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I'm back from high-ate-us. Thanks for waiting, now pour yourself some beer-flavored water and we'll pick up where we left off.

Sausalito's progress:

Moves: 72,500
Level: 7
Stones: 5
Avatarhood: 75%
Pals: 6
Party deaths: 9

We vacationed on the precipices of Serpent's Spine for a while, enjoying the view and fresh mountain air. Jaana practiced yodeling, which was impressive but gave my sheep the willies. Old Tubbs got back in touch with his musical roots by playing a blue fugue on his alpenhorn. Shamino sharpened his sword, a weapon he was now happy to own, with an old piece of troll schnitzel that had desiccated and hardened. Mariah washed everyone's lederhosen in a nearby stream. Geoffrey and Dupre remained dead, but didn't complain. When it was time to go, we boarded the balloon and lifted off toward Britain. I released some sheep to gain a high altitude and a breathtaking view of the mountains and sunset. After a few minutes of gazing upon the horizon, I realized that one of my hands had been resting not on the edge of the basket, but on Jaana's hand. We neither stirred nor spoke, not even turning to exchange glances as we watched the land slowly pass beneath us. I wondered whether anything could develop between us after my quest was complete, and something about the feel of her fingers told me that she was thinking the same—

"Ahoy!" cried Tubbs, breaking the meditative silence. "Look yonder!"

Jaana's hand hastily slipped from mine as she strode to Tubbs' side to see what he was pointing at. We had overshot Britain and discovered the entrance of another dungeon. We landed and entered the Dungeon of Despise, forgetting to light the way first.

Shamino struck a torch against the stubble on Geoffrey's face, igniting the wood. Despise was as dank a pit as the other dungeons we'd explored, but at least it had decent facilities.

We attempted to reach the section of the fifth level where the yellow stone would be, but it was tricky. After nasty encounters with poison-hurling reapers and food-stealing gremlins, we discovered that we lacked the reagents for the up-and-down spells needed to reach the stone. After engaging in mortal combat with a lone, brave rat...

we cut our losses and teleported back to the surface. Weak and hungry, we rode the balloon south to the Britain area and took the moongates to Skara Brae, where we replenished our reagents and bought some boxes of Reaper-Roni (the Skara Braen treat).

At Lord Ludicrous' castle, the scoreboard sorcerer told me that my justice virtue was elevated. Apparently, all that time of not practicing law had done some good. So we got on our horses that had been grazing in the courtyard and rode to the shrine of justice, where I attained partial avatarhood in that virtue. Coming back out of the shrine, several others and I got bitten by poisonous swampflies. Jaana administered some Cure drinks for the sick. The mixture of garlic and ginseng did not go down easy, but I would have drunk even an Orc-a-Cola to ease the pain. We also had Mariah cast Resurrect on Geoffrey and Dupre. I'm not sure why we waited so long to do so; perhaps we were hesitant to use up hard-to-find mandrake root. But the two big galoots appeared little worse for the wear. They looked at each other, giggled, and played leapfrog for a while.

We rode away, the skull of Mondain tied to my saddle and bouncing against the horse's side with every step. "You know, I don't like to brag," he said, "but even in death, I still have the power to kill anybody. What kind of power do you have, Sausalito? Let's see, you're not much with a sword or sling, and you can't handle magic at all. Armor gives you hives, and you don't know how to count to your own age. You're bad with directions, can't cook to save your life, and even that loopy druid won't go out with you. So why were you chosen to become avatar? Oh aye, I know why: you're a sap! Ah ha ha ha ha!"

I reached into my saddlebag, dug out the eight runes, and stuffed them all into Mondain's mouth to gag him quiet. "Owwaaaahhgg," he claimed.

In Jhelom, we bought Dupre a halberd. The paladins' union rules required us to provide him with such a weapon. It seemed that allowing Dupre to swing this blade near our necks during battle could compromise workplace safety, but rules were rules. Dupre happily tossed his plastic sword aside, straddled the halberd, and rode it around town like a toy horse.

As we chased him down, we overheard from townsfolk why Jhelom was crawling with guards and imprisoning innocent people like Nostro within its walls. Lord Butterdish had failed to set up a successful LB Snacks™ outlet here, so he sued all the competing food stores out of business. The townsfolk boycotted the outlet in protest and smuggled in food from merchant carts, so LB closed the outlet and imposed martial law to stop all food trade in Jhelom. To keep the people from starving to death, he catapulted the occasional sack of potatoes into the town, and it had been Geoffrey's job to peel them. How I could maintain my avatarhood in justice while letting such injustice exist, I did not know. I did know, however, that if LB could so weaken the valorous town of Jhelom, he could do even worse to the law firm of Jaana and Tubbs. Maybe Mondain was right about me being a sap. Still, that didn't explain why LB needed me to become the Avatar.

When we finally caught up with Dupre, he was curled up by the hearth at the inn, sleeping peacefully with one hand around the halberd handle and the thumb of the other hand in his mouth. We left him there and went to the blacksmith's, borrowing his cauldron so that we could cook our Reaper-Roni.

Like all the other foods we'd been buying, the Reaper-Roni carried the LB Snacks brand. And we'd gotten used to it. In fact, despite our loathing for the monopolistic company, we'd developed such a liking for its products that we didn't even want to think about eating snacks made by anyone else.

With a fully strengthened party, we returned to the Dungeon of Despise. You know, dungeon crawling is the part of this game that I really don't like. It features some different monsters in interesting formations, but combat is still not much fun. There's no loot other than gold and quest objects, and few features beyond fountains and those blue orbs. The dungeons, while small, are a pain to navigate. They all look the same, just a bunch of boring corridors. I think the dungeon crawling would be a lot more fun if it had fast-paced action gameplay. Sort of like...

We fought our way to the yellow stone. The monsters were still tough, but we trounced them. Dupre's halberd, it turned out, struck opponents two squares away rather than one, allowing for highly advanced strategy such as hitting enemies instead of friendlies as he blindly swung the pole weapon.

As for Geoffrey, we were both amazed and horrified by the precision and speed with which he cut up the enemies. "I am highly trained in the cleaving of fleshy objects," he explained.

"Of course," said Jaana. "Makes you a more efficient potato peeler, right?"


Soon, the yellow stone was gleaming like gold in my hands. Actually, I think it was just a loaf of Velveeta. I'm going to have to melt it over some Reaper-Roni and see.

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