Maliso’s Makeover, Part 1: The Summons

This piece is a sort of “sequel” to this piece, which I wrote five months ago. I’ve been meaning to return to the character, Ana Valensa, for a while now, but it wasn’t until recently that I actually had a good idea for an adventure. Now I have two (so be prepared in the future!), and I hope you enjoy the first of them!

Ana Valensa awoke with a start as she heard a loud bang on the door. She sat up, clutching her chest in surprise as she wondered who could be calling at this early hour. Sure, it was light outside, but it couldn’t be more than seven or eight o’clock in the morning.

“Just a moment,” she said, getting up from the bed and putting on a dressing gown so as to appear decent.

She opened the door to find a young man in the hallway, one hand holding an envelope, the other reaching out to knock the door. As soon as he saw her, he started and looked away.

“Sorry,” he said. “I guess the innkeeper gave me the wrong room number.”

“Who are you looking for?”

“A person named Valensa.”

Ana sighed. “I’m Valensa. Ana Valensa. How can I help?”

“But I’m – my master told me to search for a wizard named Laro Valensa…”

“That’s because your master was thinking of my father, who never leaves his tower. Honestly, you’d think people would get the message after twenty years, but apparently there’s still plenty who expect him to travel around solving their problems. That’s what I do. Anything you might have expected from my father, you can expect from me.”

“Alright. I was told to give your father this.” He thrust the envelope out at her.

Ana quickly recognized the seal: the Maliso family. This messenger hadn’t traveled very far yet from his master’s lands. She tore open the envelope and read the letter:

Valensa,

Please come quickly. Urgent. Will pay whatever is asked as long as prompt.

Lord Neanias Maliso

Ana laughed. Her father would have thrown this away on sight. However this lord was fortunate in that Ana had nothing better to do.

“I’ll do it,” she told the messenger.

Two hours later they were on the road, Ana now in proper travel clothes, sitting astride her horse as it trotted beside that of the messenger. A day later, and they rode up to a small town dominated by a large manor house in the center. The messenger led Ana inside the house, into a large hall where, at the far end, sat the young lord that ruled here: Neanias Maliso.

He was about Ana’s age, though likely a little younger than her – certainly in his late teens. He was decently good looking, which was to say it was rough and tough, but with a certain vacuousness or ignorance behind his eyes – not to say he was stupid, but that he just didn’t care for intellectuality. There was also a certain anxiety and desperation, and this was the feature that Ana focused on now, realizing it was these were the same emotions that had caused Maliso to send the letter with such haste.

“My lord,” said the messenger, bowing as Ana curtsied. “I have returned with Ana Valensa, daughter of wizard Laro Valensa.”

“This seems odd,” replied Maliso. “My lady, is there some reason your father could not come?”

“He would never have come. However, your messenger had the fortune to meet me on the road. I may not know everything my father does, but anything you could expect from him, you can expect from me. How may I be of service?”

Maliso considered all this for a moment, and then surrendered to his desperation.

“In a week, a lady is arriving who I may try courting to be my wife. However…” he paused, and then suddenly turned his face so that Ana could clearly see the left side of his face, where he pointed to a mole at the bottom of his cheek. “Can you remove this?”

Ana closed her eyes and sighed. “Yes, I can.”

“Great!”

Cold Therapy

He didn’t care that the rain was cold. The feeling of the cool, wet particles hitting his face gave him an odd furious joy; it fed him and helped him defy the numbness trying to grab hold of him. He held his arms outstretched for maximum surface area, for maximum feeling; he embraced the rain. And it embraced him back, the wind pressing against him and picking up his coat, the rain pouring out the tears that he wouldn’t cry. The thunder roared with all the fury bottled up inside of him, ready to come loose at any moment.

“Is this all you got?” he screamed, trying to drown out nature with his voice.

He closed his fists as a new sound joined the wind and the thunder, pinching his palms with his nails to add to the symphony of feeling within him as another feeling joined: hail. This only fueled the fury inside, as he had expected it would.

As he marched across the field toward the small copse of trees near his car, he thought of the other methods people had suggested toward coping with the downhill turn in his life. Running? He didn’t want to look like some foolish neon sign. Exercise? He’d never have the time, though who’s fault that was was up for debate. Games? Those only made the problem worse. Music? If only he could do more than listen. A psychiatrist? He was done bottling up this anger for so long. So now he found himself out in a field, alone, shouting at the rain.

The metal bat lay on the ground where he had left it. He picked it up, weighing it in his hand as he surveyed the trees around him. He found the thickest one and approached it. Pulling back, he swung the bat, listening as it went whack! against the wood, chipping the bark.

Some of his friends had suggested a more practical approach to this downhill turn. He needed to work harder, and then he might do better. Ha! He swung again at the tree, feeling the joy that came with the reverberations of the bat colliding with the tree. Didn’t he already have enough on his plate? Sure, he had a few things in each day he could likely do without, but this wasn’t a matter of time.

He continued to hit the tree, expending all his strength in each blow. He gritted his teeth, so tightly that had his tongue come between it might just snap off. The only solution he would find tonight would be in his total exhaustion. He wondered if there even was a solution, or if the only one would come from a God who had no reason to grant him the miracle, or perhaps miracles, he would need.

Was he angry at God? Heavens, no. He had a number of other culprits in his head, some of which were rather juvenile, others of which were too abstract to really blame. Then there was one prominent in his head that he didn’t want to think too much on, because of all the implications that might bring.

At last he lowered the bat. He heaved with the strain of hitting the tree so many dozens of times. He sighed and turned to his car. His anger was satiated, for now, but it wouldn’t be long before he returned for therapy again.

Ring of Power

The red sunset seemed a perfect background to the black silhouette of the cathedral as Jonathan raced up the long steps to the heavy, oaken doors at the summit. The great building cast its long shadow down over him, as though anticipating what might come in the next hour or so. The bell tower reached up to the heavens, piercing the sky, as though standing silently and sternly warning Jonathan what might happen should he fail now. And the stain glass rose offered no comfort, but rather gleamed like some dark eye, only intensifying the point made by the bell tower.

As he reached the top of the stairs, he rapt upon the great doors. He could hear the shuddering of the air within as the sound echoed through the building, like thunder in a storm. Jonathan took the pause to look behind him apprehensively — no sign of Carlisle yet. He sighed in relief, though a part of him worried what it meant that the man wasn’t here yet.

One of the doors creaked open and the face of Father Andrew peeked out at him from the crack.

“Oh, it’s you!” he said. “Quickly, come inside!”

Jonathan hurried in. The priest watched him anxiously as he closed the door.

“Did you see him?”

“Carlisle? No, I didn’t. We may have a bit before he arrives. Where’s the ring?”

“This way.”

Father Andrew led him through the cathedral. They passed rows of seats and then turned at the altar, entering a stairway in the side of the building. They ascended into the bell tower, though they did not go quite as high as the bells themselves. Rather, they stopped by an old, forlorn door a bit below, which looked as though it hadn’t been used in ages.

“Here,” said the priest.

He opened the door. The room within was completely bare of anything, save for a single stone altar in the center. Upon this altar was a glass case, and in this glass case was a little golden ring.

“Right,” said Jonathan. He stepped over to the altar, but just his hand reached down and touched the glass, he heard a barking laugh behind him.

Turning around, his eyes widened in surprise to behold Carlisle, but not just Carlisle. The man held a woman in his grasp, a woman Jonathan instantly recognized as his childhood friend Lisa. She was struggling with her captor, but it was of little use, especially since Carlisle had a sword at her throat.

“Stand aside!” exclaimed Carlisle. “Or your precious girl dies!”

“No, Jon, don’t listen to him!” said Lisa.

“Quiet, girl! I don’t want to have to shut you up before you’ve done your task.”

Jonathan stood hunched, ready to spring into action, though he didn’t know quite what action he would take. He looked between Carlisle and Lisa, and then at Father Andrew, who looked anxiously and fearfully upon the scene. Carlisle grinned wickedly and pressed the swordblade against Lisa’s throat, starting a trickle of blood. Jonathan felt his heart pain seeing the blood, and realized he couldn’t sacrifice her just for the chance to save this ring from Carlsisle’s possession. He stood aside.

“Yes!” Carlisle laughed, pushing Lisa at Jonathan, who caught her just in time.

The villain sprang forward, bringing the pommel of his sword crashing down upon the glass. He snatched up the ring and put it on his finger, laughing all the while, before turning and pointing at his enemy.

“Well, Jonathan, it looks like I win after all! Tell me, how does it feel to know that you just lost? Don’t answer that — I won’t stand being interrupted now. And to think, you were so willing to save your precious girl, not realizing that I could just as easily kill her now, like pfffttt–”

A cloud of white dust blasted out of the ring, right into Carlisle’s face. Coughing, he looked over at the priest, who now felt the gaze of everyone in the room. Even Jonathan was surprised.

“Oh, right,” said the priest. “That’s the ring of powder, not the ring of power. Although, now that you have the one, you should be able to get the other.”

Carlisle turned back to the altar. Placing his ringed hand on it, something triggered inside, and a compartment opened up, containing a huge golden ring, much like the first one. Carlisle picked it up and put it on his finger. It hung, like some large hoop. He tried his thumbs — same result.

“What use is it?” he growled. “If it doesn’t even fit!”

The priest shrugged. “It was made for Logan the Large. I thought you knew that. What, did you think that this ring would even have the power to change size? It may be powerful, but it doesn’t have that power.”

Carlisle looked from the priest to the ring, crestfallen. At last, he let out a great scream of rage, as Jonathan and Lisa both sighed in relief. Apocalypse averted.

The Trelos Mushrooms

Hope you enjoy!

“Not again…”

Thane sat up, half-naked in the middle of a bright forest, scanning his surroundings to figure out just where he was. He sighed. He thought he recognized a large oak off to the side, but he was getting really good at dumping himself in the most random places in the forest. At this rate, it was going to take at least an hour to get back to the village.

He stood up and chose the most likely path back home. The sun was still low in the sky, so he had a good idea of where he needed to go; after all, his village lay on the east end of the forest. The way back was full of plants and vines, with no clear trail – making him wonder how in the world he managed to get out there last night in the first place – so that he began to doubt his estimate of one hour return time.

In fact, it was probably closer to two hours before he reached the edge of the forest and emerged upon the little village of wooden huts and dirt roads. As he walked between the buildings, some of the villagers emerged to watch him, particularly the five other young men of his age.

Every single one of them had a grin on their face. Personally, Thane would have been surprised if they hadn’t. He personally hated that this was the fourth time in the last month that he had ended up out in the middle of the woods, but he imagined for the spectators that it would be raucously amusing.

“Don’t you dare say a word,” he muttered to them as he passed.

“We’re not saying anything,” replied one of them, Martin, obviously trying to suppress a laugh. “We’re just glad we didn’t have to look for you this time.”

“You’d think you’d have memorized the entire forest by now,” added another, Julian.

“Let’s not talk about it.”

Within minutes he was back in his own hut and sound asleep. Despite the fact that he had just come from his bed on the forest floor, he knew that he hadn’t actually lost consciousness until early in the morning, and that even then the ground is a hard thing to sleep on.

Everyone quickly forgot about the incident, as they did every time. It was beginning to become a village joke, Thane and his search for the famous Trelos mushrooms. Not that they derided him for it – on the contrary, quite a few of the villagers thought that he was rather successful in finding them, but that he forgot every time he found them. But even they wondered why in the world he had such an obsession with them.

A week passed, full of hard labor as Thane and the rest of the village went to work at their various jobs, which largely consisted of agriculture and woodcutting. What else are you going to do next to a forest? Anyway, after a productive week, the village once again found itself on a free night, which many of them used to indulge in alcohol.

“I tell you,” Thane told his friends as they sat around the communal fire at the center of the village. “I’m going to find those mushrooms one of these days.”

“I’m sure you will,” replied one of his friends.

“But how will you know when you find them?” asked another.

“By the taste. It’s said they have a strange effect on the mind.” Thane took a swig of beer as he raised his eyebrows suggestively.

It wasn’t long before they were all rather drunk. They laughed as they talked, in a coversation that quickly turned into the other five teasing Thane about his obsession. He defended himself, but eventually, either due to the drink or his pride (likely both), he declared that he would set out this very night to find the mushrooms.

The others laughed and accompanied him to the edge of the forest, where he convinced them all to join him in his search. They descended into the forest, which was almost completely pitch black in the night. Only the firelight and the moonlight kept them knowing just where they were.

Thane quickly outstripped the others as he plunged into the forest, his head bent low in his search. His friends’ voices faded away, and then, nearly half an hour later, he finally stopped. There, on the ground, was a bright purple mushroom. Thane grinned and picked it up, tasting it. And then his world turned upside down.

Hours later, he sat up off the ground, blinking in the bright sunlight. He looked around, for he had been absolutely sure that he had found the mushroom the night before. But there was not a trace, and he couldn’t remember the night before for the life of him.

“Not again…”

A Memorable Heist

New story, hope you enjoy!

Kastamir sat on a log on the outskirts of a forest, by which passed a road, patiently looking south down the road. He had been sitting there for some time, and he was just considering continuing on when a figure appeared in the distance. The figure, a young male carrying a large backpack, approached him quickly, and soon hurried past him.

“Hello, friend!” called Kastamir. “Will you sit with me? Or may I join you for a time on your journey?”

“I think it would be best if you joined me,” replied the man, looking back over his shoulder toward the distant road. His face broke into a toothy grin.

Kastamir stood up, coming beside his new companion. “Very well. My name is Kastamir. What’s yours?”
“Me? I’m Gilderoy.”

“Good day, Gilderoy. What brings you out here, to these remote parts?”

“It’s funny you should ask,” Gilderoy replied, grinning from ear to ear. But just as soon as it formed, his smile faltered, and he checked their surroundings apprehensively. It was in a whisper that Kastamir’s companion conveyed his answer. “I’m on the run from the Wizard’s Guild for taking their entire treasury.”

Kastamir raised his eyebrows in utter surprise.

“How in the world did you manage to do that?” he exclaimed.

Gilderoy grinned again. “It’s easier than it would seem. The Wizard’s Guild are complete saps!

“Anyway, about a month ago I sneaked into the Guild tower as one of the many students that are always gathered there. That was the easiest part – integrating. Most people would just pass me by, like I was part of the scenery. But that was fine; I wasn’t there to learn – okay, I was, but only to learn how to take the gold from the famous Guild treasury, from which no thief has ever managed to steal.”

“So how did you manage to take the gold?” Kastamir asked.

“Well, as I searched around the tower, I learned that there are so many enchantments placed on the gold and on the treasury room itself that breaking in is completely foolish, and trying to teleport the gold out is impossible. In fact, there’s only one way that gold gets out of the treasury: grants. So I applied for a grant.”

“How big a grant? The entire treasury?”

“No, of course not! I just took a small portion, about a thousand gold pieces to start – not too little, so that it would take forever for me to take everything out, but just enough that I could get it without having to sit through interviews and inquiries with the High Council.”

“What do you mean by ‘to start’? Surely even a thousand gold would be enough – that’s a small fortune, right there!”

“Yes, but no one would remember that! Anyway, I did have one trick up my sleeve.”

“What was that?”

“I’m exceptionally good at memory spells. After I got the gold and stashed it away, I removed the memory of the Wizard who had given me the grant. And here’s the fun part – I asked him for a second one.” Gilderoy’s smile could not have been wider. Kastamir was beginning to fear that he’d rip his face in half this way.

“And then you wiped his memory again?”

“Precisely! And then again, and again, until I had most of the gold from the treasury.”

“How much did you take?”

“Two hundred and fifty thousand.”

“Two hundred – but what about the poor Wizard’s mind? That’s almost enough damage to turn her into a zombie!”

Gilderoy shrugged. “Not my problem.”

“So then how did you get it all out?”

“This.” The thief indicated his backpack. “Bottomless bag. Can hold tons and tons, but only weighs a couple pounds. Genius, huh?”

“Actually, I think it was very foolish,” said Kastamir, suddenly changing to a regally stern tone. He seized Gilderoy’s wrists and spoke a word of incantation. The wrists sprang together, as though magnetized. “You know, I’m surprised you didn’t recognize me.”

“What? But who –”

“I am Kastamir, Treasurer of the Wizard’s Guild, here to collect what was stolen from us. You’re under arrest, and you will pay quite dearly for this trespass.”

“No! What are you going to do?” Gilderoy asked anxiously.

“Give you an appropriate form.”

With just another word from the Treasurer, Gilderoy vanished, in his place his bag, his clothes, and a weasel scurrying off into the forest.