James Stormtoes felt that something was wrong before he saw that the door to his wizard’s tower was open. He felt a cold sweat settle onto his brow, as if a heavyset king on a tall throne had just wrung out his stink-rag all over James’ face. It felt gross, and it felt wrong.
He checked the charges on his hidden wand, the one he’d kept from the Magemaster back at the station. He’d taken his service wand and badge, leaving him feeling more naked than a newborn goblin at an Excessive-Anime-Clothes-Wearers convention, but he’d at least left him his hidden piece. It looked like that was going to be a good thing.
He peered into the doorway, open wide like the jaws of a shark about to eat a man on a sea-doo. His front hall had been torn apart, his collection of classy painted nudes ripped apart and thrown onto the floor like classy painted nudes at a classy painted nudes shredding factory.
No one in their right mind would have done something like that, and James knew it. Being able to hide girly pictures in plain sight in front of house guests was something every mage scrimped and saved for. Whoever did this was either whacked out, or was looking to send a message. James tightened his grip on the wand, checking to make sure the leather safety cover was off it.
“Stormtoes of the Mage’s Department! Come out with your hands in the air!”
The only response he got to the call was some quiet laughter, and the sound of a bird cawing. He wanted to run toward the sound, panic crawling in his guts like bugbear steak made by an inept line cook, but he forced himself to stay calm. Breathe in, breathe out, stay alive. Don’t get stupid now, Stormtoes. Then again, stupid had worked for him before, even if the Magemaster didn’t agree.
He was about to put on his novelty moustache and joy buzzer when he saw it on the walls, and his heart beat like it was a deranged octopus trying to get out of an undersea ribcage prison. It had been written in blood across the hall, over and over again as if the perpetrator wasn’t sure if he was spelling it right and wanted to cover his bases in case the message didn’t get across: UNICORN.
The hop-heads had moved on from shooting dire rat’s blood and snorting ground dragon toenails. The high just wasn’t the same any more, at least according to the rash of dead orc prostitutes that had been showing up all over Groyngryb. Each one of them had a vial of this stuff on her somewhere, left behind like the axe of a lumberjack who’s beard has fallen off. It was too much for them.
The clerics had good intentions for it. Unicorn tears could cure anything from Mummy Rot to Otyugh Crotch, but only in small doses. Any more than that made rainbows shoot out of all of your orifices until you died in a prismatic mess of your own organs. Until it did that, it was like a suppository of liquified evenings at strip joints, a nonstop high that ended with your body as empty as your wallet.
James had hit on a big bust just the other night, finding the underground stables hidden under the floorboards of the daycare center. It had been awful to behold. Looped homemade tribute videos to dead celebrities played on the wall as the unicorns just cried their eyes out, unable to control themselves against the raw emotion only a fan living in his parent’s basement could hope to concoct. He’d had to put a fire spell into each of their foreheads before they started writing sad poetry and dying their hair black while letting it hang over their eyes.
He took the stairs as fast as he dared, his footsteps sounding as if they’d been bolstered by a drunken wizard’s cantrip spell. The word ‘UNICORN’ followed him as he walked up the stairs, blood oozing from every surface. He marched past the buckets of blood they’d brought with them in case they ran out in the middle of a word, making his way to the end of the hall.
Soon, he was in front of the last door, and all of the sound stopped. He pushed it open, his eyes drawn down to the piles of sleeping kitten pictures and children’s drawings of their families. In the middle of it was a rainbow-colored raven, it’s body unmoving and covered with sunshine and lolipops.
He started to cry as he leaned down to pick Huggybeak up, feeling for a pulse that was as still as a the lazy eye on a fortunetelling elephant.
He stood up, squeezing his wand. By the end of the night, the patrons at the square dance hall wouldn’t be the only ones calling him Stormtoes.