Care for Lunch with Maws the Terrible?
Berel the Magnificent (the Greatest Wizard of All Time) and his unusual companion, Mr Wuvsocks, consider going for a swim in the dangerous Sea of Orcastan. The question is - can you speak shark?
It stretched out before them as far as the eyes could see, a big wet thing that hugged the land and used to be considered the source of all life, but today was instead a constant source of dread from the stories of those it consumed, or the unnatural things it now birthed.
Standing atop a thick, grassy outcrop among the pearl white sand dunes stood a charlatan and his magical servant that only he could see.
“Berel the Magnificent does NOT SWIM!” huffed Berel, who often spoke of himself in such a way.
“But whyyy?” cried Mr Wuvsocks, dying to go in.
“Have you not heard of the devilish dangers lurking beneath those dastardly waters?!”
“Bah! I know of its wonders! From as early as I can remember, my former master would invite me...”
“Summon you...” interjected Berel, earning an irritated glare from his supernatural companion.
“...to the famed beaches of the Sapphire Coast, and I would swim with the creations of the waters. There are marvels beyond the minds comprehension that only those who’ve explored the depths below can understand. A magic beyond imagination.”
“You just want me to get eaten by Maws The Terrible!”
Mr Wuvsocks was aghast “Who, me? No-no-no, you’ve got it all wrong!”
“The Terrible – his title says it all!”
“Nooo… You just don’t speak Shark. Or Australian. He’s actually quite the gentleman, and an auspicious host…if you can breathe underwater and… aren’t related to fish. Or Hammerheads. Or…” he trailed off.
“How did your old master die again?” asked Berel with a raised brow.
“He err…caught the Sneeze of Death and shat himself inside out.”
Berel suddenly had to fight the urge to barf. “Right... and how did he catch it?”
“...that’s beside the point.”
“It’s every point!” cried Berel, poking Mr Wuvsocks in his bony white chest, “You have a very suspicious track record of your masters meeting untimely, gruesome deaths.”
“Come now – you’re the one who promised the Orange King you’d get him the thing from that place and there’s only one place that that could be – in the Sea Kingdom of Orcastan.”
“'Promised' is a very strong word when your family jewels are on the line…or in danger of becoming something’s dinner!”
Mr Wuvsocks put his four fingered hands on his bare midriff, becoming increasingly impatient.
“I thought Berel ‘the Magnificent’ wasn’t afraid of anything?”
“I am not! All the Great Smoke and rising seas brought us from the old world was hideous horrors, grotesque deformities, and endless calamities! Perhaps at one time long ago, in a better time, it would be as you believe, but not anymore. ‘Wonders’ he says!”
“Suit yourself” whispered Mr Wuvsocks with a peculiar grin.
“I swear by the Creator - if this is another one of your tricks! I’ll…”
“WAIT! What are you doing??? WUVSOCKS GET BACK HERE!”
It was too late, Mr Wuvsocks had disappeared, conveniently out of earshot of his nagging new master in the waters below, gliding through the currents as he used to love to do long ago, before The Great Collapse, or The Great Smoke, or The Toiletpaperpocalypse, or whatever the mortals were calling this, that or the other “world ending” event. They were always so dramatic.
As he swam, he felt at peace, a sense of liberating freedom. Like he was travelling back home. Caught up in the euphoric joy of nostalgia and the lack of a master, Mr Wuvsocks began happily humming to himself and failed to notice that something deep below had instead noticed him.
“Ohhh damn it all!” Berel began to pace back and forth, summoning up the courage to go after Wuvsocks. He hated the sensation of the unknown and had always been afraid of the dark, especially when said darkness was wet and has many things that can kill you, but if he didn’t collect that thing from that place for the Orange King, well he’d never hear the end of it – and most painfully, potentially be outed as a swindler and never sell another autobiography.
He frowned in consternation “It’s fine... It’s fine right? I’ll just find something in the... There’s bound to be something...” Retrieving the strange old spellbook he’d inherited from Mr Wuvsock’s previous master, Berel started flipping through the tattered pages, some falling out as he went.
In the corner of his eye, something large flashed by under the waters, disturbing the surface.
A few moments later, a bloody and dismembered four fingered limb bubbled to the surface.
“Urgh! Not again!” exclaimed Berel in frustration, angrily mumbling to himself as he did a dance and a jig, twirling in circles, clapping his hands, wailing and singing that old silly tune.
*Fizzz Papew Brrrrr Wheeeeze POP!*
Out of thin air with a whoosh of sounds and a bright flash came a sopping wet Mr Wuvsocks, but with all four limbs attached. His expression went from absolute joy to extreme disappointment in a heartbeat at being resummoned.
“Can’t you go for one day without 'accidentally' offing yourself?!”
“Existence is pain with you. Death is ecstasy.”
Berel sighed. “You just say that to hurt my feelings. What was it this time?”
“Kraken. I think. Something had tentacles.”
Berel's eyes flashed in a panic "This is... Are you certain..?"
Mr Wuvsocks nodded slowly, eyeing his master.
“That can't be...Since when did Cthulhu’s Children enter into Orcastan territory…?” Berel frowned, his mind straining with its limited talent for deduction. “Not good…This is most concerning…and will have to be reported to the authorities. Oh well – guess there’ll be no swimming for Berel the Magnificent today!”
“WUVSOOOOOCKS! Damnit he’s gone and bloody done it! Fine - get eaten! Again!"
But Mr Wuvsocks was nowhere to be seen.
Staring into the abyss of the great, dark wet, Berel the Magnificent shivered, his guts churned, his skin crawled, his eyes glazed over in a thousand-yard stare. No... This was the worst omen... This could only mean one thing…
War was coming, and the final, end of times prophecy just ticked off one more box.