AMCW storylines Susan's return and temple adventure

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Susan Sto Helit and Lord77 appear in the god’s temple. In Lordy’s hand is a small satchel of Susan’s belongings, as Susan holds a leash to Silvershade in one hand and her scythe in the other. Thankfully, all is currently quiet within.

“That’s a much smoother transport than my clunky translocation,” the god notes.

“It gets the job done,” Susan responds as she looks over the temple.

“What?” Lord77 inquires as to the goddesses review.

“I was expecting a mess of beer glasses and jerky crumbs given your description of your priest’s activities.”

“They do a pretty good job of cleaning up afterwards. And, what they miss, Flower gets.”

A disturbance behind them makes both deities turn to see Lord01 now standing on the altar.

“Dad?” Lord77 inquires.

“Yeah, me. About time you returned. Oh,” nodding to Susan, “nice coat by the way.”

Susan irritatingly asks, “How do you know about the coat? Oh, never mind. Probably best I don’t know.”

“Right,” the ancient god agrees. “Actually, I was looking for sonny here, and noticed he was by your place.”

“Not nice to eavesdrop, dad,” Lord77 snarls.

“Yeah, right. Look. I just came by to tell you that Morrigan wants to move to the castle. So, I’m packing up my stuff and going there. Why don’t you come by and help shelve the books when you can?”

Susan and Lordy exchanges looks. “Well, dad. I was going to help Susan move into her temple first. But, I’ll come by later.”

“Fine,” Lord01 says irritated. “Feel free to bring the girlfriend along. I’m sure Morrigan would like to have another female around the place from time to time.”

As he’s about to leave, Lord01 halts and looks back at his son. “Oh, and I’m stealing your gnomes for a bit to help. I chatted with the gnome king, and he’s delighted to expand his territory again to include my castle.”

“Fine, dad. Just so long as they bring some back to maintain the pasture.”

“I won’t steal all of them, son. Your grass will be fine,” and the ancient god disappears.

Taking her satchel, Susan says. “I’m going over to the hall. Are you going to catch up with me afterwards?”

“Oh, you bet,” Lord77 responds. “I’m looking forward to seeing your temple.”

Entering the Watch House, Susan finds herself staring at a scene worthy of a frat party at hazing week. Gods, bunnies and other generalistic mortals lay, sit, snore, laugh, sing, cry convulsively, etc. in humorous drunkeness all around the Guild Hall.

Putting her satchel down on the floor by the bar, Silvershade making sure to stay close to her, growling a very low growl as all the new scents and sounds confuse him.

Looking at the pitiful scene, Susan stomps the floor thrice with the handle of her scythe, the sound reverberating off the walls, making every single soul in the Guild Hall stand to attention.

“So…” the goddess says, scythe vanishing from her hand. “I leave this place for a few months and you turn this into a conversion ground for the Alcoholics Anonymous Semi-Famous Alcoholics!”

Looking at the various faces of embarrassment all around her with her eyes narrowed, she holds silence until it becomes just uncomfortable enough, and then adds, “Well, I’m back for good now, and we’re going to have some changes here!” Her lips curl into a sly smile. “For starters, I am going to need a drink…”

Her next words are drowned as she is suddenly covered by a small mountain of bunnies going “SUUUSSSSSSAAAAAAAAANNNN!!”"

Azzageddi waits until the mob of Sasha, Pasha, Flower, Shade, Peaky, and yes even Poindexter have finished embracing their creator and welcoming her back into her true home, before he approaches, smiling, and wraps his arms around Susan Sto Helit in a warm hug, lifting her momentarily off her feet. “E komo mai,” he whispers in her ear. “My dear friend, I knew you would return.”

“…can’t…breathe…” Susan gasps.

“Oh, sorry!” Azz sets her down and releases her, then steadies her as she recovers from oxygen deprivation. Just then Pasha returns with an Ankhian Bunny (which is now officially the name of the version made with thaumic bourbon, while the one for mortals, made with non-magical ingredients, is now the Morporkian Bunny), and presses it into Susan’s hand, smiling broadly.

The two of them go over to a couple of comfortable chairs near the piano to catch up. Mitzi joins them, first bringing Susan up to speed on current investigations—then, looking to make sure everyone else has stopped watching, Mitzi hugs Susan, long and tightly.

As Mitzi leaves, smiling and wiping away a tear, Susan sighs and blinks rapidly, her eyes shining. Azz surreptitiously hands her a handkerchief without comment, looking at something…over that way…until the goddess has composed herself.

“Susan,” he says. “I just want to make sure… Nyrini isn’t going to be taken away from us, now that you’re back, is she?”

“What? Oh no, I… well I don’t think so.” Susan sees his obvious relief and laughs quietly. “You’ve grown attached to her, haven’t you?”

He nods. “She’s part of the family. Not just our City Watch family, but, well… Mitzi and I would miss her and Twilight terribly, if she moved out.”

Susan looks a bit troubled. “The thing is, Azz… I’m planning to move into my temple, finally.”

“Oh… and… you want Nyri to live with you?” He sounds quite downcast.

“Only if she wants to, of course!” Susan says in the voice of someone who has just accidentally kicked a puppy.

“Of course… of course. She should do whatever she wants…” After a pause, he does his best to shake off the bleak expression that has settled onto his face. “So, your temple! Designed by Leonard! That should be… fascinating!”

“Yes… I’m really not sure what to expect.”

“Well, we should have a housewarming! A small party, just us friends! We’ll bring over casseroles and chili and so on, to stock your kitchen with so you don’t have to cook for a little while!”

“Oh you don’t have to—wait, your chili? Very well, housewarming party it is!”

They stand before Susan’s temple, gazing at the graceful lines of the building. The pure white marble trim over the obsidian stone of the simple towers and spires, making it stand out against the basalt of the mountains that frame the landscape.

“Well, it looks better than I thought it would, let me tell you,” Azzageddi comments, the whole ensemble of gods who decided to join standing behind him and Susan.

“Hmm… let us not focus on the outside, please. I will have to liveinside of that thing, after all.”

“Oh, come on! How bad can it be?!” Azz asks, shrugging at the thought.

After a moment’s silence under the goddess’ solemn gaze, the meaning of his words finally registers with Azzageddi. “Oh…”

Doing the honors, Leonard, walks up to the great front doors and reaches for the doorknob. Looking back at the party, he says,

“Well, I have installed a number of security features to maintain your temple security. The front door, for instance, if you turn the doorknob this WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYyyyyyyyyy…”

Hopping to where Leonard once stood, Manoel stares into the open trapdoor that suddenly replaced the “Welcome Pilgrim” doormat. Looking back at Susan, he announces,

“Bueno, señora, I guess I will be your guide from now on.”

Azzageddi looks into the pit trap Leonard fell into. There seems to be a chute that curves slightly away, no telling how deep it goes. “All right, Leonard?!” he shouts down the chute. A distant echoing reply is barely audible but impossible to make out.

“Oh, he’s fine,” says Susan. She closes her eyes for a moment. “Minor damage only. Oh wait, now major damage. Um, more minor damage.” The sounds of incoherent screaming come up through the shaft. “More major damage. Just a moment.” She concentrates and expends some godpower. “Almost died there; thought I should heal him a bit. Ah… he’s stopped taking damage and he’s still alive, so I expect he turned off whatever death trap he dropped himself into. Come along. I’m sure he’ll get out of there on his own. He designed the place, after all.”

Azz looks at his hero, Aliyaa. “Now, I’m extra glad I brought you along instead of Mitzi.”

“‘Cause I’m easier to heal?” she asks.

“And to resurrect,” he says. “Now don’t touch anything. But here, carry this chili.” He hands her a large covered pot.

“Don’t worry,” says Nyrini. “Anything bad happens, I can always teleport us outta here.”

“No, señorita, es not possíble,” says Manoel. “Di crazy señor, he build dis place from di dios-resistant materials. No popping away true dis walls.”

“Right,” says Nyrini, “I’m outta here! No way am I hanging out in some place I can’t escape from!” As she turns to leave, she steps on a pressure plate. Suddenly there are banging noises as shutters drop on the windows and every exterior door locks tight. She freezes and says, “What the hell was that??”

“Oh, now you do it!” moans Manoel. "It is to catch burglars, like cucaracha motel. We come in, we no go out.”

Lord77 is approaching the temple as he sees the doors and windows seal shut.

“What the - !” He exclaims and runs to the door.

After shaking the handle, banging on the door, and getting no response, the frustrated god steps back and looks at the temple. “Back door,” he says to himself, and runs the perimeter of the building to the back.

Finding an entrance, Lord77 steps into the doorway and finds another secured door. Growling, his frustration grows, and inversely, his patience.

“I’m going to owe you a door, sweetie,” he snarls, pulling together his will. As his nimbus flares, Lord77 assaults the back door, pounding it with Godpower. The door begins to glow as red as the god’s nimbus, and then blows inwards.

“There!” Lord77 says, feeling good about himself as he steps into the temple. Three steps in, he stops to look around…

…and disappears.

Somewhere deep inside Susan’s temple, the (relative) peace is disturbed as a heroine drops out of a portal and hits the floor- hard. Slowly getting up, Alicia Ravenkngiht looks around and realizes, “Wait, this isn’t the Sovereign! Where am I?!… Wait a second!” Quickly looking around, she sees the familiar black orb lying on the ground. As she approaches it to pick it up, she comes to another realization. “Is it… cracked? Oh, no, no, no no no nonononono! It can’t be broken! He sent me to pick up the Black Hole Grenade, and I broke it?! He’s going to kill me when he finds out!… If I figure out how to get out of here, that is.” Placing the broken grenade in her loot sack, Ravenknight starts out to find the nearest exit- and, opportunity permitting, her next pay check.

Ravenvalkyre starts up the steps Syrona and Zatheres behind him.Syrona:Why oh Why are we late you should have called us earlyer.

Ravenvalkyre:I did not have time…he pasues as he notices the tempal now locked down…Change off plans up and away break though a window if needed we need in there. as soon as he finished Syronas Pure white wings and Zatheres Deep blue almost black and Ravenvalkyres black spread out as they go in to break the windows. Syrona goes in a back while Zattheres goes in one from the west. Ravenvalkyre flys through one in the front casting a spell to repair damages.

Ravenvalkyry:Okay I am in now let’s see if I can call the rest. pulls out his codex and actavaits comunacation featurer All units report. Hello come in Syrona, Zatheres. Come in!Silance No one hears him at the top floor of this tempal with no way out he is alone.

“Di loco señor, he install di big, shiny, red, candy-colored button on Señora Susan’s throne,” Manoel explains.

“And that will turn off the security system?” asks Azzageddi.

“Sí, Señor.”

“Right, sounds like a goal. Susan, any idea where your throne room is?”

Susan Sto Helit, able to sense the direction of her seat of power, leads the way. They don’t get more than ten meters before somebody triggers a trap, however. There is the sound of rapidfire puffs of air, and Azz says, “Owwwwww…” Everyone who looks at him can see his entire left side, from ankle to face, is now pieced by two dozen quivering darts.

“Great One!” cries Aliyaa.

“Azz!” cries Susan.

“Bwahahahaha!!!” laughs Nyrini.

“…I’b ok…” mumbles Azz, the left side of his body going slack. “Bud, I tink I’b haf-baralyzed.”

Still laughing, Nyrini moves over to him and starts plucking out darts. “Sorry, that was pretty funny, though!”

“Yeah, labb id ub…ow!…ooch…owie…”

Aliyaa shouts, “I’ll help you, Great One!” and sets the pot of chili on a small table in the hallway. Just as she moves close enough to help, there is a click from the table, which sinks slightly. A hole irises open in the ceiling and a strong vacuum sucks the three of them, Azzageddi, Nyrini, and Aliyaa, out of sight almost instantaneously. Then the hole closes.

“So far, that makes 3 spike traps, 5 dart traps, and 1 rigged flamethrower. Not bad.” Panting heavily after dodging yet another trap, Ravenknight pauses to catch her breath before continuing. “Fortunately, I have trap-dodging training, thanks to his Cunningness? He who is Most Cunning? Well, whatever. More importantly, which way from here? I should try to avoid the smaller hallways, since avoiding traps will be harder without room.” Hearing the sound of darts being fired, accompanied by several shouts of alarm (and one violent bout of laughter), Ravenknight amends, “Yeah, like that one. It’s a good thing I’m clever enough to avoid traps, even the ones I ste-” The heroine is cut off as the floor beneath launches up like a rocket into the ceiling, smashing her. When the floor returns to ground level, Ravenknight is knocked out.

Lord77, rather pissed now, walks down a narrow corridor, a luminescence floating ahead of him. The corridor empties into a square, featureless room with a high ceiling and side passages leading away. As he stands in the middle of the room scratching his head at the uselessness of this design, a noise from up high causes him to look up. A hole appears in the ceiling, and before he can move, he’s buried beneath three falling bodies, Azzageddi, Nyrini, and Aliyaa.

“Ebweewon Obay?” inquires a half-paralyzed Azzageddi.

Aliyaa and Nyrini look at each other and both respond, “yes”.

Nyrini then adds, “We landed on something that cushioned our fall.”

“And that something would appreciate you getting off of him,” Lord77 responds.

“Lordy?! Oh, sorry!” Nyrini says in surprise as she unwraps her leg from the god’s neck. “How’d you get here?”

Lord77 slowly stands, groaning. “I blew the back door off, and then fell through some friggin’ trap door.” Noticing Azzageddi still sitting and listing to one side, he adds. “What happened to you.”

“Pwalisis needwls,” Azzageddi slurs.

“Paralysis? What is this place, a temple or an abattoir?” Kneeling down by Azzageddi, Lord77 launches a second luminescence improving the light and looking over his fellow god. “Oh, crap. OK, brother. Just sit still a minute…Wait. Never mind. You’re not going anywhere anyway,” as he begins working a healing.

“Ohhhh, mahalo, bwa,” says Azzageddi, his paralysis almost gone. He looks around the square, featureless room. “I wonder ib we’re on a higher or lower fwoor now? We god all turned aroun’, goin’ trough dad bacuum tube.”

“What kind of tube?” asks Nyrini.

“Bacuum tube,” replies Azz.

“What kind of tube?” she asks again.

“Bacuum tube! Oh ha-ha, berry funny,” he grumps as Nyrini laughs.

Aliyaa is squatting and peering along the corridor Lord77 came in from. “I think we’re about one floor lower, Great One. That corridor has a very subtle incline, designed to confuse people into thinking it’s flat.”

“Really?” says Lord77, looking as well. “It sure fooled me. How can you tell?”

“Well,” she says, blushing, “when I was building the One True God Azzageddi’s temple, sir, I read a lot of books on architecture, feng shui, landscaping…some of them dealt with secret passages, traps, stuff like that. Cheery Littlebottom got me interested.”

“Huh, never pegged you for the studious type, kid,” says Lord77.

“Oh, architecture isn’t studying!” she enthuses. “It’s FUN! Why, did you know that—”

Although beaming proudly at his hero’s acumen, Azz cuts her off. “Don’t get her started unless you’re ready to get your ear talked off about architecture. Oh, hey, the last of the paralysis seems to have worn off! Well, prophet, with you knowing so much about traps, how do you think we should proceed?”

“Uh, going that way should take us back up to the floor we were on,” Aliyaa says, pointing.

Azz says, “Everyone, be careful about stepping on pressure plates—” click “—oh crap.”

Shutters slam down over all the exits, and from a slit running all the way around the ceiling comes water pouring into the room. The water quickly becomes ankle deep. Then a section of the ceiling rolls back, exposing the bottom of a container that reads “WARNING: LIVE SHARK”.

“Oh COME ON!” shouts Nyrini.

“That’s OK,” says Azz. “I have a deal with a Tahitian shark god I did a favor for way back. I can talk to sharks.”

“Yeah, we’re still gonna drown,” she says.

The bottom of the container drops open, and a huge shape splashes into the now-knee-deep water. Huge, brown and hairy, it’s definitely not a shark. In fact, it is a huge bipolar bear, and it rears up and roars, towering over the gods and hero.

“Great,” mutters Azz. “And I was all looking forward to speaking shark, too!”

The roaring nearly knocks them down with the mere force of the sound, but Aliyaa shouts, “Hey! HEY!”

The bear pauses and looks at her as if in astonishment.

“Scratchy! Hey, boy, it’s me! Awwww, it’s good to see you again!”

Azz explains to Lord77 and Nyrini, “Her pet before this one. I guess he got bored with being retired on a farm.” To Aliyaa he says, “Please ask him if he knows a way out of this room. The water is up to our waists!”

As Anne and Peaky walk toward the gates of the Watch House, raised voices can be clearly heard. “No! Peaky, you can’t come to see Susan’s new temple! Leonard designed it! I’m dreading what ridiculous hazards he’s put in the place! YOU ARE NOT COMING!”shrieks Anne, thunder lightning crashing around her as though to punctuate her ranting.

“You never let me go anywhere with you!” rages Peaky.

“Look, I’m sorry OK?! Maybe the beach party? Would that make you happy? Or would you rather risk getting killed in one of Leonard’s blurry inventions?!” asks Anne venomously.

“Fine! The beach party then! Just. Stop. Leaving. Me. At. Home!” shouts Peaky, pausing for emphasise between each word.

“Fine. You happy now?” spits Anne.

“Yeah!” shouts Peaky.

“Good!” retorts Anne, stomping her foot.

“D’you know you’re cute when you’re angry?” asks Peaky with a sly smirk.

“GAH! No I’m not!” snarls Anne, stalking out of the Watch house.

“Oh yes you are.” laughs Peaky quietly.

Arriving at Susan’s temple, Anne sneaks in through the backdoor just as it slams closed. She whistles quietly as she walks down a cavernous corridor, “This place is huge!” she whispers in the echoing silence.

Coming to a turn off the main corridor, Anne finds a large music room. Her eyes sparkling with excitement, she makes her way across the deep piled carpet, silently amazed at the beauty of the room and at her luck in making it so far into the house unscathed.

Suddenly, Anne turns her head, a snapping sound puncturing the heavy silence. She screams as she is jerked upwards, coming to rest, tangled in a net, just below the frescoed ceiling.

“Really?! An old-fashioned net trap?! REALLY!?” she rants indignantly as she dangles ungracefully inside the netting.

“Well, I suppose it’s damsel in distress time.” mutters Anne grimly, “HELP! HEEEEEELLLLPPP!!!”

Intent on finding the off switch as soon as possible, Susan and Manoel continue exploring the temple, following the goddess’ senses in the general direction of her throne. For a long time, nothing happens, they merely keep walking, wondering if they are particularly good at avoiding traps or just incredibly lucky.

Manoel hopping by her side, Susan turns her head right and downward to say “Well, I guess…” and vanishes.

Appearing again some steps ahead, she adds, “… Leonard forgot…”

She vanishes and reappears again. “…about this hall.”

Stopping to look around and find Manoel, now far behind her, she cries, “What on the disc is this?!”

“Señorita, dis…” Manoel imitates her steps.

“…is di teleporting gleeps,” the screwdriver explains as he disappears and reappears closer to Susan.

“You no can…” he adds, disappearing again and reappearing by the goddess’ side. “… see them.”

Rubbing her eyes at her silly hero’s idea of a “security system”, Susan mutters, “I just hope one of these leads to my throne room.”

Taking a few more steps forward, Manoel following her every step to make sure they stick together, they reach the end of the hall and step through…

…onto another teleporting glyph.

They reappear in a garden. Circular in shape, high walls covered in ivy supporting a crystal clear skylight, the garden feels like a cool and peaceful haven of natural beauty. In the center, a pure-white marble fountain shoots water into the air, spreading little water droplets around it, filling the air with freshness and moisture. Just above the main water jet, a large crystal orb hovers, glowing with a soft light.

“Amazing!” Susan comments. “Leonard outdid himself with this place.”

“Oh, knowing di loco I’m sure he make di pretty a death trap,” Manoel complains.

Fascinated by the glowing sphere, Susan begins to walk toward it. “The light in it… I could swear it’s moving,” she says as she moves closer, her full attention captured by the orb.

“No, señorita. Careful where you step!” Manoel warns her, hopping behind the goddess. “You could trigger a—“

The screwdriver’s words are cut off as Susan’s steps trigger a trap. An ivy branch suddenly shoots down, curling around the shaft of poor Manoel and pulling him up. Pinned to the wall, covered in ivy and unable to move, Manoel starts feeling like he’s being watched. Intensely watched… By hundreds of eyes… Looking closely at the ivy close by, he can now see a large spider, almost as big as he is, its green body camouflaging it amidst the leaves. At the sight of the screwdriver, the spider rushes towards him and starts wrapping him up in a web cocoon.

“Oh, no! Not di big scary spider again!” Manoel cries, struggling as hard as his rigid metallic shaft and grip will let him. “I no like di big crawly mmmmMMMMMMMM!”

Oblivious to Manoel’s distressed cries, Susan reaches the fountain and the orb. Hypnotized by the inner glow that twists and curls, creating images of her friends to entice her, the goddess raises a hand to the orb.

She touches the crystal surface…

…and vanishes.

Walking through halls and rooms filled with the very traps he came up with in the first place, Leonard tries (sometimes successfully) to remember where all the triggers are placed. His goal is only one: to reach his mistress’ throne room and disable all traps.

Crossing another threshold, he enters a music room to the sound of the distressed cries of some currently unseen damsel.

“HELP! HEEEEEELLLLPPP!!!”

“Hmmm… I don’t remembre installing a voice simulator…” Leonard muses aloud. “Although, it would make an interesting mechanism… I will have to create one of those.”

“Leonard?! Is that you?” the voice asks.

“Yes, yes, that is me,” Leonard answers, looking around in search of the source for the voice.

“Up here, you twit!” The Almighty Anne calls out.

Looking up, Leonard quickly identifies the goddess, swaying from the ceiling in her net trap. “Oh, it’s you, Miss Anne! I knew I had installed a net trap somewhere in this place!”

“Yeah, and it was right here, you burnt cookie!” Anne replies, angrily. “Sugar and spice! I cannot believe that you are my knight in charming armor!”

“Oh, I am afraid I am not currently in possession of any armor,” Leonard replies, looking down to inspect his slaughter-proof jacket. “I do, however, have an X-acto knife in one of my pockets, I think…”

As the slightly mad scientist thrusts his hand into every single pocket and crevice in his jacket and pants, Anne dangles helplessly, muttering “Figures! Just my luck… I cry out for a proper hero and all I get is the dumbest scientist the world has ever produced…”

Finally, Ravenknight wakes up again. As she regains her awareness, the expression on her face quickly turns to anger. “Alright, that’s it! I’m getting out of here, even if I have to wreck every trap from here to the exit!” Reaching into her loot sack, Ravenknight pulls out a grenade launcher. “This should do the trick. Let’s see these traps survive this!”

All throughout the temple, explosions can be heard, accompanied by the sounds of failing machinery and wrecked circuitry, punctuated by maniacal laughter. “Mwahahahahaha!”

Looking up at the hole in the wall left after the fall of Scratchy, the Bipolar bear, Nyrini searches for a way out. After a moment’s calculation, she jumps on the back of the unsuspecting bear for height, causing a small roar and a cry of pain from Aliyaa, who Scratchy just bit by accident. Holding on to the rim of whatever’s left of the platform that once held the bear, Nyri climbs up, legs flailing madly as she does so.

Looking up and noticing her successful escape, Azz exclaims, “YAY, Niry!! Good show!”

“Hey, Nyri, you could give us a hand getting out of here too!”, Lord77 calls out. From above, Nyrini’s voice sounds loud and clear, “Sure, love! Just give me a min— HOLY CRAP! NO! NO! NO! PLEASE DON’T LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT!!”

A squishy noise and a long period of silence later, Lord77 mutters, “Oh, great! Now, we’ve lost Nyri too! AND we’re still drowning!!”

Meanwhile, Nyrini wakes up from a short period of unconsciousness to discover she’s being transported down a hall in the loving tentacles of a Cabbage-Patch Squid. Now dressed like a baby (body suit, booties, dangling pacifier, headband… in short, the full set), the goddess lies cradled among the squishy, sucker-ridden tentacles of the cutest squid she’s ever seen.

“Oh, great! So many cool monsters going around and I just had to get abducted by a beastie in search of a dolly…” Nyri mutters, crossing her arms over her chest.

Somewhere down the hall, she spots an old shaman’s mask hanging from a hook on the wall. With a quick movement, she reaches out and snatches it, putting it on.

“BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA!!” she shouts suddenly, waiving her arms like a maniac.

At the sight of her, the Squid’s eyes widen in terror. The terrified cephalopod immediately releases the goddess, its tentacles flailing in horror as the beastie runs away from her as fast as possible, using every available tentacle to either run or flail.

Laughing her heart out at the image, Nyrini tosses the mask and starts running in the opposite direction.

“Right!” she exclaims. “Now, to find a way out of—- BAM!”

Nyrini falls unconscious on her back, in the middle of the floor after what would look like a fast-travelling goddess hitting thin air. Knocked out after hitting an invisible wall blocking the corridor, Nyrini doesn’t even notice a section of the wall opening and the floor sliding her in the direction of the gap. Behind her, the wall closes again, engulfing the goddess.

Water now up to their waists, Lord77 looks at Azzageddi after seeing Nyrini disappear. “Got any good ideas?” He asks.

“You’re the spell master. How about blowing one of these doors off?”

Lord77 looks around. “Ugh. There’s a lot of water here. That’s going to absorb a lot of energy. Were I to burn a door down, you and I would survive, but I would par boil Aliyaa here.”

“Yeah, I don’t think I’d like that,” she responds sarcastically.

“Anything more subtle?” Azzageddi nudges.

“To move the door?” Lord77 muses. “Maybe not the door, but the pins!”

Pulling his will, the god concentrates. On the other side of the door a “ping…ping…ping” sound is heard as pins are translocated elsewhere. Seconds later, the door falls outward taking the water with it.

“See! I knew you’d come up with something,” Azzageddi exclaims, and pointing to the now soaked hallway, he motions to his heroine. “After you, my dear. Oh, and take Scratchy with you.”

Just then, there is an explosion down the hall. Something breaks, then something else breaks, then suddenly a whole wall bursts in the chamber, and a huge flood of water pours forth, sweeping the two gods, one hero, and one bear away.

After firing the first grenade, there is an ominous rumble, then a wave of water floods down the hallway right at Ravenknight, carrying along with it Lord77, Azzageddi, his hero Aliyaa…and an enormous, very annoyed bear.

Thinking quickly, Ravenknight fires another grenade at the wall, hoping to divert the rushing water. Unfortunately, only a small portion of the water is diverting, causing her to get hit by (almost) the full force of the flood anyway.

Thinking quickly again, Ravenknight fires another grenade, this time at the floor ahead of the wave. The explosion opens up a bottomless pit trap. After everyone passes over at the front of the flood, they slow down to a stop as more water falls into the pit. Finally, the group is able to stand up as Ravenknight says, “Man, if I had known there would be flash flood traps, I would have brought my surfboard!”

Susan opens her eyes to find herself lying in a soft, comfortable bed, in what looks suspiciously like a bedroom. Looking around the simple but luxurious room, the goddess soon realizes this must be the room Leonard built to function as her sleeping chambers in the temple.

Getting up, she crosses the room, feeling a slight draft against her skin. Walking by a mirror, she sees her own reflection, her pale skin barely covered by a tight-fitting short, silken, black nightgown. Looking down, as if to confirm the blasphemy that just took place, Susan begins to tremble, her eyes glowing icy-blue with rage.

“LEONARD, YOU’RE DEAD!!” she yells, focusing her anger and power to smite Leonard (currently in the lovely (if slightly annoyed) company of The Almighty Anne) with a lightning bolt, turning him almost immediately into ashes.

Feeling slightly better after that, yet still unable to find her robes, Susan finds her satchel, lying peacefully on a chaise longue, in a corner. Reaching for it, she removes the black fur coat from within and dons it. No longer amused by this House of Horrors she currently has for a temple, the goddess finds the door and opens it. Much to her amazement, Susan stares at the throne room, invitingly sitting just beyond the door.

Every single one of her thoughts now focused on ending this silly adventure and getting some level of control over her own temple, the goddess swiftly finds the accursed off switch and starts travelling toward the throne. Not really bothering anymore with the dangers of a room designed by Leonard of Quirm, she moves forward in a straight line, triggering snares and activating traps. Darts flying, blades flailing, beasts rushing in (mostly blood-thirsty dust bunnies that quickly decide to run in the opposite direction at the first sight of Susan’s angry expression), the goddess ignores every attack, seemingly impervious to every blade and claw and poison.

Midway across the room, a figure materializes by the throne. Looking her up and down, catching glimpses of the flimsy nightgown beneath the fur coat, it asks,

DID I ARRIVE AT A BAD TIME?

“No, Grandfather!” Susan roars. “You showed up just in time to push that button!”

YOU MEAN, THIS ONE? Death inquires, activating the off switch.

Holding silence and breathing deeply until she finally reaches the throne, Susan then replies in a leveled tone, “Yes. Thank you.”

I CAME TO SEE YOUR TEMPLE NOW THAT YOU WILL BE MOVING IN, Death explains. HERE. I BROUGHT YOU A GIFT, he adds, producing a small potted plant.

“Oh, a black rose bush…” the goddess notes, hesitating for a second before taking the gift. “That’s… sweet, I guess.”

“Thank you,” she adds as an afterthought.

As several clinks and clangs fill the room, Susan looks around to see trapdoors and shoots open up into the room, delivering every temple occupant relatively safely into the throne room.

“Nooooo!” Screeches Anne as she falls to the floor with a thud.

“Really Leonard? Do you ever think? Couldn’t you, the greatest mind on the disc, have thought of a better way to get me down rather then just cutting the rope?” says Anne as she disentangles herself from the mass of netting.

“I’m sorry Miss Anne, but it worked didn’t it?” protests Leonard.

“Y’know sometimes I really wonder what Susan was thinking. Now can you get us out here without getting us trapped or killed?” says Anne, now exasperated.

“Oh, yes, of course…” replies Leonard, as they walk back out into the hallway, “I think…”

Zatheres curesing himself for spliting up with the three. He then hears water flowing and then shouting then a loud boom as water starts flowing at him. That moment his brain switichs from pity to the mind of a demon lord trained to be a predator. Accursed song number 25:Oblivion gate. With that a gate of darkness opens looking up he sees a hole in the celling spreading his wings he reaches behind him for Red Moon. Ready for battle he lands . Okay who took the shot steping forward he collapses suddenly very very weak.

Near the top Syrona was looking for a way down sairs she suddenly falls to her knees weak. Wha-What’s happaneing.looking at her hands she sees her aura being striped away cureling this way and that. I get it now. Since gods can’t lose their auras some one set it up to devoure the aura of angels and such okay then. shakeing slightly she stands up reacheing up to her eye patch pulling it of keeping her eye closed Eat this! with that she opens her eye the green pules and then gold light flows into ti changeing it and releasing the seal put on her angel form I hope that I can take care of this with out any one seeing. She creates a cloke to cover her apearance. Suddenly very self connince of her appearance.

A huge sieve springs out of the wall of the bottomless pit, catching Azz, Lordy, Aliyaa, Ravenknight, Zatheres, and the bear. Then it springs back into the wall and dumps them into a chute, which they slide down going WHOAAAAA!!! until landing in the throne room.

Meanwhile, just as Leonard is about to say something to Anne, he’s fried by a lightning bolt. His skeleton remains standing comically for a moment, then collapses into a fine powder. Anne sighs, then gets grabbed by a huge robotic claw. As she protests, the steam-powered robot stuffs her into a chamber in its belly and trundles toward the throne room, piping happily.

In another part of the temple, Syrona is doing…something, when she is zapped by some microwave-dish-looking thing. She disintegrates, immediately reforming in the throne room.

The only person still missing is Nyrini…

Azz shakes some of the water from his hair and looks up to see Susan in fur coat and sexy negligee. He stares for a split second, then immediately becomes fascinated with some random object…over there on the other side of the room, his face turning red.

“Ahem. Well, it looks like everyone is here,” he says, “plus a few more people I didn’t realize were coming.” A steam-powered robot rolls into he room and dumps Anne out of its belly. “Anne! Hello! Are you all right?” He looks around again. “Wait, where’s Nyrini? Oh, and Leonard, too?”

“Don’t worry about Leonard,” growls Susan. “I’ll resurrect him after he’s had a nice long timeout.”

“Oh…well we just need to find Nyrini then…”

Syrona gives a slight gasp and looks around quickly. Her heart sinks when she notices Ravenvalkyre is not amoung them. Sighing she raises her cloakes hood and pulls it tight around her.

Syrona:We are actualy missing Lord Raven

Susan:Who are you? And why are you here?

Aliyaa:don’t she is a friend. Hey Syri.

Syrona:Hi Aliyaa. I did not think you were comeing what happend to Angel Slayer?

Aliyaa:I did not think I would need it. Any way why are you in angel form? The rest:What’s going on here?

Syrona: I guess this is no time to be shy.

Reaching up she unfastins her cloak revealing her angelic form a bueaty effortless and graceful that would put Ailiraa to shame. Her hair was pulled in a braid that hung down her back. The armor she normalt wore was gone replaced by slight white dress that came up to her neck. She wore white gloves and had two wings floded close to her self giveing the appearnce of a jacket. He normal bicromal eyes we’re now gold at the cornia.

Syrona:This is my true angel form. She wraps her arms around herself and turns slightly. Don’t think of me diffrent. Please? Any way Lord Ravenvalkyre is still missing.

Rubbing his eyes and blinking from being dazzled by Syrona’s full glory, Azz says, “OK, correction, we need to find Nyri and Ravey.”

Just then a form materializes on the bed. It’s Nyrini, asleep, dressed in a tight-fitting, silken, black negligee, identical to the one Susan is wearing under her fur coat. The only difference is she is also wearing a baby bonnet and a pacifier on a lanyard around her neck. Since everyone is already so used to Nyrini wearing even less on a daily basis, everyone focuses on the incongruous baby stuff.

She sits up, yawns, stretches, looks down at what she’s wearing, and says, “What the hell?” Then she notices everyone else in the room. “I said, ‘What the hell,’ people!”

“Er, maybe because you’re Susan’s sister,” Azz theorizes, “the temple dressed you the same way…I have no idea about the pacifier, though.”

Suddenly another sleeping shape materializes. It’s Ravenvalykre, wearing all his usual armor and equipment, but wearing an identical negligee stretched over it. As he yawns and sits up, the sleepwear tears as the armor shifts, and he looks at it quizzically. “Ummm…what?”

“Well, that blows that theory,” says Azz, throwing up his hands. “I have no idea what happened there! I’m just glad whatever it was left Ravey’s armor on. Maybe because it’s magical armor? Oh heck, I don’t know! Er, Sue, sorry but we have to run and get ready for the beach party! And I want to get out of here before something grabs me and dresses me up in something.”

Aliyaa guffaws. “You would look awesome in that nightie, Great One!”

“Naturally,” Azz says with aplomb. “But it is time to don beachwear and mix piña coladas! Time to break out the volleyball net and the surfboards! Time to slather our bodies with coconut-scented sunblock and nom on watermelon and shave ice! In short, it is time for a beach party!”

In another part of reality…

Early sunlight streams over the horizon hitting his eyes. Lazily, they open to a greeting of small insects scurrying across the high grass, which had been leveled the night before by the lioness as their evening bed. A stirring hunger makes him search her out, a well practiced effort to find and nourish himself from her teat. Although he is now of age to taste meat, his weaning is still some time off.

Filling his belly to satisfaction, he detaches and stretches which disturbs the slumber of his sister and brother. Together, they and the young from the other lionesses fill the current generation of this season’s offspring, ten in all. Yawning, he rises slowly, stumbling to find his path away from that night’s nest and reacquaint himself with his early rising cousins. The sun promises another warm and peaceful day on the plains.

A promise that will not be fulfilled.

Looking at the edge of the pride, the young male sees his father. Aging, yet still powerful, his full mane casts a shadow sufficient to encompass the cub. In the early hours, he sees that his father is alert, watching, as if a danger is present. The cub waits, finally seeing what has his father’s attention. In the near distance approaches another male. This one is younger and of age to challenge a reigning male for ownership of the pride.

As he nears, the cub’s father roars a challenge, and is answered by the younger male. Soon, both lions close, roaring and circling each other until the younger sees an opportunity and attacks. Although the older male has a slight weight and size advantage, the younger is faster, quicker, and soon defeats the older male, running him off of the pride land. Returning, the new male takes ownership of the females, forcing them all to accept him as their new mate.

Priority one of the new male is procreation and creation of his offspring. As long as there are nursing cubs, the females will not heat, and thus, the male’s first task is to eliminate the cubs from the former male. Stalking one of the cub’s cousins, the male strikes, killing it instantly. Then, it turns to the siblings, dispatching them quickly.

The cub watches in horror as his cousins are murdered by the intruder. Running back to his mother for comfort, she stands aloof. She knows of the change, and her part in it as to allow these slaughters.

Confused and scared, the cub begins to flee. Looking back he sees his siblings, petrified with fear become the next kills, his brother first, then the sister. Finally, he is the last remaining.

Running at full gait, he looks back and sees the male spot him and begin chase. Panic sets in the cub’s mind as he enters the edge of a water pool, providing temporary shelter among the few trees and local shrubs. As life panic sets in, he begins to see images, symbols, sounds, things that confuse him, are foreign to him, and yet are somehow part of his memories. As the male breaks into the area searching for the cub, the young one flattens to the ground behind low bushes, his heart racing, as yet more symbols, motions, sounds flash in his mind.

“These are not my memories!” He cries internally as he feels the male searching the tall grass nearby. But the memories continue. Symbols now joining sounds, connecting. Motions included as if the cub should understand these, have witness them, performed them.

The cub crawls away from the brush as the male nears; now racing for a small trove of trees. The male catches the motion and gives chase. The cub’s mind racing with fear and panic, the symbols connecting in his mind, the sounds overlaying, the motions underlying them. As the cub reaches the low branches, he turns to see the male reach the trove, tossing branches out of the way, clearing the path to the cub.

The cub halts at the base of a tree, only small brush now separate him from the male. As his heart beats furiously, the symbols, sounds, and motions all swirl in its head. Just as the male clears the brush and readies a killing blow, the symbols, sounds and motions all click in the cub’s head…

…and the cub casts the spell.

The dawning light streams through the window, slowly bathing them. As life shakes off slumber outside, she opens a sleepy eye. The feel of his arm draped over her side, holding her in a soft embrace, adds to the fleeing greys of the room, telling her the tale of the night before. Rolling over, turning to look at him, she finds him sleeping in peaceful bliss, his face a mask of serenity and joy.

Who would ever have thought that Lord77, great, powerful (and often drunk) god was a cuddler? she thinks, smiling softly.

The gentle strokes of her hand on his cheek make him stir in his sleep, bringing him to relative vigilance.

“Hmm?”

“It’s all right, sweetheart,” Susan whispers. “Go back to sleep.”

“Is it morning already?” Lordy asks.

“Early dawn, dear,” the goddess replies. “We have time still.”

“Good,” Lord77 states, his arm tightening its embrace over his lover as sleep battles to take him over. “No leaving for you, this time.”

“Not until morning, no,” Susan says, stroking the god’s hair. "I will have to return to my temple, though. Take care of that… security system.

“Hmm…hmmm” Lord77 grunts, already falling asleep.

Laying her arm over his, the goddess smiles and settles down to meet him in dreams.

Darkness: A sea of Blacks and Grays fill the landscape. The cub now stands, wide-eye and confused. There is no frame of reference it can use to understand the place in which it stands. Shaking, it looks around. The trees are gone. The intruding male, vanished. He spins, hoping to find the path back to the pride. Hoping it was just a dream. Hoping it can open its eyes and again see its lioness mother, brother, sister. But, no hope holds.

As the first memory hits, he halts his motion. The confusion in him internalizes in an attempt to comprehend. As the second memory, the third, the fourth all hit, the cub begins to howl as confusion turns to pain. Soon the memories flood in, things that are not his life, walled structures, beings not of his kind, walking on two legs, fur which is not fur, utterance of sounds that is neither a roar or a growl.

The cub collapses under the wave of memories until the mind of the cub is filled with a life that is a life of someone else.

IT MAY HELP YOU TO UNDERSTAND WERE YOU TO CHANGE YOUR FORM.

The cub hears the words, and is astonished that understanding of words is possible. Looking up, it sees the figure, tall, cloaked, hooded, holding a scythe, all concepts now that it can pull from the memories of the other and understand.

TRULY, IT WILL HELP. YOU ARE BOUND BY THAT FORM’S LIMITATIONS.

The words play over the cub’s mind. Change form. Accept that which the memories provide you. And closing its eyes, the cub recalls the form, understands it, recognizes it, and then, pulling its will, becomes it.

THAT IS BETTER. NOW WE CAN TALK.

“Why?” is the first word the new formed cub makes. Looking at its paws, now hands, arms, legs, in the form of a young, male human, aged barely into his majority. Looking up at the cloaked figure, it again tries. “Why?”

BECAUSE I WAS ALLOWED TO ACT. PROVIDING YOU THIS PATH ALLOWED ME TO AVOID THE CHOICE. WERE YOU TO BE KILLED, THEN I WOULD HAVE REPORTED THAT YOU WERE NOT ABLE TO SURVIVE.

Death summons an hourglass in his bony hand. Where the top globe had been empty, it now contains one grain, circling and glowing in octarine.

BUT, YOU DECIDED NOT TO DIE. YOU PULLED ENOUGH OF YOUR MEMORIES TOGETHER TO SURVIVE. NOW, I WILL REPORT TO HIM THAT YOU LIVE AGAIN.

SIT AND ABSORB IN MY DOMAIN FOR AWHILE. YOU WILL SOON RECALL WHAT YOU NEED, AND THEN YOU CAN RETURN.

As Death turns to leave, he adds,

Summoning a box, Lord01 begins to load tomes, workbooks, and assorted papers into it. Off to the side sit matching boxes, already filled with other works. Grumbling, the ancient god aligns spell books in the box, arranging them by area of study. As he places a thick tome on time manipulation, he feels a disturbance within his library. Standing and turning, he sees the disturbance is caused by the sudden appearance of an intruder garbed in a long, hooded cloak and carrying a scythe.

“Not great timing, Reaper. I’m packing up the place. Morrigan wants to move back to the castle.”

I AM AWARE. MY TRIP HERE WAS TO COMPLETE MY TASK BEFORE YOUR RELOCATION.

Lord01 places a parchment in the box, then again looks at Death. “OK. If it’s so bloody important, then what’s on your mind?”

YOU HAD RAISED THE QUESTION OF MY PARTICIPATION IN THE ACTIONS OF THE GODBINDERS. IT HAS COME TO ME DURING REFLECTION THAT THERE IS NO NEUTRAL POSITION TO TAKE. ABSTENTION ONLY SERVES TO SUPPORT THEIR CAUSE. THIS COULD BE OFFSET THROUGH NAGELE’S CONTRIBUTION TO YOUR CAUSE.

The ancient god’s eyes widen in surprise. Then, looking into the empty sockets of Death, responds, “I thought you said he was gone. Dead gone.”

Death, unwavering and unphased responds evenly.

THE TIME FOR HIS PAST FORM WAS COMPLETE. HOWEVER, THERE ARE BELIEFS THAT ENCOMPASS REINCARNATION. I HAVE ACCESS TO THOSE BELIEFS.

“You reincarnated Nagele?!” Lord01 asks excitedly.

WITHOUT HIS KNOWLEDGE, I CREATED A TEST. HIS SURVIVAL OF THE TEST WOULD RESULT IN HIS REINCARNATION. FAILURE OF THE TEST, AND HIS EXISTENCE ENDS. I BLINDED MYSELF TO THE RESULT AND AWAITED THE ENDING.

“And?” Lord01 presses.

Death sweeps his scythe, and at the end of the room a form appears, a lion, now in its early adulthood.

Lord01 stares at the animal, then turns to the robed figure. “You reincarnated him as a lion?! What cruel trick is this?! I needed him in human form!”

YOU ARE AWARE THAT GODS CAN TAKE FORMS, Death interrupts.

Lord01 frozen in mid-tirade, halts, then listens. “He has tone!” the ancient god exclaims.

HE HAS TONE, Death confirms.

The animal stretches, blurs, then stands upright. Where there once was a young male lion, now stands Nagele as a young man, clothed in his wizard’s robe and hat.

Tears stream down Lord01’s face as he sees his long-passed friend once again. Taking tentative steps towards the other end of the room, he can barely ask, “Nagele, is that really you?”

The wizard grins in response, “Yes, you old bastard. It’s me. I hope you’ve been practicing your spells while I was gone, and not just goofing off.” Then, he steps forward embracing the ancient god and receiving a fierce hug in return.

Wiping tears from his eyes, Lord01 separates from the embrace and turns towards Death. “Why?” He asks.

I INFORMED YOU. THERE WAS NO NEUTRAL PATH. HOWEVER, THE DEIFICATION WAS TO MAKE THE BALANCE PERMANENT.

“Thank you,” Lord01 barely speaks.

Raising his scythe, Death finishes, MY TASK HERE IS COMPLETE, LORD01. OUR DISAGREEMENT CONCERNING THESE EVENTS IS FINISHED, and he disappears.

The ancient god looks at the great wizard, now god. “Oh, we have so much to catch up on. Come. I think I still have some of that ale that the Godofbeer brought.”

Nagele, now laughing, follows and inquires, “The god of what?!”

Susan walks the halls of her temple with Leonard dragging his feet to her left. To her right walks a dwarf contractor and behind all three of them, a small dwarven army of workers.

“Thank you for agreeing to undertake this project under such short notice, Master Glodssonssonsson” Susan tells the fully armored dwarf.

The only thing currently identifying him as a contractor is the hard-hat-shaped yellow helmet (with visor because looks are important too), the body armor coated in orange reflective paint and the sledgehammer strapped across his back (instead of the usual ceremonial war axe).

“Yeah, we never say no to a good honest job,” the dwarf replies. “And usually just say mehbe to dishonest ones too,” he adds with a grin, revealing an unhealthy amount of gold teeth.

“Hmpf! Calling an outsider to ‘fix’ thine temple…” Leonard grumbles under his breath. “Like there is something wrong with my creation!”

“Your creation has a tendency to swallow people whole, my human,” Susan admonishes him.

“Well, a learning curve is only to be expected with advanced technology,” Leonard argues.

“Sure, if yer talkin’ ‘bout a new razor blade. Not a house!” Glodssonssonssonssonssonsson states.

“IT IS NOT A HOUSE!” Leonard cries. “I do not build houses! Architects like Bloody Stupid Johnson build houses.”

“Enough, Leonard!” Susan intervenes. “I will NOT have a temple that will put my family and worshippers in danger.”

Somewhere behind them, at the tail of the entourage, a trapdoor opens and a dwarf disappears with an AAAARRRRGGGHHHhhhh. Looking behind him, Glodssonsson notices the missing dwarf, removes the pencil he carries behind his ear and makes a little note on a piece of paper.

“That’s gonna cost ye,” he warns Susan. “I can’t have mah dwarves disappearin’ on me. These ones were hard enough to hire after Ah told’em where the job would be.”

“Dwarfs…” Leonard mutters.

“Come’gain, laddie?” the contractor inquires.

“The proper term is ‘dwarfs’,” Leonard explains.

“Uh..Nuh huh!” Glodssonssonssonssonsson counters “Ah’m a dwarf. Ah should know.”

“Me mom always says dwarves, she does,” an unnamed dwarf offers.

“Yeah, but Ah did read somewhere that’s dwarfs that’s right!” another dwarf claims.

“By Tak’s armoured shorts! Ye can use both!” a slightly more intelligent dwarf states.

“Well, that’s just stoopid, Rhys!” some other dwarf counters. “Why’d ye have two words that works fer the same thing?!”

“It’s words!” Rhys insists, shrugging. “Ye can’t have too many!”

“Shut up!” Glodssonssonsson orders. “Doesn’t matter anyway!”

To Susan, he says, “This is what happens when ye hire a bunch o’females.” Seeing the goddess’ raised eyebrow and fixed jaw, he immediately decides to go very, very quiet.

“Shall we proceed, Master Dwarf?” Susan asks. “Before the temple decides to consume you as well?”

Behind them, the dwarf known as Rhys suddenly disappears, solving at least one of Glodssonssonssonssonssonssonsson’s problems.

Lord77 steps into the Watch Hall, passes the bar waving off Sasha as she, in reflex, grabs a beer glass, and continues on to the table where Azzageddi is reviewing papers. The motion makes the Watch leader raise his head to see the toga-wrapped god approach.

“What’s news, brah?” Azzageddi greets.

“Godofbeer has been feeding me reports of alcohol-to-water conversions. I’ve been running around the city,” Lord77 reports taking a chair at the table. In his right hand is a soft cloth bag which he places on the table providing a loud “clink”. Azzageddi raises an eyebrow in inquiry.

“Divining crystals,” Lord77 answers the silent question. “I’ve been mapping the magic flows around each occurrence and I think I have a direction where the spells are coming from.”

“Oh? Do tell.” Azzageddi instructs, sitting now upright with great interest.

“Some background first. The spell being used is a fairly basic water-purification spell. Most level-two wizards master it. The magnitude and distance of the spell is what made me concerned. To be able to cast it with distance, precision, and magnitude would take at least an advanced level-three if not a level-four wizard. That’s why I wanted to know direction. I wanted to know if it was coming out of the UU.”

“And is it?” Azzageddi prods.

Lord77 slumps in his chair, a frown on his lips. “I’m not sure, brother. The general direction points towards the UU, but not on it. Most likely, our wizard is moving around the general area. I’ve got readings that include Water Street and the Fronts.”

Scratching his head, Lord77 continues, “This could be a rogue wizard hiding around the bars in the Fronts. The only way to rule that out would be to go check out the bars there and see if anyone knows of a suspicious wizard hanging around.”

Azzageddi settles back in his chair, pondering. “Well, I know of two officers that know their way around bars. I could dispatch them.”

“One wouldn’t happen to be a big guy and wears a helmet and likes beer, while the other carries a nasty crossbow and has a habit of flashing a lot of skin?”

“Could be,” Azzageddi responds smiling.

“Great. Like they’ll blend in.”

“So, here’s the long and the short of it—” Master Glodssonssonsson says, falling silent for a moment to give Susan the chance to chuckle at his words. She doesn’t, though, and he proceeds, mildly disappointed. “Ah can unrig the building in a couple o’days, but it’s gonna cost ye. Especially if Ah keep losin’ workers.”

The dwarven contractor looks at the end of the throne room, where only half a dozen dwarves (dwarfs… whatever) still stand.

“I’m sure it will,” Susan replies with a sigh. “Leonard’s retirement fund is at your service.”

“Oh, sure…” Leonard grumbles. “Blame me…”

“The security system is off, Leonard, and still the temple keeps making people disappear,” Susan admonishes him.

“Well, I had to build backups!” the scientist insists.

“And now you will pay to have them removed,” Susan sentences. “When can you start, Master Glodssonssonsson?”

Looking around the throne room and finding it even emptier of dwarves than before, the contractor returns his pencil to his ear and says “Well, as soon as Ah find me some workers to hire, Ah guess…”

As she works to tame the garden, Susan listens to Glodssonssonssonssonssonssonsson’s report on the dwarf’s progress in making her temple safe enough to inhabit and visit.

“Well, mah dwarves”, the dwarf looks around in search of Leonard and his spell checking ways. “Mah dwarves have cleared most of the lower levels and we’s just missin’ a couple o’rooms in the upper levels too. So far we’s found:”

A year’s supply of flimsy black nightgowns (one of mah men says they makes fer good sock material (shrug)) 1 very confused shark 72 bowling balls (that made fer a good run down a long hall) 193 fly swatters (OUCH!) 304 squirrels (vicious little buggers! Goes great wi’ketchup, though!) 36 carnivorous plants of different varieties (3 of which prey on dwarves. Don’t ask!) 200 mouse traps (I think these were really just for mice but, heh, you never know) 3000 yards of greased copper cable (I’m keepin’ that, bah the way) A full shipment of fine liquor bottles (so, that wasn’t part of a trap. We’s keepin’em anyways.) One complete collection of Playbear magazines (year of the convulsive clam – year of the hairless dust bunny)

“Playbear?” the goddess inquires.

“Yeah, the bear fought tah hang on tah them when this guys I gots on mah team that’s just crazy ‘bout a furry rear, tried tah take’em” the dwarf explains, shaking his head slowly. “Never stood a chance, the poor beastie… Oh, you gots a new rug now, bah the way! No extra charge!”

“Okay… that is very… kind of you,” Susan replies. “Thank you.”

“Uhh, what else is on the list?” the dwarf proceeds. “Ah, yes:”

1 very drunk wolf (Ah lost two good dwarves tah barf and fume poisoning while cleanin’ yer chambers. That’s gonna cost ya) 1 passed out dwarf (ya get a 0.00005% discount fer that)

As Glodssonsson lists the final items, two dwarves walk into the garden, carrying Dragolord.

“Thank you, Master Glodssonssonsson,” Susan says, leaning over the wolf god. “Now, how about helping me add another rug to my floors, no extra charge?”

Walking the streets in the typical watchman patrol stance, Nyrini and Godofbeer make their way to their first bar in the Fronts.

“So, big guy, how do you think we should go about doing this?” Nyrini asks.

Godofbeer scratches his chin and thinks for a moment before answering, “Uuhh… same as usual? Go in, have a few, ask around for something suspicious?”

“Well, okay…” the goddess considers. “But, these guys are wizards. Not like they’re gonna just tell us what we wanna know,” she says, throwing a meaningful, appraising look at her partner.

Understanding the meaning of her words and look, Godofbeer freezes in his tracks, shaking his head. “Oh, no! Nuh uh! No way am I getting in a wizard dress again!”

“Well, I can’t be the one in the wizard robes!” Nyri argues. “Women aren’t allowed to be wizards!”

“Ok, ok!” Godofbeer concedes, resuming march. “What if we go in, have a few and then you put on a show to distract them so they won’t notice I’m not a wizard?”

This makes the goddess burst out with laughter. “You’re kidding, right?! You’re friggin’ huge! There’s no way I can distract them THAT much!” Then thinking about it for a second, “Well, there is, but… eeewwww, wizards,” she adds with a shudder.

“Fine! Plan C: we go in, have a few, then you distract them while I knock down the bartender and take his place.”

“Uuuhh… isn’t he the one we shouldn’t be feeling out for clues?” Nyri inquires.

”You wanna feel the bartender?” Godofbeer raises an eyebrow.

“Is he cute?”

“Like a troll in daylight,” the god replies. “I DON’T KNOW! I don’t go around checkin’ out guys!”

“Ok, ok!” Nyrini relents in the interest of not making a scene in the middle of the street (well, at least an ever bigger one) “So what’s the plan again?”

“We go in, have a few, then you distract them while I replace the bartender,” Godofbeer repeats in a slightly impatient tone.

“Is there any version of this plan where we don’t have a few?” Nyrini asks.

“Hmm… no, no, I don’t so,” GoB responds after a moment’s contemplation.

“Good! I like the way you think, partner!”

“Uuhh… maybe we should call it a night and come back tomorrow, big guy,” Nyrini says, looking at a swaying Godofbeer. “I mean, we’ve hit every bar, pub, tavern and what I’m sure is a small private wine cellar in the Fronts and we still haven’t found anything!”

They walk down the street, alone at this late hour, in a side-step variation of the Watchman’s standard issue patrol walk.

“Oh, iss OK!” Godofbeer waves her off, slightly unsure of his steps. “We gots like… one bar left and iss all gonna be like, no evi… evde… clues there anyway. We can go check.”

Nyri shrugs. “OK, partner! Though, I reeeeally don’t know how you’re still managing to stand,” she watches GoB’s efforts to move in a straight line and comments nastily, “A bit windy in this street, isn’t it?”

“Iss like, the thing for da water to flow tah the sides when it rains an’stuff,” the god offers by way of excuse.

“You mean, slope?”

“Yeah, somethin’ like that. Hey, how come you’re not pissed drunk like me?”

“Uhh… family trait,” the goddess explains. “It’s like, I get drunk and I am drunk but you can’t tell that I’m drunk ‘cuz I don’t look drunk. But I’m drunk, mind you,” she assures him.

“Oh… OK!” Godofbeer replies. Then, squinting until his eyelids almost shut down completely, he points to the front of the bar at the end of the street and asks, “Hey, iss that Squeezy, the Sid comin’ outta dat bar, over there?”

“Squeezy, the what now?” Nyri asks in confusion. Then, looking at where her partner is pointing, “Oh, Sneezy, the Squid! Our favorite low-life snitch! What do ya think of askin’ him a couple of questions, big guy?”

“Yeah! We can inter…int… ask da guy tha’s with’im too!”´Godofbeer answers brightly.

Nyrini looks at Sneezy and raises an eyebrow. “What guy?”

“The guy who looks just like hi…” GoB insists and then, looking slightly abashed, adds “I’m seein’ double, aren’t I?”

Nyrini nods a confirmation and chuckles. “Sorry, partner.”

“OK,” Godofbeer states, pulling his sleeves up. “We’ll talk to Sneezy and see if the other guy answers.”

“Hey, Sneezy! How’s it hangin’?” Nyrini asks, suddenly appearing behind the human-sized squid.

“I gots ten o’them all hangin’ at once, which one are ya askin’ bout?” Sneezy asks in whatever passes for a mischievous tone in a squid.

“I don’t know?” Nyri replies, grinning wih evil intent as she watches Godofbeer approaching to block Sneezy’s only available escape route. “Which one of them will grow back if I rip it off?”

“Uuhh… they don’t do that,” Sneezy says, looking slightly worried.

“Oh… Ah well! So, which one are you willing to lose?” Nyri muses.

“NONE O’THEM!” Sneezy cries, looking very worried. “THERE’S NO CALL FER THAT! WHAT DID I DO TAH YOUSE?!”

“You are refusing to cooperate in a police investigation,” the goddess explains.

“AM NOT!” the squid exclaims.

“Are too!” Godofbeer intervenes.

“NUH HUH!” Sneezy grunts, turning to face the god.

“Wanna bet?” Nyrini retorts.

Understanding all-too-well what’s going on, Sneezy sighs and says, “Ye’re gonna ask me tah rat on someone aren’t ye?”

“Yep. You see, me and my partner here—” Nyri starts.

“Hey, are you alone or iss that another squid to your left?” GoB interrupts her, pointing to the left of the squid.

“He’s alone, big guy,” Nyrini states.

“I wanna hear it from him!” Godofbeer insists.

“Yeah, I’m alone,” Sneezy confirms, looking carefully at the god.

“You sure?” GoB tries one last time.

“Isn’t there a rule ‘bout Watchmen not drinkin’ on the job?” Sneezy asks, turning to Nyri.

“We’re undercover,” Nyrini explains.

“Ye don’t look very covered tah me!” the squid snorts looking the goddess up and down.

“I… left my cover at the last bar,” Nyrini quickly remarks. “That’s not the point! I need to know if you’ve been talking to anyone about all this liquor being turned into water.”

“No… not as such, no…” Sneezy responds, looking shifty (so much as a squid can accomplish this without squirting ink all over the place).

Nyri sighs and facepalms at the pitiful attempt at deception. “You know what’s going on, don’t you?”

“Oh, c’mon!” Sneezy cries. “Please, don’t make me rat! It’s a sweet deal! An’ it’s not like I have tah do nuthin’ dangerous! It’s just some cargo manifests I just happens tah come across and then I shows it tah this guy an’he takes’em an’I really don’t know what happens next!”

“An’ where iss diss guy now?” Godofbeer inquires.

“He’s in there,” Sneezy replies, jerking a tentacle at the door behind him. “Big fella, dressed like a fisherman.”

“Iss a fishermen’s bar. They’s all dressed like fish (hick) men,” GoB retorts, throwing his hands up.

“Yeah, but only one o’them’s goin’ around with UU socks on his feets!” Sneezy exclaims, crossing his tentacles over his mantle and looking mildly offended.

“UU? As in Unseen University?” Nyrini asks, raising an eyebrow.

Sneezy nods. “Yeah! Real nice socks too! Thick, black. Some ‘broidery sayin’ Arch-somethin’.”

“Arch-somethin’?” Godofbeer snorts.

“Hey, I’ma snitch not a scholar!” Sneezy says. “I only learns how tah read short words ‘cuz da teach said long ones cost extra.”

“Ya might wanna inv… ves… spend some money there,” the god notes.

“No need, partner,” Nyrini intervenes. “Thank you, Sneezy. Be seein’ ya!”

“Please, please, please, copper. If ya do, pretend ya didn’t,” Sneezy pleads before turning away and leaving.

“Well, that wass’all a bunch o’ nothin’,” Godofbeer grumbles.

“No worries there, partner,” Nyrini states, opening the door to the bar. “To a good listener, half a word will do.”

Over in his corner chair, Azzageddi sorts through papers and sighs. Shade, small and slightly built, his bunny ears adding a whimsical look to his dark, serious face, brings over a stack of folders and sets them down on the only clear spot. Azzageddi doesn’t look up until Shade picks up the god-cop’s empty mug, to go refill it with tea.

“Shade, wait,” says Azz, still not looking up, sounding excited. “Take a look at this…”

The bunny sits next to Azz on the arm of the chair and follows the cop’s explanation, nodding and sometimes asking a question.

“So that all makes sense—all these liquors that aren’t getting turned to water are all connected! They all have significant amounts of stock owned by some anonymous mystery person. But who??” Azz throws his hands up in frustration.

But Shade doesn’t even notice. He is studying the pages, brow furrowed, and then he searches through the pile of folders he just brought until he finds the right one, and opens it. “Sir,” he says, “look at this…and then—” he finds another folder and points to something else “—this!” He looks at Azz with a big smile. “Do you see?”

For a long moment, Azzageddi just stares, and Shade’s ears start to droop in anticipation of disappointment. But then Azzageddi nods slowly, raises a hand, and pats Shade on the back. “That’s it,” he says. “You found him.” He looks at Shade and smiles, squeezing his shoulder. “Good work.”

They spend the next twenty minutes together going over it all again. Sasha comes over and takes away Azz’s mug, unnoticed, and then brings it back along with Shade’s mug, both filled with steaming tea. Azz absentmindedly says “Thank you” as she sets them down, and the two continue, Shade taking notes for a report.

Finally, Shade goes to write it up, while Azzageddi seeks out Lord77 in his temple. Hearing a noise in the kitchen, he calls out, “Lordy, is that you?”

Susan Sto Helit pokes her head out of the kitchen. She’s wearing a bathrobe, her hair wrapped in a towel, holding a cold bottle of ale in her hand. “You would do well to learn to knock, my friend.” she admonishes in mock annoyance.

“Oh good, I’m glad you’re here!” Azz is so excited he barely notices her appearance. “Where’s Lordy?”

“You look like you have come by something important.”

“Yes, I’m terribly sorry, Susan, but it is important…and I’m glad I can tell you at the same time.”

Susan rolls her eyes and says, “Fine, fine—but wait here.”

A few minutes later Susan returns with Lord77, also in a bathrobe. Susan’s hair is now loose and damp. “What’s so all-fired important that it couldn’t wait?” asks Lordy, clearly annoyed.

“Lordy, Susan,” Azz says, smiling, “The information that Nyrini and Godofbeer brought us…well, it was circumstantial, but Shade pulled it all together! He found the guy behind it all!”

Susan crosses her arms and looks expectant, while Lord77 asks, “All right, then, who?”

“Oh, you’re going to love this,” Azz says. “The guy profiting from all the different labels that aren’t being turned to water is indeed a wizard, just as you surmised. And like Nyr-Beer reported, it’s someone connected with the Unseen University as well. In fact…it’s Arch-Chancellor Rathmell!”

Lord77 shakes his head in disbelief. “Well, now we know why that pompous fool didn’t want a member of the Watch in his university.”

Azzageddi nods in agreement, and then adds, “We have enough evidence to do a search. But I don’t want to alert Rathmell. Can you slip over there and see if you can find evidence of his possession of the shipping manifests? If we can prove he has them, then the leads Nyrini and Godofbeer received will be confirmed, and we can arrest him.”

“OK, brother. Let me get dressed, pick the right time, and I’ll go snoop around.”

“Excuse me!” says Susan, her arms as crossed as her expression.

“Oh, um…” Lordy says, looking suddenly both scared and embarrassed. Scarbarrassed.

Azz looks at both of them as if realizing for the first time that he’s interrupted a romantic evening. He also looks scarbarrassed. “Oh…gosh…”

Susan glares at both of them, tapping her bare foot. When she decides they’ve had enough torture, she harrumphs. "Fine…Go,” she dismisses with a wave of her hand. “While you sneak in and (hopefully) out of the UU, Azz and I will remain on call at the guild hall.” She turns to Azzageddi. “How about a game of Thud!? It has been a while since we last played, I believe, my friend.”

“Oh, true! We haven’t played since you left. OK, brother! If you need us, holler. We’ll be ready to act should there be any need.”

Many shelves, packed with centuries of trinkets, utility items, and dust, line a storage closet down the hall from the Arch-Chancellor’s office at the Unseen University. What was previously an empty spot on the floor next to stacked boxes is now suddenly filled with a lightly-bearded, toga-wearing, irritated god. Farsight and translocation blocked by wards established after his last visit, the god arrives nearby and waits. Just as expected, he spots Rathmell leaving his office moments after Lord77’s arrival, as the timing was to place the god nearby shortly before the Arch-Chancellor’s staff meeting. With the official now exiting his office, Lord77 steps into the room once Rathmell vacates the area.

Stepping before the desk, the god senses the ward’s presence guarding an adjoining room used primarily for records retention. “Why don’t you put a big arrow on this place, Ratty?” Lord77 growls to himself and then proceeds to sense the ward’s barriers.

“Well, let’s see,” the god thinks out loud. “I don’t have a lot of time, but if I blast this barrier with RAW, Ratty will know something’s up. Hmmm…”

Raising his hands and feeling the barrier work against them, Lord77 perceives and evaluates the warding. Smiling, he pulls his hands back.

“It’s a good thing you stink at magic, Mr. Arch-Chancellor,” Lord77 chuckles as he extracts two warding sticks. Setting them at the threshold of the records room, the god casts a focus spell between the two wards causing them to flare octarine, and then hold, creating a magical doorway through the ward barrier.

“There’s a half-dozen ways to stop what I just did, Rathmell, and I’ll bet you don’t know one of them,” the god chuckles as he walks through the barrier and into the records room. Once in, Lord77 begins rifling through each drawer until he finds the one item he was searching for, a folder containing shipment documents of the competing labels to his secretly owned distilleries. In each shipment, a time and place is documented and circled. In the same folder, Lord77 finds ownership information of the distilleries, showing Rathmell’s collusion.

Quickly Laying the documents on the floor, the god takes out an iconograph containing a fresh imp and begins snapping image after image.

“We’re gonna run out of black ink”, he hears from inside as he snaps the final pictures.

“Not to worry. I brought more,” Lord77 assures.

Less than thirty minutes since entering, Lord77 exits the Arch-Chancellor’s office after re-filing the documents, retrieving his wards, and carrying the camera and imp-shot copies of documents back to the storage closet. A quick translocation back to the Guild Hall, and less than an hour after Azzageddi dispatched the god to get the information, Lord77 is standing before him, grinning at Azz and Susan and depositing the copied, incriminating documents on the granite and basalt Thud! board that sits between, serving as entertainment to the two gods.

“Well, It’s all here. He tried to hide these papers in a ward protected room, but I managed to get through,” Lord77 states. “These are travel manifest documents with the times of the attacks circled. They tie to what you found out from the others on what’s being given to Rathmell.”

“Looks like it’s time to make an arrest,’ Azzageddi remarks.

“Who are you sending in to get him?” Susan asks.

“I was thinking Norman,” Azzageddi states.

“Norman?” Lord77 inquires with surprise. “Norman wouldn’t be able to hold against Rathmell.”

“True. But he would if you and I were there too.”

“Ah. Got it. Norman makes the arrest to keep it in the UU family. We’re there to be his muscle.” Azzageddi just grins.

Norman takes a deep breath, adjusts his AMCW badge, then knocks on Arch-Chancellor Rathmell’s door. He glances over at Carlyle, Rathmell’s secretary, who is sitting quietly, looking scared, flanked by Azzageddi and Lord77, the latter of whom has one hand resting heavily on the man’s sloping shoulder to keep him in his seat. Sgt Mitsumi enters, setting an empty file box on the secretary’s desk. The two gods nod grimly but reassuringly to Norman.

At a muffled shout of “Come!” from within, Norman opens the door.

Rathmell looks up, the bullying expression he normally gives to his secretary replaced with surprise. “Norman! What the hell are you doing here? Where’s Carlyle?”

“He is detained, Arch-Chancellor. As to your first question…” Norman pauses to swallow, his throat feeling like a desert, but he forges ahead. “In the name of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, I am placing you under arrest for destruction of private property, manipulating markets, theft, and, well, several other crimes that we’ll explain to you once we have you in lockup. Let’s go.”

Rathmell just stares at the normally unassuming young wizard, his eyes bugging out, his face turning purple, his fists clenching so that a sheet he was writing on crumples. Finally he chokes out, “How… DARE YOU!? How dare you come into my office and accuse me?! I will have you expelled, you little milksop! I will sue your entire family into penury for libel! I will destroy your stupid joke of a police squad over this! Mark my words!”

Norman is surprised to find that, as Rathmell begins to throw his tantrum, all of the young wizard’s nervousness fades, to be replaced with cool contempt. “Stow it, you blowhard,” he says, tossing a scroll onto the desk, his bored tone shocking Rathmell into silence. “We know all about your operation, and the magistrate has issued the arrest warrant. Read it if you like, but you’re coming with me, right now. Now we can take you out of here quietly and let you keep some dignity, or we can frogmarch you past the faculty and students in chains. Those are your choices.”

Rathmell ignores the scroll, but stands, his face even darker and more threatening. “You little pipsqueak…do you know how I got this position? Do you know what happened to those who stood in my way?” Octarine sparks crackle around Rathmell’s hands. “There won’t be enough left of you to bother sweeping up into a dustpan…”

As the elder wizard begins to cast his spell, Norman whips out a pair of enchanted handcuffs, special-issued to him that morning just for this type of arrest. The cuffs leap out of Norman’s hand and fly across the desk, snapping onto Rathmell’s wrists, instantly extinguishing the sparks of magic as the spell is cancelled.

From the doorway, Lord77 chuckles. “Well, well, I guess we can add resisting arrest and attempted murder to the charges, now. You really should have gone for a smoke bomb and tried climbing out the window, Ratty.”

Rathmell stares at the enchanted cuffs on his wrists, which prevent him from working any magic at all, then up at Lord77. His voice much smaller now, he says, “But you can’t! I’m the Arch-Chancellor! You can’t do this to me!”

Azzageddi, shaking his head sadly, enters behind Lord77. “Rathmell, you abused your position in many ways over the years, but to think you are so far above the law as to work some silly alcohol-to-water scam and line your pockets…pitiful. Just pitiful.”

“Hell,” says Lord77, “you should be thanking us! You’ll serve your time in a nice, safe prison. If it weren’t for us, you would’ve been assassinated by the booze gods by now! Constable, let’s take him out of here.”

Norman nods and grabs Rathmell by the elbow. They escort him out of his office, past his secretary who, under the direction of Mitzi, is boxing up all of Rathmell’s files. Mitzi gives Norman a nod and a smile as they go past.

Rathmell stammers, “But…y-you can’t! I know people, powerful people! And so many secrets, skeletons in closets! Literally, in some cases! They’ll force you to drop the charges! I know they will!”

“Nobody’s scared of you anymore, Rathmell,” growls Lordy.

Azzageddi says, “If there’s one thing you can’t mess with in Godville and get away with it, it’s booze. You should accept that you’re going down for a long time. Use what influence you have left to avoid the death penalty.”

Sitting by Azzageddi’s desk, Lord77, Susan and Azz nurse glasses of Azzageddi’s special reserve of 25-year-old Laphroaig. With the long day gone and Rathmell already safely stored in one of the holding cells, the three gods rest for a moment with the warm feeling of a nice glass of scotch and a job well done.

“To the end of a hell of a day, and long live the Watch!” Azzageddi toasts, raising his glass.

“Hear, hear!” Lord77 joins in, raising his glass in response as Susan raises hers in silence. “Now we just have to figure out what’s next,” he says, leaning back on the chair, elbow propped on the chair arm, his fist supporting his head.

“What do you mean, brother?” Azz inquires after a quick sip.

“I think Lordy is talking about the future of the UU, my friend,” Susan notes softly.

With a nod of agreement, Azz adds, “And our part in it.”

“Yeah… That’s gonna be a brain twister,” Lordy mutters taking another sip. “The University needs an Arch-Chancellor…”

“And without one it’s going to collapse all on its own,” Azzageddi completes. “We’ve just left them without anyone at the head, after all.”

“Making the cure effectively deadlier than the disease that was Rathmell,” Susan muses, taking slow, careful sips of her drink.

All three gods fall silent for a moment, contemplating the road ahead and the options it offers.

“We do have Norman,” Azzageddi offers after awhile. “He looks like he’s got what it takes.”

Lord77 immediately shakes his head at this. “Nah, Norman’s too young! In a couple of decades, sure. But not now.”

“Well, we can always keep him on the straight and narrow, make sure he learns what he needs to become a fit leader,” Azz insists.

“Between Dad and I, I’m certain we can do that,” Lordy concedes. Motioning at Azzageddi with his glass, he adds, “And with your guidance here, he’ll learn how to use magic with principle.”

“You know you can count on me, brah!” the god replies, raising his glass again in comradery.

Susan places her glass on the desk, the kiss of glass against wood breaking her silence as she says in a calm, cold voice made all the more effective for its serenity, “And as you two powerful gods decide on the fate of mortals as one would place pieces on a board, has the thought occurred to you that he may not want to be an Arch-Chancellor?”

The words sink in with both gods, making them look somewhat abashed.

“Well, I mean… I’d never force him to do it…” Lord77 states in a small voice.

“No,” Susan insists, her tone still soft, leveled and glacial. “You were just planning his future for him without even asking him what he wants. Twenty years is a long time for a mortal. He may accept now and then change his mind next week. Who knows what he will want in two decades?”

“Susan, if we work on that premise, then nothing we decide to do now will be useful in the future,” Azzageddi intervenes, his voice one of concern. “If Norman is to take that chair, then he does need to start his training now.”

“Yeah, come on! It’s the Arch-Chancellor’s chair. How’s he not going to want it?” Lord77 argues.

Susan’s eyebrow rises in frustration. “You do know what it takes to get that chair, right, dear? And, most of all, what it takes to keep it for longer than 5 minutes.”

A moment spent remembering all the stories of “accidental assassination” within the UU staff is all it takes. “Well, ok… There is _that_…” Lordy concedes.

Her gaze travelling between both gods, the goddess states, “For all the terrible things we, gods, have imposed upon mortals, we have given them free will.” Her eyes linger on Azzageddi as she adds, “And you, Great God of Rebellion, should be the first to remember it.”

Azzageddi nods. “When she’s right, she’s right. And she’s usually right.”

“We cannot force Norman to accept this fate,” Susan says, now looking at Lord77. “Nor can we force the wizards to accept Norman as their leader. We would be no better than the one they have just lost if we did so.”

Lordy exhales deeply in surrender. “So, what do you suggest we do?”

Susan takes a moment of silence before answering. “I suggest we help them find a leader they are willing to accept and make sure we can accept him as well.”

“That’s not going to be easy,” Azzageddi notes.

“Especially, since Rathmell didn’t exactly build any leaders under him. More like the opposite,” Lord77 adds.

“All the more reason why we need to take our time reaching a decision,” Susan insists, rising from her chair. “For now, gentlemen, night is upon us and the day has been long. Maybe we should take our advice from Master Slumber.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Lord77 acquiesces, finishing his drink before rising as well. “Besides, we did tell Dad that we’d visit soon. Now that this is done, tomorrow’s as good a day as any.”

Getting up from his chair, Azzageddi bows his head slightly in a subtle compliment. “I bid you both good night, then, my friends. I guess I should head back to my temple and catch some shut-eye as well.”


Many centuries have passed since he last stood before the gateway of his father’s castle. The flood of memories hits, his play as a young god in the yard, the exploration of this great fortress, the education in the south chamber by what he now knows were great masters that his father would acquire for him. So many years have passed, and yet, this great monument appears to have been frozen in time, unchanged, unweathered. Even the slight discolorations of the steps leading to the battlements are as he remembered them.

And, now his father has returned.

“So, this is your father’s castle,” Susan Sto Helit states as she holds Lord77’s hand. “It is very nice, but I wonder… why not a temple?”

“Dad pre-dates temples, dear. No heroes or heroines, no temple. All of that came after him,” Lord77 responds.

The god and goddess pass the gatehouse and inner curtain wall as they enter the ward. Now relishing in the memories, Lord77 is glad that his father decided to abandon that mausoleum turned library and return here, his castle nestled in the bosom of the Ramtop Mountains. It took a woman to make that happen, the god inwardly chuckles. What did Father think? That Morrigan would be happy residing in a crypt?

Shaking his head, Lord77 continues to lead Susan through the Inner Close to the doorway of the Lord’s Hall where his father would be. It’s here that Lord77 stops as a thought comes to him.

“Lord,” the god says.

“Pardon?” Susan asks in confusion.

“Sorry, dear, I was just thinking…This is the ‘Lord’s Hall’, a definition from the feudal period that was applied to this part of the castle. ‘Lord’, however, is a title that was given to a land holder of a manor. But, my father pre-dated any feudal society. So, could the title ‘Lord’ have come from him?”

Susan ponders. “It could have. Perhaps you should ask him sometime.”

Continuing through the doorway, the two deities enter the hall. It is there that they see his father instructing gnomes as to the placement of shipping crates, boxes, and other containers moved from the mausoleum. A quick mental estimate shows that the number of boxes is far greater than the interior capacity of the mausoleum, making Lord77 curious as to whether his father had been playing a little loose with spatial geometry.

“Dad!” Lord77 calls to his father.

“Oh, there you two are. What’s with the foot travel? You forget how to translocate?”

“Just wanted to refresh myself with the layout of the castle, dad. It’s been awhile since I was here. And, it gave Susan a chance to look around.”

“Hmpf,” Lord01 grunts. “Well, it hasn’t changed much. Though, your mother may have some ideas on that. She’s already yapping about window treatments. It’s a window, woman! You’re supposed to see out of it!”

Susan rolls her eyes on that comment.

“I’m sure she’s just trying to make it a home, dad,” Lord77 rationalizes.

Lord01 snaps off some instructions to a worker who then lifts and carries some boxes off. “No! No, you oaf! The library is that way!” the ancient god snarls, re-routing the gnome.

Turning back to his young guests, Lord01 goes on, “You’re late getting here, and I already have the library under control. But, you‘re welcome to stick around. I’m sure, Morrigan would like to see you two. Other than that, what’s new?”

“Well, Arch-Chancellor Rathmell of the UU was arrested and removed from the university,” Lord77 responds.

“Is that the pompous twit that you were talking to me about before?” Lord01 inquires.

“The very same, dad. The problem is that there is no successor in the works. All of his high-ranking wizards are useless, and the few that showed promise, Rathmell beat it out of them to keep them from being a threat.”

“What about your young apprentice?” The ancient god asks as the three now travel down a hallway towards the library and study.

“Too soon, dad. Azzageddi has taken the task of helping him with the politics of leadership. But, it’s too early. It looks like there will be another poor administrator there. I’m just hoping that between Azz and me, we can grow Norman up.”

“Or that he will even want to be Arch-Chancellor,” Susan intervenes.

Lord01 snorts at the goddess’ statement. “An Arch-Chancellor position is the dream of any half-brained wizard. Why wouldn’t he want it?”

“For one thing, he seems to have more than half a brain,” Susan responds, eyebrow raised at the elder’s assumptions.

“My concern is,” Lord77 quickly states, “without useful leadership, the university will fail before Norman can grow up to lead it.”

Stopping before a door, which Lord77 quickly recalls is an adjunct study room to the main library, Lord01 opens the door and steps in while saying, “I may know of someone who might be interested in that, son. Follow me.”

As the three enter the spacious room, they see that there is already another at the end of the table, a man in a wizard’s cloak who is reviewing a number of tomes set in an orderly fashion before him on a solid oak table. On a rack behind him hangs a wizard’s hat. Not recognizing the wizard, and stunned that one is in his father’s castle, Lord77 halts and turns to Lord01 with a questioning look.

“Son, Lady, I would like you to meet Nagele.”

The wizard, hearing his name, rises from his readings and crosses to the doorway where Lord77 stands astonished, and Susan, having heard the name before, confused.

“THE Nagele?!” Lord77 exclaims, as the wizard-god greets him. “How? Wait! You have tone!”

Nagele laughs as he greets Susan, with Lord01 responding, “Yes, son. He’s a god.” And, before his son can ask further, Lord01 continues, “Nagele’s return and deification is Susan’s grandfather’s response to my challenge to him concerning his lack of participation in our fight against the godbinders. It appears that I won the argument.”

Susan now smiles, recalling her argument with Death.

“It almost got me eaten by a lion,” Nagele laughs, infectiously and welcomingly. Turning back to Lord77, he says “So, you’re the great experiment, huh? I have to admit, Ancient, he kind of looks like you, and you have my condolences on that, offspring.”

Lord77 stands, still stunned at meeting the great wizard turned god. “Call me Lord77, or Lordy please,” is all he can say.

“I will,” Nagele says, nodding. Turning to Susan, he smiles and adds, “And you! Death has a granddaughter?! Amazing!”

“My existence is no more amazing than yours, great one,” the goddess replies, head bowing slightly.

“So much has changed since I left,” Nagele notes shaking his head. “So, what brings you two here?”

“Well, originally, it was to help dad with his library. But, I can see where he got the help now. Very timely,” Lord77 responds.

Lord01 interjects, “Well, I brought them down here on the news that the buffoon that was UU’s Arch-Chancellor was just arrested for being an idiot. The school is without a leader, and sonny here has had an interest for some time in keeping the school viable. I thought you might be interested and maybe have some insight.”

Lord77 then adds, “I have a young protégé. A level-one that shows great promise that I’ve been tutoring away from the school. I was hoping that he would grow into a future Arch-Chancellor to one day displace Rathmell. But those plans evaporated when the Arch-Chancellor got greedy and was manipulating alcohol stocks to favor labels he controls. The Watch just arrested him.”

“I see,” Nagele says returning to his seat. “That’s very disturbing. When I was Arch-Chancellor, I had great love for that school. I’m sorry to hear it in such distress.” Leaning back in his chair while pondering the situation, he adds “How is it that there is no successor?”

Lord77 responds, “Rathmell was power-hungry, Nagele. He would never let any of his senior staff gain leadership positions. He wanted all to bow to him. I’m sure they’ll select a new leader, but there isn’t a one of them I could see as Arch-Chancellor.”

Nagele muses. “If I wasn’t a god now, I’d consider stepping back there. But, the wizards wouldn’t take kindly to that.”

Lord77 responds to that point. “I’m not so sure of that. I’ve been working through that prejudice for some time. The higher-level wizards are used to me popping in and out while mucking around the place. And to have such a distinguished wizard suddenly reappear, I could see them welcoming you immediately. It would change the dynamic of that place immensely to the good.”

“If you’re so concerned, Lordy. Then, why don’t you do it?” Nagele challenges.

“I’m no good as an administrator, Nagele. The university needs someone who can lead it and make it great. I’m no good at the politics. I lose my patience too easily with politics, which is why wizards irritate me. Uh, nothing personal.”

Nagele laughs again. “None taken, Lordy. Most of the wizards at the university used to get on my nerves too with all their posturing.”

Looking up at Lord01, Nagele continues. “I suppose I could do much of my catching up at the university, Ancient. I sort of had plans to do it here. It needs to be a limited time, though. Assuming they accept me, how long do you need?”

Lord77 guesses, “Twenty-five years?”

“Twenty-five?!” Nagele exclaims.

Lord01 chuckles, “You’re still thinking like a mortal, Nagele. Twenty-five years is nothing to a god.”

“Time will flow differently for you from this point on,” Susan agrees. “Years and decades will mean little to you as centuries and millennia go by. Norman has talent, but he is quite young still. And a mortal. What is a quarter of a lifetime to him, will mean very little to you, old one.”

Nagele, stroking his chin, finally responds. “OK. If they accept me, I’ll go back.”

Susan ponders and then interjects, “Mortals tend to take age for wisdom. It would be easier for them to accept you if you looked older. ”

Nagele nods his head slowly as he considers the comment. “Yes, I considered that too. This form was the first I grabbed once your grandfather told me to. But, I do have other memories to work with…”

Pausing and concentrating, the wizard suddenly blurs. Now sitting in his chair is a mature, grayed wizard, his eyes clear, bright, and carrying knowledge of more than a thousand years.

“Yeah. That’s the Nagele I remember,” Lord01 states.

Standing, the wizard-now-god looks at Susan. “What do you think?”

“I think…,” she starts. “I think you look like an Arch-Chancellor.”

Smiling, Nagele then addresses Lord77, “Now, how do we get me introduced?”

Lord77, now grinning, responds. “Leave that to me.”

Shadows and torch light dance against the walls of the large meeting room adjoining the main hall. The assembled section leaders of the Unseen University sit in their assigned chairs with one empty, at the head, where the Arch-Chancellor has sat for the years of the university’s existence. To the empty chair’s right sits Carlyle, the University’s secretary, withdrawn still due to the recent events culminating with Rathmell’s arrest. As a quiet hush holds over the meeting room, almost as if a wake was in progress, Secretary Carlyle finally rises to face the leadership. All of the faces he sees have different aspects of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) being played across their faces.

“Uhh…” Carlyle haltingly starts, his nervousness causing his voice to quiver. “As the Arch-Chancellor is now, umm, indisposed, I’m, umm, supposing that a new Arch-Chancellor should be selected.”

The words echo momentarily against the walls and then fall to the floor as the assembled group initially look at the secretary, and then each other.

The section lead for Auric Studies raises his hand, and then stands. “As section leader for the oldest branch of study, I would propose that I be accepted.” The wizard looks around the room at a number of scowling faces, and then quickly pulls his hand down and tries to look small in his seat.

A rotund wizard with numerous stars affixed to his hat stands next. “As lead of Astrological Studies, I would like to propose my nomination.”

“Sit down moon-eyes! You couldn’t cast yourself out of a paper bag,” comes a sarcastic reply to his left.

“My magic is as good as yours!” he retorts.

“Then, how come you got stuck in the third stall in the washroom the other day?”

The Astrological Studies head wizard freezes for a moment, then sitting down mutters, “I forgot the spell to unlock the door.”

Carlyle raises his arms quieting the group again, stating, “Gentlemen, please! The rules of succession are in question here as it is quite clearly noted that the Vice-Chancellor should take office were the Arch-Chancellor to perish. But, sadly, the Arch-Chancellor eliminated the Vice-Chancellor position, and his status of “perished” is in question as the rules never addressed arrests. We need to have someone stand forward that all can agree to.”

“I think I may have that answer for you, Secretary Carlyle,” comes an answer from the back shadows. As the figure steps forward the collective assembly goes quiet. Passing aside the long meeting table, the figure, garbed in his best toga (minimal stains) walks to the head of the table and faces the wizards.

“First of all, on behalf of the Watch, I apologize for the abrupt removal of your Arch-Chancellor,” Lord77 opens. “Many of you are already aware of the ‘disagreement’ I had with Rathmell recently, and the long arguments we had over what he was doing to this institution. But, his blatant use of his position and abilities for personal gain was intolerable and illegal, and thus, he was arrested. If the alcohol gods get their hands on him, the ‘perished’ question may be resolved for us. However, I would expect that he will never be back. So, consider him perished for all intents.

“Now,” the god continues, “I have been very candid with most of you on my disappointment of your acceptance of Rathmell to begin with, along with your weak execution of your responsibilities. The fact that you let the Arch-Chancellor go without having a Vice-Chancellor only proves it.”

“Face it,” Lord77 lectures as he steps towards his point of initial entrance, “you are without a leader, someone who’ll put this university back on track as the institute of learning and training for wizards. But, for once, Fate is on your side. For, as Rathmell was being arrested, a former leader of yours returned. Arch-Chancellor, would you please join the group?”

From the shadows, a second figure emerges. This one is garbed in formal wizard’s robe and hat of an ancient design. He’s aged, but ageless, with eyes sparking bright and a broad smile on his face. Stepping to the table, he moves to the head and surveys the team. Then, laughing in his warm, infectious way, he starts.

“Gentlemen, I am Arch-Chancellor Nagele, and it’s good to be back!”

As Nagele introduces himself to the collection of university section leaders, he’s greeted with a uniformed response of stunned silence. The silence is finally broken by the rotund form of the Astrological Section who again rises from his seat, the spell broken.

“What trick is this, Lord77?!” demands the portly wizard. “Nagele has been dead for ages.”

Lord77 smiles at the wizard, and finally responds in an uncharacteristically calm voice. “I told you, Fate has decided to be helpful this time. For a completely different reason, something not of this body’s concern, Death has provided Nagele a reincarnation and deification. Although rare, it is not unheard of, and I am not one to question Death’s motives.”

Pacing around the table as he speaks and finally arriving at the chair of the Astrological Section head, Lord77 continues. “When I became aware of Nagele’s return, I broached the situation of Rathmell’s removal and incarceration. Out of the former and continued love of this institution, he has agreed to return and obtain your acceptance to fill the leadership void the Rathmell created.”

Placing his hand on the section leader’s shoulder, Lord77 looks the wizard in the eye and flatly states, “I would suggest that you take him up on the offer.”

The wizard, turning pale, sits back down in his chair, lips moving but no sound emits.

“But, he’s a god!” The Auric Studies wizard states. “Gods aren’t allowed to be university wizards.”

“Historically, quite right, my brother!” Nagele’s booming voice announces, again followed by a warm laugh. “Even in my time, gods and wizards were separated. But, in my return now in a deified form, I have to wonder, why?”

Again stunned looks face him as if a religious law was being questioned.

Nagele continues. “Do gods not practice magic like wizards? Does Lord77 not cast spells alike us? True, gods have access to different magics, but they also access wizard’s magic just like we do. I say, we open the university to all practitioners, mortal and god alike. This way, we can learn from each other and expand our capabilities.”

A few nodding heads begin to surface as Nagele’s charm begins to resonate.

Lord77 having retreated into the near shadows again, deferring the conversation to Nagele, mutters to himself. “Gods as students. That would be interesting.”

Nagele leverages the perceived tilt in the feelings of the room to dangle one more carrot.

“Also, the university should be the central repository of magical lore. We’ve had a splintering of magical knowledge. As Arch-Chancellor, I would like to see a reunification of libraries to provide access to all students.”

Although some show confusion, most see this posturing as bringing them more respect and stature. Now most are agreeing with Nagele while Lord77 shakes his head thinking Good luck getting dad to open his library.

Finally, one last question comes from the group, again from the auric head. “But, as a god, you’ll never pass. How would any other wizard eventually progress to becoming Arch-Chancellor?”

“A fine question, my brother,” Nagele states. “I propose that from this point forward, Arch-Chancellors hold office for a five-year term only, and must be re-ratified by the section heads for another five-year term with a maximum of only five terms at which time, a new Arch-Chancellor must be chosen.”

Multiple discussions then spring between the collective wizards, and shortly die off. Finally, Secretary Carlyle rises next to Nagele and asks. “Uh…given this, can we agree to accept Arch-Chancellor’s return and reinstatement to a five-year term?” And, to his relief, the collective body agrees.

Turning to Nagele, the secretary then states, ”Uh…wizard Nagele, by agreement of the section leaders of the Unseen University, you are hereby granted the title of Arch-Chancellor for five-years to be ratified again at that time.”

Nagele accepts the applause of the team, and greets each member as they begin to disperse. Finally only he and Lord77 remain in the hall.

“You know dad will have a fit when you come for his library.”

“I’m sure that it will take some persuasion. But, I’m sure he’ll see the logic,” Nagele responds.

“Logic. Yeah…right,” Lord77 quips sarcastically. “Dad is real big on logic.”

“You’re out of your mind, wizard!” snarls Lord01 at Arch-Chancellor Nagele as they meet in the ancient god’s castle. In the corner, staying uncharacteristically quiet, is Lord77, enjoying the argument. “There’s no way that I’m going to let that bunch of no-talent, god wannabes have access to my library.”

“Ancient, be reasonable,” Nagele begins his argument. “Many of the works you have documented are derivations of work that we produced so many ages ago. You have no exclusive option to that knowledge. It’s just well scripted and preserved.”

“And it’s going to stay that way!” Lord01 still tirades as he paces the room. “Much of that work can’t be performed by mortals anyway!”

“Quite all right!” Nagele exclaims. “My desire is to open the university to gods and mortals alike. We had that discussion a long time ago. Now, I have the ability to make it happen. Having all magic will allow for a richer experience. We’ll just have to document well which spells are for gods only and let the Librarian insure that the right audience has access to the right works.”

Lord01 halts his pacing and stares hard at Nagele. “Many of those spells are quite harmful or destructive. How are you going to safeguard against their improper use?” Nagele responds with a disarming smile. “I expect to instill in my students a sense of morality and maturity, ancient one. Their learning will be woven with ethics and integrity. Maybe even taught by your son,” Nagele postulates as he gestures towards Lord77.

“Oh, no!” Lord77 protests, throwing his hands in front of him. “Don’t bring me into this argument. I’m here for the entertainment value. Besides, Azzageddi is probably your best bet for moral education. I’d end up getting the class drunk.”

“It doesn’t matter anyway,” Lord01 again declares. “I have no interest in opening my library to those foolish wizards.”

“You did to this foolish wizard, Ancient,” Nagele counters.

“You were a special case, Nagele,” Lord01 relents.

“And what if I find more ‘special cases’? What about Norman? What happens when there are a dozen Normans looking to learn? Will you keep your library closed to them?”

Lord01 again halts and stares at Nagele as realization hits. “You planned this all along, didn’t you?”

Nagele’s face breaks into a large grin. “Of course, Ancient! Did you really think that as soon as I came back, I wouldn’t want to know what happened to the Unseen University? It was my home, my school, my life! And, now that I’m a god, I can use farsight. I saw Rathmell. I watched his foolishness. And, when the Watch came for him, I knew I had an opportunity to return.

“It’s time to get the UU back to its former glory, my old friend. But, I need your help. You want me there. You want the University to expand the knowledge. Now, help me get there. I need a jumpstart to do it.”

Lord01 stares at his friend, his arms crossed, a mixture of emotions playing across his face.

“OK, but not all. You don’t get the binding spells. I’ve spent enough of my time and energies bottling those Nasties in Mardi. I certainly don’t want to spawn a new generation here.”

Nagele laughs, “Yes. I agree, we may not want to open that. Let’s go through the library and decide what’s best to open first. Then, we’ll work through the more sensitive material.”