Solvent Finances

So here I am, standing on the roof, wearing nothing but a snorkel, a pair of clogs, and the final remaining sheds of my dignity.

It’s not what you think—well, not entirely. You see, when K’lzo first proposed the idea, I thought, “What could possibly go wrong?” I know, I know, that’s never a good thing to even think, especially when you never know how close the nearest luck-eating sylnq may be lurking, but how disciplined can you expect an undergrad to be?

Whatever—cock’s out of the sack now and all, I might as well fess up. We were coining, plain and simple. Okay, not so simple. Coining is easy, but getting the materials to make passible coins, well, that’s not so easy. It’s even harder when you don’t have the capital to pay your tuition and fines (hence the need to coin at all), let alone the half a drechmal of gamphium we’d need to make enough cash to get caught up and afford room and board at the k’vid next term.

Our first mistake was deciding to use the old bathhouse. You see, we had to do this at night because that was the only time we were both free for long enough to run the whole transmogrification process. Pulling off a process that produces balls of violet lightning anywhere out in the open, at night, and within walking distance of campus, is a great way to end up before the council of six. And that’s just assuming it all goes well on the first try.

Anyway, if you’ve ever done it, then you know fiwave ‘mogrification is one part science, one part psionic application, one part timing, and at least one part luck. We had the first three covered easy, but not the fourth. And let me tell you one thing, now that I’m never speaking to that kleffing spawn of gelwpnat’s asshole again: it really, really helps when your alchemist isn’t both an adrenaline junkie and a bit of a moron. But what can I say—there wasn’t another alchemist with ‘Zo’s talent in town, and besides, it was his idea.

Breaking into the old bathhouse was a flake of cookie. ‘Zo boosted me up to the window above the ground fortification with his hands, and I used the chance to float him after me to get my q’vah nice and warmed up.

We headed right down to the drained pools in the basement, considering them to be the safest place to run the transmogrification. I had brought a sack full of the essentials with me, which included snorkels (an excellent poor man’s goggles and breathing tube in one), rubber decoupling clogs, and a bottle of effervescent ludlud, because… hey, it was going be a long night.

Of course, as soon as I’d taken out of my sack, ‘Zo wanted a sip of lud to get into the right mindset. We had plenty, so I cracked it, though I decided to hold off until the brunt of my job was done, but K’lzo took a hard draft. Two things happened straight away: that tvahgt K’lzo got the giggles, and we both heard the telltale cooing of baldelobirs coming from the inlet.

“I sure hope that grating holds,” I said.

“Let’s tease them,” ‘Zo said, and grabbed the ludlud before I could protest. He spent the next five minutes flashing the bottle at the poor things, and I spent it telling him we had work to do. When he got just a little too close and nearly lost the bottle to a probing claw, ‘Zo came back to reality… mostly.

Now, I’m not an alchemist, but even I know that you can’t rush a job like this, so I should have been suspicious when first felt the heat blaring off the portable drakkburner K’lzo had somehow procured for the job. The smell of melting fanfah, burning flux, and boiling tallow was almost overwhelming, and that should have clued me in on the fundamental problem with our choice of venue.

That is, the fumes weren’t so bad that a light ‘terial wind couldn’t clear out the room, but I can’t synthesize cold efficiently enough not to be too fired by the time my part in the ‘mogrification process came about, unless I wanted to drain off enough of of ‘Zo’s essential q’vah to kill him. So, there was nothing I could do about the heat. When I looked back at ‘Zo, he’d take off his robes.

“By the hairy left armpit of— What you doing?” I shouted at him.

“I’m not boiling alive,” He said. Okay, so the night had been cool, and we’d both worn our heaviest k’monrobes, but I wasn’t about to stand around the already growing ‘mogrification miasma starkers. No, I chose to roast in dignity instead.

A minute later, I was also naked (unless a pair of clogs and a snorkel count), but my transmogrification ball was shaping up nicely.

Everything went to kleff, when my turn came around. True to form, the second he’d finished his part, ‘Zo went right for the bottle again, and the baldelobirs, who’d been driven off by the heat, came back with a vengeance. I began casting my locus, ‘Zo began to taunting the baldelobirs again, and the baldelobirs began shrieking. It was awful.

Let me put this into perspective—trying to focus on constructing a cast with that kind of din going on in the background is a bit like trying to do your taxes in your head but thinking only in colors, so I admit I blundered. I thought I could get away with one simple request for silence, but before I could formulate the words, the KLEFFING SYLNK that had followed me undetected from my chambers appeared and blew in my face.

That’s all it took—just one waft of that luck-stealing stench and my focus fluttered. It didn’t fail, my locus didn’t crumble, and the ball didn’t disrupt… much. But, a tiny disruption was all it took. The first arc of lightning to leave the transmogrification orb struck ‘Zo in the arse, causing him to throw the ludlud across the room, shattering the bottle over the robes we’d tossed in the corner for safekeeping.

Fortunately, I’m a good psionic, and I kept my mind on my job. Nothing was going to shake my focus again. Well, almost nothing. The second arc went right passed ‘Zo, who was cursing like a Vendesum barge worker, and blew a hole in the grate, unleashing a torrent of angry, thirsty, hairy, and heavily tusked ground ‘lobirs. About a third of them went for the spilled spirits, another third went for ‘Zo, and I started running before the final third sorted out their next move.

The transmogrification ball exploded when I was within arms’ reach of the door to the first floor. I discovered how tightly locked the front door was by being hurled into it from across the room and slamming against the door about the same time as ‘Zo slammed in to me. Lucky for us, we gathered ourselves and made it to the second floor just in time for a second explosion to reduce the first floor to a flaming wreck.

We were going to jump from the window, but then that section of the building caved in. I checked my remaining q’vah, and only then realize how spent I was—no way I could clear the wreckage. That meant heading up to the roof was the only way left to go. The stairway to the roof caved in about the time we got to the far side, and with that, the reaction mercifully came to an end.

“We can probably still jump for it,” K’lzo said, right before the now singed, hairy, heavily tusked, and kleffing-mad baldelobirs came pouring up from the rubble and surrounded the building.

“I think we’re kleffed,” I said. “At least the city guard will send out a bong’don rider to check on us. If I just had some q’vah, we might have a fighting chance.”

And do you know what that kleffing worbdag K’lzo said? He said, “Man, you just have the worst luck.” Well, I couldn’t help but laugh.

What’s that? Where’s ‘Zo now? Funny you should ask.