Volume 2.2: 'Wizards and Cheeseburgers'
Decades after the Fury had finished scourging the Earth, wizards settled in our little village of Naught. I'd been born slightly before they arrived, but by the time I was old enough to remember them, the wizards were gone forever.
I have no memories of them and neither do you, my child: we both rely on the tales of our Elders to remind us of what came before.
The wizards came from the Eastern Wasteland one night. Your grandfather was out in the descending gloom, pretending to tend to his cabin's vegetable patch, but really getting respite from my infant wailing. He saw blazing stars speeding up the shattered road that snaked into town and he ran to sound the alarm, pulling the church bell's rope until his arms ached.
I've warned you often enough about the Eastern Wasteland. Everyone knows it's barren and empty, but stories of hidden treasures from the Dawn Days still lure fools to their deaths even now. Very rarely, someone returns from an expedition – burned, blistered and dying – babbling of glowing sands and singing boxes.
That's where the wizards came from though, riding out of the wastes on roaring metal dragons and we all cowered in our scrap-metal fort. When dawn came, the wizards had securely ensconced themselves in the Tall Tower: an empty monument of steel and glass.
At first, the wizards and villagers didn't speak to each other, but eventually communication began. Their leader told us that they were from a great citadel in the wastes called AtomTech. The mystic symbol of that place was stencilled on the shoulder of every wizard's over-garment and the oldest of us recognised it as the symbol of God's fire. We bowed our heads to their leader in respect and she said that they meant us no harm. She said that they had slept for a long time, but that now they were going to bring ancient magic back to the world.
This they did over the following months. Their magic powders and liquids doubled the harvest, then doubled it again. The sick were healed and the blind could see. Those stalked by the Reaper were returned to health and we were able to drink from the Black Lake without falling ill. All they wanted in return was food. Their leader explained that the machines of Castle Atomtech had magically made them near-food from mushrooms, but that it was a tedious repast. She would not answer why those as powerful as the wizards could not make it work better.
All they wanted, they said, was proper food, which we provided in huge amounts: great mountains of meat, bread, cheese and wine. The wizards grew round of face and belly and we were proud that they thought so highly of our produce. They explained to us in great detail about the delicacies they missed from the Dawn Days and in particular about a repast called a Triple-dipped Cheese Titan Burger. We approximated it as best we could and they were happy enough with the results, wolfing them down in quantities difficult to supply.
After a few years, our magical neighbours had grown so round that they panted when they walked and no longer fitted their old garments. Their mighty bellies and chins wobbled furiously under their flowing, loose robes and some of the largest wizards needed villagers to carry them between miracles.
I had never seen people so big before.
This paradise couldn't last, of course. The wizards began projecting great moving pictures against the outside of the Tall Tower, showing us wonderful stories from times long ago and places far, far away. None of us understood them, but we remembered to clap politely at the right times. The pictures impressed us mightily but, unfortunately for the wizards, they lit up the sky for miles around at night.
During the third harvest after their arrival, a legion of shiny metal men marched out of the Eastern wasteland, chests engraved with the AtomTech symbol. In lock-step, they walked smoothly and silently towards our village. We wondered if they were the knights of the Castle, but the wizards were not pleased to see their brothers from home. They tried fleeing but quickly ran out of breath and collapsed to the floor, gasping heavily through their flabby lips. Every wizard was approached by a metal man, who all bellowed in unison:
“Employees of the AtomTech Corporation are contractually permitted one thirty minute lunch break per day. Your sustained absence has therefore breached your employment contract. You will be returned to your cubicles to await a disciplinary hearing.”
The wizards waddled and floundered as fast as they could manage but, one by one, they were all snatched up and carried back into the wastelands by the metal men, never to be seen again.
It is all very perplexing but the moral is clear and that is why, my child, you must do step-aerobics with the rest of us every morning.