The Best of the Mage (Page 52 and 53)


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The Best of the Mage (Page 52 and 53)


Science Fiction


These pages describe the end story of The Dwarf That Knew Too Much by Harry Dolan and the beginning story of Gray Nights by William P. Cunningham.


Rizky Suwoto


The Best of the Mage (Number 8, Fall 1987)


Colgate University Student Association


Fall 1987


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standards of appearance have slacked off, my prince." "Ah, well, my good Malcolm is an exception. In fact, I believe his injuries have increased his loyalty to me. Surely he will have no qualms about killing you this time. "Who shall we shoot first, Malcolm, the king or our former comrade? I believe the lieutenant will agree that order makes little difference in these situations." The Not-So-Pretty Guard knew who he wanted to shoot first. He leveled his crossbow at me, took careful aim, and was about to pull the trigger when my three foot savior appeared suddenly before him. "Yikes!" Malcolm squealed, as a mace crashed into his kneecap. "It's the dwarf!" His shot went wild, and the weapon fell to the floor, expelling the other two bolts harmlessly. He reached for his sword, but the dwarf was all over him. In the confusion I drew my longsword and took a swipe at Prince Farris. He backpedaled and brought out his own blade, slowly weaving it through the air in front of me, looking for an opening. His skill as a duelist was well-known, and I wasn't surprised when he took the offensive, aiming a series of cuts and jabs that I was forced to struggle to counter. I was sutprised when he sent my blade sailing across the
room to plunge pomt-first into the far wall. I recovered though, freeing the Kirinji sword from my belt and preparing to ward off his next attack. He smiled, thinking he had me, and raised his longsword over his head for a fmal blow, but I dropped forward on one knee and thrust up under his ribcage and into his arrogant heart. His dying expression was one of dumb amazement. The dwarf came over to help me up. "You might've waited a little longer," I said to him, slapping his upturned palm. "I wanted to see if Malcolm was a good shot." "Where' s your sense of drama?" was his wise-ass response. Together we approached the king. "Your Majesty," I said, "I've got someone here I think you'll want to meet."
* * *
"Qne thing I don't get," Slippery Ace remarked, after we'd recounted the tale of our exploits at the victory celebration. "You two drank the same amount of potion, so why didn't you both reappear at the same time?'' I shrugged. "There are holes in this plot you could ride a . thr gh " umcom ou .... The dwarf glanced at me sideways. "That may be," he said, perturbed, "but this particular
inconsistency can be explained, I think. We each consumed the same amount of potion, 'tis true, but I remained invisible longer for the simple reason that there is less of me to conceal." He added smugly, "As the ancient dwatven proverb reminds us 'If one has a choice, it is always best to be small"' "That's what my cousin Andy said," Ace quipped, "just before they tied him to the rack."
Mephistopheles cashed in his ninth life that night, lapping up straight vodka for hours until his little feline ticker stopped dead. Bertie recovered quickly from his grief and took a liking to the late prince's magic puppy; he named it Cerberus and promised to try to keep it away from the hard stuff. The dwarf was jealous because he didn't have a name and was sick of being referred to constantly as 'the dwarf,' but I bought him a beer, patted him on the head, and told him I knew the feeling. Now he and I are going into business. We figure we can provide a valuable service and we might as well milk it for what its worth. So if some unknown villain offs your local sovereign's heir, don't take the matter into your own hands: come on over to the Slippery Ace Detective Agency, located two blocks up from Madame Flannery's House of illicit Pleasures. We'll be here.
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William P. Cunningham's story .. Gray Nights" (The Mage, No.4, Winter 1985) appears here to give readers another chance to encounter the author's delightful approach to fantasy and his insightful and good-natured wizard protagonist. The story that follows this one, .. Blessed Are Those . .. ," chronicles a new adventure of Cunningham's tWentieth century sorceror.
Gray Nights
The Mage blew his nose hard. The noise was astounding, but it did not bother Niko. The cat by the fireplace was used to the common explosions and hardly stirred. For his part, the Mage himself did not notice his cold at all. He had had it for forty or fifty years. Regardless, it was a long time for someone not to be healthy. He had tried to find out what was wrong with himself, but he never could. The noise from the street seven stories below was contending with a composition by Dukas on the stereo. The Mage found this annoying, for the piece he was listening to he himself had suggested to the composer. He sighed, thinking of the strange magic that made cities make noise at inopportune times. But cities had large universities, which had enormous libraries. And he needed libraries for his work. It was really not surprising that magic could be discovered as easily as a walk to the card catalog because it was, of course, everywhere. Talent and less tangible things aside, there were also factors of alchemy, psychology, history, and more to consider in The Arts. A good library contained a lot of interesting things if one knew how to get them. Sometimes a chemistry professor, sometimes a medieval art authority, the list of things he did at various times to get at the precious resources of the libraries was long. Deans never made a thorough check into his background, and his records always turned up missing after his departure. The Mage had a name, but it was long and there were not
many of his kind left to appreciate that length, for it grew with age. And names should not always be told to just anyone. Niko turned over, showing off his glossy brown fur well in the glow from the amber fire and the deflected morning light cast through the windows across the studio room. The smoke from the fire was devoured by a disgusting little creature immediately above it. The Mage paused in his writing (he used a quill) to let his eyes rest on the dozing cat. Most mages needed the ego boost of a pure white or pure black animal by their side all the time. He had once known a wizard with an allblack cat. It was a big cat. The teeth, tongue, eyes and everything about the animal had been black. It had been very big. And where did it get the black wizard? Even with that feline monster beside him this wizard could never look the Mage in the eye when it was his tum to lay down his hand in a game of five card, unless, of course, he thought he was going to win. The Mage did not believe in purity. It was his experience that those who did always ended in a bad way. One night, the Mage learned that black cats were not immune to poison. He had always disliked that cat, but even more so after he discovered its master had been cheating him dreadfully at cards that particular evening. Any time the black wizard looked anyone in the eye all night, it meant he was cheating or worse. The Mage frowned, wondering why he was thinking of the black mage and his dead cat
by William P. Cunningham
after all these years. The thoughts were chased from his mind as he brought up a voluminous robe sleeve to ward off an enormous sneeze that shook the table at which he was sitting. A small bowl of gold ink spilled, staining the medical ethics papers he was grading and the Calvins he wore under his robe. Donahue scratched his head on the screen of a Sony color television set atop a stack of tomes. Niko yawned and turned over. The Mage worked through the morning, attended an afternoon class, and took a nap after his evening meal. Every night he was able to do so, the Mage rode the last subway to Central Park for an evening walk. He had a habit of walking alone at night. Old habits die hard. He looked like an eldery businessman as he entered the park around one-thirty. A young policeman even bade him a good night with a warning about the darkened park. The Mage coughed in reply, assuring the policeman that he was a seasoned New Yorker who knew what he was doing. The Mage walked through the Park, not thinking about anything in particular. He held a handkerchief in his left hand and pressed it to his face occasionally to stifle a sneeze. He was careful to not wipe his nose with his sleeve, since the suit he was wearing was new. It would have been no problem at all to wear a comfortable wizard outfit when he went out into the City. Only a tailor would notice any difference between him and the doomsday criers that dotted the street comers

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