I never should have left my hovel today. You know that funny tingly feeling you get when pondering a decision…the itchy, crawly feeling that the decision is going to profoundly affect the rest of your life…well, trust me…spend more time thinking about it than it takes to suck down your morning gruel. And don’t ever forget to check the expiry date on your prosthetic adhesive. When that stuff goes, it really goes.
It’s just my luck really. Yesterday, I would never have believed I could end up such a complete laughing stock today. Everything was going so well. I was the ugliest, most filthy, vile old hag this village had ever seen. One of the peasants told me so last week. Obviously, their previous crone had no work ethic. Would you believe she only had one crook in her nose? I have three. Quite an accomplishment I think.
There’s a fine line between a sinister, imposingly crooked nose and a nose that looks like it might have accidentally gotten slammed in a door. When the peasants see my nose coming around a corner, they quake right down to their very souls. I’ve heard them say it feels like it’s hunting them; following their every move; aiming ominously at them; thrusting threateningly at their tender bits; just waiting for them to take their eyes off it for an instant; and then twitch, bam…done in by the nose. If my nose alone instills that much fear, imagine what chaos my halitosis wreaks on this sleepy village! How quickly and far the mighty fall.
It all started last eventide when I bet my friend Magda I could make everyone in the pub think their skin was melting. I had tried it last year, just after our graduation ritual, and only partially succeeded. Let’s just say that our graduating class had a distinct ‘eau de rotting flesh’ that would not quit. Well, anyways, Magda said that I still couldn’t do it. And, having had a few too many fermented ghoul eyes, I was perhaps a bit overconfident and not as careful as I should have been. My first mistake was drawing too much power and then I got my ground rat bones confused with some powdered albino salamander livers (NOTE: remember to work on labeling my spell component pouches).
Needless to say, the illusion didn’t quite work as it should have. Actually, I ended up summoning half a juvenile phoenix that was understandably confused at its sudden change of location, not to mention the lack of a left side. Summoning never was my best subject. Anyway…the long and short of it is that I seem to have burnt out my magick…not to mention the Red Dragon pub.
I was hoping the effect would wear off after the ghoul eyes and a good sleep, but it didn’t. I woke up this morning, tried to put on my crone glamour…and…nothing. A village hag’s worst nightmare. No cracked, sallow skin. No stringy grey hair rearing like angry snakes. No boils erupting with puss. Not even a measly wart.
In times of crisis, everyone falls back on what they know. So ultimately, I blame Grimoire College for the following debacle. Our teachers constantly hammered into us that good old-fashioned costuming and theatrical makeup should underpin every glamour. It seemed an archaic concept and many of us joked that it was as outdated as our prehistoric Profs. Weaving a quick, clean illusion was far simpler than spending an hour trying to individually stick on moles and warts, so I never paid much attention to my kit. Until this morning.
The stratified layers of dust which slid off the kit when I yanked it out from under my pallet should have tipped me off that maybe…just maybe…my plan needed some rethinking. But no, I was so intent on getting out and pestering the peasants that I didn’t pay any attention to my gut. I dumped the contents onto the floor and rummaged through until I found what I was looking for.
When I glued the nose on, the effect was a bit of a let down; it extended only about an inch past my real nose and was more hooked than crooked. Every time I inhaled, the sides sucked in, clamping my nose shut like a vice. After experimenting for a while, I decided I could make it work for me. The whole nose looked like it was pulsing – in and out, in and out – and it produced a brilliant wet, sucking hiss.
I slapped on some wrinkle cream and stuck a huge hairy mole on the apex of my chin. If I crossed my eyes, I could just see the hairy bit over the tip of my new nose. I was quite pleased with it, but the boil needed work. After staring unhappily in the mirror at the craterous red-blue mound on my cheek, I decided puss would improve its’ appearance. I quickly mixed the remaining adhesive with some yellow skin paste and got a reasonable facsimile. Once I had liberally spread the milky-yellow goop over the boil and down my cheek, I had to admit it wasn’t bad. I mean, it wasn’t going to ooze or anything, but it definitely gave the impression that it might if it felt like it.
My look was starting to come together, but something had to be done about my hair. Nobody expects to see a dirty old crone with fiery red hair…unless it really is on fire, which unfortunately wasn’t a feasible option. A liberal blob of crude oil succeeded in darkening my hair. After dusting on a combination of flour and cremated toads’ feet, I managed to create a suitably repulsive stringy gray nest.
I had a bit of trouble getting the red contact lenses in. It feels decidedly unnatural to stick something in your eye on purpose. The eyebrow was much easier. Just a few globs of adhesive and voila…instant menace. Nothing like a good mono-brow to really freak people out. It occurred to me that it was possibly meant to be a mustache, but it looked well enough as an eyebrow.
I quickly donned my hag rags, popped in some uncomfortable dentures and took a look at myself in the mirror. Examining the hunched, putrid old creature peering back at me, I felt confident I could pull it off. I smiled at my reflection and sharpened brown teeth gleamed back at me. Taking a closer look, I had to admit that someone had done a really good job with the dentures; there were even bits of food stuck between the teeth.
Hobbling out the door, I slid two blood capsules and a fake severed finger into my belt, because it’s always fun to have a piece fall off while accosting someone. I do remember noticing a faint vapor rising from my boil, but I was so hyper-focused on getting to work that I ignored it. Thinking back, I imagine it must have been an interesting effect - a smoking boil would be much scarier than a regular old pusy one.
When I reached the village square, I practiced a few intimidating scowls and realized I couldn’t move my brow or lips. My face felt like rawhide stretched over a drum and it occurred to me that my wrinkle cream was definitely not all it was cracked up to be. Figuring it was too late to do anything about it, I scrunched up my face as much as possible and hoped that I at least projected the impression of supreme pain and misery.
I was a bit late arriving because of my additional morning activities, so the first peasants I came across were already hauling wheat bales back from the fields. I sidled up to a young girl and ominously pulsed my nose at her. During one particularly vigorous inhalation, my left contact somehow lodged itself on top of my eyeball. I valiantly tried to ignore it, but it is overwhelmingly irritating when something’s stuck in your eye – especially something you intentionally put in it.
Squinting as threateningly as I could, I pointed a yellowed finger at her. “You are a wicked ‘irl,” I croaked, trying to enunciate the words around my bulky dentures and tight lips. “May your sp…”
The rest of the word was lost as my teeth hurled themselves at the startled kid and landed at her feet. Momentarily stunned by the sudden desertion, it took me a second to figure out how to salvage the curse.
“May your spiteful tongue split…and your teeth fall out of your deceitful mouth.”
Bending forward to retrieve the mutinous dentures, I slyly slipped both blood tablets into my mouth and came up drooling ruby blood. As I rose, I again noticed thin trails of smoke curling around my head. This was when everything that could go wrong, did.
Whoever made those stupid capsules should be transformed into an incontinent worm and left in a puddle. Before long, there was so much blood frothing in my mouth that it surged down my throat and up my nose. My spluttering cough liberally sprayed the gathering crowd and, although it succeeded in temporarily emptying my mouth, the froth trapped in my prosthetic nose continued swelling to volcanic proportions.
Then the infernal itching started. An insidious burning prickle crawled over my skin everywhere I had spread that blasted adhesive. Now, not only was my nose drowning me, it felt like a thousand fire ants had crawled in and set up residence. Incidentally, this was also when my unfortunate antics attracted a somewhat larger crowd – it wouldn’t be inaccurate to call it a horde or mob.
My choking and snorting rapidly transformed into a gurgling screech as the steaming latex boil suddenly caved in and fused itself to my skin. Frantically rubbing at the stinging mass, I managed to peel most of it off before I started inhaling the expanding goo in my nose.
Dealing first with the most vital problem, I ripped the nose off with a howl of pain and threw the wretched thing as hard as I could. The discarded nose, still spewing pretty pink foam, sailed in a perfect arc through the air and landed point down between the ample breasts of the village baker who promptly fainted.
I tore off the itchy mole with little resistance. Unfortunately, the mono-brow was another matter. That thing was determined to stay on. It took me three good yanks before I was able to rip the furry mound off my forehead. I’m glad it got caught in my rags when I dropped it. I think I’ll keep it in case I find a way to re-attach my real eyebrows.
What the peasants thought was happening, I’ll never know. You’d think that someone tearing bits off their face would have been terrifying. But, no…by the time I pulled my smarting face out of a handy trough, the villagers were guffawing so hard that some were literally on the ground. I have never felt so humiliated.
I know it’s usually better to face your mistakes head on1), but the sea of delighted grins was more than I could bear. I turned and ran. Adding insult to injury, the severed finger chose that moment to fly out of my pocket. I didn’t stop to pick it up. In retrospect, I probably should have, because I later heard a kid asking someone to pull his finger; which in actual fact was more my finger than his.
I had a good cry when I got back to my hovel, which proved useful as it finally dislodged the stupid contact from behind my eye. Then I spent several hours washing my hair. It appears the combination of flour, cremated toads feet and crude oil created something akin to cement. I eventually managed to remove most of it with a mixture of ammonia and sand. Let me tell you, that ordeal did nothing to soothe my stinging face.
That awful wrinkle cream took a while to wear off, but I have now regained control of my face. I read the label and, would you believe, it’s actually meant to get rid of wrinkles. Why is it called “Wrinkle Cream” if it’s really anti-wrinkle cream? I’d like to kick the bonehead alchemist who came up with that gem.
I also found a warning on the prosthetic adhesive in tiny print advising immediate disposal once past the expiry date. Honestly, that stuff must be designed to expire quickly. I’ve only had it for three years. And I don’t remember a single teacher warning us to check expiry dates. I think I’ll send a stern note to the college highlighting this appalling deficiency in their curriculum.
The union scryed me while I was cleaning up. I didn’t answer and they left a message asking me to contact them ASAP. I just know they’re going to tell me I’ve been fired and I can’t deal with it right now. I’ll call them back tomorrow. Maybe by then I’ll have figured out some way to explain what happened.
P.S. I just tried a minor illusion and found out I still can’t do any magick. How long is this drought going to last? What am I supposed to do without magick? Why does everything go so wrong all the time?