Well, I'm back. I've done some tweaking to the first chapter of Quest Support, and I think it's improved somewhat. The first chapter is only 6 pages, so I've posted the whole thing. Thanks!
Chapter One: In Which, Appropriately Enough, the Story Begins
The magic mirror rang again. Gilbert adjusted his headset and pressed the “talk” button on the mirror’s frame. His reflection dissolved into an image of a bleak landscape.
“Thank you for calling Quest Support,” said Gilbert. “My name is Gilbert. How can I help you?”
A young man clad in silver armor stood in a torrential rain and glowered at him. “Why isn’t my magic sword working?” he said.
“Could you be more specific?”
“I just told you, it's not working.” The caller tossed his head, long blond hair trailing out behind him.
“Yes, but what's it supposed to do?”
“How should I know?” said the caller. “The Elves who gave it to me said I would know what to do with it at the proper time. Well, we’re attacking the Dark Lord’s tower tight now, and the sword hasn't done anything. It must be broken.” A flash of lightning gleamed off his armor, immaculate save for an artistically-placed dent on the breastplate.
“I'll decide that,” said Gilbert, already taking a dislike to this caller. “Hold it up to the Quest Orb so I can see it.”
Gilbert sighed. “The round purple crystal you’re talking into right now. Hold the sword in front of it so I can see it.” Moron, he added to himself.
The man drew a gaudy sword with a shining blade and a gold crosspiece.
That's an actual sword? Gilbert thought. It looks like it should be hanging on some rich guy’s wall. “Let me look that up,” he told the caller.
Sword, silver blade with leaf pattern, gold grip that looks like dragon head with ruby eyes, Gilbert wrote on a piece of parchment on his desk. The words vanished, and Please wait appeared in their place as an enchantment searched Quest Support’s catalog of known magical artifacts. With a muffled thump, a stack of eight or ten pages appeared on the desk. 1 match found, the first page read, Legendary Sword Darkbane.
Gilbert groaned. “Okay, I’m going to have to put you on hold for a minute.”
“What? How dare you?”
“Look, you’ve got a Legendary Sword here. I’m going to have to wade through a few dozen pages of cryptic prophecy and shabby verse before I can figure out how the thing works.”
Gilbert punched the “Hold” button on the mirror frame. Caller on Hold, the mirror announced as he began flipping through the heap of parchment on his desk. “Let’s see,” he muttered to himself.
“Forged by elves in the fires of…not important. Some prophecy that’s already been fulfilled…bad poetry…more bad poetry…come on, that doesn’t even rhyme…ha!” He’d found something that could be useful. He skipped the text at the start of the paragraph, which was usually irrelevant, and went straight to the end. In dark of night, when all seems lost, Darkbane shall light, to burn the dross, Gilbert read. Why did the people who wrote this junk always fancy themselves bards? The verse concluded, The might of its flame shall fell the Dark, and save the land from fate most stark.
“Okay,” Gilbert said, taking the mirror off of hold. “I've got something.”
“About time!” said the caller.
“Let me ask you a question,” said Gilbert. “Has all hope been lost yet?”
“Well, no. Our army is taking a beating, but we haven't given up yet.”
“Well, there you go—the sword will only work when all hope has been lost.”
The client frowned. “Are you sure of this, boy?”
“Of course I’m sure!” Gilbert snapped. “This is good old Magical Weapon 74: the Deus Ex Machina on a stick.” He’d seen this type of sword at least four times this year.
“What are you babbling about, boy?”
“All I’m saying is…”
Phwoomph! Suddenly the sword Darkbane ignited with a flickering blue glow. “Ha!” cried the caller. “It’s working! I knew it all along! The Dark Lord will fall before me!”
“Suuuure you did.”
“I have no more time for idle talk, boy!” sneered the caller. “Destiny awaits!”
“Fine,” said Gilbert. “Goodbye. Jerk.” Gilbert pressed the “End” button on the mirror, and the caller’s image vanished. He disentangled his headset from his unkempt straw-colored hair and laid it on his desk. He’d been taking calls for the last eight hours, and the thing had been digging into his scalp something fierce.
“I need coffee,” Gilbert muttered. He wasn’t scheduled for a break until quitting time, but no one would notice his absence if he was quick. Gilbert shut off his mirror with another button press and stepped out of his cubicle. He made his way to the coffee machine at the other end of the cavernous call center, snatches of dozens of mirror calls flitting past his ears as he walked.
“…hold the wand firmly in your right hand and recite this incantation…”
“…how many kobolds are we talking about here?”
“…off-hand I’d say it’s probably poisoned, but let me check…”
Gilbert had poured himself a cup of coffee and was heading back toward his cubicle when someone called his name. “Gilbert! Hey, Gilbert!” He turned and looked down at the goblin who had grabbed hold of his belt. The green, bat-eared creature only came up to his belly button, and he stared up at him with imploring yellow eyes.
So much for being quick. “What now, uh….,”
“My name’s Knarf! I’ve worked here since last week, remember?”
“Oh, right, the guy who got his foot stuck in the snack machine.”
“Yeah! That was so embarrassing! So, I’m kind of having trouble with a call, and I thought maybe you could help. You’re a smart guy.”
“You’re not supposed to be on break, Gilbert!” boomed a thunderous voice from somewhere over his head. He looked up and found his way blocked by a scaly wall of red dragon.
“I’m…uh…helping Knarf with a call, Mr. Bloodscales,” said Gilbert.
Knarf’s nodded. “Yeah, Gilbert’s helping me with a call!”
The dragon Bloodscales rattled his wings and blew a puff of smoke out his nostrils. “Very well. But I want you back at your desk as soon as you’re finished. Understand?”
“Of course, Mr. Bloodscales.”
The division manager stormed off to bother some other employee. “Oh boy!” said Knarf.
“Don’t mention it,” Gilbert grunted.
He followed Knarf into his cubicle where the mirror showed a surly orc holding a withered branch in one hand. “He’s having problems with his Staff of Flame,” Knarf explained. “It’s shooting water instead of fire. I put him on hold so I could try to look up how to fix it, but I can’t find anything.”
Gilbert squinted at the mirror. “Is it shooting clear water or muddy water?”
“It’s pretty muddy.”
“Yeah, these staffs have this problem all the time. I’ve already taken two calls about it today.”
“What should I do?”
“Just call the Repairs department and they’ll send someone out with a replacement.”
“Okay! Mirror, get me the Repairs department.”
A droopy little man appeared in the mirror. “Hi, you’ve reached Frank in Repairs,” he wheezed. There was a pause while he fished a handkerchief out of his pocket and blew his nose. “I’m out sick right now, but if you’ll leave a message our backup enchanter will get to your request as soon as possible.”
“Huh,” said Gilbert. “I didn’t know we had a backup enchanter. Wonder who that could be?”
“Hi!” Knarf said to the mirror. “Groghclaw the orc has a Staff of Fire that’s shooting water. Could you please send someone out to help him as soon as you can?” He turned to Gilbert. “Boy, do I feel dumb. I just spent a half-hour trying to get that thing to work. Guess I’m just not thinking straight – it’s been a long day.”
“Tell me about it.” Gilbert took a swig of coffee. “Things should quiet down soon enough, though. By this time tomorrow, the Dark Lord will be defeated.”
“Oh, that’s good. And there won’t be so many calls any more?”
“Nope. Not until the next Dark Lord arises.” Gilbert glanced down the hall. “I’d love to stay and chat, but I should get back to my desk. I don’t want to get yelled at again.”
Gilbert made it back to his cubicle without attracting Bloodscales’ attention. As he turned his mirror on, he glanced at the stack of parchment that still sat on the desk. Directly below the part he’d read to the caller was another bit of verse he’d missed.
But strike forthwith, without delay, it read, for Darkbane’s power will not long stay.
Oops, thought Gilbert. Maybe I should call the guy back. The mirror rang again, and he jammed his headset back on. Never mind, I don’t have time now. He’ll be fine.