“Okay, so you do… what, now, exactly?”
“Well, let’s see… minor enchantments, general transfigurations, standard potions and wards. Wand construction and maintenance.” There was a pause as notes were scratched upon tea-colored parchment, a thoughtful, pensive breath between them. “There has to be some demand here. Anything at this point.”
“Villages aren’t looking for wizards these days, Mr. Blackthorn. But we do our best to fill what positions we can.” The scribe was picking through a pile of scrolls and picked up one. “How would you feel about work at a library in Southbrook? They could always use replication spells for important documents.”
Ilgrin Blackthorn could feel the silk material in his hat threatening to tear between his long fingers as he held it in his lap. The agency’s representative for Magical Arts Placement was half his age — probably not even past his first century, from the length of his beard, from the color still in it — and he couldn’t even imagine how they had picked him for this. For him to suggest working spells that he had mastered his second week of mystical training… it probably wouldn’t earn him a handful of silver in a week. “Isn’t there anything that would offer a bit more pay?”
“Groundskeeper for the dragon rookery?”
“Pass.” The thought of picking up even one of those made his back spasm like a lightning bolt.
There was another shuffle of scrolls. “Palmistry for local curse-holders?”
“Is it a temporary position or permanent?”
The man across from Blackthorn slid his half-moon glasses up his long nose. “Temporary, I’m afraid.” He continued on quickly as the old wizard started standing up, redness in his cheeks. “Look, Mr. Blackthorn, this really is the best we can do right now for mages in your position. Do you know how many wizards just like yourself are looking for work?” He pressed one hand down between them and dropped his voice low. “At least we’re finding you something. It’s not like we’re giving these listings to witches.”
“Don’t think I don’t understand that, young man.” Blackthorn straightened his robes, one long nail catching in a stray, snagging loop of fabric. He hadn’t been able to replace his working vestments in a year, even after having to downgrade his familiar from his family’s manticore to a scrap of a cat that was more interested in chewing its own tail off than inspiring sorcery. “You have to realize, however, that not three years ago I was a king’s advisor. Before that, officially named antagonist for a princess. By the gods, I could hand over swords and stones by the cartful, was paid handsomely and then still had time to holiday anywhere I wished. Now I can’t even afford the ingredients for a love potion.”
The representative smiled tiredly. “Who can?”
Blackthorn threw his hat down on the stool. The tip of it drooped depressingly, and one of the many patchwork stars was peeling at the edges. “I have to rent my own keep!” he finished as he snatched up one of the pieces of parchment that had been between the fingers of the case worker. He gave a look between him and the office around them. Not a single tome of magical lore, not a crystal ball, not even a scrying mirror. He may as well have been talking to a gargoyle. “No young man even wants to be a wizard these days. Going to school to work as a smith. Or staying home, shoveling muck in their family’s pig farm.”
“They come in here too from time to time. It’s bad everywhere, I’m afraid.”
Not for you, quill-pusher… you have a job. Blackthorn tried to keep himself from imagining turning the scribe into an unpleasant toad for the remainder of his days and looked down to the paper in his hands, slightly crushed by his tirade. “What’s this one, then?”
“Ah…” There was another adjustment of the glasses, a smile that told him to prepare for the worst. “Funeral services for mythical beasts, domestic and otherwise.”
Ilgrin Blackthorn sighed and pulled his wand from within his robes. He pressed it against the paper, watched his signature illuminate and then fade to the color of old blood. If he was going to eat, he couldn’t afford to be picky any further. “At least it’s not dealing with elves.”
Katie Pugh is a local writer in Pittsburgh, PA, where she lives with her husband. Originally born in Virginia, Katie moved northward after graduating from college in search of excitement and snow (she figures one out of two is pretty good). She pens urban fantasy and “strange” fiction.
This story is sponsored by
the psychic archaeologists at The Morpheus Initiative — Check out author David Sakmyster’s first two books in a trilogy about remote-viewers, ancient mysteries, lost tombs, and exciting adventure! At Amazon.com or visit www.sakmyster.com.