Johannes Oddleigh sat glumly in the empty parlour of the Cloven Hoof. It had been eerily quiet since his master had dismissed the bulk of his warband.
The word ‘master’ seemed to stick in his throat recently. Hadn’t he blasted his enemies with elemental power? Hadn’t he mind-controlled their minions and had them turn on their comrades? Hadn’t stared the Lich Lord in the face and traded shots with him for Gods’ sake?
And what of his so-called master? Half the time he had fluffed his spells, or had to empower them, leaving him weak? And now, with the great evil destroyed and the frozen city’s secrets for the taking, he remained locked himself in his chambers, caring for nothing but his studies.
“I’m worth more than this…” Oddleigh muttered, scuffing his foot in the dust.
“Indeed you are, Johannes Daemoncall.”
The startled apprentice shot guiltily up to his feet.
“Oh! M-master, I- er, sorry? Johannes who?”
Thaddeus Daemoncall chuckled. “It is the privilege of every wizard to promote his apprentice when he deems him ready, and you are, I believe, more than worthy.”
“Y-you mean I’m a-?”
“A wizard – yes. You have earned the right to bear the name Daemoncall and take your place at Ulfenhalle. Why, you have summoned more demons in the field than most of the faculty – it wouldn’t surprise me if they made you a dean!”
“But we’re in exile!”
“I am in exile Johannes, not you.” The old Summoner’s haggard and careworn face suddenly lit up with a warm smile. “You can return to the College in triumph, while I must embark on a much greater journey.”
“You’ve successfully cast the spell haven’t you?”
“Transcendence? Yes, a few moments ago in fact.” He raised an arm, allowing the sleeve to fall back to expose the glowing skin underneath. “I shall soon ascend into a higher plane of consciousness and leave this realm to fully explore those other realities that we have merely poked around for so long.”
Johannes coughed, flighting back the tears. “Y-you’re really going?”
“Yes my friend. The process is almost complete. So much to say, too little time eh? At least I can save you the long journey ba-“
And then there was light.
Mother Goosegog tapped her foot impatiently as the Arch-Druid of Wiccan Hedgeology peered at the potion she had retrieved from her battered haversack.
“You say you found this potion of restoration in the frozen city madam?” he asked, his voice rumbling over the noisy crowd in the great hall. “And that it can cure the disease that afflicts your village?”
“Aye – or at least reverse it’s effects. But there’s not enough in that bottle, which is why I need your laboratories to work out how to make more of the stuff!”
“The frozen city…” The Arch-Druid, sighed and, shifting his massive bulk, gently handed the potion back to the witch. “Look, this lich business has got us somewhat concerned and, honestly madam, this is the Ulfenhalle College of Magick, not some workshop rental space. I don’t think that-“
Suddenly there was an explosion!
Or, not exactly an explosion, for explosions aren’t usually silent and don’t normally leave everything standing.
But to the throng of wizards, students and general staff, it felt like, with that amount of light, there really should have been an explosion.
And in the epicentre, half-wreathed in the swirling dust, a young man in Summoner’s robes stepped out onto the flagstones.
“I gather there’s a vacancy in the Department of Extra-Planar Studies. My name is Johannes Daemoncall: Summoner. I am the former student of the great, transcended, Thaddeus Daemoncall - explorer of Frostgrave and destroyer of the Lich Lord! I hereby tender my application.”
He turned to the spluttering gaggle of senior wizards who were pushing themselves through the crowd, led by a skinny man in fine, if wax-spattered, robes.
“Chancellor Runeskry isn’t it? How nice of you to greet me personally. Thaddeus sends his regards and requests that the Department gets it’s summoning hall back – you know, the one you filled with books. Oh, and in case anyone has a problem with that…”
Dark clouds began to gather behind the grinning Summoner as something large, horned and cloven hoofed unfolded it’s massive bat-like wings.
“…say good-day to my little friend…”
The soldiers formerly in the employ of Thaddeus Daemoncall had failed to reach a consensus. Some, like the Halfling thief Nifty Halfinch, had opted to return to their homes with enough gold to, in his words, ‘buy a three-storey mound and enough pies and wenches to fill it.’
Others, such as Goldtooth the treasure hunter and Gog the barbarian, were all for selling their services to the next highest bidder – their reputation as lich-slayers enabling them, they believed, to name a handsome price.
The surviving tribesmen; they who had first started out with the Summoner on his journey to Felstad; still squabbled among themselves about the merits of staying on to fight versus the delights of a bigger herd of goats and a nicer yurt.
In fact, the only thing they could all agree upon was that the ale served in the hostelry was bloody good.
Perhaps they could have been excused then, for failing to notice the cloaked figure until it stood before them, looming over the table.
As hands clumsily reached for weapons she chuckled, pulling back her hood to reveal a bifurcated face: half-smooth and comely, half-careworn and wrinkled.
“Hello boys,” she said. “Looking for work?”