“That’s not right,” Zeke said. “That spell should be like this.”
He performed a casting, and Chris Fallor’s head swelled to three times its normal size.
“No, I’m telling you, it’s more like this,” Lee said, casting his own spell, which caused Chris to turn a peculiar shade of green.
“No, see, if you’ll examine my theory, that’s the worst possible…”
“This is the way it works. Anything else will just-”
“Wait. I think we need to get him outside.”
At this point Chris looked a bit like a plant starved of sunlight.
“Ah, yeah, forgot it was accelerated. And we need to be able to turn it off at will too.”
“Just change me back, will you?!” Chris demanded. After a moment’s thought, Zeke cast a spell. Chris was now back to normal, more or less.
“That’s better. Now look. Since we got here, I’ve been used as a guinea pig, a punching bag, and some other things that I really don’t appreciate. I’ve also been at the center of a number of explosions, under increasingly odd circumstances. Tom, Nick, Zac, and everyone else have tested out all their new spells on me. I’ve had enough, so just cut it out already.”
“But how will we make progress without a test dummy?” Lee asked.
“…I don’t care. You know what? I’m out,” Chris responded, vanishing.
“Oh, so now he’s going to make us go get him?” said Lee, rolling up his sleeves.
“Let him go,” Zeke said. “He had the power to escape at any time. As long as he stayed here, knowing what was going to happen, that was implicit permission for it to continue, but now that he’s decided to leave, he’s clearly denied it.”
Lee hesitated, but nodded. “Yeah, okay. I guess we can get by without him. I already figured out the planeswalking thing, so we’ve learned what we can from him.”
Zeke started to respond to that, but a tremor nearly knocked them both off their feet before abruptly stopping. They hurried out of the Campus Center, where they had been conducting their experiments. This time, there seemed to be no visible damage to anything; nothing at all seemed to have changed.
Tom was close behind them; Nick was approaching from the administration building. A few other people lingered at the exits to various campus buildings.
“Any idea what that was?” Lee asked. Nick pointed in the direction of the forest.
“Whatever it was, it came from over there,” he said. “I’m going to put together a team to…”
“Oh, I’ve got that part under control,” said Lee, drawing some cards from his pocket. A small crowd of goblins appeared. “We need someone to go check out the forest and see what’s going on,” he told them. They saluted and hurried off.
“Er – you didn’t summon any female goblins or goblin mages, did you?” Tom asked.
“There are no goblin settlements on this plane. It needs to stay that way.”
There was a brief pause as everyone thought about this and then decided they would rather stop thinking about it.
“So what’s up with the gloves?” Nick asked.
“…you really don’t want to know,” Zeke replied.
The lead goblin motioned to the others to remain behind as he approached the building. It was a massive stone structure, apparently built to house an army. It took quite some time for the leader to return. Eventually, he did return, signaling that everything was clear. Time to take a look inside.
Zeke glanced at his watch again. As he did so, Tom cast a spell that caused it to melt right off his wrist.
“Hey, that was valuable, probably,” Zeke protested.
“It was worthless. It couldn’t tell time any more than… than…” Tom was actually having some trouble coming up with an example of something that couldn’t be used to tell time, aside from, in this place, actual timepieces.
“That’s not the point! Think of the comedy value, gone! And on top of that… there’s a goblin over there.”
Everyone else turned to look. There was, indeed, a goblin over there. It looked like one of Lee’s scouts.
“What is your report?” Lee asked.
By way of response, the goblin fell over dead.
“That wasn’t very informative,” Zeke noted.
“Shut up, will you? – This could be trouble,” Lee said.
“Could be? Oh, good, I was worried our scouts dying while investigating the source of a random seismic event was confirmation of trouble,” Nick remarked.
“Look,” Zeke said, “that’s because we’re doing it wrong. Here, let’s try this.” He cast his own spells, and a number of squirrels came forth. “I want you to check the forest for anything out of the ordinary,” he said, and immediately they were off.
After a bit of hesitation, Tom spoke. “…squirrels?”
“Is there a problem with… squirrels?” Zeke asked.
“…no, it’s nothing.”
After quite some time, the squirrels returned. One of them – a large black squirrel – climbed onto Zeke’s shoulder and began chittering at him. Zeke listened for a while and nodded.
“So, what did he say?” Nick asked.
“He says there’s a castle in the forest, and there’s a planeswalker in it poised to destroy us all.”
“How should I know? It’s a squirrel.”
Tom rubbed his temples, trying to shut this last bit out. “Look, let’s just… handle this like planeswalkers. Lee, come with me. If we get into trouble, we can just pop out.”
The two headed into the forest. “Do you think we’ll need to?” Lee asked.
“Let’s just say… I think I put a little more stock in Zeke’s analysis than he does.”
The castle – indeed, it was clear that was what it was as soon as Tom saw it – was just as the goblins had found it. Lee and Tom were able to enter unhindered.
“They’ve been gone a while.”
“Think they ran into something big?”
“Like your planeswalker?”
The exchange was interrupted by Tom and Lee’s sudden return.
“Call a meeting,” Tom said.
“About what?” Nick responded.