I used the pictures supplied by BFD, Tur, and Druid. The album cover (oh yes I can read image names), elder of some ilk, and the grassy plain respectively. I strangely had an idea come to me pretty quick despite the diversity of pictures so I shot out this story on the shorter end a hair or two above the minimum. Gorehag Gorehag gagged on another chicken bone. His oral motor functions hadn’t escaped the decay around him. Stumbling across his dilapidated hut, he strained to reach his Wizard’s Wand. At this point he didn’t know why he kept it so far from him if he was going to gag on everything. That was the thirty second chicken bone his dilapidated maw couldn’t wrangle. He had been using his Mystic Wand of Power for ages but the more he had to use it the more he felt it was the Wand of Mystical Secrets doing all the work and not Gorehag. Gorehag fondly remembered his past of motor capability only to be prodded in the diaphragm by reality. Choking out a mystic verse and drawing out the bone with the damnable Wizard Staff of Power nearest at hand. The most eventful moment of the month was always gagging on a chicken bone. Gorehag stepped outside to get some air, free from the rot of his shanty and the woody stench of the Mystic Staff. What should he do today? Take a walk? The grassy plains were quite a sight, unless you were Gorehag. Sweeping sods and rocks in weird formations, one of the many research spots that a wizard like Gorehag would squander his life prodding and divining until the wizard commits suicide from how mundane it all was. The life of a wizard. Gorehag once thought so fondly of the life of a wizard that he threw it all away for it. But regret is wasted thought, even more of a waste than trying to figure out if rocks in a field are magic. And so Gorehag crept back into his hutch grabbed his traveling bag and that dumb Almighty Wand doubling as a branch in the coat rack to venture out to the rocks. The walk was long and slow, but time means very little to a wizard. At least time going forward. Physical aging is still a tribulation but Gorehag could basically live forever as an old bag if he pleased. A ritual now and then and a potion here and there to stay alive, Gorehag had found himself slipping off schedule though but he didn’t care. He was still grasping to justify living just researching rocks. Studying magical sites is still a well known hobby of those in the wizard trade however. The stones were just as stony as the day before. That one is more of a cylinder, that one is pointy, and Gorehag couldn’t help but snicker every time he thought that the one near the far end looked like a phallus. He plucked some runes from his bag with divining and detection properties and started pacing the area around the stones, maybe he had missed some magic hotspot, some focus channeled by the stones. Maybe he could justify a digging expedition and excavate a tomb with another powerful Rod of Wisdom, Scepter of Indignation, or Quarterstaff of Destruction. Gorehag instead thought that maybe he was senile and he wouldn’t be able to fix his life with ten more trinkets of untold power. Tired of pacing, Gorehag crouched down to sit on a stone, spurting out a few expletives and what would sound like dying breaths. Sitting was the worst. Stones were even more worse. Being a wizard is probably the worse-est. Holding his dry flaking forehead in his palms he stared at the ground at his feet, an action he had become so fond of. Lamenting his unending mocking life he caught a glimpse of a shine at his heel. Gorehag kicked aside some rocks and a tuft of grass, not even sitting would provide solace from the mocking. There was a pristine steel axe head peeking from under some gravel. Gorehag cursed and tried to cast it away, but it slipped, edged his finger and landed a foot away. That damn axe head, he thought he pitched it away 100 years ago in a forest. Had it been that long? Could things have changed that much? Gorehag had no idea how old he was now, time only fit two categories for him. Before Wizard, and After Wizard, and that axe head was what split it all in two. Durnen of the South a fearsome barbarian plated in the finest magic armors seized from his victims, Duke Ingram of the Apostate Collective a fallen knight whose honor fell to fighting for heretics and demons for profit, Grand Magus Tweed a spellsword who was unmatched in magic but preferred the feeling of his sword severing his foes, Whale a mute with battle pick known for brining many to silence himself, and Gorehag the Red. Gorehag the Red with the claim to have taken all his adversaries by decapitation with his enchanted axe. Sweeping farmlands and towns with no restraint, these warriors banded together as mercenaries taking any job, no matter how brutal so long as the pay was good, or the challenge fitting. Now they were leading a rebellion against the monarch, an amusing feat that gave them thrills thinking about it. Dozens of puny knights clad toe to the tip of the head in crunchy iron cowardly shambling at the warriors one by one. Durnen smirked as blood whipped the orange sky, he turned to glance at Gorehag. Durnen always found satisfaction teasing Gorehag about missing a possible decapitation. Gorehag reciprocated with a rude gesture in one hand and the head in his other hand, of the corpse Durnen just claimed. They both smiled and kept on their assault. Whale rended helm after glistening helm tearing out crimson swirls from each adversary, the Duke followed suit with his bestial combat lunging at the knights with no fear of death, occasionally whipping out his crossbow point blank just to see hopeless fear. Tweed stayed true to his classic technique, a shivering blade slickly cleaving off legs and arms without a drop of blood. The others enjoyed that move but they all sorely missed there being no blood in the equation. These men were brothers bound not by their blood, but by the blood of others. Smoke billowed from searing corpses and flora. In a few hours the land had become a conflagrating wasteland of red earth and death. The royal force had not steeled their minds to witness the mercenaries brutality and bloodlust, their insane swiftness and flawless technique was the maggot on the skull. “URRRRY!” “HURRGGggg…” *gurgle* Over and over again, the royal force was laid prone to choke on blood. Yell, groan, gurgle. Yell, groan, gurgle. It was music to a bloodthirsty warrior. Yell, groan, gurgle. The reason why some people even take up arms. Yell, groan, gurgle. The reason why Gorehag lived. Yell, groan, splat? Gorehag shifted off of the rock startled. A hellion bastard bird dropped defecate on the rock. Gorehag stood up, adjusted his robes, pulled out a Ultimate Wand of Things Explode, and made use of it on the foul fowl. He sighed and sat down on another rock. That was then, this is now. Such raw visceral power, the resistant forces of those puny royal guard necks, it was heart pounding. But swinging a wand, sometimes chanting a verse, just to get a bird to explode? It was a victory, but it was never as good as the sawing grit of shearing through an iron collar. Gorehag called it a day and ventured back home to rest. He wrote in his journal something about slaying a dragon, his secret wish was that some adventurer would murder him for all the cool wands and then read his journal about slaying behemoths and be amazed, maybe a bard would get his hands on the book and he would be a singing bit of lore. But did wizards ever get cheerful tavern tunes lauding them? Gorehag doubted it but kept writing, it was cathartic. But was that even worth it Gorehag really wondered, he was really just tricking himself but not really because he knows that he is. Gorehag rested his head in his palms once more before the door was knocked down. “Whoops!” a large buff wizard shouted from the doorway. It was Ex-Grand Magus Tweed, Gorehag would be happy to see him after all these years but in the middle of an existential crisis, it is hard to bounce back with a greeting. So he mustered a “hurgh”. “Why are you so down Gorehag my man? Or should I say old man!” Tweed jovially spat as he gave Gorehag a playful but hardy punch to the shoulder. There was a crack. “Oh… I see. Well, being a wizard is tough and it has been five years since that incident on the battle field, I can’t expect you to maste- Whoa.” Tweed looked at a pile of sticks next to Gorehag’s bed. “Are these all…wands? Is that a Wand of Ultimate Destruction IV?” Gorehag nodded reluctantly and replied. “The very same one from all those years ago.” “Gorehag stop talking like it was that long ago, yes being a wizard makes you old but you’re nowhere near death, especially not with a collection like this…” “Maybe that is it, I’m never near death, it is always twenty feet away in a plasma explosion, far from my hand, far from me even.” Tweed’s demeanor turned sour, and he sat beside Gorehag on a chair finely crafted from deadly twigs. “You’re lucky to be alive, we two were the luckiest that day.” Great fires roared across the landscape, most of the royal guard was shattered, but they were still coming with no sign of retreat. Gorehag, Durnen, Tweed and the like continued to plow through the enemy until they faced The Chariot. The solid stone beneath them undulated and cracked as the horizon rose a foul aberrancy. A singled wizard atop a high mounted chariot pulled by a dozen horses. The starkness of the pure white stand split the smoking sky in two. His stare as cold as a killer of any discipline, at the mark of a battle horn he raised his stave and mumbled words inaudible to the warriors below. The knights in tow now had gleaming grins on their faces. Few warriors becoming more defensive noticing that there were not only the bodies of knights at their feet. One by one, the warriors got more tired, developed back problems, grew beards, and developed a strong admiration for ragtime music. They were being made into helpless wizards, unable to lift their warhamers much less swing their swords. The royal guard reversed the tide, dicing through the elderly like they were a soup. No resistance, the warriors all fell back like they were grasped by an undertow, doomed to die a shameful death not as warriors and suffer their demise being historically recorded with many poor juxtapositions to aqueous solutions. Whale was struck, a hopeless death, he could never even speak to cast a spell, his physical crutch was his undoing. Duke Ingram fell, he in the heat of the moment wisely drew his crossbow but dropped as his pithy aged strength only managed to reload the weapon. Durnen’s magic armor gave him more durability however, he managed to turn and face Tweed and Gorehag, this time wide-eyed and mouth agape. An old man’s horrified face was the last Gorehag had to remember Durnen by before blood whipped the sky. Tweed being a battle mage came prepared with two wands, he pitched one to Gorehag and eviscerated the slayers of their party with an icy burst. Gorehag however scrambled with the wand, not knowing how to use it. Tweed was buying time but this couldn’t last for Gorehag forever. His strategic mind was to aid him, the little instinct he had. No axe means no neck. But how can you kill without cutting the neck? Perhaps the neck was a metaphysical concept. Not the neck of an individual, but the neck of the opposition as a collective, their pipeline, their crutch, their trump card. Gorehag went prone as he scrambled through the corpses to find Ingram’s crossbow. He loaded the wand onto it, and threw the bolt at the one place he could hit from any location, the neck, the neck of The Chariot. The blazing bolt broke the throat of the blank faced wizard atop The Chariot, his death stare was one of shock. The hubris of wizardry had consumed him. Gorehag could never become that. The body of the chariot rider toppled and crashed to Earth with a splat to the horror of the remaining knights healthy warriors raced past Tweed, Gorehag, and some surviving wizard-morphs to seal the fight in their favor. Gorehag earned some honor, favors and coin, but ultimately lost his livelihood. For Tweed and Gorehag there was only loss. Time passed and Gorehag’s aptitude for wizardry expanded, he and Tweed had parted though as their band of bloodshed could never exist as it had. Sometimes they would send letters, seldom, but to try and cope and find respite with their new livelihood. The livelihood of a wizard. “Wizardry is power that comes with no responsibility!” Gorehag shouted thundering to his feet. “We are Gods with nothing to fear, no thrill, nothing to learn, no wounds, nothing to rend! The rocks I study every day aren’t even natural, I made them myself and I’ve been pretending they are worth research for three years! I would have rather died as a warrior but now look at us! We are as good as immortal!” He stomped shattering bits of wand lining from his own roof with his force. Tweed stood as well, just to pull Gorehag back to his seat as he heard a bone snap when Gorehag stomped. Pulling a healing wand from his pocket he rejuvenated Gorehag. “You haven’t even been healing Gorehag! Have you even been eating anything but turkey?! I see that Wand of Maximum Chicken on your table, the lack of other nutrients is poisoning you! You aren’t of good mind! Besides I came here in person all because of what you’ve said! Let me share my mind!” Gorehag wrinkled his brow but released his tension. “No.” is all he could muster. “Yes Gorehag, yes, the institution has done it. The most of the other wizards have reverse engineered the wand that made us what we are. All we need to do that is counter-spell it but the institution is out of counter-spell scrolls and wands.” Gorehag rose from his seat, walked to a wardrobe plunging his fist inside, with a firm grasp he wrenched out masses of what he had considered firewood in a heaping mass mixed with chicken bones and dropped it all to the floor. “See Gorehag! If you are wise about your powers as a wizard you can have anything!” Tweed chirped in excitement at the sight before him. Gorehag scowled and casted a chicken bone at Tweed. Tweed being a dainty gourmet even since his warrior days had never gagged on a chicken bone until now.