Chapter4


Raze was cold, dirty and a nervous wreck, thanks to Herb Drisep. He crept into his rooms at the university, seeing as it was six in the morning and getting light. He washed and changed and never took his eyes off his staff. He delved into every nook and cranny of his brain to find the word erspid but to no avail.

"Noun? Adjective? Verb? Spell component? Yes well you aren't anything to do with Herb bloody Drisep, I'm sure of that." He sat at his desk and turned the staff in his hands. It really was extraordinary and fascinating. The small, fine script was gently rippling around it and the deciphered script glowed warmly. "E R S P I D. E R S P I D. E R ... hang on." Raze frowned at the script It was a string of continuous characters! The only reason he'd started with E was because it was the first letter he'd worked out! "Piders. No. Idersp. Bah. Spider. N... Spider! Spider?"

"About bloody time! How dense are you eh?" The staff snapped and the lettering glowed bright pink. Raze yelled in fright, dropped the staff and sprang onto his bed. "Call yourself a Mage? Piders? Bloody Piders? That isn't even a good name for a paladin!"

"You ... you can talk?" Raze stammered in astonishment.

"Says the jester who tried to call me Piders."

"No, I mean you're capable of speech. Oh ... wow!" Raze stumbled off the bed and picked up the staff. "So you're called Spider?"

"Are you sure you're a Mage? You're a bit of a thicko eh? Of course I'm called Spider! Six letters! Only six and you couldn't even make a sensible word! Bloody Piders."

"Well you could have helped me out!" Raze said defensively. "You're lucky not to be wedged up Herb Drisep's crevice."

"Ack! Yes I heard that. It's not my fault you're a dimwit. How could I help you out when you hadn't called me? You say my name, which is glowing like an alchemist's piddle-pot, and I can respond. Get it? Yes?"

"How was I to know that? You didn't come with instructions." Raze said sulkily.

"Huh? So that's not how you do it here?" Spider the staff asked.

"Well no. That's not how we do it anywhere because we have no talking tools."

"Tool? I'm a finely crafted artifact."

"And a unique one, as far as I know. So what's the story with the Slag Scree?"

"I'm not sure. So I'm unique? Really? Well how about that! Hardly surprising though. I am fairly awesome." Spider sniffed arrogantly.

"So who put you in the Slag? You had the whole lot of it caving in."

"I can't remember. I remember dark and quiet and being bored out of my runes. I remember being stuck. No one there to move me, you see? Can you imagine how boring it is being wedged in by a dead cow, eighty two rotting vegetables and a huge volume of solidified sewage? Dead cows are no fun at all. I did try and revive it at one time just for the company but it all went to bagwash when the vegetables went mushy and collapsed. I missed the cow and hit the sewage. That's not something I'd care to repeat."

"I'd say not." Raze cringed at the very thought of living sewage. "There's no domestic waste in the Scree layers, it's all building rubble. How long were you in there?"

"I don't know." Spider said wearily. "I'm an artifact. We don't really do the time thing. I was occasionally buffeted around by gas leaks and streams of decomposed guff but it's not the same as a good wielding. I gradually noticed that there was no more soggy dead things and even the animated turds had given up the chase. It was dry and ... loose. Much better than moist and rancid. Then came the thuds."

"Thuds? What sort of thuds?" Raze was fascinated.

"How do you mean? A thud is a thud isn't it? You know? THUD!"

"Harvey Whetton." Raze nodded.

"They have categories? Well they were just your common variety thuds and didn't sound like wet ones. Anyway, I saw daylight and sensed air for the first time in Torment knows how long and I could hear! I picked up a bit of the lingo but I didn't know what they were on about half of the time. I particularly liked the word knobhead. Ha-ha!" Spider chuckled.

"This is incredible!" Raze said in awe. "So the flying rocks and landslides were all natural afterall?"

"Natural for me." Spider said casually. "I got a desperate urge. You would too if you'd been cooped up with dead cattle and mouldering granny smiths. That was seriously disturbing, that was. She was inches away from my big end. I had some sort of panic surge and blasted a few holes just for the view. I saw people and wanted out. I wanted a good grasping and a good swear. No one called me so I got a bit cranky with the stones."

"Yes we noticed. Two guards had to get clean underpants." Raze said grimly and Spider guffawed a laugh.

"Then I felt something that made my etchings feel all fuzzy and warm. Heck it felt good. It was even better than being stroked with a chamois leather and nut oil. Just when my whorls and ridges were starting to vibrate, it started fading! I hadn't finished! I leapt on it, mystically speaking, and grabbed it with gusto. Cheers Raze, how was it for you?" Spider tittered.

"Don't be perverse!" Raze squealed. "You're a staff. Behave accordingly."

"Hark at you! You were going to shove me up Drisep's ..."

"Yes, yes. That wasn't the same at all. So! You absorbed my detection spell?" Raze shifted the direction a bit.

"Oo! Not half. I stashed it away with the others. You still didn't get it! You numb sod. Eerily mystical blue glow in a slag heap and you were still faffing about! I exposed my best end to you." Spider said.

"Can you not? Dignified, remember? Staffs are dignified." Raze preached. "You caused an avalanche."

"I was feeling neglected. You don't tickle a dignified unique artifact then just bugger off! Show a bit of class Raze." Spider sniffed. "All that and you still didn't give me a tug!"

"Yes I did! I gave you a good hard yank and ended up with a bleeding nose!"

"Only because that soldier shamed you into it. Maybe he should have rippled my runes."

"Don't be silly. Hal Logger couldn't ripple his own runes. In ... a magical way, I mean. He has no magic. Look just cut it out, Spider. You're not funny." Raze found himself laughing anyway. "So what does all your script mean? It's quite remarkable." Raze watched the shifting, fine lettering as it spiralled and swirled around Spider.

"They are eh?" Spider agreed. "It's a pity I don't know what most of them are. The ones I did figure out during a vastness of ponderings, turned out to be spells. It makes sense that the others are too but I can't remember them. Most of it looks like a plate of worms."

"Spells? They're all spells? Spider there are hundreds of them!" Raze said in astonishment. "How did they get there? Someone must have crafted you. I know some of the finest magical craftsmen in the land and to infuse two spells would be a huge achievement and earn him a place in history."

"Yeah? Well your lot can't be up to much. I don't remember being crafted, obviously. I just remember ... being. So someone gave me all these spells? Well that's just tough. They're mine now and I'm not giving them back. It was me who was stuck in a midden with nasty fungus and sentient poo, not some knobhead Mage who couldn't handle his glyphs."

"If you've been buried for as long as I think you have, then I doubt he'll still be alive." Raze pointed out.

"Yes well he'd better not be. Bloody loser." Spider said flatly. "So will you show me yours?"

"Are you being crass again?"

"No! Well yes, just a bit. Your spells! Oh come on! You keep ogling mine!" Spider said defensively.

"Even if I had to expose you to every spell I've mastered, it would hardly cause a ripple among all that. That can't be the work of just one Mage, Spider."

"What?" Spider shrilled. "So I've been molested by a cult?"

"Not necessarily. I'm thinking more like successive Mages or owners, given your age." Raze reasoned.

"I feel so dirty." Spider wailed. "And you just called me old."

"That's a compliment for an artifact." Raze pulled on his boots.

"Where are we going?" Spider asked eagerly.

"I have a class soon. No one comes in here, you'll be safe from molestation."

"You're leaving me? Here? But I want to come with you! Can't I go to class too?" Spider asked pathetically.

"What for? You have more spells than the whole land combined! Anyway, staffs don't go to class. I'll ... " Spider interrupted Raze with a wail that could render the undead insane. "Shh! Spider, hush! You'll have the Watch up here! Sp ... Oh OK. Come on." Raze picked up the staff who fell silent immediately. "Better if you stay quiet down here. My pupils are only sixteen and not open to your turns of phrase. In short, behave."

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