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Magic Man

17 Flamerule 1372 (cont'd)

Ventriloquism (illusion). Focus: a piece of parchment rolled into a small cone. It’s called ventriloquism. What do you think it does? Only it’s magical. So one can throw one’s voice from greater range, height, depth, around corners, inside barrels, or whatever else is handy. Tried this on Jonah once while we were walking past a graveyard, and let me tell you, my roommate may not look particularly athletic, but he is fleet.

The air inside is thick with the heat of the crowd and the sound of conversations rising above the music. The smell of roasted meats mingles with Daleland leaf as I push (gently, mind you) past the people crowding the entry way.

“And that’s when the dwarf dropped his gem bag…”

“…for one of the Chosen, she certainly gets around…”

“…ever been with three halflings?”

I look toward that speaker and make eye contact with a young halfling wearing a corset and leather leggings and not much else. She smirks at me before turning back to the recipient of her remark, a blushing half-elf. Lucky bastard.

The halls beyond the entrance sprawl in three directions; the center one is most appealing as it leads to a cooler, less claustrophobic open-air courtyard. The rain from earlier in the evening has stopped, leaving behind a refreshing crispness. In the courtyard, competing conversations surrender to the voice of a silver-haired elf whom I recognize as one of the more popular bards in Silverymoon, Davkas Nightfall or Darkwatch or something like that. Blackbelt. I can’t remember. He’s playing his lyre while singing something about a mage who loses his lady love in pursuit of forbidden magical knowledge. Seems like a trite enough song, but he’s holding an audience of about sixty strong, many of them dabbing at their eyes.

One of them, to my horror, is Mistress Sortann, the teacher of my Spellcasting Theorems class, and the strictest instructor at the Lady’s College. She’s so tough that Jonah switched his specialization in order to avoid taking her again. While she isn’t crying, she seems to be enjoying the show, her eyes closed, lips moving to the lyrics as she sways side to side. Definitely do not want to interrupt her little moment here.

I move to slip unobtrusively past her, but my pack has other ideas. As I draw within a few paces, the iron pieces within it clink together. Her eyes open, first in severe annoyance(an expression I’ve seen frequently before and one that would have caused Jonah to recoil) and then in recognition. Curse those elven senses!

Our gazes were too direct for me to pretend not to see her, so I suppress a grimace and nod. “Mistress Sortann.”

“Ah, Magnos,” she replies, keeping her voice low so as not to disturb the other concert goers. I have to step closer so as to hear her. “Magnificent, isn’t he?”

The bard continues to lament the foolishness of his ways, drawing out the word “love” so that it has three syllables and lasts ten seconds. I nod. “Oh yes. He’s quite,” I glance at the enraptured women in the audience, “evocative.”

Sortann grins, which is enough to make me jump a little; it’s an unusual sight and one that, in the classroom, usually signals the impending public evisceration of some poor student’s ego. Still swaying to the music, she turns toward me and leans in, so close that I can feel the warmth of her body. “I wouldn’t have expected to find one of my students at a Davkas Nightdown performance.”

“Uh, well,” I say, “I wouldn’t have expected to find one of my teachers at a Fochlucan party.”

She lowers her voice to a whisper so that, despite my every inclination against doing so, I have to draw nearer. “I suppose we’re both of us discovering new sides to each other tonight, hmm?’ She licks her lips.

Sweet. Sune. No.

“Yes, and it’s been great! I’d love to stay and learn more from you but I told a friend I’d meet him here.” I utter a nervous laugh that draws an angry shush from a nearby patron and I’m backing away fast as lightning. I wonder if it’s too late to change my specialization.

Sortann raises an eyebrow and I turn to scan the crowd. “In fact,” I say hopefully, “there he is right now. Enjoy the show. Nighthawk is the best!”

As fast as I can walk without seeming too unnatural, I approach the face I recognized, my burly ladies man of a customer from earlier tonight. He’s speaking entreatingly to a bored-looking girl who seems more interested in Davkas than in his advances. He'd have had more luck if I hadn’t run out of Eagle’s Splendor early in the evening (as I always do), but there are some customers whom I’d just feel guilty selling it to. Prince Charmless here, for one.

Still, an escape route is an escape route. “Comrade! I did not expect to still see you here!” His pleading suitor expression gives way to a quickly curling lip, so I press on before he can develop that. “After all, Camille and Larissa were so disappointed to have missed you; I fully expected they’d have taken you off to some cozy unoccupied corner around here, no?” I slap his shoulder heartily, watching his eyes shift from hostility into confusion.

“How rude of me. I was interrupting.” I turn to the girl. “This man…is incredible. I hardly get to see him because he’s so busy hanging around his female friends. It is my good fortune to catch him now, considering how popular he is. In fact—”

The man grips my shoulders and whirls me away from her. “Look,” he growls, “those metal bits aren’t helping me at all tonight! What are you trying to pull, anyway?”

Keeping my voice as low and casual as I could with my shoulders thus held, I reply, “Those metal bits, as you call them, aren’t intended to help you to the bedroom; they’re supposed to help you in the bedroom! Just keep sweet-talking her and you’ll see.” With that, I extricate myself and turn to the girl again. “I can’t help but keep talking about him; look at those piercing eyes, that devil-may-care grin! You’re a lucky lady. And you,” I face him again, “are an animal. Tempus help us!”

Leaving them in the courtyard with those words, I venture deeper into the bard college.

The next corridor branches out into another courtyard. Before I can enter, Hedwig inquires as to what is taking me so long. Not in so many words of course, but the telepathic link does convey a sense of impatient curiosity on her part. I send a mental image of home to her, indicating she should return to our quarters at the Lady’s College.

The bard here is finishing his song, and couples in the main courtyard are finishing their dances. On the periphery, others lounge, either watching the musician or conversing with companions.

“Thank you,” says the woman on stage. “You’re such a wonderful audience. We’re going to have an intermission for now, but don’t stray too far, because after that our very own Matthias will be following me, continuing his tale of the Prince of Calimshan!”

Polite applause follows, and near the center of the courtyard, I see them. Hard not to, between Selcar’s flamboyant rainbow cloak and Susan’s long blonde hair. He’s grinning, whispering something into her ear. She smiles and shakes her head. Probably doesn’t want to see his handharp.

Not seeming offended, he says something else, then leaves her to head down the corridor opposite from me. Which does seem as fine a time as any to approach.

The crowd in the courtyard is shifting as some of the dancing couples exit, and others clearly wanting to find seats for the next performer assume their spots. The transition permits me to approach her more easily.

“Hey.” She doesn’t hear me at first, due to the noise, so I repeat it.

Susan Drake turns, startled. “Oh. Hi. I didn’t see you.”

“I should hope not; I just got here.”

She smiles, but it’s quick, uncertain. “I thought you were still working for your friend?”

“With,” I raise a finger to correct her. “With my friend.”

”Ah.”

“Business slowed down. Nobody wanted to buy anything after a naked gnome ran through the street.”

“A naked gnome?”

“You’d be surprised how often it ends our evenings. The gnomes are a proud but debauched people.”

“I see,” she says.

“Is ‘debauched’ a word? I don’t have much cause to use it. The gnome does, sadly. Me? Not so much.”

“Um, I think so.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to come up and start talking to you about naked, debauched gnomes. I mean, unless it fascinates you.”

“No,” she shakes her head. Is that a smile beginning to crack? “I mean, it’s interesting, your gnome, but—”

“Not my gnome. He belongs to Silverymoon. Our at least, to the care of the Silverymoon constables,” I say. “At least, I hope he does, by now.”

Okay, that was definitely a chuckle. She says, “Magnos, I thought you weren’t coming here.”

I grin and shrug. “I didn’t think I was, either. I was planning on helping Jonah until—”

“Yes,” she interrupts, laughing. “I know, the gnome.”

“That, and the rain was kind of making things unpleasant. You and Selcar made this sound so much more interesting, so I figured, why not visit? I’ve never been inside Fochlucan before.”

“Really? I’m surprised. There are so many interesting things inside. I mean, the performances are fun, but the amount of lore within, I would have expected a wizard such as you to know all about it.”

“Well, we wizards are all-knowing about lore and uh, books, and whatnot…”

She looks amused, then frowns. “I thought you were angry at me earlier. You seemed upset when we started talking about the party.”

“Oh,” I say. “That! No, that was something else. Plus, knowing I had already promised to help. You know, Jonah. With the gnome and all.”

“I thought the gnome interrupted your evening?”

“And how. Did I mention it was debauched?”

“Magnos,” she puts her hands on her hips, “you’re avoiding the subject.”

“Only a little. It was mostly the gnome’s fault.” I raise my hands in mock defense when I see her raise her hand. “Okay, you’re right. I was upset about not being able to go to the party. But it wasn’t because I was mad at you. I was mad because I’d miss out on getting a chance to spend some time with you. It sounded a lot more fun than, well, you know, selling stuff with Jonah.”

“And the gnome.”

”And the gnome.”

Her frown softens into something else. “Magnos, are you—”

“What’s this I hear about a gnome?”

For a bard, Selcar has an atrocious sense of timing.

“Hello, Selcar.”

“Magnos, aren’t you supposed to be outside?”

Before I can reply, Susan answers, “He decided to join us. Isn’t that wonderful?”

“Yes,” Selcar replies. “Quite.”

He looks at me, then shrugs. “So, Susan. You were telling me about that time that Arkhen nearly lost a classmate after he reduced him?”

She brightens and starts talking when Hedwig starts chattering in my head again. This time, it’s so loud that it’s almost like being physically struck.

“Magnos, are you okay?”

“Sorry,” I rub my forehead. “Must have been something I ate.” Now that I’m expecting it, I can make out what she’s telling me. Images of the Knight in Silver. He’s entering Fochlucan. Persistent fellow. “Can you excuse me? I’m terribly sorry.”

I separate myself from them, telling Hedwig to keep an eye on things, as best she can. The guard is making his way through the college, moving with a sense of purpose. Pulling my hood over my head, I stake out a shadowy corner of the courtyard.

Soon enough, the patrolman enters, standing at the hallway from which I entered. He takes a moment to survey the room, but his eyes pass over me and move toward the audience in front of the stage. Perfect.

Making sure nobody’s in earshot, I mutter the incantation, making certain to keep the man focused in my sight. If I do this right, it'll be like someone's chattering right in his ear, only he'll be the only person who can hear it.

Bingo. The spell takes hold and the air around me seems thinner, quieter, as if I were encased in a soundproof bubble.

“This stuff is wonderful! I feel at one with the music. Where did you say you got it from?”

The guard stands straighter, alert. He stares intently, searching the crowd.

“That guy in the rainbow cloak; he’s the main man!”

That does it. The guard starts moving through the crowd, pushing past patrons to get toward them. He reaches Selcar and Susan, where he says something to Selcar, then, with hand clamped on the bard’s shoulder, guides him back toward the entrance.

Casually, I make my way back toward Susan. “Sorry about that. I really did not feel well. Hey, are you okay?”

“I’m not sure.”

“What’s wrong? And where did Selcar go?”

“I think he might be in trouble. This Knight in Silver just came and asked Selcar to come with him. It sounded really ominous.”

“How strange! You don’t think he’s in trouble, do you?”

“I hope not. Selcar doesn’t seem like a trouble-maker at all.”

I suppress an eye-roll and nod. “Yeah. It’s…surprising.”

She still looks troubled, so I add, “I’m sure it’s nothing. Jonah and I were answering some questions for a Knight in Silver when that gnome came running. They’re always poking around, trying to keep the city safe. That’s probably what’s happening with Selcar right now.”

“Yes,” she says, “that’s probably what it is.”

The people around us start quieting, as a half-orc begins clearing the stage of props, presumably for the next performer.

Susan looks to the exit. “Do you mind if we leave? I’ve already heard this story before.”

“No, not a problem. I feel like stretching my legs anyway.”

We wander back toward the first courtyard I passed through, and as we approach it I hope that Davkas isn’t still performing, and more importantly, that my teacher isn’t still there.

The former seems unlikely. As we approach, I can hear the quick rhythm of drums and gongs, followed by the fast stirring notes of an accompanying yarting. Definitely not Davkas. When we reach the entryway, there’s barely enough room to pass through; the entire crowd seems to be dancing. And not just the little hip-shimmy either, but jumping, arms held upward, joyous spontaneous cries with the music. Say what you will for elves, but they don’t hold back when it comes to dancing. And, judging from the rest of the people here, neither do they.

Susan yells into my ear and I can still barely hear her. “I don’t think we can make our way through here!”

I look back, nodding. Then I yell back, “Then we’ll have to dance our way through!”

She looks at me, considering. Then her eyes sparkle and she dashes into the crowd, but not before grabbing my hand.

Comments

There were couple of things that weren't clear. First, when Magnos enters the second courtyard, when you mention that "the song was just ending," I guess I assumed that the music was carrying over from where he'd just been, and I was confused at first when you described a completely different performer. Second, when Magnos performs the spell, can only the target hear the illusion, or can everyone hear it?

Other than that, I like it. Magnos is a sneaky bastard. (And you accuse me of playing fast and loose with alignment--Lawful Good my ass.)
I think he's actually chaotic good. Well, good-ish.
He changed, then, because his original character sheet says lawful. :) I recently came across the pdf file with all of our scanned character sheets when I was organizing files.
Man, I totally forgot about that. I don't think he's ever actually played Magnos as lawful good.

I'm glad he didn't. We'd be missing out on sneaky bastard awesomeness :)
If I hadn’t run out of Eagle’s Splendor early in the evening (as I always do), but there are some customers whom I’d just feel guilty selling it to.

Huh?
Okay, that was definitely a chuckle. She says, “Magnos, I thought you weren’t coming here?”

Should this be a statement and not a question?
I like this a lot. It's a nice continuation from the last post and it sounds like there's going to be at least one more post from this episode.

I love the ending. :) It's a rave!
Selkar?

Or Selcar?

Or did Magnos 'mispronounce' it on purpose?