Flash Friday 05/02/2016: Spelling Test
“Good afternoon.” Officer Chambers tipped his hat toward the receptionist with the only hand that was free. The other was keeping a hold on Snouter’s leash; if the bloodhound caught scent of anything suspicious outside the station — a passing orc, a spell being cast, even if someone smelt off — the leash was the only thing stopping the evening from becoming an hours-long dog search. “The captain said you’ve got the details for the next job.”
“I should do,” the receptionist chirped, looking through the papers on her desk. “Is this another joint mission with Jake?”
Chambers said nothing; the appearance of the younger-looking Jake with black scruffy hair answered for him.
“Excellent,” the receptionist said. “After the last cases both of you took on, I was half expecting a resignation from the novice. Glad to see you’re made of stronger stuff.”
Jake gave a carefree shrug. “Sometimes I can sleep through the nightmares.”
“Right. Ah, yes, here we go.” The receptionist drew out a paper from the stack. “Because you’ve both had such unintentionally stressful missions as of late, the Captain saw fit for a change of pace. You’re both on magic-hunting duties tonight.”
“Are we?” Chambers beamed. “That’s excellent news. How about it, Jake? Fancy coming along and witnessing first-hand how King’s Steel City keeps itself magic-free? Should be a rather fun night, all things considered.”
Jake was not as pleased. After everything he’d been through, hunting mages didn’t sound like a change of pace whatsoever. “I’ve never hunted mages before.”
“All the more reason for you to come along, then, isn’t it? One day you’ll have your own truncheon and dog, and when you do, you’re going to want to know how to catch out spellcasters. Traps and plans don’t work; the key to a mage’s success is their intellect. They can sense every ambush, spot every infiltration. Coupled with an arsenal of spells, and they can elude police detection without so much as breaking a sweat.”
“If that’s the case, how are just the two of us and a bloodhound going to outsmart a wizard?”
“Well…it’s not so much ‘outsmarting’ as it is catching them when they’re at their least intelligent.”
Chambers drew a pocket-watch, peering at it. “Depends. How old are you, again?”
“Perfect.” The pocket-watch returned. “Come along, now. You’re about to see how professionals earn their living.”
“And then!” Chambers slurred, five pints of ale having their say. He pointed a slighty off-aim finger at the aged, shady man opposite him at the tavern’s table. “And then I says to him, I says, ‘If you really were just paintin’ a store sign, I don’t think ‘down with the bloody orcs’ makes a good name for a shop’!”
The man laughed. Jake had already lost count of the amount of times he heard the raspy yet incredibly enthusiastic laugh this man could produce. Then again, after two strong ports, it was hard to count anything.
“Wonderful!” the man said. “Just wonderful. Never a dull day with the boys in blue, eh?”
“Never.” Chambers took a swig. “Some of the best drinking bets in King’s Steel, I swear they birth themselves in the police bar before leakin’ their way ’round the streets.”
“Really?” the man said. He leant forwards with such enthusiasm he toppled his stein, dribbling the last remnants of Ol’ Jackson’s Rum on the table. “Like what?”
Chambers sat back, scratching at his chin. “Depends what you’ve heard of. You know of ‘Goblin Secrets’, right?”
A single laugh. “Only went an’ played it yesterday with Kevin,” the man said, as Snouter’s snout appeared over the edge of the table, lapping up the spilt rum.
“Fair enough. Round Gryphon?”
“Master of that,” the man said with an air of superiority. “Not even a bet anymore.”
“Aha! I see you’re a man of many beer-related adventures. Looks like I’m going to have to break out…” A pause for drama. A ‘thunk’ as Snouter buried his nose into the tipped-over tankard and carried it off the table. “The lesser known bets.”
Drawing a gold coin from his pocket, Chambers placed it in the middle of the table. The man stared at it with excited intrigue, as if it were about to stand up and ask trivia questions.
“Here’s the deal. If you achieve this bet, I’ll buy you whatever you’d like behind the bar. S’good?”
The man nodded eagerly.
“Excellent. So here’s t’deal. If — and only if — you manage to turn this gold coin into a feather, I’ll buy you a drink. Alright?”
The man looked like he was taking an exam he never studied for. Frowning and making strained hand gestures towards the coin, he failed to make the coin do anything beyond existing. A man with a white beard peered over at the proceedings. Finally, the bettor gasped for air. “Sorry, mate,” he said with a hurt tone. “If I had magic runnin’ in me blood, I wouldn’t be working at the docks.”
“Oh, shove off!” the man with a beard yelled with a drunken slur, pushing the bettor off of his stool. “If y’can’t turn a gold coin into a feather, what good are you? Watch how the experts do it.” With a sudden and forceful shoving motion towards the coin, he drunkenly yelled, “Modiv Pinna!”
The coin exploded in purple fog. A frog flew off the table and hit the wall with a satisfying smack, before peeling off and hopping its way out the tavern.
Everyone turned to look at the wizard.
The wizard panicked, drunkenly muttered a teleport spell, shot straight up into the air, struck the ceiling, and came back down with a cringe-inducing thump, out for the count.
“And you, sir,” Chambers said, pointing a wandering finger, “are nicked. Go on, Jake, tell him he’s nicked. It’s always the best bit.”
Chambers gave Jake a nudge. Jake replied with a snore, his face resting on the table.
“Tch.” Chambers said, standing up and getting the handcuffs. “Novices.”