Zargo glared at the postal worker. “Cretin! If you rearranged your route so I got my mail first, three hours earlier, then someday my work—defeating death—would end three hours earlier. 100,000 people on this sorry world die every three hours, and by getting my research materials to me three hours later, you’ve just killed 100,000 people!”
“We do need to work on our people skills, don’t we?” I said, my voice somewhat muffled from inside his robes. I was nibbling on a gerbil. Tasty. Yawning, I worked my way to the collar and peered out.
The postal worker timidly handed Zargo his mail and walked off, mumbling to himself. I knew that if the postal worker continued to come late, he’d be in serious trouble. Zargo was the Most Powerful Sorcerer in the World, according to the latest rankings in Sorcerer’s Digest, and it wasn’t healthy to make him angry.
Zargo glared after him, and then sorted through the mail.
“Aha!” he cried, holding up a small package. “This is what I was waiting for! Lizard toes, dragon lint, eye of squid, pinch of plutonium... yes, it’s all here!” He tossed the other items aside, including a new issue of Owls’ Life—I had a lifetime subscription—and raced to his laboratory to continue his research on defeating death. Immortality was his goal. Fine food was mine.
“Not so fast!” I said from inside Zargo’s robe. “You’re bouncing me around.”
“Then find another sorcerer!” he said, giving his robe another shake.
“Can I at least have my Owls’ Life?”
Zargo ignored me, shaking his robe even harder. I moved from under his bony arm to his belly, where he was softer and his shakes wouldn’t hurt so much.
“This is not exactly what I dreamed of when I was growing up,” I muttered. Zargo spent the rest of the morning in his lab, working on his immortality potions.
* * *
My name is Paulie. I am a sorcerer’s owl, a rare species with slippery reddish-brown feathers. Many years ago, I left my parent’s nest in Sorcerer Merlin’s robes to make my way in the world. Merlin was all right, as sorcerers go. He went far in the world of Camelot, mostly from advice from my dad, Archimedes, who also liked to lecture me.
“Son,” he said wisely, “you have to find your future elsewhere—you’re getting bigger and there just isn’t enough room in these robes for both of us.” So I left Merlin’s robes for the first time in my life.
A sorcerer’s owl lives in a sorcerer’s robes—duh! We are born, grow up, eat, sleep, grow old and die in a sorcerer’s robes. The only time we leave their robes is when we are old enough to seek out our own sorcerer and start our own nest. It’s a magical thing—once we get into their robes, they can’t get us out. They can’t even change robes—whatever robe they’re wearing when we get in they’re going to wear for the rest of their lives. (We’re fussy creatures and keep them clean, at least on the inside.) The most powerful sorcerers have tried to get us out and to change robes, and there have been whole issues of Sorcerer’s Digest devoted to these issues, but nothing works.
Few Sorcerers are happy about this. Just this morning Zargo again tried to get me out of his robes, using green flames he’d conjured. I’d been sleeping, but something woke me up.
“What the???” I’d gasped, coughing as I came awake, breathing in smoke. Holding my breath, I’d worked my way to the collar and was able to breath in fresh air. Then Zargo started screaming—his robe was on fire. Green flames licked over us as he batted at his robes. He raced to the bathroom and, fully robed, doused himself in the shower—and then shrieked when the water came out freezing cold. Buried inside his robes, I could not stop laughing. Neither the green flames nor the cold water bothered me as Zargo’s latest attempt failed. It put him in a foul mood.
Zargo worked until early afternoon, then put aside his books and potions. “Now, to serious business,” he said. “I can’t put up with late deliveries any more. I’m calling the post office to take care of this.
Ten minutes later, Zargo put the phone down, quite pleased with himself. The postal worker who’d been delivering his mail had been fired. Not only that, but the postal service had promised to make his postal deliveries first each day, ahead of all others.
“Only I could make convincing serum work over a phone line!” he happily said as he put away a potion.
“And only you would starve a poor bird,” I replied. “When are we eating?”
“OK, OK, I’ve had a good day,” Zargo agreed. “Even you can’t ruin that. Let’s eat.”
A few minutes later Zargo was bent over a bowl of his favorite fried gruel. He’d tossed a frozen shrew in the microwave for me. “You’d think such a powerful sorcerer could get fresh rodents,” I murmured.
“Would you like a first-hand expe -- [End of Preview.]