A Plague of Onces
A bard an actor that long ago was magically trapped in a wand.
The great bard Faustus has a score to settle with a charismatic devil by the name of Gaozul. Three-hundred years ago, Faustus Marrow was an actor – the greatest actor of all time in his own mind. His uncle was a producer handling shows headlining the DeLorme Theatre, and he pulled some strings to get Faustus minor roles with weekly performances written by some of the greatest playwrights of the time. Invariably, Faustus’ bad acting would make even his minor roles a complete disaster. When given roles without lines, he would ad lib. When playing dead characters he would miraculously come back to life. Finally, they made him a tree, and that shut him up for a while. Still, Faustus craved fame. After a performance one day, Faustus sat alone backstage picking off the bits of bark they glued to his face. He often found himself alone after performances, which he always attributed to jealousy or intimidating his colleagues in the troupe.
On this day, however, a man purporting to be a fan found his way back there. The man introduced himself as Aldridge Byrne, applauded Faustus, and heaped upon him loads of praise and adoration. Faustus ate it up. The man said he was very powerful, and sensed that Faustus was not receiving the respect he so richly deserved. The man said that if Faustus signed a contract with him, he would manage his career and make his wildest dreams come true. The man asked, “What is your greatest wish, Mr. Marrow?” Faustus did not even need to think he knew what he wanted, “To be the greatest ACTOR alive!” Aldridge asked, “Would you do anything for it?”
Faustus signed the contract making the man his agent, and at the same time placed his fate and his soul into the man known as Aldridge Byrne who revealed himself to be a devil named Gaozul. This itself is obviously another pseudonym and no one knows Gaozul’s true name, for to know the true name of a devil is to have power over them.
Gaozul promptly granted Fausts’ wish and placed his soul into the nearest handy object – a prop wand used in the play “Ceasing Absorin the Mighty.” The devil said that there he shall remain until all living things are dead, at which time the spell would be broken and Faustus released, making him the only and greatest actor alive. To Faustus’ shame few scarcely noticed his absence, and no one came looking for him. In the meantime, Faustus has seen much in his 300-odd years of existence. After being used for some time on stage in several more productions (which Faustus, despite everything, reveled in being the star of the show for a change) he was thrown in the trash outside the theatre. No one was able to hear his protests against this. There he was picked up by a street urchin and sold to a street vendor that sold magic items.
Though he seemed to possess no magical properties, and explained such on many occasions to all parties, no one could hear him, and the vendor convinced an apprenticing wizard to purchase him. There Faustus spent years learning magic alongside his new master. He did not appreciate being waved about and did complain about that endlessly, but he did find his newfound abilities quite nice as he was finally able to influence his surroundings, even if it did take a wizard to lend a hand (Faustus loves that joke.)
However, Faustus had a falling out with his wizard master when he went adventuring in a bugbear cave looking for whatever magic macguffin they needed to save a town or some such. The wizard dared to drop Faustus in the mud without so much as an apology, and so naturally, when the bugbears came chasing the wizard down he definitely found himself disinclined to lend assistance. This is a decision Faustus soundly regrets, because after pummeling the wizard, Faustus found himself being used as a bugbear’s backscratcher for several more years. Until a purple worm ate the bugbear. Then he spent some time inside the worm. Eventually he was ahem deposited in a puddle deep inside a massive cavern. There he sat for many, many years.
Mostly, it was very boring. He did see some very strange creatures on occasion, but mostly it was just dark and wet. Eventually he was discovered by a mind flayer named Alorxlan, or rather one of his mind-controlled slaves. It wasn’t very pleasant, but at least the mind-flayer could hear him.
Before long Faustus was dominated by the creature, and became Alorxlan’s favorite plaything. He used Faustus’ considerable magical might to defeat many foes. Eventually, justice caught up with Alorxlan and he was destroyed by a party of heroes that had come seeking fortune. When his master died, the mental dominance began to fade, but he found that the mind-flayer had rearranged and toyed with is mind, and much of his magical ability was locked away from him behind what he could only describe as psychic walls.
The adventurers that liberated him could not hear his profuse thanks as they carried him back up to the surface, and he was so grateful he didn’t even really mind when they sold him to another magic-item dealer. There he sat collecting dust for many more years. Fautus complained constantly of the boredom, and of how the merchant was failing to properly display such a wondrous item as himself. Finally, the day arrived when another party of adventurers came seeking gear and, having little money, the merchant showed the wizard the only wand he could afford – Faustus. He was promptly purchased, and the gnome, ranger, and elf wizard went off to Cook’s Kitchen to find their fortune…