Monday, December 22, 2008

46. More Unfinished Business

Concepts Contributed By: Vanessa, Jon, Kevin, and HPWestHam13

“Now that one has to use the loo,” Sadie grumbled, scouring the bowl of her pipe with a stream of white flames from her wand-tip. “Just as he was about to tell us what James Potter said when he saw Spanky tied up on the ground and Lupin and Black standing over him with their wands drawn.”

“He probably just turned around and went back up to the house to get another cigar,” Merlin speculated.

“Don’t be stupid,” snapped Endora. “He was a wizard, wasn’t he?”

“Yes, very likely he said a charm to get another cigar from the house,” Joe Albuquerque said, conjuring a cigar of his own out of nowhere. “It wouldn’t do to leave anyone out of the festivities, when his firstborn had just come into the world.”

“I expected to hear,” said Endora, “that in another moment, a squad of Death Eaters appeared and started blasting away with their wands.”

“That wouldn’t shock me,” Sadie snorted.

“And I wouldn’t be surprised,” said Harvey drily, “if Spanky’s next adventure had something to do with finding his fiancee, Ilona, who no longer seemed to be in jeopardy after the Gringotts goblins let Spanky out of that deposit bag. My guess is, the curse they milked out of him was the one put on him by the genie at the Owlympics.”

“I suppose, with a little imagination, we could take any one of those ideas and make up a storyline to amuse ourselves,” said Endora. Then, noticing the embarrassed silence of those around the table, she added, “You know, just until Spanky gets back.”

In the moments after these words, more than one person in the little parlor noticed, for the first time, that a distant clock could be heard ticking from there.

“Well, it does gripe one to have to wait for the conclusion of the story,” said Merlin at last, adjusting his fake nose and mustache. “I do hate to be left waiting.”

“Oh, you’re all right,” spat Sadie. “It seems like a month since you left off with your story. What ever happened to you and Rigel after you got past the sphinx? You said you spent four years in Gringotts. What did you do for all that time?”

Merlin sniffed. “I don’t know,” he said. “You might not want me to continue after Spanky comes back...”

“I suggest we have a vote,” Endora chimed in.

“You can’t vote when there isn’t a motion on the floor,” Joe pointed out.

“Somebody just tell me what happened next!” Sadie screamed. “I don’t care which story, Spanky’s or Merlin’s or even how Endora managed to find a big enough invisibility cloak to cover that no-doubt-beaver-hat-sized nose of hers—begging your pardon, dear—but since it is your adventure in the cellars of Gringotts, Merlin, that we have all come to hear, I say you have the floor, you backward, krup-loving, broomstick-thrashing...”

“Yes, that is the very thing that has brought us all together tonight,” said Harvey, with decisive calmness. “And I think we can trust Mr. Spankison to be able to fill in the bits that he misses, with the resources of the Rogue Magic Bureau at his wand-tips. Therefore, Merlin, old man, do go on.”

The new narrator paused for a moment of reflection, then began anew:

“Well, as I was saying before, the goblin named Nailspike set us up for the night in a vault that was empty except for a tin bucket, a loaf of wormy bread, and a flask of pumpkin juice that was decidedly wanting in the nutmeg department. To be blunt, it tasted like a bit of potion that hadn’t come out as planned. But we were hungry and thirsty enough to eat every crumb and drink every drop, and when the stone floor proved too cold, hard, and bumpy to sleep upon, we took turns sitting on the upturned bucket while the other paced the length and width of the vault. It was seven paces by five, by the way. And, of course, we talked.

“'We haven’t been properly introduced,’ I opened, after I had picked the last weevil out of my teeth.

“'I know we haven’t,’ said Rigel, sulkily, as he paced. ‘But I reckon I know enough about you to get on with.’

“'Do you now?’ I said conversationally. ‘Then tell me, who am I?’

“'You’re the low-rent stooge my dear father has hired to shadow me,’ said Rigel, pacing. ‘Because he wants to know what I’m doing with all his money, and whether he should leave the whole lot of it to me when he hops it, or if he should put a so-many-galleons-per-annum trust spell on it, the stingy old git. And because stinginess is his chief character trait, your expert service is on a level somewhere between “security troll” and “tipping the pumpkin-juice delivery man to keep an ear peeled for gossip.” Do I mistake?’

“I spat on the floor.

“'Do I take that as a no?’ Rigel said, pacing.

“'I have only known your father for a few weeks,’ I replied. ‘But I think I know him better than you do.’

“'Spoken like a true patsy,’ Rigel sneered, pacing. ‘He wouldn’t be so rich and revered if he didn’t know how to put on a face people could trust. But I have seen the other side. The world sees a man who is prodigally generous, but I’ve seen a man who only spends just enough galleons, and for just the sort of causes, to get his name mentioned in the Daily Prophet. Meanwhile, he won’t spare a knut to make his own flesh and blood happy, unless it be to control every move that I make. And whenever I show a bit of imagination or independent thought, he threatens to make sure he can control how every knut is spent even after he dies.’

“'Let me guess,’ I said drily, interrupting what was starting to sound like an hours-long flow of invective. ‘If you didn’t have to worry about his will, you would kill the old man just to be rid of his self-righteous stubbornness.’

“'Someone should,’ Rigel blurted, ‘before he dumps the whole family fortune into some stupid do-gooder charity like The Fatherless House-Elf Vocational Training Fund or The Exterminate the Hungry Foundation....’”

At this point, Sadie went into a coughing fit and was obliged to step out of the parlor for a moment until she could recover herself.

“I guess this part is rather boring,” Merlin admitted sadly.

“Oh, no, I’m riveted,” yawned Endora. “Please, spare no tedious, insipid detail.”

“All right,” said Merlin, uncertainly, as Sadie came back to her seat and resumed filling her pipe. “What was I saying?”

“That Rigel would deserve it if his father cut him out of the will, after he had said such a thing,” Joe Albuquerque prompted.

“Oh, yes. I said, ‘You are so blind, Rigel. You would know your father better if you had ever once given a thought to anyone but yourself.’”

“Oooooh,” said Endora. “Now it’s getting good....”

+++ Another Pause for RIDDLE TIME! +++

OK, let’s see how mathematically challenged you are. Remember Corinne’s riddle about the road to St. Ives? Seven wives times seven are 49 sacks, times seven are 343 cats, times seven are 2,401 kits. But remember to add the kits, cats, sacks, and wives together: they come to 2,800. But wait—that STILL isn’t the answer. You have to add the husband of all those wives and the narrator too, which makes 2,802. Right?

Wrong. Only one was going to St. Ives. Remember? “While I was going to St. Ives, I met a man...” That is to say, the man and his wives, sacks, cats, and kits were coming from the other direction. So was all that math for nothing? By no means! Nine-tenths of any math challenge is understanding the problem!

Oh, wait. I just looked over my shoulder and saw, coming up behind me, 7 officers of the R.S.P.C.A. for every kitten in those sacks....

As for Lighthouse Junkie’s riddle, the answer is (don’t panic now): FIRE!

And now for some new riddles! First, Jess puts this one to you: “After living in a house and never leaving for 30 years, a man turned off the light and left the house. But by doing this he killed twelve. How?”

Jade sent me a TON of interesting riddles. Here are a few of them. First, “What row of numbers comes next?” (Hint: this isn’t a math problem either.)


Jade’s second riddle is a little less, er, numerical:

“What falls but never breaks? What breaks but never falls?”

Jade’s third:

“I live half my life, The other half is death. I dance without music, I breathe without breath What am I?”

Why is the Magic Quill wasting so much time on riddles that don’t have anything to do with Harry Potter? Well, I’ve been asking myself that question, actually. I think one reason is that 12 readers write in with a riddle for every 1 that sends a story idea. So, yet again, a plug for sending me storyline-related concepts! But another possible answer comes from a member of CoS Forums who was complaining about not liking riddles, because “they seem to involve secret knowledge.” And if that isn’t a definition of magic, I don’t know what is! Thanks for the tip, goldennib!

[Originally posted 4/5/05]

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