"We are NOT taking the wizard."

“Ugh,” Clara groaned, her eyes almost as sharp as the dagger currently twirling through her hands.  “I can’t believe we’re bringing this guy.”

Maria glared at the female rogue, although she could sympathize a bit with the complaint.  Clara was tough to get along with, her personality almost as pointy as the dozen or so blades secreted about her person.  But even for Maria, the man was quickly wearing thin.

“We need a wizard,” she brought up, for what felt like the millionth time.  Her white cleric’s staff was shifting a little as it leaned against the tree beside her, so she brought it down to prod at the fire.  “And he’s the only one in town.  We’re lucky to have him.”  The words even rang true to her.

But what else could they do?  It was true – they needed a wizard.  The eight-legged corpse that the damn man was currently squatting upon was proof of that…

Maria shivered at the thought of their most recent encounter.  A Sepulchral Assassin!  She thought that they were little more than legends, the last few of them surely confined to their broodhives!  But this one had come crawling out of the darkness, head reared, claws flashing, its eight legs flying over the ground.  Charging at them out of the darkness.

Maria’s healing spells were useless against the Assassin.  Three of Clara’s knives sank hilt-deep into the monster’s carapace without visible impact.  The beast was almost upon them, rearing to strike-

-and then it was engulfed in wizard’s flame.

The Assassin had collapsed a moment later, keening noises coming from the burning heap as its sealed shell burst open under the onslaught of heat.  The wizard had saved their lives.

But still, Maria thought to herself as she looked at the man, there was something not quite… right… about him.

Perhaps it was his hat, pointy and foppish and leaning off to one side like a fool’s cap.  Or maybe it was his lumpy and doughy physique – he clearly relied more on his mystical arts than on his physical prowess.  He had become winded after less than an hour of hiking, and Maria feared for the rest of their journey.

But the aspect of the wizard probably putting her most on edge was his drink.

The man had summoned it up as soon as they made camp.  “Need it, ‘s for my powers,” he had mumbled to the pair of women as he hastily gulped it down.  “Full uh’ magic bits ‘n stuff.”

Maria felt zero inclination to try any of the drink.  It was as thick as paste, contained strange lumps, and it glowed.  Not a good combination in a drink.  But the wizard seemed to enjoy it, squatting atop the burnt carcass of his kill.

Trying to think of more ways to reassure her companion, Maria opened her mouth, but her words were cut off by a horking noise.  Slowly, as if fearing what they would find, both of the women turned to their companion.

The wizard’s cheeks were bulging and his face was flushed.  With a mixture of annoyance and pity, Maria watched as he coughed up a large chunk of his glowing drink, spitting it back down into his cup.  “Drank too fast, ‘uh guess,” he managed to get out between wheezes.

Maria could see Clara rolling her eyes beneath her hood.  “He is not sleeping in our tent tonight,” she muttered.

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