It took a while for Inbeef to regain his composure. Namgan took the time to assemble the Sentinels, her trusted lieutenants of the Politiscia.
“This is Romikoff, Arkol, Deniza and Arcana. They’ll be able to guide you around the fort. Ruby, you’re a shield-maiden. I want you to direct our defenses against the attackers, make sure they don’t get out. Go to the Southern Wing with Deniza. EnPsyClops, explain to these people what our plan of attack is. I’m going to direct the underground attacks. We’ll regroup after some time.”
EnPsyClops marched off. Inbeef, Gnaruag and the other Sentinels and their men followed in his wake.
Inbeef strode over to EnPsyClops and spoke in a low voice, “The more I think about it, the more this looks like an inside job. Can we trust the Politscia?”
“I don’t know. But Namgan assures me we can. Now let me think.”
EnPsyClops stopped, closed his eyes as he sensed the course of the battle and unfurled the map again.
“We’ve cornered them down to three rooms. Unfortunately, we believe that they have the document and a few hostages in the Chamber of Mumeroo.”
Gnaruag snorted, “One room? That’s a bad thing?”
“The Chamber of Mumeroo is a room where mages practice the arts of artifice and deception. The room itself is enchanted to aid these exercises. It enhances cloaks, illusions, invisibility, sounds, false alarms, acoustics and almost any other kind of trick or confusion. It’s going to be well nigh impossible to fight in there. Gnaruag, that’s where you come in. You have a better grasp of these things.”
“I’m in, dawg.”
Arkol spoke up, “We will come with you to storm the chamber. You will need our assistance.”
“Very well. Take us there.”
Within a few minutes, they stood outside a large wooden door, with ‘Mumeroo’ on it. The fighting inside had been intense, for it seemed that the vowels in Mumeroo had all fallen off and it only read ‘MMR’.
EnPsyClops raised his arms and blew the wooden doors in.
A yawning chasm greeted them, dark and endless. Far below, lava seemed to bubble and froth. The Politscia backed off from the edge, not sure of what to do. Only Gnaruag stepped forth.
“Dubius! Dubius! Dubius!” he chanted and worked his hands gently through the empty air. In a matter of seconds, his fingers were entwined around something. He pulled and the entire enchantment unraveled itself, to reveal a cavernous room, where several battles were going on and smoke seemed to issue forth from the very floor.
“Booya!” he proclaimed, as the Politscia streamed into the Chamber of Mumeroo.
“Inbeef”, said EnPsyClops, “you and Gnaruag should go in. I’ll stay here and block the gates, while backup arrives. Go now.”
Inbeef nodded and jumped into the smoke, Gnaruag floating along beside him.
Several hooded attackers surrounded them instantly and began to make crappy insults at them. Gnaruag flicked his fingers at them, and they were all led to instantly believe that they were a pack of mice and one man who thought he was a poisoned piece of cake. As the mice-men pounced on the poisoned-cake-man and then slowly choked to death of food poisoning, Inbeef and Gnaruag moved forward into the battlefield.
In the distance, Inbeef could see a small group of the Politscia being held off by a single swordsman. The blade flashed so quickly, that Inbeef could only just follow its edge. He yelled at Gnaruag to stay in the back and befuddle any who were trying to flee, as he jumped into the middle of the sword fight.
The swordsman went straight for the kill, slashing and slicing at Inbeef. Through a curious motion of his sword that involved a cycle-kick and an alley-up, Inbeef managed to parry the blows. Then, Inbeef lunged forward, and the blade of his sword cut away the hood of the swordsman… to reveal a swordswoman.
“Who are you?” Inbeef asked in between frenzied sword attacks.
“I’m Princess Ankh-Rose of the Bongo Lands. And you’ve picked the wrong side to fight with.”
“No, you picked the wrong side when you decided to kidnap my brother. You will pay… in cash.”
Their swords met again, and they had to back off.
“Why do you even want the Auric Petra document? You’re a princess, already rich beyond belief.”
“You’ve only heard one side of the story. We believe that Petra’s document is a falsification and we’re protecting you from such heresy.”
“What a crock of horse manure!”
“Look around you.”
Inbeef, rather naively, actually did. With horror, he saw that in different parts of the room, several magelings and undermages were working on complex potions in large simmering cauldrons, spurred on, probably forced to test the Auric Petra document at spellpoint.
“You’re crazy. Those kids can’t handle such high-powered potions. This is not good news.”
“Take consolation in the fact that so far we’ve had no success with it at all. The Auric Petra document is invalid.”
“Invalid? Your momma’s invalid!”
“Be childish if you must. If the document is true, we will be richer than anyone. You should join us.”
“Never! Wait… do you mean richer than that guy who invented sliced bread?”
“Ten times as rich.” The princess smiled as Inbeef’s attacks came to a halt.
“Really? But I …nah, I wouldn’t know what to do with that much money” Inbeef said, as he resumed attacking the princess.
Suddenly, the princess was pushed aside as with a scream, a large hooded man took her place in fighting Inbeef. As he slashed and nicked at Inbeef, he yelled out in a somewhat familiar voice, “Never send a woman to do a man’s job. They talk too much. You, Inbeef, will die.”
“Of old age, maybe.” Inbeef chuckled as he renewed his complicated motions.
“AAuurrrggghh!” The swordsman screamed as he leapt into a series of maneuvers, moving his sword back and forth at Inbeef, his lightning blade getting closer and closer to Inbeef. Inbeef moved swiftly, parrying his moves with quick jabs and blocks, his sword moving faster than the other at several points.
“You are a fool and an idiot.”
“You seem to think tautology is cool.”
“You side with them for what? You have no stake in the matter.”
“Yeah, I do. My brother. Also, I got a side-bet with Gnaruag that we’re going to take you down. So far, the odds are stacked against you, pal.”
“Aaaarggghh” The swordsman yelled in disgust and shock, as Inbeef’s sword took off his hood as well, and Arkol, Sentinel of the Politscia, stood before him.
“Hah, I knew it. It was all an inside job. Is Namgan in on this too?”
“No, no she trusts us all superbly. Why do you think we could orchestrate this so well?”
“Well, the jig is up. I know who you are, Arkol.”
“And I’d have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for you meddling kids.”
Princess Ankh-Rose chose this moment to make the wise observation, “You spoke more than me, Arkol. I counted.”
“Aaarrrgh!” Arkol screamed in fear, as he threw away his sword and started beating at his clothes. “Fire, I’m on fire….Aaaarrgggh!” And then, he ran away screaming repetitively. The princess looked daggers at Inbeef and followed him.
Gnaruag walked in from the side, laughing at the receding figure trying to stop, drop and roll to extinguish an imaginary fire.
“I love me some good phantasmagoria.”
“Good work, Gnaruag. Great timing, dawg… Wait, did I just say ‘dawg’? I’m beginning to pick up your accent. But AaaaaI Doooon’t maaaaaaaaind!”
“It’s a side-effect thang from my Psychedelia shizz.” Gnaruag smiled.
Inbeef made to punch Gnaruag’s fist in the ancient symbol of brotherhood, and as their fists touched each other, a blowback resulted, the shockwave of which threw both of them apart.
Inbeef stood up, his hair all spiky, and mumbled, “I dub that shizz the fistbomb!”
As Inbeef rose, in the distance he saw a man, in sequined jacket and felt hat, curly ringlets streaming down his face, appearing to slide across the ground and moving his fists so fast, the hooded ones did not know what hit them.
“I think I know where my brother is.”
As Inbeef neared the man, his face shifted and contorted, losing a nose and growing another one and the familiar face of his brother took form. Inbeef hugged him and said, “I see you’ve been working on your dance magic. Good stuff. But you’ve helped enough. Now get your friends and get out of here. EnPsyClops is guarding the gate.” Leon nodded and took his friends and ran towards the entrance.
Gnaruag floated over and asked Inbeef, “Do we still have to retrieve the document thing?”
Inbeef replied, “I think we should look for it.”
As they turned around, another horde of hooded soldiers covered them.
“There’s quite a lot, man, and I’m running low on booze.”
“I have an idea.”
Inbeef quickly took out some parchment and a quill, and started frantically writing on it and throwing pieces of the parchment to the soldiers. On seeing them, they suddenly turned around and went away, put under the impression that they had no beef with Inbeef.
Gnaruag leaned over to see what Inbeef was writing and was shocked by what he saw.
“You never told me you could write assuaging charms in hieroglyphics.”
Inbeef smiled and replied, “You never asked.”
As the last of the horde departed, Inbeef and Gnaruag felt a sudden chill. They turned to face a massive beast. Its tongue was slavering and dripping acid-like drool. Its hide was covered in white fur and it seemed to radiate a sense of coldness around it, as if it leeched the warmth from its surroundings. Its eyes, large and bulbous, were staring fixedly at them.
“Umm, Gnaruag what is that?”
“I dunno, but I vote we run.”