Marissa, Trajan, and Etjar – Gas Spores

My brother and I created dozens of variations on the original gas spores from AD&D. Nearly thirty years later I wrote this pastiche – because I felt the need to write another one and gas spores popped out at me when I perused my monster notebook.



Hal was in rare form and it wasn’t even noon yet. A family of nobles from the southeast had stopped at the tavern, slumming it, and the obviously spoiled teenaged son had been enraptured by Hal’s questionable stories. Enough that they had kept buying ale which he steadily pounded down.

While entertaining when told sober, the one-armed man’s stories drifted from made-up into the realm of sheer idiocy as the ale content of his veins increased. Not that it mattered to Hal, he’d never see these people again and was drunk enough to last until the next morning, when a pounding headache would give him the impetus to tell stories to garner more ale.

He didn’t even realize that his audience had left him in disgust. Just as well.

As the family turned away a boy of maybe twelve years spoke up. “Hal doesn’t know anything. He lost his arm when he got run over by a wagon when drunk. Which he usually is.”

The father looked down his nose at the boy and was about to tell his guard to run the boy off. “The monster Hal says he saw was a gas spore, not an oculus despot. Ask Trajan, he’s fought with both.” With that the boy turned and walked out onto the porch.

Following him outside, the nobles found an elderly man sitting with an equally elderly woman, and in front of them another boy. The man was tall and fair, she short and dark. The guards nervously fingered their weapons. Although elderly and unarmed, the pair had an air about them that would make any good bodyguard nervous. Characteristically the nobles had no clue.

“Tell them about gas spores,” the boy commanded.

The old man laughed. “David, is Hal telling his tale of killing an oculus despot in one blow again?” At the boy’s nod he continued, “No one kills an oculus with one blow. Hal encountered a form of gas spore.” He laughed again and looked at the old woman who smiled back at him, an unexpectedly predatory smile. “We have, too.”

Trajan moved cautiously forward through the temple’s first cellar. He reached back and the linkboy behind him slapped another burning torch into the extended palm. The big man gently threw the torch underhanded to land about thirty feet in front of him, rolling a couple of feet. Thirty feet behind him was Etjar with another linkboy, standing in front of the previous torch.

The temple cellars were vast, obviously shaped from existing caverns. The ceiling was barely visible in the torch light, probably twenty-five feet above the soldier’s head, and for the most part he could see the walls on either side of him. The walls of this part of the cellar were stacked with crates ranging from three feet to six feet in size. No telling what the contents were, anything from stored foods to extra furniture to statues and decorations. Some were obviously ancient.

Trajan determinedly put those thoughts out of his head – their job was to find whatever had killed several servants, and either kill it or drive it off.

A voice called from behind, the Chief of Guard who was to guide them. “The bodies should be in the next section, unless something has moved or eaten them.” Twenty feet behind Etjar stood Demorov, Chief Guard of the temple of Athena in Kerr. With him was the third member of the hired trio, a diminutive woman as bronze as Trajan and Etjar were fair. She was a wizard, their backup and secret weapon against the nasties they expected to find.

The soldier threw another torch as he moved past the last one. Scanning the ceiling and walls for danger, he spotted two lumps on the floor at the edge of the light. Instead of reaching back for another proffered torch he opened a small pouch on his belt and brilliant light filled his fist. Closing his eyes tightly against the glare he tossed a small object at the lumps. Daylight showered from the object which struck the floor next to the lumps and bounced another five feet.

This light outclassed the torches the way the sun outclasses the moon. The ceiling and walls were brightly lit and he could see far past the lumps.

The lumps? Looked like bodies … excepting the clothing was wet looking and shredded. They looked wrong.

“What’s wrong with the bodies?” a woman’s voice screeched behind him. “Well, her voice doesn’t really screech but by Demeter’s hair, she irritates me,” thought Trajan.

“Something’s odd,” he retorted.

Even sixty feet away her exasperation was palpable. “HOW?” This time she did screech.

The soldier bit back his first retort. Drawing a breath, he managed to civilly state, “Clothes are torn, things look wet, maybe slimy.”

“Check it out!”

“In a minute.” She said something else but Trajan pointedly focused on not being killed. Nothing on the ceiling, crates and barrels were pushed against the walls, no place to hide. Nothing in sight. Nothing out of place except the bodies looked strange. “ Why do I have a bad feeling about this?” he asked himself.

As hard as he was ignoring Marissa, Trajan’s sense of self-preservation reacted to her cry of danger. He saw a shape flying down toward him on his left. It wasn’t fast but was fast enough. He started to move away from it at an angle but instantly realized the linkboy was frozen in terror, staring at the thing.

“Oculus!” Etjar and Marissa both screamed in harmony.

The trio had fought an oculus despot, a floating horror that resembled a huge eye with a gaping maw and a lot of tentacles on top. The true danger wasn’t physical, it was thing’s intelligence and varied magical powers. They had barely survived that scrap and Trajan wasn’t happy to be within a hundred miles of another one.

“I’m an idiot!” he yelled as he reversed course, snatched up the linkboy, and ran, shielding the boy’s body with his own. In his peripheral vision he saw an object flash by and then was thrown forward in a burst of flame that burned the back of his neck and his arms. He landed on the boy but managed to roll and not crush him.

His training forced him to struggle to his feet. The kid was either ok or he was not. Survive first, assess damage later. “What happened?”

Marissa answered, “Etjar threw a dagger at it. It just exploded, like a Fireball.”

“Oculus don’t explode!”

“This one did!”

The pair started to go back and forth, per usual, until Etjar cut them off. “Survive now, argue later.” They both opened their mouths to argue with him but shut up at his withering glare. “Sheesh! They’d rather fight with each other than live!” he mused. “They need to kill each other or get married.

“Ok, what happened?”

“Just what I said, Etjar threw a dagger at the oculus, hit it near the big eye, and the thing just exploded. Not exactly like a Fireball, but close enough.”

Etjar examined the area, there were shreds of leather-like flesh scattered all over. He poked at the bits with another dagger but didn’t touch them with his hand. Lying nearby was the dagger he threw, the edge wavy and melted looking. He didn’t pick it up.

The first linkboy struggled painfully to his feet and staggered towards his compatriot. The boys hugged each other, turned, and ran at the fastest pace the injured boy could manage towards the stairway up. Demorov spoke for the first time, snarling at their shadows to return or he’d beat them. Trajan was just as happy to not have children in danger.

Demorov started after them but Trajan yanked him back. “Don’t worry about the kids, we have more important things to worry about. We don’t need kids underfoot.”

The Chief was a big, tough man but Trajan manhandled him like a rag doll. While his first instinct was to fight, the Chief was smart enough to realize he wasn’t going to win. The big soldier saw a momentary glint of fear in the other man’s eyes and made a mental note to speak for the boys to the high cleric, AND to watch his back where the Chief was concerned. Assuming they survived.

Etjar saw the interchange and distracted the Chief, at least temporarily, with reality. “Look at this!”

One of the bodies had shredded, soggy clothing and looked deflated, like the body was all there but sunken in. Raw flesh was visible, but it didn’t look normal, it looked more like old meat left out in the heat. In contrast the other had undamaged, soggy clothing but appeared bloated.

Etjar scooped up the light coin and tossed it farther ahead. He moved slowly towards the coin, scanning everything as the others looked at the bodies. Demorov drew his sword and made to puncture the bloated body. Marissa screamed a warning and Trajan moved like lightning, interposing his armored back between the mage and the body, scooping her up and running. Fast as his reflexes were, he only made two strides before the fool with the sword stabbed the body.

A smaller burst of flame erupted from the body, scattering bits and pieces of the body before several other equally small explosions went off in rapid succession. Trajan was thrown forward, landing hard on one forearm as he fought to keep his crushing weight off Marissa. He screamed at his broken arm and fell off it onto his side.

Marissa howled at him to get off her and managed to get leverage to move him. She swore at his clumsiness as metal disks scattered across the floor. “Where did those come from?”

Etjar came running back. A quick glance showed Demorov in a dead heap, badly burned with chunks of metal sticking out of his flesh, a mixture of copper, silver, gold, and even platinum slugs, all roughly the size of common crowns, coins.

Marissa was still grouching at Trajan’s clumsiness as Etjar looked him over. The left arm was badly broken but not bleeding much. No veins or arteries cut. Walking about behind him the big soldier felt a chill. The broken blade of the Chief’s sword extended askew from Trajan’s left kidney.

“Shut it, woman!” She glared at him but he spun her around so she could see Trajan’s back. Her defiance went limp when she saw the broken sword jutting from his body.

“That’s bad,” she whispered. Trajan just moaned. “He saved me.”

Etjar’s hyper acute danger sense spun him around, a trait earned in too many battles with too many strange things. Floating at the edge of the light was two more of the oculus. They floated slowly towards the trio. The soldier still held the melted dagger he had thrown at the first one, so without thinking he flung it into the closer one. The dagger struck and the thing instantly flashed into a fireball, engulfing the one behind it and igniting a second fireball.

Three other shapes loomed from the darkness. Etjar despaired, “I can’t move Trajan, as badly wounded as he is I’ll kill him!”

“I’ll stop them, but they have to be close together.” She moved towards them, waving her arms to attract attention. All three moved towards her, slow as a slow walking man. She used the time to circle and lead them from her friends. At one point the closest got to about fifteen feet away, and she could see that while the thing resembled an oculus at a distance, up close it looked partially formed. The great eye was not really an eye, and the eye stalks on top were just tentacles with light spots at the ends.

Circling several times, she got them to group together and walk quickly backwards to gain distance. At fifty feet she immediately invoked her favorite magic, one that never failed. Three lances of red energy flashed from her fingertips, one striking each sphere. The strikes were so fast the three exploded instantly, leaving her seeing spots. She did see that as the last one exploded it produced a spray of gems which scattered in all directions. She absently grabbed a few that landed close to her as she hurried back to the pair.

“How is he?”

“Not good. He’s lost a fair amount of blood, that blade ripped him apart internally.” Etjar, normally a paragon of strength, wrung his hands. “If we can get a cleric here fast enough we might save him, but he has minutes.”

Tears stung her cheeks. She often hated Trajan but as he lay there dying she felt a wrenching loss beyond anything she had experienced, even beyond exile from her school and homeland. “I wish I could heal you,” she cried; her magic didn’t lend it self to healing. The mage realized she was sobbing uncontrollably.

“Sheesh, woman! Stop your caterwauling!”

Blinking through the tears she saw Trajan sitting up facing her, his arm unbroken, the unendurable agony of his rended insides wiped from his face. She grabbed his head and kissed him hard and long.

“What was that for?” he asked in puzzlement.

Seeing that she was unable to answer, her face flaming red, Etjar responded. “You were killed. You had a sword blade rip your guts out and your arm was broken.”

“Right …”

“Marissa wished you healed, and you were.”

“Right …”

“I’m not joking, you idiot. Besides, if you weren’t dying why else would Marissa kiss you instead of kicking you in the head?”

Trajan blinked. THAT made sense. “How did she get the magic?”

Etjar shook his head, “No idea.” Shrugging, he continued, “What if it came from those things, like the metal slugs and these gems?” Bending, he picked up a rough amethyst the size of his thumb, one Marissa dropped when she grabbed Trajan.

Laughing, Trajan said, “You mean I could wish I had a thousand more just like that one?” A pile of identical stones appeared in front of him, empty air one moment and a pile of gems the next. The laugh drained off his face.

All talking at once they made wish after wish, none of which were granted. All trace of embarrassment gone, Marissa rounded on Trajan, “You fool, I wasted a Wish saving your worthless hide!”

The nobles were entranced. The father, whose supercilious expression was gone, asked, “Were the stones valuable?”

Laughing the elderly woman answered, “No, not really. They were cheap stones and what little they were worth was spent decades ago.”

Looking disappointed, the noble pulled a gold crown from a pocket and arrogantly tossed it on the wooden floor. “My thanks for your story.” With that he led his family and guards off.

Jake and David scrambled for the coin, fighting for it. Bigger and stronger, Jake won. He presented it to Trajan who declined it. “Take it inside and give it to the proprietor, in payment for my current bill and towards the near future’s bill.” He waited a beat and continued, “and get a mug of chocolate for you and David. If Bisonbit arrives as expected, get him one, too.”

Differences forgotten, the boys scrambled through the door.

The woman tugged on a gold chain around her neck. Hung on it was a finely cut amethyst, very large, which sparkled in the sun. She kissed him hard on the mouth and said, “Well, maybe … they weren’t that worthless and all were not spent …”

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