddesses and their burdens.

“These two have apparently decided to go down Memory Lane all the way back to when they were still at the Academy, getting drunk and spreading mayhem every night,” Susan growls, both with anger and with the Herculean effort of pretty much dragging her lover down the hall that leads to the cells.

“Was it really that bad?” Mitzi inquires.

“Oh, they only drank on two occasions back then: when they were thirsty and when they weren’t,” Susan says, clearly to avoid discussing recent events. She stops by the first cell and props Lord77 against the wall (which lasts a whole 2 seconds before he slides down to the floor). “Now, where to park them for the night?”

Nyrini helps Azzageddi sit down by Lord77 and calls the officer on cell duty. Already way beyond consciousness, Azz wavers, tilts, leans and collapses on Lord77’s lap, snoring loudly.

“Here’s the cell-booking log,” Nyrini offers. “May I suggest cell 3?”

Susan looks at the log and raises an eyebrow. “The ‘Mine the Signs’ dwarven a capella group?”

“Oh, no, please, Nyrini, I can’t stand another performance of ‘Gold, gold, gold’!” Mitzi pleads. “I’ve had that song stuck in my head for a week, already!”

“Yeah, it’s a real earworm inn’it?” Nyrini concedes, unconsciously tapping her foot and humming the lyrics.

“Why did they get arrested, anyway?” Susan queries with an I’m-going-to-regret-asking look on her face.

“Singing without a key,” Nyri prompts.

“You mean ‘singing out of key’” the older goddess corrects.

“Nope. Without one. They broke into the Opera House and hijacked the stage right in the middle of a show just so they could practice singing in front of a big audience,” Nyri explains. “The public loved it! The prima donna… not so much.”

Susan looks down at the log again, mumbling, “I will be very careful not to make further enquiries on that matter. Now…” she adds. “I think these two need a night in cell 7.”

“The troll transvestites we booked for false advertising?” Nyrini asks.

“Nyrini…” Mitzi admonishes her quietly.

“What?!” the young goddess snaps as she follows Susan’s example and helps Azzageddi back up on his feet. “They were selling bags of chalk and calling it “Make Your Own Marble” kits!”

The goddesses quickly begin dragging the gods along again, with a rather worried Mitzi trailing along.

The bunny knits her brow, thinking hard. “Normally I wouldn’t condone putting male prisoners in with female-identified prisoners, but I was talking with them earlier and though drag queens they are actually cis-gendered…” she trails off at the sight of the burning anger in Susan’s eyes. “It’s a, um, troll thing…never mind.”

Susan stops just outside cell 7. “Hello, ladies,” she greets in a false cheerful tone. “I have brought you some company.”

“Man meat bags?” one of the trolls, covered in a dashing little number made out of purple-colored lichen covered in sparkles, rumbles as the two gods are dragged into the cell. “I dun’ know wha’ you been tol’ lady, but we like dem ladies. If ya wanna please us, how ‘bout bringin’ us som’real rock?”

“Love, trust me, those too are hammered enough to swear on their holy books that they’re stone-hard from the neck down,” Nyrini states with a chuckle.

“And just plain stoned from the neck up,” Susan mutters, updating the log book and signing it. “Very well, ladies, I leave them in your care. Please, play nice,” she adds with a nasty little smile before turning to leave.

“That was one strangely attractive troll,” Mitzi comments “I didn’t even know trolls could have breasts.”

“Bah! All fake,” Nyrini states, cringing slightly at the memory of the troll throwing her a kiss. “Clay implants. And what about the chisel marks around the lips? Real botch job, if you ask me.”

“Why did you pick cell 7, Susan?” Mitzi inquires, the goddess’ malevolent facial expression fueling her growing concern. “Do you think the trolls will teach them a lesson?”

“I seriously doubt that,” Susan responds, to Mitzi’s relief. “But check what cell 8 is full of,” the goddess adds, showing Mitzi and Nyrini the relevant page of the log book.

The bunny takes one look at the records and cringes at what she finds there. “Oh, dear… That’s going to hurt…”

“The price of a favor, little one,” Susan says. “The price of a favor.”

Nyrini chuckles. “And here I was, thinking you were going soft…”

Sunlight has unusual properties on the disc. The magical interference gives it almost lifelike properties at times. It can speed down into valleys like a child running down a hill. Or, it can languidly flow up mountains, taking its time to rest. But, when the first beams of sunlight find the eyes of one whose previous night of overindulgence leaves them excessively sensitive, it takes a sadistic turn, landing on the optic nerve and pounding it like a woodpecker on methamphetamines. This is, sadly, the situation for Lord77 as his hangover-driven, restless sleep causes him to turn in his jail-cell bunk, just as the aforementioned photonic sadists enter room from the lone window up high.

“Argh!” The god yells, throwing his arm over his eyes in a futile attempt to repel the killer beam. His overly sensitive ears can almost hear the beam giggling as it works its way around the folds of the god’s toga to reestablish its drilling.

Unfortunately, the oversensitive ears are also ripe for another assault, this one coming from cell 8, whose inhabitants have a different view of morning sunlight. To harpies, morning sunlight beckons them to sing their morning “song”…a nice, melodious song that could be compared to stashing a thousand angry crows in a tight room and tossing in a rabid cat, only amplified ten-fold.

Thus, moments after struggling with a viciously cruel sunbeam attacking one sense, his ears are filled with screaming harpies from far too close proximity.

“AAARGH!” the god again yells, only this time louder as he attempts to cover his eyes with one arm and his ears with two hands, yet always coming up short an appendage.

“Owwwwww!” Lord77 hears from nearby, adding slightly to his discomfort, but registering with the few grey cells not currently trying to exit his cranium as Azzageddi’s voice.

Rolling off his cot onto the floor, Azzageddi kneels, face down, forehead to the hard, stone floor while attempting to compress his ears into his head with the palms of his hands. “Lordy, make them stop!”

“I…can’t!” Lord77 shouts back, regretting immediately the use of his voice. “Too much… pain!”

“Hey look! Dem meatbags dun’ like dem birdies’ singin’,” one of the transvestite trolls remarks. “Juss goes tah show ye need some good rock tah roll wi’that.”

Before the other troll can respond, the door swings open and Mitzi, in full AMCW patrol uniform, steps into the cell.

“Good morning!" she greets, far too loudly and brightly for comfort. "I was waiting for you two to awaken so that I can get you out of here. Lordy, there are two officers here that will take you to your portal. I’ll return with Azzageddi back to his temple myself.” Leaning down towards her lover, she softly adds, “Two temple monks have crossed over to help me.”

“Thank you,” Lord77 says in a raspy voice as the Watch officers step in and help him to a vertical position.

“Oh, don’t thank me. I think you’ll find that Susan is waiting for you over there,” Mitzi calmly answers.

“Ugh…” Lord77 grunts as the ramifications of that statement take hold. Looking up with heavily blood-shot eyes at the Watch officers who now have him by each arm and are starting to drag him forward, the god adds. “If either of you happen to believe in mercy killings, please feel free to slip a sword through my ribs before you send me over,” he pleads.

Sadly, neither officer is kind enough to provide him that service.

兎神兎神兎神兎神兎

Unceremoniously shoved through the kitchen portal to his temple, Lord77 stumbles down the hallway towards his sleeping chamber. Finally locating and entering the room, he is relieved to find it empty, wishing for the coolness and softness of his bedsheets to wash away the torment that is taking place only a finger’s width behind his eyeballs.

He crawls into his bed, but barely gets a leg onto the mattress, when a sound causes him to halt.

“You’re behind me, aren’t you?” he whispers hoping to the Great Maker that he is wrong.

He isn’t.

“Yes, I am here,” her voice, so many times the center of his joy, now his torment, intones. “I told Mitzi that I would insure that you got to bed after she released you. Although, why I would do this is beyond me. Especially after you dragged me over there to play the ‘little woman’ for Morrigan, only to then have to abandon my time with the girls in order to rescue your pathetic carcass from an angry band who had all the right on the Disc to lynch you…”

Lord77, still frozen, one leg in, one out, grits his teeth as Susan’s lecture binds with the Ambrosia-laden hangover to enhance his wish for a swift death.

“…and, how is it you are mortal?!” Susan finally demands.

The god takes advantage of the momentary silence to finally complete his transit into the bed. Rolling over to face her, and regretting highly the additional motion, he responds. “Not mortal, my love, just not being very godlike right now. Errant spell. Seemed like a good idea at the time. I’ll need dad to undo it.”

Susan shakes her head for a moment. “Fine. Sleep some more of that off. I’ll be back later to take you over to him.”

“Thank you,” Lord77 whispers and passes out.

Susan exits the chamber, and tracks down Flower, currently hiding in the kitchen from the commotion.

“Dear,” Susan sweetly tells the bunny. “Please give your master one hour of rest and then bring these to him with some water,” she adds giving the bunny two, white tablets. “I will return for him afterwards.”

“Yes, Mistress Susan,” Flower responds taking the tablets.

As Susan exits, the bunny quietly enters the sleeping chamber, sets the tablets and water on the corner table and covers the snoring god with the rest of the blankets.

Azzageddi awakes to a cool, wet feeling on his forehead. His eyes open to a dimly lit room. A moment of trying to focus reveals it to be his bedroom, and flopping his arm to his forehead reveals a neatly folded wet towel placed there carefully.

“Good morning.”

Azz closes his eyes again at the gentle voice, ashamed, memory of all he’d done the night before replaying before his mind’s eye. He tries to speak, but his mouth, feeling like he’s spent all night trying to clean a cat with his tongue, is too dry to make any sound other than a drawn-out croak.

He feels a hand slip under his skull and raise it up, and a ceramic cup pressed to his lips. “Here,” Mitzi says.

He drinks greedily until the cup is empty, then coughs and groans. “Thank you,” he gasps. He lies in silence for a long moment, feeling Mitzi sitting quietly beside him. He starts to feel silly, trying to outwait her.

“I, um…sorry, Mitzi.”

“What you did was very irresponsible,” she says, her voice still unexpectedly gentle.

“I know. I know. Probably…more than you realize.” He opens his eyes and sits up very slowly, pushing himself back so he has his back against the headboard. He looks at her in the dim light. Her shoulders are slumped, her back not straight, as usual. “What’s wrong, Mitzi? You don’t look…angry.”

She chuckles sadly. “Is that what I’m supposed to be?” She sighs. “I suppose I would be if I weren’t just as bad. I almost had to arrest myself last night. I, uh, had to remind the owner of the Mended Drum of the last time Aliyaa spent over thirty thousand gold there in one night.”

“Yeah…there’s no way they have any more than a hundred gold worth of booze there in stock—they must’ve ripped her off when she was drunk…” He pauses and moans softly, hand to his head. “Wait, what are we talking about here?”

Mitzi grimaces. “Susan, Nyrini, and I had a night out. At the Drum.”

Azz smiles at old memories, then winces from the pain the smile causes. “Ah, the Mended Drum. I remember old Academy days there, with Susan and Lordy.” Then other memories surface. “Susan had a tendency to cause a lot of damage in that place after a drink or two. They kept banning her…and kept rebuilding the place.”

Mitzi nods. “That’s pretty much how it went.”

“Was there a bathtub involved?” Azz whispers.

Mitzi looks at him in shock. Azz chuckles. “Yeah,” he says, “I don’t understand it either. But every single time Sue raised a ruckus there, eventually a bathtub fell through the ceiling.” He shrugs, then kneads his forehead.

“Still hurts?” Mitzi asks.

“Yeah… Mitzi?” He takes her hand. “Remember that time you and Nyr went out, and you had a hangover, and you waited awhile before telling me you’d been struck blind by Lightstealer?”

She nods. “Should I be saying ‘Uh-oh’ right about now?”

“Probably,” Azz says. “I’m…mortal.”

There is a long, long silence. Then the bunny shouts, “WHAT??”

Azz, prepared for it, still barely suppresses the urge to yelp like a kicked puppy. He swears he actually sees stars. “Mitziiiii…” he groans.

She dope-smacks him on the back of the head, raising an “Ow!” from him. “What did you DO?!” she demands.

“I…nothing! And don’t hit me! You’re very strong, and I’m no longer able to heal myself.”

“Oh,” says Mitzi. “Sorry. But…how did it happen.”

“Lordy,” Azz says. “Doing magic under the influence. Again.”

Mitzi mutters angrily, “Maybe I should break his nose again.”

“No,” Azz says. “He’s mortal too.”

“HE TURNED HIMSELF MORTAL?!”

After he recovers from almost blacking out from the pain of Mitzi’s voice, Azz gasps, “He says it can be reversed. … But…”

“But what?” Mitzi says archly, sounding like she does not like where this is going.

“But what if I didn’t get it reversed?” Azz asks quietly. “What if I stayed mortal?”

“Why?” she asks, after a moment, “would you want to do that?”

“Well,” he says, “you’ve made it very clear that you don’t want to become immortal. I spent a great deal of my life pretending to be mortal. I had a family, and I outlived them all. And here I’ve gone and fallen in love with a mortal again. I…I don’t want to keep losing people. I don’t want to lose you.”

Mitzi sighs. “That…is very sweet. It’s also very stupid. And you know it.”

“Mitzi…”

“What are you going to do when Aliyaa gets killed?” Mitzi demands. “Which she will, and soon. I mean, the official count is, what, fifty? But we know she’s really died more times than that. Are you just going to leave her dead?”

“Maybe she should retire,” Azz mutters.

“And how about Sasha and Pasha? What will you do the next time some god with the mindset of a naughty twelve-year-old tries to kill them, or drive them insane, or set them on fire? We have these rings you made for us, sure, but we both know there are ways around that.”

“I…there are other gods!” Azz retorts. “They have Susan, and Lordy, and Anne, and Godofbeer!”

“Oh, you’re going to pass the buck, are you?” Mitzi’s voice starts to take on an edge of rising anger. “Is that who you are? Because I certainly didn’t think it was!” Her eyes flare with fury. “What about Twilight? What will you do if someone hurts her, and Nyri’s off doing something crazy, and you’re the only one around to help her?”

Azz opens his mouth, then closes it and looks away. Mitzi leaves him in silence for awhile, then strokes his cheek. “You are what you are,” she whispers.

“If I followed that philosophy,” he suddenly shouts, “I would still be nothing but a devil, foul and monstrous!”

“Are you really that blind?” she replies, astonished. He looks at her, confused. “What you are, is this—this empathic, caring person who wants to help others. That was the ‘flaw’ in your makeup, the seed you’ve nourished to become your true self. And this selfishness you are showing, this desire to lay down your responsibilities—that’s not you.” She takes his hand. “You’re tired, hungover—it’s easy to be selfish when you’re in pain. But tell me, how many times have your friends yearned to lay down their arms and stop fighting but didn’t, just because it wasn’t the right thing to do?”

Azzageddi mulls this over for awhile, holding her hand. Then he nods, and rises. “I think a bath is in order, before I go ask Susan’s forgiveness and get her to take Lordy and me to his father for the reversal spell. Join me?”

“Gladly,” she says. “And speaking of bathtubs, you really don’t need to ask Susan for her forgiveness too hard. It was a night of gods acting irresponsibly all ‘round.” She giggles and tries to sing the few lines she heard from the bathing opera singer as they walk down the hallway hand in hand.

“Master?…Master?” The call penetrates his Ambrosia-locked unconsciousness, dragging him to painful awareness. The voice, happy, light and enthusiastic, is in far contrast to the deep grey fog that is his current mind-state. So sweet is her tone. She must die.

Lord77 forces one eye open. The light of day, again recognizing who is behind the bloodshot eyes, calls for reinforcements for round two of optic whack-a-nerve.

“Agrph…” is all the coherence he can muster for his first words. His pillow demands an unconditional return to unconsciousness.

“Master…you have to wake up. Mistress Susan told me so,” Flower insistently tries. Her attempts are rewarded as both eyes open, not as a result of her continued attempts, but rather the use of a magic word…”Susan”.

“Susan?” Lord77’s mouth coherently forms, amazing both residents of the room at its utterance.

“Yes, master. She told me to give you these tablets and that she would come back for you,” Flower relates, looking at the god with those bright, expressive eyes.

With an effort certain to bring tremendous pain—and does—Lord77 slowly rolls to a sitting position and holds his head in hands, attempting to forestall the expected shattering of his skull from the continued pounding from within. Finally extending a hand, he receives the tablets and places them slowly in his mouth. Then taking a glass he washes them down with…ugh…water.

“Thank you, Flower,” Lord77 barely whispers, delighting the bunny with received praise. “Is Susan here?” the god asks.

“No, master. Not yet. But, she did indicate that it would be soon.”

Rising from his bed, the god pats the bunny on her shoulder and stumbles forward towards the shower. Minutes later, soaked and dripping, a clean toga plastered to his body, he staggers into the temple. Slowly, he approaches the dais and attempts to take a first step.

“My, Lord!” Jeremiah’s voice rings out from across the open floor. As the priest races to the dais, Lord77 collapses to the stairs, trying to muffle the loud echo of the priest’s voice with his hands clamping on his ears. Jeremiah reaches the stairs and grabs the god’s right arm, trying to steady him.

“Most holy, are you in distress?” Jeremiah asks in his booming voice.

“Argh!” Lord77 yelps. “Whispers, priest, whispers.”

Jeremiah, now understanding the god’s pain, helps him up the stairs and finally takes his god to his throne, seating Lord77 on it with a wet “splat” sound. The god throws his head back, hoping to absorb the temple’s energy, and the action only magnifies his headache. The conversion to mortality has robbed him of his temple’s healing powers.

“Ohhh!” the once god moans while leaning forward and taking his head in his hands once again.

“Great one, what happened?” Jeremiah asks most concerned in a hushed voice.

“Ambrosia,” Lord77 responds softly with the singular word.

“The legendary drink of the Gods?!” Jeremiah exclaims in full voice, sending bolts through Lord77’s auditory canals and into the brain where an impromptu game of kick-the-frontal-lobe commences.

“Shh…Jeremiah. Azzageddi and I overdid it a little.”

A stifled laugh causes Jeremiah to spin around to see Susan Sto Helit now standing behind him. “Your god’s concept of ‘a little’ is a bit understated, Priest Jeremiah. I hope that none of your men’s worship club frequent the Double-Tailed Siren bar, or you may have lost a couple of parishioners.”

Walking the few paces to the throne and standing next to the priest, Susan adds, “Help me get him standing. Your pickled, used-to-be-god here and I have a trip to make.”

As Jeremiah assists Lord77 to a standing position, the goddess takes the wobbly god’s arm in hers and they both disappear.

兎神兎神兎神兎神兎

Re-appearing in the study, Susan sits Lord77 down into a chair at the table where it all began. A wave of her hand removes the excess moisture from his clothes. “No need to ruin the furniture,” she comments.

“Now you be a good little goddy and stay right here while I get your partner-in-crime,” Susan commands, and quickly disappears.

Moments later, Lord01 enters the study with a confused look on his face. He sees his son seated at the table and no one else in the room.

“Son?! I swore I heard your girlfriend here, but not you,” the confused, ancient god announces and then he halts, looking at his son oddly. “Where’s your tone?!” he finally inquires.

“Shhh…dad. Quietly please. The ambrosia…”

Lord01 roars in laughter, much to his son’s pain. “I told you to take it easy with it. But, do you listen to old dad? Noooo!”

Finally finished with his laughter over his son’s self-inflicted distress, the ancient god continues. “But, Ambrosia doesn’t suppress deityhood.”

“No…I cast…a spell, dad. Wanted to help change Azz back from devil form…quickly.” “You WHAT?!” Lord01 exclaims. “Why was he a devil?!”

“Long story, dad. I did a little…err..payback to a bar that needed a lesson.”

“I sent you guys home to sleep it off, not terrorize a bar! And, where’d you get that spell?!”

“Your library. Got it when I was researching how to fight Godbinder. I ran across it. Memorized the spell and counter,” Lord77 responds holding his head.

“And you didn’t raise a shield when you cast it? Didn’t you see it was a locality spell? The ‘ul’ is accented!” Lord01 admonishes.

“Missed that, dad…was…drunk.”

“Incredible. Just freakin’ incredible…” the ancient god throws his hands in the air in exasperation. “Of all spells to memorize!…Never mind. Let me get the tome.”

As the ancient god steps to leave the study , Susan Sto Helit reappears, propping up a very hung-over Azzageddi. The normally nut-brown god looks decidedly green, sunken eyes underlined by dark crescents, his face looking a decade older than usual. Encountered randomly on the street, he might be mistaken for a zombie.

“Over there by your fellow criminal, Azz,” Susan directs. “And good morning, Ancient.”

“Hello, Susan. I see you’ve returned a couple that I threw out last night.”

“Looks like you over-served them,” she accuses. “I had to rescue them from a lynch mob last night.”

“Yeah, sonny was filling me in. I’ll be right back. I need to find that tome with the reversing spell in it,” Lord01 states and exits.

“Morning Azz,” Lord77 whispers.

“Oh…shut up,” Azzageddi growls back. “I’ve never felt this bad in my life, and that includes what I had to endure escaping from Hell. You are…you are not allowed to do magic on me again when you’ve been drinking. If you’re not…breaking me into a billion pieces, you’re turning me mortal!”

“Hey, it’s not always me! What about that Ephebian princess that you were flirting with after a few at a state dinner?” Lord77 counters.

“I was just being nice! And then you went and insulted her!”

“How’d I know saying something negative about her camel was considered a personal attack?!”

“That wasn’t a camel we were talking about! We were talking about her!”

“Oh…well that makes sense then as to why she was getting upset when I told her that her camel really was as pretty as she was.”

“Gentlemen…” Susan interrupts to quiet them, and just then, Lord01 returns with tome in hand accompanied by Morrigan and Nagele.

“Here you two. Pipe down a second while I cast this,” Lord01 states without fanfare. Surrounding the two and himself in a nimbus of protection, the ancient god quickly casts the reversing spell.

“There, that should do it,” Lord01 declares, slamming the tome shut.

“Yeah, dad, Thanks. I can feel access again to RAW.” Lord77 says, testing a luminescence in his hands. “Now, can I trouble you for that hangover abatement?”

“Oh, you two don’t need that,” the Morrigan states. “A little walk and fresh air is all you need. Come, I’ll show you two around the castle and you can see all the decorating I’ve been doing.”

Both gods groan as Morrigan takes their arms in her hands and begins to escort them out.

“Oh, Poo-key! You should come too! I’ve made some changes in the dining hall layout.”

A groan from the ancient god mirrors that of the other two, and then Lord01 relents and follows them out.

“Well Arch-Chancellor,” Susan states. “It appears to be only me and you. How about pouring me a glass of that Ambrosia and let me see what this fuss is all about?”

“I would be delighted to, my lady,” Nagele responds, and rounds up two glasses.

“I think you’ll really enjoy this room,” Morrigan states leading the three gods into the gathering room. “I was able to find some delightful silk to complement the wonderful Dumii area carpet.”

Lord77, head still pounding from the Ambrosia hangover, tries to maintain a pleasant smile as he leans up against the doorway. “This is torture,” he says quietly to Azzageddi, who is borrowing the wall on the other side for support.

“We deserve this, Lordy. You more than me for putting Susan through this. So just suck it up,” Azz growls. “Maybe a couple more rooms, and we’ll try to cut this short.”

“Sure,” Lord01 states sarcastically behind them. “Go ahead and try. You cut this short, and she’ll just get irritated. But, hey, if she gets irritated, it isn’t like she can take it out on you by arranging a civil war or incite an enemy to invade your little city…Oh, that’s right, she can!”

Azzageddi and Lord77 exchange looks. “Full tour then?” Lordy asks. “Yep,” Azzageddi responds.

“A question, gentlemen?” Morrigan asks from halfway into the room.

“Uh, no, Lady,” Azzageddi quickly responds. “We were just discussing how well you were able find accent pieces to match the decor.”

“Oh! Yes, thank you!” Morrigan exclaims looking around the room. “Of course, it would have been nice to have some of my symbol work here. But, sadly, Poo-key gave it away,” she adds with a little sharpness.

“Yes, dear. My bad,” Lord01 reflexively responds. Morrigan, having made her point, moves on to the hallway leading the group to the dining hall.

Lord01 catches questioning looks from the other two and quietly explains as they follow the goddess. “When Morry left, I kinda cleaned her stuff out. I was pretty focused on my work keeping those Mardian Nasties out of here, and her stuff was a distraction.”

“Where did it go, then?” Lord77 asks.

“Not sure. I gave some away, dumped it, whatever. But it’s gone. So, I’ll just hear about it from time to time,” the ancient god responds.

“Come gentlemen, much to see yet,” Morrigan calls from down the hallway.

“Coming, dear!” Lord01 responds and leads the other two suffering gods to the next room.

兎神兎神兎神兎神兎

Meanwhile, in the study , Arch-Chancellor Nagele and Susan sit sipping their second glass of divine drink.

“I would be careful, my dear goddess, not to underestimate the effects of this Ambrosia,” Nagele warns. “I would certainly not want you to follow in your friends’ footsteps.”

Susan smiles a mischievous little smile at this. “Unless you see a bathtub falling through the ceiling, dearest Arch-Chancellor, I would say we should be just fine.”

Finally, Azzageddi arrives back at the bar. Immortality restored, but still suffering from a throbbing hangover, he heads for his favorite chair. Just as he is about to slump into it, Mitzi, bent over her desk and handling some paperwork, calls out, “Don’t you have a tea to attend at the Knights Who Say Ni?”

“Eep!” he squeaks, then looks very tired. “Oh dear…I’m going to have to do a little time travel. Do you want to go along, ku’ulei?” he asks her.

“Too busy,” she says. “I’ll join you for the next one. I know Sasha and Pasha are dying to go, though!”

“All right then,” he says, taking Sasha and Pasha’s hands. Let’s go. But as much as I deserve this hangover, I can’t arrive looking like death warmed over and feeling like a mope. Besides…I suppose I have suffered enough." Azz heals himself of the hangover. “Now if only I could forget those curtains…” BAMPH!

Several days have now passed since the Ambrosia incident, and Lord77, now rested, recovered, and dressed in a clean…well fairly clean toga, travels over to Susan Sto Helit’s temple. Pausing before the front doors, he checks his ring to reaffirm that she is still inside. Setting himself, he passes through the door as always, with a slight hesitation, and his senses fully extended with concern about that one, last trap of Leonard’s that the repair team didn’t find and disarm.

Turning a corner into the main floor, he spots Susan to one side, crossing from the kitchen, a tea cup in one hand. Waving a hand, he catches her attention, and strides over to her.

“Lordy?” a slightly surprised Susan states. “What brings you over here?”

“Atonement,” is his one-word answer.

“Oh?” The goddess inquires, asking for more with the single word.

“Yes, for the unfortunate events over the last days, dragging you to Morrigan, having to have you rescue Azz and me from our drinking binge. I have decided on an offering of atonement.”

Susan nods at this. “And, what do you have in mind?” she asks, taking a sip of her tea.

“Put your tea cup down, dear. We need to take a little trip back to my place,” the god requests, glad and relieved to see her comply.

Taking her hand in his, they disappear.

神兎神兎神兎神兎神

Arriving in his temple with the goddess, Lord77 leads her to a meeting room. Already seated around the table, two individuals await. Susan nods in acquaintance to the Lawn Gnome King.

“Your majesty. Always a pleasure to see you,” the goddess greets with a pleasant smile.

“And you as well, Lady Goddess of Souls,” the Gnome King grinds, his voice sounding like fingernails on a chalkboard.

“Susan,” Lord77 introduces the other attendee, “I would like to introduce you to Brother Shui.”

“Goddess,” the short, robed man of obvious if ageless oriental descent states as he rises from his chair and bows. “But, please. My order is most informal. Please do call me Feng.”

“Brother Feng Shui. A pleasure I am sure,” Susan responds, then turning her inquisitive eyes to Lordy for explanation.

“My dear, I brought you here to meet Brother Feng in order to explain my proposal,” the god starts, helping Susan to her seat, and then pulling a number of parchments from a cabinet, he places them on the table between the attendees.

“We have had some conversations in the past concerning your ‘discomfort’ in having a temple,” Lord77 explains. “Specifically that, in your unique position as granddaughter of Death, you had little desire to create a focal point to attract death cults. I understand your concern but, dear, a goddess of your stature deserves a temple," he argues, placing a knee on the seat of his chair while leaning over the table. "So I was hoping that maybe I could, you know, help there, providing you with a way to make people forget that the temple is in itself tied to a member of Death’s family.”

Curious, Susan looks at the stack of drawings, pauses, then directs, “Go on.”

Lord77, now smiling slightly, continues. “Brother Feng here comes from an order whose purpose is to design beautiful spaces while enhancing the energy flow through them. And from what I gather, there’s some sort of inter-religious order communication network thingy going on because, believe it or not, I managed to find him through Priest Jeremiah, who connected me to one of Azzageddi’s monks, who got me to this other priest who then said he knew…" the god trails off. "Well, long story short, that’s how I found Brother Feng’s order. I asked him to create a proposal and I’ll let him walk you through it.” As he takes his seat at the table, both god and goddess look to the dark-robed cenobite.

Rising, and bowing again, the monk lays out the first drawing showing a rendered proposal to the entrance. “I was given iconographs of the beautiful garden that you have in the left wing of your temple and I have been told you have created a rather intricate illusion of a labyrinth in the land surrounding the building. From this I considered, what if we were to expand that idea and make it real? We could construct a beautiful garden, starting with immaculately trimmed bushes in front, creating a formidable labyrinth where only the worthy would be allowed through, which would then lead to a charming fore-garden.”

Susan looks over the drawing and then sets it down, looking at the monk to continue. Taking his cue from her, Feng continues, becoming animated and excited about the proposal.

“The labyrinth would discourage any cultists by challenging them to overcome the maze, while the guardians you have there already identify those individuals and route them to sections where they could be handled discretely. And, that’s just the start. Once through the temple, the visitors would be guided to the rear garden where the real beauty will be constructed. The concept would be on the scale of one of the new, seven wonders of the Disc.”

Laying out additional renderings on the table, Feng continues. “And, straight off the rear of the temple, we will build a botanical garden where exotic, medicinal, and possibly deadly plants could be raised in isolation from the public.”

Bowing once more, the monk finishes his delivery. Lord77 then rises from his chair. “All construction and support afterwards will be tended by our friend, the Lawn Gnome King. He assures me that there is still sufficient material in the drained swamp for him to fashion the needed additional workers.

“So, dear, your thoughts?” the god inquires, nervous sweat beads forming on his forehead.

Susan remains silent for a moment. She looks the renderings over again as she considers. “An interesting proposal, indeed, but a rather expensive one, don’t you think?”

“I have secured the necessary funds to finance this, dear,” Lord77 quickly responds, gaining a raised eyebrow from Susan.

“Maybe we should discuss this in private then,” she suggests.

Lord77, palms sweating, suggests a reconnect later and escorts the other participants out of the room. Returning, he crosses to the table where Susan, now standing, still reviews the renderings.

“Too much?” the god inquires trying to gauge the goddesses thoughts.

“It is quite ambitious, although very impressive,” she responds. Placing the drawings on the table she adds. “You know, a bracelet or maybe a necklace would have been sufficient. But, this…” she trails off, her finger tapping the blueprints of the botanical garden.

“It will make your temple a monument of beauty to befit you,” Lord77 says, taking one of the goddess’ hands in his while a gentle touch of the other to her chin guides her gaze to his eyes.

“And, bring in a lot of people to see it,” she counters softly. “It’s going to be a noisy place to live in.”

Lord77 pauses. Susan looks at him and notices the change. “What is it?” she asks in concern.

“That’s…" he stutters, then breathes deep. "It’s sort of the second part of all of this,” the god answers slowly, carefully building his next sentence as if delivering a well-practiced speech. His hand holding hers shakes slightly. “Something that I was thinking about and that came before me again when I starting considering this project.”

“What is that?” Susan says, gently squeezing the hand of the visibly nervous god in encouragement.

“Well, to build and support this project, I will need to link our temples via a portal to allow the gnomes to travel between them. I’ve already done the same with Dad’s castle as Gnome King has the Guild Hall, my temple, and now Dad’s place as his to support. He’s getting a high reputation among the Gnome hierarchy. Adding another temple. Well..”

“That’s very nice, dear,” Susan says softly, “but not what is bothering you. What is it?”

Taking a deep breath, the god responds. “Well…you spend a lot of time here already, and I thought that maybe… If you wanted to…it might be nice to… you know, formalize it.”

Susan, silent for a moment, lets the words settle. “As in, move in with you?”

The god nods. “I saw what having Morrigan return to dad has done for him. I grew up in that castle and learned from Dad a lot of my utilitarian aspects in life, but now Morrigan is turning into something we never really had. She’s making it a home. And then I see Azz and Mitzi, and the wonders she’s done for him. Look how it’s made him mature and take seriously what we do in the City Watch! I mean, we used to go out all the time and drink and mess around…”

He catches himself digressing and looks down for a moment to recapture his thoughts. “It all made me realize that there was something missing here with me. I’m missing a home.” He looks up again. "With you.”

Susan strokes his cheek. The god continues. “Look, I designed this temple with far more space than I’ll ever need. The sleeping chambers are on one side, business office is here. Priest quarters behind them. There’s even a sublevel that I have never used down there. There’s plenty of space here for us, and once I set up the portal, if you want to go over to your temple for whatever reason, it’s like walking down the hall.”

Lord77 grins and rubs the back his head as he finishes. “So, uuhh… what do you think?”

Susan remains quiet for a while, adding to the god’s growing discomfort. After what feels like an eternity of silence, Lord77 can’t help but say, “Uuhh, I think this is the part where you’re supposed to either make my day or rip my heart into bite-size pieces and give it to Queegqueg for Thursday’s Mystery Meat dish.”

“I know,” Susan replies in a deadpan tone.

“So… why the silence?” Lord77 asks, letting go of his lover’s hand.

“I am thinking,” Susan explains, tilting her head as if in deep consideration.

“You’re thinking?!” Lord77 cries out, taking a step back. “What on the Disc is there to think about?! You either say yes or…” He gulps. “…no.”

“Well, it is a major life-changing decision, dear,” Susan insists with nerve-wrenching calm, apparently oblivious to the god’s desperation. “It is important to consider the pros and cons. After all, we are just fine the way we are and then there is the whole logistics of moving in and—”

“Oh, I see…” Lord77 interrupts her. “You’re building up to a ‘no’,” he states, hanging his head and turning away from her. “I… I understand… I guess… Damn it, I really thought…”

Susan smiles softly at this and takes a step towards him. Placing a hand on his shoulder, she leans closer, her lips brushing his ear ever so gently as she whispers, “And if I were to say ‘yes’ instead?”

Lord77’s head shoots up, his eyes glowing as he turns on his heels and holds her face between his palms. “Are you? Are you saying ‘yes’?”

“Yes, I am,” the goddess responds, prompting a passionate kiss as Lord77’s arms wrap tightly around her.

“I like the ‘yes’,” he says after a moment, when his body’s stubborn demand for oxygen finally forces the gods to break from the kiss.

“Just one thing, though…” Susan starts.

“What is that?”

“I might have to do some redecorating.”

Lord77 and Susan Sto Helit appear before a now-massive construction project surrounding her temple. Off to one side, they see Brother Feng Shui and the Lawn Gnome King conferring by a large tent, which serves as the construction office. As the god and goddess begin walking towards them, the monk catches sight of them, waves, and steps forward to meet them.

“My Lord and Lady! I am so honored that you would stop by to see our work in progress,” Brother Feng greets them with a low bow.

“Brother Feng,” Susan starts. “We just thought we would see how things are progressing with my temple.”

“Oh, fine…most fine!” The monk explains, bobbing up and down in excitement. “I would be most pleased to show you around.”

Lord77 gestures to the grounds. “Please do.”

Taking the lead, the monk takes them to the botanical garden, where the Gnome King joins them.

“Your highness,” Lord77 nods.

“Holy one and lady,” the King responds in his ceramic grating voice.

“I see,” the god remarks looking around, “that you’ve been able to increase your workforce dramatically.”

“There was plenty of fine working clay in the drained swamp,” the King responds, each step sounding like a bell ringing. “Plus, this project requires a number of extra hands.”

“Aren’t you going to be overpopulated then after construction completes?” Susan inquires.

A noise off to the side causes all to turn in time to see a garden gnome fall into a hole drilled for a supporting pylon. A small cry of “Uh oh” comes from the hole as the pylon begins to wobble and then, with a crash and a thump, topples very slowly into the hole, sending up a plume of ceramic dust.

“The numbers tend to level themselves, goddess,” the King assesses.

“So…I’ve noticed,” she replies evenly.

“Please, all, come this way,” the excited monk calls as he directs the party into an area of the garden. “Here are some of the more exotic plants.”

Pulling a pencil and tablet out of his pocket, Brother Feng begins a sketch. “We have already planted some of the growth, but do plan a second path here,” he shows in his sketch of the layout. “That way, visitors can—”

The monk’s statement is interrupted as a branch descends on his hand, strips the pencil from his fingers and whips out of sight with a nearly audible YOINK! As all look up, the pencil disappears into a thin tree, from which a distinctive sound of munching can be heard.

“Oh…That’s a cannibal pine. I’m sorry,” Brother Feng explains, smiling apologetically. “Maybe we should step a little further so we can—”

Again the monk is interrupted as two branches extend down and grab him by the ankles, lifting and shaking him until two additional pencils fall to the ground. The tree tosses the monk to one side and collects the pencils, claiming its prize with the sound of satisfied munching, followed shortly by a deep, woodeny belch.

Dusting himself off, Feng returns to the group. “I’m terribly sorry again. Perhaps I should erect a fence around this tree to warn others that may be carrying wooden items.”

“Uh…yeah,” Lord77 agrees as he moves slowly backwards away from the tree. “Great idea.”

“Whoops!” The god then exclaims as he dances away from a small animal by his foot. The startled animal trumpets a high-pitched note through its trunk while glaring at the god.

“Ah! I see you’ve found one of our miniphants!” Brother Feng announces. “We thought to add them and some moos to the area for children to pet and enjoy.

Looking down at his sandal now soiled with miniphant dung, the god responds. “You might want to consider a foot-wash station at the end.”

“Certainly! Certainly!” The brother enthusiastically responds as he pats his robe pockets. “I’ll just…uh…well, I was going to write that down, but I appear to be out of pencils. I’ll just remember that idea.”

Finally reaching an open area outside the garden, the monk leads the group to a pond surrounded by a collection of soft flowers and plants, creating an idyllic setting.

“This is most lovely,” Susan says as she beholds the area. “You truly have created an area of beauty here, Brother Feng.”

Lord77 reaches the end of the pond and crouches down looking into the water as the monk explains. “I’ve defined this area as a source of energy to flow down the paths towards the garden. The pond is stocked with magical koi…No Lord77 please don’t touch!”

The monk’s cries register too late, as Lord77 reaches to the water to analyze one of the koi. As soon as his fingers break the surface, startling the koi, the fish react and transform into miniature dragons that leap out of the water and emit small flames at the god.

“Aaaargh!” The startled god exclaims as he leaps back and proceeds to stamp out a number of fires now on his toga. As he extinguishes them, the magical koi again settle to the water, transforming back to fish form and continue on as if nothing had occurred.

“I’m terribly sorry again, my lord,” Brother Feng apologizes. “We just placed the koi in the pond today, and they’re still a bit touchy.”

Lord77, smoking from multiple areas, his beard singed and face blackened from ash, turns to Susan and suggests. “Maybe we should let the brother continue on his work and return when all the proper signage and fencing is up.”

Susan, laughing lightly at the comical appearance of her boyfriend, responds. “Yes, dear. Maybe it is best. We should get you back to the temple for some fresh clothing, anyway.”

Turning to the monk and Gnome King, the goddess adds. “Thank you for your efforts to this point. I look forward to seeing the finished product.”

Summoning her scythe, the goddess looks back at Lord77, licks her thumb and cleans a little smudge of his cheek before reaching for a non-smoldering portion of the god’s toga. They fade away to the sound of his grumbling, “This was my last good toga too…”

Lord77 guides a blinded Susan through her temple, a seemingly easy task since, this being her temple, the goddess already knows the grounds like the back of her hand. He keeps his hands over her eyes, still, for a matter of principle.

“Dear, I do know where we’re going,” Susan remarks, moving at a slightly faster pace than expected and forcing Lordy to proceed at a clumsy hopping gait just to keep up. “I don’t see why this is needed.”

“Just humor me, all right?” Lord77 replies, glad to see the entrance to the back garden loom before them. “We’re here,” he announces, taking his hands off her eyes. “No peeking!”

“No peeking,” Susan repeats calm and obediently, keeping her eyes closed.

Glancing behind to make sure she keeps her eyes closed, the god crosses over to the door behind which the newly completed gardens lie and knocks twice. The door opens just enough and for long enough so that both Brother Feng Shui and the Gnome King can walk through it. The monk walks silently over to Susan and takes her hand.

“Hello, Brother Feng,” the goddess greets, eyes still closed. “How are you this day?”

“Fine as always, my Lady of Souls,” the monk responds sweetly, guiding Susan’s hand to his shoulder. “And, as always, under your watchful eye.”

“As all creatures are,” Susan replies, letting the monk guide her to the garden’s entrance.

The Gnome King opens the door with pomp, nodding at Susan’s subtle nod of acknowledgment, and the party of four enters the Great Greenhouse. The goddess then feels Lord77’s hand take hers, and she releases Brother Shui’s shoulder.

“You can look now, dear,” the god whispers in her ear.

Susan opens her eyes to a sight of wonder and marvel. Before her, a vast greenhouse stretches, so expertly crafted that the strong metallic frames of the glass panes that limit the structure lay nearly invisible, in an illusion of limitlessness. Here and there, panes of stained glass filter light to cater to a particularly demanding plant’s special needs. Tall trees rise left and right, their trunks wrapped in delicate vines. Stone paths cross fields of lush green grass where miniphants and moos graze peacefully. And here and there and everywhere, small stone creeks carry fresh water that flows, rushes and gurgles through the whole garden.

Eyes shining with awe, Susan squeezes Lord77’s hand as she whispers, “Amazing.”

“I am glad you like it, Lady,” Brother Shui says, breaking Susan’s dreamlike state. “But please, there is still so much more to see. Come,” he urges, taking the lead.

“Your people have done a marvelous job of a Herculean task, Great King,” Susan states to the Gnome King.

“You flatter me, Lady,” the King replies, growing three sizes with swollen pride. “We merely followed the plans.”

“Nonsense, Your Highness,” Lord77 insists as they follow Brother Feng down a sinuous path. “Your subjects have performed miracles.”

They move through what looks like a tropical forest. Around them, trees rise towards the sun, blocking most of the light, while colorful, delicate flowers grab onto their flexible trunks with thirsty roots.

“Lovely,” Susan comments. “Many of these plants have never been tamed to grow indoors. Many have tried.”

The goddess leans close to a bright yellow flower covered in small purple spots to read the sign holding its name. Carved on the wooden plank, she reads the words “Yellow Licker” and smiles. She raises her head and leans closer to the soft petals, giggling like a child when the flower suddenly grows a tongue and licks her, leaving her face covered in sugary sap.

“To these plants, kind goddess, the illusion of being in their native wild still holds,” Brother Shui explains, smiling softly at the goddess’ amusement.

“That sure seems true,” Lord77 notes, stepping close to a bright yellow flower similar to Susan’s.

He leans ever so close, expecting a friendly lick and suddenly regrets it when, instead of a tongue, the bright petals grow row upon row of sharp teeth and snap at him, biting his nose. He struggles and manages to free himself of the flower’s grip, nose covered in bloody puncture wounds. He looks down at the wooden identifying sign to see the words “Common Trickster” engraved. He looks back at the flower, to watch its petals change color to bright purple with yellow spots.

“Figures,” he mutters as the flower chuckles at him.

They move out of the patch of tropical forest into a long stretch of grass covered in tiny white and blue flowers. As they take in the view of what looks like an embroidered green quilt, they see a gnome walking the path toward them, merrily throwing his set of garden shears in the air and catching them again. One more throw and the garden shears land sideways, hitting the gnome’s hand and landing on the velvety-green lawn. Sighing, the gnome leaves the path and steps on the grass. He vanishes out of sight.

“Damned quickgrass,” the Gnome King curses, watching the lawn spit out the garden shears.

“Brings a whole new meaning to those ‘Do not step on the grass’ signs…” Lord77 remarks under his breath.

The next portion of the garden they visit is a desert-like area, hot and sandy. Around them, Phoenix plants arise from the sands, brown and dry, and light themselves on fire, only to be reborn as lush green bushes. At the edge of the desert area, a lake awaits, lined with coconut trees. A row of beach chairs sits invitingly by the water and Lord77 takes advantage of it by holding Susan’s hand and guiding her to them. As she makes herself comfortable, lounging on one of the chairs, he takes a seat on another. The Gnome King and Brother Feng join them.

“I like to think of this area as a very private beach,” the monk says. “It doesn’t actually border with the ocean but it is secluded enough to allow for some wonderful moments of rest and relaxation.”

“I fully agree,” Susan replies, basking in the warm, filtered sunlight. “Very relaxing indeed.”

“And the scent coming out of these rose vases really helps with the mood,” Lord77 states, brushing his hand on a heavy vase holding a yellow rose bush.

As soon as he does so, the bush jerks up and starts singing loudly, in a single step rhythm, “Tad-dah-dah, boop-dee-dah, Tah-dah-dah, Tah-dah.”

“Those are Reggae-Roses, my Lord,” Brother Feng Shui explains. “Very entertaining, no?”

“We best leave here, quickly!” the Gnome King warns taking Susan’s hand and guiding her away from the beach chairs.

“I don’t understand. I quite liked the tune,” Susan retorts.

“It’s not the music I’m worrying about,” the Gnome King notes in his rumbling voice. “Look.”

Suddenly, the coconut trees start swaying wildly to the music, bobbing up and down, shaking their leaves, throwing coconuts everywhere with each sway. Lord77 and Brother Feng find themselves having to flee the shower of coconuts, covering their heads and running towards safety.

“Dancing… Coconut… Trees,” Brother Feng wheezes. “Need… to… signal those… better.”

“Yeah…” Lord77 agrees, to the sound of closing whistling. “You shou—“

A flying coconut hits him straight in the head, knocking the god out cold. It takes Susan a few minutes to heal his injuries and bring him back to consciousness.

“Ugh…” the god mumbles. “No… more… plants…”

“Worry not, dear, we are reaching the end of our tour,” Susan reassures him.

After some struggling, and with the help of both Brother Feng and the goddess propping him up, Lord77 manages to stand and walk. The group then moves outside the garden, to an open area they had visited before. Here, the creeks that irrigate the whole garden join and cascade into small ponds where water lilies, lotus flowers and other aquatic plants are in bloom. Butterflies and hummingbirds of all shapes and colors fill the air.

“Pretty, no? I don’t know where they came from,” Brother Feng says. “They just… showed up.”

Surrounded by a collection of soft flowers and plants, the main pond flickers red and white as the Dragon Koi it harbors bob above and below the surface.

The sight of the pond has Lord77 sweating.

“Oh no!” he exclaims. “I’m not going near those beasts ever again!”

He looks at the butterflies. “This are nice, though,” he notes, enthralled by a metallic green butterfly.

“He stretches a finger and the butterfly lands on it. “Yeah, nice and safe.”

He regrets his words immediately, when the butterfly burps loudly, surrounding the god in a cloud of stinking gas that makes him cough and run to the pond. The god shoves his head in the water to get rid of the smell, remembering too late what happens next. He manages to get away just as the startled koi start to react and transform.

“OK, that’s it!” he exclaims, walking back to Susan. “I think I’ve seen enough of this place for the day.”

“Well, just so you know…” the goddess says, hugging him gently, barely holding back a chuckle. “I love my new garden.”

Lord77 snorts derisively at this but accepts the soft kiss she offers anyway.

“I’m glad. Can we go, now?” he asks.

“Yes…” Susan agrees. “Perhaps it is best if we explore this place a little bit at a time.”

She turns to Brother Feng and the Gnome King. “Thank you very much. You have done an amazing, exquisite work. It is truly one of the great Wonders of the Disc and I couldn’t be happier with it.”

She summons her scythe and both gods fade away to Lord77’s temple.

“Wait!” Brother Feng calls behind them. “You haven’t even seen the labyrinth yet!”

“Could you pass that winter coat, please?” Susan asks without looking back.

“Of course, dear,” Lord77 replies, fetching the designated coat from a cardboard box. “You know, for all our divinity and hocus-pocus, you would think we could move all our stuff from one place to another without using a bunch of cardboard boxes.”

“There is a reason some things become a cliché, sweetheart,” the goddess notes, rearranging the hangers on the rack.

“True…” Lord77 concedes, putting the fur coat over Susan’s shoulders. “It has been awhile since I’ve seen you wear this,” he comments.

“Our lovely temperate weather hasn’t merited it for a while,” the goddess reminds him, holding the coat in place with one hand and stroking its soft black fur.

Grinning naughtily, Lord77 picks up another box, opens it and rummages through its contents until he fetches out a very sheer black, lace babydoll, ornate with small, sparkly skulls, that he dangles in front of Susan’s eyes.

“I’m sure you’d feel nippy enough to put it on if this was all you were wearing underneath,” he whispers in her ear as he moves her snowy white hair just enough to kiss her neck.

“Sweet talker…” she whispers back, turning to face him.

Among kisses and soft caresses (and an assorted amounted of box-shuffling), Lord77 guides his lover closer and closer to the bed, until a low (but growing) ominous growl catches his attention and makes him look back. Just behind him, Silvershade, now a fully-grown wolf, lies on the bed.

“What are you doing there?!” the god exclaims. “And on my side of the bed, too!”

As if to strengthen his claim, Silvershade stretches leisurely, taking up even more of the space limited by the mattress.

Susan smiles. “He is used to sleeping on that side of the bed since he was a cub,” she explains.

“Well, I don’t care what he’s used to, that is my side of the bed and there’s no way he’s sleeping with us!” Lord77 snaps.

“I guess you two will just have to figure things out amongst yourselves, then,” Susan states, turning and returning to unpacking her clothes, while trying to disguise an evil grin.

“Oh, I’m sure we will!” Lord77 retorts, reaching for the scruff of Silvershade’s neck to force him off the bed.

A sudden, strong snap of the wolf’s jaws makes him change his mind. Silvershade lies on his sternum and growls again, this time showing a bit more of his teeth, as if both laughing at the god and challenging him to face those powerful masseters.

“You little…” Lord77 hisses. “You wanna play? OK, let’s play!”

Glancing quickly over his shoulder to confirm Susan is still distracted, the god mutters an incantation under his breath and snaps his fingers, summoning a small bolt of lightning.

“I’d advise you to run, puppy,” he whispers. “Or, better yet, JUMP!”

With a mischievous smile, Lord77 aims the bolt at a point just between Silvershade’s front paws and shoots. Silvershade jumps out of the bed…

… and onto Lord77.

The god falls under all 99 lbs of wolf, landing on his back. Silvershade pins him to the floor, all four legs with claws pressing uncomfortably into Lord77’s tender flesh and a full set of sharp teeth made to tear and mangle standing way too close to the god’s nose for comfort. Growling so low only Lord77 can catch the threatening notes, his pungent, meaty breath wreaking havoc against the god’s olfactory nerves, the wolf fixes his gaze on Lord77’s eyes, moving his mouth ever closer to the god’s cheek.

All of a sudden, Silvershade gives Lord77 a big lick, covering him in slobber before jumping onto the bed and lying down again to make a big deal out of grooming his fur. If the damned creature could chuckle, Lord77 swears that’s what he’d be doing right about now.

“Oh, you are sooooo gone!” Lord77 mutters.

One more glancing over his shoulder to a much-distracted (and committed to it) Susan and some more muttered incantations, and the wolf is gone. Chuckling in self-satisfaction, the god walks over to Susan, takes her in his arms, makes her spin on her heels and plants a kiss on her that has the goddess gasping for air.

“Now… where were we?” he asks.

Silvershade suddenly finds himself in the temple kitchen. Dazed and confused for a moment, the wolf soon growls angrily and sets off at full canter, nearly knocking down Flower, who shrieks and jumps up onto the counter when he runs past her at full speed on his way out of the kitchen. He runs past the altar into the living quarters, past the guest bedroom, into the main bedchamber and onto the bed just as Lord77 and Susan fall onto the soft mattress.

The god breaks from a passionate kiss at the warmth of the wolf’s breath in his ear, to be greeted by a slobber-rich lick when he turns his head to his right.

“SILVERSHADE!!”

神兎神兎神兎神兎神

Soft flames dance and crackle in the fireplace, bringing a warm, peaceful atmosphere to the living room. Cuddling on a comfy sofa, Susan and Lord77 relax and rest after a whole day of moving the fairly essential of Susan’s belongings into the temple.

“This is very nice,” Susan comments, idly intertwining fingers with Lordy.

“It’s even nicer to know you won’t be leaving in the morning,” Lord77 says, softly kissing the goddess’ ear. “Ever again.”

The soft caress brings a smile to Susan’ face. “You were a dear, finding space for my things and Silvershade’s,” she concedes. “I don’t think I ever had a whole closet for his food and toys.”

“Heh, it’s a good use for the left, front closet.” Lord77 dismisses it. “It’s not like Adam77 has any Icarus Wings left to put in there.”

“I’m especially impressed with the way you convinced him to sleep here instead of the bedroom,” Susan notes.

The gods look at Silvershade, currently lounging on his brand new king-size doggy bed, placed just in front of the fireplace.

“Well, let’s call it a peace offering, shall we?” Lord77 offers. “Just a little welcome gift. And, hmm… speaking of welcomes…” he adds, redoubling his caresses to the goddess’ ear, cheek and neck.

“Am I to receive a proper welcome?” Susan asks, thoroughly enjoying the god’s ministrations.

“Yes… but not here,” Lord77 whispers in between kisses.

Chuckling lightly, the couple gets up and races towards the main bedchamber, slightly delayed by little busy pauses for kissing. They don’t really notice the grey shadow moving past them at speed until they enter the bedchamber. The door closes only to re-open not two minutes later, when a smirking Lord77 gently shoes Silvershade out.

“Nice try, buddy!” the god says before closing the door again. “Man, that wolf is fast!”

The morning sun reaches Lord77’s eyes, and failing to find the previous Ambrosia-based hangover, it is instead disappointed to find a rested god finally at peace with the Disc. Susan has spent her first full night in his temple. The boxes finally packed away, her clothes hang alongside his in their shared, bedroom closet. All day yesterday, Flower danced from spot to spot helping put things away, while in absolute glee over having her creator now living in the temple with her.

Rolling to a sitting position on the side of the bed, the god looks at the empty space where Susan had lain the previous night, empty now as the goddess had business to attend to in her temple this morning. His task, on the other hand, is not as pressing. Thus, his morning motions were more sluglike, starting with a long languishing in bed.

Slowly, the god rises and wraps himself in a soft robe. Thinking about his day to come, he steps to the wardrobe and opens the upper door. A chamber, magically tuned to him, is exposed, containing the Orb of Time. Satisfied, he turns to head towards the shower, but is halted by a scratching sound, quick, soft, but somewhere in the room.

“Silvershade?” the god asks to the room, and then swiftly sends his farsight to the living room only to find the wolf lounging on his bed in front of the fireplace.

Scratching his head and seeing nothing amiss, the god steps back to the bed, lifts the covers and peers under the framing…only to be met by another set of eyes looking back.

“Are you my mommy?” a small voice asks from under the bed.

Stunned, the god freezes, his brain refusing to comprehend what the eyes and ears are telling it. Finally, a default signal is sent to the voice in an attempt to stall for time.

“W-what?” the god stammers.

“My mommy,” the voices pleads. “Are you my mommy?”

Coming closer to the side of the bed, the morning sunlight catches the figure, exposing for the first time a young male, human in shape…with bunny ears.

The god’s eyes grow wide as all alarms sound inside his head. As the brain panics, it sends out one more command to the voice.

“SU-SAN!!”