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Magic Man

18 Flamerule (very early)

Invisibility (illusion--that is to say, the purview of skulking, cheating, no-good bastards who deceive. And lie. And are bastards). Material component: an eyelash placed in some gum arabic. What the hell is gum arabic anyway? I don't have time to be sorting through piles of guano and dragon bile to figure out this nonsense. Did I mention I hate cheating bastards?

"Keep your hands high so I can see them."

Normally, the sight of Jonah gagged and looking terrified would be cause for much teasing, but in this case signifies that maybe I should do what the man is telling me.

"Good. Now walk slowly, slowly, to that chair, keeping your hands high. The moment I catch you even thinking about a spell and we see how sharp this knife really is. Got it?" Whoever he is, he's wearing perfume. The cold tip of the blade interrupts my observation.

"Got it." I inch over to the chair next to the one Jonah is currently tied to.

"Sit."

I obey and my hands are immediately yanked behind me and the chair's frame. The man wraps twine around my wrists, then loops them around my thumbs before completing the knot. Why didn't I sign up for Master Vihuel's Asomatic Spellcasting course? On the bright side, the blade isn't at my throat anymore.

"So uh, is this some kind of hazing? Because in that case, technically I'm senior to Jonah here..."

My captor steps in front of me for the first time and starts to pull his hood back.

But Jonah has worked the gag off his mouth and manages to spit out, "You've been a student longer but I have more credit hours, Magnos!"

"That's only because you kissed up to Sortann in Spell Theorems!"

"I keep telling you, that was extra credit."

"What, so kissey-face counts as coursework now?"

The hooded man steps between our chairs, looking back and forth at us as we argue.

"Magnos, you're a clown. If Sortann were going to go kissey-face at a student--which, by the way, is a frightening and nightmarish thought--she'd probably want a student who doesn't cringe every time she looks at him. Someone like you."

I open my mouth to object.

Then I close it.

Our captor steps closer as if to speak, but I squeal my chair legs around to face Jonah more squarely. "Well maybe if you studied more, you wouldn't be petrified every time someone called on you!"

"Studying! You should be talking about studying with all the time you spend on other activities!"

"Well when you can recite the Seven Underlying Tenets of Conjuration backwards in the original Netherese, then maybe you can skip the occasional class and treat yourself to something fun once in a while!"

"Fun?" snarls Jonah. "You mean like leaving your best friend to lug your stuff across town so that you can chase after pretty little Susan Drake?"

The man between us holds his hands outward and yells, "Enough! You--" he points to Jonah "--need to shut up and put that gag back in and you--" he points toward me "--need to stay away from Susan!"

This quiets us enough that we pay closer attention to the intruder. I know that voice. And so does Jonah.

"Selcar?" he says.

"I told you to shut up." Selcar pulls back his hood and leans against Jonah's desk, his shoulders sagging.

"Smelcar," I say, "I realize you feel close to Susie Drake, but she is a grown woman with grownup needs and she has the right to make decisions for--"

"You need to follow your friend's example and shut up," says Selcar, pointing at me with his knife. "You have no idea the consequences of your actions tonight. Don't deny it," he says when I open my mouth to deny it. "After I convinced the guard of my innocence it wasn't exactly difficult to detect your particular tracks of interference in that affair."

I shrug. "What can I say? My art requires a signature style. Anything less--" and Selcar's warning waggle of his dagger convinces me to leave the rest unspoken.

"Do you know who Susan Drake really is?" he asks.

"A nubile, sweet-lipped sorceress whose legs you can't wait to feel wrapped--"

Jonah starts to guffaw, but Selcar strides forward and backhands me across the jaw. "You are clearly an idiot. Not only do you insist on provoking someone who holds every tactical advantage over you, but you dare to presume that Miss Drake is no different than any of the local bar wenches you cavort with so freely. Trust me," he says, "You don't want to get on my bad side, wizard."

The taste of blood still in my mouth, I ask, "What would you do? Sing me to death?"

Jonah bursts into outright laughter this time. While Selcar's glare turns to him I take the opportunity to try to work free from my bonds. They're tight, but I can feel the slightest bit of give to them.

Then Selcar's attention is back on me. "Arrogant child. But is this the arrogance of youth, or that of something else, I wonder?" Past him, I see my roommate, who clearly has the same idea, jostling his arms behind his back.

"Maybe it's the arrogance of knowing that I'm going to make you regret hitting me?" I offer.

Selcar ignores this thrust, putting his hand on his chin while he begins to pace. He spins toward Jonah, who stops working on his restraints. "Tell me, Magnos," Selcar asks, "Have you ever been to Waterdeep?"

"No, but I hear it's lovely this time of year: shopping, dining, people who don't ambush you in your room and tie you up...except for foreplay."

"Charming," says Selcar. He repeats the question to Jonah, who asks if Selcar has ever been to the beautiful town of Go-Do-Something-Anatomically-Impossible-To-Himself. I resume my wrists' struggle against the twine when a silver glint of fur flashes in a moonlit corner of the room. It's moving toward Jonah.

I interrupt Selcar. "What's this all about, anyway?"

He steps back toward me. "I ask the questions here. Who are you working for?"

The small furry form reaches Jonah, who stops struggling and nods at me. Keep talking, he mouths.

"You want my resume?" I ask. "Because currently I'm self-employed. Listen, if this is some kind of audit, I can assure you that all of my licenses are in order with the necessary documentation for a Class Three Merchant, Unrestricted Magical Wares--"

"Cut the drivel," snaps Selcar, pointing his knife very closely to my chin. "I want the truth, and I am willing to go very far to obtain it. Understand?"

"Oh, you don't have to worry about going too far with Magnos. He puts out like nobody's business."

We turn to Jonah, who stands freed from his restraints, the wand in his hand pointed directly at Selcar.

The bard starts toward Jonah, knife extended. Before he can advance, however, Jonah flicks the wand. An arc of blue lightning leaps from it, striking Selcar's knife, crackling around the blade, then curling up his arm and around his torso. He screams, then drops. The knife clatters on to the floor beside him.

Jonah stands there with his wand drawn, then raises his eyebrow and says, "My escape appears to have shocked him."

"Jonah?" I say.

"Yeah, Magnos?"

"No."

"Come on. You just wish you had been the one to say it."

"No. I just wish I were able to unhear it. Hey, Scamp," I call. "Nice going!"

A silver ferret emerges from behind Jonah.

"Yeah, Scamp. You were great. But I? I was..." Jonah's grin widens, "...electrifying."

I roll my eyes. "A little help here?"

Scamp pads past his master and gamely sets to gnawing at the twine. I nod toward Selcar's supine body. The smell of perfume seems stronger now. "Is he, you know, dead?"

"I doubt it. It's not that strong a spell. Still, in the hands of a skilled user, it can be..." Jonah pauses dramatically.

By this point Scamp has made quick work of the knots and I stand. "Speaking of skilled users, just let me know when you find one, okay?"

"Hey!" Jonah scowls.

"And keep an eye on our elven friend, will you?" I step toward the knife and kick it into the far corner of the room, underneath Jonah's desk. Can't stand blades. Ever since Father asked me to help him with the onions once...

Selcar moans. Jonah and I whirl toward him. My roommate's wand arm is ready, and I take a second or two to fumble in my cloak before retrieving a Wand of Mending. If I use it, it will do a good job of defeating the scorch marks on Selcar's sleeve, but otherwise won't inconvenience him a trifle. But he doesn't need to know that. I hold my wand out in what I hope is a suitably menacing posture.

The bard lifts himself up to his elbows and knees.

"Easy now," warns Jonah. "You don't want another taste of the fury."

I mouth The Fury? at him. He shrugs.

Our former captor rolls over so that he's in a sitting position, hands propped on the floor behind him for support. "How the devil did you--"

"Now, now. We ask the questions here, tough guy," I interrupt. "First, what in Azuth's name are you doing in our room, besides annoying us?"

"That's right," says Jonah. "A man's room is his castle, and we don't take too kindly to being invaded!" Scamp climbs on to his shoulder and wraps himself around his neck. The only way Jonah could look less threatening right now would be if the wand in his hand transformed into a feather duster.

Selcar doesn't look too impressed either. "You really don't know, do you?"

"is it because all the smart kids go to wizard school and you wanted to learn how to breathe through your nose and not your mouth anymore?"

He sighs. "I hate wizards. Insufferable, the lot of you."

"Skip to the part where you're telling us why you're here," suggests Jonah. Scamp nods his head.

"That's simple enough. I'm here to warn you--" he nods at me "--to stay away from Susan."

When he sees our quizzical looks he says, "Did she tell you who her father is?"

"Yeah, some important doctor or something in Waterdeep--"

"He's more than some important doctor. In addition to being the Guildmaster of--"

"--of Apothecaries and Physicians," I offer. "Yeah, I heard."

"So she shared this information with you then."

"We did a lot of sharing," I say, my eyes locked on his.

His face darkens. "Stay away from her, Magnos. In addition to being the guildmaster, her father holds considerable sway with the city proper--" Selcar cuts short, then smiles. "It is not important to you. What is important is that he is a powerful man with powerful enemies. Enemies who would think nothing at harming an innocent girl should doing so suit their purpose. And your little stunt tonight endangered that girl! Do. You. Take. My. Meaning?"

Jonah cuts in. "The only danger she was in with Magnos would be from dwarf clap."

"Go to hell, Jonah!"

"Why? They got a cure for it there?"

Selcar clears his throat. "Are you two quite done?"

I shake my head. "Listen Selky, you've clearly mistaken me for someone who would actually obey you. I'm seeing Susan again, even if her daddy's the Lord of Toril himself, and you can't stop me. Beside, I think she likes me. You wouldn't stand in the way of true love, would you?" I grin.

"Fool human, did you think I was asking?" Selcar begins to stand. Our wands follow him. "Magnos, shouldn't you be wondering why your pet owl hasn't returned home yet?"

I look toward Hedwig's favorite spot, a makeshift roost by my bed. There's no sign of her. I concentrate, feeling for the empathic link.

Nothing.

"You condescending string-plucker, what have you done with her?"

"You're calling me condescending?" Selcar laughs.

"Tell him what you've done with Hedwig, or I'll fry every last charge from this wand on you!" thunders Jonah, his eyes blazing.

"She's perfectly safe. Which is more than I can say for the one that I'm supposed to protect, "counters Selcar. "Listen, Magnos. You know the upcoming Midsummer's festival?" When I nod, he continues. "I've received word there's to be an attempt on Susan then. I need to be protecting her--by her side--at all times, and the last thing I need is you bumbling around getting in the way, or worse, having me thrown into questioning so that you can sneak longing glances down her blouse!"

I try to swallow my anger. "Selcar, we can help each other on this. I'm far more useful as an ally than an enemy. Just give me back Hedwig and we can double the eyes--"

"Triple," says Jonah. Scamp nips him. "I mean quadruple."

"Quadruple the eyes looking out for Susan," I finish.

"You're assuming that I'm working alone," smirks Selcar. "No deal, wizard, save this: you stay out of my way--which means out of Susan's way--for next week, and after the festival is over, if you've kept your end of the bargain, I'll return your bird to you."

"How about we make you a counter-offer?" asks Jonah. "You lead us to Hedwig and your buddies, and we'll trade your mostly-unsinged self in return for her. Got it?" His wand points menacingly.

"I like Jonah's plan." I remember my Wand of Mending and give it a few threatening swishes.

"Then it appears we are at an impasse," replies Selcar, spreading his palms outward while shrugging. "Or, as the Waterdhavians like to say: Contego Fallere!"

And Selcar vanishes.

"Invisibility! He's still here!" shouts Jonah, aiming his wand frantically.

"Yeah! I know!" I reply, casting off mending spells as fast as my wand will let me. Discarded articles of laundry begin knitting together, as do the previously separate blankets on my bed.

"I don't know where to shoot!"

"Just guard the d--" Something shoves me aside and I hear cloth rustling past me as Selcar makes for the door.

It opens as Jonah cries, "No you don't!" and a fierce crackle of lightning jets into the hallway and through the door opposite ours. A voice from that room yells through the newly created hole, "What the?!" but I'm picking myself up and following the sound of rapidly receding footsteps.

Selcar reaches the stairwell at the end of the hall before Jonah and I can leave our room, but I tear toward it like a lion in pursuit of prey. I hop the length of the first half-flight of stairs, turning on a copper to leap to the first-floor entrance below.

Where the lion comparison dies painfully when I crash through the doorway and trip over Terro Antkiller, the collision sending me sprawling onto the sticky lounge floor.

"What's the matter with you, Magnos?" groans the halfling, pulling his cheek off the ground with a grimace.

Jonah appears from the stairwell, huffing. "You okay?"

I turn to Terro. "You see an invisible guy run through here?"

Terro looks at me just long enough to make a point, then finishes gathering himself off the floor. I'm not fully up yet, so when he walks over to me, we're eye-level to each other. "Magnos," he says, "Stay away from my leaf." Then he limps past us to go upstairs. "Goodnight, Jonah."

Jonah helps me to my feet. "We'll get her back."

"I know."

"Midsummer's Fest isn't too far away."

"No," I say. "And we're going to be there."

Comments

"Good. Now walk slowly, slowly, to that chair, keeping your hands high. The moment I catch you even thinking about a spell and we see how sharp this knife really is. Got it?" Whoever it is, he's wearing perfume. The cold tip of the blade interrupts my observation.

Would "Whoever he is, he's wearing perfume." be more appropriate here?
You call this long? Feh. It's not even 3,000 words. You show promise, though. Tell you what, we'll offer you a provisional membership in the Self-Indulgent Association. Keep it up, and perhaps you can apply for full membership.

Joking aside, I don't think this is too long. There are things that are nonessential and could be cut, but I like it the way it is. The banter between Magnos and Jonah is, well, very Magnos, and good character devleopment, as well as a good device to cut the tension.

There was a word missing somewhere that I noticed, but I can't find it now. Also, double check all your "Selcar"s; I found at least once occasion where you spelled it "Selkar." (I'm assuming Smelcar was deliberate, although if you went ahead and spelled it Smellcar, it would be clearer that it is deliberate. And add to the juvenality (is that a word?) of the insult.)
Loved the banter between Magnos and Jonah. Also have to admire the balls on Magnos to continue to talk smack even when the oddz are completely against him.

This leaves a lot of interesting questions that I'm looking forward to seeing the answers for.

"You're assuming that I'm working alone," smirks Selcar. "No deal, wizard, save this: you stay out of my way--which means out of Susan's way--for next week, and after the festival is over, if you've kept your end of the bargain, I'll return your bird to you."

You're going to have to change the time frame in that statement, seeing as though the festival is in 13 days.
It's has occurred to me from time to time, and I keep forgetting to ask you about it, but you have never actually described Jonah. I have kind of a blank picture in my head when you write about him, because we don't even know his race.

Also, as a continuity-check, our adventuring notes say that Magnos has recently graduated, but you have been writing as though he is still a student, with no reference to his studies being near the end. Not that it's an important detail, but are we going to conveniently forget that he was originally supposed to be a graduate?
A) "I hold my want out in what I hope is a suitably menacing posture." Want?

B) Magnos gets a gold star in wiseass.

C) Read it. Thumbs up.