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A GOOD MAGE IS HARD TO FIND

 

 

CHAPTER TWO: MEET LOVEJOY

 

 

 

 

 

            "Bog!" The giant reptile shouted. "Bog! C'mere! Bog!"

            Usually it took two or three shouts like this before Bog, the gigantic, lumpy three-eyed troll would realize that he was being called. Sometimes, it took four before he could remember his own name. The caller in question was Michael N. Lovejoy, the ten-foot-tall reptile who owned he building formerly known as "Mt. Aljiba Castle." However, since Mt. Aljiba had been blown to smithereens seventy-five years ago by an aspiring student from Veros, the name no longer quite applied, and Lovejoy, being at a loss for a better name, simply called it "Place."

            In some ways, Lovejoy was very imaginative. In others, he was not.

            And so, as Bog the Troll, the world's most loyal idiot, lumbered through the hallways of Castle Place, his master reclined in his chair and debated calling him again. He was just about to open his mouth when Bog crashed his way through the doorway, screeching to a halt six inches in front of his master, and attempting to bow. Attempting.

            "You want Bog?" Bog asked, blinking his three eyes at the prospect. He loved to be wanted.

            "Yes, yes, of course I want you," Lovejoy sighed. "Look- has any word arrived back from Dioti yet?"

            "Dioti..." The troll stopped to think, and forgot to start again. Lovejoy began to tap the arm of his chair curiously as his unfortunate henchman began to resemble a statue.

            "The Dean at Veros Academy." He added.

            "Dean..." Was Bog's response. He stared blankly at the wall. "Bog met a man once. He call himself Dean. He rude, so Bog bashed him!"

            Lovejoy put a hand to his forehead, and sighed.

            "Okay... Let's make this simple... The guy in black with the long, white hair who never pays on time. Remember him now?"

            "Oh!" Bog exclaimed, apparently pleased. "The Deadbeat Man!"

            "Yes, yes, the Deadbeat Man! Has he written back yet? Or sent anything?"

            "Deadbeat Man's hair is pretty." Bog rambled on. "It look like a girl's hair. He shouldn't have girl's hair."

            Lovejoy blinked.

            "Maybe Deadbeat man is a girl?"

            "Bog..." Lovejoy tried to interrupt.

            "Bog think he is girl."

            "Um... Bog..."

            "Bog think he is ugly girl!"

            "...Bog..."

            "Bog is my name! You want Bog?"

            The creature known as Lovejoy took a very deep breath in, and silently tried to count to ten. He skipped the numbers between three and seven to save time.

            "Bog... Has the man responded to our letter?" He asked impatiently. "Come on, this is becoming a cliche!"

            Bog hesitated for a moment, his brain slowly working. He shook his head.

            "Bog no hear from Deadbeat man-girl with pretty hair in a while."

            "Hmmmm..." Lovejoy considered to himself, his red eyes narrowing. "I see... I gave the man until Monday to pay up," he commented, brushing back the small ridge of purple fur on his head, "Then perhaps a little action is in order."

            "Ack...shun?" Bog said, trying out the sound of the new word.

            "Yes, that's it!" Lovejoy shouted, pointing into the air as he jumped up from his seat. "If he won't take me seriously as a villain, then I'll make him do it!"

            He stood that way for a second, considering.

            "Hmmm... did I ever perfect an evil laugh?" Lovejoy asked himself.

            "Bog no know."

            "Well then..." Lovejoy trailed off, before thinking of the most original evil laugh possible.

            "Uwee hee hee!" He laughed aloud. "No, wait... that's taken. But I like the sound of it..."

            "Muee, hee hee!" Came a repaired version.

            "Not quite..." He commented to himself, chucking.

            "Fwee haa haa!"

            At this, Bog let out a random scream and ran away. He was known to do this from time to time, for absolutely no reason at all.

            "Hmmm... But I need a scheme as well as a laugh..." The words echoed through Castle Place as the lizard thought on.

 

***

 

            And so, by a twist of fate or otherwise, it was on Monday when everything happened at once. Sypha was running to her class, carrying the newly written essay, and Alexander Dioti was strolling about in the marketplace. The two beings met and collided in front of Jove's apple cart, accidentally upsetting it and bringing everything down in ruin. Pages flew everywhere, and Dioti was ticked.

            "Agh! Sorry! Sorry!" Sypha repeated, trying to help the man up and simultaneously gather her essay together. The problem was that Dioti had also been carrying some papers which added to the mess, and the result of which was that she accidentally knocked the man down again just as he was rising to his feet again.

            "Sorry!"

            "...Woman!"

            "...Sorry!"

            "Stop trying to help me up!"

            "I'm sorry!" She repeated again, scurrying around like a little mouse while keeping hold of Alexander's hand. "Are you all right?"

            Dioti growly-sighed. "I will be once you let me get up."

            Sypha finally got the hint, releasing his hand. Dioti grumbled a bit under his breath as he gathered up the pages, all the while with Jove the apple merchant running around, retrieving his apples. The dean recognized her.

            "Good morning, Miss Belnades," he grumbled, picking up another page.

            "Um... Morning, Mr. Dioti," she answered back rather sheepishly, retrieving one of hers. The two did not exchange any more words as they picked up their individual messes and parted company.

            "Oh!" she realized. "I've got one of his pages."

            Turning quickly around on her heels, Sypha scanned the crowd for Dioti, trying her best to locate him. The dean, meanwhile, had run into a problem of his own.

            Lovejoy could not honestly be called a shape shifter, but he did have one alternate "form," if you could call it that. The said form was that of a two-foot-tall frog, somewhat resembling a muppet, complete with his trademark slanted eyes and small ridge of purplish fur, starting at the head and going down his back. Ordinarily, he used that form when trying to travel from place to place without being seen. Sometimes, it even worked.

            "What's up, doc?" asked the beady-eyed frog, from on top of a small empty apple cart.

            Dioti stopped for a moment. confused. "I'm not a doctor," He answered. The frog sighed.

            "Just.... never mind!" Lovejoy snapped, standing up and folding his arms, making a very impressive display at two feet five inches of height.

            "Anyway, do you have the money?" Lovejoy asked, folding his short little "arms."

            "No, I do not have 'The Money!" Dioti shouted back, taking a defensive stance. "You know, I'm beginning to get sick of this. Every month, you needlessly extort money from our town, to fund your evil plans... are you even listening to me?"

            Lovejoy stopped rolling his eyes, making faces, and forming little shadow puppets on the nearby wall for a moment to answer him.

            "Of course I am!" he snapped. "Go on."

            "Well, um..." Dioti continued, his full head of steam suddenly lacking. "...The thing is, it's... um...  kind of bad... what you're doing... um... would you please stop that?"

            Lovejoy blinked, looking back to Dioti. He had a yo-yo out, and was about to Walk the Dog with it. After somehow making the toy disappear again, he answered the mage.

            "Look, Al, it's only nine hundred gil extra. All in all, twenty-nine hundred a month is well below minimum wage."

            "Minimum what?"

            "...Never mind," Lovejoy answered, shaking his head. "It seems, then, that I have to get serious..."

            It was at that point when Sypha broke through the crowd, almost literally tumbling into the scene. "Mr. Dioti! I've got your... woah."

            The "woah" came from the spectacle that a certain M. N. Lovejoy was putting on at the moment. In a flash, the tiny frog transformed into his true form, that of the inordinately tall lizard. He jumped off the apple cart and onto the ground, taking a moment to stretch and straighten out that fur crest on top of his head.

            "Now, I believe we have some business to deal with, sir mage?"

            Dioti took a step back, drawing his sword, heedless of the sudden crowd of onlookers around them. "Don't think that you can get away with this, Lovejoy! There's just one of you, and... never mind."

            Lovejoy nodded and snapped his fingers. At the signal, a rather large horde of clay golems popped up from the ground, almost as if from magic.

            "There was a sale at the 99 cents store the other day," the lizard commented, narrowing his eyes. "Buy one henchman, get another free. I felt like splurging."

            Dioti decided not to ask about the ninety-nine whatever thingy that his enemy was talking about, and focused instead on being stuck in a corner with no way out. Sypha glanced around, realizing that she was in the middle of the mess, and took a nervous step back.

            "All right, then," Alexander Dioti answered, sheathing his weapon. "I might as well pay up," he added, his mind working out a way to get rid of the golems and stiff the demon somehow. perhaps a good burst of magic right about now would help to...

            "No, Al, I'm afraid that's not enough, anymore." Lovejoy responded, grinning.

            "What?" He asked, shocked. Sypha carefully took another step back, slowly and quietly moving around the golems.

            "You see, in refusing to pay like this, you've delivered to me a personal insult..." He grinned again. "And, since I'm the villain, and all... it's time for payback!" it was at that point when Michael N. Lovejoy released the evil laugh that he had been working on since the previous day.

            "YAR HO HEE HAR HAR!!!"

            Silence filled the area. Then someone groaned. The laugh obviously did not have its intended effect.

            "Well..." Lovejoy said, clearing his throat, "In the nature of a true villain, I think that I'll make you and your people pay, Mr. Dioti..." He trailed off a bit as a golem, slightly larger and more intelligent than the rest, whispered something into his ear. "Hmm? Yes? yes... a perfect idea! Good job, muddy!" And, while giving the monster a slap on the back, Lovejoy turned back to Alexander Dioti.

            "Well, then... as a demon, I cannot accept mere money anymore..."

            "Then what?" Dioti interjected, beginning to get annoyed with this.

            "Then," Lovejoy answered, raising a single finger, "Every month, starting today, I shall demand... A virgin sacrifice!"

            Everyone looked at Sypha.

            "Eep!" said the girl.

            "After her!" shouted the head golem.

            And then, everything went to hell.

 

***

 

            Thinking quickly, Sypha Belnades dove to the ground, dodging in between the legs of one golem and dashing off. Dioti jumped forward, about to say something before he was knocked over by Lovejoy, who was running after the short girl who had apparently been volunteered by the people of Veros. The crowd, meanwhile, was panicking and scampering everywhere, adding to the general confusion, mayhem, and chaos. Sypha kept running, her panicked mind feverishly working to try to think of a spell, any spell, anything at all that could get her out of this mess. The nice thing, at least, was that the crowds had dispersed enough to let her run like a maniac throughout the town, all the while being followed by a horde of golems and one angry giant lizard. Luckily, golems are for the most part stupid creatures. This alone kept Sypha alive throughout the madcap chase in the town. however, she would have made her Aunt Vava proud, if the old lady had been there.

            On the corner of Inverse Street and Rincewind Avenue, Sypha used the signpost to vault over two golems who were blockading her way, using the head of a third as a cushion for her fall. Farther down the street, she managed to dash in between two others, still running like a maniac and still unable to think of a spell that would work that she also could actually get right. Finally, she managed to lose several of the monsters by doubling back and into an alley. Unfortunately for Sypha, the alley happened to be a dead end. She turned around to face Lovejoy, flanked by a lot of his wholesale henchmen.

            "Well, then... little girl," the lizard gasped, completely out of breath, "I must say... (puff) then... that you've lead us on... (gasp) a good chase here..."

            Sypha frantically looked back and forth, hoping for an exit somewhere, somehow. Somewhere in the back of her mind, the girl remembered the chant for a teleportation spell... at least, she thought...

            "But... because you've been such a challenge for us," Lovejoy continued, "I must ask... What is your name?"

            And that was her chance. Immediately forming the correct sign with her hand, Sypha blurted out what she hoped was the correct spell.

            "Miencendirosia!" The words rang through the tense air, followed by one other word.

            "Oops."

            "Hey, that's not a name," Lovejoy commented. "What the-?"

            The explosion could be seen for miles around.

 

***

 

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