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225 Emos and tree huggers.

 "Guys, over here," Perfect called over the party chat.

The players joined Perfect at a community water well. Perfect pointed at a gleaming object down in the well.

"The last block is down there."

"How are we going to get it out?" Flanker asked.

"I can climb down, tie a rope around it then we can pull it up," Perfect offered.

"Sounds good," Dave said.

Perfect took a coil of rope from his inventory. He handed Fortress one end and tied the other end around himself then he climbed down the well. He tied the rope to the block then climbed back out of the well.

"Okay, let's pull it up."

They sorted themselves into a line, grasped the rope and set their feet to start hauling the block up. After much grunting and futile effort, the block hadn't moved an inch.

"It's frickin' heavy, man," Flanker complained.

"This isn't working," Dave said. He beckoned Spike to come over, "We need your help, buddy."

He had Spike kneel so he could tie the rope around the trunks of the fiend's widespread antlers.

"Pull," Dave said to Spike.

The fiend stood then backed slowly, effortlessly pulling the block up from the well.

"Okay, let's get this and the other blocks to the gate platform," Dave said.

It took them a while to move all the blocks to the platform. Spike did the heavy work of dragging the blocks through the streets to the center of the city-square.

The blocks were obviously still active in some way. They noticed it when they dragged the second block to the platform, as they neared the first block the runes on both of them started glowing dimly. With every block they dragged to the platform, the runes grew slightly brighter as if the blocks or the runes were energizing with each other. When all the blocks were gathered together an audible hum could be heard coming from the jumble of glowing silver cubes.

"Now what?" Flanker said.

"We stack the blocks on top of each other to rebuild the gate." Dave said.

"But the blocks are too heavy to lift," Fortress said.

"Not for Spike," Dave said.

"So?" Flanker asked.

"We tie a block to Spike's antlers so he can lift it, when he does we chivy it into position on top of the base block. Rinse and repeat."

"You want to use the giant stag as a crane?"

"Exactly," Dave said.

Dave's plan worked perfectly. They used Spike's height and strength to lift the blocks into place, adjusting them neatly on top each other. When the final block was set in place, the runes grew blindingly bright then dimmed and faded completely. The gate was inactive.

"Why didn't it work?" Perfect said.

"I don't know," Dave said.

***

The teleportation gate does not have enough Essence flow to function.

Without a mana core, the teleportation gate cannot power the runic magic to bend reality and create transpatial corridors.

***

"Well this sucks, I've never heard of a mana core, and it's not like one is going to appear out of thin air for us," Flanker said.

"The gate was destroyed for a reason, you must not repair it!" a voice came from behind them.

Flanker yelped.

The players turned, a green-haired woman stood with a gnarled vine-covered staff in one hand, the other pointed at them in a gesture that could be blessing or curse. She wore a skirt made of stitched leaves and her long hair covered her bosom. A brightly glowing crystal sphere hung from a necklace against her chest.

"She's a druid," Flanker said.

The druid's tag was green, friendly.

Dave tried to inspect it.

***

Inspection failed!

***

Dave frowned, then asked, "How was the gate destroyed?"

"It was destroyed by the inhabitants to save the world from demons," The druid said.

"I thought the demons were locked in the underworld."

"They were, but this gate can reach into the underworld, it must not be opened again!"

***

You received a clue on how to access the underworld.

You can access the underworld by fixing the gate of the lost city, Urburg.

Note: by opening the gate, the denizens of the underworld can use it to come to the upper world.

If a demonic creature uses the Urburg gate to access the world of conquest, your relationship with the Underworld guardian Ramsha will become hostile.

***

"Damn."

He'd hoped he would be able to use the gate to go back to the underworld and start leveling at a decent rate again. But if demons escaped through the gate because of his actions, it would only cause problems between him and Ramsha.

"There has to be a way to block the demons from using this gate," Flanker protested.

The druid shook her head, "There is not."

"Is that the gate's mana core on your neck?" Dave asked.

"It is, but I will not give it to you."

The druid's nametag became yellow.

"The demons came through the gate, infecting the wild life. The trees and forests were corrupted and the animals turned to vicious monsters. The gate shall not be opened, Leave or die!"

Flanker spoke over the party com, "We can try to kill her and loot the core from her."

"That's too risky. We don't know her level or how strong she is and she might not drop the core even if we do beat her. I think we should just give up on activating the gate," Dave said.

The druid grew impatient and suspicious at seeing the party talking surreptitiously amongst each other.

"Leave now!" the druid shouted.

Suddenly, thick roots emerged from under the earth and wriggled toward the players like racing snakes.

The druid's attack caught them flatfooted.

"Stop that," a familiar voice said. The roots attacking Dave's party shriveled and died instantly.

A youth with a mohawk haircut and a skull-motif guitar strapped to his back appeared between the four players and the druid.

"I didn't expect you to find what's left of Urburg, kid."

"Do you know this guy, Skelly?" Perfect asked.

"Yeah, he's on our side. Sorta," Dave replied.

"Who are you?" the druid asked.

Ignoring her question, the god of the undead pointed at the druid's necklace.

"I'll have that mana core from you."

The druid's tag turned a hostile crimson, "Never! I protect the Wilds."

The Undeath god rolled his eyes, "Another emo tree-hugger. I'll have the core from you one way or another, luv."

He waved a hand and a burst of thick black smoke shot toward the druid, seeking her out like it was a live predator. The druid staggered back when the smoke enveloped her in a dark miasma. She withered, her hair fell out, sores appeared all over her body, the flesh of her face started rotting away like a stop motion recording.

"W-what did you do? Blessing of the forest!" the druid shouted.

A green aura surrounded the druid, it fought against the dark aura, trying to rejuvenate the druid.

The Undeath god's magic was too potent for the druid to counter. In moments she had become a pile of dust and small scraps.

"And another one gone, another one bites the dust," the god nodded his head in time as he chanted, then ended the little ditty by slapping his thigh with a sharp 'crack' sound.

Returning his attention to the druid's remains he made a dramatic 'rise up' gesture with both arms out, like a baptist faith healer. Nothing happened. Then the god shook his head and snickered, seemingly at himself.

"Bollocks! I forgot again. Well, there goes my cool outro. You gotta get me that Miasmic Aether soon, kid. I can't bestow my Gift of Undeath until you do."

The Undeath god knelt and took the blue sphere from the ashy remains of the druid. Then he stood and turned to Dave.

"Urburg was one of my favorite hangouts back in the old days, wicked concerts and moshes," he seemed to get lost in thought or memory for a moment.

"Here," the punk god tossed the sphere to Dave, "You can use it to activate the gate safely now, the demons won't be able to access it any more."

Dave caught the sphere, it was glowing purple now. When he looked back up the Undeath god had disappeared.

***

You have received a Hidden Quest: Restore the City of Urburg to its former glory

City Management Menu unlocked (limited access).

After activating the Urburg teleportation gate you can import materials and invite NPCs to help rebuild the city.

***

"Ooooh, that's interesting."