The Rainbow Connection
Tiny droplets of water danced over the boulder’s white and eerily smooth surface, sliding with abandon down into the percolating surface of the small lagoon as Etcho watched in rapt fascination. Every few seconds one of those tiny droplets would halt its jiggling downward slide and hang, completely untethered, in the air. Then, with a blatant disregard for physics, holy books, and a decent man’s sense of right and wrong, it would slowly rise, gaining speed until it zipped towards the center of the lagoon and then up, up, up into the sky. Each rebellious drop had the same little "stop then zip" dance down pat, and Etcho wondered if there wasn’t some cosmic choreographer responsible for teaching them the steps.
Not a bad job if you could get it. Probably lots of fringe benefits. Loot and sex and such. Cosmic entities are big into loot and sex—just look at their temples. Of course, Zed is big into loot and sex, and he isn't exactly what you call cosmic.
Light streaming from the midday sun poured through the thick canopy of trees that surrounded the lagoon and cast a cheery spotlight on Etcho’s long time companion and nemesis. With the grace of someone who spent way too much effort on maxing their acrobatics, Zed was currently hopping from one boulder to the next around the lagoon. The flowing forest garb of the half-elf, half-gnome halfwit swirled in greens and browns in sharp contrast to the water’s iridescent blue and the pale surface of the nearby rock. Like Etcho’s, the boulders Zed hopped upon were all that same off-white. Smooth and close to, but not quite, hemispherical. A child could have shaped smaller versions of these stones out of clay… a very young, blind, and possibly stupid child. A child that would grow up into the same kind of jackass as Zed. Etcho’s eyes were tempted to return to the merry dance of droplets, but his greater obsession with seeing his partner injured kept his sight glued to the fool as Zed continued to hop from one rock to the next.
He’s blaspheming against the gods of common sense and anxiety, all fourteen of them! Phazzits alone should have sent him a twisted ankle by now. Maybe I could light a burnt offering…
Not for the first time Etcho tamped down his thoughts about a quick prayer to another god just to see Zed receive his due comeuppance. The Great God Mennendrag enjoyed a good joke—just look at his temples—but he was hell on any of his clerics that dared to get a quickie behind his back. In practiced paranoia, Etcho hitched up his tanned leather cloak, hoisted his chain mail above his waist, and performed a toe tapping genuflection to each of Mennendrag’s cardinal directions while muttering his mantra and falling into a light trance. You could never be too sure with the Big M. Sometimes he’d go centuries simply lounging in his cloud palace sipping mai tais, and then—whack—the next day he’s driving his pious hordes in a crusade of justice and bloodshed. Entire continents would fall to Mennendrag’s storm-rousing wrath and the unyielding flood of his berserker followers. Fields would burn, empires writhe and fall, prophecies shatter beneath the weight of The Great God’s laughing onslaught of pain and death. Powerful chaotic stuff. It’s why Etcho signed up in the first place.
The decades between destruction stretched long, however, and even clerics of the Great God Mennendrag had to make ends meet. That’s why he and Zed were transporting some cursed holy relics from the Blasted Lands of the West to the fighting nuns of the Unseeing God over in Burtonjack. It was a long trek, and incredibly boring, but you did occassionally run across some neat arcane doodads like this misty magic water fountain here. Etcho was thinking of writing about all the different roadside attractions he had encountered on his various long-distance journeys and putting them into one book. Maybe call it Etcho’s United Sights or something like that…
“I’m a sky dancer!”
Etcho bolted up from his prostrations to see Zed slowly rising on a dense cloud of droplets. The imbecile had somehow managed to gather enough of them together to ride. A few sprays of mist were escaping from under his hairy bare feet, but enough were trapped to keep the diminutive former ranger afloat. Still more seemed to gather from each of the misshapened boulders as they zipped along their skyward journey and bolstered Zed’s wobbly flight. He was steadily being pulled towards the center of the lagoon where the uncanny stream of droplets was still pouring up into the heavens.
“You’re going to get yourself killed, Zed.” It wasn’t so much a warning as a hopeless wish. “Jump into the water, get a quick swim and let’s get going.”
“But it’s a sky elevator, big brother! We could ride to the astral plane and you could finally meet your buddy Mennenwhatsit.”
“The Great God Mennendrag! And stop calling me big brother. You’re adopted.” So was Etcho, but that was beside the point. “In any case, the water won’t support your weight once it speeds up and spreads out. You’ve got to get down before you’re too high to survive the fall.”
“Awww… c’mon. Don’t you know a spell or something that could make us lighter?”
Etcho knew several such spells. By heart. He could cast them with his eyes closed and his tongue on his nose—the priests of Mennendrag were harsh instructors—but he hadn’t actually prepared any of those spells this morning. They could camp all day and wait for dawn so he could select new spells. Then he could possibly get both of them to ride the droplets. Provided Zed had enough of his skill-enhancing potions on hand…
“How many skill-potions do you have left, Zed?”
“Two less than two.” His tiny right index finger tapped his thumb and pinky on his left hand as he counted. “That’s zero, Etcho.”
“I know that’s zero, you bugbear booger. What happened to both of our potions?”
“I drank them so I could ride the water drops.”
“Well I already used up my ki, and sang a song, AND focused on my totem, but I couldn’t jump on the drops. So, I drank the potions and now I can sky dance!” Zed started merrily hopping from foot to foot, losing water and altitude as he continued to lazily float towards his doom.
“You did all of that when you knew I could just cast a spell? You’re a real multiclasshole, you know that Zed? I should really let you die this time.” Etcho plopped down on the nearest boulder and stared as his peabrain brother bobbed along. The magic droplets bounced off his butt before zipping towards Zed’s feet and spritzing all the way up to his face.
I hope his animal-kin nose smells every unwashed inch of my leather-clad haunches before he plummets to his doom.
“Hey Etcho, I think I can make it if I start singing again, extra hard. Who knows what’s up there! It could be full of sky candy and sky mermaids!”
“There’s no such thing—” Actually, a priestess of Wendiloo had mentioned sugar flavored nimbus clouds that would attract the more voluptuous of lady archons, but that was beside the point. “Just get your hairy twinkle toes down here so we can get back on the road and deliver the tablets to the fighting nuns of the Unseeing God.”
"Uh-oh.” Etcho could see Zed’s face scrunch up into a look of dimwitted guilt. “Big uh-oh Etcho.”
“Zed, how big?”
“Real big. About the same size as the tablets of the fight nuns.”
His hands measured a tablet-sized space in front of his dumb, dumb face.
“I wanted to see if an attraction charm could gather the water drops.”
Such a dumb face. Like the concentrated stupidity of a thousand gap-toothed grins on a thousand baby hippos. Of course, Zed’s smile was actually twinkling as the sun started to hit its apex overhead. Stupid charisma.
“You always tell me to think ahead, so I charmed the tablets to see if it would work before I charmed my feet.”
It would be a great face for a thunderbolt to strike. A large, Mennendrag inspired thunderbolt.
Etcho had prepared that spell today. He certainly had.
“Zed, I’m going to ask once very nicely. What happened to the tablets of the fighting nuns of the Unseeing God?”
The former ranger former monk former bard former wyld sorcerer pointed a stubby finger into the sky at a distant dot that was rapidly disappearing into the highest strata of clouds. Etcho’s unparalleled perception could just barely make out the glowing runes of necromantic destruction carved on the surface of the tablets despite the sun glowering immediately above them.
“Zed, I’m going to kill you now.”
“So you can practice raising me later?”
“No, so I can watch you die a terrible, lightning-themed death.”
“But Etcho, the sun’s out, how are you going to channel lightning?”
“With magic, you nincompoop. You know, magic, the stuff we should have used instead of wasting potions? The stuff that helped you charm one of the deadliest sources of necromancy in the multiverse and launch it into the frikkin’ stratosphere!”
“Oh, sorry, Etcho. I forget about magic.”
“You used to be a sorcerer!”
“I know. That’s weird, right? Hey, remember how I was super good for a beginner? All the other sorcerers always said that when they weren’t casting curses on you.”
Etcho watched as Zed’s horde of laboring water drops pulled him into the center of the lagoon and began to slowly lift him up inch by inch. The spray around feet was soaking the bottom of his trousers and splashing his face as it zoomed by. Zed’s same perfectly shaped hippo grin was still plastered to his face. He would die as he had lived: happy and utterly destructive to any chance of success Etcho had.
The incensed cleric readied the thunderbolt and began chanting the words of power. “Mele… Kaliki… Maka…”
“Etcho, look! The sun!”
With a dazzling burst of light, the sun struck its exact midday height, and the beam which had been playing flirtatiously across Zed’s teeth streamed down and hit the lagoon dead center. Water bubbled and frothed as the entire forest trembled. Just as Etcho was seriously considering opening his mouth to finish the last of his incantation, a mighty column of colored light erupted forth, sending tidal waves racing towards the lagoon’s edge and rocketing Zed upwards in a prismatic spray of light and water.
It wasn’t a misty magic water fountain, it was the foot of a mythic rainbow bridge!
…and Etcho’s dipshit of a brother was riding it to the higher planes of pleasure and fulfillment.
Etcho stared as Zed flew heavenward, bolstered by the charmed drops of the lagoon high, high into the sky. The cleric could barely perceive the former-everything waving as he rose farther away and passed something hanging in the clouds. Something smaller than Zed. Something vaguely oblong. His brother was waving his hands again.
Wait, was the little guy making the gesture for disenchantment? Was he trying to stop the bridge?
“Don’t do it you numbskull!” Etcho shouted as loud as he possibly could. He fired off an orison to boost his voice. “You can’t disenchant the bridge! It’s divine! Don’t worry about me! Keep going! You’re going to get yourself killed—”
Etcho stopped shouting. You know what, let the mini-douche do whatever the hell he wants.
A whistling sound wrenched Etcho’s attention to the sky as he spotted a tiny dot plummeting towards the lagoon. It rapidly grew in size until it smashed into the nearest off-white boulder and shattered into a thousand pieces at his feet. The cleric hunched over and tried to discover what Zed had thrown down. There was only dust now. Shiny dust. As if it was glowing with a dread power recently unleashed—
Necromantic energies curled along the ground and sunk into the earth along the edge of each of the weird boulders. The misshappened stones began to shudder and rotate before rising forth from the ground. Dirt fell away from the underside to reveal deep sockets and gaping maws of rotten but still sharp teeth gleaming in the sun. Not boulders, skulls. Enormous vertebrae and gigantic shoulders pushed up from the soil as dozens of undead frost giants emerged. Every one of them freshly reanimated by the destruction of the tablets belonging to the fighting nuns of the Unseeing God.
The newly risen army of nigh invincible titans shook off the last vestiges of earth and slumber as they lazily turned their eyeless gaze to the forest floor twenty feet below where a hyperventilating cleric stood petrified before them.
O Great God Mennendrag, please let me be reincarnated as a divine assassin. There’s someone in heaven I really want to murder.