Art by ozzz
An organic and uneven staircase trailed down and through the mist.
Hopping rock to rock, the Hare moved swiftly despite some hostile edges and irregular drops. Hadrien was struggling, moving tentatively and taking his time to find footing on the glimmering surfaces of this sea-battered “path” to Vorvadoss’ cliff-home.
The Hare disappeared into the mist below and Hadrien stopped for a second to contemplate the risk he was taking.
“I’m about to become lunch,” he muttered to himself, shaking his head, before continuing to reach towards the rocks to steady himself before the next move.
Suddenly, the mist cleared and a platform emerged further down the jagged cliff-face. On the platform, the Hare was being gently petted by a Great Old One, Hydromancer Vorvadoss of the Bastion.
“I thought I’d clear the mist for you, friend!”, the monster bellowed upwards.
“There are more than a few perks to being a Hydromancer on the coast”, he winked.
Upon reaching the platform, Hadrien turned to face in-land and saw into the rock-face for the first time. Through a wide opening was a lavishly decorated hall with arches and pillars ornately carved to depict many scenes and their stories.
The walls were also covered, and it seemed to Hadrien that many centuries of history were recorded here.
Amongst the carvings were scenes of battle between great beasts and men, ocean mermen courting ocean mermaids, and at the back of the room, ones attention couldn’t help but be drawn to a magnificently detailed Great Old One holding the symbol of Illuminatus with it’s mouth tentacles. Pillars and arches reached high into the cave and melded into the high ceiling above. On these pillars and arches twisted rising, cephalopodic limbs and upon closer inspection, hieroglyphic lines of symbols, runes, and markings in an ancient language could be seen running between them.
“Beautiful home”, Hadrien remarked.
“I don’t live here”, Vorvadoss chuckled, leading Hadrien and The Hare into the hall.
They walked along an aisle to the left of a long dining table that must have been able to seat over 100 wizards, and at least 400 hares.
“You will sit here, Hadrien. And your friend can sit next to you…” , Vorvadoss began, “Where exactly is your friend?”
Hadrien shrugged, “Your English is excellent, by the way. Will the other guests be as fluent?”
“Oh sure! Some of them, at least, not everyone is a talker,” Vorvadoss replied.
“I see," said Hadrien, "Well, I’m happy to practice too. Could you tell me more about these carvings and symbols?”
Vorvadoss spent the next hour passionately re-telling myths of his race’s culture whilst floating plates of raw fish, seaweed piles, steaming clams, and other unrecognisable dishes of multi-colours and textures settled themselves upon the table.
Finally, many guests had arrived, with no apparent dress-code or singular method of greeting, and there were now 22 of them, one bearded wizard, and a hare sat at the large table. They were all huddled into the centre of it’s length, where the food was also gathered.
Nobody paid much mind to the pair and the food on offer was quickly demolished. With many tentacles reaching across the table, it was as if they were fighting over what appeared to Hadrien to be an excess of food. The Hare managed to pull away some seaweed to safety beneath the table, whilst Hadrien watched the spectacle with some amusement as well as fear.
Immediately after ravaging a month’s worth of food, some of the guests began to leave. Vorvadoss, seemingly unbothered, was now pouring out wine for the remaining guests.
“Some of you may have noticed that we have some special guests with us this year. Hadrien is interested in culture.”
Turning to Hadrien, he lifted his glass, “This is Culture.”
The other Great Old One’s around the table lifted their glasses, cheers-ing in their own language, and set about telling Hadrien what it means to be a Great Old One. Learning about the different approaches these interesting creatures took towards magic and their lives, Hadrien began to think about each one of these terrifying, red-eyed, nightmare-inducing monsters as unique and complex individuals.
Despite being few in number, they were not without their challenges. Commitment to the old traditions was waning in these more contemporary times, and it was only through Ancient decree that they found themselves gathering in this great hall.
The hall was where a Cthulu had supposedly learnt the secrets of cosmic order and granted magic to some of his descendants. Even then, not all of the Great Old Ones respected this old story.
“We gather to enjoy each others company. Even after years of integration efforts, our race is often looked upon as monsters. It’s no surprise to me that some of us have turned into monsters as a result.” said one of the guests.
“Those of us who no longer attend the feast are disillusioned with our place in the cosmic order of things. They wish to forge new traditions, to dominate on land as we have at sea. I do not know if they will succeed.”
“For the rest of us, we will continue to gather at the precipice between land and sea. We are grateful that Vorvadoss is the gentleman he is, the keeper of tradition, and Hydromancer of the Bastion. He protects the hall. He upholds tradition.”
As Hadrien and the Hare left the meal, Vorvadoss bid them farewell and safe travels.
“Great to see you again, Hadrien,” he spoke.
“And you, little Hare, look after him, won’t you?” he said with a wink.
And with that, they were on the road again.
Entered by: 0x71c5…3a61
Art by feckless
The Hare and a pony, Pony #6, were wandering through a meadow whilst Hadrien snored under a tree.
They moved slowly, taking in the goodness of the day, waxing philosophical as the Hare sometimes would, things there was no need for Hadrien to hear.
Eventually, the pony was curious enough and asked,
“It was a simple enough mistake. I’m a rather large rabbit,” the Hare replied.
“Yes, but why don’t you correct him? He’s supposed to be one of the smartest Wizard’s around and yet he thinks you are a Hare.”
The Hare chuckled, “It’s kind of funny if you think about it.”
Rembrandt wasn’t sure, “I’m sick of being treated like I’m not worthy of the same respect these damn wizards are. I don’t know how you do it, my friend.”
This hung in the air, steam blown waiting to be carried off by the wind.
Eventually, the Hare broke the silence with an answer.
The pony waited, hopeful for more, but none came. So, Rembrandt nodded knowingly.
“I was upset when my master sold me”, Rembrandt confided.
“Master?”, asked the Hare.
“I’ll never have another master again”, said the pony.
“No masters”, the Hare nodded.
There was a pause and then Rembrandt spoke again.
“I like Hadrien because he is kind, but he travels too much for me.”
They continued in quiet for a while more until they stopped to look back across the meadow, towards the tree under which the kind wizard still snored.
Suddenly, a figure appeared mid-air about ten meters in front of them and fell to the ground, disappearing beneath the long-grass.
The pair rushed towards groans that were now filling the meadow.
“Are you okay?”, asked Rembrandt.
On the grass laid an old man wearing a now crumpled Purple Wizard’s Hat and not much else.
“Do I look alright to you?”, the old man replied sharply.
“You look like you’ve been in the wars”, said Rembrandt.
The old man did indeed look like he had been in the wars.
What was left of his clothing was dirty and blood stained, and parts of his exposed skin were also bruised. A laceration above his right eye leaked blood down his face and his beard was messy and charred.
The old man groaned, clutching his left arm, “Where the f*ck am I?!”
Rembrandt looked down at the Hare and they exchanged a quick look.
“Well, sir, we’re in a meadow”, Rembrandt replied.
“I was about to DIE!”, shouted the man.
Hadrien had come running over by this point and spilled into the commotion.
“Woah there!”, he started, “Nobody here is trying to die anytime soon.”
The old man looked up at him disgruntled, “You don’t even know the half of it.”
Hadrien slowed for a moment and nodded, “Maybe so.”
“Are you going to tell us who you are and why you fell out of the sky then, old man?”, Rembrandt interjected.
“Fell out of the sky?”, Hadrien asked, puzzled.
“That’s right”, Rembrandt continued, “He dropped right out of the sky – screaming!”
Straight from the Pony’s Mouth, thought Hadrien, bemused.
“Look, I don’t expect you to understand,” the gentleman on the ground began, “You may have talking horses here, but where I am from, there is REAL MAGIC.”
Hadrien leant in, intrigued.
“I am Wizard #540”, Merlin declared, “I am a wizard.”
A beat passed before anyone spoke again.
“So is he”, Rembrandt replied, a hoof pointed in Hadrien’s direction, “It’s really not a big deal.”
“Well now”, Hadrien said, “We’re not completely useless.”
This time Hadrien and the Hare exchanged looks.
Merlin seemed stunned. Perhaps it was just sinking in that he had been in conversation with a pony. Perhaps it was that he had just been told that being a wizard was ‘really not a big deal’. Or perhaps It was that a talking pony had just told him that being a wizard was ‘really not a big deal’.
Whatever it was, it took Merlin a second to compose himself before he continued.
“My sincerest apologies to the both of you.”
“Three of you”, Hadrien interjected, gesturing towards the Hare.
“Sorry, three of you”, Merlin began again, “Excuse me for a moment.”
Reaching into his top pocket, the shell-shocked wizard retrieved a vial of brown liquid and poured it all into his mouth.
Slowly, he fell backwards onto the grass, eyes rolling back into his head, and started to convulse.
“Did he just-?”, started Rembrandt.
“I’m guessing that was the Powerful Amnesia Tonic”, interrupted Hadrien.
Suddenly, the previously convulsing wizard sat bolt upright.
“I am afraid I have no idea where I am or what is happening, but I think I may need your help. My name is Merlin”, he said, visibly uncomfortable with the taste lingering in his mouth.
“Do you think you can walk?”, Hadrien smiled.
“I’m afraid I don’t think I can”, replied Merlin, “I’m in some pain.”
“That’s alright”, said Hadrien, “Do you think you’d be able to carry our friend here to a nearby town, Rembrandt?”
Rembrandt looked unimpressed, “This is not how I imagined I’d be spending my days as a free pony!”
“You don’t have to if you don’t want to!”, Hadrien clarified, “It’s your choice.”
Hearing this, the pony’s face softened, and he looked again at the injured wizard, lying on the ground.
“I can help”, said the pony.
Hadrien helped the wizard onto his feet and onto the ponies back, and the two pairs walked back across the meadow towards the tree.
Reaching the tree, Hadrien sat down, reached into his bag and began reading his book.
“Aren’t you going to come with us?”, asked Merlin.
“Why do you look younger than you did before?”, said Hadrien looking up at the wizard.
“I’m confused,” Merlin continued, “I don’t even know where I’m going.”
“Places”, replied Hadrien, “I’m sure of it.”
Rembrandt exchanged looks with the Hare now, and a wordless exchange culminated in a nod.
“Let’s go find out what’s happening in this world, Merlin,” Rembrandt said, “I want to make a life for myself, and it looks like you might have to, too.”
Merlin looked again at Hadrien again, puzzled.
“You’re here now, aren’t you Merlin?”, said Hadrien, “I’ve read about you and I’m sure you’ll be fine. We'll all need your help soon enough.”
They looked at each other for a moment more, and Merlin sensed that not only was there was no point arguing, but whatever was happening was important.
“I’ll need time to find the energy”, Merlin said.
“You will,” Hadrien winked.
“Okay then”, Merlin replied.
“Don’t forget me!”, Hadrien said as they were leaving.
Rembrandt looked back and confirmed that he wouldn’t. Merlin simply raised his good arm and waved.
Rembrandt and Merlin continued away and towards the horizon.
“I knew a painter named Rembrandt once”, remarked Merlin.
“Oh yeh?”, replied Rembrandt, “Any good?”
“One of the masters”, Merlin replied.
Left in the meadow, long after the Pony and Merlin had disappeared over the horizon, Hadrien turned to the Hare.
“Do you think that was a good idea?”
The Hare didn’t answer.
“You’re right, it's too early to tell.”
Entered by: 0x71c5…3a61