"We solve business problems like magic--except when we don't"--Clumsy Wizards, inc.

The Sorcering Company
by William Fischer ©2020

It strikes one as odd that magic isn't made much use of anymore. There seems to be no end of things that would be easier if we did. And who doesn't yearn to wave a magic wand to do the impossible, just for the fun of it? It's enough to make one wonder if there isn't some reason why there is no more practice of magic. And, as it happens, there is.

Way, way, way back when, there was indeed magic in the world. But magic was the same as any other skill - only some folk had it, and some were better at it than others. Sorcery was never a widely spread talent, and the witches and wizards of the world were few and far between. As a rule they were nomads, thinly spread over the globe. When asked why, one wizard declared: "We drift where we are needed this way."

"But what if we have a crisis, and you've moved on?" you might ask.

"I will know when best to return," the wizard would reply.

"How?"

"No further questions, please."

This arrangement had other problems that damaged the reputation of magic-wielders. People who had the bad luck to live around where an incompetent wizard or a blundering witch was staying came to think of magic as no good, and stories coming out of these towns marred the status of the profession as a whole. Each sorcerer also set his or her own rates, and expense was no indication of quality service at all. This more than anything irritated the customers, and caused business to suffer. Things got so bad that, finally, one wizard had to cry out: "Enough! It can't go on like this!"

This wizard, remembered by posterity only as "Chief," was one of the few to make a permanent home, in a half-ruined temple that the jungle was busy reclaiming. Chief called all the witches and wizards in the world to his home and told them straight: "We're a right mess, we are."

"Oh, come now," some answered back. "Things aren't that bad, surely."

"No one knows where to find us, half of us don't know the basic spells, we all have different rates, and it's killing the art of magic!"

"Well, what can we do about it?"

"Why don't we get organized?" And after a few days of counsel, they all agreed, and decided to form the Sorcering Company, headquartered in Chief's temple. Every witch and wizard signed a contract with the Company, and they all took up residence in the jungle. That way, everyone knew where to find them. Of course, most of the world wasn't within walking distance of the temple, so crystal balls were set up in all the towns and cities. You could walk right up to one of these balls, put in a call by tapping it thrice, and a sorcerer would answer.

Standard prices were finally set, too. Before, hiring a witch to charm the frost off your crops could cost anything from a penny to a thousand acres' harvest, but now, when you asked "how much," the answer was always the same: "Two pounds, please."

Most importantly of all, an in-company school was founded to make sure that everyone knew at least the basic spells, and could all perform them in the same way.

All these changes were fine by the clientele. There was real dependability now, with magic. Business at last became steady. Magic grew so popular, in fact, that the demand outran the supply. More workers were needed for the Company, so the school expanded into a recruitment office. Meanwhile, the current crop of sorcerers became too busy to answer the crystal balls themselves. A small fleet of secretaries was hired. Thus, if your house was burning, and you ran to the crystal ball to call, you would hear this:

"Thank you for calling the Sorcering Company; please hold for the next available witch or wizard."

It usually only took a few seconds to get someone to serve you, but if your house was burning down, those few seconds could be mighty unpleasant with fright. Still, business stayed good for the Company, and it kept on growing.

Customers also began requesting certain sorcerers they got on with, or a certain type of magic, and this was a mess for the secretaries to sort out. "Do you know how many times I've double-booked the Water Witches?" one of them complained to Chief. "And how am I supposed to find a gold-maker for one client when we only have six and I have twelve more crystal balls on hold?"

Shortly thereafter, the Company announced the establishment of departments: Transfiguration, Elementals, Weather Willing, and so forth. A directory listing the sorcerers in each department was put in every town by its ball, in case you wanted to request a specific witch or wizard, and each department got its own secretaries on top of the ones already answering the first line of calls. Once all this reorganization happened, you would hear upon calling, if your house was burning:

"Thank you for calling the Sorcering Company; how many I direct your call?"

"My house is on fire!"

"That'll be under the Elemental division. Please hold while I transfer you." After a few seconds, you'd get another secretary, who would say:

"This is the Elemental department; what spells do you require, and do you have a certain witch or wizard you'd like to work with?"

You'd scream: "My house is on fire!" and in a few seconds, a sorcerer would be by to put the fire out. By then, more than a bit of damage might have been done to your place. But magic was the only way to fight fires, so what could you do?

Eventually, departments became more specialized, certain wizards built up seniority, and tensions emerged over rank. "What's this I hear about a raise for you?" an Elemental asked a Curse Breaker as they passed in the palace halls.

"You heard right," the Curse Breaker answered back. "And why not?"

"What entitles you to the extra coin? I see thrice the workload as you!"

"Ah, but I've been with the Company five years, to your six months." That logic was enough to put a novice in her place, but her team leader and her manager, or any Elemental who'd earned like seniority and who also saw thrice the work as any Curse Breaker, wouldn't take such reasoning. "Curses are rarer, breaking them harder," went the justification, but the Alchemists could claim the same, yet they saw no bonuses. Charm Masters did, and theirs was the most in-demand sort of magic of all. And if the departments grumbled about each other, they also grumbled amongst themselves.

"Three years on, and still the only jobs I see are simple shower conjuring," a witch of the Weather Willing whined. "I've more than earned a promotion. I want a job battling hailstorms or diverting twisters!"

That problem the Company solved by organizing the workers in each department into Classes, 1 through 5, with 5 representing the highest-paid sorcerers tasked with the most complex of spells. With this change, if your house was burning and you called by the crystal ball, by the time you were put through to the right department the secretary would ask:

"How big is the fire?"

"It's eating up my whole house!"

"House fires are usually handled by Classes 2 and 3, but you'll have to be more specific so we can determine which one."

And if you couldn't give a good enough answer on how big the fire was, they'd send out an accountant wizard to measure the fire. He'd report back, they'd choose a Class, and then the next available worker in that Class would go out and put out the fire, and by then what was left of your house was in quite a state.

The Class system hadn't solved the problem of how one could advance to the level of 5, of course, nor did it sort out issues of seniority and bonuses. Some tried to see Chief over this, but if they ever broke through the wall of secretaries, they found a changed man. "Thank you for your concerns," he'd say. "The Company is always looking to expand and improve, and we appreciate all feedback. Leave your notes with the girl outside, and we'll get back to you." One time too many he said that, with no follow-up. A downright horrid Charm Master won a hefty raise just by seniority, and the cry came out from the Elementals and the Weather Willing and all the rest: STRIKE!

The better Charm Masters joined the picket line, incensed at the mediocrity in their midst. But the unity of the strikers fell apart over whether to demand a new plan for advancement with less weight toward seniority. Scabs crossed the picket, which led to brawls, which led to hurt feelings, which poisoned all talks, and everything fell into an ever-falling spiral of a mess. For the customer, all this meant was a greatly reduced workforce available to them, at greatly increased rates. If your house was burning during that time, and you called the Company, by the time you got through all the red tape and a free sorcerer was found to go out to your place, your house would be completely burned away. That wouldn't stop the Company from presenting the bill, of course.

This too happened one too many times, and one night, a man whose house was burning got so sick of waiting that he cried out: "I'll deal with this myself!" He gathered up some friends, they gathered up some water, and they drowned the flames, inventing the modern fire-fighting department at the same time.

News of this spread, and people started noticing all the other things they could achieve without recourse to magic. "This campfire isn't so hard to light!" the travelling merchant remarked to himself.

"And I can get the frost off my windows with just a flat edge!" noted the widows.

The Company still pushed its wares, naturally, but once the secret was out - that magic was hardly essential - no one wanted to go through the hassle of the Company just to save on a bit of honest work and toil. Soon the sorcerers lost all their business, and the witches and wizards of the Company were forced to move on to other careers.

Some of these souls went into crafts; some went into food and drink; some went into high finance. As the sorcerers pushed into these fields, they brought the experience and organization they had learned in the Company with them, and so these practices came into the beginnings of all our modern institutions. And you can be sure that things work just as smoothly under these systems now as they did then.

x x x

Harry and his cohorts could learn something from this fable. I'm not sure what they could learn, but surely they could learn something. Maybe that dabbling in something as uncertain as magic isn't a terrific career path? What do you think? No. Don't tell me. Tell our BBS. -GM



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