“What is it?” Chuck asked, staring at the ring. The silver jewelry felt unnaturally warm in his palm even if it was several times too small to fit on his gnoll-sized hand. Chuck was by far the scrawniest, smallest gnoll among his entire family. It was a source of annoyance, and in a society that valued size and strength it was a bit embarrassing sometimes.
Chuck turned the ring over and over in his hand. “Don’t you have any other quest rewards?” the gnoll huffed. He’d just returned from an absurdly dangerous adventure. No other adventuring party was willing to take a quest from a gnoll like Alkali; except, of course, for Chuck since he was a gnoll too. It was practically fate. And it helped that the pay was extremely good. The amount of gold he’d just earned (after deducting health potion costs and a meal or three) would help support his family for months.
But now Alkali said he couldn’t pay the ENTIRE amount in gold, just most of it. The rest would be paid in the form of a magic item. Chuck huffed and crossed his arms. His torn cloak shuddered with the sudden movement. This wasn’t what his family needed. They needed food, and magic rings didn’t trade very well for rations.
“I promise, you want this ring. It grants the wearer immense strength and size,” Alkali said, polishing his glasses with the hem of his shirt. “I found it while on an adventure of my own. Haunted library. Dangerous place, but so many spell books and artifacts to be retrieved…!” The gnoll seemed to disengage from the conversation, looking wistfully off into the distance. Chuck actually waved a hand in front of the gnoll wizard’s face and received no response. Alkali had completely spaced out.
Chuck sighed and held the ring up to the light of the afternoon sun, inspecting it carefully. Inscriptions traced the ring in intricate patterns, weaving in and out of itself with a small red gem inlaid on the outside. He didn’t know much about magic and therefore Chuck had no way to know if this ring was actually enchanted. He had a brother with magical skills, but Chuck was not so lucky. How could he trust this space-case gnoll? It wasn’t exactly what the tribe needed but… maybe he could hold onto it for a night and see what it does. If the ring actually is magical it could still be sold for money, or used for future adventures.
He pushed his left-hand ring finger into the silver band, and frowned when it caught on the first knuckle. “See? Too small,” he huffed, raising his hand to show Alkali. An electric spark jolted Chuck’s hand as the ring spontaneously enlarged and slipped past his knuckles to rest snuggly at the base of his finger. A faint smell of ozone filled the air from the brief burst of magical energy. He blinked, shaking his head in disbelief. Huh. Maybe this thing was magical after all. Chuck shrugged and walked away, carrying his loot in a bag over one thick gnoll shoulder. He needed to find a pub; preferably one that wouldn’t grab their pitchforks the instant he walked in the front door.
As he pulled a set of rations out of his pocket and chewed on the jerky, a very odd thing began happening across the gnoll’s body. Small sparks of arcane energy jumped between strands of his brown fur. With each bite the magic seemed to arc over his body anew, inch after inch of growth pushing its way through the gnoll’s limbs. Chuck grew as he ate. The leather armor tied around his legs and chest stretched slightly, belt buckles straining with each added inch to the gnoll’s height and waist line.
That hadn’t gotten Alkali’s attention apparently. By the time he shook off his trance and focused on reality again, Chuck was long gone. “Shoot. I never explained to him how that ring worked. Oh well, I’m sure he’ll figure out a Ring of Giant’s Strength easily enough,” Al shrugged. “Or was it the Ring of Giant’s Hunger? I should check my notebook, so hard to remember all this arcane trivia…”
The Sleeping Fox wasn’t the fanciest pub in the village. It couldn’t boast that it had amazing ale, or tasty food, or even good beds in any of its rental rooms. What it could say is that it would never turn away coin. Not even from a gnoll. Everything else was unimportant to Chuck. The rest of the drinkers and paying customers might give him the stink eye, but no one dared raise a sword in The Sleeping Fox. Chuck didn’t look particularly strong for a gnoll, but no one started anything on principle alone. It was an unwritten rule.
He picked up a pint of mead, comedically small in his hand even for a short gnoll. The pub didn’t have anything larger to give unfortunately. He’d just have to pay up for even more mugs as the night rolled on. Chuck grunted and chugged the mead in three quick gulps. The food would be arriving soon, and that’s what he actually looked forward to.
Out in his homeland, there wasn’t much to eat or scavenge for a scrawny gnoll. The stronger, larger gnolls get the most food. Chuck wasn’t afraid of starving, and the food was always tasty, but he could never hope to compete with his sisters for an extra helping of meat. The chance to have a big meal, and properly fill his belly with all the food he could pay for, was far too tempting to pass up. Most of the gold was safe to go back to his family. They wouldn’t miss a little bit of it. Chuck took out part of the money for himself, promising that he wouldn’t take a share when he got back to camp.
Plates of hot meat began filling Chuck’s table, fresh out of the oven and still steaming. The scent of peppercorn, paprika, and oregano filled his nose as chicken and racks of lamb were deposited in front of him. Chuck didn’t like playing into gnoll stereotypes but in this case he couldn’t help but drool. Three full plates of meat. It was a feast, and there were more courses coming. His tail thumped against a chair leg. Sometimes being an adventurer had its perks.
The famished canid plucked up the first rack of lamb and began tearing meat from the bones with wild abandon. Flavors he’d dreamed about for months played across his tongue; there was no comparison to meals at home, but once in a blue moon a human’s cooking could dig up those memories of gnollish cooking. In what felt like seconds, the entire rack was stripped clean, and the bone marrow sucked out. He licked his lips to savor every morsel of that deliciously flavored meat. For some reason his hunger had been in overdrive all day today. Strange, really.
Chuck didn’t feel the slight warming sensation of the ring at his hand. He wouldn’t have recognized the magic being forced into him anyway, increasing his gluttony and empowering him with more size. Giant’s Hunger was a dangerously powerful spell in the wrong hands. And Chuck was already REALLY hungry. And REALLY wanted to get bigger. This ring was like throwing gasoline on a burning fire.
Each plate was easier to eat than the last. The cloak held fast for now, thanks to a tightly pinned broach at the front. But how much longer that would last was anyone’s guess. His stomach bloated with each bite, gurgling hungrily. It didn’t seem to matter how much he ate. There was always room for more.
Patrons in the pub started to pay attention to the gnoll once his head bumped into the beams holding up the wooden roof. A thick beam splintered under the force, and shortly after that the chair holding Chuck collapsed. It was just as well; the table wasn’t going to last long either, thanks to the belly he’d been resting atop it while he gorged on plates of food. Chuck wobbled slightly, looking around at the pub before bashfully waving hello. The leather straps on his pants strained, popping anywhere the seams didn’t have enough flexibility. Chuck knew something weird was happening now. But that realization was overpowered by another thought: something smelled really good.
At this point, any adventurers who succeeded on their Wisdom saving throws realized that it was a good time to make a hasty retreat. They knew what a dangerous battle and unpredictable magical curse looked like. The gnoll licked his lips as people evacuated the tavern, leaving behind all their remaining food and drink. It’d be a shame to just let extra food go to waste like that…
Chuck is a good boy, but there’s only so long a gnoll could be expected to hold out. Just as the last plate of food in the entire dining room clanked onto the table, emptied into a ravenous gnoll’s muzzle, Chuck crawled toward the kitchen. Crawling was the best he could manage by this point; standing up wasn’t an option, and kneeling wasn’t going to give enough head space for him to walk forward. A huge mitt reached through the kitchen doors to pull food out. He didn’t think he’d be able to fit his whole body through the doors; his body had rounded up pretty heavily, as the extra tonnage from his food bender settled in not just at his biceps and legs, but around his belly too. At least he too large yet; he could rummage around in the building for morsels to eat.
The clothes on his lower half popped off all at once. The gnoll blushed and looked back at his rump and thick thighs, now freely exposed to the air. On second thought… maybe it was time for him to get out of the pub and go somewhere safer. The magic flowing through his body at this instant had pumped him easily past 15 feet tall, filling the space between floor and ceiling even while on his hands and knees. The changes to his muscle and bulk were welcome enough but he wanted to explore this magic without getting stuck in a building.
Chuck turned around carefully, head and rump bumping into the ceiling if he wasn’t careful to stay low to the ground on hands and knees. Tables crunched under his knees, and the swiping of his tail totally cleared the bar top of all remaining glasses, plates, and liquor bottles. He crawled toward the doorway and hunched down to look through the tiny passage. That door looked very, very small now. Too small. Chuck gulped down his nervousness though. He didn’t have any choice. It was either leave through the door, or break through the walls on his own. He thought busting up The Sleeping Fox might be a little rude so the gnoll crawled through the doorway, twisting his shoulders to line up properly and pushing forward. The added muscle helped, as it strained and stretched his hide, peaks of definition popping out from beneath the thick fur. Wooden planks on the patio crunched beneath the pressure of Chuck’s hands pressing into it. He’d made a mess of this tavern without even meaning to. But with a sickening realization, Chuck felt his gut wedge against the wood.
He grunted and pushed against the walls around the doorway. Chuck was stuck. Properly, totally, immovably stuck. His rounded belly filled every inch of the doorway, but the gnoll only made it halfway outside. The warm mass of gnollish bulk strained against wooden planks, comedically wedged in place and forming a muffin top on either side of the door. His paws skidded against the wooden floor inside the tavern, claws scraping long gashes with each struggle to find purchase. His arms weren’t doing much better. The attempt to get enough leverage to pop free only served to splinter the walls.
Just then, another gnoll whistled at Chuck. He turned to look in the direction of the offending sound; it was Alkali, watching with crossed arms and a bemused expression. Chuck’s face burned hot as he gave a bashful smile to the mage.
“Hey. Your ring works.”
“Well shoot, if you really wanted to get bigger that badly, I could’ve helped,” Alkali chuckled. “I have much quicker ways to grow you than that ring. Maybe another time. For now, you look hungry.” He grinned, stepping away to grab a covered cart filled with food just a little way down the street. The meats jostled as it rolled over the stones and potholes in the dirt road, nearly sending the food inside flying. Luckily nothing fell to the dirty ground below. All of this meat needed to go directly in a gnoll’s muzzle, after all. Alkali plucked a haunch of beef out of the pile and gnawed on it.
Chuck stopped his scrambling, pausing to sniff at the air. He perked up, pushing his head into the wooden roof of the patio and accidentally cracking it in half. Bacon, chicken, salted jerky, stew, delicious scents all floated past the gnoll’s nose. Following the smell of delicious food, he turned to look at the cart as it approached. Chuck’s magical gnoll friend leaned over the rickshaw, smirking as if he knew exactly what was on Chuck’s mind. Maybe Alkali did know; when it came to magic, mind reading wasn’t out of the question. The growing gnoll’s mouth watered and his tongue licked across his lips. Suddenly getting free from the doorway didn’t seem very important at all. As Al pushed the cart forward, Chuck grabbed an entire roast chicken with both hands and tore into it. The magical ring’s gem glowed a light red, reacting to Chuck’s still expanding hunger and feeding it more.
The magic kept working, chipping away at his subconscious mental blocks to let Chuck eat as much as he wanted. It wasn’t healthy to eat an entire rickshaw, meat and wood and all. But Chuck wasn’t quite thinking straight. Alkali was slightly surprised to see the growing gnoll plow through the wooden cart as if it were just another tasty meal. His eyebrows raised when Chuck’s stomach growled, and the rumbles alone were enough to stretch the door frame’s limits. Once finished demolishing the first cart Chuck’s mouth opened wide and his tongue lulled out to await more treats. Al could feel the sudden blast of warm air from Chuck’s breathing and found himself giggling. Were anyone close enough to the chaos to see the pair of gnolls, they might notice the slight red tinge to the mage’s cheeks.
“I think I like you, Chuck. So willing to eat and grow,” Alkali muttered under his breath. He grinned, for the first time letting shine through his devious intent and the slight madness of an enabler realizing Chuck’s true potential. “Let’s see how much you can actually stomach.”
Inside the tavern, Chuck’s tum stretched and pushed against the floor. Planks of oak cracked beneath the weight of nearly a literal ton of gnoll mass. Alkali drew a circle of yellow light in the air and clapped his hands together, casting a spell to draw more covered carts nearby as if magnetized to the growing gnoll. Chuck started struggling against the tavern’s doorway yet again. The wheelbarrows were barely out of reach, and he wanted to chow down so badly. Just as he reached critical mass Chuck pushed forward one more time and found that the wall tore away like it was made of parchment. What was once a challenge barely put up enough resistance now for him to notice. He stood to his full height and gaped when he realized he stood head and shoulders above the top of the tavern now. That meant he was easily over 30 feet tall, looking over the top of the two-story building.
Experimentally, the giant flexed an arm. He marveled as the peaks of his biceps and triceps appeared, as thick as his strongest sisters. And below that a healthy gut filled the space beneath his pecs. Even if his old shirt and cloak had grown with him, there’s no way it would’ve fit his body type anymore. His rounded belly wobbled with each press of his hand against the soft, warm flesh. It was as though he’d been eating plentifully for years rather than just a single, very hungry day. The width of his hips and gut gave Chuck quite the bottom-heavy, pear shaped body. He looked… healthy. Most gnolls dreamed of this physique; Chuck certainly had dreamed of it for years. Now he’d obtained it all thanks to the little wizard at his feet. And his belly still gurgled, insisting, demanding more food. With an almost impish grin Chuck reached down to pick up another food cart in a single hand. It barely filled his palm now. That made it easier to just upend the entire cart’s contents into his muzzle, chewing the meats as simply as one might eat a snack.
Alkali realized that bringing these covered carts wasn’t moving quickly enough for his preferences. Better to start breaking out the magic spells now! He pulled a spell book from a leather-bound pouch at his hip and flipped through the pages. It was simple to cast a Duplication spell upon the sausage links that hung from Chuck’s mouth like a tiny length of string. Alkali flipped through his spell book and snapped with his free hand, a spark of blue electricity filling the space between his fingers. Suddenly the length of the sausages reached all the way back into the open top of the wheelbarrow. And no matter how much Chuck bit at the length of meat, he never seemed to get any closer to the end of the delicious string.
Al was proud of his work, right up to the point that Chuck picked the entire cart up and tossed it into his mouth like an appetizer. Alkali’s confidence faltered momentarily, but soon returned at full force along with a light blush on the wizard’s cheeks. Duplication spells wouldn’t be fast enough either. He needed to bring out something a little more direct. He began combining spells. Mage Hand to make magical hands… Tenser’s Floating Disk for the platters… and Create Food And Water. Light-blue ghostly hands carrying trays of pork, beef, fruits, cheeses, all began floating through the air like a shared hallucination. Chuck blinked, rubbing at his eyes. He wasn’t sure what to think about this new spellwork, but he did know that the food smelled delicious in spite of its magical origins. His stomach rumbled, voicing its agreement that the food should be eaten immediately. There was no stopping him now.
At first the ethereal hands approached his mouth one at a time, carefully dumping their contents into his eagerly awaiting maw. With each chewed bite his body expanded in kind. Soon he’d doubled in size, and a single plate of food wasn’t enough to act as even a single bite. That’s when the light-blue, translucent hands all made a bee-line for his mouth at once. Chuck didn’t notice when Alkali’s teleportation spell landed the wizard on his shoulder. He was much busier aiming his mouth properly to let the food all ram into his mouth, practically stuffing him. He’d never been fuller, nor happier than this moment. By the end of it all, the titanic gnoll was lapping at everything that got close enough: food, phantom platter, mage hand, and all. The magically generated hands and plates didn’t taste like anything, but it was easier than waiting for the hands to dump out onto his tongue.
Suddenly Chuck’s ears perked. There was a familiar sound far off in the distance that he only just now started to pick up; looks like huge ears did come with a few perks after all. Burning torches, yelling voices, and metal scraping against metal filled the air at the other side of the city. Chuck squinted in its direction. There wasn’t enough fire for it to be a bonfire or buildings burning. And the sound of metal clanging didn’t sound like sword fighting. No… That sounded a whole lot like a mob getting riled up and prepared to fight. The sound was enough to set the gnoll’s neck hair on end. He reluctantly closed his mouth, and pushed the oncoming dishes of food away with a hand that could swat an entire flock of birds as if they were flies.
“We should leave soon,” Chuck rumbled.
“What?” Al asked, halfway through casting another Create Food And Water spell. “But we were just getting started!”
Chuck looked to the mage standing on his shoulder and raised an eyebrow. “You don’t know the meaning of enough, do you?”
“Not when there’s magic to be tested,” the little enabling gnoll said, puffing out his chest proudly. When Chuck rolled his shoulders Al nearly lost his footing, falling to his knees in the plush carpet of gnoll fur. “Why do you want to stop?”
“Angry mob heading this way.”
“Oh. Is that all? I get nearly chased out of town on a monthly basis now. If I stopped every time a mob formed, I’d never get any work done. They’re all bark and no bite,” Al said with a dismissive wave.
“…and you don’t think that’s odd?”
This time it was Alkali’s turn to shrug. “They were going to try chasing me out regardless. I’m a gnoll. Can’t let that stop me from practicing my craft.”
That much Chuck could sympathize with at least. He didn’t have many choices at this point. Either he could leave over the city gates (certainly not through the gates, he was far too large by now for that) or could stay here, letting the mob vent their frustrations against his… well, paws. They probably couldn’t reach much more than just that without a catapult or some siege weaponry. As tempting as it was to get more food, Chuck knew that fighting a mob wasn’t a good idea. He would probably win at this size and strength, but he wasn’t impervious to pitchforks and swords. His poor paws could take days or weeks to recover.
Chuck nodded with a clear decision in mind, and nearly knocked Alkali off again in the process. “I’m going to head home. Thanks for the ring. And for the food. And for getting me free from that tavern.”
The mage’s tail drooped slightly, but he didn’t argue. It was the smart decision to make. Safety and sanity always triumphed when others were involved. Al wasn’t one to let the potential for further magic slip through his fingers though. “Let’s meet up again a few towns over once that magic wears off. Ever heard of Stillmarch? Huge city, big ports with lots of ships, and the best food you’ve had since you left the plains,” Alkali said, licking his lips as he imagined eating roast salmon on the sea front. “Meet me there and we’ll try even more size magic; seems like you have a knack for taking on plenty of growth.”
Chuck didn’t quite know what to say to that, except to blush and nod his head bashfully. It wasn’t an offer any sane gnoll would turn down, but especially not Chuck. He plucked the mage off his shoulder between a thumb and forefinger, dangling Al from the back of his breastplate in front of a muzzle the size of a barn.
“It’s a deal. But I have one request first,” Chuck said.
“Anything, if it means I’ll get to meet you again.”
Chuck smiled, and his pearly white teeth glinted with the golden tint of setting sunlight. “Think you can repair a few of those wheelbarrows and fill them up for me? Could use a few snacks for the road.”
The scouts reported Chuck’s return far in advance of the gnoll’s actual appearance. It wasn’t like it was difficult to track Chuck’s movements after all. They debated what to do. They could try to fight, but no one would ever be able to pierce a hide that thick; it looked like Chuck had been putting on some mass to say the least. So they scrapped the ‘fight’ plan and talked about warning the tribe. But how could they get anyone to believe that a gnoll easily a hundred feet tall was walking home?
Members of Chuck’s tribe all looked at the scouts skeptically as they told tales of a gnoll, looming over trees, practically mountain sized. Surely they couldn’t be describing Chuck. He was the smallest of their tribe, and no size magic could work THAT well, right?
All at once the ground shook, practically quaking, when a single gnoll foot landed in front of the tribe. The toes were as large as a boulder and cracked the ground beneath the pressure of holding up uncountable tons of gnollmass. Way up in the air, past a rounded tum that nearly obscured vision of Chuck’s face, was a happy grin. Chuck couldn’t be more pleased with how this adventure had turned out, letting his tail wag and knock down any particularly tall trees that were caught in his way.
“Well, the hunt was successful! Sorry that there’s only a few left; I got hungry on the walk home,” Chuck boomed. He knelt, and opened his palm to reveal the comparatively tiny, broken, food-filled carts. They looked like tiny toy cars compared to him, crushed beneath the weight of thick gnoll fingers.
“So… which cart is my share?” Chuck asked, licking his lips. The magical ring on his finger still glowed lightly, apparently unfinished with its work upon the formerly scrawny gnoll. “I’m absolutely starving.”
Adventurer's Rule #46: Don't accept magical rings with overstated effects from shady looking gnollish-mages. See here how our good friend Chuck the gnoll learns this lesson first-hand.
This Story Includes:
So Bucky has this wonderful gnoll named Chuck, who is a cutie and was an absolute pleasure to write about. Thanks for the trade Buck!
Chuck belongs to Bucky, and you can find him here! https://twitter.com/buckdasystem