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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