Iconic Encounter: Puzzle Box

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Pathfinder scholars are already familiar with Ezren, the iconic wizard, but even old dogs occasionally show off new tricks! Enjoy the following piece of short fiction from James L. Sutter in the next entry into our series of Iconic Encounters—brief vignettes of the iconic characters showcasing the myriad stories you can tell with Pathfinder Second Edition.

Illustration by Matteo Spirito

Tomes older than half the nations of the Inner Sea haphazardly crammed the shelves, or else leaned in stacks that had teetered on the brink of collapse since the days of Aroden. Ezren closed his eyes and inhaled, taking in the bone-dry bouquet of ancient pages slowly losing their battle with entropy, the scholarly tang of acetic acid. Truly, there was nothing so marvelous as a library.

"Getting a little hot out here, Ez!"

Valeros's shout cut through the perfect moment. Ezren opened his eyes in irritation, but it was true—already the temperature in the vault was rising. Outside, the crackle of flames rose alongside the hellhounds' baying, answered by the signature whoosh of Seoni's magic. Always the same spells, sorcerers. After this long traveling together, he could find her on a battlefield by sound alone.

He sighed. A shame that such an ancient repository of knowledge would be ashes by morning. But such was the fate of all things eventually.

Seating himself cross-legged among the treatises of scholars long since turned to dust, he pulled the puzzle box from his satchel. Runes glowed back at him mockingly. They'd burned to life beneath his magically altered vision, but steadfastly refused to reveal their meaning no matter which linguistic magics he'd attempted.

Very well, then—time to get creative. He applied Kazmiri's Cryptographic Theorem, twisting the wheels in quick, precise turns. Lomal's Revealing Incantations traced the box's edges in cerulean fire, yet failed to penetrate. Perhaps the Inquiring Sigil, combined with the Lockbreaker's Progressions...

"Ezren!" Valeros's voice rose, hitting the octave of a man at least partially on fire.

No. None of the old standbys. That was the problem with classics—if you knew them, so did everyone else.

That was what the arrogant elitists of the Arcanamirium and the pampered dandies at the College of Mysteries never understood. It didn't matter how many old spells you knew—wizardry wasn't butterfly collecting. They could memorize as many spells as they wanted, performing tricks for each other in their ivory towers, and still be no better than a sorcerer, trading instinct for rote.

Learning spells was supposed to be a springboard for one's own experimentation. Magic was an art and a science—both creative pursuit and process of discovery. That was what Ezren's studies on the road had taught him. In the real world, your magic had to be flexible. You needed to be able to calibrate, to channel more magic into a spell, to stretch or quicken it, to—

Adapt.

Of course! Ezren abandoned all the incantations except Lomal's and tried again, inverting the third and fifth gestures. This time, however, he infused it with a thrill of ice magic, a tendril of frost that curled inside the words and crystallized. Suddenly the magic sank inward, the box's inner workings revealed like a three-dimensional schematic as the spell traced them in Ezren's penetrating sight. With the secrets revealed, it was a simple matter to break the enchantment and align the runes in the proper order, cracking the box open to reveal...

Treasure. A glittering mass of gems, no doubt the ransom of some forgotten noble.

How disappointing. Ezren sagged backward, the box suddenly heavy in his hands. After all his research, all the team's work to fight their way into these final chambers, he'd really thought—

A voice boomed out from behind him. "WHO SUMMONS ME?"

Ezren froze. Slowly, he turned, doing his best to hide a triumphant grin.

"Greetings, Excellency." He bowed, gesturing with the glowing box. "This won't take long. Just a few questions..."

If you liked this week's Iconic Encounter, you won't want to miss next week's exciting entry. Until then, Pathfinders, study hard!

Mark Moreland
Franchise Manager

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Tags: Ezren Iconic Encounters Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Second Edition Wizard
Grand Lodge

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Yay fiction!


5 people marked this as a favorite.

Who else read the final line in Doug Bradley's Pinhead voice? ;)


3 people marked this as a favorite.

Fabulous story! I loved all aspects of it. Keep up the good work!


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Card Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

That was fantastic.

Suddenly I want to play a wizard.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

If wizards in PF2 have adaptive magic as a possible path...that would be so awesome!


3 people marked this as a favorite.

"We have such sights to show you."


7 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

"Truly, there was nothing so marvelous as a library."

I'm with you there, Ezren.


13 people marked this as a favorite.
Quote:
"Ezren!" Valeros's voice rose, hitting the octave of a man at least partially on fire.

Bravo.

Silver Crusade

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Yussssssss, give us more of the good stuff.


10 people marked this as a favorite.

Sigh, "Kazmiri's Cryptographic Theorem." I am not surprised that those pampered dandies at the College of Mysteries misuse technical terminology.

Cryptographic - related to using secret codes and ciphers.
Cryptologic - related to the study of secret codes and ciphers.
Cryptanalytic - related to breaking secret codes and ciphers.

I could forgive Kazmiri naming his spell a "cryptologic theorem," since cryptology is the general term. But the correct name for a deciphering spell would be "cryptanalytic."

And don't make me explain the difference between a code and a cipher. I will give examples and homework.

As for Lomal's Revealing Incantations, yes, that is the proper first step. Look at the puzzle. Eyeball the data, we used to say.

Dr. Erin Schram, retired NSA cryptanalyst

Silver Crusade

12 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

I wonder if Kazmiri was a Bard instead of a Wizard who named it that specifically to annoy them.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Very nice piece, and inspirational. Well done!

Contributor

9 people marked this as a favorite.

Thanks, everyone! I love getting to write the iconics when they're talking smack, and it seemed like Ezren would probably have a lot of hot takes about other spellcasters, especially given his backstory. :)


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Gwaihir Scout wrote:
Quote:
"Ezren!" Valeros's voice rose, hitting the octave of a man at least partially on fire.
Bravo.

Logged in to say this...


1 person marked this as a favorite.

A great piece of short fiction James. Paced incredibly, and adroitly given the format. And enough tantalising snippets to engender lots of inspiration and questions. Glad Ezren got some reward out of the box after all...

And yes, loved the asides about Seoni's spells and the exact timbre of flaming warrior-calls...


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Uh oh. Who or what did he end up summoning?


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
UnArcaneElection wrote:

Uh oh. Who or what did he end up summoning?

Exactly the creature he wanted to summon, I'd guess from his reaction. :3


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Well, hopefully he wasn't raising a little hell...


8 people marked this as a favorite.
Mathmuse wrote:

Sigh, "Kazmiri's Cryptographic Theorem." I am not surprised that those pampered dandies at the College of Mysteries misuse technical terminology.

Cryptographic - related to using secret codes and ciphers.
Cryptologic - related to the study of secret codes and ciphers.
Cryptanalytic - related to breaking secret codes and ciphers.

I could forgive Kazmiri naming his spell a "cryptologic theorem," since cryptology is the general term. But the correct name for a deciphering spell would be "cryptanalytic."

And don't make me explain the difference between a code and a cipher. I will give examples and homework.

As for Lomal's Revealing Incantations, yes, that is the proper first step. Look at the puzzle. Eyeball the data, we used to say.

Dr. Erin Schram, retired NSA cryptanalyst

I love Paizo forums: come for the gaming, stay for the erudition!

Although in general, I'm inclined to go easy on grammatical and linguistic issues: not everyone who posts here has English as a first language.

...after all, quite a lot of them are Americans.

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