Part One - Barroom Brawl
Ralthagor’s voice cuts through the din. “Enough!”
He strikes the floor with the butt of his staff and a half-dozen terror bolts erupt from its tip, seeking those most vulnerable to afflict. Four children drop their serving trays and run screaming from the room. The maitre d’ freezes in place, shivering uncontrollably, and a half-spider half-woman skitters into the rafters, leaving a trail of dribbling silk behind her.
I say a word under my breath and a silver sparkle in my right hand complements the stiletto in my left. I hiss to Desira, “This bastard is ruining us. I’m going in.” With that I’m running crouched toward him, using the general confusion of the crowd for cover.
I ignore her. Ralthagor’s been using his spells on the serving staff all evening and I’ve had enough. It stops now.
I get a shot and take it. As the spell fires a satyr steps in the way and gets his hairy behind frozen in a block of ice. He trips and lands on a table edge, tipping it and launching the dwarf’s ale across the room. The stein strikes Mogar’s helmet horn and shatters, spraying warm ale over several patrons and girls.
The girls take it in stride, but Zyrix rises, spreading his wings and waving his face-tentacles in agitation.
Desira turns on him. “Zyrix, watch your tongue! There are ladies present!”
“Where?” shouts the dwarf. “This is a bloody…!”
“Wonderful establishment!” shouts the elf, his hand clamped over the dwarf’s mouth.
Ralthagor waves his hand in my direction. I dodge and the ray strikes Queen Garransh, whose clothes all fall off. Her consort Gort bellows his goblin rage at the indignity; everyone else turns away in disgust.
“Pretty low, Ralthy!” I shout as I continue to edge forward.
“Come out where I can see you, girl! I promise I’ll end this quickly!”
“And that’s why I won’t!”
I don’t know who threw the first punch. It doesn’t matter when there’s forty people in the room, over half of them drunk and rowdy. I do my best to duck and weave around the melee. At least there are no serious weapons out: just knives and relatively nonlethal spells. I navigate the moving maze of arms, legs, wings, tails, horns and tentacles with ease. After all, that’s what a Rogue Mage does.
Garransh grabs Ralthagor’s staff and starts flailing it around like a truncheon. That’s my opening. I vault over the dwarf and land on Ralthy’s back, pulling the stiletto tight against his throat.
“How droll. Interesting establishment you’ve got here, Sapphire. Pity it’s being wrecked.”
“We can rebuild.”
“This all could have been avoided if you’d simply given me the Plith Emerald.”
“Not going to happen, Ralthy. Why don’t you go away before I carve you a second smile?”
“No, I don’t think so. Where are you hiding the emerald, or would you rather I dissect everyone present to find it?”
I drag the blade across his throat but it doesn’t cut. Damn protective spell. “You’ll never get it, monster!”
“Really? Let’s see, it’s currently hiding you from magical detection so it must be on your person.” He grabs my hand. “Myvilir!” Every piece of cloth on my body unravels; now I know why I wear chainmail undergarments. He looks me over and chuckles.
“Don’t you dare…”
“It’s an obvious hiding place, really, especially considering the nature of your establishment. You’ll pardon me if I don’t let you take it out and palm it.”
He reaches down and uses a kinesis spell to pull it out. Then he uses a magnetism spell powerful enough to suck me off the ground and stick me to the chandelier by my undies. He smiles up at me, fading away like a Cheshire cat.
“Desira! He’s got the emerald! We have to go after him; get me down from here!”
- - -
I end up having to extract myself from my underwear to get down from the chandelier. It’s stuck there for the duration, and my stiletto as well. I jump the bar, as much for cover as for a moment to think.
Step one: clothes. The elf slams into the bar and I size him up. Close enough. I haul him over just as the satyr is about to ram his behind; goat horns sink into the wood with a thunk.
I poke the elf in the chest. “Undress!”
Four seconds later he’s unclad and smiling. The smile vanishes when I start pulling on his pants. He raises a hand, one finger pointing.
“I’ll give them back later.” I put on his vest and boots. The boots are a perfect fit; thank the gods for dainty elven feet.
I notice a conspicuous absence and call to the bouncer. “Zurth! Where’s Desira?”
He drops the man he’s pummeling. “Dunno, Saph. She just poofed away.”
Crap. Desira would never teleport in the middle of a fight. It’s too dangerous; she’d use another spell to... double crap! “Zurth! Has anyone opened the door in the last couple of minutes?”
“Nope!” He slams the dwarf against the door to show it’s secure.
Ralthagor wouldn’t teleport either. The little snake turned invisible! That means he and the emerald are still in the building! I vault the bar and dodge through the crowd toward the stairs.
A minotaur takes a grope at me and I show him that bull-size testicles are a large target. Mogarth pushes a couple of people out of my way and shouts “Great party, Saph!” as I head by. I’ll have to thank him later.
Lilith the vampire approaches me with a hand over her mouth. “I bwoke a toof.”
“It’ll regenerate dear; just go have a nap in your coffin.”
Finally I reach the stairs and bolt up them. I can hear Ralthagor’s voice from the upper parlour. He’s incanting; spells that need that much verbiage to cast are seldom good.
When I burst into the parlour Ralthagor is there. So’s Desira; she’s trussed up like fantasy number seventeen and trying to protest through the gag. Ralthy has the emerald, which is glowing with intense green fire.
I leap for Ralthagor but realize too late I don’t have a dagger. I say the word in mid-air and when I slap him with my empty hand tendrils of ice spread across his chest. Too little, too late. The room dissolves in emerald brilliance and the roar of the planar vortex.
When I regain my vision, Ralthagor is getting up off the floor. The glittering green dust all over him and me indicates where the emerald is. Desira is gone. Kneeling on the floor where she used to be is a woman in a robe made of towel-cloth. She has pink rabbits on her feet.
The woman looks around, blinking several times as if to clear her eyes. Finally she shouts “ERIC!”
Part Two - Wanda
Ralthagor brandishes his staff and announces “Nwada the Spirit-Queen! I Ralthagor have summoned you; I command you to do my bidding!”
I’m about to retort when the strange woman speaks up, “Put a sock in it, creep.”
Ralthagor starts tugging at the stocking that has suddenly filled his mouth. As he’s trying to dislodge it he slowly weakens until, after about a minute, he passes out. Nwada walks over and pulls the stocking out easily.
“That takes care of him.” She turns to me, “Who are you and where am I?”
“I’m called Sapphire, you’re in the comfort house that I and my sister run.”
“Not again.” She buries her face in her left hand.
“What is it, Queen Nwada?” She may or may not be a supernatural being, but at the very least she’s a powerful wizard.
“It’s Wanda, not Nwada. I’ve been sucked into a story again; this time it’s one of my brother Eric’s. And this time I can’t sense the apartment.” She concentrates. “It’s because I’ve been swapped with your sister.”
I should have gasped in wonderment, but I’ve been around magic too long. “Okay, so how do we get Desira and you swapped back?”
“I don’t know. It depends on what she’s doing.”
“Probably your brother.”
“Ugh. I did not need that image.”
“Why? Is your brother a monster?”
“No, a nerd.” She points at Ralthagor. “Like him.”
- - -
We’re suddenly back in the salon; I don’t remember coming downstairs. I dodge an incoming punch and slug the skald that threw it, knocking him off his feet. Wanda gets grabbed by the minotaur. She looks into his eyes and he lets go, mumbling an apology.
The dwarf trips into Wanda, knocking her onto me and dumping us both onto the floor and splashing us with the contents of the mug he was holding. Thank the gods it’s ale.
We crawl toward the edge of the melee. A tentacle brushes my ankle. “Not now, Zyrix,” I call, and keep going.
“It’s not Zyrix.” My blood runs cold. How did he get in here?
“Cherin, get lost before I call the guard!”
“I want my money back!”
“You killed one of our girls!”
“She wasn’t resilient enough. I demand satisfaction or the return of my gold!” He pinned my arms with his hands while a tentacle wrapped around my leg and slithered upward. Why do all the tentacled guys think that’s erotic?
There was a resounding ‘clonk’ and he went limp. Wanda was holding a big iron frying pan.
“How did you...?”
“I wrote it in; I am a goddess, after all. Now let’s get going.”
“Can you write in a knife? This guy deserves it!”
“No! That’d be murder!”
“Here we’d call it justice.” But there was no time for that argument. We crawled to the edge of the room and took shelter behind an upended table. In the heat of the moment I kissed her.
She suddenly pulled back. “What the...?”
“Is something wrong?” I ran my hands up her legs.
“There was a tense shift just now.” She looked down at my hands on her silky thighs. “And a tone shift. Somebody, definitely NOT me or Eric, is writing onto the story!”
Part Three - Our Story Continues
I look over at Sapphire, who’s looking back with unbridled lust in her eyes. There’s two narrators in this story, and the other one wants to write girl-on-girl soft porn. Luckily he can only write in the past tense, so by using immediate I can stay ahead of him No half-trained hack gets the better of me, even if I am trapped in my own story. I start narrating:
Zurth wades into the room and bellows in his loudest voice, “Okay, that’s it! Party’s over, everybody kiss an’ make up.” He’s an ogre, so his bellow is the best in town. People know better than to cross him, and do as he says. The brawl is over.
Every man who could hired a girl for some ‘personal nursing’. The dwarf grabbed Queen Garransh’s –
– hand! And leads her away. The salon clears as everyone goes to private rooms. Once they’re gone Zurth starts stacking unconscious customers in a corner. Now that the excitement is over Sapphire collapses in my arms. I’m not going to spend my evening fighting off octopus hands.
“Uh, Zurth? Where’s Sapphire’s room?”
“Upstairs. Blue hallway, second door.”
Carrying her upstairs is work but I manage it.
Partway up she started slipping and I grabbed her behind to stabilize her; she moaned in her sleep and –
– stays unconscious! I get her to the room and flop her onto the bed.
She lay there like a delicious prize waiting to be claimed. Her clothes –
– stay firmly fastened in place, thank you.
I heard a sound behind me; the distinctive click of a revolver being cocked. I was frozen in place as a silky contralto voice whispered in my ear, “Give me a good one-liner and I just may let you live.”
“A one-liner. Or your new girlfriend will wake up wearing spray-on Wanda brains.” The barrel of the gun pushed into the back of my head. I knew if I moved or tried to narrate my way out of this I’d be dead within a second. I had to think of something fast.
“Take my boyfriend – please!”
“I said a good one-liner.”
“I went out to find myself; turns out I was at the nearest bar so I had a drink for each of us and came home.”
“Heh-heh. How about another one?”
“Okay. I once met an author so stupid he forgot to put bullets in his character’s gun.” I slam my head backward and the gun makes a harmless ‘click’ as I push through it. She staggers back under the force of my head-butt.
I whirl on her. Her only defined features are two forty-fives and a gun. She’s a sloppily written anachronism, and I’m relieved when she flounces out of the room squealing.
I snap my fingers and Sapphire wakes up.
“Come on, we’re going home. My home.”
I close her bedroom door and then open it again; we step through into my apartment. Time get to the bottom of this.
Part Four - Somewhere On Campus
A sharp crack startles me awake. My laptop screen has a hole in it, surrounded by fissures in a radial pattern. There’s a ketchup-flavoured chip on my keyboard, and the common area I fell asleep in is lit by the overhead pot lights. Just as I’m starting to process all this I hear a woman’s voice. It sounds sweet and dangerous, like a knife wrapped in velvet. “Give me a good one-liner, Andy, and I just may let you live.”
I whirl around and it’s Weird Wanda, from my Creative Writing class. She’s holding her right hand with forefinger out and thumb up, like a pretend gun; the left one is steadying it in a marksman’s pose. It’s ‘aimed’ at me.
“Wanda? What are you doing here?” I move to block my screen. I do not want her to see that I’m logged in to her account.
“You violated my brother’s story. You wrote me into it and gave me memories of things I didn’t –wouldn’t ever– do.”
“What? I didn’t write you in! You were already–”
“Already there? Only one way you could know about that. Sapphire, tie him up.”
There’s a weight in my lap; a pair of boobs press against my face. I blink a couple of times and suddenly they’re really there. I’m so surprised I forget to struggle while my hands are tied together.
When she finishes the girl leans down and whispers, “Thanks for the sex; she deleted it, but I still remember.”
She wiggles a bit, just enough to make me uncomfortable, then gets up. Now that the orbs of paradise aren’t blocking my vision I see more. Like the hot babe in the slinky oriental dress, and the very real gun in Wanda’s hands.
The door bursts open; Dave and Mel burst in. Dave shouts, “Andy, shut it down! Wanda’s been...”
“Seen nearby? I noticed.”
“Yeah. Hey, that blue-haired girl looks like the one from that story you sent me! Do you think she’d lick my – Ow! What was that for, Melanie?”
Wanda smiles maniacally. “Well, everybody’s here now. Did you all have fun at Eric’s expense? Are you laughing at what you did to his story? To him?”
“I didn’t have anything to do with it!”
“Didn’t you, Melanie? I’m pretty sure the most explicit parts were written by a girl who’s been there. Anyway, I know your style.”
“She helped, but I didn’t!”
“You edited it, David. One-handed, unless I miss my guess. I know your style, too. Between the three of you, you had Eric nearly catatonic when he read it.”
“Come on, Wanda. It’s only a story!”
“Only a story? Then you’ll all like this one. I picked it out especially for the three of you.”
She takes out a small sheaf of papers. As she reads I can feel the story becoming reality.
We’re dragged out onto a stage in a TV studio. A friendly-sounding voice says, ‘Welcome to Exquisite Torment! Our contestants today...’.