MINIMUM WAGE FANTASY • by Kaolin Imago Fire

“Who in Qezzel claimed robes were conducive to spellcasting?” coughed Sim, hunkering behind two undersized and partially liquefied boulders. He patted out the flames consuming his ridiculously voluminous garments. “I can’t believe anyone’s survived in these things long enough to collect their pay, let alone apprentice!”

Merril glared at him, her eyes flashing with echoes of the just-receding flame. “You’re not the one baiting old Teskadrak to breathe fire!” she hissed. “What I can’t believe is that this charade is the only way to bottle dragon flame.” Wisps of smoke tailed out her nose.

“Jek says it’s a learning experience… I think he’s just cheap. But at least your clothes don’t combust! And I don’t relish climbing up into harpy nests again if the feathers we collected catch fire.”

A nervous giggle bubbled out of Merril. “My clothes are safe, sure. This stuff’s tin-plate, just shiny enough to conduct the heat.” She waved her faux sword at his nose, threateningly, then grimaced. “My under-leathers can’t take much more of this dancing around.”

“Yeah, well, you want to try chanting when you can hardly take a breath for the smoke?” Sim peered into the bottle in his hand, praying for some hint of flame in the vaporous stickspell. “If we only had to get this one bottle, I think we could do it. What self-respecting wizard goes through three bottles in a week?”

“If he handles his spells like he handles his liquor…. Gods, food service or real experience seemed like a no-brainer last week,” Merril groused.

The dragon coughed a plume of fire out after their chatter, scattering them further from the cave. “Seems an even easier choice, now, and we did it wrong, Merr.”

“Can we just say Teskadrak was out?”

“I don’t think Jek’d buy that, what with the fresh scorch marks on your outfit. And the ones on your face!”

“I don’t think he’s that observant. Anyway, he’s got three spells to copy and a whole tub of transition to worry over….”

“Maybe we just go hunt in the mire for leeches. The muck should cover our burns, and he didn’t say we had to do the list in order.”

“Right. And when we’re done for the day, we collect our wage, and see if the healers need drudges.”

“I hear they pay pretty well for test subjects.”

Kaolin Imago Fire is a conglomeration of ideas, side projects, and experiments. Outside of his primary occupation, he also develops computer games, edits Greatest Uncommon Denominator Magazine, and very occasionally teaches computer science. He has had short fiction published in Strange Horizons, Crossed Genres, Escape Velocity, and M-Brane SF, among others. He invites you to try your hand at Twitter-sized fiction at

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Every Day Fiction

  • A bit hard to follow this story, and I felt it could have done with a further edit.

  • ajcap

    What’s the story?

    This seems like an excerpt from a book. Good character descriptions, showing and not telling, but other than that, not much to comment on.

  • While the descriptions are good, and the character interactions are amusing (I love the idea of the classic wizard and warrior arguing about who has it worse), I must unfortunately agree with the previous comments.

    Something tells me this could be a fantastic piece, given a bit more work. But as it stands, it does feel more like an excerpt than a complete story.

  • derangedmilk

    I liked the cold open and how it just threw me into the scene. What I think held this story back was its lack of exposition. The dialogue was okay, but I never got to see the scene or the dragon. I didn’t feel like I was there.

  • This one lost me, sorry. I just couldn’t get into it (even went back and re-read some parts) and then it was over. Maybe you need to be more of a Dungeons and Dragons person to connect with this…which I’m not. I’m sure those who are will like it, however, only two fading stars here..

  • fishlovesca

    If you took two people talking about the mistakes they make as newbies in their chosen professions, you would have one scene in a book or a movie.

    Taking two people talking about the mistakes they are making as newbies in their chosen profession, and dressing/detailing it up with magic and dragons, still only makes for one scene in a genre story.

  • A nice bit of tension between characters, but there just wasn’t a whole lot of story here.

  • I think one shouldn’t always demand “a whole lot of story.” I little bit of light shed on a subject, a minor insight is welcome.

  • fishlovesca

    @8, Well I guess it all depends on how low you want to set the bar. If all readers expect is a little bit of light or a minor insight, that should make it easy on the editors.

    Speaking for myself, it isn’t a question of demanding a whole lot of story. Great insight can be found in the tiniest of stories, a tremendous amount of light shed in a few words, providing they are the right combination of words. This is the goal every writer works toward, this is the bar we aim for, or should.

    Otherwise we are like McDonalds ads, promising much delight and delivering little nourishment.

  • fishlovesca – You said it better. I had an additional line to #8 but thought better of it and removed it. It all hinges on “a whole lot of story.” You have a greater ability than I to word things tactfully.

  • fishlovesca

    Think that’s the first time in my life I’ve been called tactful.

    Five stars for Roberta SchulbergGoro.


  • JenM

    I don’t necessarily need a whole story eithier, but this peice lost me rguardless.

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