Uleric the Wizard’s Apprentice
Blizgash the Destroyer
Come, children. Gather ‘round and I’ll tell you the story.
It was the seventh year of King Portlebus’s reign. Our fair city’s sand-colored walls were high, though not so high as now. Our roads weren’t paved like they are today, but brightly colored tradesmen-signs dotted the streets, multiplying every few years like mushrooms after rain.
Our city was growing like few could have imagined. Or it would have, had we not been forced to rebuild it every time some behemoth showed up at our gates. Oh, on their own, monsters weren’t so bad. A nuisance, yes, but muddy roads and taxes are nuisances, too. The problem was that monsters attract heroes—and when heroes and monsters fight, things get messy.
That’s why we all groaned the day the town crier cried: “Blizgash! Blizgash the Destroyer is come!” We’d never heard of Blizgash, but his name didn’t sound cheerful. Some people began moving stores underground while the rest gathered water buckets for the fiery clash that was sure to come. Soon, all that remained was to see which Hero would emerge to fight him.
A few days later, Fate chose Uleric, the Wizard’s Apprentice to be Blizgash’s opponent. (Where Fate finds these people, I can’t imagine.) Uleric wasn’t really still a wizard’s apprentice, but he kept the title because it made his foes underestimate him. His resume was impressive, having apparently ‘saved’ both Kitewind Castle and Fodog Township from trolls. On the surface, he sounded like a godsend, but his credentials did not bode well. Neither Kitewind nor Fodog appeared on any map I knew of…at least not anymore. ‘Saving from monsters’ and ‘saving from destruction’ aren’t always a package deal.
The night before they were to do battle, I surveyed the humble little office I had procured for myself. The words Tam Groot, Solicitor for Hire gleamed proudly above my door. I was the city’s first, I’ll have you know, no matter what your grandmother says. But all of it would be taken from me when the city inevitably burned down after yet another clash between titans. It simply would not do! Something had to be done, and someone had to do it.
That someone was me.
* * *
“Representation?” Blizgash repeated slowly.
“Absolutely,” I answered confidently, trying to hide how much his six-foot, skull-encrusted battle-axe bothered me. “Legal representation, public relations, contracts, I can handle it all.”
Blizgash sneered. “Blizgash needs no representation. Blizgash needs only this!” He hefted his axe. A skull popped off and landed at my twitching feet.
“Do you know,” I squeaked, “that even as we speak, children are probably playing with replica Blizgash battle-axes, skulls and all? But are you seeing a single pinny of those sales? No! And what about this Uleric fellow you’re to fight? He’s a nobody! You think people will tremble at your name just because you’ve defeated some apprentice? That’s small-time, Blizgash. We want you in the big-time.”
“When you meet Uleric tomorrow, let me do the talking,” I said. “I’ll put things right.”
* * *
“There will be no battle,” I announced, “until certain conditions have been met.”
“What conditions?” Uleric repeated, in that echoing voice particular to wizards.
“First, guarantee of a fifty-fifty split of all proceeds, regardless of outcome,” I replied. “Second, magical substance testing. If you’re under the influence of Barrufio’s Invincibility Elixir, this fight is off.”
“What proceeds?” Uleric demanded. “No one’s here! Everyone’s cowering behind the walls!”
“Which means this fight has been shamefully under-promoted! Unacceptable. It simply cannot start today.”
And it didn’t. I spent the next several weeks putting up promotional placards around the city while awaiting the results of Blizgash and Uleric’s ‘tests’. The brown color of Blizgash’s test suggested he needed to drink less blood and more water, but I wasn’t a healer, so I never mentioned it.
Meanwhile, Uleric had hired his own solicitor, a crafty vixen named Contessa. She didn’t like our choice of field, arguing the tall corn-stocks favored Blizgash. It took months to find a new location. Then, Blizgash questioned Uleric’s virility in the presence of a local scribe. (I may have hired the scribe to be there at that precise moment.) Some time went by before we released an official apology. Next, Contessa wouldn’t drop the matter of agents’ fees, forcing us to spend quite a bit of time alone together to settle the issue.
With negotiations stalled, I decided to take a trip to the coast. (I could finally afford it, now that Blizgash had placed me on retainer.) I invited Contessa along so we could continue our discussions.
During our trip, we discovered the fight was all everyone talked about. Royalty, burghers, and even other heroes wanted to attend. It was to be ‘The Duel of the Aeon’, they’d heard. Nobody wanted to miss it.
That’s when we knew the time had come.
* * *
The stands we erected were packed with paying celebrities. Excitement had reached a fever pitch. At last! The fight would finally happen!
Sadly, neither combatant was in any condition to fight. Both had gotten…out-of-shape after so much waiting. Worse, Uleric had apparently been a little too anxious to prove his virility. It was sad to see him stricken so low. I am convinced, too, that Blizgash was suffering from some mysterious ailment, given how often he clutched the small of his back.
In any event, the duel was an anticlimax. One of Uleric’s spells backfired on him, while Blizgash, having decided to lie down, never did get back up again. Some of the onlookers complained, but us city-folk were content. It was nice knowing we wouldn’t have to rebuild our homes, and after that, business went through the roof.
Uleric the Wizard’s Apprentice had battled Blizgash the Destroyer, and the winner was everybody.
What’s that, dear? Oh, just telling the grandchildren about how I saved…I mean, how we met. Yes, again. Yes, I told them I was the first to—
What do you mean, all your idea?
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Matthew Bailey’s stories have appeared in Lightspeed and Daily Science Fiction among other places. You can read more of his work at www.matthewjordanbailey.com.