My duel with Broidem the Needle Knight in the town of Bleb was hardly the beginning of my journeys, but I find it a good place to start when talking about them. I had only recently arrived at the town of Bleb, and I was just walking towards the outskirts where I could begin to see the Bubble Buildings when a local Blebian rushed up to me, panting.
His face, reddened by exhaustion, went well with his blue and purple robes, so when he caught his breath and calmed down he became disappointingly less colorful. I really do like seeing lots of colors, one of the reasons I'd decided to head to Bleb, but I decided it would be rather rude to complain about him not being red anymore, especially since I did not even know him yet.
"Excuse me!" he gasped, still not quite fully recovered. Either he had spotted me a long way off and run from there, or he was just in bad shape. "Pardon me for this question, but by your exceedingly ridiculous hat, not to mention the mask, can I assume that you are a wizard?"
I nodded, the tip of my hat swaying a little with the motion.
His face brightened, though not enough to break the worry lines strung across it like a suspension bridge of concern. "We- we have need of a wizard, in Bleb, that is. Not a permanent appointment, we're not looking for a town wizard- not that we wouldn't want one!" he added the last quickly, his tone nervous, evidently having heard some of the more distressing (and only half exaggerated) stories about wizards. "We just have a problem that we're ill-equipped to deal with ourselves, being simply makers of luxurious potions and not talented with more- more, ah, defensive, er, martial abilities."
That last bit really got my attention. Oh dear. I really did not like getting into fights, but I was still intrigued, and it did not do to immediately refuse aid to a town I was about to visit. So I gave him another little nod and started walking towards the town at a pace he could easily keep up with.
The town of Bleb is situated directly above Lake Naulroc. As in, it actually floats above the surface of the water, due to the unique nature of Bleb's primary craft. The people of Bleb are masters of exotic perfumes, oils, and especially soaps and shampoos. They have a particular knack for making things with lots of bubbles, and their supernatural skill with bubbles has actually led to them building their town partially out of them, with buildings situated on top of clouds of the things or with rooms that are gigantic bubbles themselves, which you can exit and enter simply by walking into the walls at a slow but steady pace. Lake Naulroc itself is used as their primary mixing bowl for making these bubbles, and as such the lake has taken on some odd qualities, including semisentient waves and very interesting varieties of fish.
When we arrived on the shores, which grew thick with all kinds of fantastic herbs and flowers that were used in their concoctions (part of why they built over the lake rather than on the shore), I immediately registered that something was amiss. The overall atmosphere was tense, the Blebians that I saw were chattering excitedly amongst each other in worried tones, and a few buildings were floating half-submerged in the shimmering rainbow waters of the lake, their bubbles having been popped. A few looked at me with guarded expressions as my escort led me onto one of the bridge-docks that led onto the town's floating planked bubblepaths.
He led me into a grand building of twisting tubes and bulbous protrusions that looked like an hourglass trying to keep track of every train schedule on the planet, which I could only assume was city hall. My assumption turned out to be correct as I was led to the Lord Mixer Mayor, who was almost hidden in his rainbow robes as he stared down into a bowl full of swirling orange and blue patterns which I sensed had a most powerful aroma. He muttered to himself, taking the occasional long sniff before exhaling it in another spout of mutters.
My escort coughed, and the Mayor looked up and peered at me from a perspiring face. "Hmph? Hello! Is this a wizard you've got there, Bastiel?"
The man evidently named Bastiel nodded hurriedly. "Yesyerhonorsir! Saw him coming down from the Plain Plains and so I went up to meet him- er, are you a, uh, a he, sir?" he looked at me quizzically, trying to see past my "mask" and robes which obfuscated attempts at gender identification. I simply nodded again. I don't like speaking all that much, and it adds to the mystique anyway to not do so.
Bastiel recovered quickly and started talking excitedly again. "Yes! Him! Saw him, went up to meet him, and told him, hello sir, we could really use a wizard and all! So I brought him round here so you could explain the situation to him and all." He sought for more to say, found nothing, and simply stood there, fidgeting.
The mayor nodded at Bastiel. "Right. Good. You may go, Bastiel." The man looked exceedingly relieved and hurried off, stealing one back glance at me before moving out of view. The mayor peered at me now, occasionally stealing glances at his bowl full of oils.
"A wizard, eh? Honestly, a wizard isn't what we're specifically looking for, but anyone who can put up a good scrap- wizard, warrior, wildcat, wanderer, wonder- anything that begins with W, really. Well, not wastrel. Or worm. Or wallower- okay, so not everything that begins with W."
"What I am saying," he continued, rebuilding the rails of his train of thought. "Is that we of Bleb are not a particularly warlike people. The most we can really do is make somebody's eyes sting with our shampoos, and even then we're making a lot of 'No-tears' mixtures these days. We usually don't have to be, anyway, people are mostly content to just import our stuff and occasionally visit to buy any particular concoction they want that their homeland doesn't import. But recently we have been being harassed by the terrible-"
There was a sudden commotion outside, several popping noises and a great splash, and the mayor's face fell. "That's him right now." he said, moving to the side of the room and opening a curtain. "The Needle Knight."
Outside, a gleaming figure was leaping between the bubble buildings, shoving people aside and wrecking stands of expensive bottles. He was dressed from head to toe in bright silvery armor, and everything on him came to a point. Starting from his sabatons on his feet, to fingers of his gauntlets, to the tip of his helmet, nothing on his armor rounded off but instead always elongated off into a point. At his side was an exceedingly thin rapier with a hole at the lower end of its grip, and I could immediately see the problem with his presence in Bleb, even if he weren't actively trying to do it harm.
"He just comes in here and starts wrecking things!" wailed the mayor, as the Knight proceeded to do just that. "We don't know why, and we don't know how to get rid of him. He destroys more and more every day. Will you-"
Before the mayor could finish, I was already out the door and quickly striding towards the Knight. Just as he aimed a pointed armored finger at a shop wall, I waved my hand and he found himself jarred as his strike met a solid stone plate rather than the soapy surface he'd been expecting. He whirled to face me as he shook his hand, and the eyes in his visor narrowed.
"A wizard?" he said, in a nasal, buzzing voice that reminded me of an insect. "Huh. Well, I suppose it would make sense that as prosperous a people as the Blebians would hire on some help. However..."
He drew his rapier, pointing its gleamingly sharp tip at me. "I am Broidem the Needle Knight, and I have pricked three wizards with this blade and never been dulled in turn. After I do the same with you this town will fall and be all ready for wrapping up."
I was about to inquire as to who had sent him when he attacked, and I had to throw up another Phantasmal Platter to block him. This time he was ready, however, and he had enough force to shatter right through it just as I got out of the way. I sent a quick Frying Saucer at him as a distraction, the spinning disc of flame spattered across his armor but only slowed him as I retreated up a set of bobbing steps. Going into a quick crouch I leapt from the planks onto another bubblepath, the walkway sinking under my weight, and before being able to stabilize it sank dangerously low as the Knight landed upon it.
"Your spells are pathetic." he bellowed, rushing me with his needle blade. "You weren't even a challenge." The sword struck home, right into my chest.
To say he was surprised when it bounced off would be an understatement. He stared at his slightly bent sword and, in a confused voice, said: "Wizards don't wear armor."
"You haven't fought nearly enough wizards." I said. "And you would already be toast if it wasn't for me not wanting to damage the town any more than you already have." I reached out a hand and grabbed him by his arm while he was too stunned to avoid me. "So I'm going to deal with you this way."
With that, I threw him into the lake, where he immediately sank to the bottom.
Not too deep. I don't like killing. But deep enough that he and his spirits were thoroughly dampened when he emerged on the shore, sputtering and with water draining out of his armor in little spouts. He turned to look at me with murder in his visor, and back up onto the bubblepaths he ran, yelling "You think this will stop me? I'll bring this whole town around your ears!" before slipping and falling.
He stood up, shook his head in confusion, and glared at a nearby bubble building. He thrust his sword towards it and pierced the shimmering surface.
He stopped, looked at his sword, and stabbed again. The bubble remained unmolested. Then he peered at the surface of his sword and his armor, and realized he was covered in the strange soapy water of Lake Naulroc. He gingerly took another step and found his feet didn't want to find traction, and back into the lake he went.
When he came out the other side again, he tried to shake himself but the oily sheen was too stubborn, tried to wipe at himself but metal isn't exactly great for that, and even ended up trying to roll around in the foliage around the lake, but only succeeded in covering himself with leaves and petals, making himself extremely unintimidating. Looking like a combination of an oil slick and a flower garden, he could only stand there and fume at me and the entirety of Bleb, and finally he turned around and stomped away like a petulant child.
As I dusted my hands off and readjusted my robes, the mayor and Bastiel came up to me, looking exceedingly pleased.
"Thank- thank you, sir, uh, mister, uh, wizard!" said Bastiel, nervousness slightly eased by an expression of sheer relief. The mayor held out his hand to shake mine, and I looked down at it for a few moments. He discreetly retracted his hand, deciding the ways of wizards are inscrutable rather than bring attention to my impoliteness. He coughed, and moved on: "Hrm, yes, thank you, mister..."
I decided he might as well know my name. "Delph." I carefully modulated my voice in hopes its tone wouldn't give away what else I was.
"Delph." the mayor repeated. "Well, it'll be awhile before he reaches any area he can wash that stuff off in, and we're certainly not giving him any of the water purifiers we use to make it any easier. By the time he comes back, if he comes back, we'll have hired on some decent defense for the place. But for now, we'd like to repay you. What we have to offer is, well, obvious given our reputation. Is there anything of ours you could particularly want?"
I thought over this. What in the world could I use from here?
"Got any kinds of polish?"
They blinked at this request, but they procured some bottles of the most excellent polish they could find and gave them to me with all the grandeur they could muster. On second thought, I also took a small bottle of perfume as a gift for when I finally found Her, and I slipped them into my kcomasack (like a knapsack, only more so), nodded my goodbyes, and continued on my way. For all I knew, I still had a long ways to go.