Story by Myrkrid Ashen
Lightning struck the cobblestones of the Moonglow Lycaeum, sending sparks flying into the air which danced about, gaining in rhythm and turning into small elementals of fire before winking out of existence in a puff of smoke. This was followed by a veritable roar of thunder which echoed its way about the courtyard, seeming to turn back on itself and forming a humanlike voice before fading into silence.
An ice-cold torrent of rain fell upon the cobbles. It formed rivulets of rainwater which streamed down the faces of the statues, giving them an appearance of sadness and despair. A face peered out into the darkness from its sanctuary within the cowl it wore. Seeming unimpressed by the display in the courtyard it turned back to the book placed squarely infront of it, and continued reading. Through the din of the skyfall came a rhythmic flapping noise, it had a distinct leathery texture to it. The ears of the cowl clad figure twitched at the sound of something akin to nails down a chalkboard, as the flapping abruptly ceased. A horrible skidding was heard followed by a loud, fleshy thump and a thick stream of guttural cursing. Staring expectantly through the arched entry into the Northwestern section of the Lycaeum, with a small flicker of a smile appearing on his lips, the cowled face was met with the glaring eyes of fury itself. Aiming to disarm the situation the cowl clad figure closed the book infront of him, leaned back into his chair and, with a voice sounding like a whisper in a mausoleum remarked, ”Terrible weather we’re having, isn’t it?” ”I’ll say!” Came the immediate reply. The eyes of the hitherto furious looking figure in the arched doorway dimmed ever so slighty. It shook off the cloak it had wrapped about its wings, and slung it over a nearby chair engulfing it and a great deal of the floor about it. ”You might have placed a few search fires, you know!” The gargoyle thundered, full of reproach, ”Indeed, I might have,” said the cowl clad figure while stifling another smile, ”But I wouldn’t want to belittle the great flying prowess of one such as yourself!” The figure said, coming awfully close to a chuckle. ”Yes you bloody would!” Bellowed the gargoyle, planting himself in a chair which creaked violently under the weight. With one massive, clawed hand he pulled a long sheet of parchment out of an intricately woven leather bag he had with him.
”How are things progressing at the Tower, dear fellow?” The gargoyle boomed, still attempting to make himself heard over the din outside, ”Oh fine, fine. These records are but few of the ones uncovered so far,” said the figure, indicating the piles and piles of scrolls and books littering the floor. ”A pity that we could not have conducted this meeting in its more pleasant confines,” the gargoyle nearly shouted, as another roll of thunder drummed its way up and down the courtyard of the Lycaeum, ”Indeed, it does provide a more prominent landing zone for the flying impaired,” the figure muttered under his breath, ”What was that?!” The gargoyle shouted, as the thunder and lightning grew in intensity, throwing more sparks fizzling and screaming into the relentless deluge above. ”I said, I think perhaps we should take a look at this parchment you’ve prepared,” the figure said, his calm voice seeming to penetrate the chaos outside, ”Yes! Here!” The gargoyle screamed, tearing open the seal on the parchment with a flick of a mighty claw before slapping it down infront of the cowled figure. After a long pause, filled with the sound of the cataclysmic storm outside, the figure looked up at the gargoyle and, with an actual grin on his face, said ”I believe I have just the thing you need!” The cowled figure rummaged through the piles of books strewn about the floor, and held one up to the candle light. He blew a thick layer of dust off of its cover, and read the title aloud. ”Ye Olde Booke of Exploderye, bye Quince the Nutter.” The gargoyle seemed to mull this over for a while as he leaned down and squinted at the cover before saying, in a voice filled with incredulity, ”Exploder.. Eye?” The figure nodded enthusiastically, ”Yes. I mean.. No, it’s just an old way of saying ‘explosions.’ Indeed, this book is one of the oldest in the collection. The author of which was famed for his rather forward thinking, albeit thoroughly mad, ideas. He was a man before his time, as you’ll see by *this* hypothesis here,” the figure opened the book and his pale hand leafed through the pages at a blinding pace, ”Ah, here we are,” said the figure, tapping the page and reading aloud, ”Recipe for controlled exploderye, section one. Section one reads: ‘As seen in the following diagram, a containment system is used. It is built from the hides of those who would put the most stalwart listener to sleep.”’ ”Excuse the interruption, but that last part. What on Sosaria does he mean by ‘the hides of those who would put the most stalwart listener to sleep’?!” The gargoyle asked, quizzically. ”Ah, yes. It appears you’ve stumbled upon an age-old riddle. Quince, you see, had an old habit of wording his recipes in a most perplexing manner. Which caused a lot of his would-be inventions to go uninvented, due in part to people’s lack of understanding, but mostly due to the hazardous nature of their acquisition. May I continue?” ”Yes, please do,” said the gargoyle, rolling his eyes. ”The device would contain the following parts: Pieces of darkness, from the the place beneath rock and stone. Diamonds, from the body of the eight-tongued beast-” ”Oh, good grief!” The figure, pausing to glare the gargoyle’s outburst into silence, continued unabashed, ”And finally, a generous helping of rancid-egg powder!” He said, shutting the book with a loud ‘THWAP!’ just as the storm outside died down to a light drizzle. He offered the book to the gargoyle, who took it with a measure of distaste and placed it inside the leather bag.
”Quince was renowned for his rather, shall we say, oddly practical inventions. None of which entailed *too* much magic. Magic may have been used in the acquisition of the ingredients, but the ingredients themselves were, more often than not, of a distinctly mundane nature. He was, as I said, a forward thinker. And was looked down upon by the other mages for his insistance on imparting his wisdom on the everyman, instead of bottling it up in rune-engraved tomes like so many other mages of his time.” The gargoyle pondered at this for a while, before saying, ”Then perhaps I shall call upon not only the magically inclined to collect these ingredients. Indeed, by the sound of things, even miners may be of some use. I trust you will make arrangements at the Tower to begin gathering these ingredients?” ”Naturally,” said the figure, nodding solemnly, ”Keen adventurers will find their needs met to unload the ingredients they have collected. The ingredients themselves will be measured, tested, and compared with the diagrams to determine whether they are of the correct nature to be added to the mixture.” ”Very well. I just hope these keen adventurers, as you put it, are as mad as Quince was. I fear they may be entirely at a loss as to the true meaning behind these ‘riddles,’ otherwise,” said the gargoyle, ”I will dispatch messengers to all corners of our Realm. This undertaking will require the aid of many,” said the cowled figure, ”You can count on my steadfast support, and I shall endeavour to bring the rest of the High Council, with all of its resources, onboard. This, I believe, is a matter worthy of the added expense,” said the gargoyle as they shook hands, albeit rather gingerly, and went their separate ways.