The human smiled wickedly. "You know what they say about a man with nothing to lose?" -- Anon Guest
His name was Marvin. He was a little bit hopeless, when it came to social interaction. He had started as a fighter in the sway of a bad gang, belittled for everything he said or did. Since he swapped teams, he had grown. Physically, mentally, emotionally. He was still pants at social interactions but the rest of his team were there to help.
Except... not now.
Wraithvine had literally vanished with the Mage Lord's last spell. Steelfoot was disarming the world's biggest trap, attached to the world's biggest literal powder keg. She had said the Last Words. Now Lady Anthe had fallen and he was all that was left. He had nothing left. Nothing but himself, his cantrips, and the axe with the Hazel wood handle that was his casting focus.
The Mage Lord smirked in that oily way he had. "I'm not familiar," he said. "Do educate me and elucidate, I love to learn things."
He also had a Pearl of Power. Given to him by Wraithvine and invested with one of the true heavy hitters. Something that could obliterate the Mage Lord entirely and - because Marvin was within its range of effect, probably him too.
Tears fell, anyway. "There's nothing to stop him any more," he said, and invoked the Pearl.
Several things happened at once.
Lady Anthe's body vanished, and a sped-up voice in his ear -Wraithvine's voice- said, "You idiot, not above the powder keg!"
The world turned grey just as a sphere of flame burst out of the Mage Lord's chest. Even the fire was grey. There was a dying scream, but it was... deeper. Weirder than it should have been.
The world blurred, and he was looking at Steelfoot as she cut a significant piece of wire.
Colour returned. Wraithvine said, "Grab my cloak NOW!"
Steelfoot didn't hesitate.
Later, when the post-use effects of all the Haste spells had worn off, and they were watching the Malicious Keep burn, Marvin realised what had happened.
Lady Anthe had used Feign Death to escape the Mage Lord's notice and Wraithvine had employed Blink during that last attack. In fact, Steelfoot had been mere seconds away from disarming the trap that had immolated the entire town. surrounding the keep.
He'd donked things up but good. "Did they listen? When we told them to evacuate?" Marvin risked.
"Of course they didn't," said Lady Anthe. "That's why I spread rumours of the Itchy Blight."
Wraithvine laughed. "Oh gods, not the Itchy Blight..."
It was another one of Lady Anthe's Snipe Stories. It was -of course- a very deadly plague that started with an ordinary itch. Something you'd ignore on the day-to-day. Then, one might notice a red rash similar to flea bites on one's person. After that, it was too late. There were the spreading sores, and flesh rotting off the very bones of the sufferer whilst they still lived.
The only solution was to flee highly-populated areas and take frequent hot baths before the itch set in completely.
Rumtum, who had been hiding in Wraithvine's pack the entire time, said. "Of course. Five total strangers tell them to leave because their lord wants to blow them up - that can't be real. One Kobold warns them about a plague and all of a sudden it's 'head for the hills!' I can't believe Humanmen..."
"It might have helped that I slipped some poison oak into the washing-house's lye..." allowed Lady Anthe.
 "You go ahead. I'll catch up." -- the last words of anyone doing anything stupidly dangerous to help the rest of the team survive.
[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / iamporpla]
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