“The Sorcerer Minus” — Jeffrey Ford

Jeffrey Ford is the author of several novels, including The Physiognomy, The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque, The Girl in the Glass, and The Shadow Year. He is a prolific author of short fiction, whose work has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, SCI FICTION, and in numerous anthologies, including my own The Living Dead. Three collections of his short work have been published: The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant and Other Stories, The Empire of Ice Cream, and The Drowned Life. He is a six-time winner of the World Fantasy Award, and has also won the Nebula and Edgar awards.

Not even the most powerful wizards can shoulder life’s burdens alone, which is why most of them find it expedient to employ some good help. First of all, you’ll need someone with a strong back. (Wizards are typically far too busy contemplating the numinous to spend much time at the gym.) After all, someone’s got to do all that stomping about under the full moon yanking up mandrake root, or digging up all those graves to supply bits and pieces for necromantic recipes, or lugging that cauldron up to the top of the tower.

It also really helps to have some sort of animal servant—a cat, a bat, a snake, whatever suits your style. It’s just a fact that everyone looks more dashing with an owl perched on one shoulder, and animals are always good for doing a little spying, or passing along messages, or offering wry advice.

So, just procure yourself an animal and an assistant with a strong back, like the wizard in our next story, and you’ll be good to go. Just be sure to treat them well. In the wizarding world, disgruntled employees can be a real nightmare.