The Red Hand

Samir's Adventure Log - The Lost Monastery of Phos, Part 1

By all the gods it’s boring in here! They let me loose into the world and expect me to come back to the mundane tasks of an Academy apprentice without dying of boredom? Those are cruel, CRUEL masters we have.
But at least I got to practice my skills at lifting things at range, which will help me disarm traps and erm… “find” interesting objects that lies around people’s belts, desks, drawers, etc.

How rude! Not a single one of my partners in crime (looting is a crime supposedly. Go figure) agreed to help me exploit a loophole in the price limit of magic objects to buy (I can only buy items that are worth 2000gp, unlike others who can buy 4000gp)! I’d buy their cheap stuff and they’d buy my above 2000gp stuff and we’d switch it all once outside the Academy. It was fool proof! But nooooooo, no one was interested at all!
Mavrikos, upon seeing me, simply told me he wasn’t interested in ANYTHING related to me. I didn’t even said “hello” to him!
And Hasdrubal even gave me a speech about some guy named Fred who wouldn’t allow this exploit. Who the hell is “Fred” anyway? That the quartermaster or something?
Fine then! I’ll buy my own magic stuff, with blackjack and hookers!
Well, since no one has an ounce of daring in them, might as well start learning on the Watchumacallits in Rusk that I owe Kohlm for that favor he gave me.

Ok, so I’ve just learned that the Mewling Quims was a name thrown at us as a joke, meaning our group is given the permission to choose a proper name with the Academy’s blessing.
I need to come up with something quick before one of the others ruins my fun.
The Brotherhood of the Hand? That would piss the ladies off to no end. Or the opposite, like the Sisterhood of the Travelling Robes? I like the word “hand” though. After all, we do get the JOB done, ey EY!?? Bah!
How about the White Heroes Of Redemptive Elves, of W.H.O.R.E.s for short?
It’s a work in progress.

Ok, so we were called into a meeting with the Big Cahoonas and we were treated with a seat at the table. We’re advancing in life I tell you whhhat!

That was weird. We had out skulls opened and they put some sort of shadow creatures inside our heads in order to guard our thoughts about a conspiracy we’re about to hear from. Why would they need to do that? Aren’t we trustworthy?

Mind. BLOWN! This is conspiracy that will ch…

Ok, so I can’t even write about tis without getting confused and passing out? That sucks goat balls.

Hmmm, wonder if there’s a way to do it…

Ok, I gave up my attempts after I supposedly started singing a nursery song while standing on a table at the dinner hall and then fainting… while soiling myself. I hate quitting…

After much discussing, we decided to go to the monastery where Mavrikos barely escaped with his life in order to acquire one of…

Damn it! Those were my finest clothes!

Ok, to a monastery we go, just for the hell of it. Happy now?!

We end up near a village and go to the tavern to ask questions regarding the monk house ruins. Turns out the old Abbot survived and lives in a city nearby. As the scribe discuss and plan and tactic-kalize and whatnot, Hasdrubal nudges me and discreetly points me towards a farmer who seems to take a keen interest in our conversation. As we prepare to leave, the fellow leaves the tavern, running towards the field. I quickly change my appearance to look like the tavern maid (in case I get caught I could just say that I like him, giggle like an idiot and run away and none would be the wiser) and follow him. What the hell, I’m good at sneaking now?!! He never saw me!
Turns out him and a bunch of goat tenders want to ambush us to steal our gold and be rich. This will be fun!

Ok, so I casted an illusion of yours truly a hundred feet in front of us, acting like a badass scout, stopping at any suspicious spot and acting all suspicious-y, trying to draw their hand and ruin their surprise.
It worked! My illusion soon received a crossbow bolt to the imaginary face.
A flaming sphere was all it took for the amateur highwaymen to see the error of their ways and the final nail in their thievery careers’ lives was pushed by our dear Orfée with one of her speeches about doing good and being good boys and whatnot.

We arrived at the city and immediately went to the Cathedral, where Mavrikos acted all paladiny in order to get info about the old Abbott. Turns out he lives a quiet life and made a vow of silence. Guess Mavrikos will do the talking for the both of them, like usual. ZING!

As we’re about to leave, I see an acolyte looking at us, and bolting in the opposite direction, probably going to warn someone of our coming, so, using my quick wits, I spin a grand tail about my need to pee and bolt in the direction of the acolyte, but I’m met with failure: the acolyte is nowhere to be found. And so I come back to the waiting acolyte and tell him I relieved myself in the street. Hehehe puuure genius!

We arrive at the priests’ retirement home and Mavrikos goes inside while we wait in the street. The acolyte was eager to leave, so as soon as he turns the corner I assume his appearance in order to prevent a dagger in the back, should one be coming. Orfée is fooled until I tell her of my full bladder, which she gets, and goes to sit back on the bench in a huff.

Sure enough, a priest and some thugs comes close and orders me back to the cathedral, which I feign to do until I throw a spell at his back. Pow! Right in the kisser!

Fighting time! And I got a super cool spell wand that lets me move at twice the range I did in the past. Try and hit me when I’m THAT far away, suckers!

The damn priest flew away when we were kicking his ass! And the thugs, too. All but one that we captured. He refused to turn in his friends. I tried to take the priest’s appearance and make it seem like I was captured, too, so that I could tell the thug that the gig was up, that we should just tell them who we were, but the group didn’t understand the intricacies of my plan and looked at me like I was an idiot. Finesse of the brain is not their forte, sadly…

Ok, we’re back at the cathedral and Mavrikos is PISSED! He’s arguing with the Bishop to the point where the Bishop clearly threatens Mav with religious sanctions or something. I take the priest’s appearance and we ask if he knows who that is, but he tells us no. We do not believe him though.
He’s an untrustworthy fellow, that one. Hey! Maybe he’s from that cult of Phos that was a heresy and was wiped out centuries ago! Maybe they’ve infiltrated the Church and are all evil and shit… Bah! I’ll let the smart ones figure that one out.
The bishop suggests an inn in the city for us to use, but we’re not THAT stupid, so we go to the second higher pricy inn instead. That’ll show him!

So we’re at the inn now and we’ve rented a private table where we can discuss our next steps. Mavrikos detected a scrying spell in our room though and tries to tell Orfée that we are being watched, to disastrous results: Orfée spills the beans and it looks like she did this on purpose, too! Why would she want the spy to know that we know? Wouldn’t the spy knowing that we know make him or her more knowing that we know, you know? I don’t understand that girl sometimes.

Well, since the gig is up, might as well force the scryer’s hands by taunting him! Nothing like a bruised ego to eliminate all the careful weaving of traps and intrigue, replaced by reckless charging in a fit of rage at us! Eh? EH?!
So I change appearance and take the shape of a naked Bishop, ready to run around the inn and outside, blessing the populace as I go. That’ll do it!

Nope. Apparently it didn’t work, as Orfée is pleading with the Inn’s owner to not kick us out, saying something about me being “special” or something…
Oh, and I get to have a lecture from Orfée, who didn’t want to piss off someone who tried to kill us, but wants him to know that we know they know? And the group balks at my suggestion that we use the port key to go back to the Academy in order to teleport back near the ruins, thus making them lose our trails and giving us a WHOLE day advantage over them (I mean, even if they DID spot us 2 minutes after our teleportation, it would still mean they’d have to make the day trip to our new location, no?). I just don’t get it. Ah well, such is life.

Mavrikos tells us that the Abbott kept insisting about praying while facing south, so the group believes that there might be an underground entrance at the southernmost point in the monastery ruins, which makes sense. So off to the village we go!

We’re back at the village and we gather another clue: the forces that destroyed the monastery came… from the SOUTH! We’ll get that damn rel…

Good thing I brought another set of clothes… We’ll go explore the south of the ruins to find random treasure, then!

We’re at the ruins and its pouring rain outside (of course it’s outside!). Visibility is atrocious. We barely see the shape of a man approaching us on the road in time to react. Turns out it’s the wannabe thief from the day prior, warning us that thugs are looking for us and are coming this way. Well, what do you know? Orfée’s speech actually WORKED! Maybe I should try her approaches… that is, if I don’t die of boredom while attempting it.

So we prepare ourselves for the upcoming fight and I’m to be the lookout person on this little encounter. I go ahead on the road and find a hiding place. Soon enough, I hear horses coming up the road, so send an arcane message to Orfée, warning them of their approach. They’ll fall into a trap and it won’t be us this time! I can’t wait!

No traps!?? Just Mavrikos talking to this inquisitor fellow!??? What the hell is that? We had them in a TRAP!!! These scribes will be the death of me, I swear!

So Mavrikos ended up telling the killers off, so the fight begins!

Poor Hasdrubal… He really should stop attending Althea’s little soirées, because his posturing in front of the enemy made one of them study his moves and get his number. As soon as the fight was on Hasdy suffered a crippling stab to the gut and he was out of commission before he could say “could you oil my back?”

The fight was a tough one, and we nearly lost Mavrikos, who was assailed on all sides from three assassins. I got to make the killing blow to the Inquisitor though. And guess what!??? I didn’t get a scratch YET again! Yay Me! One was able to run away to tell the Bishop about the inquisitor’s death though… At least we know it was the bishop who sent him and the coward ran away when Mavrikos was down for the count, which might convince his Whoriness that we have no more reason to stay and investigate.

So, not bad for a days’ work! We got rid of the Bishop’s lackey and we have the way clear to go get the…

Gods damnit! Next time I bring my brown pants…

How to better help...

As the sun was slowly setting over the glacier, looking out the windows the blue shadow of her robe made strange hue behind her on the floor. Thinking back to the past few days, the events were still burned in her memory. After much time gazing on the glacier once the setting sun disappeared behind the horizon, Orphé decided to go back to her small desk in one of those student rooms where the sun, light and colors where strangely missing.

Sitting down, she took her pen and a piece of parchment. Well, I will write an essay on our last journey and see how it all goes. Starting to pen her words for her tutor and trying once again to be a formal and good student. But yet again, since that final dire battle with the golden mask wearer Nepta she caught herself thinking of it, lost in her thoughts. Yet again, it was more than mere moments as she saw the ink dried on her pen and the big splash spot on her sheet. It must have been at least few minutes if not more. Still torn within herself, Orphé was wondering if there is something more she could do or could learn to better help her friend – but what? I am not one for heroics like Hasdrubal, I am not one for crazy plan and stunt like Samir, I hate necromantic magic so there is nothing in that avenue – poor Nasha, I am but far not equal to Rhea in her all-knowing sense of premonition, so what can I do? And laughed at the thought of charming an undead… what a derision I was, and I don’t think I’ve help my friend enough or the fullest of my magical abilities. O yes they really like my understanding of flesh fixing with magic, but only that? Why I don’t feel at peace with myself and the contribution I make to the group.

On that she decided it was more than past time to get into bed. During the night she woke up, startled, completely awake… I was dreaming, I had an omen… I understand what it is I should do to be more useful and helpful within the group! Immediately standing up, dressing and started making her way inside the academy toward her destination.
Going to one of the master chamber, she stood there patiently until the occasion presented itself to present her self-deducted mission. When the door opened, Orphé went inside and spoke in the respectful tone of one student finding a solution to one’s problem and exposing it to get some blessing:
“Master, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to be more proactive and somewhat aggressive in certain aspect of my magic, all this of course to support and help the Muling Quimz be more efficient and able to address the mission assigned to us. I request humbly that you teach me a little bit more of your speciality magic so I can complement my knowledge and expertise. Would you help me?”

The answer she got was more stunning and surprising than she was expecting. Returning to her room walking on a cloud and trying to set in order her first assignment was an exercise she did not expected to do. Not only Master Skarlag said he would help her, he offered her to train her in is specialization to help her help the Muling Quimz…. Orphé went stray to her master, Master Tannister to explain the situation and the offer, but being the gentlemen he is, he brushed Orphé concern with a nice and elegant gesture saying that he was aware of such things and she could take advantage of all the offers made to her, beside he had other engagement and wished he luck in her new assignment….

Well, that was a bizarre turn of even for Orphé, going back to school for a couple of days to retrain her magical knowledge from enchantment to Evocation. Well that would be challenging but she finally felt at peace with her, she now had two sure way to help the group, one in magic and one in her healing abilities….

Truths Revealed
Let's get this plot started.

Once again, the masters summoned their apprentices to the apartments of Master Conjurer Broju and once more he created the dark and private demiplane where the group held their meetings. This time however, in addition to the eight masters’ chairs, seats had been added for their apprentices. Simpler seats, certainly, folding chairs to their mentors’ thrones. As they approached the table, the apprentices noticed, standing at attention in the centre of the table, what appeared to be a squad of thumb-sized inky black imp-like creatures. Once everyone has taken a seat, apprentices to the right of their lords, interestingly enough, Orfée next to Therin Skarlag, Althea Guezult began:

-Now that we’ve dealt with Vikkard’s little personal matter we can return to our work.
-Bloody right, adds Master Skarlag.
-Where do we stand Master Carrow?
-Well, hmph… As you can see, young Skarlag resolved his twice-taught apprentice problem. This is a good start, but we still need to replace the apprentices lost by Masters Broju and Tannister. As for the Regalia, I believe we have a lead on most of the components. For the rest, I believe we could…
-Ah, excuse me, interjects Lyrion Tannister. I think we should start at the beginning, no? He gestures towards the creatures in the centre of the table. We wouldn’t want our students too confused.
-Ah… Yes… Hmph… Captain?

As he calls out, one of the imps steps out of rank and in front of its brethren. It snaps a salute to the old diviner and turns back to face its troop. Almost immediately, one of the soldiers walks over to the wizard’s open hand lets itself be picked up. Master Carrow then walks behind Rhea, taking a golden key out of his pocket.

-Ah, hrrm, you see, young students, what we are about to discuss here is of the utmost sensitivity. Consequently, we cannot take the chance that any of this information inadvertently leaves your lips. For this, brave captain Slshsslrn and his troop have agreed to guard your thoughts for the length of this conspiracy.

As he speaks, he seems to insert the golden key into the nape of Rhea’s neck and proceeds to open up her skull like a chest and, delicately, deposit the creature into her head before closing it up again. The apprentice appears far less surprised than one would expect. Once done with Rhea, the old human goes around the table and repeats the process for each apprentice. Although, some attempt to resist, their masters, depending on their personality, in turn negotiate with them or simply overpower them. Each wizard experiences the procedure in a relatively similar manner; as their skull is opened their is a sort of split in their perception and they feel as they are standing next to Professor Carrow looking within their own mind. Within it, they see odd visualizations of their thoughts and beliefs, as if the abstract concepts were given physical forms to allow one to understand and manipulate them.

-Eh, cough, now, don’t be too concerned, the guards will refrain from interfering unless you attempt to discuss or otherwise divulge information about our, huh, conspiracy, to outsiders. In fact, we each have been fitted with very similar safeguards. Now, where were we?
-The Panoply, yes?
-Ah, yes, the Regalia.
-Would you mind, Wolann, if I set the scene first, asks Mistress Gyth.
-Uh, as you please.
-You see children. As apprentices, we shared much of the same experiences as you have and amidst all our successes, there was one thing which could never be set aside: death and the suffering it brings. I won’t bore you with the details, but we were all face to face with some rather gruesome events and most of us vowed long ago to make things better for Lyria. Truly, what is the point of near-limitless power if we cannot defeat life’s greatest nemesis. Certainly, you must remember from your lectures that this is not a wholly original idea. As each society reaches a certain level of power, some of its elites get it into their head that they will somehow evade, trick or even defeat death. They each create or imbue some object with the power necessary to attain that goal and, invariably, after some initial measure of success, fail spectacularly. We, however, are not petulant children trying to stay up beyond our bedtime. We had the time and the resources to consider this problem from all angles before taking action and you, young acolytes, are the actors.
-Truly, interrupts Kryseis, our champions if you will. She smiles at Mavrikos.
-The secret, you see, is myth, adds Mistress Guezult, suddenly animated by the opportunity to pontificate.
-Right, grumbles Draktooth. People are easily blinded images and their own preconceptions. Each of those kings and popes tried to defeat their death, Thanatos, the Guide, Azaël, or whatnot, not Death, capital D and, when one of its incarnations begins to wane the others intervene and reset the balance. Althea figured out that by collecting enough of the items in one Regalia we could assault enough incarnations of Death to actually ensnare It. Unfortunately, our original attempt wasn’t entirely fruitful.
Master Skarlags sniffs.
-That’s correct, continues Mistress Guezult. The artifacts, are not your run of the mill wizard-made trinkets. To achieve their goals, they are intimately steeped in myth, so their acquisition needs to be narratively meaningful.
-What Mistress Guezult is saying is that we can’t just port in, deal with any opposition, and come back. The taking actually needs to be complicated. Gods-cursed idiocy, but true nonetheless, adds Master Skarlag. So the old man…
-… Master Carrow, interrupts Lyrion smoothly, considered alternatives and laid out the path that would give us the greatest chance of acquiring the eight pieces we need. Which led us to you and the leads Master Carrow was just now mentioning…
-Ah, the old man clears his throat, leads, that’s correct. As you know, the Nefheri mask was our first success. While studying the object with Oghma, I was able to identify a certain resonance that I believe might be common to all the pieces. With that information, I can say, with an important degree of certitude that Sithrak‘s Martyrs have one of the relics in their fortress and that another one is in Sekunta. I’m still trying to pinpoint the other items, but we should consider other avenues of information. There might be something in the Library of K’nosha and I also believe Mistress Kryseis was on the verge of uncovering something in the southern reaches of Taviros when her base of operation was attacked…

The Larissan Heresy
Excerpt from one of the lectures of Mistress Kryseis

… and that’s the current state of the church of Phos…

One oft-forgotten episode in the church’s history is the Larissan Heresy. It all started some centuries ago, in a monastery in the mountains east of the city-state of Larissa. The monastery’s abbot, father Paisios, a well-regarded scholar, claimed he had received a vision from Phos and Skotos. He claimed that, in the vision, Phos and Skotos had revealed to him that they were in fact brothers, two sides of the same coin, birthed by Lyria to fend off Thanatos. They explained that their differences, interpreted by early church intellectuals as opposition, were, in fact, meant to be complementary.

Paisios published tracts and gave sermons, spreading his beliefs far and wide. The people were eager for the succor Paisios theology provided. The belief that they had two divine allies in their war against death was welcome. Unfortunately, what followed is not one of the church’s proudest moments. The Patriarch at the time was paranoid and interpreted Paisios campaign as an attack on his power. He rallied the church’s knights and led a crusade against the southern parishes that had adopted the new beliefs.

The knights made short work of the peasants and merchants that made up most of the congregations. The Patriarch tried to coerce Paisios into recanting, but the latter steadfastly refused. In the end, the Patriarch, unable to convince the Council of Cardinals to support an execution, exiled Paisios and his disciples. They were packed on boats, rafts really, and sent out to sea.

That was perhaps the last major schism in Taviros and, aside from some older elves, it is probable that no one in the League has ever heard of the Larissan Heresy.

A Long-Awaited Reunion

As Mavrikos and Anastasia materialized in Master Broju’s laboratory, the smell of smoke still clinging to their bodies, Vikkard rushed over and took Anastasia in his arms, tears streaming down his face.
-Oh! Anastasia!
-Wha… Who? Vikkard? Lord above, what ever has happened to you? You are so… old…
-I will explain later, but now is not the time, yes? How are you? Are you well?
-Yes… Oh! My sister! Where is Maria?
-Your sister? I’m afraid only you and the paladin made it through… Perhaps Rhialla was unable to power the ritual completely? Master Carrow and I will look and see what can be done.
Carrow nods.
-In the meantime, please follow Master Tannister to your quarters. I believe you need rest, yes? We will speak later.
Tyrion extends his hand to young woman and takes her away from the room, surreptitiously casting a soothing spell at her.
-Oh! You look like that small man that fixes our mekanical toys.
The remaining masters turn towards Mavrikos.
-Now, little warrior, you will tell us what happened, yes? And where is my apprentice?

Throughout the evening, the rest of the group returns to their bodies in various states of panic and the masters get each apprentice to replay the events of their time on Earth. Their stories told, they are dismissed to allow the masters to discuss their next moves.

The Second Litany of the Mewling Quims

Hulio the Fair kept strumming his lute, building up the excitement from the crowd. Another inn at the outskirt of civilization, excited that the legendary Hulio would deign to grace them with his presence, He that would be laughed off the stage in any city big enough to appear on a map. But he didn’t complain, for he had found his niche: the hamlets and outposts, far removed from civilized society, where the populace, hungry for any change in their mundane lives, would worship the mediocre talents of a failed bard. The farmers’ wives would throw themselves at him when their husbands would fall to the floor in a drunken stupor. The pay wasn’t great, though the free lodging, food and the soft caress of a woman was more than enough for him to live a comfortable, content life.
And the fact that his patron, a great, mysterious mage with a wicked smile, would compose most of his songs for him was an even greater boon to him, leaving him free of the stress of the artistic mind.

And thus Hulio started his second Litany of the Mewling Quims.

Our heroes of Whadi came back to their lairs
To report all their heroic affairs

Bloodied from their fights
With the Priest of the blights
Their courage attaining new untold heights!

But their journey was far from over
No time to be hungover
For their masters sent them to find her

Who’s ‘her’ you may be wondering
Rhialla, her senses lacking
For she chose the road of boot licking

Also a master’s precious thing
That also needed some saving
Unknown name for Samir wasn’t listening

Soon Hasdrubal’s Mewling Quims
Were sent to the outer rims
On a world that looked pretty grim

The world’s magic near gone
Their bodies could not be counted on
So they used a vessel as pawn

They soon met with Mavrikos
That Paladin of Mighty Phos
Who never lacked in virtuous mottoes

So the Quims were just glad
To see him they thought he was rad
Until he mentioned Rhialla just went nomad

Now the scribes came together
To decide as to which tether
Needed first to be cut altogether?

Bored to tears our good Samir
Left the door in the rear
In search of another beer

He came back with some horses
Stolen from some type of armed forces
By his vessel’s criminal sources

The decision was made
To Go to Rhialla’s aid
For she had the teleport grenade

Turns out that bitch was a shrewd
Ambitious cunt with a mood
And told the Quims they were surely screwed

With no way out of this world
Our heroes’ hopes were to be hurled
Their minds and hopes just simply whorled

But the Quims sensed her great weakness
For they baited her ambition sickness
And bartered the grenade for some mysterious secrets

For a dwarf living there had found
A magic library hidden underground
Surely Rhialla’s thirst would make her come around

Sure enough she agreed
To make the exchange out of greed
The Mewling Quims had now a way to succeed

Now off to save What-chu-ma-call-it
In the palace they’d need to hit
Well-guarded by an army of bigots

They sought out the guards cook
To help poison what they took
Which cleared the way for a quick look

They found the princess in her room
With her sister in gloom
Too stupid to see their impending doom

The Quims had to drag them gently
To the secret library
The two dolts rambling about some ‘Hail Mary’

Once there The Quims barricaded
The door for they were raided
By the guards that if defeated would be downgraded

Ritual just completed the princess went away
But the Mewling Quims’ vessel needed to stay
So they joined Hasdrubal to the fray

Just to piss off the traitor
Samir alighted the library with fire
While Orfée scrambled for water

All fought to the end theirs deaths
Not their last breaths
For their souls came back to their true selves

Hasdrubal their great leader died last
Having fought through a blast
Of bullets, mortars and all that sass

Now Hasdrubal Thesh is his name
Of the Mewling Quims fame
Make sure to your neighbours his name you proclaim!

A Teachable Moment

Lyrion had been considering taking on Fea’sha as an apprentice. The young elven girl was as attractive as she was talented, but her recent performance had been lackluster. She was obviously distracted and the flush in her cheeks suggested she was embarrassed.
-I’d rather not have to rummage through your mind to get to the bottom of this.
-Master, I’d rather not.
-Oh, I’m sorry, is this your office? Is that your halfling-sized desk?
Fea’sha wasn’t stupid enough to miss the real annoyance behind Master Tannister’s quips.
-It’s… huh… It’s Felina.
-Your familiar?
-She’s… huh… She’s in her longing time and I can’t work and share headspace with that mess. It takes all my focus to not just rub myself against every piece of furniture in this office.
-Oh, ah, that explains the flush…
-How do you do it?
-What do you mean?
-Well, you only take on pussycat familiars.
-Ah, but you forget: A Tannister always spays his pets. Now, I think we can find another way to scratch your itch…

All is fair in lust and greed...

Althea’s snickered derisively, her laughter echoing in throughout her chambers. «Does she know?» Realizing it provided her an avenue to tease him with, he begun to second guess his choice. «Know what? She’s an attractive woman. There is nothing more to it.» Hasdrubal snapped back to his unseen mentor, as he progressed further in her quarters, on his guard.

«If you say so…» echoed Althea’s voice, twisting the dagger in her pupil’s pride a little bit more.

Here he was at her request for another session, another encounter. It was their physical beauty that caught each other’s eyes but it was their competitive spirit that maintained the vitality of their little arrangement.

Each tryst was a contest, one that pitted the vigor of youth against calculated wisdom of experience, his physical might against her arcane prowess. The rule of engagement were simple: Althea would try to subdue him, but if Hasdrubal managed capture her arcane bond, she would surrender herself to him.

Verily, the thrill of the chase provided for moments of pure ecstasy…

As Althea was not above using trickery to gain the upper hand, Hasdrubal remained alert as he was making his way in her bedroom.

It was there that he found her.

She was waiting, standing in the open in the middle of room. At his sight, she removed her red cloak, letting it fall on the floor, revealing her lithe and graceful frame. Before him, a beautiful elven woman of pearly complexion with long green hairs tied into a braid… A familiar figure…

Hasdrubal surveyed her intently, his heart racing in anticipation. It was exact replica but for her green eyes, burning with unnatural confidence and intensity… Althea’s determination remaining fully apparent even in this assumed form

She circled right hand’s finger around her pointy ear gliding down her neck to her exposed shoulders. Her fingers continued down along the loop of her necklace fishing a star-shaped pendant inside her dress which she let rest on her bosom with a bit of flourish.

Her arcane bond. His quarry.

Hasdrubal cracked his neck, assuming a wrestling stance. «Ready when you are.»

«Who says I’m not?» replied Althea, smiling with assurance as dark vines slowly crept near Hasdrubal’s ankles…

The Litany of the Mewling Quims

The Inn of the Tired Horse was filled to the brim this evening, for it was a rare occasion that a bard of Hulio the Fair’s fame came all the way to this cursed outpost in the middle of nowhere. The surrounding farmsteads and villages all congregated to the inn that night, husbands bringing their children and wives.
All silently waited for the bard, adjusting his instrument, basking in the excitement from the crowd. After a while, he lifted his left hand for silence and thus started the Litany of the Mewling Quims

(to the tune of an Irish drinking song)

There once was this band
Of the Dreaded Red Hand
Who hailed from some foreign land

Their name was so grim
A prophecy that they’d win
If they’d just stop losing their limbs

At their head a Transmuter
Hasdrubal the looter
Though I sure wish he was cuter

By his hand many foes
Perished by his mighty blows
After which he made many poses

His companions all scribes
I’m not making some gibes
For this song is not for diatribes

Orfée is the Enchantress
Who’s stuck to convalesce
Her friends who will never impress

Nasah’s their Necromancer
But he looks like a prancer
Yet his arrows are something to answer

Rhea the Diviner
Paranoid you’d say of her
Always looking into her damn mirror

Samir’s the illusionist
Who the rumors persist
That his pants contains a huge penis

And Eydan Stormmane
Let’s not forget his name
For his reward still needs to be claimed

Under their fearless leader
Hasdrubal the Cleaver
They came for Whadi’s dead treasures

Entering Whadi’s Necropolis
Which made the ghouls hiss
They saw that things sure looked amiss

After the undead escaped
They just charged and got raped
But somehow survived and looked quite scraped

In the end they saved Whadi
All scratched up they looked funny
Their trousers dripping with pee-pee

Now my song’s filled to the brim
I cannot write more on whim
For the heroes called the Mewling Quims

I hope you’ll remember
The names of its members
For some will soon surely be dismembered

Now should you meet them
One day don’t spit your phlegm
Instead you should gift them some items

Especially ones with magic
That should do the trick
And make sure to give them to Samir

Now my song’s at an end
Spread the word to your friend
For The Mewling Quims will soon transcend

Into what we don’t know
But I’m sure we’ll go ‘whoa’
For their deaths will not make Whadi cry in woe

A comeuppance

“And so we find the defendant not guilty for lack of proof tying him directly to the sabotaged potion. Case dismissed”

Samir barely heard the hammer hitting the gavel, nor did he dare look up at Theofyr, who was surely smiling arrogantly in his direction.

Goldentongue rarely felt frustrated or angry, for he often chose the nonchalance route when life kicked him in the sack. But this time, he couldn’t contain the darkness slowly building up inside his heart. How Theofyr could get away with sabotaging potions provided by the Academy to the Mewling Quims, he raged, slowly getting up and walking aimlessly outside the Academy’s courtroom.

- Hey Samir, Nasah quipped, locking step with his moody friend. Things could’ve been a lot worse if Rhea drank the potion during combat. Even if Theofyr got away with it, we should consider ourselves lucky that none of us died from his hatred of you.

- I know, Naz, Samir replied, ignoring the gentle barb from his friend. But that sack-less turd won, and I can’t—I won’t allow that! Thanks a bunch for returning me to normal though. I’ve been a sexy, irresistible woman for a long time, and I’ve had my fill for quite a while with this trick.

- Oh, it’s nothing. Glad I could help.

- The offer’s still on the table, you know. When I activate the ring, I don’t feel any pain, so you can study the undead without actually opening up a real undead, which would solve at the very least part of your moral leanings, whatever they are.

- Yes I know, Samir, and I will take you up on the offer should I have time for it, surely.

Nasah didn’t mention his reluctance was more about the thought of dissecting an always-talking & joking Samir, making quips about his anatomy and being the general pain in the rump all throughout an otherwise interesting exercise.

Samir soon left his friend for his quarters, still seething. Once in his room, sleep was long in claiming him, for he was restless, wracking his brain for a plan to extract vengeance on his eternal foe.




The next morning, as Samir was absent-mindedly putting on his scholar robes with the help of a Mage Hand cantrip, Samir’s thought were back at the Family crypt he was recently in, the one with the blue tiles. As he was thinking of ways that he could have avoided being struck by the tiles and able to grab the magic coin underneath the trap, he came upon a realization that shook him to his very core.

Aside from a reluctant mage, he was also a charming rogue, proficient with his hands. In fact, most of his pranks relied on his deft hands when nobody was looking.

- What if…

Samir started running toward the library, an idea slowly forming into his head.




- There it is! Samir squeaked in delight, stabbing an old tome with his finger, giggling. ‘Ranged Legerdemain’ it is called! A trick used by mischievous tricksters in the past! I’ve found my way to get back at Theofyr!

Samir ignored the angry looks cast his way, accompanied with multiple shush sound from surrounding students and ran off the library, singing a bawdy tavern song along the way.




-Nasah! Samir roared, barging in Nasah’s classroom, interrupting the teacher. Come! Quick!

- Young man! The teacher intoned, How dare you interrupt my class with—

- How dare I? Well, just like I did, dear teacher! Now Nasah! Come with me? Bah!

Seeing his comrade’s horrified look, he relented.

- Ok, I’ll see you after class then… but hurry!

And with that, Samir turned tail, leaving a flustered teacher blubbering at the empty air.




- Alright. So it’s a deal then? Samir asked, his trademark grin back, to the despair of all.

Nasah sighed.

- Ok, fine. But I do not want to know what you will be doing wearing the body of Theofyr tonight.

- Deal! Samir laughed, activating his cursed ring.




- Silence! Theofyr intoned to the class bravely.

He’d finally concocted a potion able to change the tone of his voice somewhat (albeit if taken daily) and was back to his old, arrogant ways.

- The brewing you are about to witness is something that has not been attempted in the past three thousand years, the half-man droned on, wallowing in his self-importance. Now, Kohila, he pointed toward a nervous assistant, you were present in this room the whole night to guard my ingredients from low-born rascals, yes?

- Y-yess, Lord Theofyr. N-nobody who wasn’t allowed to came in this room last night, she repeated (as requested the night before by her master himself, who kept talking to her while always looking over her shoulder inside his lab, grinning), confused.

Theofyr nodded slowly, satisfied.

- Let us begin then. The first ingredient is a Goblin Mummy’s toe, to be burned over an open flame within the cauldron, so as to catch the resulting ashes. See the movement of my wrist? Gentle clockwork movements with pauses every eight breaths only! Pay attention, now, you sniveling worms! The ashes will not be as potent without this technique! It took me three years of research to locate this technique for this particular potion, so the least you could do is be appreciative of my effort by listening intently, you hear? He roared, finding pleasure at the nervous looks cast his way.

The class continued this way for a while, Theofyr arrogantly explaining each steps that slowly brought him to the final ingredient, a potion he had concocted himself the previous week, so as not to share the whole recipe to the low-born crowd watching him.

- And now for the final ingredient, a secret one. What? Do you honestly believe that I would’ve shared the results of years of research with the likes of you, he sneered. Consider yourselves lucky that you have learned ancient potion brewing techniques not seen for three millennia!

Despite the assurance from his worthless assistant, Theofyr still felt apprehension while pouring the last drop into the cauldron. Samir was never late in his retributions towards his multiple attempts at killing him. And this time he had nearly succeeded in killing the whole group of his friends. He shook his head, sadly. Perhaps next time he’ll have another go at providing these pathetic arcanists with their just deserts.

No explosion. Theofyr sighed in relief despite himself. If an occasion to get back at him was ever a proper time, now would have been it, after all.

- And now, he intoned, you will witness a transformation when I drink this potion. If my theory is correct, and it is most assuredly so, I should be able to have a dragon’s firebreath at my disposal at the very least once every moon cycle, and that, for as long as I live! He screamed, triumphant, feeling an unfamiliar warmth building up in his gut.

- Let us reduce this mannequin to ashes, he said theatrically.

He advanced slowly towards the wooden dummy, beaming with pride and looking at the class, the warmth getting hotter and hotter within him. Something stopped him in his tracks though: leaning on the door, arms crossed and grinning mischievously, a mirror image of himself was looking back at him, expectant.

- What is this, he screamed, turning towards his double. How is it poss… YOU! he pointed, accusatory. What have you d—

That was the moment the dragon’s breath came out of Theofyr, uncontrolled, and coming from the wrong orifice no less!

The last thing Theofyr saw as he was frantically trying to remove his burning pants, was a knowing smile from his double, just before he disappeared outside his classroom. Then he passed out from the pain.




- Come in, Draktooth calmly said, at the door.

- Hey! Master Dee! You wanted to see me? Samir asked by way of introduction.

Draktooth, sighed, smiling inwardly.

- Yes I did, young Samir. There is a trial coming up against you for the incident that happened in Theofyr’s class. The poor lad cannot stop farting jets of flames from his arsehole and, given the ancient roots of the potion, I’m afraid a solution is far from being found soon.

- I fail to see how the court will find me guilty, Master. You know, the whole lack of proof directly tying me to this and the fact that I didn’t do anything, of course.

- Of course you were not involved, Student. However, Theofyr, for all of his flaws, do have a clique of supporters whose backgrounds surprisingly involve nobility, you know. In fact, one of his lackey’s familiar happened to be ‘lost’ in the laboratory when Nasah performed a spell on you, which turned you into a replica of our dear friend. Now, the court will have no choice but to perform the same spell on you and your ring, to see if the mechanics work. My guess is that it will work nicely, yes?

- What ring, Samir asked innocently.

Draktooth raised an eyebrow.

- Ok, ok, fine! I’ll take the blame and face the music for that that lava-shitting prick’s current situation, Samir mumbled.

- You risk being found guilty of attempted murder on this one, lad. The penalty of which is death.

Samir didn’t answer, shuffling his feet.

Draktooth sighed.

- I’ve been following you and I know of your future plans of opening a house of secret-trading in the guise of a bordello or a tavern. In fact, this might help me a lot in the long run, so I’m inclined to help – nay – to invest in you for this. Give me the ring.

Reluctantly, Samir provided his prized treasure.

Draktooth snatched the ring from Samir’s hand and swept up to the middle of his study, where some form of clawed hand sat in the middle of an intricate table covered by a finely crafted red velvet tablecloth.

The Master of Illusions dropped the ring in the hand’s palm and quickly stepped back before it closed around the ring. The clawed hand started to vibrate softly, red light coming out of the numerous cracks of its desiccated skin. Suddenly, a globe of darkness appeared above the hand, about three feet in diameter and in which strange runes floated within, lazily moving around in strange, chaotic patterns. Draktooth brought forth a potion from his person and quickly drank it. He then proceeded to grab a pair of spectacles framed in what Samir thought was weird green bones engraved with words from an unknown language. Taking a deep breath, steeling himself, Draktooth then took the pair of golden tongues lying beside the hand, scanned the runes and when he located what he was after, grabbed the wanted rune and dragged it out of the globe, not without tremendous effort. Once outside its confines, the rune started to vibrate violently, but Samir’s master quickly brought it to the ring on his left finger, making the rune disappear inside it. Sighing in relief, Draktooth slumped down on a nearby chair, exhausted.

- You can now take back your ring, young one. The hand is satiated, so you are safe. I’ve removed the part that allowed you to abuse this ring so freely, so when the prosecution will try to test your ring, it will fail and your innocence, or rather, the lack of proof directly linking you to Theofyr’s predicament, will become a reality. You owe me one hell of a favor for this, child.

- Yeah, I get that a lot lately, but I believe that this neat arcane exploit, which you’ve infused into your own ring, should be fair payment, yes, Samir said, smiling and wiggling his eyebrows knowingly.

Draktooth barked out a laugh.

- I suppose it is, ha!

- Master? How will I achieve what I set out to do which you seem to approve of now that I cannot change ma appearance at will?

- Oh? The Academy has items that can arrange that, Student. Oh, it is far from being as potent as what you had, but I believe you could manage with this quite well.

- Really, Samir excitedly squeaked. Well, that’s great! I’ll go to the Academy’s Depot right away, with your permission, of course. Oh, and I would also like to save from gold by visiting our party’s friend in Whadi, a poor sod who’s enamored with Rhea. His armors have a quarter of its original pricing cut for us, and I would like to own a Mithral Chain Shirt for my next mission. I’m kinda tired of being stabbed all the time…

- You have my blessing for this, but do not loiter in the city for too long, young trickster.

- You got it, boss! Samir said, already at his Master’s doors.




Mistress Septi, a young acolyte said, slowly entering the High Priestess’ quarters. Septi, exhausted from the past weeks’ events, sighed, resigned.

- What is it, Vognu?

- A member of the heroes of Whadi is here, Blessed. One of Hasdrubal’s Mewling Quims that the bards keep singing about. The shy one, Eydan if my memory serves. He was not present during their trials against the leader of the blessed warriors, but our agents confirms his status as one of their members. He said that the Academy is sending him somewhere far on a secret mission of some sort and that he would like to know that should any rewards would have to be bestowed upon his party, that he could have his share right now, so as to have further funds to help him on his next journey for the Academy.

- Yes indeed, a voice boomed from Septi’s entrance.

Eydan simply stood there, smiling.

Where have I seen that smile before, Septi thought, rising as she acknowledged Eydan’s presence with a bow. Wasn’t he the shy one of the group? Eydan simply kept smiling and winked at her with a silly blue hat on sitting his head.


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