I landed with a thud outside the back door. A half-dozen more thuds swiftly followed. At the sight of the bull-like horned heads of the Akatan bouncers, my would-be captors sprang up and sprinted away.
“Hey you sissies!” I shouted. “They’re just bouncers, not used chariot salesmen!” But my opponents never looked back.
As I bent to recover my trusty Craftsman™ broadsword, I noticed a small, rectangular, green-and-white piece of parchment lying in the dust. Picking it up I read, “Kelly Mercenaries—We Fill All Your Plundering Needs.” Instantly, a solution for my predicament sprang to mind. Rushing to the nearest crystal ball booth, I opened the Yellowed Parchments and thumbed my way to Temporary Help. I quickly scanned the ads and lists of addresses until a name caught my eye: “Wizards Are Us,” replete with a portrait of a white-bearded gentleman with the tall pointy cap and long flowing robe befitting his position. My decision was made.
Solvang’s Central Business District, while a good stretch of the legs away, was nearly as seedy as the Red Light District surrounding the Blackmore. Filth cluttered the narrow dirt lanes and buildings tottered in serious need of restoration. Merchants’ stalls lined both sides of the streets, although several were starting to close at this late hour. I hoped I was not too late.
Then, beneath a sagging awning, I descried a deep purple placard with appropriate mystical symbols. Hastening over, I discovered I had indeed found Wizards Are Us. As I gingerly stepped into the dilapidated building and climbed a rickety staircase, I wondered what kind of wizards would work for a company in a construct in such a state of disrepair.
When I opened the stout wooden door at the top of the stairs, however, my mouth gaped in surprise. A plush interior with thick red carpet and soft leather couches welcomed me. Tapestries of lovely seascape scenes covered two walls. Opposite me stood an imposing oak desk complete with receptionist. A cute gal with bleached blond hair and extensive black kohl makeup, she lowered her copy of The Solvang Scandal (not the most trustworthy of news sources, I must say) as I stepped up. She looked me up and down with nearly vacant eyes, all the while continuously chomping open-mouthed on something, then asked, “Uh, can I like, uh, help you?”
“Yes, miss. I’d like to hire one of your wizards.”
“Uh, like, sure. Just a minute.” She whirled her head down the hallway and screeched, “Hey, Mitzi, up front and center!” Then she swiveled back to me and said sweetly, “Why don’t you, like, have a seat? Mitzi’ll be, uh, right out to help you.”
I plopped into one of the cushy couches but did not have long to wait before a petite, bright-eyed gal with brown curly hair bounced out of the hallway.
“Hello, Sir,” she announced perkily, extending her hand. “My name’s Mitzi Dupree. How can we be of service to you today?”
I rose, shook her hand, and said with serious gloom, “I need a wizard to help me out.”
“Well, come with me, sir, and let’s just see what we can arrange.”
She nodded thoughtfully as I spoke, then asked, “You realize, of course, that the level of expertise that we can offer directly correlates with how much you’re willing to spend.”
“Gimme an idea.”
She consulted a parchment on her desk before responding. “Well, a top-of-the-line graybeard with full cap and
robe runs 75 silver pieces per week. An experienced wizard with a short cap and full robe is 50, and our standard full robe, no cap is 25.”
I opened my pouch. It was not nearly that full. I dropped a dozen silver pieces onto her desk.
“What can I get for this much?”
She frowned. “Hmmm. We don’t have much to offer at that price.” She flipped through her sheaves for a few minutes and then her face brightened once more as she pulled out a single manuscript. “I think I have just the right wizard for you, someone who’s straight out of our Wizards Are Us Training Academy. No cap and only a short robe, mind you, but an eager spirit and full of determination. Good with numbers, too.”
I shrugged my shoulders. “All right, I’ll try him.”
“Great. We’ve just got some parchment work to fill out and then we’ll have your wizard here first thing tomorrow morning!”