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The Chains That Join Us

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Fey Fiasco

“Peat moss. Wild rhododendron. Pincushion moss. Cyprus. Hickory. Agroah stems. Catmint.” Flip muttered the names of the plants along the path he walked through he woods.

The Ganderwood was silent, as usual. And, as usual, it was pleasant to have some sort of sound apart from the distant echoes of birdsong and the wind through the high branches. Silence was murder on the mind. Flip enjoyed the constant noise of clocks and quill on paper, distant work, the sounds of the town happening outside his tower, music even; man made noises meant everything was fine. Trouble never came silently, not when it had to silence many people at once to do so.

“Holly. Juniper. Wildenberry…” Flip paused mid-stride. “Wildenberry… down feather. Perfect for truffles.”

Flip picked off several of the bright red berries and crushed them in his hand. With his clean hand he retrieved a scrawny, fluffy feather from a pouch at his belt.

A hogshead for a silver,

A truffle for a gold,

Platinum for for a treasure

Still yet to unfold.

He whispered the truncated incantation under his breath as he took a deep breath of the crushed berries and then tickled his nose with the feather. The magic took only a moment to work and he felt the weight of his nose hang lower. He could see the round lump of his bulbous sniffer hang down into a long pigs snout, almost like an elephants nose.

“Just here, tapir. Sniff out the truffles, my dear. Truffles for steak and soup and beer.” Flip grinned and lowered his body, almost on all fours, and took a deep breath with his enhanced sense of smell. “Hm. Dirt.”

The wizard stood back up straight and let out a disappointed breath, which sounded odd through his elongated nostrils. His mouth turned up in an exaggerated frown. His trips into the Ganderwood forest often came out of necessity, rather than recreation—though he often felt the need to stretch his legs for longer than a walk through town would take and often found himself in the woods—and this time was no different from normal.

Flip had found himself short on several things. Mostly herbs and bark and other natural elements. Unlike other trips for reagents and components, however, there was one extra thing that had brought him to the woods. Ferrow, the alchemist in the town had said he heard fey music in a clearing deep in the woods. That meant fey to play it. And fey had… things. A few things. Often several, but usually at least one.

The next half-hour of walking through the Ganderwood was broken up into short segments with sniffing breaks. If nothing else, truffles or other mildly scented items buried in the undergrowth would be worthwhile. The keen nose of a hog was a valuable thing, which was why Flip had created a routine spell to use it. It only lasted for around an hour, but that was usually enough to find at least one thing worth finding. Last time it had found three good truffles and an antique ink pot. That was a good day.

Flip was just outside of the clearing that Ferrow had mentioned when he leaned over and smelled it. A truffle. A cluster of truffles perhaps. He knelt down just to the side of the path he had been walking and wandered on his hands and knees, putting all of his focus into his sense of smell. He could feel the damp earth staining the fabric of his skirt, but it was already worn and dirty from use anyway.

“Hellooo…” A voice barely permeated the concentration of the wizard. It was the hoof stomping firmly on the large truffle he had finally spotted that actually earned Flips attention.

“There’s an old man over here, Niera. What should I do?”

Flip looked up and followed the hoof as it led to a furry leg and up into the odd hips that a cloven creature often has. No garb to hide his shame. No shirt to hide the bare skin above his waist. Dark curly hair again at the head barely hiding small horns. A satyr. And a young one. A foolish creature to wander so far out of the fey realms and so close to civilization.

“Ask him to dance with us!” A female voice called from farther away. Flip’s attention was drawn away in the direction of the voice, revealing his distorted nose to the satyr.

“He’s got a pig nose!” The satyr bellowed. He had a very musical voice and as it trained off into a giddy laugh, Flip could tell there was enchantment about the creature. “Come with me old man! Dance with us! It is a beautiful spring day and perfect for dancing!”

The satyr lifted Flip up by the elbow, revealing a strength not matching the creature’s slight build. With a skipping trot he led the wizard away from the crushed and ruined truffle and into a meadow. Flip’s eyes were locked on the poor truffle until he couldn’t see it any longer, stupefied by the horrible waste of food and flavor. Yet, he found it hard to resist the physical strength of the satyr and the calming sounds emanating from the meadow clearing. Once he looked, he could see how beautiful it was; tall green grass and wildflowers, comfortable leaning stones, bright evening light shimmering off every surface. And the rest of the creatures in the meadow were beautiful too. Dryads and nyads, nymphs and satyrs, all dancing to music or strewn about the rocks and grass in blissful relaxation. Not a care in the world.

“Pig nose, come dance with me!” A young woman with a pale green tint to her skin and a wildflower crown grabbed Flip’s arms and dragged him in rough semi-circles around the meadow as she swayed to the melody of satyr pipes. The way she bounced was mesmerizing.

But that was when Flip caught another smell that brought him to his senses. A foul smell like burning skunkweed and lye. It made his elongated pig snout stand out straight and his beard to frazzle out.

“You smell foul!” Flip screeched through the music. “And you’ve ruined my truffles! No amount of pleasant music and company can hide the stink of your bohemian skunkitude!”

The creatures playing pipes and tapping drums grew silent and the girl that had taken his hands let go. Flip could feel the nose on his face shrinking, and new his senses would become overwhelmed again if they returned to their normal human state. Fey enchantment often worked on multiple senses at once; generally sight, sound, and smell.

“You there, give me a hand.” Flip waved his now free hands in the pattern he was familiar with before reaching out in a clawed grasp that was mirrored by the spectral hand now conjured and gripping the satyr by the beard. “And the rest of you!”

The wizard fumbled around one of the pouches that were hanging from his belt and began an incantation.

There are places I have been that are lost to disarray,

Declared to utter desolation

And I have felt a longing to show them sympathy.

Flip felt the tip of the proper component slide underneath his fingers and pulled it out. there was an immediate wave of foul smells as he held the small piece of chalk-like material over his head, far worse than any of the fey that had gathered there with their raucous body odor. The nymphs were the first to make a run for it. It was probably their strong link to the nature around the area. Though it was likely their more pure fey nature. It was fey he was repelling after all.

“Forests touched by plague and rot and decay,

Fields bitten by fire and wrought with toxic inundation—

These are places I have been that are lost to disarray.”

The material in Flip’s hand gave off a putrid green light and all sense of safety or joy was gone from the meadow. The fey fully began to scatter, where they may have once been curious of the verse being recited. All but the one satyr that had spoiled Flip’s search were escaping, not that he didn’t try. The stranglehold of the mage hand was firm and unwavering. What it lacked in lifting power, it made up for in sturdiness.

Flip, satisfied with the degree of spell that had been cast, turned his full attention to the satyr. If the creature had any sense of real self-preservation it would have cut loose its own beard and ran, but it had focused its attention to cover its nose and gag while it tried feebly to escape the tug at its chin.

“I came to this wood for two things,” Flip began, now glowering over the young satyr, “and you’ve deprived me of one. The other you’ll give me… or I’ll tie you to a rock while you struggle to escape the deep rooted feeling that you feel now, that you should stay far away from these woods. And this will last for at least ten days. And I may even return every day for a year to make it permanent and reassure myself that your bindings are secure. I could even get what I want more easily then.”

“Please. Please. Don’t do it. Please, I need that. I need it.” The satyr had begun to cry.

“Oh? You need it, ey?” Flip traded the chalky material out for a metal file with a serrated edge that he kept in the same pouch. His one hand was beginning to get sore of the tight claw gesture he was holding the poor creature in. But it was necessary, fey responded most pliably to fear. And freedom, at this point, would just make him harder to catch.

“I’ve only just gotten used to…” The satyr stopped his begging as Flip began to file away at the creatures horn, the left one, just barely sticking up out of his curly mess of hair.

“Oh, pshaw. It’ll grow back you big baby. You can even say you fought me.”

“I—I thought… you’re a wizard. You wanted my…”

“Gads no.” Flip knew exactly what the satyr thought. The fey were known for their vigor and endurance, and the embodiment of that was often harvested by cruel mages and necromancers. Flip just wanted a horn to grind into powder. “You think I need that? You think people would talk to me if I tried to hawk that at them like a traveling peddler of oddments?”

The satyr went still, perhaps out of confusion but more likely out of submission. Satyr horns came off regularly, like antlers. But they were always hoarded away in the fey realms. They made for impressive displays in the spring when the satyrs tried hardest to make friends with the more feminine fey. But for now, there was no resistance while Flip sawed away at the creature’s horn.

“Now if you were an albino, I could sell that to some concerned mother that wanted a more chaste child. Opposite or draining elements, you know, albino reagents. No common family would bat an eye at that.”

Flip finished with the horn and let it drop to the ground so that he could put the file away. He was still hesitant to release the creature’s beard. Most fey were well known for their unpredictability and vengeful nature. Even if this fey was perfectly happy to maintain his more permanent body-parts and lost nothing more than a horn, he may very well think less of the encounter later and return to trash the wizard’s tower with the fury of a crowd of rowdy dwarves.

Thinking of no better insurance policy, Flip tugged the pan flute off of the satyr’s leather girdle. It wasn’t much by way of clothing, but it was likely only needed for a method of keeping items on his person. He would have been better served by pants and deep pockets, or perhaps a sash. The pipes themselves were well made and certainly magical, as most fey instruments are. But Flip had never had musical skills.

“I’ll be keeping this too, in case you think you can come back and enchant me again. I doubt you know any magic more complicated than this and I’ll have wards a’ plenty when I’m done studying it.” Flip tucked the flute under his own belt and bent over to retrieve the horn before releasing the satyr.

The creature skipped off in a frantic sprint the second it was free. It reminded Flip of how a mountain goat runs on flat land, awkwardly and sheepishly.

“Satyr horn for glittering ink.” Flip smiled to himself as he put the horn in his components pouch. “A worthy reward for a trifle of lost truffles.”

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