Building a Better Mouse Trap

There is a common misconception in life that the most frustrating thing is an adventurer trying to get past a cunningly diabolical trap designed to do them unspeakable harm. This might be true from the adventurer’s point of view to be sure, but it isn’t accurate. It is far more frustrating to be the person that spent untold days or weeks devising said trap only to have some lucky bastard find a way to get around it. This is the kind of thing that causes anybody with a leaning towards evildoing to go right over the edge and engage in wholesale tantrum-induced slaughter. And if said villain is already at this level of angry lashing out then you can be certain that everything is about to get unimaginably worse.

This was how things were unfolding for Callidus Magna and a handful of his most trusted henchmen. The Supreme Pontiff of the Holy Imperium Church had long employed the ancient weaponized enchantment of the legendary “mirror trap” to accomplish his goals. It had almost always worked, most of the time it did so flawlessly. There were the odd occasions when it wouldn’t function precisely as planned and yet it nearly always crippled his opponents enough that they would think twice before crossing him again. It had been with terrible glee that Callidus Magna had instructed the Green King to build the ultimate mirror trap in the bedchamber of the stricken Count of Gravensteen. Anyone coming to his aid would have to step into the room and then the trap would be sprung. Callidus Magna had set one of his newer minions, Archbishop Abattoir, to monitor this trap and alert him of any trespassers.

The scarlet-robed henchman in the alabaster mask did this task well. Callidus Magna couldn’t blame the failure of the trap on anything that Archbishop Abattoir did or didn’t do. Instead, the blame fell squarely on how Callidus Magna underestimated his prey. Upon seeing the mirrors that lined every wall of the count’s bedchamber the Troublemakers decided unanimously to find a way to not enter the room at all. One of them, a curiously clever cleric who went by the name Brother Zach, brought out a rope with a grappling hook. This was used to catch one of the legs of the bed, and together the three strongest men among the Troublemakers pulled the bed right off the wall it was anchored to, and slowly but surely pulled the entire bed across the room to the open door.

Having been summoned when the Troublemakers first opened the door to this chamber, Callidus Magna watched from the void behind the mirrors at the activities of these determined and innovative adventurers. His anger grew with each passing minute as it became readily apparent that none of them were going to be foolish enough to step into his snare. “Are you kidding me?” he bellowed out to nobody in particular. “How can they be this smart now when all they have done leading up to this has been sheer stupidity? Their lunacy makes it impossible to predict their next move with any degree of accuracy!”

Archbishop Abattoir nodded his head silently, the mask hiding whatever emotions he might be displaying. Behind this scarlet-robed figure stood Penderghast, the terrifying undead servant of the Supreme Pontiff. It was he who offered the following insight: “Perhaps your Grace should speak with the Green King to see what he might recommend. He has had more occasion to study these mortals than any other in your divine service.”

Callidus Magna waved his spectral hand dismissively. “No. I have him assigned elsewhere to a more important task. Fetch me the Patriarch of Fate, his revelations will have to suffice. Archbishop Abattoir, resume your previously ordained task. This has been a dismal failure and I no longer wish to observe that which angers me so!”

Almost on cue the mirrors shattered and just like that the void was left without a fine panoramic view of the Count of Gravensteen’s bedchamber. With a sigh of disgusted hostility Callidus Magna reappeared in the form he used publicly in the Divine Hall of the Supreme Pontiff and Imperator. The physical form he had left here continued to go through the motions as if nothing had transpired and his noncorporeal form hadn’t been traipsing about the void peeking through mirrors. Penderghast rushed off to locate the Patriarch of Fate, and the gathered courtiers in the Divine Hall continued fawning over the perfect insights and edicts being given by their all-powerful master.

Summoned by his lord the Patriarch of Fate wasted not a moment in teleporting directly to the magnificent doors leading into the Divine Hall. Bowing low and displaying the greatest humility as he entered the hall, the Patriarch of Fate said almost prayerfully, “Oh divine and glorious Imperator, Father of our Church and ascending god of all that is known, how may your simple servant be of service to you?”

The form of Callidus Magna smiled broadly as the priestly lich came forward in this manner. This was precisely the public display of servitude he wanted from his worshippers. “Patriarch of Fate, diviner of mysteries and holder of secrets, I have a task for you.”

The priestly lich stood before his lord holding his staff. With his other hand on his chest he said, “What is it that your heart desires of me, great and compassionate Pontiff?”

Callidus leaned forward on his throne and said, “Turn your attention upon the group known as the Troublemakers. These mortal pests that have so often upset my designs in Central Partum are becoming more of a nuisance than I should want. Before they find a way to upset my plans further than they already have, I wish for you to find a way to ensnare them and remind them who it is that they meddle with.”

The Patriarch of Fate nodded his head and said, “I have been scrying already, my liege. They have a number of special events coming up, any one of which would make for an ideal ambush. Soon there will be a wedding, and one of them has a wife with infant children which would make for irresistible bait. Leave it to me, master. I shall concoct the most destructive act of revenge that I can!”

Callidus Magna grinned approvingly and was sitting back in his throne when there was a sudden commotion at the door leading into the Divine Hall. The undead guards on duty there were tossed into the hall like so many broken toys, and courtiers recoiled from the doorway as if something more fearsome than even the Supreme Pontiff had happened along. In through the doorway strode a tall, gaunt form that seemed to have the hindlegs and head of a great brown and black goat, with long, shiny black horns that gleamed in the light. His torso appeared leathery with the skin pulled tightly across his bones. Black hair sprang from his spine almost as if they were porcupine quills. His hands were long and muscular, and his bony fingers ended in jet-black talons like those of a vulture. There was a collective gasp from all in the room, including Callidus Magna.

Glancing at the Patriarch of Fate as he marched into the room, the giant goatlike figure pointed a taloned finger at the lich and then waggled it as if they were a nanny chastising a wayward child. In a roaring voice that sounded like a nightmarish whisper from the very depths of hell itself, the mysterious intruder said to the Patriarch of Fate “You’re going to want to rethink that plan.” Looking at Callidus Magna the goatlike creature said in a darkly threatening manner, “And you. You have more important things to do than continue this escalation of jackassery. Or do you need to be reminded of that?”

Silence filled the Divine Hall of the Supreme Pontiff of the Holy Imperium Church and the Imperator of the Fourth Imperium.