Beorian Tales by Brian Mullin (aka Catfish Waterdancer)
Based upon characters, history & lore of the game EPIC TAVERN, created by Hyperkinetic Studios
PART ONE: Getting in
Big was nothing but a pushover, decided Elona. It had been easy peasy to get him to agree to take them to the one shop in Tasuil Beor that they had never been allowed to go inside. Miss Frumplin had refused to take them, because they were ‘uncontrollable, rude and clumsy.’ Well, thought Elona, two out of three’s not bad. Behind the locked and spell-warded door was the biggest toy chest in all the world, and no one and nothing was going to stop her from playing in it!
“Doomed,” said Uncle Ralph, “We’re all doomed.” Although he was much quieter now, since he’d been abandoned by Aunt Elryssa and told to live in a tavern. He was sitting on a barrel, and still munching on the carrot Emmy had given him.
Kharimar stood in front of the door with a delicious look of frustration. The eldest at 10 years old, he always thought he was better than she and Emmy. So far, he’d tried every fire spell he knew, and they just bounced off the door back at him. The first fireball he’d dodged, only to watch it slam right into the huge trolliant. It had singed the bottom of his VFD uniform before three pats of his troll-giant hand put out the flames. Big had crossed his arms and waited patiently.
“If you break into this store, which I doubt, I will have to arrest you,” he’d said.
“There’s bad things in there,” said Emmy, “Veawy bad things. Wet’s go, Khawi!”
But Khari swore he could get the door open. That was 10 minutes ago. Elona was about to throw a major magic tantrum when Big picked Khari up and moved him aside. His fingers dug into the side of the doorframe and lifted the door, frame and all, out of the wall. The three kids look at him in admiration. Big shrugged his shoulders and said, “You three were going to get in somehow. I can at least claim that I heard a noise coming from inside, and thought it might be a burglar, or an arsonist.”
“But, how did you…” began Khari.
“The door is spell-proof. Which meant that it likely was not warded against non-magical attacks. Now, you have only a little while. Go look around and come back here when I whistle.” And Big positioned himself in front of the door, leaving just enough room for the three to walk between his massive legs. Emmy motioned to him, and he leaned down to listen, only to have the micro necro plant a kiss on his cheek before slipping inside. Following them, on his hands and knees, went Uncle Ralph.
PART TWO: Getting A Light
Kharimar was upset – he wasn’t powerful enough to take out the stupid door. And he’d been upstaged by the trolliant. Well, maybe he could find something here that would help him become Beor’s most fearsome fire mage.
As soon as the trio stepped inside Morbid Curiosities, the store became filled with light. Scattered throughout the place were cages, each of which held a captive flarey. Elona approached one and began conversing with the flarey in its high-pitched language. Nodding her head, Elona began to whistle a very low note, which became lower and then impossibly lower in pitch. Suddenly the doors to the locked cages sprang open, and the flareys flew the coop (so to speak.) That is, all but one. Elona began to walk away in order to look around, when Emilia let out a squeak.
“Ewwy, he’s hurt,” she cried, and it was indeed true. One of its wings had gotten caught on the cage door and had been torn in two as it had struggled to get free. It now lay on the floor, in obvious pain.
“Not my problem, Emmy,” answered the shamanette, “I set ‘em all free, but it’s up to them to get out. It’s not my fault he was stupid. Let him find his own way out.”
Emmy scooped up the wounded flarey and put him in her blouse pocket. She looked around the room, and knelt beside a shelf unit, gathering some cobwebs in her hand. She apologized to the spiders, and then carefully wound the webs around the two halves of the broken wing. “Can you fwy now?” she asked. The flarey lifted out of her pocket a little, but then stopped and fell back in. He shook his head.
“Well, I’ll take care of you.” Emmy began to follow Elona, when she felt her tiny passenger beat her chest with its little fists. She looked down, and the flarey pointed to the back of the store. Emmy didn’t like being inside Morbid Curiosities, and so having nothing in particular to look for, she let the flarey guide her.
PART THREE: Getting Warmer
Well, Emmy didn’t need him, she now had her personal flarey; and Elly knew the fireball spell – he’d taught her the words that Drattus the Rat had taught him not two hours ago. She always was the quicker study, even if she was four years his junior. Besides, he could cover more ground without the two of them in tow.
Here on the first floor, there were large items – things requiring their own pedestal, weapons, suits of armor or racks of clothing, vases or mirrors or large knick-knacks all crowded together. One whole section was devoted to a medium-sized greenhouse of plants carnivorous or poisonous or miraculously medicinal or magical, even some labelled as intelligent. Another section housed cages full of magical creatures: insects, reptiles, species mini-draconic or aquatic, birds, cats, mice and many more too numerous to mention. All of them magical, some powerfully so, and all of them (so it was rumored) dangerous to handle, or cursed, or both.
It is notable to here mention that, from street-side Morbid Curiosities looked like a small antiques store, crowded between a millinery shop on one side and a Phrenologist/Palmist/Tarot/Tasseographer’s studio, café and bakery on the other side. If an altogether ordinary person were to go inside, they’d see used furniture, depressing artwork and hideous jewelry, where two people could barely pass by each other without a struggle. But if a person with magical talents were to enter, they’d see the real shop, as large as a dockside warehouse, with two floors and an attic (for certain very special items.)
Getting upstairs required knowledge of a levitation spell. Khari was more interested in the magical accessories section. Being a fire mage-in-training, he just wanted a little more firepower. Okay, he wanted a LOT more. He’d heard Miss Bloodworth, their Spellmistress, talk about how centuries ago, a barbarian warrior had managed to cut off a fire elemental’s crown of flame, and the wizard of the party turned a chunk of it to stone before the rest reattached itself to its owner. It had then been set into an armlet.
Supposedly it amped up a fire mage’s power. Unfortunately, all mages who had wielded it reportedly died by drowning, of all things. It was lost over 100 years ago. Khari felt that there might be a chance that it had found its way to Morbid Curiosities. Miss Frumplin often sent him on errands to the shop, either to drop off or pick up an item. He’d been curious to peek inside whatever package he brought, but Frumplin had made it clear that she’d know if he’d looked. He’d tested that once, and for a week he’d had to live with his head on backwards.
Bracelets, rings, earrings, piercing jewelry, amulets, pendants, brooches, pins, tooth caps, anklets…finally Kharimar came to armlets. Not much to choose from – there! In a bookcase, there were six armlets placed about six inches apart. Each one had a tag attached, describing its powers, instructions for its use, and its possible side effects. Like everything else in Morbid Curiosities, no prices were listed.
Just then his globe of firelight went out. And one of the armlets began to glow red with power. Its tag read: “Armlet of Immolation. For use by Fire Masters. Activate by simply invoking fire. Use sparingly, and only in great need, or its hunger will consume yours.” Khari reached for it and stopped suddenly.
“If I take this,” thought Khari, “I’ll be a thief. I could be arrested, and have my powers negated. I could even die.”
From downstairs, he heard Big’s clear and oddly melodic whistle. Without hesitation, he put on the armlet and turned to levitate himself downstairs.
PART FOUR: Getting Short Shrift
Elona browsed the arcane spellbooks for a bit but gave up after realizing that they’d all been magicked to show nothing but blank pages. No browsing or memorizing allowed, she guessed. She stopped in front of a clothing rack and flipped through the dresses. Many were thickly embroidered – she guessed the embroidery threads had spells woven throughout them. Fabrics varied from as light as silk to the heaviest velvets. There was a mirror strategically placed beside the rack – magical as well, since all you had to do was touch a garment and it would reflect your image, actually wearing it. None of the garments were for children, though.
It wouldn’t matter, even if she could wear them. Nobody would notice her. Khari wouldn’t say anything, and Emmy would smile and then her attention would wander elsewhere. No, not quite, she thought, Emmy would at least say ‘It’s pwetty’ first. While it was nice having them around as friends, she felt they benefited more from her friendship than she from theirs. She might not be beautiful, or gifted, but she had more common sense than the both of them put together. And Miss Frumplin said that it didn’t matter how much raw talent you had, if you lacked common sense you’d never make it past fifth level. And Elona had plans to go way past that.
Then Elona saw the footwear section and lost all rational thought. She loved shoes almost as much as she loved crows. Her gaze focused on a pair that sang to her with sparkling red jewels. The tag read: “Ruby Slippers of Teleportation. Activate by yelling ‘Toto!’. May cause extreme depression and suicidal tendencies.” She tried them on, but the jewels made the shoes too heavy to walk in. When she tried to take them off, however, the left one came easily but the right one stuck.
After several tries, she placed her foot against a shelf and pulled away from it, while the shoe was held against the shelf edge. As she came loose, she lost her balance and teetered backwards into a bookcase, where she caused a good-sized bottle to fall and break. The bottle had been labeled ‘Shadow of A Doubt.’ Then she heard a strong, clear whistle pierce the air. Putting her own shoes back on, she made her way back to Big, never noticing a black spot on the floor merge with her own shadow and accompany her.
PART FIVE: Getting A Grip
Uncle Ralph, who you’ve probably forgotten by now (the Wizkiddles did), followed Kharimar, who he had pegged as the smartest of the group. He was way off on that score. If you guessed Big, you’d be correct. Anyway, he watched as Khari read the sign regarding the way to access the second floor and flew upwards. Our Ralph may be slightly addle-pated, but he’d had quite a long life before age began eating away at his faculties. He produced a rope and hook from somewhere inside his tunic (I’ll tell you about that rather remarkable, ordinary looking tunic someday), slung the hook over the railing on the 2nd floor, and climbed upstairs.
Those folks whose mental lights are dim or dimming are often attracted to shiny things, so after Khari had walked away from the hand jewelry, Uncle Ralph took his place and stared at the glimmering gems, precious stones and metals. If only he could find a ring that would charm Elryssa into taking him back! But she was a good, plain woman who liked good, plain things. None of these sparkly gewgaws, baubles or doodads would appeal to her.
But there, way in the back, were two very plain gold rings. They weren’t really shiny, but they were hard not to look at all the same. His hand passed through the glass countertop (the work of that remarkable tunic) and he took both of them. The tag of the first one read: “The One Ring, by DwarfCo: the only ring you will ever need to win his or her or its heart. To activate, place on your beloved’s ring finger while staring into his or her or its eye(s.) Possible side effects include insanity, a desire for solitude, and homicidal thoughts. NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH THE OTHER ONE RING.)
The other ring’s tag read: “The One Ring, by SaurRonco: To rule them all, etc. To activate, place on your own ring finger, and do a victory dance. No one will see it – we guarantee it. Possible side effects include loss of a finger or two.” Ralph couldn’t decide which one she’d like. First, he tested their fit. Her ring finger was as big around as his thumb. The first didn’t fit at all, but the second one magically changed size the instant it was on his thumb. It was then that Ralph heard Big whistle, and he turned to go back down his rope when he collided with Kharimar, knocking them over the railing and down to the first floor.
PART SIX: Getting in Trouble
The wounded flarey (whose name was unpronounceable so she called him Dingleberry, or sometimes Dingbat) guided Emmy to the back of the store, where she stood facing boxes piled against a wall. Then he flew into the boxes, and out again. It was illusion magic. Strong magic, too, thought Emmy as she felt it push back at her when she stepped into and through it. There, behind the illusion, was a door. A very old door, in fact, carved with many runes and signs, none of which Emmy recognized. Dingleberry nodded angrily at the door handle, which sparked and then creaked downwards, opening the door to the great surprise of them both. Flarey magic is capricious, and singularly unreliable in most workings.
They went down the staircase that appeared before them, to a long hallway of many more doors, nine in all – four along each side, and one at the very end. Dingleberry pointed to the last door. Emmy reached out, opened it, and entered a room about the size of a broom closet, lined from floor to ceiling with bookcases. Each shelf held various glass globes of many sizes and shapes, some containing miniature scenes of buildings or mountains, ships or people or creatures. And on the bottom of each was a light powder of white dust.
If you’re thinking snow globes, you’re partially correct. “Pwetty,” said a wonderstruck Emilia, and as she picked up a globe, one which had a unicorn in a field as its scene, the white powder floated up, and began to swirl. Emmy peered very closely, and gasped. Each speck was a gnat-sized white dragon! They threw themselves at the glass, as if they wanted to get out.
“No wonder you wanted me to see this, Dingbat! They are pwisoners, just wike you were!” she said. Looking back at the globe, she said, in a voice gone very serious, “How can I fwee you?” Pandemonium ensued as the thousands of dragon-gnats in each globe swirled madly about. Emmy dropped the globe she was holding, but it didn’t break. She looked at all the globes, whose inhabitants had grown still, and said, “Why didn’t it bwake?”
An image began to form inside the largest globe, an image of a dragon head. All the other globes formed an image of a globe. The dragon head reformed itself into a globe, and then began to drift downwards, showing itself shattering as it touched bottom. As it did, all the other globes mimicked the shattering. There was a footstool in the room, and Emmy climbed up so that she could grab the big globe. Dingleberry hid inside her blouse, shaking. Emmy dropped the globe, and as it shattered, so did the rest. The temperature dropped to freezing as a blizzard overtook the room. Many thousands of dragon-gnats swirled together forming a massive cloud, which grew until it seemed the room could no longer contain it.
Somehow, Emmy heard Big’s warning whistle, and felt the cold touch of dragon scales on her face as the closet in the hidden basement of Morbid Curiosities tore at its pocket of reality and exploded upwards in a glittering display of iceworks.
PART SEVEN: Getting Out
Let’s quickly recap: Kharimar and Uncle Ralph have just fallen, one on top of the other, from the second to the first floor. Khari possesses an elemental fire armlet, and Ralph has the One Ring times two (he never put the first one back – that’s another story), and Elona is being trailed by a Shadow of a Doubt but is standing next to Big, who is the epitome of a patient magical child-minder. But, although he had inherited the deep intelligence of his giant mother, he had – alas – inherited the slow-moving mind of his troll father.
It was Elona who noticed the dangerous chill in the air and ran inside the shop to get coats from the rack. She grabbed 5 cloaks that were labeled “On Sale: All- Weather One-Size-Fits-All Cloaks of Nightmare” and hoped for the best. She threw on one and instantly felt warm. When she approached Big, he fainted. She threw one on him anyway, and now it was her turn to pause: she was looking at her mother – only much, much bigger. That explains the nightmare part, she guessed. She ran back into the shop and saw Khari backing away from – a floating ring?
“We’re all doomed,” said Uncle Ralph’s voice. Elona put two and two together and shouted: “Ralph, take off the ring!” At which point, he did, and when he glanced at Elona he ran screaming from the shop and out into the street. Big had just come to and sat up, only to have Uncle Ralph run straight into him, and by doing so Ralph knocked himself unconscious. To Khari, Elona said: “Don’t look at me, and put this on!” “All right, Elly. At least you’re not a giant slug. Why is it so c-c-cold?”
The floor erupted underneath them, knocking them backwards. On a pillar of ice arose Emmy, who was shaking very badly; above her was a swirling cloud of white. As they watched, two huge wings unfolded on either side of it. From a distance, they heard Big shouting, “Emmy’s going to freeze to death! Do something!” By now, two huge legs appeared, followed by a long tail. “I don’t know any warming spells!” shouted Khari, “What about that morph spell you learned last week? Can you transform into something that can carry the last cloak to her?”
“It’s too windy!” replied Elona. And then the swirling clouds finished their insane dance. Hanging in the sky was a white dragon, who bellowed furiously. Thinking only to protect Emmy, Kharimar unleashed a fireball. He’d forgotten that he’d worn the armlet, so it was a fireball powered by a fire elemental. Khari was a fire mage-in-training, not a Fire Master, and he was not prepared for the resulting kickback. From his elbow to the tips of his fingers, his arm burst into flames. The boy screamed in agony. The fireball went wide and headed straight for Emmy. The dragon deflected it with a flick of its tail, and it hit Morbid Curiosities, melting the the pillar of ice on which Emmy had been standing, and setting the whole building aflame.
“Shit,” said the dragon. And time reversed course.
PART EIGHT: Getting It Right
It flowed backwards. Emilia wasn’t roasted alive, Khari’s arm didn’t get incinerated, Morbid Curiosities was mostly intact and the floor pieced itself back together. There were three creatures floating in a bubble of time above the scene: Emilia, the flarey and the dragon. Emilia was cradled in the crook of the dragon’s left foreleg. She awoke, slowly and stiffly. Looking down, she saw a frozen tableau: Big and Elona were outside the shop, and Khari appeared to be floating over the floor. Patches of ice were everywhere along the floor.
“What happened?” she asked.
“You, and some of your friends down there died a few minutes ago. We’re going to change that. I am in your debt, because you have freed me. My name is Tempus, and I am the Guardian of Time.”
“I don’t understand. If I am dead, how can I be awive now?”
Tempus sighed. “You are not dead yet. I have gone back in time, so you can change your future. You are still alive. See?” Tempus gestured, and Emilia saw herself in the downstairs room, standing on the footstool, the broken globes around the closet floor, the swirl of dragon-gnats.
Emmy laughed. “How can I be in two pwaces at once?”
“We are, right now, moving sideways through time. Don’t try to understand it right now, we must hurry. Remove the armlet from your friend and keep it with you. Do not put it on, ever. Don’t let your friend know you have it. Give it to him one day when you are both much older.” Tempus put Emmy on the floor next to Khari. “Ignatius,” he thought, “In time, I’ll come for you.”
She had to pull Khari’s sleeve very hard – it didn’t want to move. Somehow, she managed to pull the armlet off. Dingleberry said something in Flarese, and the armlet sparked and shrank to become a bracelet, which Emmy put in her pocket. Tempus picked her up gently and smiled. “See you soon,” he whispered. And time sped up.
This time, when the fire mage-in-training let loose an ordinary fireball, the dragon met it with his icy breath, and Khari and Elly scrambled to get out of the way of the ever-expanding iceberg that was Morbid Curiosities. Tempus, with six wingbeats, soared into the sky to vanish completely from sight.
Emmy propelled herself off her pillar of ice, enjoyed a thrilling ride across the shop’s ice pond-like floor and slid into the arms of a very happy Big, who held her tight. A crowd of about 40 people had arrived. The Tasuil Beor night watch appeared and were told by Big that he was walking the children home when a dragon broke out of Morbid Curiosities. Uncle Ralph was revived by smell of a mug of ale that someone in the crowd gave him, forgetting all about the two rings he’d pilfered. Kharimar tried his best to find a trace of the armlet but decided that it was probably frozen somewhere in all the ice.
The Shadow of a Doubt had fallen asleep while inside Elona’s shadow and remained so until she hit puberty. Big delivered the 3 Wizkiddles successfully back to their respective homes, and Uncle Ralph to the Ravingers’ not quite yet epic tavern. Emmy discovered a funny bracelet in her pocket and remembered everything. She found a snow globe as well, one with a unicorn on a field. The trio terrorized their fellow students at Miss Frumplin’s School with their Nightmare cloaks until they were confiscated by the headmistress herself; it was said she wore special glasses to shield herself from the cloaks’ effects. Makes you wonder what she might have seen, doesn’t it?
The proprietor of Morbid Curiosities, Ignatius Mordred, rebuilt his shop almost overnight. It is said he spent a fortune in warding spells and magical alarums, as well as contracting the services of several otherworldly guardians. It was said that each time he entered or left the shop, he’d look up and scan the skies.
As for Tempus, this author professes very little knowledge. I can tell you this, though: Not all of the gnats that became Tempus soared away that night. Several remained to inhabit the snow globe that ended up with our ‘micro necro’ Emmy. Tempus wanted to keep an eye on his rescuer, as well as the warden of his imprisonment, Ignatius Mordred. One lone dragon-gnat is in residence at Morbid Curiosities.