Getting Fat on Conjured Food

Originally published January 8, 2017.
Contains long-term weight gain.

I owe a wealth of gratitude to oni-sai on Tumblr for inspiring this one with this piece of art and its accompanying story. I took some liberties with his idea to make the story more my own, and so I wouldn’t be outright copying it. From there it evolved into this sprawling fantasy epic (epic by the standards of my stories, anyway) far beyond where I thought I would go with it. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, because this was a blast to write. (Although editing, not so much, but that’s how it always goes.)

Like my previous fantasy story, A Potion Fit for a Champion, this story takes place in a standard RPG fantasy universe. My mental reference was Skyrim with some Oblivion thrown in there, though without mentioning any people, places, or things unique to the Elder Scrolls universe. If you haven’t read A Potion Fit for a Champion, I gently suggest you read that first. It’s a quick read, and while it’s by no means required reading to be able to follow along with this story, there are a few bonuses in this story for people already familiar with A Potion Fit for a Champion. I won’t spoil it beyond that, but you’ll recognize them when they pop up.

Synopsis: Caid is blacksmith’s apprentice who aspires to be a mage but has a hard time studying on his apprentice’s stipend. Mart is the town’s curmudgeonly, corpulent mage, who’s given magic a bad reputation, making things harder for Caid. After Caid saves Mart from being robbed and Mart finds out that Caid has been studying magic on the side, Mart becomes uncharacteristically friendly toward him, inviting him into his house to practice and learn more. There Caid learns that Mart has been working on a new way to conjure food, for as he says, “You could stuff yourself full of conjured food at every meal, and if that’s all you’re eating, you’ll die of starvation.” Together, the two look for a way to conjure food that also provides sustenance, which helps Caid take his first real steps into becoming a mage, and Mart grow more gluttonous and wide now that he can conjure as much food as he pleases.

Most mages were considered pillars of their community, using their magic to help the townsfolk as much as was within their means. If a town’s mage became renowned enough, people would travel from all over the land to share ideas, collaborate on research, and most often, learn from them. Of course, those travelers needed somewhere to eat and sleep, which was good news for the local taverns and inns.

Brinsweld was no such place. Oh, Brinsweld had a resident mage, but Mart wasn’t the kind of mage that a town would be proud to have. Mages were known for being eccentric loners, but most took what they learned in isolation and brought it out to benefit the town somehow. Mart wasn’t that kind of mage. He had more in common with the town layabout than a resident mage, albeit with enough magical abilities that he couldn’t be pushed around as easily.

Mart barely looked the part of a mage, to begin with. When he deigned to walk through town, he’d do so wearing slippers and robe that had probably fit him at some point. That point had most certainly passed years ago, and he’d never bothered to upgrade to a bigger size. His robe could barely wrap around his bulging belly, and the two sides of the garment didn’t come together until they reached the top of his gut. It gave a clear view of his chest hair at the very least, oftentimes more. The longer he stayed in town, the farther the two sides of his robe would drift apart, giving an ample view of his ample stomach.

Mart’s hair was about as well maintained as his wardrobe, shaggy and falling well past his shoulders. His beard was in a similar state, gnarled like the untamed vines that covered his house. It reached past the end of his neck and just barely grazed his chest. It wasn’t uncommon for mages to let their hair grow out, of course, but they only let it get as wild as Mart’s after they’d grown to old age and it had gone white. To see a mage with brown hair as unkempt as Mart’s didn’t make for a pleasant sight.

But Mart certainly wasn’t the only resident of Brinsweld who wasn’t considered easy on the eyes. What cemented his unflattering reputation was his temperament. If he were merely another good-natured resident of the town, most would have overlooked him keeping his magic to himself. But he was far from the friendly sort, gruff in all his dealings in town and ignoring anyone he passed in the streets. He’d only visited the town tavern a few times, and more than once, it had ended in a fight. There were rumors that he’d once flashed a young maiden, though no one could agree on whom or when.

So he kept to his dilapidated house on the outskirts of town, a house that looked like it had to be held up by magic, and usually only ventured into town to buy food. Brinsweld’s food vendors, especially the butcher, were among the few people who thought at all positively of him. After all, he was one of their most consistent customers, and one of the most willing to part with his coin, often buying enough food for a small family. Where he got his money, no one was sure, but the vendors certainly weren’t going to pry.

Whatever his source of income, it had to be lucrative. Not only did he spend exorbitantly at the food shops and stands, but he also seemed to import all of his magical supplies from other towns. After all, he wasn’t drawing any more magic users to visit Brinsweld, meaning the town couldn’t support an alchemist or other shops that depended on mages for business. So he had to use couriers to bring in his supplies, picking them up out in front of his house before immediately going back inside.

There weren’t many other residents of Brinsweld that far out. One was Caid, the blacksmith’s apprentice. On an apprentice’s stipend, he couldn’t afford to buy a house anywhere else in town, which left him living across from the town’s surly wizard. But he didn’t mind, considering that he spent most of his time in town either learning the trade or mingling at the inn or tavern. All he really needed was a roof over his head at night.

Caid had one more reason to live close to Mart, though. He’d always dreamed of being a mage himself, dabbling in magic from a young age and still practicing now when he had the time. When he had a few coins to spare after buying all his necessities, he’d often spend them on books and reagents from the same couriers that supplied Mart. And he hoped that even just being able to observe Mart in his own environment might teach him something, anything about magic.

Unfortunately for Caid, Mart had ensured that magic didn’t have a great reputation in Brinsweld, meaning he could never convince his parents to let him study it. They hadn’t been entirely unreceptive to the idea, but they knew if he was going to have any chance to be successful at it, it wouldn’t be in Brinsweld, and certainly not while studying under Mart. Of course, whether Mart would even take an apprentice was another question entirely. So they’d encouraged him to take a job in Brinsweld’s thriving steel trade, save up his coins, and move to a city where he’d stand a better chance of being successful as a mage.

Unfortunately, the apprentice’s stipend only gave him enough money to keep practicing magic or save up to move, not both. He worried that if he didn’t keep what meager skills he had sharp, he’d be too rusty to keep learning once he got out of Brinsweld. However, he felt like if he kept spending his money on supplies, that day would never come. All he could hope for was that he wouldn’t lose his spark once he completed his apprenticeship and could start making enough money to save up for his move.

But things changed for both men one particular night during a delivery. This time, Caid hadn’t been able to spare any money on magic, so he watched wistfully from his window as the courier handed Mart his sack of supplies. Mart stood outside as the courier left, riffling through his bag and occasionally pulling items out to examine them more closely. Caid watched with wide-eyed wonder at all the things Mart had ordered for delivery: alchemical ingredients and magical reagents and tomes he couldn’t have dreamed of. The sheer number of items in the bag that glowed was enough to make him jealous.

Perhaps it was Caid’s fascination with Mart’s glowing goods that prevented him from noticing the bandit sneaking up on Mart from behind his house. By the time Caid saw the fur-clad ruffian, he had already drawn a knife.

Caid was far from the most gifted combatant in Brinsweld, but working with weapons all day had given him enough familiarity with them to pass off as combat prowess. At the very least, he wasn’t going to stand by and let someone get robbed, even someone as unfriendly as Mart. Making haste, he bounded out of his bedroom, through the kitchen, and out the door, grabbing his mace as he did.

Caid rounded the corner just in time to see the bandit kick Mart’s legs out from under him. As Mart fell, the bandit grabbed his bag from out of his hand, before looking up just in time to see Caid bring his bludgeon crashing down on the bandit’s head. The bandit fell to the ground, dropping his dagger and Mart’s bag, causing all his deliveries to spill on the ground. With only a bit of a stumble, the bandit rolled into his fall, stood up, and ran off. Caid didn’t consider himself much of a runner, so he didn’t give chase.

Mart got back on his feet surprisingly quickly. He had a look of anger on his face that Caid had never seen the likes of before, even given Mart’s temperament. “Scruffy little rat pallet!” he shouted as he flung his arms toward the fleeing bandit. Caid stepped back, expecting hell to burst from Mart’s fingers, but all that came out were a few sputtering sparks falling flaccidly from his fingertips. “What blasted–” Mart grumbled before throwing both hands toward the fleeing bandit again, this time not even producing the useless glimmers he’d conjured previously.

Mart stood huffing, clearly in no condition to run either, as the two watched the bandit disappear into the surrounding landscape. Once Mart’s breathing had slowed, he felt at his right arm and discovered a tear in his robe, with a fairly substantial cut underneath. After he looked around at the ground, he found the bandit’s knife and picked it up for a closer look. It was then that Caid noticed the green film coating both sides of the blade, with one side looking mostly wiped clean. “Silencing poison. I’m sure of it.”

With a frustrated sigh, Mart tossed the dagger at the ground, causing it to stick in the dirt and jut out diagonally. “I guess you couldn’t chase him down either?” he asked Caid incredulously. “I got this weighing me down,” he said as he slapped his bulging gut, bringing his hand to rest on it and shaking it up and down vigorously. As hefty as it was, that was no small feat. “What’s your excuse?”

“I’m not much of a runner, sir,” Caid replied, making Mart look at him with eyebrows raised and eyelids half-shut. “Besides, I couldn’t do much to him without this,” he alleged as he swung his mace upward, “and you can’t run very fast with one of these.”

Mart starred a while longer before his expression softened, like a concession of Caid’s point. “Well… thanks, uh… “ He shifted in place a bit before he could glance up to look Caid in the eye. “Thanks anyway. That villain probably would have gotten away with all my deliveries if you hadn’t stepped in.”

Looking to the side, Caid flashed a modest smile. “I just know I’d want someone to do the same for me.” After standing around awkwardly for a moment, Caid leaned down and said, “Here, let me help you pick all this up.”

“Oh, uh… yeah, alright.” Mart reached down to pick up the bag, knees bending far apart as he did, while Caid darted more nimbly around him, picking up the various goods and books. By the time the ground was clear, Caid was holding most of what had fallen out of the bag, while Mart had only picked up a few items. “I think that’s everything,” Mart observed, before he snapped, “Here, just… come over here and I’ll take those from you.” Though his tone sounded gruff, with Caid’s arms as full as they were, it made more sense than him trying to put everything back in the bag himself.

Once everything was back in the bag, Mart seemed ready to head back inside without another word. As he pulled the drawstrings closed, Caid noticed the blood from his wound still flowing, due to it staining his robe. “Hey, do you want to something for that gash? I have some bandages,” he said, pointing his thumb back toward his house.

“Nah.” Mart raised his hand to his wound as if he were going to cast a healing spell, only for his wagging fingers to produce no more than a light breeze. With a sigh, he said, “Well, I’m sure I have a healing potion inside.”

“Hey, wait a moment,” Caid pleaded as he walked up to Mart. Mart stepped back at first, not sure what to expect next, but he let Caid come close enough for him to raise his hands to Mart’s wound. The edges of the cut had stopped bleeding, but the middle still dribbled blood. With a deep inhalation, Caid felt his fingers tremble as he tried his best to cast a basic healing spell. Though he didn’t have his technique down the way Mart seemed to, the swirls of golden light started coalescing around his fingers, a few scattered strings accumulating to a veritable glow. Once he felt confident he’d built up as much energy as he could, he released it on Mart, and his modest light flowed onto his arm.

Caid’s understanding was that for a healing spell to work, most of the energy had to ground itself on his target. Unfortunately, most of the light blew off of Mart before dissipating into the aether again. But enough of it stuck that the edges of his cut fused shut, and the blood flow seemed to mostly stop. “I probably could have done it if I had my staff. Not that it’s as good as anything of yours, I’m sure.’

“You… do magic?” Mart asked. His voice had the familiar gruffness Caid was used to, but it was tempered by what sounded like genuine pleasant surprise.

“Well, I certainly try–”

“Ain’t you the blacksmith’s boy?”

“Apprentice, yes. I’ve always liked magic, but… well, my parents weren’t wild about me studying it.”

“Hmph, figures. People in this town don’t look kindly on it.”

“Yeah,” Caid said, keeping the question of whether Mart knew he was the reason for that to himself.

“You got any other tricks up those smith’s sleeves of yours? Maybe a dispel to get rid of this pesky silence?”

“Wish I did.”

“Ah, well, it was worth a try.”

“It’s hard for me to get better when I have to choose between spending what little extra coin I have to practice or saving it so I can move some place where studying magic is more respected.”

“That, uh… sounds rough,” Mart eventually settled on, shifting in place like he wanted to head back inside.

“Yeah. Although… maybe if I had someone around here I could learn a thing or two from…”

Mart caught Caid’s drift pretty quickly, but a deep chuckle wasn’t the response Caid was hoping for. “Yeah, a thing or two is about all I could teach you. Forget it, kid. Save your money to go train with a real mage.”

As Mart turned to walk back in his house, Caid walked behind him asking, “Wait, you’re not a ‘real mage’? Then what were those sparks that fell from your fingers? A trick of the light?” he asked sarcastically.

“A failed fireball spell, that’s what that was. I bet you could cast one of those.”

“I mean, not really–”

“Look, kid,” Mart started as he turned around to face Caid. “I’m no mage. I just use magic in ways that are convenient for me. You could learn more from one of these books that you could from me,” he insisted as he lifted his bag.

“Well… what about that wound of yours?” Caid asked. “Could you heal that if you weren’t silenced?”

“Oh yeah, but you did the same.”

“Um, not quite,” Caid corrected as he looked down towards Mart’s arm. Looking down, Mart lifted his arm and beheld a wound that was still dripping out blood, the sleeve of his robe now stained to his elbow. With a sigh, he shook his hand as flashes of light jumped from it, shaking it out a few times before he could finally conjure a proper healing aura. Once he laid it over his arm, the wound was gone, leaving only the dried flow of blood to show that it was once there.

Mart looked up at Caid with his eyelids slightly closed and his mouth tilted diagonally. “Your technique needs work.” Though Caid felt like he’d won the argument, Mart’s tone was still critical. With a sigh, he waved Caid toward his house and said, “Come on. Let’s see if you can’t learn a thing or two.”

The inside of Mart’s house looked exactly how Caid expected from how it looked on the outside. The furniture looked worn out and ready to break if it weren’t for his magic holding it together. His supplies were strewn about seemingly at random, though Mart insisted he knew where everything was and was exasperated when Caid had trouble locating anything within the mess. His bookshelves, his desk, and various tables all throughout the house were cluttered with ingredients, reagents, tomes, and other tools of the trade.

Other than parts of the floor, only one surface within Mart’s house hadn’t fallen victim to the magical clutter, and that was the dining room table. Of course, it was still cluttered, and it wasn’t until Caid’s second visit to Mart’s house that he realized it was a different kind of clutter: food.

Mart’s dining room table seemed to be the final resting place of everything he bought from the town’s food venders. There were slabs of various meats along with an entire ham, bowls stacked tall with vegetables, several loaves of bread strewn about, and plenty of sweets as well, including a tray with about a half-dozen sweet rolls on it. The leftover icing on the empty side of the tray made it clear that there had been a full dozen initially. That all these food items hadn’t spoiled was something Caid could only chalk up to magic.

Caid never saw Mart eat on either of his first two visits, so he wasn’t sure whether Mart ate all that food, or merely hoarded it like his magical supplies. But he got his answer a few days later, on his third visit. By then, Caid was starting to familiarize himself with the mess of Mart’s house, making it somewhat feasible for him to find something Mart asked him to retrieve. He was familiar enough that when he walked in that third time, he saw that there was a completely different set of food laid out on the dining room table. The ham had been replaced with several cooked birds, the vegetable bowls were all filled higher than before, there were new loaves of bread in new locations, and the last fourth of a chocolate cake stood on a circular tray.

“Do you… eat all that food yourself?” Caid asked.

“Of course. Why, you want some?”

“No thanks,” Caid answered, unsure whether Mart meant the question rhetorically or sincerely. “I’m just wondering, can’t mages conjure food?”


“So why keep buying it when you can just… make some out of thin air?”

Mart met Caid’s question with a deep belly laugh, rumbling forth from a stomach grown wide with all that food. “Oh that’s good. You can’t grow fat on conjured food,” he chuckled.

“What do you mean?”

When Mart realized Caid was asking sincerely, his chuckle dissipated, and he returned to his usual baseline gruffness. “Conjured food isn’t like the food you can buy at the market. When you eat it, you’ll feel full and re-energized, but it has no sustenance. You could stuff yourself full of conjured food at every meal, and if that’s all you’re eating, you’ll die of starvation. Still fun to do every once in a while, though,” Mart chuckled as he rubbed his rounded stomach.

“Now, I got a big appetite,” Mart continued as he gave his gut a few hearty thumps. “So my choices are either keep track of how much conjured food and mundane food I’m eating to make sure I get enough of the second one, or just eat all mundane food and not have to worry about it.” With the curling of his fingers, Mart caused a roll to rise from the table. A flick of his pointer cut it in half, and another cut a pat of butter that he raised to spread on the open side. Upon curling his fingers closed, the roll flew his way and he caught it in his other hand. After taking a bite, through a full mouth, he concluded, “You can guess which one I prefer.”

“Do other mages do that, though? Eating both conjured and mundane food?”

“Oh yeah,” Mart confirmed through his still-full mouth. “I mean, imagine you’re at the forge, spending a long time working on… I dunno, a sword or something. Suddenly, you feel hungry. Now, you could put your work on hold, go inside, make yourself a meal, and have to pick up where you left off. I assume you’ll have to heat the thing up again too. Or, you work through the hunger, but that means you can’t focus as well, and you’re not as strong for the job. So you conjure something to eat there and then, eating as you work so you can keep going.”

“Makes sense.”

“Mages working on research will do the same thing. The problem comes when they spend several days locked in their offices or towers or wherever they go, without coming out to get some real food. If you ever see some who look more like coat racks for their robes than people, that’s probably why.”

“So how come conjured food doesn’t have that kind of nourishment?”

“Ah, that’s the question, isn’t it?” Mart’s voice maintained the gruffness Caid expected from him, but there was a sense of enthusiasm in it now too. He even thought he saw Mart’s eyelids open a little wider, and what little of his mouth that showed through his tangled beard seemed to curl upward. “Common wisdom says it’s because the food never touched the earth. Think about it: all the bread and vegetables you eat come from plants that grew out of the earth. The meat and eggs you eat come from animals that ate plants from the earth. But when you conjure food, it comes out of the aether, never having that connection to the ground below. Without that, it can’t sustain us.”

“Has anyone tried to make conjured food have that sustenance?”

“Plenty. But we’re not any closer to it now than we were when mages eons ago first discovered how to conjure food. If anything, I think we’re farther now.”

“How can that be?”

Mart eyebrows were raised as his mouth curled into a smirk. “Mages tend to be pretty full of themselves. Maybe some have earned the right to it. But because of that, they tend to look down on magical practices they see as ‘beneath us’ now. Earth magic, nature magic, air magic, all respectable crafts practiced by the first magic users, but now they’re too ‘primitive’, too ‘unrefined’,” he said mockingly. “Some even call them mundane. Imagine! Being so pretentious that you call a verifiable form of magic mundane.”

“But what does that… oh, I get it! You think earth magic could provide that missing link to make conjured food have the same sustenance as mundane food!”

“Exactly. But I tell ya, it’s hard to find any decent information on earth magic beyond the footnotes of tomes on the history of magic.”

“Maybe we have to rediscover it ourselves.”

With eyebrows raised and eyelids wide open, Mart looked up at Caid as if he were looking over a pair of spectacles.

“I mean, if the first magic users could do it, why couldn’t we?”

Mart stroked his beard pensively as he looked off to the side with eyelids half shut. “You know… I bet your blacksmithing expertise gives you a better connection to the earthly than most modern-day mages could ever hope to have.” Caid wouldn’t have called it “expertise”, but he wasn’t about to correct Mart when this might give him an excuse to do veritable magical research. “That might just… alright, tell you what. All my research on trying to give conjured food sustenance is strewn all around here like my other projects I didn’t have much hope in. Problem is, it’s also the one I have the most loose research on.”

“The most?”

“Are you surprised?” Mart asked with an amused smile on his face. “Look, just give me a day to compile it, come back here tomorrow, and we can start in earnest. In the meantime, don’t ignore your magical leanings when you’re working the forge. You just might stumble on something useful.”

As usual, Caid spent most of the next day working with the blacksmith. But that day, he’d gone in with a new sense of excitement, knowing that his blacksmithing work might inform his magic. Though he wasn’t quite sure what discoveries Mart expected him to make while working the metal, he figured he’d know when it happened. It didn’t happen that day, but he was hopeful it would soon. Either way, once he’d finished his work, he rushed back home to change out of his blacksmith’s attire before paying Mart a visit.

Mart didn’t answer Caid’s knock on his door, but when he tried the door latch, he found it unlocked and entered. Looking through the house for Mart, he found a sight quite unlike anything he expected to find. Mart was sitting at his dining room table, and the food was levitating just above the table’s surface. With a wave of his hand, Mart would summon various dishes from across the table, like asking invisible guests to pass him whatever he desired. He’d take a voracious bite or several, never sticking to the same dish for too long, before shooing it away and eating from the next one.

From the looks of it, it seemed Mart had eaten enough for himself and all those invisible guests. Over the table and between the food, Caid could see that Mart had undone his robe, with both sides of it draping over his chair like a cheap decorative sheet. Leaning back in his chair, he propped up his now swollen belly, looking extra round as it stuck out protuberant over his lap. Mart’s thin, worn-out robe didn’t leave much to the imagination, but seeing just how rounded out Mart’s belly was surprised Caid. He looked more like a town drunkard than a mage.

“Should I come back?”

Mart craned his head up to look above the floating food. “Caid!” he called out, muffled by whatever mouthful of food he’d eaten. At once, all the food floating above the table dropped with a symphony of clattering. Mart half-heartedly tossed either side of his robe over his stomach and tied the sash closed. With an aggravated grunt, he rose from his chair and shuffled around the table toward Caid, walking with a noticeably wider stance.

Even when Mart spent an entire day in town, his robe never separated enough to reveal as much of his belly as Caid could see now. The sides of the robe had been thrown so loosely over his gut that they now parted on either side to reveal the entire engorged expanse. The garment framed Mart’s gut around the sides as it hung within the bottom like a man sleeping in a hammock. Whether he was wearing any underwear was left up to Caid to guess.

“Glad you’re here. Come on, I’ll show you where the research is.”

Caid followed Mart into the study, easily the most cluttered part of the house, with loose notes and the dried up remains of potions covering nearly every surface where they could conceivably not fall over. This included the seat of the chair in front of the desk, from which Mart swatted away the loose papers to give Caid a place to sit. “There. Those are my notes,” Mart proclaimed as he pointed to the only organized, neatly stacked collection of papers on the desk. “You can either take them home and read them at your leisure or read them here and we can get started tonight.”

“I, uh… I think I’ll read them here. In case I have any questions.”

“Sure, sure. Tell you what: you do that, I’ll go finish dinner. Give a yell if you need anything.”

After giving Caid a pat on the back, Mart turned around to hobble his way back to the dining room. He walked with his arms hanging out at an angle, nowhere near his body. As he did, the sash of his robe seemed to come undone on its own, letting both sides of his robe hang next to him. He left it that way as he walked out of the room and rounded the corner, his back turned to Caid the entire time.

After shaking his head side to side, Caid picked up the stack of notes and started thumbing through. There wasn’t much organization to them, which he expected from a mage doing research for himself only. Sentences were crossed out, only for the cross-out to be scribbled over, only for the entire thing to be crossed out again with wider lines. This was the case for most of the first few pages, until Caid reached a page where the words “EARTH MAGIC” had been written in large font and circled several times.

Caid was thankful Mart’s handwriting was at least legible. Where he found difficulty was in understanding Mart’s words. Stubs of sentences were jotted on the pages, suggestions that could probably remind Mart of whatever ideas had inspired the sentence fragments, but meant little to Caid. But maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing, Caid thought. If all of his ideas on the subject were the same as Mart’s, he probably wouldn’t be able to come up with anything Mart hadn’t first.

When Caid reached Mart’s pages of notes on earth magic, he perked up. What little information Mart had been able to collect on the old practices of earth magic bore an uncanny resemblance to common wisdom he’d picked up in smithing. Stone was considered useful as a quick hard surface but ultimately brittle, while dirt, if piled up correctly, could withstand extreme heat. Similarly, novice earth magic practitioners would attempt to draw their power from stone for easy strength, but the skilled ones knew to draw from the earth itself.

As Caid read through the notes, he heard Mart’s chewing grow louder in the other room. But it wasn’t just chewing; he could also heart Mart smackings his lips and grunting with satisfaction as he ate. Occasionally, he’d let out an affirmative “Mmm,” like compliments to a chef that wasn’t there. It was strange, Caid thought. He hadn’t heard Mart eat so loudly before, and surely if he were, he would have noticed.

But Caid put it out of his mind, wanting to focus on reading Mart’s research now that he felt like he was getting somewhere. For a while, he was able to. But when Mart’s affirmative “Mmm”s were replaced with what sounded like pained groans, Caid become concerned. With eyebrows furrowed, he put the notes down and got up to look in the dining room.

Peeking around the corner, Caid saw a familiar scene, with Mart leaning back in his chair as levitating foods danced around him. As before, his robe was undone and lay over the chair on either side of him, letting his distended belly bulge out into the open air. There seemed to be less food floating over the table now. Several empty plates and bowls had taken their place on the side of the table opposite of Mart, allowing the dishes with food remaining to congregate around him. Mart seemed to be leaning farther down in his chair as well, to the extent that Cade was amazed he hadn’t fallen out. His belly looked like it had bulged out bigger, which Caid supposed could be explained by his change in posture, but only so much.

What surprised Caid was the change in how Mart was eating. Whereas previously he’d grab food out of the air and bring it to his mouth, now he seemed to be letting the food do that job for him. As if with a mind of its own, the dishes would fly toward him and the food on them would float up to his mouth until he took a few bites. Once he did, he’d be left chewing with his mouth open, looking exhausted from the effort. Oftentimes, a pitcher of milk would fly by to help him wash down his giant mouthfuls of food. And as soon as he’d swallowed, more food flew in to take its rightful place in his tight, crammed stomach.

Caid was transfixed, unable to look away from the sight in front of him and not sure what to make of it. Was Mart not in control of the food anymore? He’d admitted he had a big appetite, but could that explain him eating when he already seemed full? As concerned as he was, Caid knew that if Mart had lost control of his own magic, he himself certainly wouldn’t be able to reign it in. So he merely stood by and hoped for the best, whatever that might be.

Caid watched as the remaining foods shuffled around in front of Mart, slowly but surely vanishing down his gullet. Though his eating had slowed, his pace was steady, and the remaining entrees kept shrinking. Looking down, Caid saw Mart massaging his engorged gut, rubbing it over in slow circles centered around his stomach. Caid supposed that was why he wasn’t using his hands to eat anymore. Even his plain tan-colored underwear seemed stretched tightly around his hips.

While Caid watched Mart rub his belly, Mart let out a loud sigh of relief. Looking up, Caid saw that an array of empty dishes lay atop the table, no longer stirring so vibrantly as they once did. It seemed Mart had eaten the entire feast. With his head leaning back over the top of his chair, he let out an extended groan and continued rubbing his gut, now even more slowly than he had while he was eating. The groan gave way to labored, heavy breathing, occasionally interrupted by a shallow belch, his mouth hanging open as he ran his hand across his taut stomach.

Caid watched until Mart bent his head forward and tried to push himself up in his chair. His grunting indicated no small amount of difficulty on his part, as even becoming upright again seemed out of his reach. Just moving his rear end back in his seat to straighten out his back took enough pushing that he seemed out of breath once he was done. Once his breathing had calmed down, he resumed his grunting as he struggled to lean forward in his chair.

At that, Caid became conscious of his voyeuristic view and retracted around the corner, tip-toeing back to his seat as Mart’s grunting continued out of sight. Even as slowly as Caid walked, it wasn’t until he sat down that he heard the loudest grunt so far, followed by a relieved sigh that seemed to indicate Mart had stood up. Turning to the desk, Caid picked up the stack of notes and resumed where he’d left off, trying to appear like he hadn’t seen what he’d just seen.

After some silence from the other room, Caid heard heavy footsteps coming his way. When he looked up, he saw Mart round the corner. His robe was tied more securely than before, and didn’t seem at risk of falling open to reveal his entire belly. That the sash was tied around his stomach rather than below it certainly helped. But his robe, already a tight fit even when he wasn’t full, now barely wrapped around him in the front, leaving open a full triangular view of the rounded top of his stomach. Even partially obscured by the robe, it looked more rotund than before, clearly rounded out from his massive feast.

“How’s it going?” Mart huffed as he shuffled slowly toward Caid, leaning back to counteract his newly moved center of gravity.

“Uh… good so far… I think.”

“Good, good. Any questions about the notes?”

“Um… well, I guess a curiosity. If we actually succeed, right?, in conjuring food with sustenance…”

As Mart listened, his eyes narrowed pensively and he nodded. His mouth remained open to accommodate his heaving breathing, and each nod sent a jiggle through his flabby chin. Even his head seemed to move in more wide, jerky motions that matched how he walked, not the quick up and down of a usual nod.

“How will we know? Will one of us just have to eat the food and see if we starve to death?”

At that, Mart’s pensive expression became an open smile as he let out a chuckle. “You’ll be able to taste the difference,” he assured Caid. With a few gentle pats on his swollen stomach, muted by the cloth of his robe, he continued, “At least, I certainly will.”

Progress was slow between the two, as Caid and Mart tried to combine their blacksmithing expertise and greater experience with magic, respectively, to rediscover the practice of earth magic. Though Mart was more focused on their goal, Caid tried to achieve a more holistic understanding of earth magic. He worried they might miss a crucial piece of the puzzle within the study of earth magic if they were single-mindedly focused on one use of it that might not even exist. It was something he and Mart clashed on more than once when they’d collaborate.

But the general mood between the two was far from confrontational. It seemed that once Caid had seen him stuffing his face and letting his belly hang out, Mart was generally friendlier and more casual around him. He treated Caid with the kind of amiability that Caid took for granted from other residents of the town, but to get it from Mart was a pleasant surprise. As a result, Caid found himself spending many a casual evening at Mart’s house, chatting about magic and airing Mart’s grievances about Brinsweld. Mart would sometimes teach Caid tricks of the trade, but most of what Caid picked up came simply from getting to spend so much time with an experienced mage.

Though Caid certainly got more out of the arrangement than just company. Mart wasn’t used to having someone around whom he liked spending time with, and offered Caid nearly free reign of his supplies with which he could practice. This meant Caid could finally save his money in earnest to one day move out of Brinsweld. Of course, Mart had much more at his disposal than Caid could have bought for himself, meaning he was also practicing more magic than he could before.

The effect was noticeable. In a few weeks of practicing at Mart’s, Caid felt like he’d learned more about being a mage than he had in the several months he’d spent practicing on his own. With the help of his staff, he could levitate supplies in Mart’s house to himself, and basic spells at the level of the healing spell he’d tried to cast on Mart were no longer a challenge for him, even bare-handed. He felt like he was finally starting to make something of himself as a mage.

Initially, Caid felt guilty about mooching off of Mart, but after those first few weeks, the symbiosis of their relationship soon became clear. It showed itself first in a subtle conversational shift, with Mart going on about his theories about earth magic as usual. “It seems they could use earth magic both offensively and as a source healing. I’m sure the healing properties were drawn from the earth the way healing magic nowadays draws out of the aether.”

“Mmm, I doubt that,” Caid said.

Furrowing his brow, Mart asked, “Why so?”

It took Caid a second to respond, and he soon realized he wasn’t used to Mart asking him questions for anything other than to gauge the depth of what he already knew. But he collected himself and continued, “I don’t know about you, but when I try to practice earth magic, I get a lot of different energies out of the ground. Some of them beneficial, sure, but some harmful as well. After all, the same earth that nourishes our crops also produces arsenic that can kill us.

“Think of it this way,” Caid continued. “When you mine ore out of the earth, you don’t just take it out and go make a sword. You gotta smelt it, get the impurities out so you’re just left with metal you want. I think we’re going to need either some way to purify the energy we get out of the earth, or some way be more discerning in which energy we draw. Maybe both.”

Mart stroked his beard contemplatively as he looked down to the side. “You know, I can’t even tell the difference when I try to draw energy from the earth. And you can?” After Caid nodded, Mart concluded, “I think you’re going to have a lot to teach me very soon.”

It didn’t take the two long to reach that point. Once Caid was competent as a mage, his blacksmithing experience and his curious mind, thirsty for inspiration, had him making discoveries about earth magic seemingly faster than even Mart could conceive. It wasn’t long before Mart was probing Caid with questions about earth magic as often as Caid tried to learn from him. As new as Caid was to all magic, especially earth magic, he only had the answer about half the time. But each unanswered question of Mart’s gave him something to propel him forward in his research.

The two continued their respective research that way for weeks before they made their breakthrough. Mart was the one to figure it out, though Caid provided much of the necessary insight that made the discovery possible. While Caid was browsing Mart’s book collection to satisfy his own curiosities, he heard Mart cheer from the other room. “Caid! Caid!” he shouted out as his heavy footsteps approached the study. When he turned the corner, he held a sweetroll in hand with a bite taken out of it. “I’ve done it!”

“You conjured real food?” Caid asked excitedly.

“Taste it!” Mart passed Caid the sweet roll, which he eagerly took a bite out of. After months of spending time at Mart’s place, Caid had learned how to distinguish between the taste of conjured food and mundane food, and he found the former quite unsatisfying in comparison. But once the sweet roll touched his tongue, he could immediately taste the nourishment in it. With his eyes growing wide, he asked through a full mouth, “You conjured this?”

“Take it out with you and see!”

With an excited pep in his step, Caid walked quickly out of the study and out of the house. He knew conjured food had a strong connection to the mage who conjured it, and would vanish if it ended up too far from them. Caid wasn’t sure what that distance was, but he didn’t even have to walk to the edge of town to find out. Before he reached the next house out, his fingers came clamping down together as the sweet roll disappeared, leaving only a thin puff of smoke that quickly vanished as well. Even the icing on his fingers was gone.

Caid ran back as fast as he could, putting the claim that “wasn’t much of a runner” to the test before barging back into Mart’s house. As Mart turned the corner from inside the study with an eager smile on his face, Caid called out, “You did it! By the stars, you did it!”

We did it, my boy!”

“So, you’re going to teach me how you did it, right?”

“Of course! This wouldn’t have happened without you.”

Once Mart explained the concept, Caid picked it up quite quickly. After a few tries, he conjured a loaf of bread that tasted as nourishing as the real thing. “By the gods, we did it! We should go to the tavern to celebrate!”

With a hearty laugh, Mart asked, “Why go there when we can make our own meal here?” With a few waves of his hand, he filled the table with a roasted wild bird, bread and butter, a myriad of roasted vegetables, and plenty of sweet rolls to last the both of them several days. Of course, Caid knew that with Mart sitting at the table, they’d be gone by the end of the night.

“I, uh, I’d rather go out personally, but you have fun,” Caid bade with a smile before he left Mart to his feast.

“Suit yourself,” Mart called out as he grabbed a leg from the bird and sunk his teeth into it.

Craftsmen who were competent at both smithing and magic were hard to come by, and most didn’t end up using their smithing expertise to do things like rediscovering ancient forms of magic. Rather, they enchanted the armor they made to provide beneficial effects to the wearer like increasing their stamina or making them more deft with a sword. Enchanted armor could sell for a whole lot more than its mundane counterpart, meaning the few smiths who could practice both ended up rich.

Caid had not been privy to that information, and thus hadn’t thought to give it a try. But when Adriana, the blacksmith he worked for, caught wind of him practicing magic, she suggested he give enchanting a try, telling him it could make both of them a lot of money. Caid was certainly willing to try anything that might allow him to get out of Brinsweld faster, so he started studying up on the subject.

He started with basic enchantments that were suitable for leather armor and stone weapons, the most basic kinds. With some practice, he moved up to enchantments worthy of more advanced materials like steel. There were certainly stronger metals to make weapons and arms from, and more powerful enchantments to be learned, but for a town like Brinsweld, more modest materials and enhancements were sufficient. Once news spread that Adriana was selling enchanted gear, business grew steadily. When asked, she kept her source a secret, never going beyond, “I know a guy.”

After a particularly successful day, when every one of Caid’s enchanted items that was in stock had sold, the two started chatting after Adriana locked the doors. “So how come you never told me you were learning magic?”

“I mean, you know the reputation magic has in this town.”

“Yeah, that crabby wizard–Mark, or whatever–”

“It’s Mart.”

“Sure, Mart. Point is, when he’s the only magic user a lot of people in town know, it leaves people with a sour taste in their mouth when they think of magic.”

“Of course, they love it when it enchants their gear,” Caid grumbled.

“Mmm, you can say that again.” Adriana’s tone was one of satisfaction, seemingly only thinking of how well Caid’s magic had helped her business. Caid was less pleased with the setup, wishing he could be more open about his passion, especially when the people around him were benefitting from it. “But you have a point, which is why I haven’t told anyone who enchants our gear. You know, let them think I get it from passing adventurers selling off their spoils or something. They might not be so enthusiastic about buying it if they knew it’s enchanted locally.”

Caid wanted to say, “Wow, thanks,” sarcastically, but he held his tongue, simply looking forward to the day he could leave Brinsweld behind. If he’d entertained any thought of sticking around longer than he had to so he could get rich off of his enchanting, now he knew that wasn’t going to happen.

Of course, he still thought it was worth it to stick around and put up with the stigma until he could upgrade some of his magical equipment. As he saved his money from his apprentice’s stipend, he put aside the money he earned from sales of his enchanted wares to upgrade his staff and buy himself a proper robe. He saved up for one with enchanted effects more powerful than the ones he could cast, saving up enough for one in particular that he had his eye on. It was a deep purple with red trim, a tier usually reserved for more advanced mages, but with the money he’d earned selling enchanted gear, it was within his means.

The robe arrived a few weeks before Caid was hoping to leave Brinsweld. When he tried the robe on, he truly felt like a mage, a feeling that had eluded him once he’d learned enough about magic to understand how much more he had to learn. With his staff in hand, he casted a spell that replaced the staff with a conjured sword that glowed with a blue hue. As he swung it around in his room, he could tell from how it sliced through the air that it was sharper than any sold by Adriana. Without his staff and robe, the best weapon he’d been able to summon had been a dagger that seemed about as effective as those made of iron. With a smile on his face, he slung the sword over his back, at which point it quickly resumed the shape of his staff and hung off his shoulder.

With his staff and robe upgrade, Caid felt ready to leave Brinsweld. He bade his goodbyes to his parents, his friends, and Adriana, who tried everything she could to convince him to stay. But when he said he was going off to focus magic, her eyebrows raised and her mouth fell silent. “If that’s how you want to spend your time,” she said, the last words they exchanged before Caid left her shop for good.

But he knew saying goodbye to Mart would be the hardest, as without him, he might have never been able to leave Brinsweld. He put off that goodbye until his last day in town, when he was spending the day packing for the trip. He planned to bring his magical equipment, of course, but he also packed a few blacksmithing tools, in case he needed to use the combination of his two crafts to support himself. He’d nearly planned out what food he’d buy for his trip too, before realizing with a chuckle that that wouldn’t be necessary.

But he still spent a good part of the day in Brinsweld’s food market, buying local specialities that he knew he wouldn’t be able to conjure himself: meats rubbed with a local favorite blend of spices, a particularly flavorful kind of bread they claimed was only made in Brinsweld, and a few vegetables that grew especially well in Brinsweld’s climate.

As Caid exchanged coins with the vegetable vendor, the vendor asked, “Say, you’re… acquainted with Mart, right?”

“I mean, we’re neighbors,” Caid answered, not sure he wanted to admit to practicing magic, even when he was about to leave town. He still wanted to be able to come back, keeping his house as a “home base” of sorts.

“Is he… alright? He used to be one of our most consistent customers, then a few months ago, he just… vanished. I’ve heard he’s still seen walking around town, but some of us are… worried, you know?”

“As far as I can tell, he’s doing pretty well for himself. I think he’s looked into providing his own food.”

“Aw, rats,” the vendor said. “I mean, uh, good for him.”

When Caid finished packing, he looked out the window at Mart’s house, knowing what he had to do. With a deep sigh, he walked over and knocked on the door. No answer. Another knock didn’t summon him either. Trying the handle, Caid found it was unlocked and stepped inside. “Mart?” he called out, before hearing the distinctive tinkling of a lot of magic being cast at once.

Stepping into the living room, Caid saw a sight that was mildly familiar, but like him, it seemed Mart had upgraded his magic usage too. Mart was leaning his chair back so far that it had to be held up by magic. Caid supposed the same was true of Mart himself, as his rear end was so close to the edge of the seat that he was practically lying down. Rather than the feasts Caid was used to seeing, Mart was summoning food as he ate, ensuring he had one entree in reserve as he neared the end of another. It would have seemed like a more tame way to eat, if it weren’t for the fact that the food seemed to be forcing its way into Mart’s mouth. All his hands had to do was occasionally conjure the next course.

But for the most part, Mart used his free hands to rub his impressively swollen gut. Caid had seen Mart swell his gut up to impressive sizes, but it had been a while since he’d witnessed Mart feasting like this. Once the two had discovered the secret to conjuring nourishing food, Caid thought Mart looked like he was getting even fatter. Now, he could see why.

For Mart’s belly looked huge. As he lay nearly horizontal, it stick out well above him, looking nearly double the height of his chest. It was certainly far wider too, rounded out like a burlap sack filled with grain. But burlap couldn’t stretch the way his belly clearly had, the top rounder than the most expertly crafted targe he or Adriana could make. Even the flabby bottom of his belly seemed stretched tight, barely budging when he rubbed it over.

From the way Mart was eating, it was clear to see why. As the stream of conjured food pushed for a spot in the growing mound that was his gut, he grunted the way one would expect from someone being force fed. But his satisfied groans, punctuated by loud chewing, confirmed that he was an eager participant in whatever ritual he had going on. As the food forced its way into his mouth, he chewed with his mouth open, not having much of a choice in the matter. The loud mashing of his teeth against his summoned delicacies broke through the grunts and groans that heralded his decadent meal, making a gluttonous cacophony that contrasted starkly with the twinkling sounds of magic.

“Should I come back?”

Mart leaned his head up to look toward Caid, revealing a mouth so full of chocolate cake that he couldn’t even close it all the way. Caid was sure Mart called out his name in response, but all that got through the cake was some muffled nonsense syllable. With surprising grace, Mart leaned his chair forward to propel himself into a standing position before dismissing the buttered roll floating around him.

As usual, Mart’s robe was entirely undone, hanging at his side as his bulbous belly bulged forward. Now his belly had grown so wide that it hid the edges of his robe, pushed out of the way by his encroaching heft. With his arms hanging at an angle, he shambled toward Caid, taking short steps that sent vibrations up the bottom of his belly. Those vibrations stopped before they reached the top of his gut, likely halted by the solid mass of food now inside of him.

Once Mart had swallowed his last mouthful of cake, he said, “I, uh, didn’t expect you here so early. I usually try to finish eating before you get out of your apprenticeship. Did you leave early today?”

“Ah, well, funny thing… I’m not apprenticed at Adriana’s anymore.”

With eyes open wide and eyelids far up, Mart asked, “No?”

With a sigh, Caid steeled himself to give Mart the big news. “I finally saved up enough to leave Brinsweld. I’m going to go study magic for real.”

“Aw, that’s great!” Mart enthused. “Where are you going?”

“Wildrun. Not only is their magic academy solid, but they have a blacksmith’s’ guild too, so I can use that trade to make some money if need be.”

“Solid plan. Are you staying at the academy or the guild?”

With a hesitant drawing out of the first syllable, Caid answered, “Actually, I arranged to buy a house near the edge of town.”

The smile on Mart’s face melted to a shocked expression again. “How’d you manage that?” he asked softly. “You could barely save up to make the trip.”

“Well,” Caid stalled in a high-pitched voice, “Remember when I asked you to teach me about enchanting?”


“I’ve been making enchanted arms and armor at Adriana’s and we’ve been selling them. The money allowed me to improve my situation quite a bit before the move.”

There was a tension in the silence, as Caid wasn’t sure whether Mart would resent him for taking the lesson he’d taught him and running off to make a small fortune. But Mart’s shocked, flat mouth slowly curled up into a smile as his eyes softened. “My boy,” he said like a proud parent as he shuffled closer to give Caid a pat on the back. “Good on you. Make those ingrates eat their distrust of magic. I hope you got enough of their money that you never have to work again.”

“Heh, well, it’s not quite that much, but… well… thank you.”

“Thank… me?”

“None of this would have been possible without you. The move, the upgrades, me being able to finally study magic, just… thank you.”

Mart’s face was blank for a while, seemingly unsure how to feel. It wasn’t until Caid saw the glimmer of tears in his eyes that a smile crept across Mart’s face again. Once it did, Mart pulled Caid in for a hug, pushing him tightly against his own stuffed gut. Under Caid’s stomach, it felt nearly as hard as the rocks that made up the forge he didn’t have to work anymore. He quickly shook of the surprise and gave Mart a hug back, wrapping his arms around his mentor’s flabby chest.

“Promise you’ll come back to visit?” Mart asked.

“Of course.”

“Good,” Mart said before he let go. “You know… Maybe I’ll come visit you in Wildrun. It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten out of town, and now I’ll have a reason to go somewhere else.”

“Yeah, that’d be fun,” Caid said. He might’ve been the only person in town who could say it earnestly.

“Find out where the good places to eat are before I come to visit,” he told Caid with a smile.

News of blacksmiths who were also skilled enchanters traveled quickly, even if it was all hearsay. When Caid arrived in Wildrun, he didn’t know that rumors of a blacksmith enchanter from Brinsweld had arrived long before he did. When he joined the magic academy on his first day in town and the blacksmith’s guild the day after, he soon found himself the center of a lot of unexpected attention.

It was quite the change–though certainly not an unwelcome one–from needing to keep his magical pursuits a secret in Brinsweld to being sought after for them in Wildrun. Whereas he usually walked around Brinsweld in his blacksmithing garments, now he could walk around Wildrun in his robe with his staff on his back. As much as he enjoyed smithing, that just felt more right.

To Caid’s surprise, his blacksmithing abilities made him all the more welcome at the academy. Once his new colleagues and instructors found out he was the smithing enchanter they’d heard so much about, they were all pleasantly surprised to know he still wanted to expand his knowledge of magic and share that knowledge with the other mages. Most smithing enchanters, it seemed, were quite content to grow rich on the easy coin to be made with the hybrid of their crafts. That Caid retained his thirst for knowledge, they said, proved he was a real scholar.

As busy as Caid was, he scarcely had time to think about going back to Brinsweld to visit his parents, his friends, or Mart. He’d nearly forgotten about his promise to visit until Mart sent him a letter. Just reading the name on the return address made Caid put his forehead in his palm, as he knew exactly what it would be about. All he could hope for was that Mart would be more forgiving of him than he knew he deserved.

To Caid’s relief, the tone of Mart’s letter was genial, hoping he was doing well and asking if he might be able to visit soon. Knowing how easy it was for him to lose things in the shuffle, Caid immediately penned his reply and sent it off. A few weeks later, as Caid was finishing up another busy night, he heard a knock on his door.

Rushing over to his door, Caid opened it to see Mart standing in front of him. “Mart!”

“Caid!” Mart called out as he raised his hands at his sides, at which Caid quickly enveloped him in a hug. “So good to see you, bud.”

As the two embraced, Caid felt like he had to lean farther than usual over Mart’s belly to wrap his arms around his old friend. Once he leaned back, he saw that that was indeed true. Mart was wearing a newer robe, this one visibly bigger than his last, but even it was now tight enough that it revealed a triangular view of his scraggly chest hair.

Looking down at Mart’s belly, Caid could tell it was clearly the culprit. The already protuberant mound had grown even bigger, making Mart look even bigger than a town drunkard. Only the heftiest and most immoderate of nobility or royalty, the kind who enjoyed showing off their status on their waistline, could rival Mart’s current size. The front of his robe, as it draped off of bulging midsection, hung so far in front of Mart’s feet that it looked like two average-sized people could fit within the diameter of the robe.

“Say,” Caid blurted out, trying to interrupt his ruminations. “Is that a new robe?”

“Sure is. Old one got so small I could barely even wrap it around myself. I like the way this one looks more anyway,” he said with a proud smile.

As Mart walked into Caid’s house, he moved in a way Caid found more reminiscent of the ways he walked after a particularly large feast than of his normal walk. His arms swung widely at his side, counteracting the movement of all his newly added weight. With each step, his belly bounced noticeably, now that it wasn’t held firm by an enormous mass of food. As it bounced, even the robe seemed to vibrate upward, in addition to billowing around his legs.

“So, you already making a name for yourself around here?”

“Actually, kinda, honestly,” Caid answered, trying to be as modest as possible. “After I joined the magic academy on my first day and the blacksmiths’ guild on my second day, things spiraled from there.”

“Spiraled good or spiraled bad?”

“Good, I think. It’s been hectic, obviously,” Caid added with a tired chuckle.

“So, were they impressed when you conjured nourishing food?”

Caid stared at Mart blankly. “What?”

As his eyelids and eyebrows lowered, Mart continued, “You know, the thing we spent months working on? The thing you resurrected a dead form of magic to make happen?”

“Oh… yeah…“

“Don’t tell me you forgot.”

“I mean… things have just been so busy, and I’ve been learning so much, I haven’t had time to even think about teaching them anything.”

“Well, make time,” Mart said. “I’m telling you, you’ll blow them away.”

“Why don’t you tell them, then?”

After an amused, “Pfft”, Mart said, “I don’t want the attention. Look, you’re young. Go make a name for yourself.”

“You’re not that old yourself, buddy,” Caid exclaimed. “Your hair hasn’t even started greying yet.”

“Look, I’m just a layabout who uses magic to make my life easier. You’re going to actually make something of yourself out here. Take the credit, if only for that.”

Caid’s mouth was slanted, not sure what to make of Mart’s stubbornness but too tired to fight with him any more.

“Now,” Mart said in a more upbeat tone, giving his bulging belly some hearty thumps, “What’s a good place to eat around here?”

The two ended up visiting several shops around Wildrun before stopping for dinner. As they walked the streets, Mart walked with even more vigor than he had in Caid’s house, making his bulbous belly bounce even more wildly. But he had no problem keeping up with Caid as they walked, making the rebound of his gut even more pronounced. Of course, Mart stopped at several food stands along the way, picking up bites to eat to try the local cuisine and tide him over until dinner. Caid expected that much.

What caught Caid by surprise was Mart’s demeanour. Unlike the curmudgeon he was used to seeing walking around Brinsweld, Mart walked around with a smile on his face as he and Caid chatted about what Caid was working on and what little news there was from back home. When Mart bought some wild fowl jerky and the merchant thanked him for his business, he seemed caught off guard. “Uh… y-you’re welcome… and, um, thank you,” he said more confidently before he and Caid walked off.

The two walked into an alchemist’s shop named Lillith’s, Caid’s prefered place to stop for potions and ingredients. The only other customer in the shop was a berserker with a belly even bigger than Mart’s and a battleaxe that was just as giant on his back. All he wore was fur leggings and a leather harness that ran diagonally across his torso, letting his gargantuan belly hang out freely.

“Hi, Caid!” Lillith called out, making Mart look at Caid with amused eyes. “Who’s your friend?”

“Oh, this is–”

“M-my name’s Mart,” he said as he walked up to the shopkeeper. “I’m a friend of Caid’s… from back home.”

“Ah, okay! Are you a mage as well?”

“Uh… yeah… Yes, I am,” Mart answered. Caid could tell that his voice was shaky, as if he was unsure how to proceed with polite conversation, but willing to try anyway.

“Well, welcome to my shop. I’m sure there’s something here that you’ll be interested in.”

“Yes!” Mart blurted out as he started browsing the shelves, like he was thankful to be reminded of why he came into the shop.

Once the two got talking about alchemy, conversation flowed more naturally between all three. It seemed out of character for Mart, whom Caid had never seen show this side of himself to anyone but him. But as Caid and the shopkeeper carried on talking about the merits of various possible ingredients for a mana potion, Caid couldn’t help but smile.

After a quick trip back to Caid’s house to drop of what they’d bought, the two headed out to the local inn for dinner. Though there were plenty of taverns in town, Caid’s colleagues at the blacksmiths’ guild always went there to grab a bite to eat after a long day of work. They insisted it was the hidden gem of WIldrun, somehow serving better food than the dedicated eateries in town in spite of ostensibly being primarily a place for people to sleep. Caid hadn’t had enough time to visit the other places in town on his own, but he was willing to take his guildmates’ word for it.

The entrance hall of the inn was remarkably quiet that night, housing only a few travelers sitting around the fire and a few more sitting at one of the tables near the bar. Caid and Mart pulled up a couple of seats at the bar and the bartender slid up to them. “Evening, boys. What’ll it be?”

Turning to Caid, Mart asked, “What do you recommend?”

“I like the goulash, but you might want something more substantial.”

“Yeah.” Looking at the barmaid, he asked, “What’s the biggest entree you have?”

“We got a meat and cheese platter for sharing. Ya can sample some of the finest delicacies Wildrun has to offer. I’d be surprised if the two of ya could finish it, though,” she drawled. “The three men there ordered it if ya want ta see it.”

Looking behind themselves, Caid and Mart beheld a platter that took up nearly the entire width of the table the group was sitting at. They seemed to have eaten about half of its contents, and had already slowed down their intake to nibbling.

“I’ll have that.”

The bartender stared at Mart, not changing her expression and not moving her eyes. “That dish serves four people, sir,” she told him, her tone unflinchingly flat and slow.


“We have an individual size that’ll let you try the same variety of meats and cheeses in more manageable portions.”

“I’ll take the big one,” Mart insisted, with some of that old stubborn surliness coming back in his voice.

“Alright,” she relented. “But I wanna see you finish it. Don’t go letting my good food go to waste.”

Giving his belly a hearty thump, Mart assured her, “That won’t happen.”

“I’ll have the goulash, please” Caid interjected. With a nod, she looked back to Caid and asked, “Anything to drink for you two?”

“A wild cider for me,” Caid said.

After looking at the list of drinks on the wall, Mart asked, “Is the running stout a local drink?”

“That it is,” the bartender answered.

“I’ll have a mug of that.”

The barmaid walked off to the kitchen to put their orders in and grab their drinks. Leaning over to Mart, Caid asked, “You really think you can eat that whole thing?”

“You think I can’t?” Mart retorted with a smirk. Caid merely gave Mart a silent smile, as he couldn’t honestly say he didn’t think Mart could finish it.

The two chatted a while longer over their drinks until their food came out. When Caid saw the sharing-size meat and cheese platter, his eyelids and eyebrows shot up. Up close, it looked even bigger than it had on the table, and was packed more densely than he expected. He doubted he’d be able to eat even a fourth of it if he were sharing it, and made a mental note to suggest ordering it the next time the blacksmiths’ guild ate at the inn.

“There you go,” the bartender grunted as she laid it in front of Mart. “I’ll go get your goulash,” she told Caid as she walked back to the kitchen.

Caid kept staring at the meat and cheese platter, before he heard Mart clap his hands. He looked over to see him rubbing them together with a grin on his face, before he started on the first slice of cheese. The bartender brought out Caid’s goulash soon after, and both men ate quietly, the silence occasionally broken by Mart talking with his mouth full.

As Caid expected, he finished his dinner before Mart, eating the last of the goulash while Mart still had about two thirds of his tray left. Mart didn’t eat especially quickly, but as more and more of the meat and cheese disappeared, he still maintained a consistent pace, putting away slice after slice and enjoying them as much as the first. Even the barmaid seemed impressed, watching Mart eat until he started the second half of his dish, before raising her eyebrows and walking off to check on the other customers.

Once Caid was done eating, conversation resumed between the two, with Mart happily talking through his mouthfuls of meat and cheese. And the mouthfuls kept coming, for Mart showed no inclination to slow down, gobbling up the slices one after another as eagerly as he had when he started eating. As he neared the end, Caid looked down and could swear that Mart’s robe seemed to have separated a little more, with the top of his belly peeking through the opening.

After Mart ate the last remaining slice of cheese, he licked his fingers casually with a satisfied grin on his face. His free hand wandered toward the side of his gut and rubbed it gently with his fingertips. It was a subtle gesture, one Caid only noticed thanks to being friends with Mart for as long as he had been. But it was one that let him know Mart had enjoyed his meal.

“Well I’ll be damned,” the barmaid exclaimed as she walked back up to the two. “Ya actually did it.”

“Told you I would,” Mart said proudly as he gave his hefty gut a few thumps, this time not as forcefully as he had before.

Once the two had settled the bill, they got up to head back to Caid’s house. Mart now walked noticeably more slowly than he had when the two first came in, forcing Caid to curb his pace. Rather than his arms swinging exuberantly at his side, they stuck out stiffly, leaving his chest wavering side to side as he walked. His gut barely moved, too full to bounce from the slow steps he took and having too much inertia to sway as he walked.

Once the two were out of the inn and walking through the town’s lamp-lit streets, Mart took a much less subtle approach to rubbing his gut. He lifted both of his hands up to the top of his stomach and rubbed it in slow, steady circles, occasionally letting out a satisfied groan as he did.

“Careful there,” Caid warned. “You don’t want to rub it so hard that you pull your robe apart.”

Indeed, Mart’s robe had enough slack to show off the top of his spherical gut in what little light the lamps offered. With a grumble, Mart pulled the two sides closed tighter and tied the sash shut tighter. The robe still allowed a clear view of his chest and some of his belly, but it was at least as tight as Mart could manage.

“So, what do you think of Wildrun?”

“It’s nice,” Mart replied like he was defaulting to that answer. “Being able to browse a store instead of needing to order supplies through a courier is real convenient. I’ll be glad when I can go back to Brinsweld, though.”

“Wha–really? Why? You seemed to like the people here more.”

“Yeah, but talking to everyone gets to be a lot. I’ll be glad when I can go home and be left alone again.”

Something about Mart’s resolve to go home disappointed Caid in a way he hadn’t expected after seeing Mart seem to come out of his shell so much in Wildrun. He knew Mart was a creature of habit, but he didn’t expect him to stick to those habits even when breaking them seemed to make him happier.

“So,” Mart continued in his happy tone, “When are you going to show off your conjured food and wow those academy mages?”

“Eh, I’ll find the time. Maybe after things have settled down and I don’t have so much on my plate.”

“Well that sounds like an awful state to be in,” Mart said with a laugh as he thumped his distended gut. Soon he wagged his fingers in the air and produced a sweet roll. “Dessert?”

Shaking his head side to side, Caid said with a chuckle, “I need to stop being surprised when you have more room,” before he took the sweet roll.

It was possibly the strangest request the warriors’ guild had gotten; Caid just hoped the ease of its fulfillment made up for that. For his first visit to Brinsweld since leaving, he wanted to bring Mart a robe that fit him properly and thus looked presentable. He’d kept the olive green with navy blue trim color scheme that Mart had liked so much about his old robe, and pulled some favors at the academy to get it enchanted to a level Mart deserved. Caid wasn’t sure Mart’s old robes were even enchanted, but that wasn’t going to stop him from going the distance for his former mentor.

The problem was sizing the robe. None of the standard sizes looked like they would come close to fitting Mart, to the point where Caid wondered where Mart had even gotten a robe as big as the one he wore to Wildrun. So he had to get one custom made, which required someone to size the robe on. Even finding people living in Wildrun who were as big as Mart was a challenge, and with no one close to his size at either the magic academy or the blacksmiths’ guild, Caid hoped the warrior’s guild would be able to help.

Walking into the great hall, Caid was greeted by a few warriors sitting at tables near the entrance. “Hey there,” he heard one particularly vibrant knight greet as she got up from her table. “What can we do for you?”

“Well, I’m, uh… looking to hire a warrior, as you might expect.”

“It’s usually either that or recruitment, and you don’t seem like the type looking to join,” she said with a smirk and she looked Caid over. In his own robes and with his staff on his back, he definitely didn’t look the part.

“Ah, no, certainly.”

“What kind of job do you need done?”

After taking a deep breath, Caid gave up beating around the bush and said, “A job that requires your heftiest warrior.”

“Come again?”

With a sigh, Caid continued, “I’m getting a robe made for my mentor before I travel back home to visit him. The problem is, he’s a man whose heft is matched only by the widest of nobility. I need someone who can serve as a model while the tailor sizes the robe.”

The confused on the knight’s face melted into a pensive expression before she looked back at the skirmisher sitting at the other table. “I think Bhaal might be the man for the job.”

“The berserker?” After scratching his chin for a bit, he raised his eyebrows. “Yeah, I can’t think of anyone else.”

“I think he’s in the living quarters.” Turning back to Caid, the knight said, “I’ll be right back,” before she walked back into the guild hall.

Caid stood around awkwardly as the skirmisher turned back to his book. When the knight returned, she was followed by the berserker Caid had seen in Lillith’s when Mart came up to visit. He’d seen the man in the shop and around town before. As always, he walked in with his mammoth gut hanging out over his loose fur leggings and a leather harness decorated with pockets running diagonally across it. He carried himself with a confidence that eclipsed even Mart’s, for Mart’s was born out of not caring about his size. This berserker, it seemed, was proud of it.

Deep down, Caid had hoped the berserker was a member of the warrior’s guild. If he weren’t, Caid would have had to approach him on the street and offer him the job, and he didn’t know how to start that conversation. With an audible relief in his voice, Caid turned to the knight and told her, “Perfect.”

“Great. Bhaal, you’ve got a job. You can leave your axe behind for this one.”

“Wha–what kind of job doesn’t require a weapon?” Turning to Caid, he asked, “You know this is the warrior’s guild, right? If you just need us to rough someone up, Johl here is the one you want,” he said as he motioned toward the skirmisher.

“He can fill you in on the details,” the knight told him as she gestured toward Caid. “And maybe put a shirt on?”

“Oh, that’s okay,” Caid chimed in. “It’s just going to come off anyway.”

“Uh…” Bhaal stalled. “Are, uh… are you sure you don’t want to visit a… different part of town for that?”

“No, no, it’s nothing like that,” Caid insisted. “See, I’m getting a robe made as a gift for my mentor. He’s nearly of your stature, and I need someone to model the robe for the tailors so they can make sure the dimensions are correct.”

Once the blank look dissipated from Bhaal’s face, he put his chin in his hand and said, “Well that’s a first.” After pondering it for another moment, he looked at Caid and said, “Alright. If the gravest threat of the job is being poked by a tailor’s pin, it’s hard to turn that down.”

With an amused smile, Caid bade Bhaal to follow him and lead him to the tailors at the magic academy.

Once Bhaal and Caid arrived at the academy and Caid explained the situation, the tailors asked Bhaal to strip down to his underwear. He took off his furs and harness without hesitation or shame, discarding them and leaving only his briefs on. His gut jutted out, globular as always, but Caid swore it looked more enormous than usual. It seemed the added width of the furs he usually wore made his waist look more proportional to his pelvis. Without them, his gut looked even more gargantuan, bulging imposingly into the space in from of him as he approached the tailors.

To Caid’s relief, Bhaal was a pro as he stood still on the tailor’s podium. All of the discipline required of him to be a warrior seemed to help him keep still as the tailors did their jobs. The tailors were also stalwartly professional as they took their measurements, running their cloth tapes over the curves of his body and the girth of his belly with as little embarrassment as Bhaal had. Once they started constructing the robe, it was astounding to Caid just how far out the cloth hung off of Bhaal’s belly, resembling a curtain more than a robe. But the tailors did their work masterfully, undaunted by the eventual garment’s size.

As per convention, the tailors made the robe longer in the front so that when it hung over Bhaal’s belly, the bottom hem circled his calves with even elevation. “Could you bring the hem of the robe up in the front, please?” Caid asked as they worked.

“Is this robe going to a battle mage?” one of the tailors asked.

“No, no, not that high up. Just a hand width or two.”

“It’s because the guy the robe is for is smaller than me, isn’t it?” Bhaal asked.


Bhaal nodded slowly with a satisfied smile before he resumed standing still.

“Should we take in the sides of the robe, then?”

“Um, I don’t think so. He, uh… outgrows robes pretty regularly. I want to get him one that looks good now, but will also fit him for a while.”

After a pause, the tailor nodded at Caid before continuing his work.

It took the tailors a few days to finish the robe once they’d sized it on Bhaal, but at the end of those days, Caid had a robe that he knew would be perfect for Mart. He was thankful to find that getting it enchanted proved to be less of a hassle, since his colleagues didn’t ask so many questions. Once the robe was enchanted, Caid wrapped it up to present it to Mart on his next trip back.

Caid was looking forward to a quiet trip back to Brinsweld. After he’d revealed his ability to conjure nourishing food to his colleagues, he quickly became a big name at the academy. His colleagues and even his instructors demanded to know where he’d learned such a feat, but he tried to keep a lid on it until he was ready to travel back. Just before he left, he finally dropped the name: Mart of Brinsweld.

At that, Caid was off, having sprung for an express carriage to take him back to Brinsweld as fast as possible so he could get there before he anyone else. He knew that revealing Mart as his mentor would bring him a lot of attention, and he wanted to give him a heads up that that attention was imminent. He also wanted to give Mart the new robe before anyone else arrived in Brinsweld. If his colleagues went to his hometown seeking someone they thought was a powerful mage and found a man in a robe that was so tight on him that it showed off his belly, they might never come back.

Of course, Mart had said he wanted to be left alone, which had made Caid hesitant to name him as his mentor. But when his colleagues asked what they should bring Mart as tribute when they visit, he suggested they bring local delicacies that Mart wouldn’t be able to get in a place like Brinsweld, rather than the usual reagents, ingredients, and tomes. That, he thought, might open Mart up to the idea of collaborating with other mages.

At least, he certainly hoped so. As the express carriage pulled into the outskirts of Brinsweld, Caid quickly unloaded the cart and brought his belongings into his old house. He found the dwelling exactly as he’d left it, albeit with a few cobwebs. But they weren’t anything a quick spell couldn’t disperse, as Caid waved his hand and watched a breeze blow through his house the propell the cobwebs outside.

With Mart’s robe in hand, he walked over to Mart’s house and gave the door a knock, not getting a response. At that point, he knew better than to just barge in, but knowing his colleagues might not be far behind, he was willing to risk whatever he might see next to make sure Mart knew they were coming. Better that he walk in on one of Mart’s strange rituals than one of them, he figured. Trying the latch and finding it unlocked, he entered.

When Caid entered Mart’s dining room, he saw that Mart seemed to have forgone a chair entirely for his latest ritual. Rather, he was floating face down in the air above an empty dinner table, his open robe hung over his back and past his body like a sheet laid over a large rock. His arms and legs lay crooked around him, floating freely and clearly not playing a part in keeping him where he was. His eyes were closed, so even though he was facing Caid’s direction, he hadn’t seem him come in.

Caid’s attention was soon caught by what looked like a tendril of a white liquid flowing into Mart’s mouth. It looked like cow’s milk, and extended around his head and above him before vanishing into the air. Or rather, it seemed Mart was conjuring the milk and funneling it down to his mouth for him to drink. From the sound of his swallowing and the flowing of the tendril, he seemed to be swallowing the milk quite voraciously. It was the strangest ritual of Mart’s that Caid had seen thus far, so he watched dumbfounded as Mart continued with it.

Looking down, Caid saw exactly where all that milk was going. His jaw dropped when he looked between the sides of Mart’s robe at his belly. Even the most immoderate of royalty couldn’t rival Mart at his current size. From how far his robe hung down past his sides, it seemed Caid’s visit was well timed, as Mart’s current robe stood no chance of wrapping all the way around his turgid gut. As his legs hung behind him, Caid could see that his gut hung nearly down to his knees, as his knees only reached the same elevation as his gut when his legs were bent nearly all the way down.

“Uh, Mart?”

Mart’s eyes shot open and soon locked with Caid’s. At that, the flow of milk ended, and he quickly sucked up the remaining tendril. “Caid!” he gasped after his last swallow. “Back so soon?” he huffed as he levitated away from the table and over the floor, rotating until he resumed an upright position.

Once Mart stood up straight, his gut was revealed to be the same size as Bhaal’s, surely swollen from all the milk he’d drunk. Caid couldn’t be sure exactly how much that was, but Mart’s belly had swollen up so big that the bottom was nearly as rounded out as the top. It looked nearly twice as wide as his chest, and pushed the open robe out of the way, bulging out far ahead of Mart.

Mart wavered back and forth just standing upright, so he took short steps as he approached Caid. His firm gut was so full that it didn’t bounce one bit with his slow movements, gliding forward like it were still affected by Mart’s levitation spell. Considering how difficult it must have been for Mart to walk with his belly as engorged as it was, that might very well have been the case.

“So,” Caid’s swollen mentor asked, “what brings you back here?”

“Well… a few things actually. One, I wanted to give you this,” Caid said as he handed the wrapped robe to Mart.

With a curious furrow of his brow, Mart took the package in hand and opened the paper. His eyelids shot up when he saw the robe, and upon unfolding it, his entire face lit up. “By the gods,” he gasped as he held the gargantuan garment in front of him. With a wag of his fingers, he left it hanging in the air so he could take off his current robe, leaving him in much the same state of dress Bhaal had been in as the robe was being made. Though the open robe certainly didn’t leave anything to Caid’s imagination, it still felt a trifle odd for his old mentor to be standing in front of him in nothing but his underwear, especially when he’d swelled his gut up as wide as he had.

After tossing the old robe aside, Mart grabbed his new robe out of the air and stuck his arms through the sleeves. The sides of the robe were so long that they hung down past his feet and onto the floor. Even trying to wrap them around himself, Mart couldn’t reach their ends without grabbing a side in the middle and pulling it close. But once he wrapped the robe around his voluminous gut, the sides were lifted up to drape comfortably over his expanse, and the entire bottom hem hung around his calves, clear of the floor. The two sides of the robe were long enough that each of them wrapped all around the front of his gut and to the other side, like a robe was supposed to.

For the first time since Caid had met him, Mart’s robe didn’t show any of his chest. And yet, the portion that hung off of his distended gut still accentuated just how fat he was, hanging off like a curtain. Caid had a feeling Mart wouldn’t have it any other way. It suited him.

“Aw, this is great, Caid. I can’t believe you went to all this trouble for me.”

“Hey, you’re the reason I am where I am right now. I had to thank you properly. It’s enchanted, too, so be careful casting those spells of yours that you don’t overdo it.”

“Aw, you really went the distance,” Mart enthused. Now that the robe was on, he twisted in place to look it over, rotating his gut to look at it from the side. The distended mass seemed to move with an inertia of its own, as if it were its own entity and Mart were subject to its whims. But he seemed quite pleased with how it fit, giving his bloated gut some happy pats as his smile beamed. “Thank you, Caid,” he said quietly. “Thank you.”

“Of course. Now, uh, that wasn’t the only thing I came back for.”

“Ooh, what other happy news is there?” Mart asked gleefully.

“Well… all of the mages at the academy wanted to know who taught me how to conjure nourishing food, so I told them it was you. A lot of them seemed really excited to come do research with you, or just learn from you. They’re probably on their way now, in fact. So… surprise?”

The color had drained from Mart’s face and all the excitement he’d gotten from the robe was lost. “What?” he asked flatly.

Soon there was another knock on the door, followed by a voice calling out, “Hello? Does Mart live here?”

Mart looked toward the door and breathed heavily, seemingly not just from his stomach full of milk. “You have a lot to answer for,” he told Caid angrily as he hobbled toward the door, moving as quickly as he could with his bulging gut, which wasn’t very fast.

Caid didn’t want to look toward the door as Mart opened it, afraid of what would happen next. He heard Mart ask, “What do… you want?” and was surprised to hear his tone change mid-sentence, from his characteristic gruffness to genuine surprise.

Turning around, Caid saw one of his colleague from the academy standing at Mart’s door, with a wheel of cheese in one hand and several bottles of beer in the other. “I heard you were the one who taught Caid how to conjure nourishing food and was hoping I might be able to learn a thing or two from you as well. Caid said you’d appreciate some local delicacies, so I brought some Wildrun sharp and running stout. Oh!, hey Caid!” he called out when he saw Caid, at which Caid waved back timidly.

Mart was silent for a moment, looking at the young mage as he held the door open. “Wildrun sharp, huh?” After the young man nodded, Mart continued, “That was my favorite kind when I tried the meat and cheese platter from the inn,” making a smile spread across the young mage’s face. “Come on in, kid. Uh, forgive the mess.”

After Caid’s first trip back, a steady and steadily growing stream of mages started traveling to Brinsweld looking work with Mart. Those mages needed food and a place to stay, bringing new business to the town’s inn and taverns as well. Though Caid was painfully aware of how much Brinsweld’s residents distrusted magic, all the traveling mages seemed blithely oblivious to it, walking through town in their robes and asking where Mart lived like he was any other citizen of the town.

It was a strange few months at first, an awkward transitional phase that kept Caid out of Brinsweld most of the time. But once the town’s residents acclimated to the new stream of visitors, swayed also by the coin they brought in, the town’s attitude toward magic changed from one of distrust to tolerance, making Caid more comfortable coming back.

Once Mart had become an established name in the magical world, Caid split his days between Brinsweld and Wildrun, now that he no longer had to practice in secret in his home town. Within the next few months, an apothecary’s shop opened in Brinsweld, promising medicine for the residents and alchemical ingredients for the visiting mages. The town took fairly well to that shop, so when a shop dedicated to magical reagents opened up a few months later, no one raised much of a fuss.

It was a nice change of pace for Caid. He finally felt comfortable walking around his own hometown in his robe with his staff on his back. Rather than spending time at Mart’s house when he visited, he and Mart would often walk around town as they discussed their ideas, both wearing their stylish robes proudly.

Mart certainly seemed to have grown in the months since Caid had brought him the robe, but when he walked around Brinsweld with a stomach that wasn’t full nearly to bursting, it still fit with plenty of slack left. Though his legs barely hit front of the robe as he walked, the fabric still waved and ebbed as it hung from his mammoth belly. In spite of that belly, he still walked with vigor as he and Caid made their way around town, often with a traveling mage in tow joining in on their conversations.

“See, I think a lot of valuable knowledge was lost when modern mages rejected these ‘primitive’ forms of magic,” Mart told his latest visitor as he and Caid walked around. “Why, if Caid hadn’t single-handedly resurrected earth magic as a discipline, we never would have discovered how to conjure food with sustenance.”

You never would have discovered that,” Caid corrected. “That was all you. I just taught you the earth magic.”

“That’s no ‘just’,” Mart told him with a smile. “It’s not just any mage who can teach another a previously dead discipline.”

The three continued chatting as they walked around Brinsweld, making their way from the outskirts of town to the town center. As they chatted, quite a few people would walk past the group and say, “Hey!” to Caid, happy to see him now that they didn’t get to see him so often. But a number of them said, “Hey,” to Mart too. It usually wasn’t as enthusiastic, more of a polite formality than anything else, possibly no more than them trying to break the awkwardness after accidental eye contact. But that was more than he was used to in Brinsweld.

“Hi,” would usually be Mart’s reply, sometimes a “Hello,” instead for the more friendly ones. He still wasn’t quite used to the citizens of Brinsweld being cordial toward him, let alone friendly. But he was learning, and in spite of years of spent doing otherwise, he was trying to return the favor.

3 thoughts on “Getting Fat on Conjured Food

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