Monday, June 3, 2024

Terra Povos: Life Advice for Wizards

"Ya know, kid," said the skull floating in Lithos' prison cell, "you really should have specialized in necromancy. It's a great school of magic, plus it's got so much style. And you know what you need more of, kid?"

Lithos hesitated, but only for a heartbeat. He really didn't want to offend Vinnie, because at this point he was absolutely convinced that the floating skull with the hat and sunglasses really was the demilich he claimed to be, and while Lithos was proud of his own progress as a spellcaster, a demilich was just this side of being an actual god. If Vinnie ever turned on them, they were all dead. So the choice was really between humoring him -- tempting, since Lithos considered himself an ethical coward at heart -- and playing along as if he didn't recognize the threat, which Vinnie seemed to enjoy. "Is it style?" he asked. 

"There ya go. I knew you was a smart kid. I'm tellin' ya, a little more training and a lot more death magic, and you'll be unstoppable. You're the mage, you should be runnin' this party. And you should definitely look the part."

Lithos, who'd been trying to review the structures of the spells that he still had prepared so they didn't fade out, suppressed a passive-aggressive sigh. He couldn't use any of them -- the anti-magic field that covered the prison saw to that -- but he didn't want to lose track of them, either. If he'd ever given the matter even the least bit of thought, he would have expected a demilich to be much more evil. More demanding, more threatening, more terrifying. Instead, what Vinnie was could more accurately be described as exasperating. "So you don't like my hat?"

Vinnie considered that. "Naw, the hat's cool. But ya need a better outfit. Fitted black robes. A dark cloak with an actual fingerbone for a clasp. An onyx amulet, or maybe a brooch. Ya know, actually we ought to go better than that. Forget the robes, kid. We need to set you up with black leather pants and a long coat, some hardcore stomping boots, and sunglasses. Definitely sunglasses. We need ta make ya look dangerous."

"Dangerous?" asked Lithos, giving up and turning his attention to the floating skull. "I'm a goblin. I have the height, physique, and overbearing presence of... I don't know, possibly some kind of small rodent. At best. There isn't a tailor in the world who could fix that."

"And that's why you need more style, kid. You've got magic, the most powerful stuff around. Forget big guys with lots of muscles and ridiculously oversized axes; you're the one who can point at something and make it die. You're the one who controls the battle so all your siblings look like they know what they're doing." 

"...Go on." 

"Look, when you come floating into a room -- because you're too important to just walk like all those losers who don't do magic -- your outfit needs to warn people that you're the one to watch out for. You're the one who makes this group succeed. You're the one in charge. And hey, if you don't feel like casting a spell to make yourself fly, have a group of undead servitors carry you in on an palanquin. Nobody's gonna look down on you after that. But when you step out, you gotta look the part, ya see what I'm sayin'?"

Lithos paused, struck by the image. It wasn't that he didn't know what it was like to be accepted, even respected. His mom was great that way. His dad wasn't quite as good at it, but he did his best. Even a couple of teachers had been very open with him about recognizing his intelligence. And once his initial testing was complete, Master Flyleaf hadn't hesitated at all to accept him as an apprentice. 

It was just that day to day, a lot of people treated him as a goblin. The people who knew him mostly accepted him, and they only ever slipped up occasionally, but Stoneshore saw enough trade that there were plenty of people who didn't know him. The memory of Warden M'Hole blithely assuming that Lithos could be nothing more important than a camp helper was fresh in his mind, and it was only the most recent of an endless list of slights that he simultaneously resented and knew would be considered too unimportant to object to. 

It was enough to wear a goblin down, even if he was legally a dwarf. 

"So..." he ventured. "Death magics and style?"

"Let me teach ya, kid." The skull had drifted over towards the locked door of the cell. "We can do this. Trust me."

"Apprentice," said Lithos. 


"I'll be your apprentice," he said. "I'd love to learn from you, even if I'm not... not devoted to death magics the way you are." He swallowed. "But I won't be your minion."

"Sure," said Vinnie. "Apprentice, not minion. And now you gotta prove yourself by gettin' yerself and your family out of this prison. And if you need some zombies on your side, you just lemme know."

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