#1: Trust Me, I’m Weird

“How long does this friggin’ desert go on for?” Gin grumbled.  

His small, goblin body was not used to the dry heat of Daragon.  I was happy to be here.  We’d already journeyed through the jungles of Anglachel, the mountains of Ferreira, the marshlands of Kapoor and the rice fields of Yokuatsu.  The deserts of Daragon was the last distinct geographic region of Galevyn I had to check off my bucket list.  Now we could literally say we’d traveled across the planet.

“We should be there any minute now,” Karuk reassured him.

”You told him that an hour ago,” Tilly reminded.  “Are you sure you’re reading that map right?”

“I know what I’m doing,” Karuk insisted.

“I trust her,” I said.

“Why don’t you make sure, Dara” Gin suggested.

“Yeah, you could make sense of this complex geography,” Tilly commented sarcastically, gesturing to the miles of desert around us.

I hated being the smart one.  I trusted Karuk’s instincts.  She knew how to guide us through hell itself.  I could trust her to get us through a desert.  I didn’t like being the one my companions relied on to check her work. 

I walked up to her and took a look at her map.  As far as I could tell, the map matched up to the place that we currently were.  I mean, a blank desert looks like a blank desert, whether it is in person or on a map.

“We seem to be on the right track,” I reassured.

The sighs from Tilly and Gin were audible.  What can I tell them?  Walking through a desert is boring.  It is big and it takes a while to get through.  I don’t know what they expected.  Karuk turned her head towards me and gave me an approving smile, her orc tusks creeping over her mouth.  I gave her a knowing nod and settled back into my spot into the middle of our party.

“I hope the lead we got from that old man was right.  I’d hate to be sweating through my favorite pair of travel pants for nothing,” Gin complained.

“What an intriguing thought,” Tilly snapped.  “I’m certain no one else among us has had a similar thought.”

“I’m just trying to keep my mind off this heat,” Gin explained. “Let’s talk about something.  What do you got, Dara?”

“What?” I asked, surprised.

“Come on, man.  You’re always wanting to talk about your magic stuff. This is your chance.  You’ve got a fully captive audience,” Gin suggested.  Tilly let out a choked laugh.

I didn’t know where he was getting this.  I wasn’t going around trying to talk to them about my magic.  I was just always thinking about magic and sometimes my thoughts found their way out of my mouth.  I’d always presumed they understood that.  Then again, I don’t think that ever escaped my thoughts.

“Do you really want to hear about the nuanced differences of fire and lava magic?” I asked, hoping the idea of it would bore him into accepting silence.

“Please, no heat talk,” Gin pleaded. “Maybe you can talk about, like, ice and water magic.  Is that a thing?   Maybe the thought of it would cool us off.”

”I can see your thought process, but it is actually very different.  Ice and water magic are actually both water magic,” I said.

“Great!” Gin said, “Keep going.  That works for me.”

“I don’t know if the magic talk will keep me entertained,” Tilly spoke up from our flank, “but this show the two of you are putting on is pretty great.”

Karuk laughed from up front.

“Now, you need to keep paying attention to where we’re going,” Tillly chastised.

“Babe,  you know I could do this in my sleep,” Karuk reassured. “We just have to keep going Northwest until we run into a savannah.”

“Right!  The famous Savannah of the Dragon.  I don’t know how I could have forgotten it,” I exclaimed.

“What are you going on about now,” Gin asked.

“That blasted list of his,” Tilly said. “He wants to travel to all the interesting places in Galevyn.”

“Did I know that?” Gin said.

“Probably not,” Karuk said, “You’re always too busy listening to yourself talk to hear anybody else.”

”Did you say something, Karuk?” Gin asked.

Gin let out his mischievous giggle,  while Karuk chucked a pebble over her shoulder and hit Gin squarely in the head.

“Hey Karuk!” He chided, “Where did you even get a pebble? It’s been desert and sand ever since we got to Daragon.”

“I hung onto one from Yokuatsu,” Karuk said matter-of-factly.

“You’re so weird,” Gin said.

“Hey, that’s my girlfriend,” Tilly said.

“That doesn’t mean she’s not weird.  If anything it probably makes her more weird.  An orc dating a gnome?  Come on, it is a little weird,” Gin said.

“Says the singing goblin,” Karuk retorted.

“Sure.  We’re all weird,” Gin said, “No one is denying that.  I was just commenting on your specific brand of weirdness.”

“It’s why we work together,” I suggested.

“You’re not that weird,” Tilly said.  “You’re just a human that studied magic.  The weirdest thing about you is that you chose to hang out with us.”

“Trust me, I’m weird,” I said. “I’m a human that dropped out of Arcana University because he thought he was smarter than the teacher.  I’m a human that always talks to himself but has trouble talking to other people.”

“That’s just socially awkward,” Gin said.

“Welcome to weird for humans,” I said, “Trust me, I was the guy in school that everyone pointed at and said ‘That guy’s weird!’”

“Humans are the worst,” Tilly said.  “Present company excluded.

“You’ll hear no arguments from me,” I agreed.

“Look alive, folks,” Karuk barked from up front.  “Monster ahead.”

“What are we looking at?” Tilly asked.

“I don’t see anything,” Gin said, confused.

“It just went underground.  There’s a sand wyrm ahead, I think it’s headed our way,” Karuk said.

I combed through my brain to figure out what would work well against a sand wyrm.  It attacks its prey by pulling them underground.  That’s it!  I pulled out my spell component pouch and grabbed a crystal and began twirling it between my fingers.

“Alright guys, get ready to jump.  Things might get a little chilly,” I warned.

“Sweet!” Gin said.

I channeled my magic energy into the crystal until I could see it leave small bits of frost as it twirled.  I slammed my hand into the sand and said the magic words.  “Iceslo Comformum!” I screamed.

My companions jumped into the air as a thick sheet of ice began to cover the sand below us.  I quickly pulled my hand away before it could get frozen in place.  Just as my spell finished, we heard a loud thump.  Fissures began to form in the middle of the ice disc I’d just created.

“I coulda done that,” Gin jested.

“Shut up,” Tilly said.

There was blood starting to show below the ice.  We could also see the monster’s teeth as it worked on chewing through the surface.  Gin and I walked to the edge of the disc and Tilly crouched down in front of us, getting ready to pounce.  Meanwhile, Karuk drew her great ax and stood ready by the creature’s head.  Gin began to pound out a rhythm on his drum and thin magical barriers began to form around each of our forms.  I began digging through my component pouch, preparing my next spell.  This wasn’t our first fight.

Once we each got into position, the wyrm crashed out of the icy surface.  Karuk slammed down onto it with her ax.  Brown wyrm blood splashed up and coated her cloak.  Tilly ran up to flank the beast and dug both of her short swords into the back of its head.  The creature wailed in pain, but it wasn’t finished yet.

It managed to push half of its body out of the hold and crunched down on Karuk.  The kind of pressure it caused would normally kill an Orc of Karuk’s size, but Gin’s barrier magic held strong.  The spell I wanted to cast called for glass shards, but I didn’t have any in my component pouch.  I looked around and realized there were basically tiny shards of glass all around us.  I turned around and scooped up a handful of sand.  I began chanting as I rushed up to the wyrm.  “Frosto Consumae,  Frosto Consumae, Frosto Consumae.”

I plunged my hand into the open wound Karuk’s ax had created and released the sand.  Frost began to spread throughout the creature’s body.  Its eyes began to freeze over as its life came to an end.

I went over and pulled Karuk down from the dead wyrm’s mouth.

“You o.k.?” I asked.

“Yeah, feel great.  I feel exhilarated!” She exclaimed.

“I’d never seen that spell before,” Tilly said, “Is that new?”

“A little,” I said, “I’d just adapted an ice attack spell to create an aura and . . . “

“Please don’t go on again,” Gin said.

We all laughed.  Karuk sliced off a chunk of the creature and built a fire to turn it into jerky.  I cast a fire spell to dispose of the rest of the corpse.  After a short break, we continued our journey.

“How much longer, Karuk,” Gin said.

“We should reach the savannah any minute now,” she replied.

“I swear you said the same thing an hour ago,” Tilly complained.

I smiled to myself and started thinking about what we’d find at the Savannah of the Dragon.  I was going to have to start a new list.


These stories serve as inspiration for the upcoming short story collection, Tyranny of the Fey. The collection will be released in Fall 2023. You can get a $1 preview now!


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