connecting to server
Welcome, Pirogoeth.
You are user number 14731.
No new announcements.
Signon by Largo detected at 22:14:33
Joining party chat "l33t-a$$-kick3r$"
<Largo> took your time.
<Pirogoeth> Gomen. Got sidetracked by Slashdot.
<Largo> Bah. I've already made 3k exp this login. Trolls are such easy prey. Ph34r my l33t crusad3r sk1lls!
* Pirogoeth rolls her eyes.
<Pirogoeth> enough with the leet already. What's the plan for tonight? I still want to try to get into that tower we saw last week.
<Largo> We've spent three hours trying to get into that tower. It's BORING. I have undead to slay. Do what you want.
<Pirogoeth> Fine, whatever. I'll recall to you if I have any trouble. You haven't pawned that recall token for beer, have you?
<Largo> Your silly trinkets are worthless. It's at the bottom of my pack, somewhere.
<Pirogoeth> Just leave it there. Talk to you later.
<Largo> Yell if you find any Zombies.
Leaving party "l33t-a$$-kick3r$"

Pirogoeth walked slowly up to the grey stone tower that stood just below the rather rotund summit of the hill. The scenery was impressive; large pine forests stretched out to her south and west, while to the north farmlands stretched out to the shores of a large inland lake. Pirogoeth, however, paid little attention to any of this; her mind was fixed on the tower, its single door and total lack of windows. The location of a teleportation circle in such close proximity to it meant that it had to be somehow important... she was certain that there was absolutely nothing else of interest in the area.

She walked around the tower to the door that had frustrated her efforts for three hours... despite her knock spells and abilities with lock picks, the door just would not open. She sat down on a flat rock, slightly removed from the doorway. Placing her chin on her hands, she eyed the surface of the door, looking for any pattern or play of light in its surface that might give her a clue as to how it functioned. By this stage, she was even seriously contemplating throwing rocks at it.

Pirogoeth became aware of footsteps behind her almost as soon as her amulet of warding took on a deathly chill. She stood, and turned around, readying a combat spell.

The stranger was tall, dark, and dressed in a long black velvet robe. He had shoulder length white hair, wrapped with black satin ribbons.
His hands were held out in front of him, and empty of weapons. A small, placid smile played over his beautiful face. He stopped, and swept her a formal bow.

-- incoming query request: Niho (Necromancer [37]) accept y/n
Joining private query with Niho.
<Niho> Hello. Please do not worry, I am not hostile. Are you trying to get into the tower?
<Pirogoeth> Yes. It's frustrating me enormously.
<Niho> It is a most remarkable construct. I have been looking for a way into it for weeks now. Whatever is inside must be very interesting.
<Pirogoeth> Or dangerous. But I would like to at least know what is there.
<Niho> Maybe we can help each other. I've heard rumours that it is possible to create a device to somehow open magically barred doors such as this one. Apparently there are recipes for item creation randomly located in town libraries, and some of them may be relevant to our predicament.
<Pirogoeth> Hmm. It sounds plausible. However, I have a question. What do you plan to get from this?
<Niho> As I stated, I wish to know what is behind the door. Knowledge is power,and secrets are there to be discovered.
<Pirogoeth> Fair enough. I accept. What do you need me to do?
<Niho> Here is a partial list of items and spells I suspect we may need. I will attempt to track down a full list of reagents, but in the meantime I imagine these will start us off well. I will speak to some people I know and will attempt to acquire a recipe.
<Niho> half a pound of pure Platinum
<Niho> a red dragon scale.
<Niho> a length of silver wire.
<Niho> There will no doubt be more.
<Pirogoeth> I'll start with the platinum. I have several items I could ask a smith to melt down for me.
<Niho> Excellent. I must go now, but I will speak to you again soon.
<Pirogoeth> Goodbye.

Leaving private query with Niho.
connecting to server
Welcome, Pirogoeth.
You are user number 17443.
No new announcements.
Signon by Largo detected at 14:03:08
Signon by Niho detected at 14:03:09
Joining party chat "l33t-a$$-kick3r$"
<Largo> mu4h4h4h4
* Pirogoeth blinks
<Pirogoeth> what are you on?
<Largo> 319421551. Ph34r with gr34t ph33r!
<Pirogoeth> That's not what... oh, never mind. I have some stuff to take care of, so I'll be idling for a bit.
<Largo> Evil waits for no wench. A smiting I shall go!
<Pirogoeth> Whatever. Try not to get your ass kicked too badly.
<Largo> Bah. Your feeble insults are no match for my l33tness.
Leaving party chat "l33t-a$$-kick3r$"
> query Niho
Sending query request to Niho.
Query established
Joining private query with Niho.
<Pirogoeth> Good evening, Niho.
<Niho> Ah, Pirogoeth-chan. It is good to talk to you again. I was contemplating logging out.
<Pirogoeth> -chan? You're from Japan?
<Niho> Yes. Tokyo. I see you have some familiarity with my culture.
<Pirogoeth> Yes. I collect Manga, and draw a little. My skills are not noteworthy.
<Niho> How intriguing. I did not visualise you as that sort of woman.
<Pirogoeth> There is much you do not know about me. ^_^ Anyway. Have you made any progress?
* Niho shrugs
<Niho> Not much. I have discovered, in addition to the reagents that you already possess, we need an amber rod, and a scarab of protection.
<Pirogoeth> I saw a scarab of protection in a shop in Blackwater last night. It might still be there.
<Niho> I will keep one eye out for an amber rod. Maybe I can find someone who has one they are willing to barter. I will contact you, I suspect there are more items that we will need.
<Niho> I must go now, it is getting early and sleep is necessary. Ganbatte ne, Pirogoeth-chan ^_^
<Pirogoeth> Goodbye, Niho-san. See you later.
Leaving private query with Niho.
> join party
Joining party chat "l33t-a$$-kick3r$"
<Largo> take that, zombie scum! Evil, begone!
<Pirogoeth> oi, baka. Where are you.
<Largo> Cemetery south of Blackwater. Lots of zombies. They are not l33t.
<Pirogoeth> Blackwater, hmm? Hang on, I'm recalling to you.
<Largo> Don't touch my zombies.

Pirogoeth gingerly lifted the lid of the chest with her poignard, listening with one ear to Largo rampaging through a small group of goblins in another part of the cave complex. Niho had suspected that one of the items they required was somewhere in the cave complex, and Pirogoeth (being in the area) had decided to have a look. Largo was pretty much along as backup; he didn't know what Pirogoeth was looking for, as Pirogoeth had not told him about her quest.

Not that it would make much difference. Largo only ever cared about exp and smiting evil.

Pirogoeth was getting frustrated. She had been corresponding with Niho (both in-game and via IRC) for several weeks, and had discovered that she related well to him. He seemed urbane, intelligent and reserved; but at the same time willing to share knowledge freely. He made the occasional sarcastic comment, but Pirogoeth was so used to Largo's blathering that she could pretty much ignore it.

She'd settled into a routine of signing on and chatting to him, he provided a good sane offset against Largo's constant abrasiveness. Still, she and Niho were not much closer to getting into the tower. Niho had speculated that the tower was some sort of back door into the Megawinter game server, and this idea had piqued Pirogoeth's curiosity still further.

Ah, here it was, just as Niho had predicted. Pirogoeth lifted out the nautilus shell, and held it up, admiring the glitter of the enamel in the pale blue light emitted by her ring.

"Woot. What's that?" said Largo, directly behind her. Pirogoeth started guiltily, then turned to face him.

"Have fun?" she asked.

"They were not l33t. They deserved death." Dark blood stained the crusader's armour and cloak. "Puny foes, though. Undead are more fun."

Pirogoeth gently wrapped the nautilus shell, and walked back towards the cave entrance. Largo followed behind, describing in macabre detail every blow he'd swung in his skirmish; Pirogoeth filtered the monologue out. A cedar box, retrieved from her pony's saddlebags, ensured the safety of the shell as she and Largo made their way back towards Etherwynde.
connecting to server
Welcome, Pirogoeth.
You are user number 8158.
No new announcements.
Signon by Largo detected at 17:29:44
Joining party chat "l33t-a$$-kick3r$"
* Largo is afk [20m 04s idle]
<Pirogoeth> Yell when you get back.
<Largo> Beware, the undead are looking for you.
<Pirogoeth> every time I think I've heard it all, you find some new way to absolutely nail my mind. Well done.
<Largo> this is no laughing matter, Pirowench. The Evil one is seeking you.
<Pirogoeth> The... Evil... One.
<Largo> He seeks to entrap you. Boneheaded as you are, I am surprised that he bothers.
* Pirogoeth snorts.
<Pirogoeth> This coming from someone who's Pavlovian reaction to the word 'crossbow' is to yell 'Zombies!' Who is this evil one anyway? Lims-kragma? Cthulhu? Bel-Shamharoth?
<Largo> He knows your name. You have been incautious. He sent me a missive, attempting to subvert my l33tness to his dark ways. But it is you he seeks.
<Pirogoeth> Wait. Is his name Niho?
<Largo> That is his current guise, yes.
<Pirogoeth> He's a friend.
<Largo> A friend? Be wary, Pirowench. He is dangerous.
<Pirogoeth> I am dangerous. You're dangerous, Largo. Doesn't mean he's dangerous to us.
<Largo> I have said what I had to say. I wash my hands of this foolishness. Are you coming? There are trolls to smite yonder.
* Signon by Niho detected at 17:47:20
<Pirogoeth> Niho is online; I need to talk to him.
<Largo> Be wary. And be quick, or I'll level up without you.
<Pirogoeth> I'll be back shortly.

Pirogoeth looked up from her book, and watched him walking towards her. It was (in some ways) quite exhilarating, seeing the looks of envy that various bystanders shot her way they worked out that Niho was heading towards her. Pirogoeth smiled; as a fighter-mage she got very little attention from others for her looks, since over-the-top sensuality tended to be the province of the bards and rogues and their scandalous levels of clothing; Pirogoeth (despite her high Charisma) was conservative even for a fighter-mage, her body armour was not embellished in any way, and she tended towards plain, functional clothing of drab, muted hues.

Being able to claim friendship with someone as mysterious and daunting as Niho gained her a lot of respect from the women (and some of the men) around her; the sense of empowerment was almost tangible. She herself was good looking, true, but hardly attractive to most of the men around her, most of whom seemed to fixate on anything above a C cup that was only just held in check by wisps of fabric.

She'd never asked Niho, but she reckoned his charisma score must be through the roof.

"Niho-san" she said, and smiled happily.

"Pirogoeth-chan. It is good to see you again, my friend." He leaned forward, and to her surprise, wrapped an arm around her shoulders. Pirogoeth squirmed slightly, but more from embarrassment than any sort of discomfort; she did not usually display much emotion, especially not in public.

"We have much to discuss", Niho continued. "I managed to track down one of the elders of my order, and after a conversation with him I believe my theory about our tower is correct."

"So you think it's an easter egg, then?" said Pirogoeth. She took Niho's arm, slightly amused by the quiet jealousy that spread around them.

"Yes, that is a good way to describe it, Pirogoeth-chan. A toy left by one of the system coders."

"Do you think there's anything of interest behind it?" asked Pirogoeth, turning to look up at Niho.

"Maybe..." he said. "Maybe it will let us see how parts of the system work."

"Hmm. That could be interesting."

"And useful." replied Niho.
<Largo> I ph34r for you.
<Pirogoeth> what?
<Largo> The evil one stalks you.
<Pirogoeth> I already told you, he is a friend.
<Niho> Who is this Largo person you always refer to? Is he your partner?
<Pirogoeth> My partner?
<Niho> Are you... involved with him?
<Pirogoeth> ...
<Pirogoeth> Um. No. He's a friend. We party together.
<Niho> He seems... remarkably focussed on the game.
<Pirogoeth> He sees things differently, I guess. I'd never really thought about it much.
<Niho> I would like to get to know him better.
<Pirogoeth> That might be difficult... he has a problem with undead.
* Niho laughs
<Niho> ah, yes. That might be troublesome.
<Niho> It is strange. You are the first person I have ever really talked with on this server. It is not often people are so willing to look past the robes.
<Pirogoeth> It is not what a person looks like that is important.
<Niho> How true. Have you ever contemplated visiting Japan?
<Pirogoeth> I have, but I have to finish College first.
<Niho> Indeed. Knowledge is power.

Largo stalked over the grass, eyes twitching from side to side. He could feel the presence of evil, but was unsure of its location. He'd been ambushed by a group of skeletal crossbowmen a short while previously, and had had to deal with them spontaneously raising themselves. In the end he'd had to put his sword away and resort to clubbing them to splinters. This had irked him quite a bit.

He missed partying with Pirogoeth. She was good backup. But she spent so much time off on this goofy quest to get into the tower. It was strange; she'd changed so suddenly from a fellow zombie killer into a studious killjoy. Stupid wench. Smiting evil was the only thing worthy of game time.

The evil...

Zombies arrived from nowhere, burrowing up through the earth. Largo drew his sword, grinning gleefully. This was going to be enjoyable.

Then he saw the robed figure on the hilltop.
connecting to server
Welcome, Pirogoeth.
You are user number 8158.
No new announcements.
Signon by Largo detected at 09:13:41
You have one Memo, entitled "Feh", from Largo. Read y/n ?
From: Largo
Subject: Feh
Got beat up by z0mb13s. Lurking at the t3mpl3 of Tempus. Bring me b33r.
>join party
Joining party chat "l33t-a$$-kick3r$"
<Pirogoeth> You got your ass kicked by zombies?
<Largo> The zombies were incidental. The necromancer who kept raising them was the problem.
<Pirogoeth> Ah, that's understandable. Why didn't you just turn them?
<Largo> what, and waste the exp?
<Pirogoeth> ...
<Pirogoeth> You're obsessed. Sometimes running is the only option.
<Largo> I never flee 3v1l.
<Pirogoeth> Right, that would take common sense.
<Largo> Why live a coward when you can live a hero?
<Pirogoeth> uh huh. Need anything?
<Largo> I need b33r. Ph34r my lack of b33r!
* Signon by Niho detected at 09:24:13
<Pirogoeth> I need to go briefly.
<Largo> Don't forget to bring me b33r.
Leaving party chat "l33t-a$$-kick3r$"
>query Niho
entering private chat with Niho.
<Niho> Pirogoeth-chan. ^_^
<Pirogoeth> Hey Niho. I think I have the last reagent we need.
<Niho> You do? That is good news. Was it hard to acquire?
<Pirogoeth> Surprisingly, no. The character seemed very well-disposed towards me. That's not something I've seen much before, mostly people ignore me because I don't expose enough flesh.
<Niho> indeed? You are very attractive, for a fighter-mage.
<Pirogoeth> Uh... thank you. Shall we proceed to the tower, then?
<Niho> I will meet you there.

Pirogoeth stepped out of the portal circle, rubbing her eyes to clear them. Teleportation always played hell with her sense of balance for the first few minutes.

Largo always claimed it turned everyone into zombies, and plain refused to use the portals.

Baka. She shook her head, stumbled slightly, and stopped to gather her bearings. The tower was visible above the tree line to the north. Pirogoeth shook her head again, clearing the last of the cobwebs out, and then adjusted the position of the small pack she had slung over her left shoulder. She took a breath, exhaled, and set off for the tower.

As she started the climb up to the tower's door, she saw Niho step through a purple gateway conjured up out of thin air. She started to jog up the hill, and came to a moderately breathless halt in front of him.

He was smiling.

"Nifty... trick..." Pirogoeth puffed. She put her hands on her knees, leaned forward, and took a couple of breaths.

"Pirogoeth. Welcome." He said. "Did you bring everything?"

"Hai, hai. I did." She straightened up, and unslung the pack, letting it gently to the ground. "So. Now what?"

"Watch." Said Niho. "And perhaps, learn." He smiled.

He drew a glowing sigil in the air, and muttered some words. Purple and blue flames danced down from his hand, forming a flickering circle on the ground. Niho drew another sigil, and the hazy image of a large iron chest appeared in the centre of the circle. Niho made a curious, claw like gesture with his left hand, and the image solidified and settled. The flames died away, and the lid of the chest lifted on oiled hinges.

"Show off" muttered Pirogoeth. Niho smirked.

"Let us make a start." He said. He reached into the chest, and retrieved a length of black velvet cloth, edged with gold and silver runes. He laid this down on the ground, and started placing various implements from the chest on the cloth.

"Amber rod. Nautilus shell. Do you have the nightshade? Ah, good. I doubt we'll need that much. Lump of platinum. Serpentine blade... ah, there it is. Please pass me the scarab of protection. Ah, very good. And the dragon scale. Do you have the candles? Excellent. I have the silver wire and the pig's bladder. I wonder what the coder was thinking when he designed this. Pig's bladder, indeed."

"Yes." replied Pirogoeth, trying not to look at it.

"Okay. Let me see." Niho pulled out a small, tattered scroll, and studied it for a while. He then passed it over to Pirogoeth, and continued. "We will need a cutting surface of some description. Hmm. That flat rock over there would probably do..." Niho gestured at the rock, and Pirogoeth walked over to retrieve it.

"Slice the bladder lengthwise with the serpentine blade. Place a nightshade berry in the bladder, and seal with a length of silver wire." Niho winced as he pricked himself on the sharp end of a wire strand. "Shibatta" he cursed, under his breath. Pirogoeth raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.

"Place the platinum on the dragon scale, and join the two with red wax." Niho placed the two reagents on the velvet cloth, and then took the candle that Pirogoeth held out to him. He eyed her. "Gomen." Said Pirogoeth, as she took the candle back and touched it to flame with her finger. Niho raised an eyebrow. "Nice trick." He said.

Pirogoeth smirked. "Stick around, you might learn something."

Niho took the candle back, and dripped the wax over the platinum and dragon scale, binding the two together. He then consulted the note again. "Create a pool of wax in the apex of the dragon scale, and press the sigil from the scarab of protection into it as it sets. Hmm." He leaned forward, spilling the wax into the dragon scale. Once it had pooled, he reached for the scarab and set its face into the wax. "You may as well prepare the planar binding spell." He said to Pirogoeth.

Pirogoeth nodded, and reached into her spell component pouch for the shard of crystal she'd need. She cut a piece of the silver wire, taking care not to cut herself on the ragged edge Niho had left. She then wrapped the wire around the crystal shard, and tied it off in a neat knot (not strictly necessary, but she was a bit of a perfectionist). Finally, she raised her head and watched Niho, who had, in the meantime, placed the tip of the amber rod into the nautilus shell. He was in the process of pouring wax into the shell's opening in order to bind the rod in. He looked up, eyebrow raised.

"Are you ready?"

"Hai." Replied Pirogoeth.

Niho nodded, and placed the free end of the amber rod on the dragon scale. He stood up, and took a couple of quick steps backwards.

Pirogoeth began the incantation.

"Anaetatha Fea Ne Sholloth Amalari Fe" she chanted as she leaned forward to touch the quartz crystal to the construct. A bright red toroid of light formed around the construct, and slowly the various objects melded into one solid form.
Pirogoeth moved her hands in a circle in the air. "Shanaetan Thullimae Fenata" she spoke, gently, as her hands completed the circle. The toroid of light winked out, and the quartz crystal and silver wire crumbled to dust between her fingers.

"Excellent. The recipe worked." said Niho. He picked up the construct, and raised an eyebrow. "It is remarkably light. Possibly it now exists partially in another plane. Fascinating."

"Yes, but will it be of any use?" asked Pirogoeth, impatiently.

Niho touched the construct to the door. A loud click rang out, and the construct cracked down the middle. Niho reached out and gave the door a shove, causing it to swing back noiselessly into the tower.

"It appears that it was." he replied, as he stepped into the tower. Pirogoeth followed quickly.

The interior of the tower was dusty, and smelled of old leather. Bookshelves and scroll-cabinets lined the wall, barely illuminated by the pale blue light that glimmered out from a hanging glass globe.

"Wow." said Pirogoeth.

Niho pulled a scroll from one of the cabinets, and unrolled it. He read a couple of lines, then looked at Pirogoeth. "This is a document on how the gambling system works. We appear to be inside the code documentation. Or at least, accessing it somehow."

"This must have been deliberately coded." replied Pirogoeth. "I wonder why?" She pulled a book out of the bookshelf, and opened it. "This one deals with player - NPC reaction modifiers. I didn't even know those existed in the final release."

"Neither did I, though I suspected something similar might be in place. Yes, this is interesting," said Niho. He wandered over to the far side of the room, and rummaged around for a while as Pirogoeth continued to leaf through her treatise on player - NPC reactions. She looked up at Niho once, to see him placing a scroll into his belt pouch. He turned, saw her watching him, and shrugged. "Research matter" he said. Pirogoeth quirked an eyebrow. "It will be interesting to see if these items can be removed from the tower, I guess." She replied. Then she hmm'ed, and slid the treatise into her shoulder bag.

"I suspect it will not be a problem. We are in here, after all." replied Niho.

"Good point."
Pirogoeth wandered through the marketplace, testing out some of the tricks she'd read in the treatise. Remarkably, she was beginning to see the effects. Vendors would see her coming, and start shouting out offers for various trinkets, each vendor trying to shout down the others in range.

Amazing how simply chatting up one of the more influential townspeople could have this reaction. She shook her head and smiled. Quite a simplistic system, really, but so cunningly hidden. No one would ever thing that level of reality was coded into the game world.

-- incoming query request: Largo ( Crusader [33]) accept y/n
Joining private query with Largo.
<Largo> This is w31rd.
<Pirogoeth> What is?
<Largo> Nobody wants my loot. Not even newb13s.
<Pirogoeth> Maybe they're all equipped?
<Largo> No.
<Largo> Everyone is ignoring me.
<Pirogoeth> Maybe they all got tired of running, screaming, at the sight of you.
<Largo> I'm being dead serious, Pirowench. Something is not right. The tavern keepers won't even sell me b33r.
<Pirogoeth> ...
<Pirogoeth> You're right. That is too weird to be normal. Where are you?
<Largo> Black Knight tavern in Rowntree.
<Pirogoeth> Don't move. I'm on my way.
Leaving private query with Largo.

Pirogoeth started walking briskly towards the town's square and associated teleportation portal.
Pirogoeth and Largo were standing on a grassy hillside, overlooking the area around the town of Rowntree. They'd spent half an hour trying to interact with the residents and visiting player characters, but had had no success. Pirogoeth hadn't even been able to gain any response by changing into a formal gown and pretending she'd been robbed at knifepoint. Even the town militia had just walked around her.

"That was... freaky. I know they can see us, but they're all just ignoring us. Even the other players." said Pirogoeth.

"I have never seen anything like this. It's like we're... unclean." replied Largo. He was tense, showing none of his characteristic bravado. This was serving to unnerve Pirogoeth even further; Largo's irrepressible spirit had been a measurable part of their success as a team. She felt suddenly vulnerable, and drew her cloak around her.

"I'm going to ask about this on IRC" she said. "I'll leave myself logged in. Watch my back, please."

"Don't be too long", said Largo, drawing his sword. "This is not a defensible position."
Connecting to server port 6667
Welcome to the official Megawinter Nights IRC Server.
Please see for a complete listing of the rules.
There are 1041 users in 207 channels.
Setting user mode +ix
Channel modes available [AIWXSOodawsktnip]
Joining channel #veterans
Channel topic: What the hell is going on on eastcoast?
Topic set by : Danae47
Users: @Danae47 @Drizzt Lurker Pirogoeth Thanatos @Xarth
<Pirogoeth> Hola. I see by the topic you guys might be having the same problems as me.
<Drizzt> Hi Pirogoeth
<Lurker> j0, Pg.
<Drizzt> You also lost control of your character?
<Pirogoeth> Lost control?
<Drizzt> Yah. Seems to be a system wide problem on eastcoast. Characters going loco, wandering around by themselves, doing dumb stuff like taking on dragons / basilisks.
<Pirogoeth> Uh. Weird. I'm having different problems. I still have control of my avatar, but everyone else is ignoring me, even the PC's. Even the store keepers are not paying attention. I know they can see me, though, because they step around me or pointedly turn their backs on me.
<Xarth> Hi Pirogoeth.
<Drizzt> You say you still have control of your character?
<Pirogoeth> Hey Xarth
<Pirogoeth> Drizzt: yes. But I'm like a ghost player. I can move around, fight monsters, pick up inventory. But I can't interact with anyone, not even townsfolk.
<Drizzt> That is seriously screwy.
<Drizzt> Uh oh, this isn't good.
<Drizzt> Fuck!
<Pirogoeth> ?
<Xarth> What?
<Drizzt> There goes my equipment. My character just took on a Pit Fiend.
<Pirogoeth> O_o
<Lurker> Damn, that blows, man.
<Drizzt> Took me three weeks to get that sword. Fuck it. I'm mailing the east- coast admin.
<Pirogoeth> I'm going to drop back in-game and see if I can find anything.
<Drizzt> Let us know if you find anything.

"Well?" said Largo.

"It's bad. Possible system bug." replied Pirogoeth. "The players are losing control of their characters, and the characters are starting to take random actions."

"That cannot possibly be a bug. It's too specific." replied Largo. "I reckon someone's haxx0r3d the system and is playing silly buggers. Think about it. What would be the best way to cause chaos here? Answer: by controlling all the player characters."

Pirogoeth froze, thinking quickly. "Oh, no." she said.

"What?" said Largo.

"Damnit, damnit, DAMNIT." said Pirogoeth. "I think I know who it is."


Pirogoeth shook her head. "Someone that I thought was a friend. Come. We'd better get moving."

"You have any place in mind?" said Largo.

"I have a that feeling it doesn't really matter." replied Pirogoeth.

"How so?"

"Sooner or later, he'll come for us", she said as she loosened her sword in its scabbard. "Come on, we might as well try to find a defensible position... for all the good it's likely to do."

Pirogoeth started making her way towards the tree line, her mind working furiously. It had to be Niho. Maybe he'd found some back door in the code documentation. Of course! The scroll he'd slipped into his belt pouch... oh, how stupid and how blind. She mentally berated herself, calling herself seven different kinds of moron. He'd been charming, urbane, witty... he'd seen her at the tower and seized the opportunity to seduce her to his mission. Of course, no-one would be interested in her simply for friendship's sake.

She growled to herself.

"Pirogoeth..." said Largo, quietly.

"What is it?" she responded, curtly.

"You were right about it not mattering."

Pirogoeth looked uphill, and saw the robed figure.

> query Niho
Niho has refused your query request.

"What are you doing?" she called up at him. "Why have you done this to the game?"

"That is correct. This is a game" replied Niho. "Games are about rules, and I now know all of them."

"You're crazy. How can you destroy all this work? Stop toying with people's emotions, it's not fair!" Pirogoeth called out.

"You're wasting your time" Said Largo, quietly. "It is the 3v1l One. He is implacable. We must defeat him, or all is lost."

Pirogoeth ignored him. "Niho! You were my friend! I trusted you; how can you betray me like this?"

"Friend? You were a tool, a game piece to be moved. Nothing more." came the reply.

Pirogoeth took a quick, pained breath, and her shoulders quivered slightly. "Very well. Stand and fight like the dog you are!" she retorted.

"A cutting insult" said Largo, as he unsheathed his sword. Up-slope, zombies and skeletal warriors began to claw their way up through the soft ground.

"The necromancer is mine" snarled Pirogoeth. "I'm going to mince the bastard."

"Don't touch my zomb13s" replied Largo. He took a deep breath, then charged up hill, screaming his war-cry.

Pirogoeth started casting Flame arrow.
Zombies were falling all around him. Largo couldn't remember when he'd last had this much fun.
Her spells had been less effective than she'd hoped. Niho appeared to have some form of magic resistance; he certainly wasn't showing any diminished ability to reanimate the undead that Largo destroyed. She couldn't risk an area effect spell, it would hurt Largo.

Pirogoeth drew her long sword and poignard, and waded into the melee.
Largo spun through an upward cut, neatly cleaving the arm off a zombie. He had cleared a small circle, a breathing space.

He turned, and saw the necromancer. Foe. Evil. The challenge had to be made.

"I ph34r not your faceless minions! I am your Doom! Face me and feel my sword!" he yelled.

Niho snorted, and turned away. "You are not worthy of my effort. Begone."

Zombies closed in on Largo.
Pirogoeth stopped to catch her breath. She could see Largo a short distance to the right of her, he was mopping up a small group of skeletal warriors. Corpses littered the ground around him. She reached up to wipe sweat off her face with the back of her hand, and saw Niho reflected in the blade of her poignard. She stiffened.

"Pirogoeth" he said.

She turned, slowly, raising her sword and trying to gather herself to charge him.

"I do not believe that you will need... those" he said.

Pirogoeth felt her muscles seize, and her sword and poignard dropped to the ground. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Largo, frozen midway in a loping run towards her. He was swearing profusely.

"And now, you are mine." said Niho.

Pirogoeth managed to shake her head. "No", she whispered hoarsely, "I am not. I will not be party to this."

"Willing or not, I control you now" Niho responded. "What are you going to do? I have subverted all the east-coast characters to my will. No one can bring themselves to harm me, I can choose what their characters will do. I control this game, this reality."

Niho stepped slowly closer to her, a gloating smirk on his face. "You are still resisting me, somewhat. That intrigues me. And your friend over there, strong, powerful Largo. Interesting that you both are partially immune to the character reaction rules"

"What do you hope to gain from this?" Pirogoeth managed.

"Less than nothing" answered Niho. "The enjoyment lies in the manipulation of your emotions to my ends".

He leaned forward, and placed his hands on Pirogoeth's forehead, then dropped them to cup her chin. As he did so, she began to feel her muscles loosening. She looked up into his face, eyes wide, desperately thinking of a way to regain control, a way to escape.

Then she remembered her dagger. She reached, slowly, to the small of her back, and felt the comforting shape of the dagger's handle with her fingers.

Niho looked into her eyes, and smiled. "I wonder," he said as he moved to kiss her, "How does failure taste?"

Pirogoeth reacted. The blade of her dagger hissed through the air, and scarlet blood fountained. Niho fell back onto the turf, an expression of terminal surprise frozen on his face.

Pirogoeth took a deep breath. "I know you are cheating. And I know how to beat it."

[Connection closed by remote host].
Connecting to server port 6667
Welcome to the official Megawinter Nights IRC Server.
Please see for a complete listing of the rules.
There are 1041 users in 207 channels.
Setting user mode +ix
Channel modes available [AIWXSOodawsktnip]
Joining channel #veterans
Channel topic: What the hell is going on on eastcoast?.
Topic set by : @Drizzt
Users: @Danae47 @Drizzt GrimSweeper Illmater Illume L33tsabre Lurker Pirogoeth Raven Reaver Thanatos Vargath @Xarth
<Drizzt> Thanatos: No, it looks like the servers just locked solid. I can't even telnet to the port.
<Pirogoeth> Ah. That explains the loss of connection.
<Drizzt> Hey, Pirogoeth. Find anything out?
<Pirogoeth> Yes. Someone was exploiting a bug in the system. Largo and I took him out, but the server crashed before we could see the effect.
<Drizzt> Weird. Maybe it was some sort of knock-on effect due to the hacker's character dying. Probably a case of the server core not being able to handle the load.
<Pirogoeth> Hai. Guess the admins pulled the plug. Lucky I nailed the bastard before the server died. Have you had any response from the administrators?
<Drizzt> No, just a form letter response ...
<Drizzt> Oh, hang on... something's just arrived. I'll cut and paste.
<Drizzt> From:
<Drizzt> To:
<Drizzt> Re: Random player character control loss.
<Drizzt> This issue was noted by a local player at about 19h00 EST time, and
<Drizzt> an initial investigation was launched. The bug was discovered to be
<Drizzt> related to relatively obscure section of reaction modification code,
<Drizzt> which was open to exploitation via sufficiently high level players with
<Drizzt> a Charisma score of 20 or greater.
<Drizzt> A decision was taken by our administrative forum to close the servers
<Drizzt> in an attempt to maintain core system integrity. A backup is currently
<Drizzt> in progress, and we estimate this will be complete at around 22h00 EST.
<Drizzt> As a result of the backup, game time will be decremented by half a day
<Drizzt> on average. Players who have been active in the game since midnight
<Drizzt> yesterday will lose all experience and items gained in the ensuing
<Drizzt> period.
<Drizzt> Please be aware that the account of the perpetrator has been
<Drizzt> identified, and will be removed once the backup is complete.
<Drizzt> The Megawinter administrative forum would like to thank all players
<Drizzt> and understanding, and will endeavour to have the gameworld up and <Drizzt> running as soon as possible.
<Pirogoeth> Ack. 12 hours of game time gone?
<Thanatos> Damn, that blows.
<Illmater> Better than losing my character permanently.
<Thanatos> That's true.
<Pirogoeth> So we're homeless till 22h00. Oh well, cheers guys. I guess I'll go draw or something.
<Drizzt> See ya later
<Illmater> ciao, Pirogoeth.

connecting to server
Welcome, Pirogoeth.
You are user number 1292.
One new announcement. Read y/n?
Note from server admin:

The game instability last night was caused through the actions of a malicious
player from Tokyo. This player has been removed from the system, and their
ISP has been notified.

Note that MegaWinter is a social game, and antisocial behaviour of any form
is frowned upon. Behaviour that threatens the stability of the system and /
or the enjoyment of other players WILL result in your forcible eviction from
the game world.
Delete this note. y/n?
Note deleted.
>finger Niho
finger: no such user: Niho.

Pirogoeth's shoulders slumped, and she let out a small sigh. "It's over, then." She dragged the back of her hand briskly across her eyes, before she lifted her head and stared out over the valley.

There was no trace of Niho left on the system.

If it weren't for the aching sense of betrayal and loss, she'd almost have been able to convince herself that he'd never existed.

Signon by Largo detected at 23:41:19
>join party
Joining party chat "l33t-a$$-kick3r$"
<Largo> J0, Pirowench.
<Largo> Gnah. I've lost 12k exp.
<Largo> Time enough to make it back. Lets smite some trolls.
<Pirogoeth> Hai. You still have my recall token?
<Largo> Yes. Maybe I can trade it for b33r now.
<Pirogoeth> Wait until I've gated to you, please.

Pirogoeth closed her eyes, and cast the spell. A blue glow engulfed her, and she gated out, leaving the hillside and the painful memories it conjured up to the breeze and the sky.

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