The Drunken Wizard’s Playmates and Other Stories (Excerpt)

Cover by Linda Foegen of American Book Design Copyright 2014

Cover by Linda Foegen of American Book Design Copyright 2014

Description:  Although The Drunken Wizard’s Playmates loosely fits in with the world of The Tiger’s Eye and The Viper’s Fangs (forthcoming), it is a much different type of story, both in style and content. The events in it occur centuries earlier and have no direct relationship to the Angus series. In brief, it is a humorous light fantasy novel about two drunken apprentices and the mischief they cause. The humor is a bit crude at times, as you might expect from wayward young men whose judgment is impaired by alcohol and who have the ability to use magic…. As a bonus, I’ve included four other humorous light fantasy short stories with the novel.

Here are the first few chapters of the novel:

Prologue

The Great Elder of the Sacred Order of Prophetic Sight took the pouch of incense from inside his loose-fitting sleeve and walked steadily up to the brazier in the center of the room. It was an old brazier, cast from copper, age-stained with a vibrant green patina, and rimmed with a series of snakes eating each others’ tails. He knelt down before it, stared through the warm haze emanating from the smoldering charcoal, and nodded at Weji, the young initiate who would be seeking out his first vision.

Weji sat cross-legged, opened his robe, and let the folds drop down around his waist, baring his hairless chest. He set his hands on his knees, palms upward, and took a deep breath. As he let it out, he bowed slowly until his chin was on his chest.

The Great Elder stared at the top of Weji’s head for several seconds before he said, “It is time.” He loosened the drawstrings and opened up the pouch of incense. A brisk anise aroma mixed with the clingy sweetness of honey and a vague impression of something sharp and tart fluttered up to his nostrils, and he breathed deeply. The first fragrant waft was always intoxicating, and it left him a bit giddy. But he pushed it aside, as he had done hundreds of times before, and tilted the pouch to let the flakes drift onto his palm until they threatened to fall through his fingertips.

“May your vision be swift and pure,” the Great Elder said, holding his hand above the brazier and sprinkling the incense over the warm coals. It melted quickly, and columns of silver-gray, vaguely luminescent smoke rose upward from where the drops fell. They began to transform into snake-like shapes with piercing silver eyes that danced about hypnotically.

“Breathe,” The Great Elder said, “deep and long.”

Weji, as he had been instructed, leaned forward until his face hovered only a few inches above the coals. The smoke from the incense parted, and the snake-like wisps writhed more vigorously. They slowly merged into a single entity with deep-set, silver-flamed eyes shaped like hourglasses. The Great Elder’s eyes narrowed, and he blinked rapidly—it would be a very potent vision, perhaps more potent than any he had ever observed or had had himself. The snake reared back so far that its head brushed against the Great Elder’s forehead, and he was struck by a sudden, deep, intense feeling of foreboding. The snake opened its maws and lashed forward, striking the top of Weji’s head and propelling him backward. Weji gasped, wailed, and nearly toppled as the snake drilled itself deep inside him until its tail disappeared altogether.

The Great Elder, a bit shaken, rose to his feet and backed away from the brazier until he stood between two of the other elders encircling the initiate. He watched. He waited. It could be hours before—

Weji’s response was immediate and profound. He panted. He rocked back and forth like the smoke snakes had done. His muscles flexed and relaxed. A meaningless guttural noise snarled from his lips. He spat and snapped as if he were an angry mastiff. The vision was already upon him! Never had the Great Elder seen such a quick response!

Weji hissed, the extended sibilant gradually softening, becoming coherent. He opened his eyes, and two vibrant, silver, vacant hour-glasses stared out, past the Great Elder.

Some of the elders gasped, and the Great Elder struggled to keep himself composed. Never had he seen such a reaction, but the archives foretold—

“Eeevill,” Weji wailed.

“We must stop this!” one of the Elders said. Others rustled in agreement.

“Silence!” the Great Elder hissed.

Weji shivered like a bowstring after the arrow has been loosed, and then stilled suddenly.

The Great Elder began to chant softly, the wordless chant intended to calm the seer, to help bring the vision into focus.

Weji arched his back and leaned backward as if he were being pressed down by a heavy weight. “Eeevill,” he said. “Weeezarrds!”

The Great Elder frowned. Evil wizards? he wondered. The vision—

Weji suddenly sat perfectly upright and said, his voice quite clear and sharp, “Ale.” Then he doubled over again and wailed, “Deemons. Eeevill!”

Ale? The Great Elder wondered. What does ale have to do with evil demons and wizards?

“Noooo,” Weji wailed, swaying side to side. “Not the twit!” He closed his eyes and his head fell forward, his chin resting on his chest. He took a slow, deep breath, and chanted, “Doom. Doom. Doom. Doom. Doom. Doom.”

The elders were restless, frightened. The ritual had almost fallen apart. The Great Elder tried to hold them together, but he was finding it difficult to fight back a shudder. Never, in all the years he had witnessed this ceremony, had he seen such a worrisome reaction to a vision.

Then Weji sneezed, and silver-gray smoke blew forcefully out of his nose and mouth as he fell slowly forward.

The elders were quite agitated by now, and the Great Elder frowned. Terrific, he thought, they think I know what to do.

Weji’s hair began to burn.

The Great Elder sprang forward, dodged the brazier, and pulled Weji to the floor. He smothered the flame with his robe, and called out, “Water! Now!”

He lifted his robe and began to examine Weji. The burns were superficial, and treatable. “Bring the burn balm,” he said without looking up. Weji’s breathing was deep and shallow, but he wasn’t asleep. It was something else. His heartbeat was weak, troubled. The Great Elder sighed, and said, “Summon a Metaphysician.”

The elders continued to mill around until he shouted, “Now!”

1

Wanda left the confines of the Tower of Conjuration with a spring in his step, a smile on his lips, and a sigh in his heart. It wasn’t a heavy sigh, but one of contentment and satisfaction. It had been a grueling session, and he was relieved to have survived it. (A few apprentices hadn’t.) Most of the lessons had been tedious, and the tomes had been ridiculously dry: The History of the Thaumaturgic Circle, The Magical Properties of Bat Guano—it was amazing how many ways it could be used!—Introduction to Dragon Physiology, and the only one he had truly enjoyed: Mid-level Conjuration and the Unfriendly Demon. His smile broadened as he let his first successful conjuration run through his mind; of all the demons the apprentices had conjured, his had definitely been the most energetic. The legends about succubi were definitely understated!

The few streets ringing the outer edge of the Wizards’ School were dominated by hostels and inns where many of the students lived, and shops selling magical equipment, herbs, scrolls—all the typical paraphernalia needed by wizards and apprentices. It was an active business district, and he knew many of the shop owners by name. They exchanged brisk greetings as he passed, and a few hawked their wares half-heartedly; they knew the term had ended and hoped for a few more sales before the students returned home for the winter. He politely declined their offers and moved quickly toward the gate to the city proper. The Wizards’ School was in the center of Wayfair, but it was self-governing and technically not a part of the city. Most people ignored the technicality.

When he neared the magical barrier separating the school from the city, he began to whistle a jaunty little tune. It had been a long time since he had been beyond the shimmering pale blue veil that separated the Wizards’ School from the city of Wayfair, and he was giddy with anticipation for the delights he would find on the other side of it—the kind of liquid delights forbidden in the school because they tended to disrupt a student’s ability to control his spells. First, though, he had to go through the gate.

The clerk on duty wore the gray robe typical of the Sixth Order—but a short step from becoming a Master—and there was barely restrained impatience in his hazel eyes as he glanced up from the tome he was reading. “Name and rank?”

“Wanda. Apprentice of the Fourth Order, Conjurer.”

“Business in Wayfair?”

Wanda smiled and said, “Entertainment.”

The clerk looked at him closely and frowned. He had thin lips and the bland complexion of someone who spent most of their time inside. “You’re a recent graduate, aren’t you?” he asked, his voice heavy with resignation.

Wanda nodded.

The clerk sighed, made a note in his ledger, and said, “As you know, there is no curfew for those who have achieved the rank of Fourth Order, but it would be wise to limit your excursion into the city. There are many distractions—”

“That’s why I’m going,” Wanda interrupted, laughing. “To be distracted.”

The clerk frowned and shook his head. “Some distractions are best enjoyed in small doses,” he warned.

“Yes,” Wanda agreed, smiling. “Some are.”

The clerk paused to look him over again before asking, “Would you like to store your magical paraphernalia? It isn’t required, but it is recommended.”

Wanda shook his head. For four years, he had been required to leave his magic on school grounds because they believed he was too immature and inexperienced to be trusted with it. Now, as a graduate, he could do whatever he wanted.

“Are you sure?” the clerk asked, disapproval clear in his tone.

Wanda bristled; the clerk had the haughtiness of the typical Sixth Order. It stemmed from having the confidence of a master and the insecurities of a student. “Yes,” he said, a bit more defensively than he had intended.

The clerk sighed and made another note in his ledger.

“How long will you be outside the barrier?”

Wanda almost said that he would be back by curfew before he remembered he didn’t have one. “A day or two,” he said. “Maybe three.”

The clerk made another note in his ledger, reread what he had written, and then looked up again. “Very well, Wanda,” he said. “Try not to enjoy yourself too much. It has been the downfall of many fledgling apprentices.”

“Thank you,” Wanda said, fighting back the urge to grumble. He was not a fledgling apprentice, and he almost said as much. But he curbed his tongue; he was in too good a mood to let a pompous Sixth Order undermine his enthusiasm. “I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

The clerk stared at him for a few more seconds before gesturing him through the barrier. As Wanda walked by, he warned, “Try not to get into too much trouble, Wanda. I’d hate to have to come out there to get you.”

The barrier tingled as Wanda walked through it, and once he was on the other side, he smiled. Now, for the first time in four years, he was free. He didn’t have the threat of expulsion hanging over him. He hadn’t had to give up his little bag of magic. He didn’t have a curfew. And he had a pouch full of coins. His only question was: What should he do first?

As he crossed the long, wide bridge over the moat—another barrier, this time a physical one to keep invaders out instead of an energy field to keep magical mishaps in—he began to whistle again. He walked along the edge of the bridge and looked down at the moat. It was a hundred feet wide, half that deep, and filled with what looked like stagnant water covered with greenish-black algae. But he knew differently. The scum on the surface was a creature lying in wait for anything trying to cross the moat. The clerk who had given the Wizards’ School orientation had called it an algamoth and had used an old cow to demonstrate what would happen if anyone tried to enter (or leave) the school through the moat. The algamoth (the students called him Fred) had reached out with a pseudopod and swallowed up the struggling cow. The cow had bellowed for several seconds before falling silent, and then the guide offhandedly said there were other, more vicious things below the surface. Needless to say, no one tested the waters for the sake of an unsanctioned visit to Wayfair.

He walked to the end of the bridge and stepped onto the cobbled street. It wasn’t really a street yet; the moat was ringed by acres of grain, and it would take him at least fifteen minutes to reach the first farm dwellings. Beyond them would be the city’s bureaucracy (strategically placed to have the most protection from the school), temples, markets, inns, taverns, and brothels. He hurried forward; it would be a long walk before he got to the outskirts of the city where the seedier businesses could be found….

2

As Wanda moved quickly down the streets of Wayfair, he did his best to ignore the furtive glances of the simple-minded peasants, but he couldn’t help but chuckle when they began to shy away from him. He grinned, and they gave him an even wider berth, no doubt remembering the haunting strains of “The Happy Wizard’s Victims,” one of the ballads Folklore, the Village Idiot and Bard, had composed to commemorate the antics of a wizard whose mind had been frayed by a miscast spell. His smile faded somewhat, and he went back to ignoring the simple-minded peasants as best he could. (They tended to smell.) Let them think what they will about his good humor! Assuming, of course, that they were thinking in the first place—which was always questionable when dealing with simple-minded peasants.

He was close to the outskirts of the city when he was brought up short by the sight of a large, rainbow-colored bird perched atop a wooden sign that read Ye Olde Candle Shoppe. It squawked sharply several times—strangled squawks, as if a low tenor was fighting to break free from them. Then it wailed, quite clearly, “Waaaandaaaa” and repeated it, more sharply, “Wanda!” Wanda came to a stop as the tenor began to sing in a melodic, whimsical tone:

I once knew a wizard named Wanda the Good,
     Wanda the Good was his name!
Conjurer of demons it is understood
     that succubi sing of his fame!

The bird flapped its wings and hopped from one end of the wooden bar from which the sign hung to the other end. Then it broke into the second verse, its high-pitched crooning resounding through the street and causing many simple-minded peasants to stop and stare:

He brought to the school a demoness horde
     and swayed them unto his desire!
They ravished his body until they grew bored
     and sought out more sinister pleasure!

Wanda shook his head as the raucous bird found a comfortable perch, settled its wings, leaned back, and let its voice screech out as loud as it could:

They ran through the halls and peed in the well
     and ransacked the library books!
They danced with abandon on ceiling and wall
     and cackled until the place shook!

The bird’s head drooped and so did its voice as it slowly sang the next stanza in a near-whispered whistle:

Poor Wanda the Good was slow to respond,
     but came to his senses at last;
He chanted a spell that brought them around
     and bound them once more to their task!

The bird leapt from its perch and flapped around Wanda’s head for a few seconds before landing on his shoulder. By now the simple-minded peasants had moved to the other side of the street and were clustering near the corner. Many of them were shuffling from one foot to the other, as if they didn’t know what to do. Then the bird screeched into his ear:

His Master had come to see what he’d done
     and left without saying a word;
As Wanda the Good, Conjurer of Fun,
     went back to the demoness horde!

Wanda grimaced at the harsh sound but grinned as the memories evoked by the song’s lyrics flooded through him. Then the bird pecked his ear.

“Ouch!” Wanda cried as he slapped at the bird. But it had leapt off his shoulder and was fluttering about in front of him, chortling—sort of, birds aren’t good with chortling. Then it landed on the ground in front of him and began hopping from foot to foot. It squawked a few times and began to grow, transforming into a lean young apprentice with long, tangled black hair and a beak-like nose. He was thin and held his elbows close to his side, as if he were a totem pole dressed in a rainbow.

“Hi Wanda!” the young man chirped. “I heard about your conjuration, and I must say I am impressed! Maybe you could conjure up some succubi for me on my birthday? It sounds like lots of fun, not to mention an educational experience worthy of the Grand Master of Flatulence, Himself! I still don’t understand why that Old Fart punished you for conjuring up those demons. I mean, that was what you were supposed to be doing, wasn’t it? Master Tun didn’t need all those books, anyway.”

“Mesomorph,” Wanda said, pinching his ear to staunch the bleeding. “How many times do I have to tell you your beak is sharp? And those talons,” he added, rubbing his shoulder.

“Sorry Wanda, I forgot,” Mesomorph said, sidling up and putting his arm around Wanda’s shoulder. He frowned until his lower lip began to tremble and added in a mournful, pouty tone, “I was just happy to see you.”

Wanda glared in a stern-but-not-unfriendly manner before shrugging. “You’re lucky I’m in a good mood,” he said. “I am officially an Apprentice of the Fourth Order, Conjurer and I want to celebrate!

“Now you’re talking!” Mesomorph said, grinning and slapping Wanda on the back. “I have something to celebrate, too.”

“Oh?” Wanda asked, “What are you celebrating?”

“I transformed something the other day.”

Uh-oh, Wanda thought, this is going to be good. Any time Mesomorph experimented with magic, it usually wasn’t spoken of in polite company. But who said he was polite company? “Do tell,” he said, his voice low, eager.

“Well, I had just changed into a mouse to go exploring and found myself in that Old Tart’s chamber—you know, the one whose skin positively crackles when she walks by, just like dry parchment when it’s been rolled up too long?”

“Mistress Vayne?”

“Yes,” Mesomorph agreed, nodding happily. “That Old Tart. I was in her chamber and there was this scroll sitting on her desk, all smoothed out nice and pretty-like. Well, I couldn’t read it while I was a mouse so I changed into a housecat—they can read—and was quite surprised to find that I could not only read the runes but I understood them! It was a spell that would transform anything into anything, just the kind of spell I needed to play a certain little prank I had been thinking about doing.” Mesomorph paused innocently.

When Mesomorph began to hum the melody for Folklore’s ballad, “The Wizard and the Demoness Play House,” he asked, “And then what?”

“Oh,” Mesomorph said, “right. Well, you know that Old Bag of Wind, Master Grimsley?”

“Certainly,” Wanda said, nodding. “I took Introduction to Elemental Magic with him a few years ago.”

“Well,” Mesomorph said, leaning closer to his ear. “He isn’t a very nice person. I mean, how can he demand all that self-discipline and concentration? What kind of wizard wants to concentrate? It’s so much more fun when we don’t! Well, I wanted to show him that I could concentrate, so I went into his study to show him.”

“His private study?” Wanda asked, raising his eyebrows. No one was allowed in a Master’s private chamber without invitation. Ever.

Mesomorph nodded, “Sure. Why not? Anyway, when I told him I was going to change him into an old coot, he just looked at me kind of snooty-like and told me I couldn’t do it. Well, I was there to show him that I could do it, so I did.”

“You changed him into an old coot?” Wanda asked, half-smiling at the scene developing in his mind.

Mesomorph shook his head and sighed. “I know,” he said. “How can you change an old coot into an old coot? Well, while I was casting the spell, I asked myself the same thing: What good would it do to change an old coot like Master Grimsley into an old coot? I mean, where’s the difference between them? How would he know I had succeeded? So, in the middle of my spell—and you should have seen his eyes!—I changed the incantation a little bit, just enough to alter the outcome. I meant to change him into a chamber pot but.…”

Wanda groaned, relishing his friend’s story. He had been waiting for Mesomorph’s inevitable “but…” and let the pause linger so he could anticipate the ending.

Mesomorph looked down at his feet and started tapping a familiar rhythm with his toes. He started humming again, and when it became apparent that he wasn’t going to continue on his own, Wanda prompted him, “But?”

“Oh,” Mesomorph blinked. “Right,” he said, his voice somewhat distant. “At the last second—you know, just when the spell is about to take effect—I sort of changed things. It’s difficult to keep an image in my mind for so long, but I tried to keep focus on that chamber pot. I really, really tried. But, um, I sort of lost my train of thought. Sort of. I started thinking about what was in the chamber pot and, well, it got real aromatic all of a sudden. I mean, have you ever seen a five foot pile of fresh dung shambling around? Besides the Grand Master of Flatulence, of course. It is not a pretty site.”

Wanda stopped and shook his head, trying to imagine what Master Grimsley would look like as a walking pile of dung. Somehow, he couldn’t see that much difference. He chuckled and shook his head.

“Naturally,” Mesomorph continued, “I couldn’t stay in a room that smelled that bad, so I changed into a bird and flew away.”

They walked in silence for a half block, and then Mesomorph asked, concern in his tone, “You haven’t heard anything about Master Grimsley, have you? I mean, I hope somebody found him.…”

3

Ogon sat at a table with his back to the wall and a very dour expression on his face. Even though the room was fairly crowded and some patrons were standing near the entrance, the two adjacent tables were completely empty. (The simple-minded peasants were very much aware of the consequences of being too close to an angry Ogre: Folklore, the Village Idiot and Bard, had sung about it in “The Angry Ogre Finds a Meal.”)

“Grog!” Ogon yelled, slamming his dented pitcher on the cracked table. “Now!” he bellowed as an afterthought. He had learned long ago that if he appeared angry and impatient, he would receive remarkably swift service. To illustrate this, a new pitcher was already being set down by the time he had finished shouting the order. He growled—he didn’t want it to be too swift—as the shaking serving wench took a coin from the table and scampered away. Ironically, Ogon noted, he was probably the only patron in the place who could leave this much coin on the table without having to worry about it getting stolen. Of course, it didn’t really matter much since the coins weren’t as real as they seemed to be….

The door of the tavern opened and two young men came in, their unwelcome laughter filling up the quiet tavern with an unwanted cheerfulness. One of them was dressed in a pointy hat and flowing light blue robe, but the other wore a feathered cap, pantaloons, and a tunic that looked like it had been rolled around in berries and fruit. Ogon growled and sneered as they sat down at one of the adjacent tables and ordered ale. They were in much too high of spirits to suit Ogon, and he slammed his half-full pitcher down and glared in his most unpleasant manner until they looked at him.

“Ummm,” the one who had rolled in berries said, “you ought to do something about that growl. It sounds serious. Is it contagious?”

Taken aback by the question, Ogon left his glare frozen in place and listened as some of the simple-minded peasants moved closer the exit. Then he grinned, and laughter erupted from deep in his belly. (The peasants nearest the exit fled, screaming as they went, and it only made him laugh more robustly. Which, of course, led to more peasants fleeing and more laughter and—you get the idea.)

He lifted his pitcher and saluted them with the traditional, “Grognog!”

They returned his salute and drained their mugs of ale. “Barkeep!” Ogon bellowed. “Grog for friends!”

“If you don’t mind, Sir Ogre,” the colorful one said, “we prefer ale. No insult intended, of course, but our stomachs aren’t lined with iron like your stomach is, and we just, well, we just can’t handle the taste. I’m Mesomorph, Minor Apprentice of the First Order and this is Wanda the Good, Apprentice of the Fourth Order. We are pleased to make your acquaintance—” he paused and then asked, “What shall we call you?”

“Ogon,” Ogon said, pounding his chest and belching.

“Ogon? Now that is definitely an interesting name. Let’s see, now, how does that little ditty go?” He cleared his throat and sang, his voice annoyingly high-pitched:

I once knew an Ogre named Ogon
that bedded a lady from Wotan
.    and left her quite pleased
.    with effortless ease
because of his mighty and long one!

The two wizards broke into laughter and Ogon, enjoying the impromptu limerick joined in the merriment; after all, it had been written about his second cousin, twice removed. When a few of the peasants still standing near the door chuckled, he glared at them. They fled of course, as he knew they would, and he laughed some more—great, uproarious guffaws.

“Come,” Ogon said, gesturing to the chairs lying on their sides by his table. “We drink and sing of Ogres!”

“Well, now,” Mesomorph said, setting a chair upright and sitting down. “Ogres are, of course, an unpredictable lot of foul creatures—or so it is generally believed—but it is not often they come into the city. It is true, isn’t it, that you prefer the open wilderness to the bustle of the city streets?’

Ogon nodded energetically. “Easy kill things.”

“Really? I thought it would be easier in cities,” Mesomorph replied. “I mean, there are so many more things to kill in a city, aren’t there? Wildernesses don’t have nearly as many things in one place to pick from, do they?”

“Fight back,” Ogon grumbled, shaking his head.

“Ahhh,” Mesomorph said. “In the wilderness, the things you kill don’t fight back, but in cities, they do?”

Ogon shook his head and pounded the table, trying to think of the words he needed. He didn’t know very many of them and finally said, “More fight. Kill Ogon.”

“Oh,” Mesomorph said. “City things gang up on you? There are a lot more of them in the city, and you can’t fight all of them off? It must make it difficult for you to get food in cities, then, right?”

“Yes,” Ogon said, lifting his pitcher and draining it. “Grog!” he bellowed, setting the empty pitcher aside and belching. “Gangup,” he said, struggling with the new word.

While he waited for the grog, the two wizards chatted. He was glad; it was difficult for him to talk with humans. Their language was complicated, and he had difficulty making the sounds. Grunting was easier.

“Tell me, Ogon,” Mesomorph asked, “do you enjoy being an Ogre?”

Ogon didn’t understand the question, so he drank some grog and ignored it.

“Or,” Mesomorph continued, “would you like to be something else? Maybe a, oh-I-don’t-know, a dragon?”

Ogon knew about dragons. They were one of the few things ogres ran from. Ogres weren’t afraid of dragons, not really; ogres didn’t fear anything. But they didn’t understand how dragons could eat ogres. Ogres, after all, were supposed to eat other things, not be eaten by them.

“Now there’s a beast for you! All those long, shiny teeth and big claws!”

Ogon nodded. Dragons did have big claws and shiny teeth.

“I bet it would be nice to be a dragon.”

Ogon shook his head. Nice things didn’t eat ogres. Ogres ate nice things.

“I bet it would be easy for them to kill in towns. What do you think, Wanda? Wouldn’t you like to be a dragon?”

The bland wizard scratched his head and pulled on his ear. “Well,” he said, “From what Folklore, the Village Idiot and Bard, has sung, dragons are magnificent creatures, and the Wizards’ School certainly holds them in very high esteem. Master Tun even says they are ‘enemies or companions of exquisite capacity.’” He tugged on his ear some more, and then shook his head and snorted. “No, Mesomorph,” he said, “I am sure it would be quite nice to be a dragon, but I don’t think I’m at all that suited for it. I’m Wanda the Good, aren’t I? You said so, yourself! How can I go around the countryside burning villages and eating people? My delicate stomach couldn’t take it.”

“Spoil-sport,” Mesomorph grumbled, drinking his mug of ale. “And you call yourself a wizard. Why, I bet that you didn’t even conjure up all those succubi I heard about, either. I bet you only said you did. I mean, when was the last time you actually did a magic spell right, anyway? I mean, when was the last time I saw you do a magic spell right? Master Apprentice, indeed! Conjurer of warts, I say. Afraid of being a dragon.”

Ogon was not at all sure what they were talking about, so he drank some more grog and fought against a sudden feeling of light-headedness. It was good grog.

“Conjurer of warts!” Wanda retorted. “Why, I’ll show you!” With that, he began chanting and waving his hands about in a ridiculous manner that made him look a lot like some of the things Ogon had eaten when they were dying and trying to get away from him at the same time.

Ogon pointed, grumbled nonsensically, and waved his arms around for a few seconds before breaking out in renewed guffaws.

Wanda finished moving his arms about and pointed at the ceiling. Ogon looked up and saw something he didn’t recognize falling toward the table. It was a tiny little man-like thing, with lumpy skin. It landed on the table and bounced a couple of times.

“Ouch!” the thing shrieked, scrambling onto its feet. The top of its head barely reached the chin of the wizard. “What’s the big idea, dumping me on my bum like that?” It squealed. “I have pride you know! You can’t just conjure up a demon with impunity! I’m going to report you to the Damnable Bureaucracy when I get back! You’ll hear from my father, too! Who are you, anyway? And what do you want?”

Ogon stared at the tiny man-thing. It was naked, it fists were pressed against its hips, and it was tapping one clawed foot on the tabletop.

“By the gods,” Wanda muttered, leaning back. “You’re a Little Twit!”

“What of it?” the man-thing demanded.

“But—” Wanda shook his head as Mesomorph’s chortling rang through the tavern.

“Well?” the man-thing squealed. “Why did you summon me?”

“I—” Wanda glared at Mesomorph and jabbed him in the side. “Will you stop that? This is not funny.”

Mesomorph nodded energetically and said, around his laughter, “Is too!”

“I’m waiting?” the man-thing squawked.

“Oh, touch me, my little succubus,” Mesomorph wailed. “Make me feel good!” Mesomorph’s laughter ebbed slightly, and then he proclaimed, quite loudly, “Wanda the Wizard: Conjurer of Warts!”

Wanda turned to the Little Twit and asked, “What’s your name?”

Ogon didn’t understand what was going on, but he didn’t need to. He was concerned with something else: dragons. They were cunning, brutal beasts, and the thought of becoming one was almost more intoxicating than the nine pitchers of grog he had already consumed. And these two were wizards of great power, weren’t they? One had just conjured a succubus, hadn’t he? (He didn’t know anything about demons and had never heard of the Wizard Hierarchy [of which Mesomorph was quite at the bottom and Wanda was only a few steps higher] or he would have known better.) He interrupted Mesomorph’s jovial needling and overrode Wanda’s query to the Little Twit as he slammed his pitcher down and demanded, “Make me a dragon!”

Mesomorph, still laughing, pointed at him and said, “Poof! You’re a dragon.”

Oddly enough, Ogon didn’t feel any different.…

“I am called Ichthyosis the Great,” the Little Twit said.

“I’m a dragon,” Ogon said, blinking and pawing at his chest.

“Icky—” Mesomorph said, bursting into renewed chortling.

“Well, Ichthyosis the Great, I am Wanda the Good, Apprentice of the Fourth Order, Conjurer. I would like you to deliver a message for me. I want you to go to the Grand Master of Flatulence and tell him The Old Windbag has become a giant turd who needs help.”

“I’m a dragon,” Ogon repeated, blinking unsteadily.

Ichthyosis stared at the Conjurer for a few seconds, and then threw his tiny arms up in the air like a puppet springing to life, turned, and walked off the table. He hit the floor with a thump, cursed fiercely in a voice that sounded like a wounded sheep about to be eaten, and stalked out the door.

“I’m a dragon,” Ogon stated for the third time, and then stood up. He turned toward the few remaining peasants and growled menacingly. Most fled, but a few were already too drunk to realize the danger. They were later venerated by Folklore, the Village Idiot and Bard in a creatively titled ballad, “The Ballad of the Three Peasants Who Wouldn’t Leave and Died”.

Ogon flapped his wings (arms) and screamed, “I’m a flying dragon!” He drained his pitcher of grog and took a haphazard, drunken leap toward the table where the three drunken peasants still sat. He landed hard and belched forth the mouthful of alcohol, spraying it outward over the table, over the candle. It ignited as it passed the open flame of the candle and set one of the peasants on fire.

The peasant, being both simple-minded and drunk, watched the fire spread over his body for a few moments before it dawned on him that he was on fire. Then he said, “I’m on fire.” A second later, he screamed “I’m on fire!” and grabbed at his companions, spreading the flames over their ale-drenched tunics. In less than a minute, the three were staggering out the door, engulfed in flame, and falling on the street. Their screams echoed wildly—for a little while—as Ogon stared dumbly after them. Then he straightened up, brushing the ceiling with his head, and said, with great pride, “I’m a fire-breathing dragon!”

He turned and staggered from the tavern, waving his arms and roaring, “RRRAAARRRRRRGGGH! I’m a dragon!”

Mesomorph’s laughter followed after him, like an annoying little curse….

© 2014, all rights reserved.

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