In a wizard’s exhibition, the challenger must construct a comprehensive magical trial to test their opponent’s skill and intelligence in any manner of wizardry. There are no limits to the trial – the opponent’s only goal is to get past whatever the challenger presents. Should the opponent fail or give up, the challenger is crowned the more competent wizard.
Theranus guides you to a circular arena filled with spectators. As you enter the arena, you see a pedestal in the exact center, atop which sits a simple copper mug. Your challenge, as he explains, is to simply retrieve the mug and place it on a similar pedestal at the far end of the arena.
You assume there are many invisible traps between you and your objective. How do you begin to process and organize the information before you?
Dipping into the astral plane, the ground in front of you comes alive with swirling runes and scattered magical energies. Ten feet in front of you is a green ring circling the entire stadium. Every five feet inlaid in the ring are curious symbols in the shape of a snake. You determine this must be a summoning trap of sorts.
You slowly approach. As you do, the ring begins to glow and the symbols fill with a black smoke – a portal capable of pulling any number of creatures into your reality. Acting quickly, you make a series of complex gestures with your hands and say the needed words to form an effective counterspell. Bright golden lines cross the forming portals, creating an impenetrable barrier. With the danger averted, you return to your body and stride through the ring.
You take three steps and can go no further – your legs are held immobile by two snakes coming from portals to your left and right. Hundreds of snakes stream from the portal and crawl up your legs, onto your torso, and slither toward your head. Panic brushes against the fabric of your mind but you push it aside. “Think!” you say to yourself as you feel the weight of the reptiles pushing you to the ground.
You cast Ice Armor upon yourself. The surface temperature of your body plummets as plates of ice envelop your extremities. The cold-blooded snakes stop moving and you tear them away as quickly as your new armor will allow. Freed, you spellsculpt the armor away from your body to cover the portals the snakes originated from. Shaking from the exertion, you tentatively step forward onto the next part of the challenge.
With the portals nullified, you walk up to the pedestal and reach for the cup. Your hand is blocked by a barrier – your touch causes a blue orb of light to appear around the mug. How do you retrieve the mug from its resting place?
You kneel and look closely at the marble structure. It is about three feet tall, ornately constructed with decorative etchings along the exterior. You cast several minor detection spells to see if there are any protections placed upon the pedestal itself. Observing none, you gently place a hand on the cool stone. Nothing happens. You push harder and the heavy pillar barely moves. But in that tiniest movement, you notice that while the pedestal and cup moved, the orb of light stayed perfectly still.
You summon an ethereal blade and with a simple flick of your wrist, direct it squarely into the pedestal’s midsection. It slices cleanly through in a diagonal arc, and the sheared pedestal falls. You catch the cup as it clears the force field, and set your gaze upon the far side of the arena.
Your staff emits a soft glow as you circle the pedestal and guide it around the barrier. You circle once. Twice. Three times. On your fourth pass, you find what you were looking for: a miniscule hole in the field. Most wizards believe a force field to be impenetrable, which is technically true. But your studies have shown that there is always a point where the field doesn’t reach – the origin point where Theranus projected the barrier. The tip of his wand blocked the field from creating a perfect sphere, and offered you the entry point you needed.
The hole is the size of needle point. But shrinking objects is simple for a master wizard. You cast the necessary spells to shrink the mug and levitate to the hole. The tiny goblet falls into your outstretched hand. You enlarge it and proceed to the far end of the arena.
You approach the other pedestal, and the conclusion of your test.
Theranus stands next to the pillar and says, “Congratulations on making it this far, Scarathorn. I should have known my challenge was going to be child’s play to a wizened magic user like you. But I think my last test may best you.”
Theranus disappears. Seconds later, you are surrounded by dozens of Theranus clones. Each appears as real as the next, and they all call out to you.
“Illusion magic is my strong suit. Find the real me without touching or examining any of my brothers here, and you will win our little game. Choose the wrong Theranus, and I win. Choose wisely.”
How do you choose the correct Theranus and win the exhibition?
Eldritch power begins to emanate from your body and coalesces into the point of your staff. The jewel in the tip of the staff grows brighter and brighter, until it burns with the power of a small star. You raise the staff and drive it into the ground. A gigantic shockwave ripples through the dirt in all directions, and the copies of Theranus are thrown into the air and burst into speckles of light as they hit the ground.
A circle of raised earth surrounds you and extends 50 feet from the tip of our staff. At the edge of the circle a disheveled Theranus slowly rises to his feet. “You cheated,” he shouts, “that was against the rules!”
You extend your arm and raise a single finger, stopping him midsentence. “If I recall," you say in a cheerful voice, “your rules stated that I could not touch your doubles and I could not examine them. You said nothing about destroying them. I have successfully found the real Theranus, and have therefore won this challenge. May you have a wonderful day, and pray you never cross my path again.”
With a swish of your cloak you turn, deposit the mug on the final pedestal, and teleport back to your home for a well-earned rest.
You communicate telepathically with the wolf who leaves your side, carefully weaving in and out of the Theranus duplicates. As you watch it hunt, you call out, “Theranus, your constructs are very impressive. They look and sound exactly like you. But I wonder. Do they also smell like you?”
The wolf has stopped in front of one of the duplicates and gives a soft howl. You approach the man and say, “I guess not”.
You tap the man on the bridge of the nose with your staff, and the illusions disappear, leaving you face to face with the real Theranus.
“I believe this concludes our business together, Theranus,” you say, “Be a dear and never contact me again. Come, Ophelia.”
The wolf follows your order and walks with you to the final pedestal. You place the mug in the center and with a swish of your cloak, you and Ophelia are teleported back to your home for a well-earned rest.