I wrote this back in December of 2017. I'll include some of the original author's notes below. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy!
This was like, the first Adventure Zone fanfic I had an idea for, that I wanted to write. Obviously it didn't end up being the first that I wrote. But I really wanted to write this, I was really inspired by the goof and I really wanted to write something for it. It really kickstarted me into wanting to write for the first time in awhile. And listen, everything the boys say is canon so it had to be done anyway, someone else probably already did it, but I wanted to do it in the way I envisioned it anyway, so here we are! Thank you Adventure Zone for my life. As usual, I have probably once again butchered the rules of Dungeons and Dragons to hell and back here, but once again, that feels pretty in the spirit of The Adventure Zone anyway, so I'm not overly concerned about it. Hope it's not a problem for anyone!
I hope you all enjoyed, anyway! Thanks for reading, or even just looking!
As Magnus approached Taako, with Merle having only gone into the parlay room a few minutes prior, he couldn't help but feel a bit nervous.
Magnus wasn't the type to feel nervous about many things. Especially not around the IPRE crew. Especially not around his friends. Though, hell, they'd been travelling around together for over thirty years now, they were family now. Magnus always tackled his problems (sometimes literally) head-on: act first and think later. But he'd been thinking about this for awhile, at least a couple of cycles. Now that he was finally going to ask, it felt weird, bad. Not because he was going to talk to Taako. It was because he just didn't know enough about what was going on in his mind. He didn't want Taako, or any of the IPRE crew for that matter, to think he was stupid.
(Or at least, stupider than they might already think he is. He was, after all, the team fighter, the only one who couldn't use magic. People's opinions of him usually didn't bother him, but he didn't want to actively make those opinions worse.)
Nervous as he was, there was no way that backing down was an option. Magnus was definitely going to approach Taako, no question. Magnus was going to rush in. This time it may have just taken an extra minute or two before he got there, but he pushed down these rare feelings and ran up to Taako before Taako could get away.
"Hey, Taako!" Magnus called out. Taako turned to look at him, eyebrow raised as Magnus shortened the distance between them. "Do you have any plans for this cycle?"
"Nope. Nada, my man," Taako confirmed. "I don't think anyone does, other than the obvious." He nodded at Merle's smoky outline, tucked away in a corner. "Someone needs to look for the Light, and the cap'll probably have a nervous breakdown if someone doesn't stay with the ship. But everything's fair game. Why? You got something in mind, big fella?"
Who did what often depended on what type of world they were in, the situation, and if anyone had a specific goal they wanted to accomplish. Lup and Barry were usually the two most likely to go looking for the Light, and Lucretia and Captain Davenport were usually the two most likely to stay with the ship. But exceptions happened frequently. Merle, of course, was spending most cycles either in parlay or in death these days, so he couldn't be counted. There was the one cycle where Captain Davenport retrieved the Light from a group who respected authority above all else, another cycle where the Light had landed somewhere that magic, for whatever reason, didn't work, and Magnus had gone on a solo mission to retrieve it. The list went on. Usually before anyone went off and did anything they would all discuss their plans for the cycle together. At the moment, though, it seemed they hadn't gotten that far yet.
"Uh, yeah, actually," Magnus replied. "How do you feel about staying at the ship, at least for part of the cycle? I was hoping I could ask for a favor."
"Oh?" Taako's eyebrows raised even farther. "What kind of favor? Gotta make sure Taako's going to get something out of it, too."
Magnus raised a hand to rub the back of his neck. "I was wondering if there was any way you could teach me how to do magic? Even like, a simple spell would be cool? It's totally fine if you say no, though."
He...really had no idea about magic or how it worked at all. After spending thirty years living with a team consisting of entirely magic users, other than him, he was kind of surprised, actually. Magnus had been fascinated by magic his whole life, for as long as he could remember. Magic was cool and fun and interesting and so useful. It could be used in so many different ways in so many different situations. And then there was him, either punching and kicking his way through or utilizing his rustic hospitality to get what he needed. He was a bit of a two trick pony. Even then, his rustic hospitality wasn't super great these days, he needed to work on that.
Could fighters like him even use magic? Multiclassing wasn't unheard of, he knew that, but to this extent? Was it possible for him to learn? Would he even be able to cast spells with a decent amount of skill? These were tough questions for Magnus Burnsides. He had half a mind to think it was just impossible. He was mostly expecting Taako to just laugh him off.
He wasn't expecting the grin that had just appeared on Taako's face.
"Holy shit. This is perfect, actually. Fucking perfect," Taako mumbled. He shot finger guns at Magnus, his voice returning to a normal volume. "No worries, my dude. Ya boy's got you covered. By the time this cycle's over, you're gonna be a regular pro. As long as you don't mind owing me a favor for this. Two, technically, but you're going to love the second one. That one doesn't count."
"Really? Yeah, that's fine! Great!" Magnus smiled back at Taako. "Cool! I'm good for the lesson whenever you are, then."
"Oh, honey." Taako reached up to pat Magnus' shoulder gently. "There's going to be way more than one lesson for this."
("Hell yeah!" Lup shouted when Taako told her what was up later. "Burnsides is joining Team Magic! I'm definitely joining in on this later." Later, after she and Lucretia found and retrieved the Light. They couldn't know at the time, but as far as the Light was concerned, this cycle would unfortunately be a close call.)
Magnus could barely believe it. He was going to learn how to use magic.
"Alright, here's where we're at," Taako announced, hands leaning against the table in front of them.
It was just Taako and Magnus left on the Starblaster. Lup and Lucretia were retrieving the Light of Creation. Barry was off on some hunt for knowledge, hoping to learn some information about this plane, or anything new, really. Captain Davenport was doing some investigating (he hadn't been super specific on that one). Merle was...well, Merle. A couple of days had passed. Magnus busied himself with doing some ship maintenance while Taako had planned and prepared for the first magic lesson. Now, today, was the day. The first magic lesson was happening.
"You, Magnus Burnsides, are a fighter. You'll be multiclassing as a wizard starting this cycle, but fighter is your best class, and will probably continue to be for a long time," Taako went on. "Fighters fight using brute strength and weapons. You have your axe."
"That's right." Magnus gave his axe, sitting leaned up against the chair he was sitting in, an affection pet. Like it was a dog or something. Next thing Taako knew Magnus was going to start naming his weapons.
"However, sad as it may be, inevitably you will find yourself in a fight where you don't have your axe," Taako continued. "Or any weapon, for that matter. And then you will be defenseless, and that'll be dangerous. You won't like that."
"Absolutely," Magnus agreed. "That sounds like it will suck. A lot."
"I'm glad you agree." Taako smiled. "Keeping that scenario in mind, let me ask you this. When that happens, wouldn't it be nice if you could just make a weapon appear in your hands? To not be defenseless even when you're weaponless?"
"Nice? That'd be amazing!" Magnus leaned forward, excitement dancing in his eyes. "If I could just like, summon my axe from anywhere! I could leave my axe in my room and then just summon it while I'm in the bathroom!"
"Gross, but okay." Taako shook his head. "What I have in mind isn't so much...summoning weapons to yourself. Maybe in the future, but that's a bit more difficult than what I'm thinking. What if, rather than summoning your weapon when you need it, you could just...conjure a weapon? Make one appear where there was nothing before?"
"Whoa! That's cool too," Magnus said. "If that one's easier, let's start with that one."
Taako laughed. "Looks like we're on the same page, then! We'll do the best we can. I specialize in transmutation, and Lup's all about evocation, but we've picked up some conjuration spells here and there. We'll make it work. The crew's been sorely lacking a conjuration specialist, and we'll probably need one."
This had to be the best scenario. Not only did Taako seem to think that Magnus learning to use magic was possible, but Magnus was going to learn spells that would compliment the skills and abilities he already had. This was absolutely amazing.
"But before we get to conjuring weapons, I'm going to start cashing in my second favor. Though, like I said," Taako smirked. "I think you're going to like this one. I'm going to teach you a spell I learned a couple of cycles ago."
And without another word, Taako held up his left hand and conjured a single, rotting tomato in it.
A couple of cycles ago had been an interesting one, for Taako at least. He hadn't been put on Light nor Starblaster duty, so he spent the year investigating, doing a bit of research on the plane they were in. This plane commonly had temperatures far greater than their home plane, and night didn't usually last very long. There wasn't any gold or any kind of money system either; the plane functioned entirely off a bartering system. But the races living there had somehow been mostly the same as their home plane, and they had mostly the same system of classes, too. Once he figured that out, Taako switched gears to try to learn as many new spells as he could, hoping one of them could defeat the Hunger. He'd had no such luck on that one, but he had some good new tricks up his sleeve regardless. This one in particular he'd learned from a bard. It wasn't a wizard spell, technically, but Taako wasn't about to let that stop him.
(Did that technically make Taako a level one bard now? He didn't play any instruments or anything, though. For his own sake, he decided he wasn't.)
"Did you just...conjure a tomato?" Magnus asked Taako, breaking him out of his thoughts.
"Not just any tomato," Taako replied, shifting his weight to lean forward. "It's a rotting tomato. Try to keep up here, ruff boi."
Magnus blinked. "I'm just curious here, I don't want to offend you or anything. But...why exactly am I learning this spell first?"
"Because I'm a genius! This works perfectly for both of us." Taako began tossing his tomato up into the air, not unlike a fantasy baseball. "See, when it comes to conjuring...conjuring's a lot harder if you don't know what you're creating. What it looks like, its shape, color, what properties it has, its abilities... There's a lot that goes into it. If I have you, for your first time casting any spell at all, try to conjure crazy magic weapons that you've only seen once and you have no idea what they do, then it's going to be a long cycle. But I assume this isn't your first rodeo with a rotten tomato. This'll be easier for you. Then, when you're used to casting spells and making things with magic, we'll start making some powerful weapons."
"And...what's in this for you?"
"Oh! I almost forgot!" Taako caught his tomato for the final time and held it carefully in a position so that Magnus could see it closely. "Ever since I learned how to make these puppies, I've been dying to use this spell to prank someone. Probably Merle, honestly, he's the weird plant guy on the team. I haven't figured out any of the details, yet. But there's plenty of time for thinking shit out, and it'll be way more fun with someone to do this with me. So." Taako rested his chin in his free hand. "What do you say? Want to help me prank Merle?"
"Hell yeah! Let's prank Merle!" Magnus cheered. The two of them high fived, and then got to work.
Casting his very first spell was rough going for Magnus. He was looking at failure after failure, which was normal for learning new magic, but not something Magnus was used to. It had been a long time since he pushed himself in anything besides physical strength. Multiple times, he stopped, looked and Taako, and asked if this was something that was even possible for him to do. Taako smiled, and assured him that every magic user started out like this, in this exact position. (Well, maybe not with the whole running from the apocalypse, living indefinitely, and coming back to life part, he realized. Magnus laughed at that.)
Taako wasn't patient with a lot of things, but he was being patient with teaching Magnus. Though, Magnus realized that Taako was gentler, more patient with a lot of things the longer they travelled. He was always patient with cooking, and usually with Lup. But now was he smiling more, laughing more. Just a few cycles ago he taught Barry how to swim, too. Taako, of course, would never actually admit any of this, but Magnus really liked the person Taako was now. He was glad they were friends, glad they could hang out like this.
It was a week before Magnus conjured his first rotten tomato, but they both celebrated like it was the greatest thing either of them accomplished. Magnus dug out some alcohol, Taako cooked up a feast, and when Barry came back to rest for the night on a nice, real bed, he found them passed out in the Starblaster kitchen. It was a good time. They assumed.
After that, Magnus kept learning more spells at a slow, steady pace. He was, for the most part, more interested in spells that could be useful to the crew in the future, and Taako was fine with that. The fun stuff could come later. There were some spells that Taako knew of but hadn't learned to cast yet, and those the two learned together. Those he found from a couple of books on conjuration magic someone on the crew must have stashed on the ship many cycles ago. Magnus, as it turned out, was someone who learned better by example, and Taako preferred to know as many spells as he could regardless. Within a few of months, Magnus had an array of cantrips and first level spells under his belt: Conjure Rotten Tomatoes (of course), Ice Blade, Create Bonfire, Spell Blade, Create Air, Magic Scimitar... The whole thing was working out well. Maybe it was time for Magnus to start second level spells.
This wasn't why Taako approached Magnus when he did. Nah. That'd be unnecessary, they'd figure that out later during their daily practice session thing. He had an entirely different reason for this. Or well, technically it was sort of related, but Taako wasn't about to go into specifics on this weird tangent his mind just went on. He just went in with zero expectations. How this played out wasn't a huge deal to him.
"Yo, Magnus." Taako waved as Magnus looked towards him.
"Taako!" Magnus grinned. "What's up? It's not practice time yet, is it? I mean, I can be ready in a minute." He fidgeted with his hands for a moment. "I just, uh, lost something on the Starblaster, and I'm not sure where it is...and..."
"Oh, no, homie, it's definitely not time yet," Taako confirmed. He frowned. "Lost something? Like what?"
"You see..." Magnus groaned, covering his eyes with a hand. "Okay, just, don't tell anyone, okay? I figured, Merle's not here to take care of his plants, I could at least water one of them for him, he'd probably appreciate that, right? So I watered a few of them, but I must have given the one covered in needles too much water, because I think it's dead. I think I killed it."
"Oh, that's an easy one. Just hide it somewhere he can't find it, and then when Merle gets back, pretend you have no idea what happened."
"Well, I guess I have time to practice that..." Magnus mumbled.
Taako gave him a thumbs up. "No problem. Free advice from ya boy. Though, as much as I love helping you solve your own problems that you created by yourself, that's not what I'm here for. Taako needs a favor. Or, uh, more specifically, you owe Taako a favor and it's time to cash in."
"Oh!" Magnus perked up immediately. "Is this the tomato thing? Did you figure out how we're pranking Merle?"
"Nope, nothing on that," Taako told him. "This is the other favor you owe me. The nonspecific one that I've been holding onto for months now."
"Right, cool," Magnus said. "That's good, too. So, what do you need?"
"So, you know how we've had this thing going on this cycle? Where I've been helping you learn how to cast conjuration magic?" Taako asked. Magnus nodded. "Well, it's been great, it's been helping us both out, so let's definitely keep doing that. But I've been doing some thinking of my own. Sort of because of this whole thing. And I was hoping you could help me with something related to that."
"Go on, Magnus encouraged.
Taako folded his arms together and leaned against the wall. "You know, when this first started out, we were just supposed to be like, an exploration team. Go out, make some observations, collect some samples, come back, in and out mission. And then somewhere along the way we kind of turned into the only thing stopping the apocalypse from hitting all of existence. Somewhere being almost immediately, of course. We weren't supposed to be some kind of fighting team thing, but we were forced into it anyway. But the thing is, we weren't supposed to be, so our strengths don't all play into it very well. Most of us are wizards, or magic users of some sort, and our combat skills rely on that. You're the only one here who doesn't. So, if something big happens the day that the Hunger hits, something big happens that day before the Hunger hits, we're all out of spell slots, you're dead or not around or something, and the Hunger has us backed into a corner with no one flying the Starblaster, we're fucked. If we run out of spell slots, no matter what's happening, we're kind of fucked anyway."
"I guess that makes sense."
"So here's the deal. I've been helping you get super good at conjuration? I want you to help me get good at fighting. I want you to help me become a fighter," Taako proposed.
"You...want to be a fighter?" Magnus repeated.
"That's what I said. You think it can happen?"
Magnus frowned. "Well, with enough time, definitely. Anyone could become a good fighter with enough time and motivation. But fighters need to be able to take some hard hits, which you can't, no offense, and fighters need a lot more upper body strength than I know you have to deal high amounts of damage. I'm more than happy to help, we can definitely do both of our things at the same time, but I'm not sure it's something that can happen in a little over half of a cycle? We might need more time than that."
"Hey, no problem. We have plenty of time right here. We can take this into next cycle, too. There's plenty of spells you can learn that we won't have time for in this one anyway. I'm down if you are," Taako decided.
"Well...alright." Magnus paused to think for a moment. "But before you start swinging around weapons, we need to get you in shape. Not in flip wizard shape, you're fine for that, but in fighter shape. We'll need to do a lot of weightlifting and a lot of stamina and endurance training."
"That sounds like a lot of exercise, which is a lot of work." Taako pouted.
"Hey! You're the one who asked for this." Magnus rolled his eyes.
"Yeah, I know," Taako relented. "But I can still complain about it, right?"
A cycle and a half passed, bringing the IPRE crew to another new cycle. Everyone lost to them came back, including Merle of course, who had been parlaying with the Hunger for just about every cycle. As soon as everyone reappeared, alive and fresh and back where they started. Taako greeted everyone with a wave.
"Hey guys, I've been gone a whole year." The last cycle, Lucretia and Davenport had stayed to keep an eye on the Starblaster for most of the cycle. Not confining themselves to the ship this time, Magnus and Taako had continued their training practice session thing, but out in the plane somewhere. Lup had joined them a few days here and there, but she'd had a pretty busy cycle. "What did I miss? I can't believe I spent a whole year weightlifting." And Taako couldn't believe how much his whole body hurt from it. Exercise was the worst, but he was finding the results to be worth it. He was a lot stronger now, much more capable in a physical fight than he was two cycles ago. "That's two years back to back." He paused to look down at his upper arms with a smirk. "I'm getting pretty diesel, I guess. Woof."
"I've been studying magic," Magnus added, smiling. "I'm super good at conjuration now."
"And I'm good at fighting and we're best friends," Taako finished as he reached up to sling an arm around Magnus' shoulders.
"Geez," Merle mumbled. "You disappear for a year and everything goes upside down. Maybe I should take a break and keep an eye on you all this year. Next thing we know Lup here's going to turn into a ranger."
"You know, that's not a bad idea," Lup commented. Merle groaned, earning a laugh out of her. "I'm just kidding. Don't worry, Dad, everything's fine. We're still all the same people, you know. They're still Taako and Magnus."
"Yeah, I guess you're right," Merle conceded.