Saryn slobbered drunkenly as he pounded the table, sending one of his several empty mugs clattering to the floor. His head swiveled and bobbed, his glassy eyes hard-pressed to keep up with the motion. Even Gax looked up from his game of cards, the puny parchment things that would certainly win him a few copper rounds clutched in his callused, green fingers.
“You’re placing all wagers on the bet safe!” Saryn roared, slurring his words heavily. Even he seemed confused by the ordering of his words, his face scrunching up. “I say, we talk to Gax!”
Gax, knowing the reputation of this tavern-crawling cretin paid him no mind. Soon, Gax was sure, Saryn would flop to the soggy, wooden floor face-first and find himself tossed roughly out into an alley comprised more of piss and shit than stone. Saryn listed lazily to the side and Gax cursed himself for not shouting a wager that the drunkard was slipping into unconsciousness even now.
“Gax! You big pig of a son! Tomorrow, you win the fairest maid contest, I give you a gold hundred!” Saryn raised a full tankard as he belted his final few words. Half of the ale inside sloshed out and landed either on his own head or on the table. Then, he promptly dropped his head to the table and passed out.
A chorus of laughter shook the walls of the Shattered Helm. Gax looked across the room to Darsil’eit, his elf companion, who stared at him menacingly. He understood her glare well enough, but he paid it no mind for he had a fine idea.
Gax surged to his feet, his thighs bumping the table and scattering a few copper rounds and silver ovals. “Any other dog here with balls enough to take that wager?” he boomed.
A pall of silence fell over the tavern, every eye locked on the large orc and the massive battleaxe strapped to his back. The crowd surely mistook his serious tone as anger and a few of them began backing toward the exits.
“But, Gax,” a thin human mewled, “Saryn’s drunker than a man soaked in mead for a week. And he ain’t got but a single gold square to his name! Look at the man! He’s even pissed himself.”
“He does that anyway,” Gax said with a wave of his hand, his tone a bit softer. “I’m speaking straight when I say I’ll take that wager, though. I’ll put up five coppers to every man with the spine to take it.” Dozens of patrons rushed forward at once, ready to pounce on the sure bet. “But,” Gax roared, stopping them dead, “odds are twenty to one.” The wave of inebriated men didn’t need to think twice. They came on again and soon Gax had thirty men who wagered he couldn’t win the contest.
When he did win it, he’d collect on a ransom big enough to keep him drunk and fed for months.
He and Dar left the Smashed Helm shortly after, Gax throwing smiles and obscene gestures at the men who whistled and hooted at him as he left. Well, the pair left more by Dar’s doing, her hand clamped over his pointy ear and tugging painfully hard.
“You big, dumb, idiot!” she seethed once they were a few strides away from the tavern still rocking with boisterous laughter and pounding feet. “We’ll be pulling jobs for weeks just to pay them all off!”
“Dar,” Gax pleaded, his hands held before him to placate her rage, “I have a plan.”
“You always have a plan, you ugly oaf. How’s that worked out for us in the past?” She fixed him with a deadly glare, her arms crossed.
“Edmund,” Gax said simply.
“Edmund, the wizard. He owes us a favor, don’t he?”
Dar was silent for a while, staring at Gax impassively.
“Remember, we saved his chickens from those bandits a month back?”
“I remember!” she snapped. “Fine, I take back what I said about you being dumb.” She turned and began stalking away angrily.
“What about the rest?” Gax asked strolling behind her.
“You’re still plenty big and stupid. Come on.”
In short order they were at Edmund’s home, pounding on his door. The wizened man could be heard cursing grumpily as he picked his way through his house. He flung the door open, a staff emitting a soft white glow clutched in a gnarled hand. “What!” he barked. “Wake a man up this late and he’s likely to blast ye face from yer head!”
“Good evening to you as well, Edmund,” Dar said. “We need that favor called in.”
“To the hells with ye and yer favor. Come back in the morning!” He moved to close the door but Gax’s massive boot found its way between the door and the jamb.
“Raw chicken sure sounds tasty right now,” he growled, smacking his lips.
Edmund glared at him defiantly for a moment before flinging the door open fully again and muttering, “Son of a harpy’s hairy tit!” He waved the two in. “What do ye want?”
The next day, they arrived back at Edmund’s house and he cast the spell upon Gax. A tingling sensation washed over his body, making him clench his legs together lest he relieve himself. He failed to stifle a giggle and Dar looked at him startled. “What?” he asked gruffly, or so he planned. Rather, his voice came out in a smooth and sensual tone, surprising him so much that he took a step back and tried to look down at his mouth.
Dar’s eyes had suddenly dropped to his chest. He looked down as well and found nothing different about him. Before he could say anything, Edmund swung open the door to an armoire, a mirror concealed on the inside of the door. Gax nearly fell flat on his backside as he stared at himself. The form he looked upon was not that of an imposing orc clad in spiked armor carrying a massive axe, but rather an enchantingly beautiful female human with glittering blue eyes and sunshine blond hair woven into an intricate braid. The sky-blue gown he wore was perfectly cut with shimmering jewels embedded throughout and showed off his voluptuous curves, especially those on his chest.
“Now, we just have to get that axe off your back,” Dar said.
Gax tore his eyes away from his reflection after noting how ridiculous it looked to have such a dainty and gorgeous thing wearing an axe larger than her body. “Hold my battleaxe, Edmund,” he said, again his voice surprising him. He leaned the weapon against the wall, then the trio left Edmund’s home and walked to the city square.
Gax ignored the endless stream of whistles and brutish compliments thrown his way as he and his two companions split up to maintain the ruse. He soon found himself pushing through a thin crowd gathering, the men he moved out of his way staring at his stomach in shock as he easily shoved the largest of them aside with far more force than his outward appearance should have allowed.
In short order, he found himself standing on a shoddily erected wooden platform standing next to a dozen other beautiful elf, human, and halfling women. The planks beneath his feet groaned in protest of his weight and he made sure to give the other ladies plenty of room as they moved around him. Gax saw the men he had wagered against standing in a huddled mass, casting their glances about for signs of him. He smirked at them, one of them noticing the stare and smiling back hungrily, which turned Gax’s smile to a frown.
One by one the other ladies were ushered off the stage with a bow and loud applause, the group who had come to see Gax congratulating each other on the easy coin. Then, with a massive applause, Gax won out against the final remaining contestant and was pronounced fairest maiden of Cavia. He tried to curtsy to the crowd, so overjoyed at the coin he’d just won and wound up simply dropping to a knee quickly then popping back up.
The announcer moved to pin a sparkling broach to his chest, discreetly sliding his hand over where he was sure his breasts likely were. The announcer looked surprised at the firmness as he actually pressed against Gax’s stomach. Gax stifled a cry as the needle poked his skin, but it wasn’t long before he found Edmund and Dar in the crowd and waved at them.
Suddenly, the illusion vanished. Gax could tell this by the shocked reactions from the crowd. They lurched away as one, crying out in alarm. Gax beamed at the group of men standing in the crowd, ignoring the trickle of blood running down his stomach.
The announcer suddenly snatched the broach back, a twinge of pain biting his stomach as the needle left his body. “No magic!” he snarled, snatching a flyer from his back pocket and shoving it up toward Gax’s face. In large, plain, block letters at the bottom of the parchment read, “No magic permitted”.
“You do not win!” the announcer spat.
Gax looked helplessly at Dar then to Edmund, the latter lifting his shoulders and titling his head with a wry smile. He then looked to the mob of men to whom he now owed a handsome sum and stammered, “Wasn’t in the rules of our wager. I… I still won it. We never said no magic…” But the group broke apart and slid through the crowd toward Gax frowning and answering his pleas with shaking heads.
Gax backed away, cursing his luck, and his idiocy, then turned and bolted down the rickety stairs, shattering two of them and nearly pitching forward. He continued to run on, a mob of drunkards in tow hollering obscenities and threats at him if he didn’t pay up. He would have to, he knew, but they’d have to wait a few weeks or more. Besides, a trip out of town might do him and Dar some good.