Fizzledorf the wizard tapped the ground back and forth with his staff. His hand grasped the purple gem ensconced on the end of the gnarled wood. He wished he’d never found the damned stone.
Finding it might have been his highest achievement, but the cursed gem had taken his sight the instant his fingers touched its violet facets. He should have suspected something would happen, it was called the Cursed Eye of the Blind God, but he had assumed that to be more metaphorical than literal.
It was bound to be worth a fortune, but he didn’t feel comfortable trying to sell it after what it had done to him. Instead, Fizzledorf kept the jewel as a memento of bygone days.
Things had never been what you might call easy for Fizzledorf. Magic flowed through some like too much spicy food, but for Fizzledorf it was more like the aftermath of a cheese plate. He had to push and strain for even the tiniest spurt of magic.
But despite his lack of magical prowess, he yearned for adventure. He tagged along with every mercenary, adventurer, or gypsy band that would take him on. He could get by for a while saying things like, “the magic comes with a heavy cost to the soul.” Or, “this is the strongest anti-magic field I’ve ever encountered.” But it didn’t work for long.
Eventually, they caught on. He couldn’t swing a sword or shoot a bow, and his magic was paltry, to say the least. He could barely manage a passable pot of beans.
And now even the bean cooking was over thanks to the damnable gemstone.
Fizzledorf entered the alley next to his home. It was grimy and littered with refuse, but that sort of thing didn’t bother him as much anymore. Out of sight, out of mind. Of course, the smell wasn’t great, but this was by far the quickest route to his favorite tavern, The Greasy Pudding.
“‘Ere we go, grandpa, give us your money and we’ll let you go,” said a menacing voice. The voice came along with the point of something sharp in the back of Fizzledorf’s robe.
Fizzledorf held his empty hand and his staff high in the air and said, “Really? Nothing about this makes you nervous?”
“Not really, ‘ur a old coot. Whatcha gon’ do?”
“An old man with a long beard? A robe and a staff?”
“Maybe you haven’t heard of me. I’m Fizzledorf. The wizard.” He put extra emphasis on the wizard part in the hopes that maybe the ruffian would get the point. But the point in Fizzledorf’s back jammed in a little farther.
“No, I hearda ya. ‘Ur that useless ol’ coot that can’t even cast a spell. Gimme that gem too, looks like it’s worth a fair bit.”
Fizzledorf slammed his staff back into the gut of his assailant and dashed further into the alley. It would have been an okay plan if he could see, but he tripped after only a few steps. In his adventuring days, he would have sprung up and made another dash for it. If there had been one thing he was good at, it was running away. But nowadays the only thing that really got him moving was his bladder in the middle of the night.
“You shouldn’ta done that wizard,” said the thief. Fizzledorf could hear his footsteps approaching in the debris-littered alleyway.
“Holus benatin trazadar moliavus,” Fizzledorf chanted and shook his staff in the direction of the oncoming feet.
The words were gibberish, but he hoped that maybe the threat of magic would scare the hoodlum away.
Fizzledorf thought he felt something as he gestured with the staff, and he braced himself for the searing pain.
But it didn’t come.
He listened for footsteps or breathing, but there was nothing. Just the sound of something dripping.
“Oh, scared away by a little magic? Who’s the tough guy now, hunh?”
There was no answer. Eventually, the old wizard decided he was alone. He grunted as he pushed himself up from the ground and resumed his short walk to the tavern.
He could hear the music already. And smell the food. And almost taste the beer.
It was good beer. It tasted like horse piss more than anything but it did the job and didn’t cost much – the basic recipe for good beer everywhere.
“Fizzledorf, good to see you,” a female voice said.
“Wish I could say the same, Lola,” Fizzledorf half-joked.
The tavern girl laughed politely and guided him through the tavern to his regular spot near the fireplace. As he sat down, she asked, “One mug? Anything to eat?”
“No, just the beer,” Fizzledorf replied. “Lola, I can’t feel the fire today. Am I getting that old?”
“Oh no love, I couldn’t get it to start, I’ll have to get Mack to do it when he’s done cookin’.”
“Nonsense, nonsense. I might be a useless ol’ coot, but if there’s one thing I can manage, it’s to start a fire.”
“Well, be careful, I’m gonna get your beer.”
He heard her walk off. Not that he could hear her footsteps in the busy room, but he could hear the other patrons making remarks about her figure or the sound of them getting slapped as they tried to grab her as she passed.
Fizzledorf stood up and tapped his way to the fireplace. Once he was properly oriented, he stepped back a few paces. He concentrated on the words of the one spell he could always manage. He felt the mystical forces flow through him as he sent a spark into the fireplace and the fire roared to life.
At the same moment, he felt an arcane power the likes of which he had never felt before from somewhere very nearby.
Magic was like that, especially for Fizzledorf. Fuzzy. A better sorcerer might be able to pinpoint the exact location of another caster from 20 miles away. Fizzledorf couldn’t even pinpoint it if he was in the same room.
But the spell was powerful, he knew that.
The music stopped.
“Tulin’s ghost!” someone shouted.
“Get some water on it quick before the whole block burns up.”
“Form a chain!”
A mad rush of activity filled Fizzledorf’s ears. He didn’t know exactly what was going on, but something told him it was his fault. Missed the stupid fireplace most likely, or a spark flew out and caught on something.
If there was anything he had learned after years of adventuring, it was to get out while you could. He pulled the hood of his robe up high and hurriedly tapped his way through the crowded bar. Maybe no one would notice him in all the commotion.
He could smell the smoke from outside, and hear panicked voices.
“There he is! He’s burned the bloody tavern down. Somebody grab ‘em!”
Fizzledorf hurtled into the alley, wildly swinging his staff. He hoped that anyone in his way would move before he smacked them. But he couldn’t afford to slow down.
If only he could make an invisibility spell work. He tried to remember the way the words went together, but it was no use.
His foot slipped on something, and he skidded across the pavers. Fizzledorf fell to his knees, his hands landing on some sticky substance. He gave his hand a sniff.
And judging by the feel of the thing under his other hand, possibly intestines.
Fizzledorf thought back to his fight with the miscreant earlier. He retraced his steps in his head and realized it must have happened right around here.
Some poor creature must have been ripped to shreds right after they left here. Probably stray dogs or cats involved. The whole town was filthy with them.
“There he is! Catch the witch!”
“Excuse me, I am a wizard!” Fizzledorf shouted as he clambered to his feet and rounded the corner. His knees couldn’t take much more of this, but just a little bit farther and he could lock the door and maybe be done with this whole mess.
He smacked his head into a post and fell flat on his back.
“Aha!” Fizzledorf exalted, remembering the way to form the invisibility spell.
He climbed back up once more, feeling the strain in his old muscles. He gathered the mystic powers. He concentrated as hard as he could. He knew there was very little chance of achieving real invisibility, but if he could at least make himself less noticeable, maybe the searchers would run past.
“There he is!” they shouted as they rounded the corner.
Fizzledorf released the arcane power. Once again he felt another spell being cast close by. The other wizard must be with those after him.
A confused voice said, “What happened? I can’t see-”
Ha! The other wizards counter spell must not have had any effect. Fizzledorf, you’ve still got it.
He hurriedly made his way into his house, slammed the door and barricaded it. He pushed his back against the oaken slab and waited. Even if they couldn’t see him, they all knew where he lived.
But the knocks didn’t come. The glass in the window didn’t shatter.
Eventually, he felt safe enough to climb into bed, but he kept his robes on in case he needed to flee in a hurry.
There was a pounding on the door.
Fizzledorf pulled the blankets over his head and groaned loudly. His whole body ached liked he’d been sat on by a dragon. Blindness aside, maybe he really was getting too old for adventuring.
“Fizzledorf!” came a muffled shout through the heavy oak door.
He grunted and managed to stand with the aid of his staff. He crept to the door and said, ”I’m just in the bath, you’ll have to come back later.”
“No, you’re not. You’re right on the other side of the door.”
“Well I’m just in my skivvies, give me a minute.”
“You’ve got on the same robe you were wearing last night.”
“Well, I’m not coming out either way.”
“The whole town’s here, we’ll knock the door down if we have to.”
He didn’t like the sound of that. If they could see him through the door, it must be in a greater state of decay than he thought. It had been hard to keep the house up since he lost his vision.
Resigned to his fate, he lifted the barricade and opened the door. He could tell from the sounds of rustling and throats clearing that the voice had not been lying, there was definitely a crowd outside.
“You’ve got to fix this, Fizzledorf.”
A chorus of agreement arose from the crowd.
“Well now, I’m sure you can guess, but my adventuring days didn’t pay very well. I’ve got a few coins I can spare to The Greasy Pudding, and if you want this cursed gem you can certainly take it. Though if you value your eyes, I wouldn’t recommend you touch it.”
“What good are eyes when you’ve made the whole blasted town invisible?”
“I did no such thing. You’ve all known me for years. It pains me to admit, but you all know I am not capable of such magical feats. I wouldn’t even begin to know how to cast something like that, much less undo it.”
There were murmurs of agreement from the crowd. Each voice of agreement was like a proverbial stab in Fizzledorf’s heart, but it was better than the real thing.
“Well, someone made everything in town invisible except you and your staff.”
“And someone’s done something to my son,” an elderly voice cried. “He’s a good boy wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Fizzledorf thought back over the events of the previous night. Age had taken some of his faculties, and the gem hadn’t made the process any easier, but he still had a mind like a… well like a thing that worked very well.
He thought about the blood in the alley where he had been accosted by the vagrant, perhaps it had been some kind of sacrifice. Then there was the moment in the tavern. He had felt another more powerful spell being cast. Most likely that was responsible for the fire, it was possible someone was trying to frame him. And there had been another spell cast while he was trying to go invisible, maybe someone had twisted his spell and turned it on the whole town.
It all added up.
He couldn’t believe he hadn’t realized it before.
Fizzledorf raised his staff high and gestured with the gemmed tip. Its purple facets glistened in the sun, throwing off a glow that seemed more than natural, though Fizzledorf couldn’t see it.
“There is only one rational conclusion…”
The gem seemed to pulse. The people of the town were used to the stone glowing and shining at odd moments. But if anyone in the crowd had known how to read the body language of a magical stone, they might have realized it was acting much like a cornered man getting ready to do anything necessary to survive.
“…there is a dark wizard about.”
The purple gem flickered once more and stopped.
An arcane crystal expert, if there had been one present, might have known what this meant. But the people of the town didn’t suspect anything at all. It was the gemstone equivalent of a smile. The smug smile of a guilty man who has gotten away with a terrible crime and very much likes the feeling.