Do I Get Hazard Pay?
“We start you in sewers, of course.”
Niv-Mizzet, Firemind and founder of the Izzet League, shivered his wings at having to conduct this interview himself. “Where was Ral Zarek?” he had asked, just minutes earlier.
“He’s ‘taking his extra turns,’ O Pinnacle of Spark and Bluster,” the guildmage had said, gesturing vaguely towards a steamroom door whose “Occupied” sign coruscated azure and ruby.
The Dracogenius turned to the applicant splayed prone before him. “Sewers.”
“Yes, O Mighty Parun of the Eternal Scales,” said the racketeer, his leathern jaw scraping the floor, his lidded eyes downcast. “I could not be more honored than to add my meager talents to the task of evacuating the bowels of Ravnica.”
“Yes, yes. Get up.” Niv-Mizzet turned one taloned forepaw skyward. “Can’t see if your eyes have any spark all averted like that. We don’t get many viashino applying to the Izzet League.” Because you are idiots.
“Of course, your Crimson Ponderance. But from the moment I sprinted from the egg, in the steam vents below this very tower of Nivix … ”
So tedious. The Firemind recalled details of the applicant’s resume. “Apparently your steamcraft is of a surpassing finesse.”
“I studied with Juzba, as Your Luminous Magnitude is no doubt aware. So naturally I have considerable experience in dragscoop ionics and electropropulsion magnetronics.”
“Nice. Can you cook Ursapine?” Niv-Mizzet wheeled his great slitted eyes to the cage where three of the spiny beasts paced and snuffled. “All this thinking works up an appetite.” A deep rumble, beginning underneath the dragon wizard’s ponderous torso, shook the Aerie’s mirrored halls.
The viashino considered the caged behemoth trio, speculating how one might remove the dozens of spear-sized quills that protected each.
Niv-Mizzet’s commanding thrum pre-empted an answer. “A little chewy, but they come with their own toothpicks.”
“Your Saurian Eloquence, I—”
“Spare me. I’m bored already. Teach me something.”
“I have certain streetcorner talents,” the applicant offered. “Perhaps I might be able to—”
“Trick question. I already know everything worth knowing.”
Niv-Mizzet lifted his tail toward the open-air roof, momentarily poised it cobra-like, and then snapped it upward, uncoiling it with a whipcrack and trail of sparks. He serpentined it back into the mirrored chamber, a bird of paradise skewered on its business end, all sizzle and char.
“Tastes like chicken,” the Dragonlord said, spitting feathers. He turned to the racketeer. “Quiz: How many parts mizzium in a standard fluxcharger?”
“It’s one, O Most Brilliant Master of Drakes.”
“Trick question. No fluxchargers are standard. If you’re not making them better, you’re making them worse. Amirite?”
The viashino bared his teeth, perhaps a smile. He offered the merest nod.
Niv-Mizzet lowered his head to the Izzet League aspirant. Looked him directly in the eyes, lizard to lizard, and said, “I could not be more bored if I braingeysered for zero.”
Niv-Mizzet sighed and steeled himself for the question he was obliged to ask. “I understand that Tibor and Lumia both have recommended you, so I have no choice but to ask the standard question. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, and of course I’m tired of asking it, but here goes. Which inspires you more: Tibor’s wind dancing or the volcanic summonings of his magmic wife?”
Reassured, the viashino bobbed, his whole body a sinuous nod at hearing the required interview question. He began his prepared response. “One cannot deny the grace of Tibor’s—”
“Oh My Gods! Will you stop talking already if I just bring you into the League?”
“At your command, O Knower of Truths and Imaginations. But one minor point, if I may. The … er … compensation. I’ve understood that because of the, shall I say, precarious nature of Izzet work, there is to be some recompense for the unavoidable hazards?”
The Ancient Dragon Overlord hoisted his fierce and sinewy bulk, spread wings that had flown over scorched and sundered armies, splayed talons that had crushed kings from ages beyond, and snarled at the impudence, his maw quivering with arcane flame that begged for release. Magma dripped past stony fangs as he filled his mighty bellows with air to combust the primeval fires within.
The viashino held up a mirror to the dragon.
“Ooh, pretty!” Niv-Mizzet preened. “You’re hired. Here’s your signet.”
The Overmind of Izzet, Chemister Regnant of Ravnica, lifted the viashino in one massive claw, rose to his full height, and held the newest Izzet League member aloft, above and outside the Aerie. “Is the view from here not grander than any in the kingdom? Here, among the clouds, I grant your boon: electric wings shall be your reward.”
The Dragonmaster flung the now-enchanted viashino higher still, hurling him through clouds and flocks of screeching runewings as he ascended.
Stalled at the apex of his trajectory, with Ravnica arrayed in tiny dots below, the viashino said in the smallest of voices, “But I don’t have blue…”