Elise was mid-joke when the flaming bolt raged out of the dark.
She and Gwin were in a temple ruin underground, so you had to expect that sort of thing, but the townsfolk had hired them to investigate increased seismic activity, not to fight–
“I fucking hate wizards,” Gwin said. He was still covering her with one of his wings, its plate armor smoking where the bolt hit. His head was snapping, eyes darting to the extremes of the dining hall they’d just entered. “Nothing, but–“
A bolt of lightning arced at his head, so fast even he barely ducked it.
“Stop!” Elise was shouting, her ears still ringing. “Whoever you are, just stop!”
And, somewhere, someone snickered. “A voice changing spell? Really, Rutherford? Pathetic.”
“Rutherford?” Gwin asked, head tilting.
Elise shrugged. “Sir, we have no idea what you’re talking about, okay?”
“Still your foolsome tongue! You’re trying to get to the tome again! I know your patterns!”
“‘Foolsome tongue’?” Gwin asked, brow furrowed.
“I . . . am not Rutherford!” Elise shouted back. “And I can prove it if you’d just let me and my partner stand up!”
Silence from the other end of the hall as up echoed off the stone walls.
Finally, a weary, “Very well.” And, of course, an, “I’ll play your game.”
Elise nodded at Gwin, and together, they stood, her hands up, his wings poised to block another shot if one flared out of the dark.
At the other end of the hall, a dirty, old wizard blinked. “Oh shit. You aren’t Rutherford.”
“Nope. We’re goddamn wayfarers.”
The wizard cracked a gummy smile. “Of course, of course. Come to, eh, investigate the seismic activity, yes?”
“Right,” Elise said, heart already sunk. “Which I’m guessing you’re responsible for–“
The darkness on the balcony erupted in a wash of angry red. Fire pouring down on the wizard so hot Elise had to shield her eyes.
When it was over, another wizard was dancing on that balcony–a gangly shape in purple robes, kicking in the after image of the flame. “Yes! Fuck you, Tamsus!”
And the place that should’ve been a puddle–the spot where the first wizard, Tamsus, had been standing–rose from the floor. “Gods damn you, Rutherford! I am trying to get the food!”
Before anyone could speak–before Elise or Gwin could ask what was happening–Rutherford was hit from another corner of the room by spears of ice, fired from the wand of another wizard. Rutherford was pinned to the wall, absolutely dead until the spot where he’d been impaled blossomed with purple light–a chain that whipped to Tamsus, and then to the new wizard, each one of them screaming in pain before the tether passed to the next.
And, when it was done–when Elise and Gwin opened their mouths to shout questions over each other–someone else exploded (but then was whole). And then Tamsus melted in a rush of burning acid (but didn’t really). Each time, a new robed wizard jumped out of the darkness to drop stone spikes from the ceiling or cleave another in half with wheels of pure, furious light. And, each time, the death hit every single one of them in the same sequence, raging through them all so each of them felt it, but none of them died.
“They’re all tethered together with some kind of magic?” Elise whispered, but it was during the first lull in explosions and screaming–a full ten minutes since the last time she’d spoken.
One of them, (Archimestites?) grumbled. “Chain of Woe: a spell that deflects the vast majority of any injuries you suffer to the person you cast it on.”
“Unless that person cast it on someone else,” another wizard jumped in. “Then they only get a tiny fraction of the harm before it gets passed on! So I cast it on Dilamitrix!”
“And I cast it on Borf.”
“And I cast it on Marthes.”
“Yeah, and so on until Humphrey cast it on me and now we have a perfect loop where no one dies,” Archimestites cut back in. “I knew when I cast it that these sheep would do the same damn thing, but it was the only way I could be sure I didn’t die. The only way I could get that tome!”
“You?” Rutherford panted, “You’ll never get it you sack of shit! Rah!” and the explosions started again, only this time with more dodging and shouting: “You’ll never make it past my incantations anyway!” and “You’re not a real wizard!” and “Fuck you, Tamsus!”
Elise let them get into the thick of it before she slowly started to back out of the room, pulling Gwin with her.
But they only managed a few steps before the explosions stopped.
“Hey!” one of the wizards shouted. And then, when Elise and Gwin stopped: “Leave . . . the food!”
In jarringly dead silence, she and Gwin pulled whatever food they had out of their knapsacks, leaving it in a neat pile on the floor with movements that were as precise as possible.
“And don’t tell anyone in that town about this, you hear? Go back, say there was another, eh, giant mole or something, and get your pay!”
“Do it, or we’ll know!”
Elise wanted to ask how long they’d been doing this, remembering that the people in town said there were spikes in seismic activity around the temple every few weeks . . .
But then one of them said, “And say it was a worm, cause a giant mole is a stupid idea!”
And, just like that, they were back to screaming and hurling deadly forces of nature at each other like the wayfarers weren’t still there.
Elise and Gwin hurried back out of the ruined, subterranean temple.
And when they got to fresh air, Gwin sighed.
“I fucking hate wizards.”
I thought it was high time for another Draft, and, when this idea came to me (essentially an RPG side quest), I thought it was the perfect candidate for a creative writing session. It wound up being a more comical than the stuff I usually write, but that made it so much more fun to work on. Seriously, I needed to snicker like an idiot at my writing desk for a bit.
Also, I just wanted to bring back Elise and Gwin, the Red Markison, from an earlier draft. I am definitely still operating under the assumption that I won’t write a full story about them . . . but . . . man, I really love the idea of insane, overpowered wizards just being a problem in a fantasy world. Are they all like this? Do normal people seek them out for power, but the learning just drives them mad, and thus new wizards are born?
Goddammit. I have so many projects already.
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As always, thank you for passing by and take care!