The man's pointy hat drooped worthlessly to one side, his triangular sleeves tattered and torn from weeks of homelessness and the bottom of his robe and cuffs were tainted in a damp, black spume that oddly reminded Vance of his single mother's Saturday night laundry.
"Do keep up Lance; we are the guests of honour!" exclaimed the half-inebriated wizard as he climbed the stairs to the entrance of the hotel.
"Tis' Vance, Breadlove" complained the younger - and less smelly - man as he followed the wavering oaf. Breadlove jittered his way up the staircase, tripping over his own purple robe as his open palms flailed ambiguously above his crinkled wizard's hat in an effort to keep himself balanced. Reaching the topmost stair, two red-coated bellhops ushered him to a slow as if they'd had previous experience as plane marshals. Vance jogged up to meet the men, ensuring that his white sleeved shirt was tucked into his formal pants presentably.
"Excuse me, I don't think you're at the right hotel," suggested the first bellhop somewhat pretentiously.
"I bloody well am! …This is The Peninsula is it not? …Yes, it is - I'm certain. Now get out of my way before I turn you to soot!" bellowed Breadlove.
"Is there a problem gentlemen?" asked Vance, coming to a rest alongside the much taller and much wider magician.
"Sorry sir, is this your friend?"
"Acquaintance; we're here for the function,"
"Which one if you don't mind me asking, we have several today?" asked the second distrustfully.
"The State-Wide Meeting of the Account," hiccupped Breadlove, swaying lightly. Abruptly the first bellhop began to sniff the air as if he was searching for a retched odour that had now escaped him.
"And what were your names? Just so I can check you in, you understand?" asked the second.
"Of course; I'm Vance Green and this is Fredrick Breadlove."
The bellhop seemed displeased to find their names upon the formal list before him, stabbing the shell of his pen against the pad a few times.
"Could I see some identification please? Security purposes, you know how it is."
Vance removed his license and handed it to the first man. Breadlove did the same - though used his senior's card, a small identifier that also granted him dollar donuts at the corner store. Both bellhops nodded accordingly, though their expressions were tinted with distaste.
"Very well gentlemen, please take your first left and then follow the corridor until you see the signs. They'll take you to the function room," stated the first begrudgingly. Breadlove pushed past him eagerly, the sagging hat sliding off his head gently before he pinned it stationary with his right hand.
"Thank you," said Vance kindly, rushing to stay in toe with his master. Breadlove raised his knees high when he walked, higher than was natural - or required for that matter. His purple cape flowed out behind him and he had pushed his white chin whiskers over his shoulder to allow them to flow out behind his plump backside.
"State-Wide Meeting of the Account?" asked Vance, not completely understanding.
"Well they wouldn't let the State-Wide Meeting of the Occult have a function room in such a fancy hotel. So we altered the title a tad. After all, the last place was a dump and we deserve better!" proclaimed Breadlove.
"And they bought it?"
"I'm guessing so, we're here aren't we? Nice work
disposing of your stench, by the way. How did you do it?" asked
Breadlove as he struggled his way through the response. Slowly
Vance opened his jacket revealing the inner breast pocket and
grey lining of his suit top. Hanging casually from the pocket
were three separate air fresheners, the small Christmas trees
dangling as they gave off that new car smell generously.
Breadlove chuckled to himself, once again tripping over his robe
as he clung to the nearest door handle. Above the grip the
'Function Room 3: State-Wide Meeting of the Account'
were displayed in embossed lettering. The solid, black letters fulgurating quietly as the golden candle sticks illuminated the dark hall from above. Vance noted it was unusual that candles would be used in such a high class hotel in the twentieth century, though decided it was probably due to the recession or depression or whatever they had decided to call it in his attention's absence.
"Ready?" asked Breadlove, clutching the iron handle to steady himself. Vance nodded eagerly. Quickly, Breadlove pushed forwards, opening the door into the massive room and allowing the surreal scene to encapsulate him.
"Breadlove!" shouted the room in a chorus, as they all turned happily in unison.
"Frère!" called a lone man from towards the back, his white wizard hat splitting halfway up into two separate points.
"Shall we!?" he suggested loudly, staggering forward ungracefully.
Seven other conjurers scattered the room, each dressed more extravagantly than the last. All four witches were already present, their broomsticks and grotesquely mutilated pets not far out of reach. Two other wizards stood alongside each other, their grey beards quivering as their neck wobbled uncontrollably of old age. Vance spotted the loud French magician towards the back wall and Breadlove - making four - completed the attendants.
Vance followed his fat mentor towards the centre table of the function room, each occult delegate taking up a seat around its circumference as they drank heavily from their wine skins and laughed amongst themselves.
"Dearest hedge-wizards and kettle-witches, it's that time of century again and I think I've found a suitable candidate," proposed Bread love, eyeing Vance merrily. The delegates murmured amongst themselves, each glancing at Vance in a wash of indistinguishable emotions.
"Breadlove, this is preposterous! Every hundred years we attempt to induct a new member to the New York occult and every hundred years we end up steam cleaning their entrails from the carpet! When will you accept that this tradition is futile?" asked the white witch who had 'Whiskers' scrawled messily upon his name badge. The woman sat across the table from Vance and Breadlove; beside him sat another kettle-witch by the name of Wyrm, her three-eyed goat rubbing its short fur against his trouser pants leisurely. Vance knocked at its horn lightly, trying to manoeuvre it away from his fancy pleats as the auburn-haired woman smiled at him uneasily with her three teeth.
"The poor dears," commented Wyrm, "the last five exploded as they tried so hard to impress us and the one before that simply cried himself to sleep in the corner." Vance paid her comment no mind, he was sure -as Breadlove had confirmed - that he could be a magnificent wizard, if he made the correct offering.
"The one before that was named Gretel! Imagine that, a kettle-witch whose name didn't begin with the letter W!" laughed another.
"Honestly I don't know why you even brought her along Wyrm, tradition is tradition," laughed the fourth, her name was Weave.
"Hans is more than ready," stated Breadlove with confidence.
"Tis' Vance," he corrected Breadlove.
"Well show us your stuff!" commanded the hefty wizard, shimmying in his seat lively. Each delegate nodded, a mixture of excitement and displeasure resonating from a combination of members.
Slowly Vance stood, looking at the table centrepiece that had been created for their function by the Peninsula staff. A cradle of exquisite potpourri sat idly between the two bazaar wax candles that sat upon the table. With a twitch of his right index finger and thumb, three separate crushed flowers rose out of the golden cradle, levitating in mid-air as the veins upon Vance's forehead bugged out from his red scalp. Each flower swirled around the others in the atom-like movement that allowed a perpetual velocity about the centre clove. After a few moments, the three dried petals fell back into the bowl, Vance's breath giving way as he breathed in heavily and supported himself on the table with his hands. His face turned an exhausted and dark, mordant red
"Twas that all?" asked a somewhat stereotypical witch by the name of Woolly rudely.
"You do better," spat Vance, continuing to try and catch his breath. Woolly fell quiet, her warty nose wriggling as she eyed him with distain. Snickers came from the room, most the witches laughing at his attempt.
"Thank you for your time Vance," started Breadlove, "if you would be so kind to leave the specified offering and exit, we will let you know as soon as possible."
One thousand dollars weighed heavy in his jacket pocket, the five hundred dollars he had already invested with Breadlove days earlier began to feel like a waste of an investment.
"Show me better," commanded Vance, realizing the scam around him. An uneasy silence swept over the eight, their eyes shifting nervously to one another.
"Here, I'll start us off. You first Wyrm," said Vance rather angrily, sweat dripping from his brow.
"I'm an enchanter, I cannot simply perform for you like a trained monkey!" she scowled.
"Fine, how about yourself master…Beetlewood?" asked Vance moving clockwise around the table. The man's woolly grey beard quivered beneath him as he shook his head refusing the request.
"Beetlewood is a mute, though none of us can deny he has the potential to be a rather fantastic wizard," replied Breadlove in the other wizard's silence. Vance looked at Beetlewood with an expression of askance.
"Weave?" asked Vance continuing around. Her small black cat answered for her, hissing in a horrible, saliva consumed lour whilst her six legs sat idly along her lengths.
"Lloyd?" he asked reading from the man's nametag.
"I…I…I… w…would my fr…fr…friend, b…b…b…b…b…but as you…you…c…can see.. I…I…I… have… a… t…t…t…t…terrible…sp..spppeeeech…im..im…im..im -"
"Impetement!" growled Vance, losing patience with the wizard as a handful of breadcrumbs fell from his beard with each repeated syllable.
"Whiskers, what's your excuse?"
"I have ethical dilemmas, also I find it unseemly," she stated rather convincingly as her needle like nose rose towards the ceiling. Vance rubbed his sweaty fingers through his short brown hair, turning his attention to the third wizard. 'Noé' was penned across the white name badge, the accent on the letter 'E' leading Vance to believe he was either a superfluous tit or a pompous oaf.
"It's Noah; and he is French," admitted Breadlove as if excusing the man.
"Oui?" boomed the sorcerer with a double pointed hat. One tip sat perfectly upright, whilst the other tumbled lazily to the back like a pair of bunny ears.
"Woolly?" queried Vance, turning to the final witch. She clapped once, smiling.
"Done," she said calmly and somewhat aptly.
"You'll see," she sniggered, looking away. Vance didn't have the time, nor the patience.
"And finally you, Breadlove. I've seen you perform magic, not two days ago. You managed to convince a theatre usher that you were not smuggling in corn dogs - which you were, let's be clear - and that it was, truth be told, your penis. Dellilah was right I am a daft prick," said Vance angrily before storming out of the function room in a huff. The delegates looked about each other quietly, Whiskers' single eared mouse squeaking quietly in the silence.
"I'm sorry, I should never have bought into his stupid lies!" cried Vance as he stroked the naked body of his fiancée Delilah.
"Don't worry, I suppose I still have to love you," she teased stroking his chest. Abruptly a light shone from beneath the sheets, a dim green glow illuminating through the threads of the donah and cloaking the room in an estranged shade.
"What the fu…?" started Vance, throwing the heavy blanket to the floor revealing their two naked bodies. There; basking in its own glow, raised to half-post and quivering with fear, was Vance's penis, a magical green halo encapsulating his favourite toy with the word 'Account' written along its length in rather small letters. A single, glamorous smiley face etched after the word and the small emerald signature of Woolly slung subtly beneath it.