|Retired sorcerer Salamand Stiver hates a dirty skull. No skull must go unpolished!|
I’d never seen such a dirty tomb before. “When’s the last time someone’s cleaned in here?”
Mugley, my carrier imp, sneezed and dug her talons into the leather band across my arm. “It’s a tomb, Mr. Stiver. Dead things live here. They don’t need to be cleaned.”
“Who says?” I took my third polishing rag, the blue one with the lace fringe, and swiped it over the stone curvature of one long deceased sorcerer, Ramtongue Humbeetle. He’d burnt half the countryside to a crisp in his “burn and burn” campaign several years back. The Curlgarden Cavaliers followed him on their giant warthogs, but all it ended up doing is causing more pain and heartache. The mess I had to clean up after all that. My skin smelled of soot and burnt bacon for weeks!
“Who says?” Mugly echoed me. “Well, it’s kind of an unwritten rule, isn’t it?”
“All things should be cleaned,” I said, examining Mugley’s talons. “Especially your talons. Is that blood?”
Mugley folded her wings. “I ate a rat. Sue me.”
“I would if it were possible to sue an extra-dimensional janitorial assistant.”
“I’m no such thing.”
“Do you not carry my cleaning supplies in that little pouch of yours?”
Mugley’s slick red cheeks puffed out. “That’s not what the pouch is meant for. It’s used for carrying spell components, bombs, and any other destructive thing you men can dream up. I can’t help it keep your rags and dusters in there.”
“That reminds me, hand me my dragon scale duster.”
“Of course.” Mugley sighed and reached into her pouch. “You’re going to get really detailed with this one?”
“The Cult of Razzletongue the Blighted wants me to clean his tomb, I’m going to do the best job possible. They pay very well. Which enables me to get you better food than rats.”
I smiled. “Now you understand why we clean the places of the dead?”
“I suppose so.”
A door creaked behind us. Which was strange because there were no doors in the Ramtongue’s Tomb. “That’s troubling.”
“Shall I check to see what it was?”
“No. My wand, please.”
Mugley rubbed her hands together. “I love it when you say that.” She retrieved a twisted wand of black steel and glass from her pouch. I didn’t like using the damn thing. I was retired after all from “magicking.” I’d seen my fair share of scorched earth and exploding mountains in my day from rogue sorcerers. I had no intention of adding to the pile of messes they left behind. But when it came to nonexistent creaking doors, I drew the line.
I cracked the wand against the stone wall to my left. It sparkled with purple and white before sputtering out. “Just once I wish this wand worked the first time.”
Mugley’s eyes narrowed as the sparks died out. “Better get it to work faster. Whatever is making that sound is getting closer.”
A door slammed. It creaked open again. It was definitely closer than it was only moments before.
“Wand? Working?” The imp dug her talons further into my leather strap.
“One moment.” I cracked the wand against, shaking it once green and yellow sparks jumped out. It illuminated the room. The creaking door horror revealed itself, lumbering down the hall towards us.
A beast with long shaggy hair and brilliant pinpoint green eyes clawed a path down the hallway, smearing dust and grime behind it wherever it went. Its mouth was a small wooden door. It flapped open, creaked, then slammed shut. Inside the door were rows upon rows of nail-like teeth. Perfect for chewing up an old wizard and his impish sidekick.
“Could you rifle through your brain for any indication of what that might be?”
Mugley shut her eyes and put a finger to each side of her head, trying to conjure up some sort of matching image from the ether. “Um, I’m getting something.”
“Hurry!” I held the wand aloft, trying to think of a good spell to ward off a shaggy, door-mouthed tomb crawler.
“Seems it’s called a swizzercazzle womp daemon, Category 2. Nasty critter.”
“I like door-mouthed tomb crawler better. Weaknesses?”
“Fire, obviously, but dropping a bomb in its door mouth might also do the trick.” Mugley chewed on her finger. “Unfortunately, my pouch is full to capacity with all manner of cleaning supplies.”
“How was I supposed to know a daemon would be down here?”
“Well, how many tombs–“
The swizzercazzle’s long fingers gripped the sides of the narrow hallway as it tried to cram its hairy form into the tomb with us. I pointed the wand dead between its eyes and fired the first spell that came to mind.
“17th Century Bleached Bones!”
Not sure why I used the 17 Century version instead of the 18th Century version, but sometimes I can’t help the way my tongue twists when I cast spells. A stream of spinning bones flew from the tip of the wand, slamming into the swizzercazzle’s face. Its knees buckled, but the spell only proved to anger him even more. His door-mouth opened and shut as if his head was a house full of fickle children.
“That didn’t work.” Mugley fluttered around the room, shielding her eyes. “Try something else!”
“Give me a second.”
I didn’t have a second. The right arm of the swizzercazzle darted into the room and grasped my leg. I went up in the air and slammed hard against the stones of the tomb floor. Stars danced before my eyes as I tried to orientate myself.
“Salamand!” Mugley shouted my first name. Not a common occurrence for an imp to refer to its wizard by first name.
“I’m still here.” I groaned and scrambled to find my wand as the swizzercazzle drug my forward like a fisherman slowly reeling in his catch. The door-mouth flapped open, a dust-covered tongue welcoming me to the daemon’s throat.
Mugley made an attempt to pry loose the long, tree branch-like fingers, but to no avail. It held me fast, the muscles in my leg tensing up. I pointed the wand again, hoping for something that would really rock the daemon right in the face.
“Roving Jaguar Phantom!” I wished I had more control of my spells and whatever I blurted out. I’d always been that way though. Oftentimes it caused my power words to get crossed and have a magnificent fizzles that would nearly engulf my head. Oh well. Roving Jaguar Phantom wasn’t the worst spell I could conjure up.
The spectral jaguar oozed out of my wand and seeped across the swizzercazzle’s mop of hair. Luckily, the blue flames managed to catch (a rare feat for such a weak spell) and the daemon released me from its death grip. While it tried to pat out its head, the flames got bigger and bigger until the red outline of the jaguar’s form raced along the body of the swizzercazzle. It yelped and retreated back down the hallway, leaving huge clouds of dust and ash in his wake.
“That was close.” Mugley sat cross-legged on the floor, rubbing her wings.
“Indeed.” I stared at my malfunctioning wand. “Looks like I need Olaf to take a look at this stupid wand again.”
“Maybe you need to update your power words,” Mugley said.
“Nah, I’m retired, remember?”
I turned my attention back to the tomb of Ramtongue. “I’ve got some cleaning to do yet.”
If you’re interested in more Mr. Stiver stories, keep an eye on my blog as I’ll be doing more in the future, along with my incredibly lucky Jack-of-No-Trades, Pedro Carina (which you can check out here: Cannon vs. Cannon: A Tale of Pedro Carina, Jack-of-No-Trades
Hey, maybe I’ll even do a little cross-over? 🙂