The shop was quiet today. Smoke's apprentices were working on minor charms, but there'd been no commissions for major wards in some time. Smoke wasn't too worried, on the whole. Their business of crafting wards was not lucrative, but Smoke had enough money in savings to cover expenses until business picked up.
In the meantime, Smoke's daughter, Ember, had invited them to visit. On the one hand, Smoke had not seen Ember since her wedding last year, and they missed her. On the other, Ember had been worried about Smoke ever since their spouse passed away two years ago. Having one's grown daughter attempt to find one a lover was a ... unique ... experience.
So they were still contemplating the offer when the shop bell tinkled. A kith in smartly-tailored livery entered, and brushed Smoke's apprentice, Walnut, aside to stride to Smoke with a determined smile and set ears. She bowed with a flourish. "Master enchanter! My employer, Lord Autumn, wishes to hire you and your staff to ward his new estate at Lees. As soon as possible, if he may. He is prepared to pay double your normal fee in return for priority service."
Smoke blinked a few times, startled. They knew of Lord Autumn; the Lees estate had been under construction for years. "Isn't Bee handling your wards?"
The messenger's smile tightened. "There have been a few difficulties in that area. Your work comes highly recommended by Lady Rose, and he greatly wishes to retain your services, Enchanter Smoke."
Before they could answer, the bell tinkled again, admitting a magnificent draka in humanlike form, wings mantled and horns swept back from elegant features. He, too, ignored Walnut and the pard messenger alike to address Smoke. "Excuse me, master enchanter, but your government urgently requires your services. Courthall has a ....serious issue with its wards. We are prepared to pay handsomely for immediate service."
"All of Courthall?" Smoke asked. The draka nodded. Courthall was the seat of the nation's government. Both jobs would be huge undertakings, several weeks of work for Smoke's entire staff.
"Whatever they offer, Lord Autumn will top it." The noble's messenger lashed her tail.
"Please." The draka leaned forward, wings half-spread and lowered in pleading. "Your country beseeches you."
Smoke could only take one. Lord Autumn might pay better now, but one government contract was the key to more: steady, well-paying work for a business that had been struggling ever since their spouse's long illness and death had taken so much of Smoke's time away from it.
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[[Note: I'll be rolling percentile dice for the winner, so the option with the most votes won't necessarily be the chosen one! You can also vote for a different option entirely by leaving a comment, and that will get a chance to win. Since this is a major fork, I might roll only once for DW and Twitter, instead of potentially splitting the story here. Haven't decided yet.]]