Morden sat frozen, afraid to look, afraid to look away. The scene before him defied description yet his mind churned to make sense of what bred none.
The beast was huge, as tall as a hay barn and wide as a team of horses was long. It was little more than a face, embossed into an oozing, fleshy pustule. Lips the shape of two stacked log chains sneered, showing four rows of jagged, yellowed teeth. Six eyes, all peering in different directions, spinning as if searching for something not yet realized, pocked the upper reach of the horror in a random fashion. From its skull came expulsions of a mud brown goo, flung this way and that, until even its own razor sharp tongue dripped with fetid slime.
And there before the fiend was his aunt, sweet Desiree’, staring at the thing, muttering, and sweating as if she’d soon liquefy and evaporate. The boy leaned into Bragi for a moment, trying to keep some equilibrium, and then fell away to his knees, where he retched.
“Don’t do that boy, you’ll ruin my appetite” Bragi said softly; “rather you might pay attention as one day you may find the need to call the creature yourself.”
Morden stopped a moment, considered what the bard had told him, and vomited again. Once his inner workings has ceased their convulsions, he wiped his face and rose, quickly shifting his gaze from the ground to Bragi’s face so as to miss the horror between.
“What is it M’lord” he asked; “and why is auntie Des so close to it?”
“No worries boy” he answered, “it won’t eat her if that’s your vision. It’s a Hyperbole lad, a construct of her own making, and she’s attempting to tame it so as to force it into service as it were.”
Morden was dumbstruck. “My aunt calls demons? I thought she was a wizard not a witch!”
Bragi laughed. “I thought I’d had my fill of the young” he chortled, “but damn and damn if they aren’t entertaining. It’s no demon young sir! Demons and the like are sentient, or at least they would like you to think so. A hyperbole has the brain of a giant pile of horse apples, and the smell of the same, presuming one is trained to sniff them out. Now you’ll notice she is giving all her concentration to her task, as to give a hyperbole space to feel itself free, well then one will have crossed the line; it would grow so large, people in the next county would see it, and then things may spiral out of control. If one does not keep tight leash on a hyperbole, it may terrorize the entire world before it’s done; or worse!”
“But, what could possibly be worse?”
“The thing might enter and mingle with the spirit of the conjurer themselves, becoming one with the poor sod. Thereafter, all the magician would be able to think about, speak of, and appear in the name of, would be the hyperbole that they themselves created!”
“Dastardly!” the boy shouted.
“Again lad, don’t fear for your aunt. She has her own sharp tongue, she can whip her monster sufficiently to keep it in its place.
The young wizard was not moved to comfort, but rather still quaked in his pointy toed shoes.
“But” he stammered, “why in Amoria’s name would anyone raise a hyperbole deliberately? It seems… monstrous!”
“Aye, it is that lad, monstrous indeed. Why most bring them to life is a mystery that scholars much more learned than I have pondered for centuries. Some believe that for a few, life as it is seems so maudlin and dull, they can’t help but want to add spice to the stew. So they conjure as large and hideous a hyperbole as they have the power to create, and then let it loose on the populace who might worship it, or perhaps become so frightened of its portents they worry themselves, even unto death! These black magicians hope to see themselves recognized as the ‘spinners’ one day, long after it would matter to the victims of their invention, so as to become famous and possibly rich for having been so clever.”
Morden shook his head. “They are a cruel lot” he surmised; “why, an executioner has more compassion!”
“True lad, true. But then others delve into the Hyperbolic Arts for a purpose; to make the whole world think and act as they do!”
“I can see if one were able to make a hyperbole with the right blend of believability and intimidation” Morden postulated, “one might sway even those commonly indifferent into their corral.”
Bragi was impressed. “Go on boy, your studies have been fruitful I see. What then?”
“Then,” Morden paused more for effect as he’d already thought out his conclusion; “if one were to continue the creation of more and more hyperboles, say of similar stature and repulsive qualities, those turned would become more and more fervent, prone to doing nearly anything the conjurer desired!”
The old coot applauded young Morden’s deduction. He was maturing quickly; Desiree would need to keep a tight rein on this one. “Correct boy! You win the prize! Now, we should see about lunch, I’m famished!”
Morden squealed a bit at his mentor’s exuberance. He too was starving, now that his breakfast had been spent. But as they turned to go, another question stopped the boy from moving another step.
“But Bragi” he asked, “which of those two would describe my aunt? I can neither see her trying to rule the world, no have I ever known her to be a prankster!”
“Well truly” Bragi said as he put his arm around his student, “Desiree’ has her own unique purpose for raising a hideous monster to hang over her head this day.” He leaned down to whisper into the boy’s ear, lest he be heard by the woman nearly a half mile westward. “It’s her time of the month lad” he said; “and she’s not in the mood to suffer the pleasantries of passersby, so she makes sure they have reason to not cross her path.”
Morden nodded. “We call it ‘the new moon howling’ at school” he said. “I don’t really understand it, but I have been scarred by its effects, so I try and avoid it whenever I can.”
“Smart boy” Bragi said as he patted the wizard in training on his head. “Now, I think Aishen has a lovely arugula and rhetoric salad with prop and gandize dressing waiting for us. I know you’re going to like it as she only uses the freshest ingredients! Race you to camp!”
As they ran up the small hill, Bragi played a light tune on his penny whistle and the north wind picked him off his feet and carried him to the camp well ahead of Morden. Bragi had cheated of course, but that’s what curmudgeons do.