No one knew from whence the Wooden Wizard came or, for that matter, from where. Nor did they know why he had come, who (if anyone) had sent him, or for what purpose. As for how, many supposed he floated over, pointing as evidence to the facts that he was both terrifically buoyant and was first encountered on the beach of Lake Pipikaka near the pine grove village of Katsjaw.
He was indeed a curious creature, not least of which because he stood slightly over three inches in height. He seemed to have been carved by a loving, yet not totally skilled, hand, out of an unidentified variety of softwood. The exact kind could not be determined, as the little fellow reacted with such fear whenever anyone approached to take a sample that eventually they would give up and go off feeling rather like a bully.
Naturally, the simple solution to the many questions surrounding his origin was to ask them of him, but this proved fruitless. The Wooden Wizard couldn’t, or perhaps wouldn’t, talk. They tried giving him pen and paper, but these too proved useless. He struggled mightily under their relative bulk, but in the end, only sketched a moonrise scene over Pipikaka. Everyone agreed it was cleverly done but not of much help. After awarding the artwork to one of the village girls who pronounced it “adorable,” the elders who had gathered on the beach decided that their guest posed no immediate threat and that he should be allowed to live amongst them if he so chose. Provided, of course, that he could prove himself useful enough to earn both bread and bed.
This was easily enough done. In fact, Wawa (as he came to be known in those parts) was first discovered by a fisherman who spied the wizard untangling a mess of lines that had become snared on a pile of driftwood. Thereafter, his untangling spell ended up being one of his most popular. This was unsurprising as fishing and knitting were the two chief occupations of Katsjaw.
Early in the morning, Wawa could be spotted trotting from cottage to cottage casting spells to untangle yarn, calm babies, and unbend spoons that had been used to pry up nails in moments of frustration when the hammer had been mislaid. He also developed a spell for finding lost hammers, thus proving himself to be both intelligent and industrious. In exchange for these small favors, he was given the fatty ends of bacon and bits of biscuits covered in butter and honey. He was also welcomed as an honored guest in whatever house he chose for sleeping. He ate so little and took up such a small amount of space that the people of Katsjaw felt themselves to have gotten a great bargain, and indeed they had.
One day into the village came a tall dark-haired wizard dressed in the finest red silk robes and a tall pointy hat trimmed with the fur of a golden werewolf.
“Attention my dear people!” he shouted from atop the two bricks near the well that was considered the town square. “I am Savordash, erstwhile royal wizard of King Baden the Third of Eru! I am passing through your charming village today, and for the price of a bag of gold am willing to perform spells to both help and entertain you! If you have a request please come forth with the aforementioned gold, and I’ll see what I can do!”
The people all came out of their houses and stared at the newcomer. They didn’t really need anything, and none of them had ever even seen enough gold to fill a bag, but they did enjoy a good show.
“Come, come now,” entreated Savordash, “be not afraid! My powers may be great, but I have vowed to only use them for the betterment of lesser men.”
“What about the king?” asked a boy from atop his father’s shoulders.
“What about him?” asked Savordash in return.
“Well, are you saying he’s a lesser man or that you didn’t do nothin’ for his betterment?”
“What? Neither!” said Savordash. “I mean both! Well, the first one is no and the second one yes… which is to say he isn’t and I did.”
“How come you’re erstwhile then?” asked the village crone, who felt it was her job to ask the tough questions. “Don’t that mean you don’t work for him no more?”
“Well yes,” said Savordash. “We came to a mutual agreement about the termination of my contract, the intricacies of which I’m sure you’d all find rather boring. Now do you need a wizard or not?”
“No thanks,” said a short, plump woman named Brellma. “You see, we already got one.”
“You already got one?” asked Savordash, rather surprised. “Well then let them show themselves so that I might prove that a sorcerer from the royal court is superior to any mere house wizard that dwells in Katspaw!”
“It’s Katsjaw!” shouted the butcher.
“Whatever!” said Savordash.
That’s when the girl who had received the drawing on the day the Wooden Wizard first appeared stepped forward. They had become close friends since that time and often spent their days together when neither was working. Now, she bent down in front of the newcomer and removed the little man from her left apron pocket where he had been taking a midday nap.
Wawa stretched, yawned, and looked about. When he saw Savordash towering over him, he gave a small bow and tipped his hat.
“Is this some sort of joke?” asked Savordash.
“Not per se,” answered the butcher.
“Very well,” said Savordash, as he jumped from the bricks. (As the bricks were only a couple inches off the ground, the villagers found this move unnecessarily showy when simply stepping down would have sufficed.) “I challenge you to a wizards’ duel! The winner shall henceforth be the official wizard of Katspaw!”
“KatsJAW!” yelled all the villagers at once.
“WHATEVER!” yelled Savordash.
Now, the villagers felt they should have some say in who their official wizard was, or, to be more precise, all of the say. They did not feel in any way bound by the outcome of this contest. But again, they were country folk, and as such, starved for entertainment. There was no way they were going to miss a wizards’ duel if they could help it.
Savordash pulled his wand from the sleeve of his robe, turned his back on his opponent, and strode off counting his paces.
He turned quickly and from his wand a stream of green smoke spread. It formed into a dragon the size of a house and stood before the Wooden Wizard, who was still standing beside the well where the girl had set him down.
Pulling a small wand the size of a toothpick from his own sleeve, the Wooden Wizard waved his tiny arms and produced a porcelain saucer full of centaur milk, which as everyone knows, no dragon can resist.
The dragon briefly nuzzled Wawa before turning its head and lapping happily at the milk.
“WhatWhatWhat?!” fumed Savordash. “That’s not how things are done, you know!” He waved his wand and the dragon dissolved back into smoke. It gave a final sad backward glance at the saucer of milk before a passing breeze blew it over the tops of the mountains.
“Now I’m forced to play rough with you!” declared Savordash with a hardened look in his eye.
The villagers felt that sicking a dragon on someone was already quite rough, but they didn’t have time to say so. Suddenly a huge sword crackling with lighting appeared in the wizard’s hands. “Have at you, pipsqueak!” he yelled as he charged towards his rival.
Wawa wiggled his minuscule little fingers and a tree root grew in front of the larger man’s feet. Savordash went flying toes over tits and landed on his ass in a nearby puddle. The electrified sword flipped end over end before finally landing in a haystack which, being a reasonable and well-behaved haystack that knew its lot in life and what was expected of it, caught fire.
Wawa wiggled his fingers again and a bucket of water appeared over the hay and doused the flames.
“Oh just die already!” screamed Savordash and cast a scorching ray of fire at the Wooden Wizard.
Wawa stepped to the side.
“Oh for christ’s sake!” moaned Savordash.
“That’s enough now,” said the major. (Or at least the man who called himself the mayor. The village only had 40 people, and they all reckoned that if old Clancy wanted to call himself the mayor it wasn’t such a big deal, as long as he didn’t get too bossy. For that matter, the woman who called herself “the old crone” had just turned 19 last summer. It was a very open-minded village in a lot of ways.) “We’ve all enjoyed your show but we can’t have you burning things down. That last shot singed the meeting house, and farmer Clint spent the better part of the afternoon piling up that haystack and hadn’t even gotten a chance to jump in it yet. Had you, Clint?”
A balding man in a brown tunic looked down and nodded sadly.
“I just… I’m just hungry!” cried Savordash as he rolled on the ground weeping and soiling his very expensive robes. “The king fired me last week and I haven’t eaten in days!”
The Wooden Wizard trotted over and patted the sobbing man on the head. He waved his tiny wand and produced a mutton pie and a tankard of ale and set them on the ground in front of him. Then the little girl came over and gave him a chocolate she’d been saving in her other apron pocket.
“I’d buy that hat off of ya if you’d take 10 shillings for it!” yelled farmer clint.
Someone picked the poor man up from the puddle, and Brellma cleaned him off as best she could. Before night fell, he was fast asleep in the village stables, a simple woolen cap on his head. Everyone said Clint looked dashing in the wizard hat and agreed that the werewolf fur would undoubtedly keep his bald head quite toasty in the coming winter.
As for the magical sword, it turned out to be pretty useful for chopping up firewood and starting bonfires at the village festivals. Considering that it only cost them one night’s lodging and a bit of chocolate, the villagers felt that they had once again gotten a great bargain and once again they were correct.