Excerpt from “My Adventures – The Life of Theros Vitalstatistix, vol.1”
“This place is emanating some strong magics guys, and it’s coming from the ceiling. Be careful!”
As Theros uttered a warning to the others in the loft with him, his eyes were drawn to the surrounds, that until this point, he had managed to avoid.
There was a large cauldron in one corner. There were dead children hanging from the wall, missing body parts. An effigy to some unknown God stood proudly over a small, for lack of better term, alter, on which a small body lay, stitched together from the body parts of the children on the wall, missing only a single limb.
This macabre scene shook Theros to his core. Such evil!
“Who, or what could perpetrate such evil?”
With a shudder, he glanced up and caught sight of something moving in the ceiling near the alter. Just a chance sighting, but definitely something moving up there in the dark.
“Up there! There’s something moving!”
The Idiot and Barney looked in the direction indicated, but were not able to spot anything. The Idiot stood almost directly under a small opening in the ceiling and for some reason, he reacted badly to the position and a flare of bright colours erupted from his hands, washing over the ceiling.
“Something tried to affect my mind! It’s not right!”
Another chance glimpse of something in the ceiling moving, this time, an arm extending from the hole, used a wand and flicked a spell off towards Theros. A ray struck him squarely in the chest and suddenly the world changed. He could see everything, feel everything, think everything he could before, but he lost all control over his actions and could feel himself turning to the closest person to him…Barney.
With no ability to resist, revulsion at this invasion and loss of control, a sense of wonder mixed in at being able to cause such actions and not least, a huge prayer of thanks to Desna that Barney had bathed the day before, Theros found himself grasping the large drunk and passionately trying to kiss him.
Barneys look of utter disgust and horror was almost worth the exchange…almost, but not quite.
As Barney shook Theros off, he yanked his axe out of the roof (how the hell did that get there?) and glowered with a barely suppressed rage and brushed Theros aside and strode over to the spot in the ceiling where the person was.
Theros shook off the effect quickly, and taking stock, he realised a number of things. First, powerful magics were at play here, and he wanted to know more about them. Second, Barney smelt a LOT better than previous (thank Desna!). Third, the Idiot had disappeared somewhere and a bloody pot had sprouted arms and a gaping maw.
Trying to step on the alter where the stitched up child was resting and get himself up to the ceiling, Theros unfortunately disturbed the alter, destroying a part of it and failing to get anywhere near the ceiling.
“Get on my shoulders. And don’t even THINK about any bloody funny stuff ya damn pansy!”
Barney hoisted Theros onto his shoulders and shoved him towards the ceiling, just as Nugg and Ashe came into view, gasping at the horrid views around them. Crawling through the gap in the ceiling, Theros came face to face with Olly! The same man that was lying at the foot of the ladder, with a massive axe rent in his skull, given to him by Barney for kidnapping a child.
This Olly was holding wands in each hand and looking menacing, so Theros went to his old faithful, knowing he didn’t really stand much of a chance in combat with anything, let alone something in confined spaces with no weapons.
A film of grease emerged on the footing where Olly was standing and he fell!
“Please, no, don’t hurt me. You don’t understand what’s happening!”
Theros actually agreed! He had NO idea what was going on and had no intention of harming Olly, so he did the only thing he could think of. He grabbed Olly’s legs and simply fell back through the hole he was currently balancing precariously over, dragging Olly with him.
A small bruise later and a solid thump from being landed on by his assailant brought Theros back to reality. Olly reacted quicker and scrambled to his feet, pointing at the cauldron.
“Quick! You must destroy the cauldron. That is what is wrong here!”
Theros was inclined to agreed and quickly moved around to find an angle to shoot the cauldron, which currently was attempting to grapple Barney, Ashe and Nugg, and apparently taking very little damage in return. And still, there was no sign of the Idiot!
Barney took the initiative and attempted to block Olly’s escape route should he try to leave, but some form of confusion had affected him and he stood next to Theros instead, roughly holding his sleeve, blocking any easy movement.
Olly took the chance to sow more discord at that point! He pointed his wand at Barney and Barney turned his gaze upon Theros. Having succumbed to this previously, Theros understood what had just happened.
Mind racing, he also saw Ashe trying to help Nugg, who appeared to be in some trouble, so he cast grease on Nugg, allowing his to escape the cauldrons grasp more easily, and Ashe seemed to be able to move away at will. Once this was done, Theros moved away from Barney, hoping to avoid some more uncomfortable moments for the both of them.
Unfortunately, he was unable to get far enough away, and he was engulfed in a bear hug as strong as it’s very name sake and held far more closely than his mother ever held him. The only thought flashing through Theros’ troubled mind now was the wish that Barney had somehow developed minty fresh breath and being disappointed to find this was not so.
This lapse in control spurred Barney into a rage not previously seen before, and he all but threw Theros aside as he came to his sense and immediately charged Olly and smote him heavily with his massive axe, as Olly morphed, somehow, into John Rust and pleaded with Barney not to kill him.
While this was going on, Ashe and Nugg were concentrating on the cauldron, and while they were keeping it occupied, it didn’t appear to be in any serious danger of being broken. It somehow sensed this and decided that a greased up farmer was not its favourite toy and moved to attack Ashe, who had moved around the room to stand near Theros instead.
A desperately lucky shot from Theros felled the creature now resembling John Rust and Barney turned his indignant rage on the remaining foe…the humble, but ever so troublesome pot, and with one mighty blow, destroyed the thing.
As it cracked, a club was spat out of it, and out tumbled the Idiot as well! Apparently he had been swallowed and looked to be in bad shape. Ashe rushed to his side and asked Desna for assistance, and She answered, healing those injured physically (although the mental wounds stayed fresh!), allowing the Idiot to gain his feet.
The creature on the floor had melded back into a fairly strange, formless humanoid shape, pale and lifeless.
“Oh…hells…that’s a doppelganger. They can change shape and imitate people.”
Knowledge unbidden rushed through Theros’ mind and he shivered as he contemplated what could possibly have caused this foul creature and Olly to work in cahoots towards such an evil goal.
“Ashe, can you and Nugg check on the child and get him safely back to the orphanage please?”
The party left the grisly scene and made their way back to the Blue Oyster in search of John Rust. Arriving pretty much together, the barkeep inclined his head towards the cellar, indicating the group make their way downstairs.
They arrived to a slightly surreal scene of a gathering of people, making a large amount of noise, John Rust leading the gathering and a man, looking battered and bruised, tied to a chair.
A group had been formed, which seemed to change names in every other sentence, that the party was invited to join. Barney was easily swayed by alcohol and joined, the others standing round in a state of slight disbelief as surreal events unfolded around them.
The votes had been counted again and were correct according to the Official Counter, however, there were more votes than there were voting people in Hexagon! The votes had been rigged!
“Right lads! We got some information from our wee friend here. We’re to confront the Mayor immediately! You lot are with me and we’ll get to the Mayor first thing tomorrow. The rest of my men will secure the city.”
Somehow the righteous belief in Johns words swayed the group and with almost no hesitation, they agreed and immediately headed to bed, getting rest they would badly need for the coming encounter tomorrow.
An early start and Theros led the group, along with John Rust, towards the Council Chambers. A man from last night rushed up to John.
“John! They have your wife! Come quickly!”
John cried out in frustration and anguish as he turned to the group.
“Lads, I have to go and rescue my wife. You can do this! You can confront the Mayor and save the city. God speed!”
John rushed off with his comrade, the group left flustered and gasping, looking blankly at each other as the import of what had just occurred settled over them. Theros took a deep breath, looked each of the others in the eye and pointed in the direction they had been travelling.
“We can do this! We have the proof and righteousness on our side. I believe this is our time! We must be the heroes that hexagon needs now, not necessarily the ones it wants.”
A suitable fire set in the bellies of his party, they marched towards the Council Chambers, stopping only briefly at the front desk to gain entrance as the woman on the desk was left dazed and confused by the swift talking Theros.
Sweeping into the chambers, it was arrayed with a table near the front and pews surrounding the table for additional petitioners who waited to be seen. Just in front of the table was two guards holding large polearms and resting on tower shields and just off to the side of them were two more guards holding large swords. All four looked fairly heavily armoured and confident.
The Mayor was seated in a large plush chair and standing to his side was some form of Mayoral aide, talking quietly to each other, watching the group enter.
Striding up to the petitioning table at the front of the chambers, Theros indicated to Barney to stand next to him and the others a row back, and hoped they looked relaxed. Pulling out the evidence, he brandished it boldly, waving it towards the Mayor.
“Good morning Your Honour! If it pleases you, I would like you to prove that you are NOT, in fact, the rightful Mayor of Hexagon! I have evidence here, with the official seal, and confirmed by the City Counter, that shows the votes have been doctored.”
The Mayor had come down to have a look and indicated that he wanted the documents given over to one of his men. Theros steadfastly refused, and the Mayor carefully made his way back to his plush chair, turned to his aide and whispered to him.
“They know. Light the fires.”
Theros was close enough to hear the whisper and inwardly recoiled. The aide must be stopped. Apparently Barney had the same idea as he moved forward, only to be blocked by the two guards holding polearms.
The aide made for a door to one side that had previously been unnoticed, the two polearm wielding guards moved into offensive positions and the great-sword wielding guards moved to attack the group from the sides of the room.
Theros could only watch as his will was forced aside again as the Mayor cast some form of spell on him, sending fear deep into his very soul, driving Theros to flee the chambers. Luckily, Ashe understood what had happened and moved next to Theros, casting some form of divine protection on him, washing away the crippling fear.
Theros glanced at Ashe gratefully for the help and moved a step further away from the closest guard, failing to notice the pew directly behind him and getting a sore shin in the process. Eventually, he clambered on the pew and started laying down grease patches around the chambers, controlling the areas the guards could attack from.
As this was happening, Barney had been hit by a ray of some kind, knocked over and then got up and moved past a guard to stop the aide from leaving, only to be tripped again as the aide left the building.
The Idiot, who finally revealed that he preferred to be called Arlen, had been cornered by another guard and looked in a spot of trouble until that guard slipped in a greased section of floor and promptly succumbed to a cascade of colours flowing from Arlen’s hands.
Dog had corralled another guard who had fallen prone in yet another spot of grease and was worrying him viciously, with Nug alongside, hitting the guard with his staff.
Ashe was moving round the side of the chambers to cut off any other guards. In repayment for the save earlier, Theros cast his final grease spell on the Mayor and a remaining guard blocking Ashe’s path. The guard fell to the ground and Ashe rushed past to get to the aide, who appeared to be gone from the room.
It is here that events get fuzzy.
Theros could have sworn the aide got outside, but somehow, the Mayor leapt onto the guard next to him, passionately trying to kiss him, Ashe swept past, Barney already by the same door and the aide somehow emerged, captured.
Members of the group from the previous night rushed in from all quarters, signalling an end to the combat as the Mayor and his guards surrendered.
“We have it from here sirs. We’ll hold them securely, but can you find John Rust and his wife? He is in serious trouble and looks in a bad way.”
Needing no further incentive, Theros dashed from the council chambers and rushed to Johns location, only to find John, his wife and a single city guard, brandishing a great-sword waiting for them. John and his wife were tied up and the guard looked unsteady, but still capable of violence.
“Choose one. One lives and the other dies! If you fail to chose, then both die. You have five seconds.”
Theros couldn’t let this happen. Drawing a wand he had seconded from the doppelganger, he attempted to charm the man, but the guard shook off the effects! As luck would have it, Arlen had the same idea and almost immediately afterwards, a second blast from a wand struck the man, and, his will broken, he rushed towards Dog, passion in his eyes. That passion was matched by Nug’s horror, and he struck the guard dead in retaliation for the perceived insult to his faithful hound.
Freeing John and his wife, Theros felt a wave of relief, which John echoed.
“You’ve done it! The city is saved, and so is my wife. We owe you so much.”
Matters took a more celebratory turn and over the next three days, the group was rewarded with gold, amazingly crafted weapons each and the promise that their trip on the blimp heading to Gnomeregan would be paid in full for each of them, a saving of five thousand gold a piece!
In all this joy, family returned to the picture. Theros’ sister, Franzi, made her presence known…determined to steal his thunder…again.
“Where the hell have you been? We thought you were dead? Why haven’t you come home? You are coming home aren’t you? Why did money turn up at our village for you?”
A discussion was in order and Theros explained all that had happened over the past few days. As the discussion continued, Theros realised something.
“No, no I’m not coming home. I have more important matters to attend to now.”
These were more than just words to Theros. In a few short days, his world had been expanded and his eyes opened. There was more to the world than the tiny village of Digon. Let father run that little piece of the world. Theros was the hero of Hexagon and excited to see more of the world!
Standing on the blimp docking bay, the group gathered for the last time before leaving to follow Fizzle McWatson and the troublesome book. A feeling of calm washed over them and Ashe and Theros had their eyes drawn skyward. The visage of Desna looked serenely down on them.
“You have done well. With a small nudge here and there, you have started on the journey I have set you. As a sign of my favour, here is a small token.”
The divine being left the sky and a feeling of indescribable elation coursed through Theros’ body, leaving him tingling and energetic, keen to get on the blimp and follow his destiny.