Sunday, 19 February 2017

Per Plunum: a game of making do

The premises of the Great Enchanter occupy a prominent, yet not fashionable, location in a moderately well-trafficked part of the town. The Great Enchanter's name is not bandied about on the lips of the vulgar, but thanks, in no small part, to the aid of certain mnemonic incantations, a general awareness of their presence and location permeates the populace, so that anyone in need of magical aid might find themselves wandering uncertaintly in that direction. The large brass plaque prominently fixed on the ancient, stout oaken door displays the name of the Great Enchanter in letters that are just large enough to bespeak confidence, yet not so large as to appear desperate; fancy enough to convey a hint of wonder, yet not so gaudy as to seem frivolous.

The Great Enchanter's door opens upon a modest reception room, with fine claw-footed wooden chairs where a customer may await attention. Reassuringly respectable landscapes hang upon the neat wallpaper; reassuringly mystical books and orbs line shelves behind the heavy wooden counter; a fine balance is struck between allaying the qualms of the hesitant first-time visitor, and delicately suggesting the proprietor's bona fides.

The customer is politely ushered into a consultation room.

For this client, a modest and businesslike office with little sign of arcane learning but the names of the gold-lettered tomes that line the shelves, a faint scent of incense and the ornate carvings on several locked cupboards. A plain blue rug keeps their feet from echoing on the wooden floorboards of the office. Sunlight streams through the windows, supported by the steady light of several lamps to give the atmosphere of any pleasant morning call. They take a seat in a comfortable armchair by the fire, and enjoy light refreshments while the Enchanter, or perhaps one of their assistants, clad in the garb of any respectable professional, delicately elicits from them the nature of their difficulty and - even more delicately - the depth of their purse.

For that client, a dim chamber redolent of magical learning, lit by the multicoloured flickering of myriad fat, dribbling candles. Shelves of gold-lettered tomes fill one wall; elsewhere heaps of mysterious paraphernalia threaten to flood from several open cupboards. Feet echo on the rune-etched floorboards of the chamber, and scrolls of strange Boreal writing hang from the walls. The heady scent of incense and less identifiable things waft through the air. Two chairs, swathed in cloths woven with mysterious symbols, are huddled by a fire over which a bronze cauldron bubbles with sweet-smelling liquid. A tray of exotic sweetmeats and spiced wine are placed in the outstretched claws of a gargoyle, while the Enchanter, or perhaps one of their assistants, garbed in outlandish outfits, interrogates them on the nature of their difficulty and - somewhat indirectly - the depth of their purse.

On the rare occasions that two clients visit in quick succession, they are often kept waiting. This is not, as they are informed, because the Great Enchanter must update their records, or meditate to clear their mind of distractions, or realign the lunar resonances of the chamber, but because locking or unlocking the cupboards, moving the rug, dispersing the scent of incense or dragging that wretched gargoyle in and out of the corner cupboard - to say nothing of changing outfits - are quite time-consuming. You'd know. It's your job.

It's a tough life being an apprentice. And the magical business isn't exactly booming.

Now, for the first time in weeks, someone has come to seek the aid of the Great Enchanter whose name is prominently displayed upon the brass plate outside your office! Fortune, or at least the ability to pay off the more pressing of your debts, beckons!

But the Great Enchanter is not there.

Incapacitated in a magical mishap? Drunk? Struck down with Dancing Fever? Engaged in a scandalous liaison at a weekend villa which you are strongly and sorcerously abdjured from interrupting? Dead? Just plain feckless?

But you really, really need the money.

And so you, the stout-hearted apprentices of the mage, must spring to the task for which your studies have in no way prepared you.

Don't panic!

It's not all bad. After all, you have spent months, perhaps years in the service of the Great Enchanter, who selected you for your undeniable arcane potential, and certainly not because you were cheap, found sleeping rough in the outhouse after running away from home, nearby and in need of a shilling when an old school rival showed up with a new apprentice, the child of a particularly persistent yet remote relative, hired as a bootboy but insist on calling yourself an apprentice, or you just wouldn't stop pestering them.

You know:

  1. How to pack a very heavy rucksack really efficiently so you can carry all the mage's stuff as well as your own
  2. Basic self-defence
  3. How to evade a variety of adversaries
  4. The fundamentals of business, as filtered through the idiosyncrasies of your mage
  5. A little bit about theoretical magic
  6. An assortment of minor incantations, mostly used for domestic chores and tiresome tasks the mage refuses to undertake.

You also know two genuine spells, which fall into one of the following categories:

  1. The mage taught you this in a rare moment of determination, due to an urgent need to get something done, reluctance to risk taking part in a particular ritual, a brief flash of pedagogical responsibility, a drunken haze or an attempt to show up a rival. It is useful, perhaps impressive, though difficult to perform.
  2. You learned this spell without the mage's sanction; perhaps you stole down to peruse a heavy tome of ancient wisdom, or accidentally broke a precious globe containing an imp who taught you the spell in thanks for its freedom, or peered through a crack in the floorboards and watched the mage conjuring. It is a potent, illicit spell which you had best not perform openly. You're pretty sure the chances of horrible death are quite low.

And of course, you have your own personal merits, (in)competencies and capabilities.

But more importantly, you really, really need the money.

Yes sir, madam, the Great Enchanter will take care of that right away.

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