"I'm so scared," whispered Elsie, her blue eyes wide with terror. Over her shoulder, a dead tiny blue figure dangled from a rafter by its own garrote. But that was just one of them. The puppy Deathspit was curled in a ball, whimpering at her feet, but she'd gotten separated from everyone else.
They knew it was going to be bad when they encountered the wounded townsman outside the church. Only, he wasn't just wounded. He'd been torn to pieces.
"Smurfette..." was all he managed to say before he expired.
"Smurf et what?" wondered Biff rubbing his tummy.
"Perhaps he was speaking in French," suggested Ichabod. "Of course, that begs the question, 'Smurf and what?'"
Elsie tapped into the knowledge database that Dr. Pepin had installed. "It's like in Citizen Kane where you don't find out until the end that 'Rosebud' was his sled." Although Pepin was able to give her access to the knowledge of the Terran United Federation of Free Worlds, giving her the wit to use it sensibly had yet been beyond the available technology.
Ichabod was looking at her in horror.
"Oh come on," snapped Elsie. "It's not like everyone doesn't already know 'Rosebud' was his sled by now."
"I still think it would have been polite to include a spoiler warning," said Ichabod. "Besides, you're not suggesting that this man was killed by a sled?"
Elsie looked down at the body. "Not unless he swallowed it and it then exploded inside him. Now a sleigh, pulled by, say, a pack of mud runners could have done this kind of damage."
"Slay mud runners?" asked Biff excitedly.
"That's not what she meant," Ichabod tried to explain.
But it was too late. The gigantic Barbarian's battle lust was fully engaged and they had no choice but to table further discussion and follow him into the cathedral.
The moment Elsie, Biff, Ichabod and Deathspit had descended the stairs, they'd been set upon by mobs of generic-looking men in red shirts.
The going had actually been easy. Their attackers seemed to die real well, and that was about it. Some could teleport, but inevitably seemed to materialize inside walls, pillars and each other. Some were armed with small devices that fired bolts of energy at random and then exploded in their hands. Many were eaten in the middle of battle by passing monsters, or fell down bottomless pits, or were buried under cave-ins. One had simply turned into a cube and dissolved into powder.
But it was what had happened to that last pack of Red Shirts that was truly horrifying. They'd been torn to pieces by tiny blue monsters. Elsie fought back a shudder and tried not to think about it.
Her enhanced senses detected a build-up of B/F particles. There were more of them coming.
She had to keep moving.
Elsie jumped. She thought she caught a fleeting glimpse of tiny figures darting through the shadows. Tiny feet scrambled across the stone floor.
She listened again and this time heard a distant boom and the muffled cries of spectral cattle. A Bova spell! That meant that Ichabod was still alive somewhere on the level! Elsie wondered if it would do her any good.
Behind her! Elsie whirled, her sword sweeping low across the floor.
The first swarm of them had poured across the floor at them like a blue-and-white wave of death. CowLord had staved off that initial attack with a small herd of Firebulls. The creatures' cries as they died were like fingernails on a chalkboard.
As the creatures tried to withdraw and regroup, Biff lumbered after them, swinging his new club with abandon. "Don't run away! Biff an' L'il Woody want to play!" he shouted at them, and then chuckled. "Biff's a poet an' don't know it."
With speed belying his massive bulk, Biff reached down and snatched one of the fleeing creatures off the floor. He bit off its head and made a face.
"Biff not like little smurfs," he told Elsie and Ichabod. "Taste like slugs." He held out the remains to Elsie, who gagged.
"Why did you call them smurfs?" asked Ichabod.
"Because that the sound they make when Biff stomps 'em." To illustrate his point, Biff brought his massive foot down on one of the stragglers. It had expired with a muffled "smurf."
Deathspit whined nervously. Perhaps he too was remembering Biff's anguished scream as the little blue-and-white creatures had swarmed over him. There must have been thousands of them. Elsie and Ichabod had tried to help, but by then they'd had problems of their own. The last she'd seen of the giant Barbarian, he'd been tumbling down the stairs covered the vicious blue monsters. There was no way he could still be alive, could there?
This time it was above her. Elsie looked up and nearly wet herself. A swarm of them was scuttling across the ceiling toward her.
Biting back a scream of panic, Elsie grabbed Deathspit by the scruff and ran.
"You think we'll be able to catch up with them?" asked Stupidhead the Weak.
Solo nodded. "Elsie seems pretty capable, but I'm betting CowLord and particularly Biff will slow her down some."
"Good," said Dolt, carrying the unconscious Red Vex over one shoulder. "If the Adversary is down there with Maximum Evil, the others will be walking into a massacre."
"We only have Lazarus' word on that," noted Solo.
"He was telling the truth," Stupidhead assured her. "I know his type. He'd tongue-kiss the Butcher..." (Red Vex groaned) "...before he'd pass up an opportunity to boast about his evil scheme."
Dolt and Solo both nodded at the assessment. They too were familiar with the villain mindset.
"I can't help wondering about that Elsie though," noted Dolt. "We don't know anything about her other than the fact that she's fast in a fight."
"And that she can't seem to keep her hands off her boobs," added Solo.
Red Vex moaned.
Stupidhead laughed. "You're right! Elsie does seem to be a bit obsessed with her chest. In fact, I haven't seen anyone so fixated on breasts since we lost..." His jaw dropped in a stunned moment of silence. "...LC," he finished. "Sunnuvabitch." Stupidhead the Weak began giggling like a child.
"What?" asked Dolt and Solo together.
"Nothing," laughed Stupidhead. "I, um, just remembered a funny knock-knock joke." He struggled to regain control and failed.
He laughed all the way to Tristram.
Given the overwhelming numbers against them, their capture was inevitable. They'd gotten inside CowLord's armor and opened it up from the inside. Now Ichabod was trussed up next to Elsie and Biff. His armor lay in a pile next to Elsie's sword and backpack, and Biff's Li'l Woody.
On one side of them, thousands of smurfs were gathered in a semi-circle. On the other side of them was a blood-stained door that they all recognized. It was the door to the lair of the Butcher.
"Ichabod," whispered Elsie.
"Yes?" He was peacefully contemplating his upcoming demise.
"Can you scoot over here and unzip my body suit?"
"This is hardly the time or place, Elsie."
"No, you idiot," snapped Elsie. "I hid Deathspit inside my outfit. He can burn through our bonds and we can escape."
"I thought you looked a little bustier than usual," commented Ichabod.
Their hands had all been tied behind their backs, so Ichabod had to squirm backwards to reach the zipper at Elsie's collar. He fumbled around for several seconds.
"Hey!" complained Elsie when Ichabod grabbed a handful of not-her-zipper.
"A thousand pardons," apologized the Conjurer. He worked the zipper down a few inches and then rolled away. As he did, the puppy Deathspit poked his head out from Elsie's cleavage. Ichabod couldn't help noticing that the little dog had an expression of cosmic contentment on his face.
"Okay, boy," instructed Elsie. "Chew through the ropes."
If any of the smurfs watching noticed the blatant escape attempt in progress, they were either too stupid or too confident to do anything about it. Instead, a single smurf climbed up on top of the empty CowLord helmet so that he could look down upon his prisoners and address the swarm. Unlike the others, this smurf was sporting a snowy white beard. Looking down, he shook his little head. "Is this the best our enemies can send?" he complained. "Imagine how insulted the Adversary would be if we allowed you to live long enough to reach it. Fortunately, we'll be sacrificing you to our queen, so that won't be a problem." The old smurf shook his head again in disgust. "A madman, a bimbo and a blithering idiot."
"I am not a blithering idiot," complained Elsie.
"Yeah! Biff not bimbo!" added Biff.
"Well, I'm mad," volunteered Ichabod as Deathspit's acid burned through Elsie's bonds. "Mad enough to spit!" With that, he spat a Cudstar at the old smurf.
"Argh!" cried the old smurf as he collapsed with a fist-sized hole in his thumb-sized body.
"Papa Smurf!" cried the assembled swarm in horror.
Elsie quickly untied Biff while Deathspit burned through Ichabod's ropes.
"All right!" shouted Elsie. "Which one of you little blue nose goblins wants to die first?"
To Elsie's great satisfaction, the smurf swarm let out a collective gasp and stepped back a pace. "Smurfette..." they breathed reverently.
Behind the adventurers, the heavy bloodstained door swung open.
They all expected something roughly smurf-sized. Instead, giant spiny blue tentacles shot out of the door and snatched Elsie, Biff, Ichabod and even little Deathspit off their feet.
Smurfette sat in the middle of what used to be the Butcher's chamber, surrounded by countless mucous-covered blue eggs. The smurf queen herself was a writhing mass of slimy blue tentacles and needle-sharp teeth. A single yellow eye the size of a basketball peered balefully out of the nightmare mass.
Elsie's sword flashed out and severed the tendril holding her faithful dog. Deathspit dropped to the ground and yapped furiously at the monster.
Smurfette ignored the puppy and concentrated on the the biggest meal in her grasp, Biff.
"Oh, so squishy snakey thing wants to bite Biff?" observed the Barbarian as a dozen well-muscled tentacles tried in vain to push him into the dripping needle-lined maw. "Biff not let you!" He planted his feet in the smurf queen's lower lip and grasped her upper lip with his calloused hands.
"Ichabod! Do something!" cried Elsie.
"I'm thinking," answered the Conjurer trying to keep the tentacles away from his throat. "I might have an idea."
"Ha!" cried Biff as a tooth like a steak knife snapped off in his hand. "Now Biff got knife!"
Smurfette had been willing to sacrifice the tooth. She brought a heavy tentacle up behind the distracted morsel and reared it back with the intention of using it to shove him into her mouth once and for all.
Ichabod saw Biff's peril and cast Cheese Curse on the tentacle. Smurfette screamed her frustration and Biff slashed out at the transmuted appendage with is new weapon.
"Har! Biff cut the cheese!" he crowed.
"Oh God no!" sobbed Elsie.
"For crying out loud, Elsie," complained Ichabod. "Listen, I think I have the solution. I saw it on the Nature Channel during my travels. The queen smurf is only dangerous in her 'mother' mode, when she has eggs or smurflings to protect. Destroy the eggs, and that'll force her back into her harmless 'mating' mode."
"Did you hear that, Biff?" called Elsie. "Break all the eggs!" She worked her sword arm free from the tentacle holding it and cut Biff loose.
Biff did a spectacular belly-flop and landed on a bank of smurf eggs, crushing them flat. "Biff squish eggies!" he laughed gleefully. He started to get up to smash more eggs, but then an inspiration struck him. He began rolling around the floor, turning himself into a 300-pound human steamroller.
Deathspit, immediately grasping the concept, began spitting acid balls at the eggs around him.
Smurfette let out a wail of despair and desparately tried to stop the Barbarian from destroying her nest. Biff merely shrugged off most of the groping tentacles and Ichabod and Elsie Cheese Cursed or severed the others.
The battle was a lost cause for the smurf queen from the beginning. There are few forces in nature more powerful than a Barbarian bent on destruction. She gave a despairing moan as Biff smashed the last egg. Shuddering, she released Elsie and Ichabod and began to shrink.
Biff stood up, covered in slick blue smurf gunk. "Har! Da yolk's on Biff," he joked.
By the time Ichabod stood and reached the door, the nightmare smurf queen had changed into a small blue girl-smurf with blonde hair and a white dress and matching pumps.
"This should be good," said Ichabod, beckoning Biff, Elsie and Deathspit to the door. "Stand back."
With that, he opened the door to the assembled smurfs outside. "AAAAAAHH-OOOOOOO-GAH!" the sound effect seemed to come from everywhere at once and echoed throughout the level. The entire pack of smurfs jumped as if poked with hot needles. Their little jaws dropped to the floor and their eyes bulged out as big as saucers with little red hearts for pupils.
"Uh-oh!" said Smurfette.
This time, the smurfs didn't so much swarm as they stampeded. Ichabod, Elsie, Biff and Deathspit stepped out of the former-Butcher's-lair-now smurf-love-nest and closed the door behind them. At that moment, Solo, Dolt, Stupidhead and Red Vex rushed down the stairs to meet them.
"Is everyone all right?" asked Solo. "What's going on?"
Ichabod was putting his CowLord armor on and glanced back at the closed door. "The world's biggest smurf gangbang," he answered.
Red Vex fainted.
"Why, that's horrible!" gasped Solo.
Ichabod quickly told the others of their adventures with the smurfs.
"Har! Da yolk's on Biff!" said the Barbarian, hoping for a better response to his joke from the new audience. He didn't get one.
"Don't worry about Smurfette, though," explained Ichabod. "The smurf female devours the males after mating. She's probably in there gobbling them almost as fast as they can mate with her. She'll need the calories to lay her eggs and transform back into 'mother' mode."
"Why that's horrible," gasped Dolt.
"There is just no satisfying some people," said Ichabod. He pulled a Greater Rune of Fire out of his armor, invoked it, and tossed it into the smurf queen's chamber. There was a muffled 'whump' and smoke streamed out from under the door. "There! Satisfied?"
There were general nods of agreement all around.
Stupidhead noticed Elsie and started laughing.
"What?" Elsie wanted to know.
"Nothing," giggled Stupidhead. "I just remembered a funny cartoon in Playmage, that's all."
Solo's expression was serious. "If that's what the Adversary had in place of the Butcher," she wondered, "I hate to think what it's put in King Leoric's spot on the next level down."
What has the Adversary put in King Leoric's spot? Will Stupidhead keep Elsie's secret? Didn't Solo already know that Elsie was really Lord Cool? (Shut up. That information conveniently lagged out, okay?) Will Maximum Evil finally wear Sugar's resistance down? How much more recreational stress testing can Wirt stand? What does Lazarus have in store for the gang? Will Red Vex stop fainting whenever anyone mentions sex? (Thud. Sorry, Red) Will Dolt be able to declare his love for Sugar and, if he does, what will Elsie have to say about it? Will Biff continue to pursue his life-long dream of becoming a stand-up comic? And will Deathspit ever get house trained? These questions and many more will be totally ignored in the next Mutation of Collaborative Carnage!
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