On a day two score and four after the third battle of Branock’s Gorge, Professor Wistark Shizbitts was summoned by a higher power. He didn’t know that when he got up, of course. He just scrambled some eggs while wearing a dressing gown that few would be able to tell apart from the robes that he wore at all other times of the day.
The wizard spent breakfast steadfastly ignoring the large pile of chores on his kitchen table. The Magician’s Guild had been very demanding since he had got home, first ordering him to make a full report, then getting him to reword his report for the press, then interview after interview for the next ten days. It was trying, to be frank. Especially deflecting everybody’s need to confirm whether he was a zombie or not.
Wistark grumbled to himself as an apple broke into slices in midair and fed itself to him from across the room. If only the people in Raylack weren’t so chatty, all of this might have been avoided. But – fame did have its perks. Being a public hero naturally came with quite a nice feeling, even if you did have to hide the part about being killed and then risen from the dead just before your adventure started.
The self-slicing apple now polished off, the wizard bumbled into the lavatory and trimmed his moustache (non-magically), muttering half-hearted attempts at new jokes he could use to help keep the lies intact. This careful routine almost went rather awry at one point when Spyro woke up and solidified, wreathing his host in sudden clouds of purple smoke as he condensed into a small, purple dragon and chirruped a cheerful (extremely loud) good morning to the world.
Wistark was relieved to cut open his cheek in surprise rather than his moustache. Cheeks don’t take eight years to grow back.
The major hassle had started two or three weeks ago (immediately upon arriving home, in fact). Not only were the three battles of Branock’s Gorge and the necromancy investigations in Raylack common knowledge, the story had also blown worryingly out of proportion. Some tale tellers insisted that the Risen Adventurers were war spies under secret orders from the king. Others were somehow under the impression that the heroes were actually a band of stout-hearted goliaths on a quest to seek out their lost brides in the lands to the north.
Most troubling to Wistark’s employers, the Magicians Guild of Mali, was the rumour that the nefarious Joseph Curwen was one of their deviant wizards and that they had sent Wistark to assassinate him. It was true that the Guild had a force they used to assassinate nefarious magicians, but this incident was not one of their making, and more importantly, the secret assassinations were supposed to be… secret!
Mere days after his return home, the Magicians Council had ordered Wistark to write up the adventure post haste. He was very careful not to make any spelling mistakes – the Council tended to use magic to make reports speak for themselves in an impressive booming voice that, aside from causing all the initiatives to jump in fright, loved to pronounce mispelt words phonetically. When Wistark wrote up his last battle with a rogue magician, he had mispelled ‘package’ as ‘pakage’, earning himself a smug “PAH-KAHG??!” a few days later.
Fortunately, this time, after a day of frantic scribbling, careful rewriting and a few magical origami paper ship battles on the writing desk, the Council got what they wanted and everything was spelt correctly. More importantly, extra care was taken to give the impression that Wistark and co. just happened to be in the neighbourhood when all the crazy stuff in Raylack started to occur. The report began with the recovery of Daniel Glick from a werewolf, accompanied by a heavy suggestion that the adventurers were only in Raylack for a night’s rest during unrelated travels.
His distinctive handlebar moustache now pristine, Wistark brushed his teeth with a frayed twig and exited the lavatory to change into day robes. Spyro was very talkative when nothing was going on, which resulted in a household filled with the sound of the pair chirruping at each other. The dragonling was interested in almost everything – the dispositions of Wistark’s acquaintances, the social mechanisms behind human culture, the concepts of purchase and ownership and history and the way the world worked. The questions never seemed to stop. For his part, Spyro also had a very direct, uncivilised mindset that never failed to make the wizard laugh.
Wistark was in the midst of arguing why greeting a fellow with a shake of the hand is acceptable but touching their private parts is not (“private parts” being a concept that Spyro scornfully described as “a silly human idea”), when he was interrupted by a sharp rapping at the door. Not just sharp – almost furious, like the knocker was someone immensely important with no time to waste. This raised Wistark’s hackles a little bit, for he too had a very high opinion of himself and did not like to be ordered to the door so urgently. The wizard checked himself in the mirror, sipped at a hot drink and strolled casually to the front door while the knocking became increasingly loud until it sounded like the door might actually be damaged.
The wizard opened the door, ignoring the visitor to check the door for marks. Yes. It was dented quite severely. Wistark turned his furrowed gaze upon the guest. It was a dwarf, of typical dwarf height with a typical dwarf beard. He had an odd aura, suggesting he practiced an unfamiliar branch of magic. More importantly, he was covered in shining grey armour.
This being a world with precious little metal, a dwarf clothed head to toe in metal armour could only mean one of two things – invasion from the north, or a Knight of Arcelor. Since conquering armies do not usually send one soldier to stand politely at your door, it was probably the latter.
The Knights of Arcelor were a strange, foreign, theocratic group who were powerful enough to be endorsed by the king. Demon worshippers if Wistark remembered correctly. Lady Bloodrock was one of them, though fortunately she had never seemed particularly devout.
The dwarf spoke haltingly in a raised voice, “Professor Weestark Shizbet?”
His accent was quite foreign, the words blunt and oddly inflected.
“You are…” he took a scroll from his pocket and read, “summoned by the Knights of Arcelor. You will bring the Nec-ro-no-mi-con to Heddibrun University with all speed. I am here to deliver your formal invitation and guard you as you travel to Gerrel Den.”
Wistark groaned inwardly. He had not wished to include the fabled Necronomicon in his report, but knew its exclusion would have led to intense scrutiny from his peers. How else could a normal, law-abiding wizard have known an ancient ritual to close a Fini from ancient legend? He had been dreading this day for weeks, ever since the Magicians Guild had, to cover their own backs, seen to it that his report was published in every newspaper in the Kingdom of Alba. So now even the crazy, foreign demon worshippers knew his name. Wonderful.
And what was this? Gerelden! The capital city of Alba, home to the royal family and government! That was unexpected. At least they weren’t spiriting him away to Narvik, their hulking fortress across the sea. Wistark ushered the knight inside, led him to a chair and read the “formal invitation” he had brought. Spyro hovered cheerfully above, making the occasional mock divebomb at the confused knight to keep him entertained.
Surprisingly, the letter was quite civil. It asked only that he bring the Necronomicon to Gerelden with all haste so that it could be studied. Another surpise: it was signed by the famous Professor Oliver Finnagin, author of Empire’s Echo, a controversial history book that Wistark personally held in quite high regard. The wizard turned to his guest. An incredibly long halberd was strapped to the dwarf’s back, rising several feet into the air above his head. It looked… ridiculous.
“What is your name, knight?”
“I am Sir Norman Bulip! You will come with me to Gerelden!”
“Yes, unfortunately I believe you are correct. When?”
The dwarf hopped up from his chair and barked, “Now!”
Wistark was taken aback. “What? The letter says ‘at your earliest convenience’!”
“I was told to bring you to Gerelden. That is what I do. You will pack, get book and come NOW.”
…And so he did.