Stuff studying some Xeuágrams. Illustration drawn by
It was enough to derail Stuff's train of
thought and make him tilt his head downwards with a rodent's equivalent to
a frown. There! His beady eyes caught an irritating cerubell eyed furry
presence. Said presence had obviously failed miserably in walking straight
past this particular bookcase. Instead it enjoyed rubbing its fire red
back on the lowest row of books, causing unease further up in the rat
"Quit fiddling with that shelf, you lousy excuse for a cat!" Stuff roared,
erm... thought to be precise. – After all, Ximaxian rats have
rarely been observed talking (not one single time actually!), and even
rarer roaring. Which, all in all, doesn't amount to much precision
communication-wise. Stuff himself had always wondered about that striking
discrepancy between thought and expression of his species. However, at
some point he had given up trying to explain it, concluding that he was
simply beyond such petty human questions. Rats had other things on
Anyway, with the roar – or: attempt of a roar – Stuff thought he had made
himself as clear as he could. A couple of storeys further down this was
perceived as a... squeak. But it was an agitated, annoyed squeak that
"What's that fuss up there?" meowed the feline agitator by the name of
Stuff squeaked once more and then again, meaning: "I tell you what the
fuss is! You're disturbing my well deserved peace and quiet!"
The feline agitator however decided to agitate some more, now on purpose.
Once again he threw his back against the bookcase – this time with verve
and defiance, so that the looser books were visibly rocking back and
forth. Stuff's bookmark, a beautiful feather of a blue glitra, dropped off
the board's edge where it was resting on and sailed ceremoniously to the
"Shoo, shoo! Away with you, dratted infernal beast!" Stuff scolded
squeakily. "How about following the Master's example? Get plastered by...
a bowl of milk perhaps! E-l-s-e-w-h-e-r-e!"
"I'll teach you elsewhere!" Maelwyn meowed back angrily and made a
half-hearted attempt at climbing the shelf. At least he drove his paws in
the second row of books and looked up, all combat-ready. "How did you get
up there anyway?"
"See? No point there in having a serious chase," Stuff made clear. "Better
give up before you start. You know, the difference between Ximaxian cat
and rat is that the first sports all the lazyness it inherits from its
Master and the latter the brains. And as the Master is indisposed, it's
the rat that has to run the house, you see? So just do what you do best
and help your Master sleep it off." That was quite a mouthful for someone
incapable of actually talking.
But somehow the squeaky speech was effective enough. As if by command
Maelwyn yawned listlessly, suddenly overwhelmed by the urge to find a cozy
place on a cushion by the fire. The change of mind was also motivated by
the fact that the loose books threatened to come down not as ceremoniously
as the feather before. Continuing to rock the bookcase meant asking for
Maelwyn made up his mind. Let rat be rat wherever that beady-eyed nuisance
preferred to irritate its surroundings. Let it be the problem of the
surroundings to deal with the critter. After all: If you are seriously
annoyed, just declare it null and void, the cat recalled a wise
saying, and chose to ignore the rat in favour of a decent after-lunch nap.
"Ah, not worth it," Maelwyn seemed to grumble in his typical catty
grandeur as he finally turned around. "At least the kuatuskull produced
one good idea for today, and that is there's nothing better than a good
day's sleep." Day or night, sleep always feels right, was one of
those mottoes cats adhered passionately, and the Ximaxian sort was no
Stuff watched Maelwyn as he strolled off, head and tail held high,
wallowing in his own pride. Cats! the rat commented and shook his tiny
head, imitating master Grorm's preferred gesture of displeasure against
life, the universe and everything.
But as soon as peace had once again settled in the study, it felt almost
too quiet somehow. Aside from being occasionally annoying, the cat really
was no use at all, Stuff concluded. It wasn't even up for the traditional
cat and mouse game and posed as much danger for a rat as the cushion it
was sleeping on!
It was then that Stuff was struck by an idea: How about shaking it all up
a bit? He raced to a reference book nearby he had looked at a while ago
entitled "Alchemy - Purposes and Dangers", subtitled "What to do
and why, and especially what not do, and why not", written by a
certain Olmin Herbbrewer II. (writing about the mistakes of his father who
seemed to have perished "in herb brewing action").
Hmmm... Where was that passage again? – Ah, there! It read:
"Word of warning:
Certain kinds – or to be precise – very specific parts of certain
kinds of vegetables, fruit or vegetation in general can cause severe
irritation to the skin and should be handled with the utmost care by
any alchemist. Even more so if used in conjunction with other
substances known to react to these elements and thus intensify said
irritation. The fine hairs of common rose hips for example are known
to cause itching (mild to aggressive, depending on various factors
like freshness and quantity), as are the seeds of the exotic
mucunprur. If combined however, crushed and grinded properly, these
two components make quite a powerful powder, much stronger than high
quantities of just a single ingredient. Be especially careful when
handling... blah, blah, blah..."
Stuff had read enough. – Ha! Maelwyn needed to
be taught a lesson! He had begged for it for so long, and some itching
powder might be just right to do the trick. With a little bit of effort
even a lousy rat should be capable of preparing an effective mixture! (Not
that he had lice. The cat was another matter.)
In a jiffy Stuff entered the alchemy lab, climbed the mantlepiece and
surveyed the whole army of small bowls Master Grorm had organised there on
a rack. Thankfully the labels in front of the bowls were neatly
alphabetized, so that even ratty rascals had no trouble finding what they
were looking for. Usually Master Grorm made brews, potions, ointments or
powders out of these ingredients, which subsequently would serve as
reagents to help the one or the other spell do its business a tad more
effective than without.
Anyway... Just the powder is what we're here for. That would be enough
to terrorize a feline fellow, Stuff knew. No need to use it as a
reagent for an enchantment. But well, teaching the cat some manners would
have its advantages... Then again, rainy Prayday afternoon activities
would also be more boring with a cat that tended to behave itself. So
Stuff just stuck to the original plan: Make some powder and apply it to
the guinea pig subject in form of a sleeping victim of the feline kind.
Oh, and be prepared for some reaction... He twicthed his whiskers in
Well, producing the powder indeed proved quite the feat. Endowed with
intelligence, but way too tiny paws handling mortar and pestle was not as
easy as Stuff had thought. (Literally, as the thought indeed was easy.
Such shortcomings occurred regularly to a brainy rat like Stuff.)
Fortunately the mortar was located a level below the rack with the bowls
on it, directly on the mantlepiece. By moving the rose hips and mucunprur
bowls around Stuff got them finally in position so he could tilt them
enough and drop its contents into the vessel below.
Ha! Now that went rather well, didn't it? Stuff thought.
Right at the moment when he wanted to savour his accomplishment Stuff and
his excitement ran into one of the bowls nearby. While the latter simply
overturned due to the rat's artistic way of crashing into things (an
elegant nosedive with the bowl landing on his back - now try that if you
want to!), the whole incident resulted in sending most of the bowl's load
down to the floor where it spread beautifully like freshly fallen snow,
forming an idyllic carpet made of white-beige flakes. Even the cat was
decorated a bit with the blessing from above, but luckily didn't feel
irked enough to raise a paw and continued its slumber. Phew...
Stuff's natural adversary, Maelvyn, a Ximaxian cat... Picture
Stuff scurried to investigate. The label on the maltreated bowl read
"Chips of Light Stones". Hmmm... Well, they were a wee bit glowing,
but if providing some additional light was all they were capable of, that
shouldn't spoil the fun.
Ah well, Stuff thought by himself and went on to work on grinding the
contents of the bowl.
Excited the rat picked up
the porcelain made pestle with his tiny claws, scurried along the mortar's
rim and set out to do a couple of laps around the vessel, balancing on its
edge while at the same time making a lasting impression on its contents
pestle-grinding-wise. The scratching noise of his tool proved the plan was
working – exhausting, but working. A little rest, another couple of
rounds, and the same procedure again. And again, and once more. Until the
point when everything in the bowl had turned into a fine, bloodred powder
with a few tiny decorative grey sprinkles, all ready to let doom descend
on a still purring cohabitant...
There it went: One final push and the mortar tipped over, its whole
contents raining down on the unsuspecting feline subject that lay next to
the fireside, cuddled up in form of a ball...
Let there be itches and twitches!, Stuff thought triumphantly,
satisfied with his work. Then he used a nearby curtain to glide off the
mantlepiece and make a bolt for it, leaving the tomcat below unbeknownst
what hit him.
Erm... Something hit him alright.
In the form of a what could commonly be described as a boom. Or a ka-boom.
Maybe even a ka-booooom, as the thunderous sound was long, loud and
rolling. It shook the whole tower like a tiny earthquake, puffs of smoke
shot up here and there and colourful sparks were flying in all directions
like the famous firework displays by Ximax greatest magi on the day of
Yep, Stuff had heard it as well. Though only the first bang. Others
followed, including a drawn-out "Meeeeeeowww!" but all these noises had
lost their edge, due to the fact that the rat had turned half deaf already
thanks to the first ear-battering explosion.
Stuff just stood there, transfixed, rooted on the spot, surveying the
fireworks. In awe. However, this time he refrained from the applause when
the mists cleared. It didn't seem appropriate. His first analysis
suggested that he might have had slightly underestimated any effect of
chips of burning stones when hit by sparks of fire. Which wasn't entirely
impossible, Stuff had to admit in retrospect, given the fact that the
powder had been dumped over an area that included a fireplace. And yes: An
active fire indeed had complicated the situation even further.
Boom, boom, boom-dee-dee-boom... The last remnants of a fading catastrophe
echoed through the room.
Stuff rubbed the dust from his eyes, then valiantly moved into the
battlefield. There it was, the chosen guinea pig in form of a tomcat,
still overwhelmed by the unannounced fireworks display. The subject also
featured an arched back (quite typical for the feline sort, if the
circumstances suggested to make one), a maw that was agape, and one of
that cat's paws was reaching out as if it meant to claw someone.
Especially striking was that the cat didn't appear to show signs of any
itching whatsoever. Evidently because it was so transfixed due to the
whole affair. Or petrified. Yes, petrified. That hit the nail on the head.
Uhmm, Stuff thought all of a sudden. Petrified... Uh-oh...
than high quantities of just a single ingredient. Be especially
careful when handling..." This time Stuff turned the page.
"...handling such mixtures near inflamable objects and/or a fire
source. Especially, do not bring it in close proximity to further
fire based reagents. Any such combination might lead to
unpredictable reactions. Results might be instantaneous and
devastating. Even a case of a cockroach turning to stone has been
reported in this context, but could not yet be confirmed."
Ha, works with all kinds
of vermin. I can confirm that!, squeaked Stuff. Do I get a prize
now? However, he was nervously twitching his whiskers.
It didn't help either that the text finished with the ominous "In
conclusion: Act only with utmost caution!"
On that other note he added a word in his thoughts that summarized the
situation most poignantly: Drat!
Arguably the little experiment had gone a tad too far. Nevertheless, a
couple of minutes and some superficial research later, Stuff had a decent
plan how to breathe new life into a tomcat temporarily bitten by the
passivity bug. At least he thought so. And actually it was quite simple.
Yes, there indeed was one ultimate way to get rid of all kinds of
enchantments. All it took was a shortcut through the Netherworlds... This
time he would follow instructions to the T.
Splendid, Stuff thought of his plan. Master Grorm would be proud
That was before he tried it.
A while later an unusual
sight presented itself in the vast halls of the mage’s spire. If somebody
were watching, they would have rubbed their eyes in disbelief:
A rat with a plan scurried through the rooms, a strange contraption
attached to its tiny body. It was made of string, hastily and crudely
fashioned into a harness. Thanks to this contraption the tiny critter
managed to have a much larger object in its tow, and while it had its
difficulties with it, determination helped to get things going. The
object? Well, it looked like a distorted odd
sculpture portraying something bearing resemblance to a feline. The way
the whole scene appeared it could have been some piece of performance art
carefully orchestrated by one of those fancy New-Santhalan artists. You
know, they always try to express the strange and weird through the common
and familiar, thus making some sort of comment on the world in general or,
say, the Santhran in particular. For a spectator’s eye – thankfully
non-existent – the fact that a rat dragged an immobile cat around might
have contributed to the perception that someone tried to make some sort of
arty statement here.... But no, none of that kind. It was really just a
rat dragging around a cat (not quite itself at the moment), and it was all
for good reason.
Stuff and company finally came to a halt.
The towed in cat statuette was now resting in midst of a circle on the
floor, a circle drawn with chalk, as was a plethora of arcane symbols
surrounding it. The symbols themselves were encircled by a ring of candles
placed within small chalked down triangles, and in the space between the
triangles hexagons had been made that held bowls with ashes, leaves,
roots, powders, salts. The room was known as the "Incantalla", as any
proper mage knew of course – and Stuff had just learned – and it served
the summoning of anything Netherworldly. Thankfully Master Grorm had
prepared pretty much everything for an upcoming procedure already, so all
that was required for a rat with a mission was to trigger the summoning.
Piece of cake!
Now one thing should be noted at this point: Summoning wasn’t Stuff’s
specialty. Which explains why he thought he could pull the feat off. After
all, his sources made the alluring promise that pretty much every
enchantment could be undone by hurling a victim through a dimensional gate
(as a by-product to the actual summoning). Sounded quite straightforward.
And it was exactly the thing Stuff needed right now. It would solve a very
evident problem. But well, repercussions were bound to happen.
There we go..., Stuff thought as he brought the final piece of the
puzzle in position.
It was a tiny cubical object, not larger than the rat himself. The cube
was glowing, first in ocean-blue, but then changed colours every few
seconds to red, yellow, green and back to blue again, all the time
slightly vibrating, almost bursting with the magical energy stored within.
It was a small, but incredibly powerful magical artifact, known among
magicians as a famous "portal breaker", which Master Grorm had acquired
for quite a few sans, a true treasure of arcane mastery. It was way too
precious to actually be used of course. It was just too powerful and
arcane and more of a collector's item.
However, within a few blinks the artifact was bound to be disintegrated by
a rat in order to correct a previous judgemental error that had resulted
in magical fallout. Too bad. Sacrifices needed to be made.
There. Now the artifact rested solemnly next to the statuette,
formerly known as Maelwyn the cat. Stuff quickly moved outside the drawn
circle, as the summoning instructions wisely ommitted to mention that it
was a great idea for warm-blooded beings to stay inside. One (at least
right now) not too warm-blooded cat should do.
It lasted a while until the cube started to react.
Then came the flash.
The tiny object began to rattle, jump around and radiate very seriously.
The changing of its colours intensified dramatically – clearly it was
drawing further magical energy from its surroundings.
A moment later the candles in the triangles and hexagons lit up, one after
the other within the blink of an eye. White smoke rose up to the ceiling,
which got thicker and thicker, forming heavy wafts up there. The bowls of
ashes, leaves, roots and what have you began to sizzle and crackle
In midst of it all the cat itself started to dance, or – more precisely
speaking – to revolve around its own axis. Obviously no discernible
dancing steps could be expected from a petrified cat, and so it moved as
if thrusted around by a phantom hand following the beat of some unheard
All of a sudden the room went dark. The candles had gone out.
Only their white smoke that by now had filled almost half of the
Incantalla was still visible for some reason and it rolled around
majestically, then broke on the walls like heavy surf on a shore. The
smoke dispersed further and continued rolling in the other direction, only
in tinier curls, thus eventually filling the entire room.
Geez Louise! Stuff thought. It was the first time he witnessed
first-hand what happened behind doors in a room like this, and he didn't
particularly like it. It was just a first taste.
The floor began to tremble. At first barely noticeable, then
disquietingly noticeable, finally with a force that threw Stuff up and
down as if it were playing ball with him. Something approached from to
wherever the portal was connected to, accompanied by the sound of rolling
What had once been a mere sizzling and crackling simmering somewhere in
the background now turned into a dominating, shrill cacophony of noises. A
gruff, almost tangible ripping sound finally buried all other noises as it
tore violently through the fabric of space:
...which was followed by a no less alarming...
...reverberating again and again with an unreal hollow echo arriving from,
well – how to put it? – nowhere and everywhere at the same time...
Kaaaaaaa-rashhh... kaaaaa-rash... ka-rash... rash... ash... ash...
Ah yes, repercussions had been mentioned: Stuff had finally arrived at
this point. And within an instant he discovered several flaws in his
original ratty logic:
For one, the cat disappeared. Hrmpf. That was because opening a
dimensional gate meant also sending the contents inside the circle through
said gate in exchange for something else. In this case it was a stone cat
meant to be de-petrified that went on a journey. Well, summoning is a
two-way thing. So, saved or not, Maelwyn was gone.
Second, more summoning basics: While Stuff had focused on the one side
effect that was relevant for his needs, the summoning procedure also had a
primary effect. Duh! The primary effect was opening a passageway for a
gargantuan demon to pay a visit.
Image description, Out of the the
Netherworlds arrives a playmate. Picture
The horrific beast first let out a bloodcurdling roar, still hidden in the
fog, then peeled itself out of it and showed itself in all its hideousness
to the audience. Well, actually the demon looked a bit confused and
irritated out of its sickly grey, yet extremely muscular skin. Now that it
had arrived in a Ximaxian Incantella, the creature looked for someone who
had torn it out from wherever it had existed before. However, instead of a
great wizard all it spotted was a one single rat, which – to make matters
even more confusing – had all of a sudden turned... uhm... mousy.
The demon to the contrary was tall, almost reached to the ceiling – yes,
it even needed to hunch over to fit into the room! It stalked around like
a goat on its hooves and howled in a strange mixture of desperation and
lust for revenge. As it threw its heavy body around looking for other
creatures which had participated in the summoning and which it might
destroy, horns could be seen protruding from its putrid back here and
there, and a long tail swept over the floor. Its mighty claws were willing
to squash whatever happened to come their way, be it wizard or tiny mouse,
or even a wizard mouse.
Put together, problem one and two resulted in a third. This was the very
pressing one: How by the Twelve or the abysses of the Netherworlds would a
tiny rat be able to get rid of its brand-new playmate? The fellow didn't
turn out that well, and probably didn't have much to offer on the fun
scale. And now that Stuff was presented with an alternative, Maelwyn
seemed clearly preferable...
The beast didn't tarry. It lunged out with a roar to extinguish something.
Due to the lack of mighty wizards, the rat would have to take the brunt.
There was a muffled noise.
Ayyyeeeeeee... The demon wailed in frustration.
The strike hadn't quite succeeded. It had been stopped by an invisible
barrier that engulfed the summoning circle.
Ah, Stuff thought, Master Grorm set it all up splendidly! If
he had been familiar with the sneering gesture of sticking out his
toungue, Stuff would have done so.
Another strike hit the invisible wall with a loud thud. And then one more.
A visible crack appeared in the invisible barrier.
Uh-oh... Stuff made in his mind. Then he pulled himself together.
You wait, Stinky. No need to hurry. Let me think of something...
Master Grorm was flying. And what a treat that was!
The Volkek-Oshra orc looked down on the citizens of the magical city that
were milling around below. He was quite fascinated by the incessant to and
fro he was watching from his lofty vantage point. It reminded him of the
ever present commotion an ant hill had to offer, where everyone was
heading towards somewhere else for some reason, where the whole community
was busy and never came to a standstill the whole day long – only the
frequency of the milling about changed occasionally.
Master Grorm liked his flying, but even more so he enjoyed making a sport
out of swooping down on the chaotic masses every now and then – ah, that's
where the real fun was! Like an eagle he suddenly used to shoot towards
unsuspecting victims walking the cobblestone of a plaza, as if he were
about to pick up prey... Suddenly panic struck the ant-like two-legged
creatures, and they screamed and scattered in various directions, pointing
at the mad orc in his red robe who was at it again! And there was nothing
that could stop him! Hahaaa!
After the scare interlude he once again soared towards the skies, his
ascent accompanied by an impish chuckle that eventually turned into a
full-hearted evil laugh... Brouhahaaaaa!
Finally he spread his arms, transforming them into wings. His robe
fluttered with a roar in the wind and gave him the necessary support for
circling another round over the uneasy anthill below. Ah, what an elated
feeling to have near divine powers: to turn ants into chicken any given
moment – and all that without casting a single spell!
Ahhhh... oh--hooooaaaa.... Ooooooooops!
In his hubris the orc had just scraped past a spire. Missed it by a a mere
Well, he thought. Before the ant-like chicken get together to pick up
pieces of a crashed orc – maybe it's time for a little journey elsewhere?
The sky is the limit!
Thought so, then passed Dragonsbane Tower on the Outer Ximaxian City Wall
and continued with veering off towards the western part of the city, the
Hallowhall borough with attractions like Valgure's Magical Emporium, a
large plague column (oooi-oi-oiiii, another close encounter!) and all
those many taverns, among them the infamous "Wasted Wizard". Flying along
he left the famed Magical Academy with its twelve prominent towers behind
before floating over the rugged ranges of the Zirkumire Mountains that
engulfed the Xaramon peninsula…
How about an excursion into, say, a cloud? he mused and was already on his
way, heading towards the one he had just named "that one" on a whim, which
otherwise could also have been referred to as the third one from the left.
Excited Master Grorm dove into what from below seemed like a giant ball of
cotton wool. Everything turned white around him, as if bliss had made its
Well, the orc didn't quite know what exactly to expect he would find
inside a cloud. A dream like this should provide ample opportunities, he
then mused. However, as he thought so it occurred to him at the same time
that he thought that he was dreaming. And he thought that such thoughts on
thinking can’t be thought in dreams. Except maybe when he was just about
to wake up... Or so he thought.
He dismissed all that and flew on exploring. Whatever happened, he'd be
prepared for everything. For everything maybe, except for what actually
Because there was something that hit him. And it hurt, no joke.
Suddenly Master Grorm had the feeling he wasn't flying through a cloud
anymore and something had brought him back to a reality he had
successfully escaped for a while. And at that point that thought about
thinking about dreaming in a dream strangely made a weird kind of sense...
Well, as he was still in the process of untangling his thoughts, the
opposite occurred, though: a major headache set in. The orc wanted to open
his eyes and focus on his surroundings, but all he could see drowned
immediately in a blurry haze, and then there was nothing anymore...
nothing at all... absolutely nothing he would ever be able to clearly
"Giddy-up, boy! Go! By the nine-tailed cat of Minich! Go! Move! Mooooove!"
Stuff drew a tenuous breath. He was in a precarious position, but quite
confident that things would be sorted out. They had to! Precarious for one
was the fact that a demon was trying to tear down the magical prison he
was trapped in. That was noticeable because of the noise he made and the
walls that shook.
Kadooom... It went downstairs. Kadooooom-doooom-doom...
The other thing was that Stuff was riding on the head of a full-grown
orcish mage, whom he had just awakened, sort of.
It goes without saying that a rat, even a Ximaxian one, isn't trained for
riding orcs. Stuff scuttled about, trying to regain his footing which his
tiny paws and hind legs regularly lost. He rocked back and forth on his
unusual means of transport, never coming to a standstill. He felt like a
helmsman on a ship battling the waves in a storm – and he had the
suspicion that he was already seasick from the first few steps the orc had
taken. It was even more complicated than that, because aside from trying
to successfully ride on Master Grorm's head without falling off, Stuff was
also busy with dangling a small golden pendulum in front of the orc's
eyes. It was another smaller treasure from the mage's valued collection of
artifacts, which had just been plundered once more to help out a pretty
clever rat. Or a rat that thought to be pretty clever.
The artifact had done its job of hypnotizing the mage pretty well. First
Master Grorm had to be wakened of course. His howl from pain inflicted by
the piece of metal had been heart-warming. A pity, but there was no way of
avoiding that. One cannot hypnotize someone already sleeping.
But then the orc had been instantly won for the cause after Stuff had
begun to rhythmically swing the pendulum in front of the mage's eyes. Like
a freshly made golem, eager for some action, Master Grorm had risen and
stomped ahead as if there was no tomorrow.
And that’s where we are now.
"Ho! Not so fast!" the rat squeaked, struggling to rein the result of his
latest attempt in dabbling with magic for a good cause.
"Ooooooh... ahhhhh... eeeeeek!" on the other hand were the actual sounds
the heroic rider produced. They expressed pretty accurately how things
"Right, right, RIGHT, you obstinate pighead of an orc!" Stuff squealed.
That however didn't amount to much. Nevertheless, moving the pendulum
further to the desired direction did. The orc’s head turned, and his feet
Kadooooom-doooom-doom... In the meantime the unwanted playmate below made
clear he was still there. Doooom-DOOM!
"Coming, coming, comiiiiiing!" Stuff answered all paws full with directing
the orc downstairs.
"Left now, left now... NOW! LEFT! YOU... There, there... That's it! Good
Indeed, after a few minor crashes into tables (thump!), glass cabinets
(rattle and clang!) and walls (ouch, ouch and triple ouch!) that resulted
in a bloody nose of the used vehicle (so sorry!), Stuff finally got the
knack out of it. Eventually Master Grorm and his bloody nose plodded
valiantly downstairs towards the Incantalla. Hypnosis has its advantages
in times of need. Oblivious to everything around him the orc headed
straight towards Stuff's special friend.
Kadooooom-doooom-doom... that one made again, banging on his crystal cage,
apparently bent on attracting attention.
"Let's keep the introductions short", Stuff squeaked as Master Grorm came
to a hault in front of the still trapped demon. "Stinky, Master Grorm -
Master Grorm, Stinky. Now be nice to each other!"
The rat's whiskers twitched nervously. "While I leave you to exchange
pleasantries, please excuse me for a bit. I have work to do, pals!" he
concluded his short speech and hopped from the orc's shoulder.
It didn't matter much that none of his addressees could understand what he
was squeaking. The both of them didn't even pay attention, each in his own
Master Grorm still just stood there like a piece of furniture in front of
the whole summoned mess and took in the affair without batting an eye.
Lacking the drowsy rhythm of the pendulum his expression was empty and his
mind seemed on hold.
The summoned mess on the other hand found joy in bellowing demonically,
howling and roaring between drawing disgusting rattling breaths filled
with contempt. Moreover the beast reeked like a recently erupted
Netherworldly volcano which still hadn't had enough yet of torturing
otherworldly bystanders with its sulphuric vapors.
Again and again the creature's massive fists pounded on the walls of its
invisible prison, which was seriously cracked all around by now. Any
moment the enchanted crystal might...
Oioioi, Stuff thought. He didn't even want to imagine what the enchanted
crystal might do in a moment. Oioioi...
A moment later it did. Burst, that is.
With a noise like a wagon load of glass being disposed unceremoniously on
a stone floor the last resistance of the extra powerful, two- and
threefold reinforced magical protection, the pride of a magician who had
worked on it for weeks and weeks and weeks, gave way. Once and for all. In
fact it was more like one single drawn-out deafening noise when the
crystal shattered and broke into its tiniest bits. It fell apart like an
eggshell, only loud and spectacular, revealing its grizzly occupant in all
its infernal glory.
The demon howled in triumph. Finally he was free...
Master Grorm? No change there. He still looked on without batting an eye,
freed demon or not.
"Harrrrrrgh..." sounded the demon's attempt to start a conversation.
Master Grorm was not impressed. He didn't have much to say in reply to
such a relatively unspecific opening. And he was still mesmerized of
"Sorry again for interrupting your discussions", Stuff suddenly whimpered.
In the meantime he had quickly mounted the orc again. He now had squeezed
a piece of paper between his teeth. It looked funny that way, but Stuff’s
whole tiny body was atremble on his unique observation post.
The demon looked a bit irritated at the stunts the little fellow pulled
off, or maybe even amused – hard to judge given his ugly distorted
features. That much was obvious however: he was taken aback a bit by the
audacity of the little critter. Now he hesitated in his rampage. Curious
he watched the rat buzzing around on the orc’s head with its peculiar load
before seriously considering to destroy him along with his pedastal in
orc-form. After all the little fellow had some entertainment value, and a
grace period of a few moments seemed appropriate.
Stuff was still scrambling about maniacally. Finally he managed to
position himself carefully above the forehead of his brown skinned friend,
then leaned forward as best he could. He unrolled the scroll he had
transported up to this point, covering the orc’s face.
The demon raised an eyebrow.
"Come on, dratted orc!" Stuff squeaked at the top of his lung.
Master Grorm didn’t really transcend his role of playing furniture at this
point in time. While he was far off from, say, embodying the essence of a
dresser, he was getting closer the longer he stood still.
The demon frowned. He didn’t quite see the point in Stuff’s latest feat.
"What are you waiting for!?" Stuff squealed in pain, having difficulties
to hold his position.
Master Grorm wobbled a bit. The scroll seemed at least to have caught his
attention, sparking doubts that his existence as furniture was all there
was to it.
"Confronted with trusted items, actions or texts, the hypnotized is likely
to be able to identify objects, repeat what he is suggested to do or e.g.
read while in hypnosis."
Stuff remembered that text. He was hoping Master Grorm would as well.
The demon wasn’t bothered with academical questions who had read what, why
and when. This was getting ridiculous. He had quite enjoyed a scrambling
rat, but the exciting stuff seemed to be over and done with.
"Harrrrrrgh..." he complained and opened his giant four-fingered hand,
presenting his razor sharp claws, ready to put an end to the flagging
effort of a show.
"Iraiá, méph’guouró!" Master Grorm suddenly let out. It was more of a
whisper, though, which sounded like a personal note rather than a menacing
threat directed at someone in particular.
The demon couldn’t quite follow.
"RAAAAAAAAARGH!" he snarled back in full force making up in volume for the
wizard’s timid attempts.
"Rethaiá ác sáh’énh morasthián! Ánh!" the mage continued nevertheless
reading from the page in front of his hypnotized eyes. The good thing was:
he didn’t actually see the monster that was now approaching, steaming with
Stuff did and nearly toppled over, but had a narrow escape from his doom,
saving himself from tumbling down at the very last moment.
But well, the demon now had had it. He grabbed the next item he could
find, which happened to be a lectern, and hauled it in the direction of
the rat, the mage and everything they represented.
Luckily, he missed.
In striking out the giant however already had managed to sweep away pretty
much everything but the kitchen sink, be it bowls, candles, bookcases,
tables, chairs, and all the rest that wasn’t nailed down but unfortunate
enough to be in the demon’s way when he was expressing his emotions.
"Iraiá, méph’guouró! Rethaiá ác sáh’énh morasthián! Ánh!" Master Grorm
repeated composed and calm. This time a tad louder though, as if scolding
a tiny tot once more not to play with matches.
The massive beast now swung his arm directly at the mage.
To which the unfazed orc once again said the very same thing: "Iraiá,
méph’guouró! Rethaiá ác sáh’énh morasthián! Ánh!"
Something happened then the third time around he recited that. The air
crackled, sparks sprung out of nothing, hung around for a bit, then
disappeared again. The atmosphere suddenly changed and became dense, laden
with an aggressive energy, pregnant with impending discharge of something
magical that became almost tangible now. Whatever it was, it was present
everywhere and could be felt in the tiniest recesses of the room…
The demon reared its head, sensing a force he hadn’t reckoned with.
Apparently taken by fatigue by whatever happened around him, the swing he
was about to deliver suddenly lost its power in midst of execution. The
beast’s long arm eventually slumped listlessly to the floor.
The orc raised his voice, reiterating: "Iraiá, méph’guouró! Rethaiá ác
sáh’énh morasthián! ÁNH!"
The words Master Grorm now spoke he spoke with determination. The constant
repetition of the familiar phrase had ignited the mage’s dormant
willpower. With it he provided the mantra with the magical focus it needed
to actually take effect.
More and more sparks emerged and shot through the room, were drawn to its
center, swirled around the hexagon and the demon. The natural afternoon
light that had been shining through the window quickly lost out to the
constantly shifting colours of freshly appearing sparks that took over
lending everything an unreal vibrant taint.
The demon’s once triumphant roar changed into a painful wail.
"IRAIÁ, MÉPH’GUOURÓ! ÁNH!" Master Grorm now shot out his mantra again and
again, like arrows targeted at his enemy. Once that had been triggered, he
was caught in a loop, repeating the same thing over and over until the
point of exhaustion.
In all the pandemonium Stuff found that he wasn’t needed anymore and
quickly abandoned his post, watching the face-off from a safe distance.
As before when the creature had been summoned, the floor began to tremble.
And tremble some more. So violently that the whole building began to shake
with the ground. Bricks loosened, the walls staggered and swayed. The
pulsating colours of the sparks that now circled the hexagon turned darker
and darker, all the while drawing closer and closer to the heart of the
room and the demon…
The longer all this went on, the more the magical whirlpool merged with
the beast that had become a prisoner again. The creature twisted and
turned inside the ring of dancing energy that surrounded it, reached out,
tried to attack the ceiling or the floor in hope of another escape route.
But it was all to no avail. The magic closed in.
The beast howled and yowled without ceasing.
"Oioioioi…", Stuff squealed. "Oioioioi…"
"IRAIÁ, MÉPH’GUOURÓ! ÁNH!" Master Grorm recited slowly and unperturbed as
his hypnosis demanded.
But the tumultuous noise that emanated from the well into nothingness that
now opened swallowed it all: the howling of the beast, the squealing of
the rat and the orc’s reciting of the mantra.
Finally, with a last piercing agonizing shriek, the writhing demon was
sucked into the portal. Then it was gone, history. As it was drawn into
the expanding blackness towards its destiny, the demon’s wailing changed
into something else, replaced by another tormented sound that grew louder
and louder, the more the demon’s screech mellowed in the distance. That
other sound had undeniable similarities with a meow. Only that it seemed
eternally drawn-out, unusually so.
The portal closed again, leaving Maelwyn sitting in midst of the hexagon.
Half covered in soot, hair standing on end, meowing. In that eternally
tormented drawn-out way. But well, after a while it did end after all. So
the journey couldn’t have been that bad.
He seemed quite alive, Stuff concluded, satisfied with his heroic self.
Then silence descended.
And Maelwyn spotted Stuff.
And Master Grorm, completely exhausted, snapped out of his condition.
And Stuff darted off.
And that was when the whole spire came down in an enormous dust cloud. Its
inhabitants only barely escaped the tower's complete destruction...
What more is there to say of this eventful day? Well, the saying goes that
one just doesn't find the traditional cat-mouse chase in Xaramon. That's
because it's highly likely that one participant in that sort of action
would be of the Ximaxian kind. Whether it's a Ximaxian cat or rodent,
intelligent creatures like that don't lend themselves to such trivial
pursuits. You'd rather find them playing a board game, some would say. As
always: Exceptions confirm the rule. Case in point: One Prayday afternoon
when a flame red Ximaxian cat was indeed seen chasing a Ximaxian rat
around the ruins of a recently crumbled wizard's spire. Nobody knew
exactly what had transpired there at the spire. None could say either why
the cat and mouse game had suddenly been revived in midst of good old
Ximax. But it had something to do with magic. And Stuff.