Nijel Turnbottom was not the best apprentice wizard in Thay. He was not the most intelligent, and he was not the most ruthless. Nijel took twice the time his peers did when learning a new spell, and his grasp of the magical arts ended with the most simple of spells. The Red Wizards continued his education only because it amused them. In good time, another apprentice would get rid of Nijel via the appropriate means -- or a magical accident would do him in.
Strangely, though, Nijel did not meet with an untimely demise. He seemed blessed with the most extraordinary luck. When someone directed a spell against him, it would frequently backfire on the caster. The Red Wizards still tell of the unfortunate young wizard who attempted to test his new flesh to stone spell on Nijel, only to wind up as a statue in the center of the zulkir's estate. He is now a favorite roosting spot for pigeons, crows, and canaries.
Nijel never seemed to notice the bizarre magical occurrences that took place around him, which was always to his benefit. He wandered through life with blinders on, barely aware of the arcane chaos that followed wherever he went as magic missile spells misfired, cause fear spells caused panic, and charm person spells went awry. Some Red Wizards theorized that it was precisely this oblivious attitude that protected Nijel from offensive magic. If he didn't notice the mystic energy being directed against him, then it wasn't really there. The proponents of this theory met with frequent derision and occasional disintegration. ("Well, I guess you were paying too much attention there Bobbo, weren't ya?")
Others believed that Nijel was under the protection of a deity or some ancient artifact. Still others conjectured that the weird happenings were the fault of Nijel's familiar, a suspiciously large canary named Dave.
Most just figured that Nijel was one lucky son of a @#!$%.
As it turned out, the initial cause of Nijel's strange luck was a simple ring. In a manner similar to a ring of spell turning, the ring deflected spells away from Nijel. However, an additional property of nondetection allows its properties to remain secret to the casual observer. The low quality of its design and its magical properties serve to keep this minor artifact a secret for now.
Nijel's Ring:Nijel's ring is a tarnished silver band that has no decoration and leaves a green coloration behind on the skin when worn. However, it acts like a ring of spell turning upon command, and it also has an ongoing nondetection effect (as the nondetection spell cast by a 20th-level wizard) upon itself only.
Caster Level: 20th; Prerequisites: Forge Ring, spell turning, nondetection; Market Price: 282,000
The innocuous canary familiar named Dave is really an imp sent to guide and protect Nijel as he journeys the road of evil. Dave has always been extremely effective at his job, keeping Nijel alive when he would otherwise have been reduced to smoldering cinders. (In fact, he is the one who tweets the command word (actually canary warble) of the ring Nijel possesses.) Unfortunately, Nijel wasn't particularly good at his job: Try as he might, Dave couldn't get the young man interested in being evil, or even particularly rude. Dave tried to contact his demonic superiors many times to straighten out this obvious misunderstanding, but he was never able to navigate the 666 options of the Baator Voicemail System.
Then, one day, Nijel and Dave happened upon a necromancer pursuing the dark ritual that would transform him into a lich. In a desperate attempt to bring Nijel to the ways of evil, Dave caused the ritual to go awry, refocusing its arcane energy on Nijel instead of the caster. Unfortunately, the necromancer chose a poorly worded exclamation while interrupted: "You dare defy me and interrupt my ritual, thus causing your own transformation into a lich?" Nijel shrugged and said, "Sure. Whatever." That was all the permission Dave needed to change the ritual to his advantage. The necromancer was quite annoyed at having been deprived of his undeath, and a magical battle ensued, followed by much shouting and flying of feathers.
When the smoke cleared, Nijel discovered that the transition to lichdom had given him a degree of magical power that he had never before enjoyed. However, he still didn't feel especially evil. When Dave asked him how he did feel Nijel could only reply, "Lichie."
This spawned the nickname that would follow Nijel for the rest of his undeath.
Finally accepting that he would never coax Nijel into a lifetime of dastardly deeds and nefarious acts, Dave changed his tactics. If he couldn't get Nijel to be a powerful villain, perhaps he could persuade him to work to the detriment of all sentient beings in another way: publishing self-help books.
With a little helpful editing from his familiar, Nijel's first work, Undeath's a Lich and You Don't Die, became a bestseller throughout Faerün, leading many people to the study of necromancy who might otherwise have been productive members of society.
After the relatively mediocre success of his second and third books, respectively titled I'm Undead, You're Undead and Our Phylacteries, Ourselves, Nijel became despondent. While Dave was enthusiastically planning their next book, The Thirteen Habits of Highly Decomposed People, Nijel slipped quietly away in the night. He left only a short note for his old friend, in which Nijel thanked Dave for his support and transferred all future book royalties to the fiendish canary.
Nijel did a brief stint in Kara-Tur, studying mysticism with an enclave of monks. After that, he disappeared completely and his whereabouts remain unknown. Some say he dwells in the Underdark, contemplating the meaning of his unliving existence. Others say that he runs an ice cream shoppe near Baldur's Gate, and still others claim that he has returned to his old friend Dave, and the two are collaborating on yet another blockbuster self-help book. The only thing that is certain is that Nijel Turnbottom, also known as the Lichie Lich, will not resurface into the public eye until he is good and ready.
About the Author
Ramon Arjona is a software developer with Wizards of The Coast. His poetry has appeared in the Absinthe Literary Review and the Hawaii Review. His short stories have appeared in Strange Horizons.