Occasionally there were times when I did something wrong without knowing it. Sometimes I had to figure it out by expressions. Sometimes people would come out and say it, which was my preferred method. This time, I was being hit by dozens of tiny punches. Punches that were nowhere near as ineffective as her grip on me had been.
“Mage!” Zorphax called out.
“Stay out of this! It’s just a misunderstanding.” For some reason. I just had to figure out why, exactly. Izzy was bouncing back and forth, raining blows on my abdomen. Stoneskin was protecting me, but I could feel it chipping off. That meant she was somewhat serious, but I didn’t get the feeling she was actually trying to kill me.
The thing I had said was… that we weren’t friends. That was true, but somehow it had been upsetting. I tried to get myself some more time to think by shifting my position and dodging around, but I really hadn’t been trained to fight people half my height. Someone around my size? Sure. Twice my size? Occasionally.
“Could you stop.” I yanked her backwards away from me with Mage’s Reach. Izzy was more or less the size of a kid, though halflings didn’t look like kids. Against a proportionally sized backdrop they looked basically like humans.
My grip on the neck of her clothes was suddenly lost. I felt a tiny expenditure of mana as it happened, then my head snapped back as a fist rocketed into my jaw. “You jerk, I put all this work in to come see you and that’s the first thing you say?” The flurry of blows stopped for a moment as Izzy stepped back and shook her hand. “Damn, what the hell are you made of?”
“Granite and diamonds,” I answered helpfully. Not all the way through though. I was a little bit unsteady on my feet from that hit. Stoneskin didn’t completely change my body like some other magic, but it was more than just ‘skin’.
“That’s all?” Izzy looked up at me with her hands on her hips. “So you’re made of granite now. That’s what you say after we haven’t seen each other for so long? You’re a terrible friend.”
We were clearly still on different wavelengths. She also seemed confused about something. “The last time we met we both loudly yelled about how we weren’t friends anymore.”
“So? That’s just… people get in arguments all the time,” Izzy shifted between feet awkwardly. “Say things they didn’t mean.”
“It’s been more than a decade,” I reminded her. “We used to be friends, but most of my life has been after that point where we stopped being friends.”
“I- um- I-”
I cast Translation on her and gestured to Zorphax. “Talk to this guy. He’ll help you.”
Then he was gone. Nothing could have stopped Izzy from running after him. He wasn’t particularly fast, and the door was open. But the thought didn’t even occur to her. She just stared at the wall until she realized someone was trying to talk to her.
“…me? Excuse me, can you understand me?” a green hand waved in front of her face.
“We’re not friends,” Izzy said dazedly.
“I understand that. However, it is my job to try to help get you… acclimated. I need to ask you some questions.”
“I thought we were friends but we’re not.”
“Do you have some sort of history with Mage? Are you from Earth or somewhere else? We couldn’t find your language.”
“We were definitely friends for a while. Even if it was just stupid brawling most of the time.”
“I get the feeling you’re not listening to me.”
“Then we had a real fight. I left for a while and… maybe it was longer than I thought.” Izzy sighed, then her eyes focused. “You have big eyes.”
“So you do know I’m here. Let me introduce myself. I’m Zorphax. You seem to have some sort of history with Mage?”
“That Mage… is Turlough. We used to be friends,” Izzy commented. “Now we’re not.”
“Yes, I got that. So, is it safe to say you’re from the same world? Did you arrive through a portal?”
“… I didn’t even get to give him the book.”
Zorphax sighed. This might be a bit harder than anticipated.
Since I was done with gun safety training and didn’t feel like going back to the HQ for sparring, I went back to the apartment. Midnight was already inside. “Hey buddy,” I waved.
“Are you alright?” he said, hopping up to the counter to be closer to me. Talking with him on my shoulder was kind of awkward. “What happened?”
“I just got back from the first session of monster gun safety. It was a bit confusing. Seems difficult.”
“Did they have actual monsters? How did that happen?”
“How did… what happen?”
“You got attacked! Your hand is bleeding and your skin is gray!”
“Oh, that’s just Stoneskin.”
“It can cause bleeding? That’s dangerous!”
“Of course not,” I shook my head. “Stoneskin is perfectly safe.”
For some reason, Midnight seemed… concerned?
“Come on, you have to tell me what attacked you! Did you defeat it? Did it follow you?”
“I don’t understand.”
“Me neither! Turlough, look at your right hand. I can see bone.”
“Oh. That. Don’t worry, it was just a brick wall.”
“You’re scaring me orc buddy. Did somebody do some sort of… mind magic on you? You had a huge spike of emotion and then you come back like this! We have to do something about that hand!”
“Good point,” I nodded. “First aid kit’s in the bathroom. Don’t want an infection.”
I ran into a small issue where I only had one hand to mess with the bandages and stuff. Midnight was getting pretty used to magic though and just conjured up a couple hands with Mage’s Reach to do it for me. Having a familiar was great.
The image of Handface never formed on the mirror, just swirling mists for the whole tenish minutes.
“Sorry,” I shrugged. “Looks like he resisted it. I could try one of the mooks.”
“I think that will be sufficient for the moment,” Calculator said. “What happened to your hand?”
“Scraped it on a brick wall.”
I looked down towards the pile of green goop around my ankles.
“I’m going to melt your legs off if you don’t surrender.”
“Oh, yeah. I totally surrender.”
“Are you alright?” Jerome waved his hand in front of my face.
“Of course I am,” I replied. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“… you messed up a basic algebra problem. Twice.”
My eyes trailed down to the piece of paper. “Hey, you got it. Nice. You’re a smart kid.”
“That’s… hmm…” Doctor Rose looked at a crystal on the table between us. “Fascinating. I was honestly worried none of these would work. It’s… fascinating.”
Light sparkled off of the deep blue surface. I kind of agreed.
“So, how much of your mana did you spend on this?”
“All of it.”
My head slumped forward, but fortunately it was caught by a combination of the table, my tusks, and my nose.
Bright light shone into my eyes. I was vaguely aware of some sort of power happening. It felt different than magic. Mana was much more familiar, and I could get a pretty good grasp on what was happening when someone used it. Like Jerome, or Midnight.
“Well, there’s nothing wrong with his head. Physically.”
“Of course not,” I replied.
“What about his hand, doctor?” someone else said. I vaguely recognized the voice.
“It’s fully messed up. He should have seen someone a week ago.” Doctor Martinez looked me straight in the eye. “What happened, Turlough?”
“Oh, not much. Just scraped it on a wall.”
“He keeps saying that,” Midnight said from nearby. “See why I had you drag him in here?”
“Yeah,” Great Girl said. “I get it.”
“I’m fine though?” I tilted my head. “I don’t see what the problem is.”
“Can you tell us where this wall was?” Great Girl asked.
“From here? Two, no three blocks south. Two east. At the park.”
“Great. Maybe we can get someone to look at it.” She stepped out of the room and began talking to someone.
“You okay Midnight?” I said to my familiar. “You seem worried about something.”
“I’m worried about you, idiot.”
“I’m fine,” I said.
“What are you angry about?”
“I’m not angry. I don’t get angry. I’m not some sort of barbarian.”
A few moments later, Great Girl came in, holding up her phone. “Is this the wall?”
“Looks like it.”
“I bumped into it.” Honestly I was getting people tired of asking the same questions.
“How many times?”
I shrugged, “Dunno. It just crumpled on its own.”
Remembering what Turlough had said about the monster gun safety program, Midnight managed to trace the incident back to Zorphax.
“I’ve been trying to get in contact with him,” Zorphax said. “But he hasn’t responded with anything. I got like half a story out of someone before that magic wore off, and now we have a woman locked up because we don’t know if she’s dangerous or able to survive on her own.”
“Who?” Midnight asked.
“Someone named Izzy, I think. She said she was a halfling. Turlough ever mention her? Someone from his world?”
“Nope. He mentioned a Master Uvithar once or twice, but nobody else.”
“And now we can’t even talk to her,” Zorphax sighed.
“… I can use all of Turlough’s magic,” Midnight pointed out. “I’m not really good with people though.”
“I honestly couldn’t imagine a way you could screw this up worse than he did.”
Midnight was brought along to a nearby building where they walked into a strange hallway. It had two rows of doors, top and bottom- all half sized. There was a set of small stairs leading up to either side. Everything was just about the right size for Zorphax… and plenty roomy for Midnight.
“We monitor exits and entrances, but there are no cameras in the room. She’ll be in here,” Zorphax gestured to one of the rooms.
Midnight stiffened for a second, calling upon the mana for Translation. He usually didn’t cast the spell himself- most of the time he was with Turlough who used it on both of them. It lasted for a few hours, so it wasn’t often that he was separated long enough for it to be a problem. Though they also didn’t go everywhere together, so Midnight had some experience.
He pawed at the door, replicating a knock. “Hey… person in there. Can we talk?” He didn’t know what language it was, and was pretty sure he just spoke English. No response came from the other side. “I want to talk about Turlough.”
The door swung open. A flurry of words bombarded Midnight, and he couldn’t pick out anything. Except the name ‘Turlough’ four or five times.
“Listen, lady, you’re gonna have to talk slower than that. The magic needs time to work, okay?”
“Magic?” The woman asked. A few more jumbled words, then- “Cat? …Familiar?”
“Yeah I’m Turlough’s familiar. I’m trying to figure out what happened between the two of you.” Midnight also wasn’t a cat, but that seemed like it wasn’t worth saying at the moment.
“I have something,” Izzy said. “For Turlough.”
She moved back into the room, taking a book off the table. It was nearly the size of her torso, which made it quite sizable… but not completely crazy, since she was three feet tall.
“This is from… Master Uvithar. Can you deliver it to him?”
“Sure, just set it down,” Midnight said. “Looks like Translation’s finally picking up. I’m Midnight.”
“Izzy,” she replied. She set the book down.
Midnight tapped a paw to it, intending to put it in Storage. When it wouldn’t fit, he realized he’d have to take out some cans of tuna. But perhaps he was being too hasty anyway.
“Actually,” Midnight looked up. “You should keep it. Give it to him in person.”
“… I can’t,” Izzy shook her head.
“It doesn’t have to be now. I’m pretty sure it shouldn’t be now. But eventually. First, can you tell me how you know Turlough?”
“Turlough and I were friends,” she began. “At one point.”