Larius searches for the wizard's prize.
Chapter 3: Speakable Evils and Bubble Baths
Deep into the chasm I strode; the gray mists that forever shrouded this cursed land roiled and twisted like phantoms trying to escape the winds that howled up the pass. I pulled my cloak about me and increased my pace, eager to be done with this task. After an hour I reached the floor of the canyon; the winds calmed and I was able to make out my surroundings. All around me stood dull gray statues slick with moisture; ancient monuments to forgotten gods left weathered and crumbling, and to the north I could see two cavernous openings in the cliff-face that marked the entrance to the catacombs.
As the wizard had explained in excruciating detail, I needed to enter the tunnel on the right- the one with the locked gate. I searched under a few rocks nearby but found no key. At length I decided to explore the other open tunnel, thinking perhaps they were connected.
I lit a torch. A hundred paces down the tunnel something hard scraped the stone floor and I felt the slightest touch on my right arm. Faced with sudden danger my adventurer instincts took over... I made a strategic retreat. But after so much time and effort spent getting here I would not be turned back for long; nor would I be caught off guard the next time. I lit another torch and gripped a sturdy club in my right hand then boldly walked back into the tunnel.
Twenty paces down that corridor torchlight reflected upon metal- a warrior's helm still seated atop a skull. Dry skin, layered in dust, stretched over bleached white bone, its desiccated eyes were sunk into their sockets yet somehow followed my motion, cracked weathered skin around the mouth pulled back revealing a row of white teeth bared in a garish smile. It spoke... what it said I did not know.
I stood outside the tunnel for some time sweating profusely and listening. Nothing happened. Eventually, I decided to make a third expedition into the tomb. I had dropped my club the last time, so I picked up a large rock in my right hand and gripped a lit torch in my left. As I entered I could still hear the thing's resonant voice; it was speaking... about a contract? What was this horrid corpse, I wondered, an undead bookkeeper?
I don't know why but at that moment curiosity overcame fear and I spoke to the creature. Soon I learned two things: 1) Disgusting piles of dried flesh and bones can be rather articulate and 2) I was just the sort of heroic figure this cursed warrior had been waiting for. It turns out that long ago some unspecified evil had cruelly tricked a company of virtuous Knights. The Knights as well as the whole canyon would be forever fated to exist in the shadows, neither dead nor alive, cursed to eternal darkness and torment unless... a brave and noble warrior, pure at heart, would enter the crypts, hunt down this great evil, and vanquish its dark influence, bringing peace to the long suffering Knights and the light of day back to the shadowed valley.
The spirit recognized my finer qualities almost immediately and gave me the key. I went around the corner to the sealed tomb and unlocked the gate. The sarcophagus was located conveniently nearby; I grabbed the wizard's stupid prize and left the canyon. As for the noble goals of freeing the souls of the Lost Warriors and defeating the ancient evil that plagues the land and bringing the light of day back to the cursed canyon... well... I wanted to, but right then I... just didn't have the time. But never fear, I've definitely put those things on my "to do list"
Once I reached my camp, I loaded my trusty pack mule and headed out; it would take three days to reach the wizard's tower. If he didn't have my extract ready I intended to strangle him with his own beard.
A lantern glowed in the tower's first level. I was exhausted after my long trek so I just barged in the front door and tried to find the source of the light. I walked through a dark corridor filled with all sorts of contraptions and then I heard the splash of water and the wizard's high nasally singing. I followed the sounds to the lighted chamber at the end of the hall and slowly opened the door.
I just sighed and shook my head. The wizard sat in a large bronze bathtub with his back to the door, bubbles of perfumed soaps floated a foot deep on top of the steaming water. The wizard sang with great emotion, gesturing wildly and thrashing about as the lantern light reflected off his bald scalp. His goblin was also in the tub, standing waist-deep at the far end, dutifully scrubbing between his master's toes with a small brush.
The startled goblin yapped a warning and ducked down, with all but the furry tips of his green ears submerged under the suds. The wizard's foot splashed into the water. "Noodles, what's the meaning of this?"
I cleared my throat and the Wizard Pittsnoggle turned around fearfully; soap bubbles flew off the tip of his prominent nose. "Uh... Oh... I..."
"No- please don't get up! It's Larius... I have returned with this container you asked for." I placed the box on the floor beside me.
The wizard reached into the water and pulled the goblin up by the scruff of the neck. "Noodles… My robe! My slippers!"
The goblin scurried away trailing bathwater and soap across the floor. Soon he returned with a fresh blue robe clutched in his scaly paws and a pair of purple fur-lined slippers held in his slobbery mouth.
The goblin rinsed and dried his master, and then helped the wizard into his clothes. Once he was proudly clad in his blue robe with embroidered silver stars and purple fur lined slippers Pittsnoggle examined the box I had brought him. He set it on a table and worked his magic upon it as I watched. After checking it for traps and curses he pried the lid off and removed three items; a bundle of parchments, a vial of amber liquid, and a brown stone jar large enough to hold a chicken.
The wizard seemed overjoyed when examining the vial and the parchments; the stone jar he ignored. Pittsnoggle was so happy he even invited me to use his bathtub. I politely declined even though I probably could have used a bath- I do have some standards you know. I'm not going to be bathed by a goblin!
"Excuse me sir,” I said, “but I assume you have my extract ready?"
"Oh, yes of course... You know it’s funny," The wizard remarked. "When I got ready to work on it I happened to remember that I had three vials of extract sitting on my shelf already."
I lost my temper then and said some things I probably shouldn't have. The wizard was taken aback by my outburst, but he had been so pleased with my service that he insisted I take a reward. So in addition to the extract he gave me one of the artifacts- the stone jar covered in strange writings with a matching lid held firmly on top. I really didn't want the jar but he resolutely maintained that it was quite valuable as a summoning device.
Eventually I calmed down and apologized for the flare-up; I figured Pittsnoggle really wasn't all that bad, for a wizard anyway. He even dressed his goblin up as a waiter and invited me to be his dinner guest that night. Throughout this dinner the wizard was most eager to talk about his prize. I nodded and tried to act interested- really I had hoped that my six day perilous trek had been over something more important than some old witch's glorified hair tonic.
At dawn I left the tower. The wizard struck a dramatic pose on his balcony and bid me farewell- auburn locks with chestnut highlights fell gracefully about his shoulders. I watched, astounded as his hair shifted then, becoming long and luxurious hanging down past his waist, the color also changed from brown to platinum blonde, then his hair morphed once more becoming silken and wavy, raven black with crimson highlights.
This supernatural hairdo was the wizard's coveted prize; his head was bald no longer courtesy of an exotic magical elixir taken from the tomb of a powerful sorceress. He referred to it in reverent awe as the: "Phantasmal Follicles of the Witch Queen". It was a sight to behold writhing about atop his head in the early morning light, shifting in color and changing length and texture as though it had a mind of its own. And who's to say, maybe it did.
Though I would have liked to stick around and watch the spectacle, it was time for me to go. I had gotten what I came for; soon I hoped I would have my orc love potion and the answer to my question.
|20 Mar 2012|| Genalee Simon|
Is running for your life considered a strategic exit? I suppose its your fight or flight instinct. "Phantasmal Follicles of the Witch Queen" that’s pretty awesome. Witches have Queens? I never thought about their leadership. I love how the wizard has the goblin. Ed Edward Edwardius
replies: "Yes, a researcher’s life is one of intrigue and danger. As I recall, Uncle Larius was pretty quick on his feet. When I was a kid, I remember him saying how an adventurer ‘better be able to run fast if he ever hoped to make it to level 2’ (whatever that means). "