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Magic Man

17 Flamerule 1372

Silent Image (illusion). Focus: a bit of fleece. The image one visualizes materializes, albeit in image form, sans scent, sound, or any other aspect of a corporeal state. This image lasts as long as one concentrates on maintaining the illusion, or until touched, prodded, or poked.

After that first night’s performance, I finished my chores in haste so that I could arrive early. I assisted with the setup of the plank seating for the audience, as well as the frequent fetching of ales for Fenris. In return, he permitted me to flutter excitedly in his periphery while he checked his component bag, arranged his props, and donned his regal-looking robes, which blazed crimson in the late afternoon sun and seemed to dance and blend with the shadows cast by the torches that illuminated the evening shows.

Frequently between the various activities involved during preparation, Fenris would idly fan a deck of playing cards fluidly onto the makeshift table, the arrangement circular like the tail of a peacock, and then—equally smoothly—he’d gather them into a neat stack held within his hand.

I cleared my throat.

Fenris looked up. “What is it, boy?”

“Can you, um, well, I was wondering, could you show me how to do that, Mr. Fantastic?”

“Show you what? Oh, this? That’s nothing; just a standard flourish. You understand what flourish means, boy?”

The small garden outside our cottage—untended these last two years—sprung to mind. “Um, doesn’t it mean when plants grow?”

“What? What was that you said? When plants grow?” Fenris scowled so fiercely I took a step backward. But then his brow crinkled not unkindly. “Ha! Yes, you could say that. There’s growing involved, certainly.”

He leaned forward across the table and lowered his voice. “So you wish to learn, do you? How to make a flourish?” And the sense of fear and thrill pulsing through me was so powerful I could barely hold still, much less nod.

“Well then, have a seat, young Master…what did you say your name was again, boy?”

“I didn’t, sir.”

“Eh?” He cupped his hand to his ear. “You’ll have to project better than that. I’m too old to listen to halfling whispers.”

“M—Morgan.”

“Morgan, hrm.” He pinched the tip of his beard. “You’ll need something better than that if we’re going to teach you about flourishes.”

“Sir?”

“Never mind that. Sit down already; I don’t have all day.”

I obeyed, slipping gingerly onto the barrel across from him. He slapped the deck of cards onto the table.

“Cut it.”

Having seen my father playing Three Dragon Ante at the tavern before, I did as he asked.

“Now peek at the top card—ah, ah!—don’t let me see! Did you get a good look at it? Keep it in your head. Now shuffle the deck, but thoroughly.”

Clumsily, I shuffled them the cards as best I could, nearly folding several of them in the process. My cheeks burning, I returned the deck.

The mage did not seem to notice my discomfort, but stared intently at the cards, then took them and in the same gesture fanned them in the same pattern I had marveled at earlier.

“Now then, you still recall which card you chose earlier? Good. Hold that image in your mind.” I pictured the card—druid, scythe in hand. He extended a hand, finger pointed, toward the arrangement, pausing over a card here or there before moving again, then alighting upon one, his hand steady. “Ah. Here we go. See for yourself.”

Holding my breath, I reached for it, flipping it to reveal the three of the white dragon.

Fenris leaned back, satisfied.

“It’s not the card.”

“What?” His smile faded.

“That’s not the card I chose.”

“Of course it is; are you certain?”

I nodded.

“Hmm.” He looked at the arrangement again. “Aha! I see the problem. The planes were in slight disarray. Clearly, I meant to choose this one.”

A flip of this card revealed green dragon’s number nine. “Well?”

I shook my head.

“This is preposterous. Surely, something must be amiss here.” He began flipping over the cards several at a time, none of them revealing the druid. His scowl returned, and he glared at me. “Are you sure you didn’t tamper with the deck?”

I shook my head again, wondering if a clumsy shuffled counted as tampering.

“You didn’t hide the card, thinking you could make a fool out of Fenris the Fantastic?”

“No sir,” I protested, “I couldn’t have hidden it if I tried.”

“You are correct, young Master Morgan. You couldn’t have hidden it from one such as I. Empty your pockets.”

I turned the pockets in my worn leggings inside out. He shook his head. “No, clearly not…but wait! Inside your shirt, by your heart.”

Skeptically, I grasped at the fabric, then frowned. Something was there. Reaching inside, I discovered a card, the druid staring stoically into the distance. How had that gotten there?

Before I could ponder further, Fenris interrupted. “Impressive! Perhaps you’ve a bit of the Art after all.” He reached behind my ear, pulling yet another druid.

“In fact, you seem to be filled to the brim with it!” He pulled another card deftly from behind my other ear.

“One might say,” he gestured, his hands held directly before my eyes, “that the Art seemingly explodes from you!” and his fingers spread outward and the two cards became many, scattering from his hands like fireworks, each of them bearing the same imprinted design.

Fenris smiled. “Close your mouth, boy, lest you swallow a card accidentally.”

I closed it.

“You believed I had failed, didn’t you?” He gestured toward the scattered cards on the table; they began to organize themselves back into a coherent deck. “You want to learn the Art, then here’s lesson number one: magic is a sale. They want something; you sell it.” He sat back and released a long, satisfied belch. “Whether they knew they wanted it to begin with is a question for another time.”

* * * * * * *

Mystra’s breasts, I hate bards.

Fochlucan. The House of the Harp. Another evening, another night of revelry. Although I’ve no fight with revelry. It’s having to work during it that’s grating. That, and the sudden determined rainfall that caught me before I could get my wares gathered and relocated beneath a nearby awning. The scroll of Ghost Sound didn’t make it, unfortunately, and the occasional sound of laughter that bursts forth from the crumbled remains of the paper startles nearby passersby.

From a tree branch somewhere above me, Hedwig wants to know why I’m not inside with the rest of the humans, somewhere dry and warm. I sense curiosity more than concern through the link; she’s perfectly content where she is, but she’s thinking her master is acting rather foolishly, and I can’t say I disagree.

“Hey! Magic man. You got any love potions for sale?” The questioner’s a burly, heavyset human, I think, although with his size and smell I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a touch of orc somewhere back there.

“‘Fraid I’m fresh out, my friend. Besides, a man with your talents doesn’t need any help; am I right? You’re probably fending them off.”

Big, tall, and hairy nods and starts to make toward the party across the street.

“But hold up. Once you do choose the lucky lady, and you want to impress them, I’ve got something that’ll help you out.”

I hold up a curiously curled piece of iron. “This, my friend, helps ensure stamina and, uh, girth, during all your most, er, social, of activities.”

He stares at me. Then his upper lip curls. “Are you tryin’ to say I’ve got problems in bed? Because if you are—”

“Of course not! I’m saying once you show them your sword—and I’m sure it’s impressive enough as it is—then, when you’ve got this, trust me, the ladies will never want you to sheathe it, if you take my meaning.”

He’s still scowling, but he asks, “How much?”

“Three for ten silver or ten for twenty.”

He snorts and starts to turn away.

“For you? Three for five silver.”

“You saying I need more than one?”

“They’re single-use. Sure, if you’re only planning on giving a girl one good time, that’s fine. But what if your evening is particularly busy? I’ll cut you a deal on the set of ten. Ten for seven silvers, what do you say?”

He says, “One. For one silver. And it had better work.”

“Oh, it’ll work so well you’ll wish you had bought ten.”

“It better,” he says, handing me the coin.

He saunters toward the party and I wonder if Fenris was talking about this when he called magic a sale.

“Did I just hear you praising that fellow’s sword?”

“Jonah.”

“Magnos,” my roommate grins, rubbing his hands together in the cold. “Tell me all about that man’s sword. I’m dying to know.”

“I wouldn’t know. But if you’d like I’ll have Hedwig pass along a letter to him, telling him about my friend who would love to learn more about his sword firsthand.”

“And I’ll tell him your little trinket’s got all the magic of a burnt pork chop,” he laughed. “Where did you find those things, anyway? They look like components from failed spell-casting attempts.”

“That’s because they are. I found them after one of Miresk’s transmutation classes.”

“I thought they looked familiar. Oh, hello Hedwig,” Jonah said, as my familiar fluttered onto his shoulder. She bobbed her beak at him and let him pet her briefly before she took to higher branches again.

A pair of partygoers approaches. “Hey, Magnos. Do you have any of those Bear’s Endurance potions tonight?”

“Saved one just for you.”

Jonah frowns as I pocket the change. “You really should rejoin the Spellguard. It beats hawking wares to the partygoers of Silverymoon. And it’s more noble—”

“And if by ‘noble’ you mean ‘unutterably dull’ then we are in complete agreement.”

“Serving the city is an honor that most of our classmates would crave!”

“And they’re welcome to it,” I say, beginning to pack my things. “As for me, there are only so many hours I can stare at a protective ward making sure it’s still there before I start to go mad. You know, I’ll bet that’s how Halaster got his start…”

“Magnos,” he says, but before he can continue lecturing me, someone else on the street says, “Magnos?”

I groan and try to finish packing some potions into a knapsack.

“I didn’t know you were coming to this party,” says Susan Drake.

“Yes,” her companion joins in. “How lovely to see you in my neck of the woods.”

“Well, I promised my friend I’d help him sell some of these trinkets,” I nod toward Jonah. “You know how expensive those conjuration classes can be.”

“Hello, Susan,” my friend interjects eagerly. Then, less so, “Selcar.”

“Juno, right?” returns the bard amiably. “Always a pleasure.” He picks up one of the iron fragments to examine it. “Whatever are you doing with this rubbish?”

“Decorative jewelry,” I say. “They’re apparently quite popular with the bard crowd. You can have some. On the house. I mean, if that’s okay with you, Jonah.”

He shoots a look at me and then says, “Yeah. I mean, sure. Glad to give you some.”

“Those look familiar,” muses Susan.

“Yes, well,” I pack the rest of them quickly. “Jonah and I really must get going. Rain’s getting bad and all that.”

“Of course,” says Selcar. “Come along, Susan. The night is still young,” he grins.

“I’ll see you around, Jonah,” she says. Then to me, “It was nice seeing you again,” before she relents to Selcar’s grip as he walks toward Fochlucan.

“I hate bards,” I mutter, as I finish gathering the last of my wares.

“Huh?” murmurs Jonah, his eyes still fixed on Susan. “What? Oh, Selcar? Forget him.” He claps me on the back. “We’ll head to the Syphilitic Gnome and have our pick of the finest dwarven cleavage the Marches have to offer! By the time we’re through, they’ll have renamed Mithral Hall—”

I give him an urgent shove.

“What’s the big deal?” he starts to say. “Oh.”

A patrolman in the distinctive gear of the Knights in Silver approaches. “Your pardon, sirs, but would you happen to be selling gear of augmentative power to the local civilian populace?” he inquires.

“Augmentative?” I reply. “That’s really a question subject to conjecture—”

“I was speaking to the friendly neighborhood merchant here,” he cuts me off, pointing toward Jonah.

“What?” he cries.

“I distinctly observed you offering goods of a magical nature to that couple just now,” the guard says.

“Well, I wouldn’t quite say magical, but…”

“What else is in that pack? Let me see now.”

“Look, they’re not mine. They’re his.”

“I don’t care whose they are; if you’re selling potentially dangerous magical artifacts on the street without the Lady’s charter, I’m hauling you in, do you bloody well hear me?”

Jonah shoots me a panicked look; fortunately, at that moment, one last wheeze of laughter bursts from the discarded scroll on the street. The guard, startled, checks over his shoulder for the person who isn’t there. That gives us an opening.

Jonah points. “Look! That gnome’s running around naked!”

“What?” The guard—obviously in lack of better judgment—does just that, and while he does, I manage the incantation; curse Jonah for putting that image in my mind. Sure enough, a gnome with an obscenely large nose and an even more prominent endowment waddles in the distance, stumbling from alcohol, or perhaps the imbalance of his proportions.

“Stay right there!” the man orders us before running toward the illusion. I send it scurrying into the distance and around a corner.

“Why in the Nine Hells did you say those were my wares?” says Jonah.

“Relax. Now you can tell that girl in evocation how you dodged the Knights in Silver while you were partying at the House of the Harp. She’ll be eating out of the palm of your hand.”

“You think so?” he says, brightening. Then, “Don’t change the subject, Magnos! That was not the act of a friend.” We hear the shouts of the guard in the distance. “We should leave the area. Come on.”

I start to follow, but I hear other shouts, these coming from the party. Bursts of song, happy conversation. A distinctly female laugh. “You go on,” I tell him. “I’ll catch up.”

He yells at me, tells me not to be foolish or something like that. The rest of it is drowned out as I enter the din of Fochlucan.

Comments

I continue to like the conceit of starting with a spell that will figure prominently in the action of the post. I spotted at least one typo, but other than that I wouldn't change anything. (Is it coincidence that you chose the same name for young Magnos as you did for the innkeeper at the Dancing Goat?)

I noticed that you have not re-dated your previous two posts (do you realize you only have four posts? You need to rectify this), so your . . . encounter . . . with Seledra does not match up with her account.
What do you mean about the innkeeper? You mean Jasper?

Nope, nothing to see here. And five will be here soon. I guess. It looks like a complete story to me, though. Not really sure where the narrative would need continuing. You know?