The Fall of Ronald the Wonder Wizard
Copyright © 2006 Jari Komppa (Sol/Trauma)
Ronald lived in an age where a great divide could be seen between the magical folk and the rest of the world. Those that could do magic were few and far between, and were regarded with envy, fear and mistrust.
It was considered a curse to be born with the gift to see the magical side of the world. Most wizards still followed their calling; it has difficult not to, seeing all that potential just in reach.
The wizards kept mostly to themselves, even though they had residences in normal folk's towns, making their living through doing odd jobs and making small miracles for people who were either more adventurous than your average Joe, or simply at the end of their rope, seeing no other hope in their situation, whatever that might have been.
At times it was dangerous for a wizard to even walk outside after dark, for fear that some drunken mob might get funny ideas. Who'd miss one of those odd folk anyway? Mostly, nobody did, and even the loosely organized magic-wielding community felt that they'd better leave things be, not to draw any more attention to themselves.
Ronald feared that this situation would get even worse in time, and he pitied those who couldn't see the world with all of its magic. One day, he figured out a way to get a bit magic to the normal people's lives, and decided to set up a store selling magic tools.
He worked on a selection of items that he thought would help common people, and perhaps would make them see that all magic isn't bad. Perhaps wizards might even be respected one day. He also planned to create custom items for those who wanted. If things went well, he could hire other wizards to help with the store as well.
He borrowed money, leased the space, and set up his store. He built tables with his own hands, painted the place in a calm blue color, smirking when he noticed some curious people peeking through the windows. He carefully placed his goods on soft cloth, with small signs describing each item. After several days of setting things up, he opened the doors with pride, and nobody came.
On the afternoon of the second day, Marcus, one of the town's resident scholars came by, and Ronald happily presented all sorts of items he had in store. Marcus asked a lot of questions, and Ronald was more than happy to answer. Slowly a small crowd gathered outside the store, and Ronald, trying to act as if he hadn't noticed, started to speak in a louder voice.
Marcus bought a couple of items, and Ronald gave another as a gift, considering that Marcus was, after all, his best customer so far. The crowd dissolved as Marcus left, but there was another customer later in the evening. The woman glanced quickly around, and kept looking over her shoulder, but Ronald got another sale.
Next day, he received a couple customers. After a couple of weeks people didn't even seem to be afraid to be seen in the store anymore.
After the slow start, the store of magical wonders started to thrive. His fire-safe, eternally glowing lamps were a major hit; other items could rid your house of all manner of pests, be they roaches or rats. A weather clock could predict the weather with some accuracy for the next few weeks. Knives he sold never needed sharpening. Travelling stones could, when tossed to the ground, show the direction of the nearest inn.
Not everyone was happy with Ronald's little store. People were suspicious, and envious; not only were the wizards strange folk now, but they also took your money. Eventually even the biggest critics ended up owning some small thing from Ronald's store, even though they wouldn't publicly acknowledge the fact.
As an act of goodwill to the community, Ronald donated large versions of his fireless lamps to the major junctions of the city, fueling the town's lively night life.
But suspicions die hard, and every now and then Ronald would find his windows broken in the morning.
It didn't take long for the traveling merchants to get interested in Ronald's enterprise, and they started to buy large amounts of goods. Due to this, Ronald started to keep his store closed for a couple weeks every now and then to have time to build new toys.
Nobody paid any mind to the fact that other wizards were never seen near the store. As years passed by, the once warm and friendly street lights slowly turned cold and ghastly, and people didn't feel like staying outside after dark again.
Strange stories started to arrive in the city. Odd creatures were seen in the wilderness; kind of human-like, mindless monsters that attacked anything on sight.
Then one night there was a horrible murder in the city. Tom, the resident blacksmith had gone insane and butchered a cook from a nearby tavern who had came by to pick up a new set of utensils. The town guards had heard the ruckus, and tried to pacify the metal worker, but he could not be stopped without killing him.
Soon after this, Marie, a teacher in the town's school, decided to pay Marcus a visit. Marcus the scholar was a kind of a loner, and mostly kept to himself, and nobody had seen him for about a week or two. There wasn't anything strange about that, as such, as the bookworm could easily stockpile food for a month or more and concentrate on whatever he was working on.
Marie being a good neighbor packed some food and went to knock on Marcus' door, fully prepared to nod and smile as Marcus would try to explain some thing that he had been working on lately.
What Marie found instead was a mostly unrecognizable beast that tried to kill her, but she got away, and the Marcus-beast got slain by a bunch of villagers who had made it a recent habit to carry weapons wherever they went.
Someone had already made the connection between the beasts and wizard-folk, but nobody took it too seriously - wizards were blamed for everything anyway. When they searched Marcus' house, however, they found a large collection of magical toys made by Ronald.
When the mob arrived at Ronald's store with their torches and pitchforks, Ronald was already gone. Nobody thought about asking the other wizards what was going on; they were simply hunted down.
As the news spread, people panicked and wanted to get rid of the cursed things. Ronald's wares were thrown away, dumped into sewers, in swamps and rivers or just lost in the wilderness. Large piles of the items were carried away by wagonload by brave volunteers and dumped in abadoned mines.
Everyone just wanted to get rid of them as fast as possible, without thinking where they might end up eventually. Or whether they affected animals as well.
As an additional problem, Ronald had been famous all across the land, and his toys had been sold all over. When the word reached the distant towns, people didn't believe it at first. Suspicions grew as more people went insane, and by the time Ronald's fall was an universal truth, the damage had been done.
When someone finally figured that maybe Ronald could explain something, or maybe he had a recall spell of some sort, it was way too late. His store had been burned down, and the man himself couldn't be found anywhere.
Ronald had packed up and left when he heard of the first problems. He had been killed by some completely unrelated gang of thieves, who probably lived the rest of their lives rather comfortably. Assuming, of course, that they didn't keep any of the cursed items.
People had loved Ronald's toys so much that some stubbornly kept some small thing, figuring that wouldn't hurt. Some of these were rangers or peddlers, sailors, merchants or your occasional lighthouse guard. Some of the items, probably some of the early ones, didn't seem to cause any problems, but nobody could be sure. Perhaps they just corrupted their owners in a slower manner.
There are various theories of what might have happened. A popular belief is that Ronald had planned it all from beginning. Others think that the continuing hatred had been too much for his tortured mind; yet another theory is that he didn't really want to harm anyone, and the whole thing was a horrible mistake. Pehaps some other wizard got envoious and corrupted Ronald's gifts.
Whatever Ronald's ulterior motive might have been, there are monsters out there now.
This story came to me one night when I was out walking my dog, and I thought about what kind of explanation there might be for the common fantasy roleplaying game situation, where all kinds of places are infested with monsters.
Where did they come from? Why are there monsters in the sewer system of some large city? Why all those dungeons?
One idea that I had was that if I should use this story in a game, it would be given to the player in fragments; some people would just describe Ronald as some horrible evil wizard, others might offer different theories, some would remember him as a kind man.
It's been a while since I last wrote a story (do I always say that?) and this one may feel like it doesn't have strong, personal feelings in it. I could have spent more time dwelling on the ghastly details (like the blacksmith tearing the poor cook apart), but I felt that this slightly distant treatment is sufficient.