The fact the frogs called Wizard Tim “The Betrayer” annoyed me. How long had he been in these parts and how many different tribes, clans, communities and factions had he aggravated? Or for that matter, betrayed? I looked to Lilith who knew him longest and Liz who knew him longer than me and they both shrugged.
“He’s a wizard,” Liz said as if that explained everything.
Rufus weasel gnome chimed in before Lilith could speak. Most assuredly he had a bone to pick with Timoteus, the Dastardly. When pressed he just grumbled and we caught mumbles about treachery of the highest sort: stolen research, taking credit for other’s accomplishments, inciting riots, overthrowing local leaders, assassinating opponents and trafficking with the most nefarious, under-handed, vile and disgusting sorts. It is safe to say that Rufus does not feel the least bit put out that Tim disappeared. In fact, he seemed to have expected it.
During that conversation, Lilith started to fidget. I was watching her surreptitiously and noticed subtle shifts in the way she sat, the way she watched the others, and the way she played with the knives at her hips. After a couple of more minutes of Rufus’s ranting about Tim, I was convinced that Lilith had switched her personalities to Sparkle Glitterblade, rogue, assassin and all around sexy-fun-time manipulator.
Before Rufus could finish an explanation of how Tim had taken credit for one of his discoveries half a dozen years ago, Sparkle stood up, cocked one hip, and slapped the gnome in the back of the head. Everyone assembled was stunned. Well, everyone but me and surprisingly Magda.
I stood and stepped to Rufus, helping him up and shooting Sparkle a stern look. She batted her eyes at me and made a kissy face. I really liked her less than I liked Lilith. Don’t get me wrong, Sparkle was a blast to worship with, but she was flighty and tended to have emotional explosions of all sorts. Volatile comes to mind.
“Hello Sparkle,” I said, guiding Rufus to sit next to Alfred who had taken a liking to the tiny wizard. “I was wondering when you were going to show up.”
She smirked at me and glanced around. “Oh, I’ve been watching for a while,” she said. “You have quite the motley crew here, lover.”
Liz turned her head slowly to look at Sparkle and I noticed how the reds in her coloring grew more pronounced and the greens grew significantly darker. She knew I worshiped with Sparkle previously and had no issues with it. I wonder if that had changed.
“To what do we owe this visit?” I asked. “We were having a grand time with Lilith.”
Sparkle barked a laugh and stepped away from the others, not so far as to show offense, but far enough for her to draw her blades before the others could rise.
“Lilith is a child,” she said, grinning. “Come on lover, you know you like me better than miss priss.”
The others were confused, never having seen Lilith transition to Sparkle. The signs were subtle and nuanced, but once she opened her mouth, things got pretty obvious.
“And I don’t like the way you let that,” she pointed to Rufus, “sorry excuse for a wizard talk about Timoteus that way. He’s just a jealous, half-jumped-up charlatan with short-man’s syndrome and a serious case of jealousy.”
Rufus stood, spluttering. “Jealous? Of what, you sow?”
I think the word sow earned him a shivving, but Sparkle just looked at me and quirked an eyebrow. Seriously, her look said. You run with this arsecap?
Arsecap is a phrase Sparkle taught me referring to one who wears their arse on their head like a cap. Implying the fiction of one having their head inserted into their posterior. I believe Brother Durham referred to it as Rectal-Cranial Inversion. If you are unclear, he can explain it to you, I’m sure.
I glanced at Alfred who took the hint and picked up Rufus and strode a few of his gigantic steps away, the two of them in heated debate. I sat down and motioned for Sparkle to do the same.
“Yes, I’ve missed you,” I admitted and she smiled, but sat. “Where were you when Tim left? And were you around when Reginald was protecting Lilith?”
She cocked her head from one side to another thinking which to tell me and which to hold back unless it prove valuable at a later time. I just smiled and spread my hands out in front of me in a placating gesture.
“You know you want to go attack the frogs,” I said, jumping subjects in hope of keeping her off balance. It seemed to work, because she had her hands back on the hilts of her blades and she drew in a long breath.
“Tim has obligations,” she said. “He can’t just sit around and wait for you to show up at your convenience. There are enemies,” she paused, chewing on the words. “And Lilith is not shy about her feelings about him. She never saw the things I see.”
“So, Lilith drove him away?”
Sparkle grinned and before she could speak, Magda piped up.
“Even we know of this wizard, Timoteus the Ward Breaker.”
Sparkle whirled at that phrase, knives drawn. “What did you call him?”
Magda flew out of her reach and landed on my shoulder. “It is he who freed the evil lich, Vadrium the vile.”
Sparkle’s breathing had begun to come at a quicker pace.
“And it is he who inadvertently destroyed the village of Twin Falls.”
“Lies,” Sparkle croaked
Magda flew up, an aura of putrid green energy surrounding her.
“He who betrayed his true master and stole you from me.”
Sparkle sat down abruptly, drawing her knees to her chest. She began to rock back and forth, whimpering.
I looked at Magda who spun to face me. It took me a bit to realize that the fairy was vibrating as if someone had taken a hold of her and was shaking her in their fist. I did the first thing that came to mind and cast a protection from evil over the group. Magda screamed and fell. Liz darted forward and caught her before she hit the ground and I spun around as an explosion smashed into the clearing, sending Alfred and Rufus flying. Bÿglar grabbed Sparkle and rolled with her into the underbrush.
I spun in time to see a great beast enter the clearing and recognized a demon we had faced before. I hated how even when defeated, they just returned to the Abyss waiting for their chance to return here and wreak havoc.
“Hello cleric,” the great demon bellowed. “Ithillarad sends his greetings.” With that he waved his arms and half a dozen Children of Sseth spilled into the clearing.
And I thought the worse I had to deal with was frogs, or Sparkle’s attitude.
I just wish I had my shield.