Rent-A-Wizard: Sword & Sorcery

Prologue pt. 1

My first job was a weird one. It went a little something like this.

Riding Keira -- my phoenix -- over the storm clouds high above the streets of Seattle, I was hell bent on breaking my foot off in the ass of the sorcerer who was kidnapping a little girl named Hayliana. The guy rode a piss-slow grey-backed dragon, keeping the unconscious kid pinned at his side with his muscular arm.

I was hired to rescue her, but when I got to the kidnapper's hideout he grabbed the girl and took off on his dragon. Until we chased him down.

My red-feathered sweetheart flew stars around that flying toad. Stalking it and loving it. Had the dragon and its loser rider frozen in the sky looking panic-stricken, clearly having no clue what to do.

On a normal day we could've taken them out, no struggle. Magic-on-magic, I had him steamrolled. Flame-on-flame, Keira had the leathery-skinned dragon barbequed.

We knew it. They knew it.

Even with the blinding midday sun forcing me to squint every time we flew in its direction, this was almost too easy. Except for the whole "save the princess" thing. That's where it always got complicated.

As we circled them from a distance, Keira and I used our psychic connection to telepathically communicate and work out a plan.

Roy, I'm telling you, Keira thought to me. If I do that, the kid will go home in an urn. No fire.

Quit screwing around, I thought back. You've got better aim than that.

She replied, You're joking, right? You remember this is me we're talking about here. Me. You know, I, the Queen of bad aim? She-Who-Starts-Forest-Fires? And you want me to try a sniper shot?

Yeah, I thought. I do. So get to it already.

Are you crazy? She snapped.

I snorted at that. Aloud I said, "C'mon, now. Is an idiot stupid?"

She shook her head, just ahead of me. I heard her sigh in my mind. She thought, Why do I bother?

I hugged her tight. "Because . . ." Then I sang, "I love you. You love me. We're a happy—"

I will cook you, Keira thought harshly. But I've known her long enough to hear the hidden grin in her thoughts.

I loosened my hold with a smirk. "Anything you say, Big Bird."

I squinted at the golden sunlight again as we soared that way. It was annoying. I wondered if I brought my magic shades with me. I fished inside my equally magical leather coat to find out. Couldn't find them in the pockets, so I knew they were at home in our storage room.

My parents were heavy into magic, so they built the room beneath our basement to hold our mystical items and stuff. For my twelfth birthday, I got this coat that had magic symbols – runes – sewn into the leather, giving it power. Among other things, the inside of both sleeves had pockets built into them. Each pocket held a small portal, linked directly to the room. Anything I wanted from there, I could pull it through the Pocket Portals and into my hand, regardless of where I was.

Talk about having tricks up your sleeve.

"I'll kill the girl if you don't let me go!" the Sorcerer cried. He had his arm now hooked around Hayliana's throat, still holding her tight.

I shouted back, "I'll kill you if you let her go!"

The Sorcerer seemed ready to fire back at me, but he stopped. A wave of confusion crossed his face.

Keira whispered in my mind, I think you meant you'll kill him if he doesn't let her go.

That's what I said, I thought, annoyed.

Amused, Keira replied, Whatever you say, kiddo.

We stopped circling and faced the sorcerer down. I reached into a Pocket Portal. I focused on getting two things: my rose-colored shades and my imitation wizard's staff. My old man always said I hadn't earned the right to hold a true wizard's staff, so I made my own out of a wooden Louisville Slugger baseball bat. I showed him.

Pulling both out, I put the magic glasses on and my vision turned red. Tapping a lens, I activated its power. Then focusing hard, I zoomed my sight in on the enemy like a telescope. I scanned his body, looking for weapons, making sure he couldn't hit me with something I wasn't prepared for.

Nothing.

His blue jeans and white polo shirt looked empty. Even his gray beard and messy was empty, except for disgusting amounts of dandruff. Not even the bulge of a wallet in his pocket. But that didn't mean he didn't have stuff stashed in other places. There were some parts of his body I couldn't bring myself to examine too closely. So I kept my guard up, gripping my bat-staff tight.

I've got a plan, I thought. Get me closer.

And Keira did that. We calmly edged forward. I stared the Sorcerer down.

When we were in spitting range, I said, "You got five seconds to give her back."

"Or what?" the Sorcerer said.

"I'll hurt you." I thought that would've been obvious to the guy. Guess not. "Badly.

He laughed.

Right in my face.

"Think it's a joke?" I was getting irritated.

He said, "You're just a weak, little insignificant brat. If it weren't for that phoenix, I would've destroyed you ten times by now."

That snapped my head back like a jab to the face. He was only scared of Keira? Not me? I took offense to that.

I mean, was I a brat? Always.

Was I little? Somewhat. Tall for my age, though. At least, that's what that cute older girl at the mall said when she tried to hook up with me.

Was I insignificant? Only on Tuesdays.

But I sure as hell wasn't weak. That one made me hotter than a fat man's back in a sauna. It was over. This guy was going down.

"Screw you!" I glared at him. "I'll smack you into last week! I'm not afraid of you. Come on!"

Keira quietly added, And the volcano blows.

The Sorcerer chuckled gently. To himself, he said "So bold, the boy is. As the bird protects him."

"I'll fight you one-on-one!" I jabbed the bat-staff at him. "Bring it!"

"Very well. Follow me." With a wave of the Sorcerer's hand, the gray clouds below drew together tight. He jumped off his dragon, with Hayliana still in hand, landing on the cloud gently as if it were a dirty cotton floor.

I was climbing off Keira, ready to jump, when she asked, You sure about this?

I didn't answer. I jumped off.

Diving downward feet first, my dark coat whipping around in the wind, I kept my eyes on the Sorcerer the whole time. The last thing I needed was for him to get an advantage on me when I wasn't looking. I was young, but I wasn't dumb. Or at least I thought I wasn't. Till I hit the clouds, ready to land.

And fell straight through.

Stupid me.

Plunging through the fog-like clouds, I couldn't see a thing. I passed through in an instant. Then I saw the darkened city below, rushing up toward me. My breath sharply caught as lightning bolt of terror struck me. I was like the raindrops that fell alongside me. We were gonna go splat together if I didn't do something fast.

"Keira!" I shrieked. "Help me!"

Keira frantically answered, I can't get through the clouds. Hold on! I'll fly around!

A quick long-range glance showed that the ceiling of clouds above now stretched for miles in each direction. No way Keira could fly to the end and back to me in time. As I rocketed toward the streets below, I could only think one thing.

I can't believe I'm gonna die like this.