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Nirvanyos in Wonderland

 
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Lychwood
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 02, 2015 12:16 am    Post subject: Nirvanyos in Wonderland Reply with quote

Chapter One: In which everything goes terribly, terribly wrong.

There was a chittering coming from the direction of his chin.

As the sun teased the horizon pink, this was the first thought to wander sluggishly across Nirvanyos's mind. The second thought, unsurprisingly, was: why?

The wizard remembered falling asleep. Vaguely. Well, he could extrapolate the fact from the preceding events, and almost guarantee it based on the knowledge that he was now waking up from what was almost certainly sleep. He had spent a long evening's study in the cigar lounge, attended by bottles which gently assaulted the nose with a hint of industrial strength paint thinner and probably alcohol. At some point, exhausted from studying the bottom of each and every bottle, he must have fallen asleep. Must have.

His beard chirped again. Nirvanyos cracked an eye open, just a bit.

...Naked, he'd fallen asleep naked. Also he didn't recognize the room. It was immaculate--disgustingly so. It was the sort of room you'd illustrate for a children's book. The sort of room only a child would be stupid enough to believe existed. For one, there weren't any empty bottles left around by some adult too stressed out by the thought of another day to face the ordeal sober. For another...there were birds.

And mice.

And rabbits, and piglets, a small grasshopper in gentleman's attire, and what was either an adorable baby orangutan or a very ugly human infant.

And they were all staring at him, unblinking.

Nirvanyos looked down at his beard, and found a clutch of tiny chickadees gazing back with adoration in their eyes. The wizard screwed up his face, and was interrupted in casting his patented "Hawk a Monster Loogie" spell by the sun finally cresting the horizon.

As if on cue the critters began to trill, whistles and chirps gradually building into what was becoming recognizable as song. The tiniest voices began to chant:

Wake up! Hello!
The sun is nearly up!

Hoorah! Good show!
Let coffee fill your cup.

If you would come play with us,
We'll show you what we know.
But if you want to leave the house,
you'd best put on your robe!

So sit a spell and wait for us!
We'll help you with the--


"No."

As the chorus shriveled up and died, A bunny small enough to drink from a thimble and look endearing--rather than ridiculous--peered up at Nirvanyos in hurt and surprise. It was standing on a nearby table, holding a pocket watch. More on that later.

"N-no?"

Nirvanyos stood up, beard bristling, terrifyingly nude. His scraggly eyebrows appeared to have developed an infatuation with his cheekbones, and were doing their best to meet up with them. The air around him hung with unreleased fury like storm clouds waiting to break.

"NO."

He punctuated this by rapping his staff on the table and knocking the poor little rodent over. His saturnine face revealed no trace of remorse.

"We were just trying to--"

"And what's with the clock?"

"What?"

"In your paws. The clock. What for."

"I just...I don't know. Could you be late for something? Like, a very important something? Perhaps a dat--"

"A WIZARD IS NEVER LATE."

Some of the slightly more enterprising birds, realizing things were going south very quickly, decided they had all forgotten various items of food in their respective ovens. They fled, leaving the robe they had intended to dress the wizard with to slump haphazardly on the ground. Nirvanyos put it on.

"Wizards also, as it happens, have an aversion to fairy tales and anything related to them. Such as woodland creatures who have taken up breaking and entering with a side of showtunes. It's a matter of principle; can you think of a story in which the magician is not the villain? Plotting some nasty potion to ruin everyone's good time? Causing enchanted droughts? Turning people into this and that for no good reason? Frightening little bunnies? Locking people in dungeons? No, no. The Brothers Grimm and all of their ilk were slandering propagandeers with a grudge against anything magical. I suspect they flunked out of wizard school and took the low road to petty revenge. Now tell me, what is the meaning of this?"

The rabbit gave its watch a last longing glance before pocketing it. Perhaps someone else would be late for something. It nervously traced a circle with its big toe and kept its gaze lowered.

"I don't know."

"You don't? So an army of small mammals and winged things just decided to put aside their differences for the day, learn to talk, and come bother old man Nirvanyos?"

"I don't know. They were here when I got here. I just felt like...I don't know, like I should be someone's lovable yet dopey sidekick, and maybe even prove my worth by saving the day at the last minute with a bit of well-timed moral support. And then I saw this little cabin in the woods, and you were here all naked and angry and hitting things and, and..."

Nirvanyos spluttered, all color draining from his face.

"Cabin? In the woods?"

He had not fallen asleep in a cabin. He had never seen a cabin in the woods look nearly this picturesque. Normally they were all awkward angles and sweat-stained everything. Picturesque people were not cut out for pioneer life. No, an idyllic cabin inhabited entirely by the gentlest denizens of the forest (and one possible orangutan) could only mean one thing. His voice dropped to a hoarse whisper.

"Oh no."

Oh yes.


Last edited by Lychwood on Tue Nov 10, 2020 12:00 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 26, 2015 12:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chapter Two: It's a Fairy Tale, Everyone. That Is What's Going On.

Nirvanyos stood in the rubble of what was once a Disney-worthy cabin in the woods, fuming. All of the critters had left--all of them except for Thumper, who had been given speaking lines and therefore some measure of plot armor. He could afford to stick around. The wizard was busy sticking a finger down his throat. Magical warfare wasn't all energy blasts and shimmering shields. There were potions, and you couldn't really use a counter spell for that. Sometimes, you just had to work up a little elbow grease and take care of the problem the old fashioned way.

Nirvanyos the Arcane swirled the end of his staff in the steaming pool of sick-up, and lifted it to his nostrils for a sniff. He cocked an eyebrow, and gave off a throaty 'HrrrRRRrrmmm..." before smudging the stick in some dirt which hadn't been fouled.

"That settles it," he announced.

Thumper, now a shade of pale fluffy green, offered a strangled sound conveying both polite interest and a strong urge to vomit.

"I've been drugged. This is at best a hallucination, and at worst a liquefied enchantment hijacking my own magical energy to project a small bubble of alternate reality around my body. Someone has outdone themselves with this one." Nirvanyos tapped his staff a few times, causing the earth to swallow the lace-patterned gables and gingerbread brown shingles of the small house. "The simplest way to unravel a story based illusion is to reach the end. After the end, there is often nothing left to support the enchantment, and it dissipates. Just need to watch out for cliffhangers. If you get roped in for a sequel, you better be ready for a ride because nobody stops at two installments. You're in for a trilogy, minimum. Are you taking notes?"

Thumper nods.

"Well then? What am I late for? Let's get this over with."

"For a very important--!!"

"None of that singing nonsense, now. Since you don't really exist I have no moral compunctions against grinding you to dust with teeth of stone. If I must go on this fool's errand then fine, but I will be dignified in the doing so. Lead on."

___________________________________


The bottle read 'Drink Me.' Bold as that. As if he were some tot naive enough to drink strange liquids. It was just sitting there, on a table, in a cave. Had been, for who knows just how long. He'd call himself lucky if it was only full of spit-sodden chewing tobacco from an enchanted forest dwelling frat bro.

The glass shattered satisfyingly under assault from the whistling end of his staff, swung with perfect Major League form. That solved one problem. The other was that the doorway Thumper had led him to was too small for either of them to enter. It was probably the length of his middle finger from knuckle to tip. He didn't know any shrinking spells.

"Mister wizard? Are you gonna blow it up, or what?" The teensy rabbit pronounced the 'h' in 'what.' Hwat. Hhhhwat.

Nirvanyos answered with a twinkle in his eye: "I think I've underestimated you, little one." He waggled his eyebrows, and a tapestry of cracks zigged and zagged its way across the stony wall before everything exploded inward with a sound like a mouthful of teeth shattering on a particularly hard biscuit. "Come now, I think I smell hookah up ahead."

It was indeed hookah. And a caterpillar, its slime drooling mandibles sucking pornographically at the fluted tip of a smoking lamp straight out of Doctor Seuss's imagination. All of this was happening on top of an oversized red mushroom speckled with white fuzzy splotches. Nirvanyos blinked to the top of the mushroom, grabbed a striped hose, and settled in crosslegged to smoke. Before long, Thumper struggled his way up topside and followed suit, taking an impressive lungful of blue smoke and exhaling it through his nose. The bunny looked rather dazed, but went back for more. Why not live it up? He was, after all, a pawn in some magical scheme and doomed to nonexistence in the near future.

The caterpillar continued to be disgusting, but stopped smoking long enough to speak. "You see this mushroom we sit upon? It is a very speci--"

"I don't care about any of that, not even the tiniest bit. Say, have you got any authority figures nearby? Perhaps with an ominous title, like 'The Ice Queen' or 'King Malificius'? They probably live in a big black castle on a crag, and no one is allowed to go up there, and they've got some black clothed thugs who are always a bit rude with the countryfolk...You know, someone who could probably use a good setting straight from a plucky do-gooder?"

"You mean The Queen of Hearts?"

"That's the very one. Where do they keep her? I have a few questions for Her Majesty."

Thumper was passed out cold just then, otherwise he would have had some more very astute questions about practical applications for explosions.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 25, 2016 11:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chapter Three: Out of the Frying Pan, and Into Another Frying Pan.

"What?"

Lighting his fat cigar on the sizable pile of burning anthropomorphic card-soldiers, Thumper had completely missed what Nirvanyos was saying. For his part, the Wizard was peering distractedly at a golden circlet held up to the light while he sipped a pipe more gnarled than he was.

"She was a patsy, I said." His bushy eyebrows waggled a bit as smoke curled its way into the air. The immediate area was beginning to smell like old leather and well cured wood, with a hint of exotic spice trailing off into something pleasantly skunky. The Wizard pried a gem off the crown with a thumbnail and pocketed it.

"Think. The card soldiers had no reproductive organs. They were also demonstrably not immortal." He gazed at the flickering pile of playing-card shaped corpses, the edges of which had begun collapsing into ash. Nirvanyos tapped his pipe with the heel of his palm, then took another lungful of smoke. He held it a while before exhaling. "Therefore, they were not a permanent fixture here. No breeding population. They cannot shore up their numbers, and will in the infinite course of eventuality, succumb to death. That means someone made them. Perhaps recently, perhaps not. A queen which has been manufactured by a more powerful being has her authority neutered by the very existence of another being with the power to create her like again at any moment. She would be beholden to this figure, likely serving its purposes. A goon. A patsy."

Nirvanyos bit the crown and gave it a look of disgust before chucking it into the bushes. "Real gold. Someone was rather invested here."

By this point, Thumper was red in the face and choking over the effort to hold in a coughing fit. He was beginning to learn that little rabbit lungs were not built to finish such large and pungent cigars. He was also not listening. At a certain point, Nirvanyos always managed to pontificate well past his own level of interest in the matter. Still, he did appreciate timbre and tenor of the wizard's voice: gravel slowly rolling in an aged oaken cask, freshly retired from years of service in aging fine whisky.

Mmmmm... Whisky.

"Anyway, the fact that they were so hellbent on arresting and detaining us suggests they were a plot device thrown in the mix to keep us away from whatever shady character is actually in charge here. We're not finished yet. In fact, we were probably expected to wriggle our way out of the ordeal. That we carved our way out with fire and war just managed to save us a little time in the doing so. If I'm any judge, I'll say whoever planned this diversion won't be expecting us for some time yet. We have the element of surprise."

Nirvanyos lurched to his feet. With a brisk shake of his staff, a slithering mass of vines presented his hat to him. He jammed it on his head, then shouldered his pack. He turned to eye Thumper with one corner of his mouth slightly cocked. From him, it was as good as a bellyful of laughter--you took what you could get from the man, emotionally speaking. There were said to be rocks in better humor, and not just the ensorcelled ones.

"I wish you had seen her face when they tried to cuff me. Made this whole ordeal worth it."


Last edited by Lychwood on Mon Nov 16, 2020 10:58 am; edited 5 times in total
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2016 7:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chapter Four: Lights Out, Knives Out

Nirvanyos was drunk. Very drunk.

Not that anyone could tell from looking. He did not stumble, he did not weave, he did not slur his words. His face, carved from oak, was every bit as saturnine and disapproving as usual. There was perhaps a faint blush peeking out from the scraggles of his beard, but no more than that. If the wizard had decided to drink himself to death, he would have looked just as composed right up to the moment he croaked. That is, if anyone could have managed getting so much liquor to one location--the mere suggestion was enough to keep logisticians up at night.

Thumper, on the other hand, was quite sober. He had been allowed one sniff of Nirvanyos's wooden flask, no more. It had been enough. The rabbit was still rubbing at a very singed little button nose.

The pair was walking--trudging, really--in brooding silence through the woods. They were in a nasty part of the neighborhood, where young dryads would sit about drinking moonshine and scowling into the air all day. The sort of place you never went after dark. Not alone, anyway. Not without an ornery wizard continuously casting Glare of Daggers in a beeline, the entire forest literally jumping out of his way. Nirvanyos had spotted a fire, and that could have meant only one of two things: Either a mage up to some mischief, or someone very, very stupid camping nearby. Nirvanyos could find advantage in either, so he wasted no time in getting there.

The nighttime gloom hung abnormally close to the campfire, for such it was, barely illuminating the two lumpy figures sleeping nearby. They hadn't even set a watch. Bless their little hearts.

Speaking for the first time in several hours, Nirvanyos barked at Thumper: "Knife out, idiots can be dangerous when startled." Thumper scrabbled for his Bowie just in time for Nirvanyos to kick the closer, larger, lumpier lump. It revealed a dazed, red-faced boulder of a man, his face a crooked map of rearranged skull topography. When he noticed the vines creeping around his wrists and ankles to tie him firmly to the earth, the burly man's mouth worked in fury. Nirvanyos had just begun stooping down to address his captive when a knife came whistling over the fire to pin his wizardly hat against a nearby tree. He turned, snarling, to where Thumper scrambled to get his own knife to the throat of a wiry looking, pinch-faced man with a roguish air and a recently emptied throwing-hand. The rabbit at least had the grace to blush.

"I should never have to tell you to out knife, Thumper Rabbit, you should just know and do it. I will not suffer for your laxity." Drinking had made him more irritable than usual. "I will not take a blade to the throat just because your head is up in the clouds. If you wish to continue with me, you will hold your weight or so help me Gaia we will find out whether Mama Rabbit can still love a son that's been made into stew." He paused, smoothly thumbed some tobacco into his pipe, and lit it before rounding on the dazed adventurers.

"And YOU. Where is your sense of self-preservation? You're a disgrace to the species. There are spirits in here that would gut you for even knowing a logger, and here you are burning their tree-cousins in the middle of their tree-home. They'd have killed you either way, but this little stunt just meant they'd make you suffer first. What in the infinite Nexus are you doing here? I'll have the truth, now, if you try a fib I'll smell it before you've even opened your mouth.”

The roguish looking fellow smiled ingratiatingly, and splayed his hands in a show of harmlessness. He clearly had the higher CHA score between the two.

“We were, ah...looking for you, naturally.”

“Naturally.” Nirvanyos took a deep lungful of smoke, and exhaled it through his nose. For a time, all that could be seen through the billowing cloud was his predatory smile.


Last edited by Lychwood on Tue Nov 10, 2020 10:27 am; edited 5 times in total
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2020 11:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chapter Five: In Memoriam

Dawn broke a misty pastel pink.

In the midst of the pre-morn hush, the day itself still but an indrawn breath, a wizard poured out two shots of undrinkably potent booze onto a pair of freshly made graves.


Then he spat.


"Amateurs. Never spill your guts first thing. Makes a fellow suspicious you've got more." The ragged wizard sighed, adjusting his hat. He'd be starting his hike alone today; Thumper had run off during the night, shortly after the first screams. Common mistake. People like those bandits tended not to take vines seriously until it was far too late. A mage can get pretty far on that fact alone--rarely does an errant killer expect to be rent limb from limb by the contents of a gardening department. Of course, the sight of such rendings tended not to sit well on tender rabbit tummies.

"Gonna have to toughen the boy up. Hah. Presuming, of course, he's anything more than a figment of a figment. But, then, there's figments and there's figments. And sometimes a figment grows out of being a figment, if you treat it right. What I'm saying is it's probably worth showing the lad a thing or two." This was, of course, dictated to absolutely no one. The sun had risen some way into the sky, but the hush had persisted. Not a chirp, not a chitter, not a rustle in the brush. The denizens had hidden or fled. And like a Western at high noon Nirvanyos marched on: a grim face over a pair of dusty boots, and a whole lot of cussed up wizard in between.

He appeared to be in a mushroom-flavored magic forest. Huge, thick fungi with classic white-dotted redcaps grew in abundance, their tops sparkling as though they'd been dusted in glitter. Here and there among them grew much taller and more bulbous luminescent mushrooms, glowing a pale greenish blue. The understory was clear of leaves, deadfall, and rot, carpeted instead with a fluffy bluish grass.

"Utter nonsense. Absolute, total posh. Do they expect me to believe these massive fruiting fungi are subsisting on goodwill and fairy dust? HAH! By god, a sensible man would be digging for corpses!" The wizard's walk slowed as he lit his pipe with a snap of his fingers. He began to chuff up a little streamer of smoke, like an angry bearded freight train.

"Of course..." The wizard smiled grimly. "I'm the furthest thing from sensible. That's how come I'm so smart."

The forest opened up into a peaceful glade carpeted with the same soft grass. Silvery, perfect trees crouched about the perimeter like a crowd of curious onlookers peering down upon a glassy pond glimmering with reflected light. Perched at the apex of one picturesque boulder sat a feminine figure draped in silk and satin colored a bright spring green. Two of her delicate fingers traced the curve of Thumper's head, the rabbit cradled in her lap as she stroked his ears and sang to him. In place of legs the figure had a single fish-like tail covered in pearlescent scales, the tip of which nearly touched the surface of the pond. Thumper murmured something and she broke into tinkling silver laughter.


Enter Nirvanyos, growling, stage right.


"Hands off the rabbit. Now. You back up real slow-like or I'll splatter you across this Lisa Frank dreamscape before that forked tongue can leave your teeth." He leveled his staff, squinting one eye to aim, while his pipe dangled from the corner of his mouth still smoldering.


Thumper screamed.


You may never have heard a rabbit scream in your life, but rest assured it is one of the most gruesomely annoying sounds in all the planes. It's a sort of squealing bleat, like one wheel on a trolley that keeps sticking on the waxy tile below. Like that, indeed, but louder. More insistent. More persistent. Enough to court migraines with philanderous abandon.

"No! Please! I quit! I left! I don't want this! I- I- I--" But that was the thing about having too many speaking lines. It's a contractual arrangement. Inertial. You don't just quit when the story isn't finished with you. It drags you back.

The thing rose, casually tossing a still-shrieking thumper to the side and turning to face Nirvanyos. Her mouth quirked in a half smile as she shrugged and looked as if to speak. A burst of multi-hued light sizzled through the quiet morning air, blasting off the mermaid's jaw and a good part of her face. What was left dripped foul black ichor: a yawning wound rimmed with razor sharp teeth, forked tongue lolling down.

"Niiiieeerrrrrvvvvaaannneeeeooooooossss..... Niiiirrrrrrrvaaaaaaaannnnnyooooshhhhhhhh......you foooool....sweeeeeet fool....you waste.....you're wasting...."

Another flash of magic as the stone beneath her reshaped itself into a massive golem hand. Its fingers closed around the hapless mermaid with a sickening crunch, folding in on itself while runners of gore poured off in streams. Its work finished, the boulder unclenched again, tilting itself to toss the corpse unceremoniously off toward the bushes before resuming its original state. The only sign of violence was a rust-dark stain upon the flawless granite. That, and the rabbit still twitching in shock.

Nirvanyos trooped over to him, hooked the poor thing up in a form-perfect hackey kick and then caught Thumper in a deft scooping of his hat. The wizard swept the hat onward to its place of pride atop his scraggly pate, settled it neatly, and marched on into the woods, humming.

"Har! Wasting time? Tell me something I don't know! This whole..." his arm gestured in a vain attempt to snatch the right word from thin air, "...THING is a waste of time. The sooner I've washed my hands of it, the better." The wizard produced a flask from one sleeve and drank deep, eyes drifting over toward the wet pile of gore in the bushes.

"She didn' amount to much, but I bet the mushrooms will enjoy the meal. Been here god knows how long with not a thing to eat!"

Nirvanyos the Arcane chortled. Amateurs indeed.


Last edited by Lychwood on Mon Nov 16, 2020 11:24 am; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chapter Six: Things Finally Happen

Nirvanyos the Arcane was nude again. It was a good sort of nude. Like an in-the-woods-alone sort of nude. Natural. Freeing.

Only like that, mind, because the wizard was not alone. He was accompanied by a sobbing wizard hat perched on a stump nearby. The hat sobbed, of course, not through any magical sort of means. This misery was most mundane, and it belonged to a small rabbit by the unfortunately saccharine name of Thumper.

Thumper had suffered a lot in the last few days. A victim of his own curious nature, he had become embroiled in a devastating hurricane of wizardly obstinacy, been made accomplice to murder, witness to torture, and forced to confront his own non-reality as an illusory being. A heavy burden for such a tiny spine to bear. As it was, he had simply passed his limit. For the moment, he was Out Of Order, Please Return Later. His overwrought brain had forgotten how to do anything but cry. So cry he did.

Nirvanyos had tuned him out, focused as he was on the task before him. He was busy gathering bits and pieces of local flora and incorporating them into his wizards robes. A tuft of grass here, a mantle of moss there. A stickish bit with some leaves. All arranged with precision so that were he to lie down he would be invisible. Well, not proper invisible, but when one was on the lam without a brewing station one simply had to make do.

It was not long before the job was finished--this was not the wizard's first time going commando. He wriggled into the robe, and then turned to the matter of his hat. It would need camouflage as well, and to do that he would have to rouse its occupant. So he sat down, cross-legged and facing the stump. He stared for a minute, the rabbit's maudlin cries washing over him. Then he lit his pipe, drew deep, and blew a large plume is silvery blue smoke into the hat. It was not long before the cries choked off into a coughing fit, which hacked its way into deep, steadying breaths, and then silence. A small voice piped up:

"Thanks. I needed that."
Nirvanyos grinned. "At your service. Now, if I could have my hat back..." he lifted it up to reveal a red eyed Thumper, who met his gaze dully.

"Nirvanyos?"
"Yes, my boy?"
"I think I'm ready. For a drink."
"Do you now?"
"Yep. I think...I think it's finally worse. Every second of my life right now is a higher form of agony than the misery of choking down your horrible brew. I think that, right now, in this present moment, fighting down a full-body rejection of foul poison in my stomach would actually be a relieving distraction compared to everything else that's happening. Fill me a thimble. I'm ready."
"Welcome, boy, to adulthood. It never gets better." Nirvanyos poured out a teensy rabbit thimble of liquor and watched, beaming with pride, as Thumper choked it down.

It almost killed him.

Almost.

The rabbit lay flat on his back, panting shallowly, as Nirvanyos adorned his hat with foliage. The wizard hummed softly to himself as he worked. Eventually, Thumper gathered himself enough to speak.

"So, what's the plan?"
"Coming, are you?"
"Yeah."
"Thought you might."
"Well?"
"Well, while you were taking a beauty nap, I put everything together. Solved it. We're about a mile of Bavarian style enchanted pine-wood out from a massive magical aura. Six, maybe more practitioners, all grouped together. Real heavyweights. We've found our architects. Shoulda known it would take more than one to nab me. Shoulda known they'd gang up on old Nirvanyos. No matter. The plan's this. You 'n' me, we're going in. Silent. Strapped. Knives out. They drew this whole thing up linear, so they're going to be focused on one point of entry. We're going to come up on their hideout from the back, make a breach entry. Get in, get the jump on them, and keep blasting until either they die or we do. You ready for this?"
"An end." The rabbit's voice was raw with desire. "Yes."
Nirvanyos donned his hat and covered his skin in dark green greasepaint. "Then saddle up, Sancho Panza. We've got some business with a windmill."

_____________________________________

They crept through the forest with unnatural grace. Nirvanyos, like a specter of the woods itself, his ghillie suited form striding from cover spot to cover spot. Thumper, like a rabbit, hopping rabbitishly out in the open. They ate up the intervening mile between themselves and their quarry, not stopping until they reached a good vantage point on the clearing before them.

It hosted a party tent. Gaily striped blue and white, pennons streaming majestically in the breeze. A long dining table dominated the space, heaped with steaming piles of glazed meat and vegetables, as well as pastries and treats. The chairs, cloth, and table settings opulent in the extreme, made from enchanted materials which gleamed in the twilit gloom. The tent was lit by a number of floating lanterns emanating various hues of magelight. Charmingly dressed serving staff weaved and bobbed everywhere, stocking plates and finalizing their preparations. These were forest creatures and fantasy species, dressed, walking upright, and performing their tasks with the deftness of well-practiced humans. From where Nirvanyos was positioned, he had clear sight on the rear of the tent where a special access door led to the enclosed cooking and prep area. On the far side, past the front-facing dining set, six figures edged into view. They were facing the other direction, but Nirvanyos recognized them anyway.

Saccharine, An True, Melynn Virmlaine, an Elf Ranger, Sky the Arc Mage, and President Thomas Jefferson himself. Members of the Mages' Council, all. Nirvanyos reddened under his greasepaint, eyes narrowing. He muttered.

"I knew it would come to this. Couldn't get rid of me, so they kidnapped me and set a trap. Ah! Clever. Very clever. Most of my plans involved me having time to prep and access to my stash. Isolating me in an illusion was smart. Perhaps their best chance. But I've got an ace in the hole. You see, Thumper, I have drawn up plans. Plans within plans. I knew that a rogue Mages' Guild could be the greatest danger the Nexus ever faced. So I drew up contingency plans in the event that any of its members turned traitor. Plans to neutralize them. So they think they've got me where they want me, but the joke's on them: I'm too predictable for that. I always come out of left field."

And with that, he broke cover and charged. Staff in one hand, Rod of Lightning in the other, he made a sort of crabwise shuffle across the clearing to keep his profile low en route to the servants' prep-room. About halfway there, his luck ran out. A small blue bearded humanoid came out the back door of the tent, cigarette in hand. It was treated to the sight of a shambling mound of twigs and grass topped with wild white eyes that stood out starkly from a camouflaged face. The blue person paled in terror and gave off a strangled yelp.

Cover blown.

Nirvanyos snarled, Staff and rod both coming to life at once. From the stave, a beam of multi-hued energy lanced out into the creature's chest, wild chaotic energies melting it from the inside out and leaving only a pile of sticky glowing plasma behind. The rod released a jagged bolt of lightning which stabbed blindly into the side of the tent. Screams from inside. The tent caught flame. Adorable figures of every shape and size began to scatter in all directions, panicking.

Chaos reigned.

By now Thumper had caught up with Nirvanyos, using the knife clutched between his little teeth to hack at ankles and feet while the wizard shot magical blasts one after the next. Target after target went down, littering the clearing with piles of goo and fine silver ash. The tent was roaring now, its light overmastering the gentle lantern glow. Shouts from ahead alerted Nirvanyos that the other Mages had joined the fray, most of them focusing their efforts on combatting the flames. His heart ached, but they had not seen him yet. He had one shot, one sliver of hope, one--

He finally cleared the kitchens, reaching the open dining area and stopping dead in his tracks. The air roasting like an oven, he stared dumbly at the place setting before him. A massive cake, its stability an engineering marvel. Superbly iced. Tastefully decorated. Sat in front of a large wooden chair inscribed with his name. A banner hanging overhead and quickly catching flame boldly proclaimed:

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY NIRVANYOS!!"

The other Mages had caught sight of him. The plants weaved into his robe were smoldering and scorched, and he looked more beast than man in that moment. Dual fisting rod and staff, a war-grimace on his face, eyes wild and staring, smeared in grease and sweat and paint. A total mess. He straightened, walking clear of the tent, and dropped his weapons, the other Council members staring at him.

"Surprise. Heh." Nirvanyos's hand snaked up under his hat to scratch awkwardly at his pate. A support beam of the tent collapsed, the whole thing falling in behind him. "Ah, uh, sorry 'bout that. I seem to have misinterpreted the occasion." Thumper had drawn up behind the heel of his boot, knife still drawn gamely.

Finally, Melynn spoke up. "Nirvanyos...where have you been the last few days? We spent weeks working on this enchantment, populating it, designing it from the ground up. And as soon as we got you in, you...vanished. Off the rails. We couldn't find you!"

"Oh, that? I er...I was just sightseein'. You know. Takin' it all in." He pulled out his flask for a nip, and took a long pull before offering it around. As the flask was passed and the sounds of gagging filled the air, Nirvanyos's eyes took on a far-away look as he reviewed the adventures of the last few days. And, unbidden, they began to moisten. He muttered something under his breath.

The Elf Ranger, ears sharp, looked at him. "What?"

"I said, 'this is the best birthday present I've ever had.'"

______________________________________________

...and they all lived happily ever after.

THE END






People can heckle me now if they want, I'm not going to be adding more to this thread.
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