Two wizards sat on a mountainside.
They were sitting on the grass, drinking turnipwine and smoking the finest merryberry leaf you could get your hands on. The grass was surprisingly not itchy, or if it was they didn’t notice. Wizards didn’t often partake in such guilty pleasures as drinking and smoking—they did it three or four times a week at most—but this was a special occasion.
“What do you s’ppose happens next?” said one.
“I s’ppose people will get on with their lives,” said the other. He took a swig from the wineskin and passed it to his companion.
“I don’t see how anyone can get on with their lives after a thing like this.”
“What choice do they have?”
“Good point. We always get on all right, I guess.”
They sat smoking and drinking in silence a little longer, looking out over the vast expanse of green valleys and snow-capped peaks. A hawk circled overhead. Looking for supper, or maybe dessert.
Technically they were celebrating. The war was over and they had won. But it didn’t feel like a celebration. They yearned for the way things were before, a way that would never return. When you’re over a thousand years old you get that yearning feeling a lot, because there’s a whole lot of ways things were before.
“Ten years,” said the first wizard. “We’ve been fighting this thing for ten years. This one was even worse than the wars against the Goblin Hordes, and I fycking hate Goblins. I don’t see how I could ever go back to some cushy Theoretical Sorcery job at the University.”
Theoretical Sorcery was a field of magick that studied all the types of sorcery that didn’t work in real life.
“You can try consulting,” said the other.
“Consulting. Knights-errant are always looking to hire a wizard to advise them on their quests and such. You know, whisper wise sayings in their ear. Cast spells in the nick of time to get them out of trouble. They say it’s very profitable.”
“Huh,” said the first. He took another drag on his pipe. “But no, I don’t think so. I think I’m all quested out for a while.”
“Yeah,” said the other. “Me too.”
They sat in silence again. The sun had begun to set over the mountains to the west. They would have to head down to camp soon if they wanted to get there before dark. But something about this moment seemed important, like maybe it was the most important moment of the whole ordeal. It wasn’t the battles, or the heroic sacrifices, or their last ditch effort to smite the Great Evil that mattered so much as their reflection on all these things. The reflection was where the real wisdom happened.
“You think the Great Evil is actually defeated forever this time, like the Grand Wizard says?” said the first.
“Dunno,” said the other. “He said that last time, too.”
“Yeah, and the time before,” said the first. The Grand Wizard had a habit of exaggerating things. Such was the nature of supernatural politics.
“This one does feel pretty forever-ish, though,” said the other. “But I guess they all do.”
“Yeah, that’s true.”
They passed the turnipwine and the pipe around again.
“What is ‘forever,’ anyway?” said the first wizard. “Like, is it an actual length of time that never ends? Or is it just an abstract concept used to make it easier for us to accept the fact that nothing lasts forever?”
“Dude,” said the second. “You’re starting to sound like a Theoretical Sorcerer. How much of this merryberry leaf have we smoked?”
They had smoked a lot.
Also, they had a vague feeling they were forgetting something.
“By the way, have you seen the spell book?” asked the first.
“Which spell book?” asked the other.
“The spell book,” said the first. “Ye Elden Booke of ſacred ſpells and Other ſuch Magick Things.”
“Oh. No. I haven’t. I thought you had it last.”
“No. I haven’t seen it since the battle ended.”
Ye Elden Booke of ſacred ſpells and Other ſuch Magick Things was perhaps the most powerful spellbook in all the Realm. It had been passed down for millenia, from the Age of the First Wizards of Rump. It contained incantations so great, and so terrible, that it would be called on only in times of extreme danger, when the very existence of the Kingdom was at stake. Its mighty spells could cause oceans to boil and the sky to fall, they could call forth great fires of magma from the bowels of the earth and could smite even the most fearsome beasts that spewed forth from the darkest pits with merely a word.
Indeed in all the great battles in all of history, it was Ye Elden Booke of ſacred ſpells and Other ſuch Magick Things which always proved the decisive factor that swayed the battle for the Forces of Light.
“You know, I was thinking,” said the first wizard.
“Yeah?” said the second.
“Ye Elden Booke of ſacred ſpells and Other ſuch Magick Things, it has all these spells for smiting monsters and stuff, but it doesn’t have any spells for preventing the monsters from spewing forth and destroying stuff in the first place. So I was thinking...”
“Go on.” The second wizard took a deep drag of merryberry leaf.
“What if – and this is a big ‘what if’ – what if instead of focusing on spells that smite monsters and vanquish the Great Evil, we developed some spells to prevent wars and monsters-spewing-forth and the Great Evil from ever happening in the first place?”
Now he was really getting into Theoretical Sorcery territory.
“That would never work,” said the second wizard.
“What? Why not?” said the first.
“It’s the Magick-Industrial Complex, man,” said the second wizard. “All the biggest spellcasters, hell, even the Grand Wizard himself, are all in the pockets of the Army of Light…”
“Here we go.” The first wizard took a long gulp of turnipwine. His companion always got all worked up when he got going about Magick-Industrial Complex stuff.
“War spells, that’s where the money’s at,” said the second wizard. “Nowadays, someone even mutters the words ‘Great Evil’ and you’ve got a hundred wizards showing up at your drawbridge charging top dollar to do some magickal smiting.”
“It does create jobs though,” said the first wizard.
“Sure,” said the second. “But at what cost? How many forest wizards do you know who can’t get funding to talk to trees or whatever it is forest wizards do? Even most necromancers are struggling to get by raising the dead. All the tax dollars from the Royal Coffers go to war wizards like us, and the other wizards get squat.”
“Administrivia mages are doing all right.” Administrivia mages cast paperwork-related spells that could cripple entire armies by entangling even the most minor task in mountains of red tape.
“Ugh, I hate administrivia mages. Just the worst.”
It was true. They were the worst.
“I wish just as much as you do that we could prevent monsters from spewing forth out of the bowels of the earth. But we’re too deep into this thing now. You can’t beat the system,” the second wizard continued. “That’s just the way things are. Monsters spew forth, we cast spells and smite them. Everyone gets paid. Repeat.”
He thought on this a little longer. Talking about the Magick-Industrial Complex had gotten him worked up again, and he hated getting worked up after a war. He wanted to relax and see the bright side of things, because there was still a bright side. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful we get to smite as much as we do. It is kind of fun. Smiting things. In an epic battle-for-the-existence-of-mankind kind of way.”
“I’ve always enjoyed it,” said the first wizard.
By now, the sun had sunk halfway below the horizon, and they looked out across the range. It had been a long decade. Ten years is not much in the life of a wizard, but it was a long ten years. They remembered Ye Elden Booke of ſacred ſpells and Other ſuch Magick Things was still missing.
“So, about that book,” said the first wizard.
“Eh, maybe let’s find it tomorrow,” said the second. “We’re running low on turnipwine, and I’m beat.”
“Yeah,” said the first. “The Great Evil is defeated forever, after all.”
“Yeah, or at least for a couple hundred years,” said the second wizard. “We’ve got time.”
“Tomorrow it is.”
The two wizards polished off the turnipwine and the pipe. They gathered their things and returned down the mountain to their camp and, along with the other Wizards of Rump who had survived a decade of war, finally got some rest.
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