Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Lies the Spider Told Me, Part 2: An Easter Egg for Golden Age RPG

The Spider Charmer

Ask the Charmer a question, get a grin and a wink.
If he offers advice, ignore it at your peril.
Always invite him to your parties.
And if he stops smiling, run.
-Solomonic proverb

            The Spider Charmer, as he’s usually known, may be the weirdest and least predictable ally of the Solomonic College. His visits have no discernible pattern – he might wander the college for weeks and then disappear for a few decades ... or come by again next month. New students usually don’t learn about him for a while, because the administration prefers not to discuss him unless or until he has already made an appearance. It’s not that he’s malicious or dangerous – quite the opposite, in fact. But the upper echelons of the College have long known that speaking about him tends to make him appear within the next few days… and even though he’s benevolent, he is still a wild card. He’s also a strange foreigner that talks to spiders. Who really needs that kind of distraction while trying to study or make potions?
            He usually appears a man with dark brown skin and eight thick dreadlocks, sometimes dressed in traditional Nubian garb, and other times in common Arabian-style desert travel robes. But on occasion he shows up as a person of a different ethnic group, sex, or even species, generally without any explanation other than “because it’s who I needed to be right now” (or better yet, “because it’s who you needed me to be right now”). Normal magical methods have thus far been unable to identify whether this is an illusion, shapeshifting, or a combination of both. He has demonstrated great knowledge of magic and metaphysics, but seems not to cast spells as such, relying on his innate abilities instead. According to a previous Magister of the College, he is unable to be harmed or restrained while traveling, unless he wishes it.
When pressed for a name, he tells the person to call him “Oba-itan”, but also freely admits that he sometimes lies. Masters of Name magic have long known that this is not his true name, but Destiny magic has been unable to reveal what it actually is. Whether he is a human, a spirit, or something else entirely is likewise unknown. When asked directly, his standard response (with a characteristic grin) is, “I’m a traveling storyteller; everyone knows that.” Some of the tales about him suggest he has the ability to cure madness or even physical disease, simply by telling the proper story in the proper way.
At times, he speaks casually of his travels (sometimes to lands no one else has visited or even heard of) or about events that happened decades or even centuries ago… yet his skin is smooth, his back unbent, and the corners of his mouth eternally upturned, even if only slightly. His tales have the captivating air of someone who has seen a great deal, but lack the cynicism and world-weariness many explorers develop after seeing too much war, starvation, slavery, and the like. In short, either the Charmer does not age, or his identity has been passed from father to son for a very, very long time.
He seldom offers advice, but when he has in the past, it has sometimes proven to be a hint about future events. One student recounts the story of spending several months in a cell because his facial features looked like those of a missing murder suspect. After a few weeks imprisoned for a crime he hadn’t committed, he recalled the time the Spider Charmer happened by to watch his project in one of the College laboratories. The Charmer’s eyes darted from vial of acid in the student’s hand to his face, and then he opined, “Looks aren’t everything, young one.”
Most of the time, though, the Charmer prefers to ask questions, observe, or tell jokes or anecdotes. Many of his tales are about this or that elaborate and dangerous prank he once played on someone who angered him or harmed one of his friends. But if anyone currently living has ever seen him upset, they aren’t talking. He enjoys the full hospitality of the College whenever he is in the area, but usually prefers to sleep under the stars or in a hammock hanging from two trees.
According to Ali al-Katib, current presiding Magister of the Solomonic College of Cordoba, the Charmer volunteered the following assessment of the Unformed situation soon after the disappearance of the moon: “This isn’t really how the story should go, but I’m going to enjoy watching how you all handle it.” Of King Solomon himself, he has been known to claim, "We met once in Ethiopia. I'm not usually a wine drinker, but the taste of his still sticks in my memory. Lovely wives, too. For a man so serious, he certainly knew how to have a good time." 

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