“Give me a hand with this, would you Charles?” Miranda asked, standing on a ladder that reached far several meters into the air while sorting various wands in their boxes. To her left and right were rows upon rows of wands neatly arranged in uniform boxes, each marked with their size, name, and unique characteristics. The wall of nearly endless wands constituted the upper section of a dazzling array of staves beneath, each clasped to the wall with arcane bindings.
Charles, a man no older than 17 and in his fourth year of study at the Dalaran Academy of Magic, was there as part of an externship to learn more about crafting magical tools, such as staves and wands. One of several such stores in Dalaran, the Leyworks specialized in finding the right staff or wand for the right mage, going to great lengths to pair the right tool with their would-be owner. A bit disoriented from the sheer amount of items, Charles stood there for a few moments trying to process what Miranda was even referring to.
“Those boxes, can you hand them to me?” Miranda said, with an air of patience that would’ve long expired with other people.
“Uhh, sure, yeah.” Charles replied, picking up the stack to hand to Miranda, “This what you want?”
She smiled back, “That’s it, thank you! Now just help Assistant Gertrude with making note of today’s inventory and we can call it a day, sound good?”
Assistant Gertrude was a witch in every sense of the world, and the sparkling jewel in the Leyworks. Wearing elaborate robes with a macaroni hat and glasses that made her eyes look twice as large, she was busy at work with an enchanted quill making note of everything they had sold that day and how much was left. Charles meandered over to the front counter where she was working, and tried to sneak a peak at the log book. This was a mistake.
“If you interrupt me I will lose my place and have to start over!” She bellowed, looking up at Charles in a way that caused him to jump back. It was a similar reaction anyone would have upon seeing such large eyes, but he kept his composure for the most part.
“Oh, I apologize. Miranda tol--”
“Nevermind what Miranda told you, just sweep up and I’ll take care of the logs, thank you dearie!”
Charles didn’t protest -- he wasn’t being paid either way, at least not with money. The Academy would beg to differ with it considering ‘experience’ a form of compensation. And so he picked up a broom, slowly sweeping up the corner of the store while waiting for the clock to hit five.
And then they came.
With a gust of wind that blew Gertrude’s quill over and spilled the ink on the ledger, a group of masked individuals burst into the store with their wands and staves ready for the attack. They shut the door behind him, and one of them warded it off to prevent any escape. Miranda nearly fell off her ladder when she turned to see the unwelcome guests.
They looked identical -- each wearing black robes with amber-encrusted masks akin to what one would find in a theater, but they didn’t look like they were here to play. One of them walked up to Gertrude whose magnified eyes amplified the fear she had in the moment, the eyes open so wide that it’s as if she didn’t have eyelids at all.
“What do you want!?” She bellowed at the one in front of her.
“Where are the other pieces of the Crystal Staff!?” the masked man bellowed back.
“The what?? I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Gertrude yelled, fear forming in her wide-eyed expression.
“Then perhaps this will serve as a reminder.” said the masked man. He unfurled a broken ice-like stave, a shattered piece of a long-gone relic. It was no longer than a foot in length, the surface glistening a pale blue-white against the arcane candlelight inside the store. It was incomplete, one piece of a grander artifact, and yet it exuded potent magic all the same. The masked man lifted the broken stave toward her, his arm only turning on the axis of his elbow. A bolt of blue-white energy jolted from the tip of the object toward Gertrude’s chest, no warning given. She only had a moment’s notice before the discharge, but managed to let out a short scream as it silenced her. Her broken scream echoed through the store and came to a frozen silence.
But she wasn’t dead, no. Far worse, she was turned into a frozen sculpture of a human, bearing the hallmarks of a life-sized figurine forever frozen in time. The man walked up to her, peering through his mask into her glazed eyes.
Charles ran over with the broom to another corner of the store, huddling with other store assistants that had their spells ready to discharge. It was a futile effort.