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...Strange Bedfellows

Author: 
Wayland (Marc Morgan)
Old Vault Category: 
fanfiction
Old Vault ID: 
236

A Tale From the Land of Argyle

The chamber remained as it had been for the last thousand years. Large, leather-bound tomes with cracked spines were neatly arrayed along the room�s many shelves. The worktable in the center still held several vials, ewers, and a small cauldron, its contents long since dried away to leave a murky film at the bottom. From the one window a rose-colored light filtered in through the ever-present fog as the sun settled down over the unseen horizon. The light glinted off a jewel-encrusted skull that lay on the flagstone floor near the chamber�s iron-bound door, it�s sockets staring unseeingly into eternity. A thick patina of dust covered everything.

A breath of wind, seemingly from nowhere, blew across the room disturbing the dust. A flash of blue light snapped out, followed by a small cloud of sulphurous smoke. When the air had cleared, a sandy haired halfling could be seen standing on top of the worktable staring around himself in amazement. He wore a blue tunic over yellow leggings that tied off just below his knees. A bulging leather pack hung from his rounded shoulders and his right hand held a carved birch wand topped with a cracked and still smoking sapphire.

With a shout of joy, the little creature skipped across the table, scattering glass instruments left and right. Jumping down to the floor, he twirled about to gaze at his surroundings in astonishment and let out a cackle of delight.

�Oh, wow!� the halfling yelped. �That was even better than the exploding walnuts!�

He skipped across the table, scattering glass jars and utensils left and right to land with a resounding thump on the floor. Twirling about, he gazed at his surroundings in astonishment.

�Where in the world am I?� he wondered aloud. The diminutive rogue wandered over to the window and stood on tiptoe to look out. �Huh, can�t say much for the view!�

For the first time, his gaze fell to the wand stilled gripped in his hand. The sight of the smoldering gem at its tip brought a look of shock and horror to his chubby features.

�Oh no! Oh, Tarcasian is really gonna be mad this time!� He inspected the tip of the wand and disgustedly threw the useless item out the window. �Great! Just great! Now I�m gonna have to walk all the way back to the inn!�

The halfling turned and marched dejectedly toward the chamber door, kicking aside the skull as he did so. As the ancient piece of bone tumbled across the floor, the gems embedded in its surface scintillated with all the colors of the rainbow.

�Hullo! What�s this?� he called out in surprise. With out another thought he scampered across the room and scooped the skull up with both hands. Chrysoberyls, emeralds, and rubies glinted across the yellowed, scarred surface of the bone. The halfling gave out a low whistle of appreciation as he turned the skull over and over in his hands.

Without warning, the skull flew up out of the halfling�s grasp to hang in midair. Slowly it revolved to face the astonished thief. The ancient eye sockets lit with a burning orange glow. The ancient mandible creaked open and an eerie moan issued forth into the room.

With a shriek like that of a cornered rabbit, the halfling jumped back and slammed into the hard stone of the wall. With a whimper he slid down to lay in a quivering heap as he stretched out his arms as if to ward of the apparition before him.

The skull continued to wail for another moment or two as the fearful creature groveled on the floor. Then, as abruptly as it had begun, the sound ceased and the chamber became still once again.

A moment later, the halfling looked up at the still hovering skull and asked in a trembling whisper �Aren�t I supposed to be dead?�

�Ahem! Er�yes, well� Actually I was sort of hoping you�d die of fright.� replied the skull in a hollow voice.

�But aren�t you a lich?� asked the halfling, a little braver now, as he clambered to his feet.

�The proper term is demi-lich, but, yes. You are correct in essence.�

�Well, then, why aren�t I dead?�

The skull gave out an exasperated sigh and some of the fire went out of its gaze.

�Well, as to that, you see� well, things didn�t go exactly as I planned. I had everything prepared ahead of time, of course. But, then, I had some ideas of my own that I wanted to try. Certain aspects of the spell I felt should be altered in order to enhance my power. It was, after all, a one-shot deal and I wanted to get the best �gains for my gold�, so to speak.�

By this time the halfling had regained his composure and stood staring at the obviously undead spirit with a mixture of disbelief and disdain.

��Altered� the spell? �Altered�? You�re not supposed to muck around with higher order spells like that! Good grief! I�m not even a mage and I could have told you that!� The halfling spat in disgust and moved toward the door. �I�m not gonna stand around talking to a dead guy who couldn�t even turn himself into a proper lich! Besides, I�ve got to get back to the inn! Tarcasian�s gonna be mad enough when he finds out I�ve busted his wand.�

�No! Wait!� cried the lich in desperation, �Don�t go yet! I need to speak with you!�

�Forget it!� growled the halfling. He reached up and tugged at the handle of the massive oaken door. Slowly, it cracked open until there was enough space for the little thief to slip through.

�So long, loser! Hope you enjoy the rest of your death!� With a snort and a cackle, the halfling dodged through the portal and smacked directly into something large, soft and smelly.

�Ow! What the�!� The halfling gazed up and up until his eyes fell on the decaying visage of an extremely hungry ghoul.

�Yii!� With a howl of fear, the rotund rogue dashed back through the opening and slammed his full weight into the door until it closed with an ominous �thunk.�

�Yes, well,� purred the skull, � I may not be a proper demi-lich, but I still have some power. Do stay and chat for a while, won�t you?�

�That� was� I didn�t� uh� that�� stammered the halfling. �Where in the Nine Hells am I, anyway?� he yelped, regaining his composure.

�Ah, as to that� replied the lich, �you are in the Tower of Malakoth in what used to be the great Kingdom of Nether. I, of course, am � or rather, was � Malakoth.�

�Nether? Nether!� yelped the halfling, �But that means I�m in the Shroud! The Shroud!� Slowly, he crumpled into a dejected heap in the middle of the floor. �The Shroud. I�m stuck in the Shroud. I�m going to waste away and become a zombie, or some other such unpleasantness, and have to wander around for eternity sucking on rattails and other nastiness until some hero comes along and lops off my head! No offense.� he added in an aside to the lich.

�None taken, my dear boy. But, see here. I believe I have a solution to both our predicaments.�

The halfling looked up with renewed interest. �You know a way to get me out of here? Well, of course you do! You were obviously a mage at one time. You could just teleport me out of here!�

�Ah� well, no. You see, when I transferred my essence into this state I lost all my powers of spellcasting. But,� the skull hurried to interject, as the thief started to whine anew, �I still retain all my knowledge. See here, lad, what�s your name?�

�Ralby.� replied the halfling, suspiciously.

�Right then, Ralby. I believe you have some interest in learning the Arts Arcane?�

�Some interest! Oh, what I wouldn�t give to be a mage! But no one will teach me! That oaf, Tarcasian, keeps saying that halflings aren�t �predisposed� to be mages.� the halfling snorted in derision.

�Come, come, lad. Brace up! Anyone can learn to be a mage! I shall teach you myself!� encouraged the lich.

Ralby looked at the disembodied skull with renewed hope. �Really? You�d teach me to be a mage? Hey, wait a minute!� Ralby stared at the skull with renewed suspicion, �What�s the catch?�

�The �catch�, dear boy, is this: When you have attained enough skill you must help me research a way to either return me to mortal form or help me to attain true demi-lich status so that I may continue my quest for arcane knowledge.�

The halfling looked thoughtful for a moment. �Alright, it�s a deal!� He promptly stuck his hand out and then sheepishly placed it on his breast as he realized there was no hand to shake.

�Right then,� purred the lich, �let�s see what sort of an apprentice you�ll be. Close your eyes and concentrate!�

Ralby screwed up his face in concentration, eyes tightly shut.

�Now, repeat these words three times as quickly and loudly as you can: Owha, Tagoo, Siam.�

�Owha, Tagoo, Siam.�

�Owha Tagoo Siam!�

�Owhatagoosiam!�

Complete silence ruled the chamber for a moment. Cautiously, Ralby opened one eye and gazed curiously at the lich.

�What was supposed to happen, master?� he inquired.

�Hmm? What? Oh� nothing, nothing at all. I just wanted to see if you could follow directions. Let�s get down to business, shall we?�

 

...Strange Bedfellows © Wayland (Marc Morgan)

Migrate Wizard: 
First Release: 
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