Monday, April 27, 2020

Bookworms and Fashionistas

Fresh from the academy's Potions and Talismans course, the five members of Team Dan embarked on their next class, Undead Forms. They benefited hugely from the book smarts of their blonde wizardress, Bonnie. It should have been fun, being one of those group courses. Unlike Weapons and Tactics, taken by fighters, or Channeling, taken by spell casters, it was a team effort.

Groaning students filed into semicircular tiers of seats facing the podium. The room buzzed with converse as they awaited the magister. Bonnie, eagerly opening her text next to the black-haired sorceress Zena, cast a despairing eye toward the fellas: team leader Dan, Pete, and Ed.

"What's with you guys?" Bonnie gushed. "This one is even more fun than the talismans class."

Zena cracked her gum. "Like all I wanna do is get out there and bash things." She had indeed taken a fearsome toll on mumps and other skeletoids in the labyrinth, the haunted domain where newbie teams cut their teeth.

"Let the guys do that," Bonnie insisted. "You're supposed to support them with offensive magic, while I use defensive magic." She suspected a repeat of the previous class, where students slouched and tried to look invisible when the magister floated a question. Good old Bonnie knew all that book jazz.

The class quieted when the stout magister, dubbed Professor Chromedome by Ed, came in and pulled down a chart. He pointed a stick at a grouping of grotesque shapes. "These are forms you won't encounter in the labyrinth, since no team in recent history has ventured below sub-level five. You will, however, see them in the dark realms, the Blight, and elsewhere. Let's begin with a review."

Students suddenly looked two feet tall, their heads barely visible over the chair backs. The magister posed his quiz. "Define and contrast the following: lich, wight, wraith, and phantasm." Had crickets been present, the classroom would have been a noisy place.

Zena felt an encouraging poke from Bonnie. "Like, ow, lady."

"Oh, good heavens." Bonnie launched into the spiel. "A lich is a poisonous corpse infesting graveyards. Hence the term 'lich gate', an arched structure where a coffin awaited its occupant." The class sighed collective relief. "A wight is a hybrid form of more advanced decay, to the point of being mostly insubstantial. Since their touch drains energy, captured ones are used for torture and brainwashing of prisoners." She paused, but no one took up the slack. "A wraith is a ghostly guardian, often resembling the deceased just before or after death, though its face is hidden in the cowl. They can pass through walls in tombs."

"And the  most dangerous?" prompted the magister.

"Phantasms. These are created by dark magic, and inflict a life drain by their touch. It's how they seek temporary relief from being enveloped by spirit flames. They're hard to avoid, because they rapidly blink in and out of view during short-term teleports. Their visage can paralyze victims with fear: you see this howling thing with flailing, contorted limbs coming at you."

"Superior, Miss Bonnie." The magister singled out Pete. "How does one differentiate wights and wraiths in a tactical situation?"

"Yook?" Pete tugged at his magenta head wrap. "They don't look too different. I'd be lookin' for it to pass through a solid object before makin' the call."

"In an open field?" the magister challenged. "You'll need to retreat until a suitable object presents. In the meantime, you've exposed the team to additional threats."

Zena back-handed his thigh. "Nice going, daddio."

"And your solution, Miss Zena?" The magister waited.

"Well, like. . . .a wraith has no hands coming out of those overlong sleeves. A wight has these bony white hands poking out of too-short sleeves."

Dan chuckled. "The academy should let you teach a fashion class. It has its uses."

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