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If you don't find this journal entry funny, you don't have enough milk in your mouth.

Sausalito's progress:

Moves: 76,250
Level: 8
Stones: 6
Avatarhood: 75%
Pals: 6
Party deaths: 9

We left the Dungeon of Despise not only with the yellow stone, but about 850 in gold. We all chatted excitedly about the stuff we could buy.

"Magic sword, magic plate!" said Geoffrey.

"I don't know, maybe even a down payment on that nice little pagoda in Moonglow," suggested Tubbs.

"It's a fixer-upper to be sure," Jaana said, "but the seven of us could turn it into a fine bed-and-breakfast."

But, traveling from city to city, we found that 850 wasn't enough to buy magic plate, or even ordinary plate. How much will be enough? We don't know; the shopkeepers don't tell us the price, only whether we have enough.

"Let's head back to the castle," I suggested. "We at least deserve some promotions for all that fighting we did in Despise." In the court of Lord I-Could-Be-English-Or-Irish-Or-Scottish-Or-Welsh, we stood in line for an hour to be heard while underpaid clowns tried to ease our ennui by making balloon sculptures of Robert Frost. Tired of waiting for the sovereign's attention, I stamped my feet and waved my arms. Pretending to listen to his current audience of catapult salesmen, he eyeballed me nervously. I jerked a thumb toward the ceiling to indicate what I wanted. He turned back to the salesmen. Then, I dug out an LB Snacks™ Twin Moonpie plastic wrapper and crinkled it noisily. This got on his nerves so much that he capitulated and summoned us forward. With a wave of his dainty, powdered hand, there was a great flash of light. "Welcome to Level 8, Sausalito!" he proclaimed as confetti and balloons marked with the number "8" fell from the ceiling.

"How about trying your enhanced shepherding skills at the Dungeon of Wrong?" said Jaana. "As a native of the town of Justice, I have always hoped to conquer the place that represents the opposing vice. I think we're ready for it now."

We horsed it to the Dungeon of Wrong, not knowing how "wrong" Jaana was. The dungeon had more than its share of nasty monsters and tricky traps. We fought the Pied Piper, the folklore figure who seduced children with his music and turned them into rats.

Level 5 was one giant wind tunnel that would blow our torch out with every step we took. Level 6 had secret doors and lightning fields blocking the way down. But it wasn't until Level 7 that our real troubles began. Until then, the online dungeon map had been a lot of help. For some reason, though, Level 7 looked completely different from the map; it was just a corridor filled with treasure chests.

So we cast the "Z" spell to warp down to Level 8, where the green stone should have been. But as hard as we tried to follow the map, we couldn't figure out how to reach the stone. According to the map, the northwest room, filled with slimes, lightning fields, and a zorn, would have a western exit that led to the stone room. But it didn't. We ran all around the level frantically looking for a clue, reactivating the same encounter rooms again and again. We endured several run-throughs of a three-room gauntlet of terror:

Our spirits and spell power fading, we warped out of the dungeon and rode south, back toward LB's where we could get free healing. There was much bickering along the way about our failed adventure; even Jaana and Tubbs were at each other's throats.

"I can't believe we went through all that for nothing!" Jaana complained. "Tubbs, you're a partner as much as I am, why didn't you prepare the associates better?"

"Hey, it was your idea to go there, sister," Tubbs replied. "You cared more about chasin' your glory than the good of the firm. Don't blame me, I'm doin' all I can."

Mondain, tied to the zipper on Tubbs' backpack, was taking all this in with a grin. "This isn't funny, Mondain," I said. "You'd better wipe that smile off your face."

"I can't," he said. "I'm a skull, dimwit."

"Whatever. You haven't been any help since we fished you out of the ocean."

"Well arguin' ain't gonna help no one, fool!" said a thick, rumbling voice. Out of the thicket emerged the meatiest man we'd ever seen, with his hair shaved to a fanciful strip down the center of his scalp and his neck adorned with heavy gold jewelry. His most striking feature was his unyielding glare, which could persuade a hurricane to turn back to sea. I had heard of this legendary strongman: he was known only as "Mister Tea."

"Now listen up!" he said. "I'm here to help you kids find that green stone. You all been runnin' around like chickens with your heads cut off, and I means to put a stop to it, or I ain't the Tea."

"But Mister Tea," Shamino protested, "we looked all over the dungeon, and can't find it."

"'Can't?' That's abso-ludicrous! How you gonna get good grades with that kinda attitude?"

Before Shamino could look puzzled, a band of orcs jumped us. But with Mister Tea's help ...

we taught them a lesson. "Next time, listen to your mama!" he yelled after the orcs as they ran away. He then turned to us and said, "So, we doin' this together or not?"

"Mister Tea," I said, "it looks like you're our man." Our new friend escorted us the rest of the way to the castle, where Lord Milquetoast gave us healing and advice:

Then we left the castle and went to our balloon, which would save us time and food. Mister Tea was a bit hesitant about using aerial transportation...

but Mariah slipped a mickey into the milk flask from which he frequently sipped. Mere moments later, he fell into contented sleep, and we flew him to Wrong with ease. We revived him once we entered the dungeon and waited for him to lead the way.

"Now what, Mister Tea?" I asked.

"Do I look like George Peppard to you, fool?" he replied. "Figure it out on your own. Use your head, I ain't yo mama!"

So we made our way down to the deep depths as before, letting Mister Tea take care of the bad guys.

Once we got to level 8, we noticed that he had been knocked around and bleeding a bit, so Tubbs offered him an herbal remedy. "Say no to drugs," Mister Tea protested, "and yes to books. Readin' can be fun!" But we assured him that the herbs were purely for medicinal purposes, so he took them and felt a lot better.

Then we made our way back to the room that had stumped us before: the den occupied by slimes, lightning fields, and a zorn. "Take down those lightning fields with your magical hoopty-joop," said Tea as we team-huddled. "One of them's hiding the spot you gotta step on to activate the secret door. I'll distract these suckas."

While Mariah dispelled the fields, the rest of us beat up the slimes and made the zorn promise to never mess with drugs again. The floor didn't seem to have any switches or plates, but Dupre, rolling around like a log as he often did after battles, nudged a loose brick. Lo and behold, a secret passage opened in the western wall. We raced through it and found the pedestal where the green stone sat. The triumphant Mister Tea took the opportunity to enjoy a well-deserved break.

Mariah's X-it spell brought us back to the surface. We offered Mister Tea a ride back home just as a black van rolled by. "Thanks, kids, but Tea got a ride of his own," he said, pointing at the vehicle. "Remember your virtues, Avatar. And stay in school!" His van carried him off into space.

The next update will probably be over the weekend. In the meantime, Mister Tea wants you to drink drugs, stay in milk, and don't do school!

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