Arithmetic for Mages

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The five men hovered around the tables and chairs spaced about the room; the tension was palpable. Each man looked at the others furtively and then quickly looked at the papers before them; knowing they couldn’t take much more of what was happening. They fidgeted nervously. Sam, the eldest, sat quietly in the corner of the room, his feet on each side of a foot cushion, stroking his long graying beard. Bart kept pushing his glasses back up on his skinny face. The structural stability was not helped by the band aid holding the left frame together with the ear piece.

 

Billy sneakily tried to open the bag of Lay’s potato chips and the rustling crackling sound made them all jump. The chain reaction inevitably worked its way back to the fat balding man. When he jumped, all the crumbs on his sweat stained t-shirt fell lazily to the carpeted floor.

“Billy, you pig, I hope you’re going to clean that mess up,” Emma said. “If we mess up the lounge too many more times, we will have to go somewhere else.”

The other players were saved from the all too familiar scrap as they heard the squeak of a door. They looked up in horror as the sixth man came in.

“Okay,” he said rubbing his hands, “where were we? That’s right, you had just moved down the forty foot corridor and it ends at a heavy iron bound door.”

 

The long haired man sat back, his pony tail had left a dirty greasy mark on the back of the chair. Fortunately for Emma, she had the foresight to put a cover over the top. Now, all she had to do was wash the floral towel. He leaned forward over his little table, ducking down behind the cardboard shield and the others could see his head move slightly, as he read something hidden. The others grimaced as a nasty smile fleetingly appeared on his thin lips before he whisked it away.

“Okay, people what are you doing?”

The group all spoke at once, having had enough time to think of their next move while Jonathan was in the toilet. Emma wouldn’t be amused with what happened in there; it seemed jalapenos and Coke did bad things to his stomach. They could hear the sound of the toilet brush banging on the porcelain for a few minutes before he emerged, a satisfied smile on his face.

 

Even as the different voices were peppering him with their intentions, Jonathan’s real gift emerged; he could listen to them all and make perfect sense of the jumble. But then, he had been doing this now for twenty two years.

“Okay, Sam, your thief is checking for traps.” They could hear the sound of dice rolling behind the screen. “You’re reasonably sure that there is nothing to be found. Then you pull the door open.”

The youngest player, a teenager with bright red hair and a face full of freckles nodded earnestly.

“You hear the sound of Orc voices, they sound angry. Sam, you’re in the front, you can see a large guard room and there seems to be about twenty guards there. They are all scrambling for weapons.”

 

Then to everyone’s horror, Billy yelled with excitement, “I’m casting a fire ball!”

The chorus of “Nooo!” drowned out everything in the lounge.

*                      *                          *                              *

 

The dark, forbidding tunnel seemed to stretch endlessly before the panic stricken man. He pounded desperately, his thudding boots echoing his harsh breathing as he thundered along, heedless of any danger. His straggly beard caught in his long gray hair as it streamed behind him over his shoulders.

“Leave me alone, it’s not my fault!” he screamed in panic, his weedy voice raised another two octaves.

Two men, one of them large, almost brushing the tunnel ceiling, were hard on his heels. The man’s armor was blackened with soot from top to bottom. The elaborate sword he had once owned, ended six inches from the hilt, the rest was molten slag.

“Come back here you faggoty snot nosed weasel. I’m going to rip out your wind pipe and shove it down your throat!” he bellowed in homicidal fury.

The second man was likewise in armor, previously a nice suit of chain, now sporting links of melted metal. His once long and luxurious red hair was now only mangled tufts of black straw; smoking wisps trailed in his wake. Sparks flew, hot embers still billowed from the remains of the blue cloak looking no better than a charred oven mitt.

“You destroyed my + 6 to dexterity cloak,” he bellowed in righteous anger. “It’s taken me three years to find it!”

He tried to push past the lumbering fighter, who was starting to tire, or maybe the crisply stinging scalp was an added impetus to the man’s furious pursuit.

“Leave me alone, it’s not my fault!” wailed the man out in front.

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