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If Wishes Were Fishes

An Excerpt from the Archmage's Archives

By Caleb ShermanPublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 9 min read
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Okay then...are you, uh, comfortable?

“As comfortable as Ah can be after yer guards poked me with their spears the whole way here, where are we anyway?”

You really don’t know? We’re in the Archmage’s Tower...h-how could you be here without knowing? I mean...that’s the question I suppose, how did you get here at all?

“Ah can tell you Ah guess.”

Yes, explain, please.

[The magical tome set between the two opens to a blank page.]

“Wot is that?”

This is my tome, it’s going to make a record of your story.

“Indeed, well…”

It all began a few months ago, I was out fishing at the Greater Lake Loth, y’know, the one that the Lothlien feeds into. It was a fine Arbourange day, nice mild heat for the season, a cool breeze wafting Endtail’s breath from the East bank. Y’know, Endtails only bloom in the last days of Arbourange, unless the Melth season is expected to last a few more weeks, which given the mild heat was unlikely. Anyway, a perfect day for fishing, so I had closed up me shop hoping to catch a few big ones before the weather got cold.

And I did.

I already had a basket of nice sized assorted fish when I saw it. I only saw his tail, ‘cause what grabbed my attention was the splash. That tail though, I thought had to have been the size o’ me. Now, I don’t know what I was thinkin’, but I said I’d have myself another go. I figured I must have imagined it, or it was a good omen I s’pose. So I sat myself back down in the dry grass on the bank, and plop goes the hook and the bobber in the water. I didn’ have to wait long. Maybe a minute passed before my rod was nearly yanked right from my hand. I stood up with a jolt and into the slog of the mud my feet went. It was a fight, true as any you could see in the Madernian arena, he pulled and I pulled back, he was hooked fer sure.

Eventually I started stepping back onto the bank with the rod in hand. This one wasn’t the size of fish that just pops out of the water, we were wrestling. It was some time and some struggling to get him to the shore. I regret there was no one there to help me, strange for such a beautiful day. I don’t just regret it because I needed the help though, I also regret it because no one saw what I saw.

A human head eventually broke the water, attached to the body of a fish. He looked up at me, made eye contact, and I shrunk away. It made my skin crawl, looking at that smooth skin join with the scales along the fish’s body. I wheezed, half from the struggle to bring the thing from the water, and half from the sight of it.

Then it did something that made my heart stop, it spoke:

“You have taken me from my domain, a powerful fisherman you must be, and for this reason you may claim, one of my wishes three.”

Now this took a minute for me to process, my brain being in a state of shock as it was, but it didn’t take long for me realize what I had been offered, and without a second thought I shouted, “I wish for wealth beyond my comprehension.”

“Granted your wish shall be, this was the first of my wishes three.”

With that he returned to the water. He had apparently never been hooked, because without much effort he had spat the hook out on the shore, and there was no sign of damage when I looked at his face. But now he was gone, and I had lost the biggest catch of the day. I don’t know if I believed the thing at the time, but when I got home, an envelope was waiting for me slid under my door. It read:

Mr. Cogrin, several sizeable deposits have been made to your accounts over the last several days. We are anxious to see you in the offices at once.

It was signed Magistrate Eronius Termintol, head of the Taxes and Excise office. Needless to say, I was unaware of any deposits that would have been made to my accounts, heck I hardly knew I had any accounts. In fact, now I think on it, I may not have had any accounts to speak of prior to that day, I wonder if that was the fish’s doing.

So I caught the first carriage ride I could up to the big city, us little folk can get lost in the big city y’know, very busy, all you humes going about your business like the world is ending, anyway, I got a ride up into the city, and met with Mr. Termintol. He did not seem terribly pleased, nor should he have been I suspect, seeing the pile of papers on his desk, most of which seemed to have my name on them or a reference to Lothdale.

The fact is, Mr. ummm [Pawgrin], right, Mr. Pawgrin, you see, I all of a sudden had some fifteen different accounts with several Madernian banking guilds, and each of them had received bank notes for multiple unseemly amounts of coinage. I remember Termintol saying to me:

“The fact is, Mr. Cogrin, there is no bank in Madernia where you could have been storing the amount of money each of these individual bank notes claim you are owed. In fact, I spoke with some record keepers within the castle before I had that letter sent to you in Lothdale town, the King himself does not have the surplus of gold and jewels your coffers are said to hold.”

Strikes me as odd, it does, I had wished for wealth beyond my comprehension, you would think I would have gained some small sum of money I had never imagined owning, maybe on my doorstep, or right there in my pockets, it would fit most likely. But no, this fish had gone and given me more money than any man in the country could fathom. More money than I could spend if I knew what to do with it. The Taxes and Excise office, believed that I had fraudulently manufactured a series of very convincing bank notes, and dispersed them amongst multiple banks across the countryside in the same day.

“As much as I feel that such trespass is deserving of immediate arrest, there are forms Mr. Cogrin, some of which are going to take quite some time to process given the state of your…financials.”

Believe me Mr. Pawgrin, I tried to explain my situation to him, I told him about my fishing business, I explained the turning of the season and my hope to bring in a fair haul, and then I got to the part about this fish. He laughed in my face he did. Told me to stop making up silly stories or I wouldn’t be able to rely on slow paper pushing hands, he’d have me arrested for lying to an officer of the courts.

I don’t know if he meant it threateningly, I believe so though seeing as he was distrustful of me, but the next things he said seemed lined with malice to me.

“Mr. Cogrin, your accounts, all of them, are frozen, consider any factual funds within property of the people of Madernia. I highly recommend you return home and get any non-finance related affairs in order.”

I don’t suppose I had many affairs to put in order, but I did think I knew a solution. I returned home via another carriage, jittering about the whole way. Once we were back in Lothdale I hopped off the back of the carriage before I could even be asked to pay, scurried into my home, and whipped out my fishing rod. I was so hurried, so distressed, I forgot my tackle.

Not that it mattered much, I splashed out into the water, tossed my line and hook out into the lake, and it didn’t take long before there was a powerful tug on my line. He fought me tooth to gill, scale to nail, and for the life of me I don’t know why he fought so hard when he willingly took the hook, but eventually, soaked and covered in mud, I hauled my catch in to the shore.

“A powerful talent in this one true, friendly and familiar is his face, a second wish I offer you, but not the last time you’ll receive my grace.”

I don’t want your grace, I shouted at him, I don’t want your grace and I don’t want your wishes, I just want you to do away with what you’ve given me, all of it!

“A strange wish you’ve asked of me, but still the second of my wishes three.”

This time there was marked magic I believe, because suddenly the wind around the lake blew so hard that the scent of Endtails wasn’t all I got, but rather the whole plants were ripped from the earth and blew across my face. I sprinted as fast I could back home, for I knew strange things were at work. I hoped to find another letter, or perhaps no sign at all of our exchange, maybe the first letter would be gone from my possession entirely. As I reached my doorstep, rod in hand, I was stricken with terror.

My ears detected the approach of hoofbeats, another carriage I thought, though it was too short a time since the last. When I turned to face the direction of the sound, there was not one carriage, but there were three, very official looking, one labeled with the Taxes and Excise office’s emblem, the other two with the Banker’s Guild emblem. With them were more than a dozen officers on horseback.

I do not know exactly what my second wish entailed, but it could not have been anything good. I ducked down into my neighbors shrubberies, and went around to the back of his house, and tired as I was, sprinted back down to the lake. It seems stupid now I say it, but I thought if two wishes had gotten me into this mess, a third would get me out. So I cast my line, hooked the fish, he came quite willingly to the surface this time and greeted me.

“A friend of mine has me in his grasp, a man to whom all sea creatures bend, I offer him my wish that’s last, to bring our friendship to an end.”

Despair in my voice, tears in my eyes, I sighed, dropped to my knees in the mud, and whispered, “If only someone would believe this.”

You’ve been quiet for a long while Mr. Cogrin.

“Right, well, y’see that was the end of it.”

So you made your final wish that someone would believe your tale, and you found yourself magically teleported inside the most magically secure building in Madernia.

“That’s the gist of it.”

And the guards immediately brought you to me, not to any other member of the Archmage’s staff. Given you were on the first floor you were more likely to run into a gardener or beast tamer.

“Do you believe me then?”

It’s a terrible story if it is a story. You’re either an absolute genius, or a bumbling buffoon.

*scoff*

Either way, Mr. Cogrin, I believe you. I’ll have the guards take you to a safe room in the tower. Provided you don’t do anything stupid, I’ll sort out your story with the Taxes and Excise office. Though I have no idea what the Banker’s Guild wanted with you.

“Thank you, Mr. Pawgrin.”

[Closes tome]

[Tome opens]

“Well, that was a bust Phineas”

I guess so, Mr. Carmichael.

“Please, Cannadin. By the time we got to the lake there were already a dozen officials from the Taxes and Excise office, twice that from the Banker’s Guild, and as many officers troweling the lake for ‘giant fish men.’ I guess that’s how convincing a royal treasury worth of coinage disappearing into thin air can be.”

At least they now believe Mr. Cogrin's tale, to some extent.

“If only we had gotten our hands on that fish.”

I’m sorry sir?

“Oh nothing, good work on the archive Phineas. Keep it up.”

Thank y-

[Door closes]

-ou…sir.

[Tome closes]

Short StoryFantasyExcerpt
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About the Creator

Caleb Sherman

Twitch.tv streamer (Amnesia Duck), retro game enthusiast (don't ask me about Ataris though), lucky husband, and author.

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