Lizard folk in disguise
The Worst Wizard
The creature blinked once and made a low rumbling sound, that only just covered the muffled sounds of Kalborius in its gullet. Its eyes squinted and it pulled its lips into wide toothy grin as it watched Sage and Doxx charge down the center of the shelves. It squatted down low awaiting the charge unconcerned. Doxx, being the faster of the pair had her stick ready and was about to swing when we all heard a sound the sound of something spiting. Doxx turned her head and all I could hear her say, “There’s anoth—”
From between a pair of shelves on the right, a flesh-colored mass the size of a small pig slammed into Doxx, and then retracted back dragging Doxx with it. We all heard a loud grunt and the old woman scream in pain. Sage’s head turned to look down the shelves, and when from the left side another tongue slammed into Sage’s shield. But unlike the first one it simply pulled taut, and then stretched even farther as the Juggernaut continued to lumber down towards his quarry. Sage didn’t even break stride heedless of the of the giant mass of green flesh he now dragged behind him. The creature gurgled in frustration as it tried to regain its footing, tumbling behind the runaway warforged.
“Great, three targets,” The Blade said and loosed an arrow which lodged deeply into a spine of book on the shelf. The elf growled, and notched another arrow and loosed it, and it pierced the extended tongue attached to Sage, causing it to detach from him. The momentum carried it down the same aisle that Doxx disappeared down.
“What the?…nononono AGH!” Doxx shouted followed immediately followed by the sound of a pair of damp wet fleshy creatures slamming into each other. Sage ignited his armblade and swung at his target, easily cutting through its viscera with a sizzling sound. From inside the toad there was a scream of panic. The creature opened its mouth and attempted to rip off Sage’s sword arm with its maw. But Sage turned and it chewed instead on his shield. As it did so, the muffled screams from it stomach became clearer, “Watch it with the flaming sharp object!”
Bookshelf and I looked at each other and shrugged. He with a snap, pointed a cold white beam that struck the toad, and hoarfrost formed over its right shoulder and chest. It turned and glared at the warforged, grimacing. I then pulled on some light strands and cast a pair of strands toward Sage’s opponent. They manifested as bright purple bolts, but it felt different. I could feel the energy flow down the strands faster than before, and the bolts seemed to glow brighter than they had before. They both slammed into the toad thing and its gaze snapped to look at me, its eyes narrowing.
“That’s not good, is it?” I asked Bookshelf.
“Unlikely,” the warforged said.
“What in Dolurrh are banderhobbs doing here?” Rosa said in puzzlement. We both looked at the druid confused as she ran down and stopped at the intersection of shelves where Doxx had been dragged. She looked down between the rows of shelves and yelled, “Where are you Doxx? Where’s the other one?” and she rolled on the floor dodging a tongue that lashed out at her
Adrissa grimaced and bolted down the stacks drawing two short blades as she ran. Then she suddenly ducked, as another tongue shot out at her from her left, not two paces from where The Blade, Bookshelf and I stood. I then heard Doxx’s stick strike and crack bone, and the sound of a banderhobb grunt in pain.
“Wasn’t Doxx on the other side?” I asked, suddenly alarmed.
“I’m going to flank it,” The Blade said, and he darted to the left, trying to reach the end of the line of shelves. Unlike the middle of the room, the sides were dark, based that I couldn’t see any shadows with my eyes. At that point Rosa called out, “Whatever you do, stay away from the shadows!”
“What? Why—What the?” The Blade called out at about the same time Sage said, “It backed up between the shelves and vanished!” The Blade made a grunting sound and followed by the sound of teeth ripping leather and The Blade hissing in pain. Adrissa stood up and continued to run down towards the sounds where Doxx was swinging her stick, and I heard her swords slice into flesh and the banderhobb bellowed in pain.
Bookshelf ran to follow where Adrissa had gone, while I decided to follow The Blade. I rounded the corner and saw it dragging the elf behind it and darting between another pair of shelves, letting arrows fly as he ran. At least one found its mark, based on the grunting I heard.
“Sodding Baator,” I said, not having time to throw more magic at it. I ran and turned the corner and saw that the toad had released the Blade and now watched us with an evil smile. The Blade had been mauled and was now bleeding badly. I ran towards him putting my shield in front of me, expecting a tongue to lash forward. Then I pulled on a light strand and used it to weave a lattice to close the bleeding lacerations on The Blades’ shoulder. Nearby I could hear Bookshelf mutter, and I heard crackling ice, followed by a sound of wood on wet flesh, and the sounds of swords slicing and cutting.
Out of my vision, I heard Sage say, “You will not evade me that easil…what the?…WATCHOUT!”
I heard a creaking followed by a loud thump a short distance away, followed by more creaking. I turned my head to look at the banderhobb and it smiled and waved its hand, wriggling its fingers as it stepped into a shadow and melted away. I furrowed my brow confused, when I heard the creaking and thumping repeat itself and get louder. The sounds of books scattering on the floor, followed by more crashes and booming sounds growing louder. The Blade looked at me and staggered to his feet. He turned his head toward the crashing sound, muttering; “It baited us, and its partner pushed over the shelves! We need to run!”
The Blade grabbed my hand and pulled as we ran towards the center aisle. The crashing of the bookcases grew louder as one shelf hit another as the stacks were collapsing. The Blade pulled me along, his longer legs and faster gait causing me to stumble and trip. We were several paces away from the aisle, when the shelves on our left shuddered and started to collapse. The stack, dumped its contents onto our head as it proceeded to tip, coming down upon us.
“Pike this!” I leapt forward and pulled back on The Blades’ arm, pulling him into an embrace with me. I then cast a strand of light towards the aisle and pulled on it hard snapping it. The air rushed through my hair as I clutched elf and dragged him with me, following the strand to its terminus. From behind me the thundering explosion I left behind, shredded books and scattered papers everywhere. The I watched the stack push over its neighbor, as it collapsed into a pile of splintered wood. The air rushed through my hair as the shelves shattered behind us. But I barely had time to digest this.
We stood there, The Blade’s chest touching my breastplate. But even clad so, I could feel there was a hard object above his breastbone. As we embraced, I felt a surge of energy from it. It wasn’t like the strands that I used. It wasn’t dark or light, but what I felt was something more familiar. It felt like one of those times where I would summon the light from within me, but the energy was inside whatever he wore.
It felt like me.
I looked up at The Blade, his masked face betrayed a momentary flicker of surprise, as I realized he too could feel the same sensation I did. But we had no time to dwell on it, as he aimed his bow towards the far side of the room, and loosed a pair of arrows. Each sank deep into the toad that had only a moment before emerged from the shadows at the end of the shelves. It looked down at the arrows that jutted from its hide with disinterest and then looked at the The Blade and I, shaking its head. It then raised a hand up and extended a finger to its lips and made a wheezing “Shush” sound.
There then was the sound of a loud crack, and Doxx rolled out from the stack, clutching Adrissa. The shelves fell over and as they did so and started to fall upon on the next set. As the last shelf fell, there was only a solitary guttural “Eep!” sound, followed by a loud pop, and squishing noise. On the floor, green and pink ichor flowed into the aisle from the crushed banderhobb within.
The other banderhobb was still wiggling its fingers at us when a shadow emerged from behind it. It turned in confusion as a large brown bear embraced it and started to tear at it with claws and teeth. It returned the favor with its toothy maw, ripping into bear hide with glee. Blood and ichor flew everywhere, as Rosa kept at it, holding her toad in place. The banderhobb then looked around in alarm, as it tried and failed to move towards a shadow and was quickly assaulted by cold light beams from Bookshelf, Doxx’s stick breaking more bones, and finally Adrissa cutting into it, causing it to dissolve into more sticky goo.
Turning, I saw Sage chase after the third one, as it lumbered to the edge of the room. They both ran on top of the collapsed shelves, as both of their bulks, crushed the wood beneath their feet of steel and flesh. Suddenly, it turned to face Sage and bellowed. Out from its mouth in a ball of slime flew out Kalborius, who slammed into the warforged. Sage, off-balance from chasing the banderhobb, caught the man and was bowled over, hitting the floor so hard, the shelves that still stood, shook, and books fell from their shelves. The banderhobb was still smiling and made a motion with its hand and pointed towards a thick paned window. It ran over next to it and crouched down and disappeared.
Quiet filled the room as dust drifted down from the rafters. Ruined shelves and their contents were now scattered across the floor. Many of the books were torn from their bindings, and few seemed to escape the fracas unscathed. Among the wreckage, Sage’s armored form creaked and shuddered as he slowly sat up, cradling the dripping form of Kalborius in his arms.
“MRorr…Is everyone alright?” the bear asked as it shifted back into Rosa.
“Never…better,” Doxx said flopping down casting her arms wide across the length of shattered wood.
“Kalborius?” Sage asked the dazed man in his arms. The wiry man was panting heavily, as he wiped goop from his short shaggy blonde hair. His face was covered in a scaggy scruff of a thin beard, now matted against his cheeks. He patted the ground and found a pair of wire rimmed spectacles that he put on, only to realize that one lens was cracked, and the other missing.
“I’m…fine. Where is it?” the man said as he squinted looking around at the pile of books with difficulty.
“Where is what?” Sage asked.
“My spellbook. It was under my arm, as I was sorting out other texts, when that thing swallowed me,” the man replied.
“I think this is it…based on the slime,” I said as I pulled on a light strand, to lift a slimy text from the floor, unwilling to touch it.
“Oh no! It will be ruined!” Kalborious exclaimed as he approached and saw the soaked book.
“I can probably dry it out,” I said as I started to weave both light and dark strands and squeezed them, pushing the fluid out of the pages as the others talked.
“What did you call these things?” Bookshelf asked Rosa.
“Banderhobbs,” Rosa said with disgust, but she looked around the room nervously. “They are a magical amalgamation of flesh and shadow, and not a real creature of nature.”
Bookshelf thought a moment, “Something that a druid would create, based on you know about them?”
“Here Sage,” I said handing the thin tome to the warforged. “Can you look at this and see if I should do more, while I clean off Kalborious?” I slapped away the hand of the man as he reached for the book. “You are still covered in slime, so don’t touch it till I’m done.” The man nodded and patiently waited, while Sage flipped through the book.
“You really should use a spell crystal, they are far more dura….ble,” The warforged cocked its head as it looked at the book in confusion, and then addressed Kaborious. “This is a cookbook.”
“Yes yes, all magic spells are recipes really,” the man said as he patiently waited for me to finish cleansing him.
Sage shook his head, “No. This is book about cooking food. This page is a recipe for Karnathi sausage bread pudding. Although…why is it covered with diagrams in…wax?”
“It was the only thing handy, and I inscribed the arcane language on top of it. Only a wizard would understand.” Kalborius said dismissively.
“I am a wizard,” Sage said evenly as he flipped through more pages in the book. “And these drawings don’t make any sense.”
“What do you mean wax?” Adrissa asked, as she cleaned a cut on her arm with a cloth. She walked over and looked at the book as Sage flipped through the pages. “Wait…crayon? You can write spell books with crayon?”
“Not normally,” Bookshelf said.
“Certainly, you can!” Kalborius said defensively. “I did exactly what the priest said to—”
“You took wizard training…from a priest?” I asked.
“The Silver Flame disciples helped me understand arcana and encouraged me to take notes as I used my spells…to sometime surprising effects.” Kalborius admitted.
Sage shook his head, “That’s backwards. You don’t cast a spell randomly and take notes. You learn the spell and then cast it.” The warforged handed the ‘spell book’ to the man. “I don’t think you are a wizard.”
“I am!” Kalborius said, with a tone that said he was insulted by the entire conversation.
Bookshelf and I looked at each other for a moment, before we said the same thing, “He’s a sorcerer.”
“I am NOT!” Kalborius said in a huff.
“Anyway,” Rosa continued, “I have never known a druid to create them. The Children of Winter don’t. I heard about them from Greensingers.”
“What’s a Greensinger?” I asked, unfamiliar with the term.
“They are a sect that lives deep in the Eldeen Reaches, and they spent time with the fey of Seelie and Unseelie courts. But I have only heard of them being used by…” and Rosa’s voice trailed off for a moment as she looked around on edge.
“By…what?” Doxx asked impatiently.
“Well…covens of…hags.” Rosa said finishing her thought.
I gulped. I knew there were many kinds of hags in the multiverse. Each has access to strange magics and powers. They respected no one but other hags. The most famous hag I knew of was Ravel Puzzlewell, who was mazed by the Lady of Pain well before my time in Sigil. But I didn’t have much time to dwell on this as at the uttering of the word, ‘hags’ Kalborious reacted.
His face grew pale, and he started to shiver as he shook his head back and forth saying, “No…no…nononono! Not her. I don’t want to do anything with her.”
“Her?” I asked confused. “A…hag?”
Kalborius gulped and nodded. “Y-y-yes her. She lives in the hills nearby. Only the desperate seek her out, but she usually just spurns most seekers. But the stories about her…they say she was here before Karrn the Conquerer, and she turned him away…yet she spoke with Galifar years later. When people do manage to make a deal with her, it never ends well.”
“Does she have a name?” I asked in a low voice.
Kalborious nodded and muttered, “Twisted Mirth.”
The Blade was agitated and grabbed the man by the collar, “So, why would a hag send a banderhobb to a Cannith—OUCH!”
I turned to look at The Blade, and half of his face was now covered in snow and ice. He turned and looked back at the window, and there stood the banderhobb, holding a second ball of snow it its as it looked at The Blade, its eyes narrowed into a glare. It bellowed and then melted into the shadow again disappearing.
We ran to the window. The Blade was the fastest of all of us, and he reached the windows and threw it open to look down at the street, just as another snowball hit him in the face. I stood next to the window and leaned in cautiously and looked below. There standing in the snow beneath a lantern, stood the injured banderhobb. It beckoned with its scrawny arms at us. It didn’t run or move; it just watched the window with interest.
“It wants us to follow it?” I asked confused. “Why would we do that?”
“I’m doing no such thing,” Doxx said, turning back towards Kalborius. “Where’s the book we were looking for?”
Kalborius shook himself to regain his composure, and started to look around the floor, “I had just pulled it from that shelf…under there,” as he pointed to a crushed bookcase. “…when it swallowed me. But I don’t—”
“It has it,” Rosa said pulling herself to look over the window sill and look at the street below. There under the lamp, the banderhobb’s tongue snaked out of its mouth, holding a tome of some sort. It waved it around with its tongue before retracting it and stuffing the tome back into its mouth. “And if I had to make a guess…Twisted Mirth wants to talk to us.”
Kalborius Framlin "Wizard Extraordinaire" is my son's favorite concept character. A sorcerer, raised by priests, who led him to believe he was a Wizard. It's just more funny that Sage (also played by my son) is arguing with himself about being a wizard.
Twisted Mirth on the other hand...we'll talk about her soon. Very Soon.