Tuesday, December 23, 2008

95. Spoof and the Carpet

Concept contributed by: ihearthermione
Contest winners: lupa & TWZRD

A shout from nearby – a screech of cart wheels – then a party of goblins arrived at the point where Joe and Rigel stood. “What happened to the others?” barked a particularly gnarly goblin.

“I don’t know,” said Joe. He grabbed Rigel’s arm and pushed him toward the shocked and bewildered goblins, adding, “I’ve captured this impostor, though.”

The goblins piled out of the cart and began to arrest Rigel. What goblins call “beginning to arrest someone” is what most people call “roughing them up.” A few more minutes of this, and there wouldn’t be much left of Rigel to arrest.

A goblin at the edge of the group quietly toppled over, covered with a thin, strong, stretchy silk.

Another goblin fell, similarly cocooned.

Only when the third goblin went down did the rest take notice of what was happening. They left Rigel alone, nursing a nosebleed, a black eye, and some nasty scratches about his arms, and tried to form a defensive circle. Only, Joe was one of them, and while the silk cocoons descended out of nowhere to trap one goblin, Joe was using his wand to stun another. This added a level of chaos to the goblin formation, as the squad began to squabble among themselves, making them easier targets than ever.

When only two goblins were left standing – and one of them was Joe Albuquerque in disguise – the other goblin hissed, “You won’t get away with this.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Joe said, spreading his claws innocently. And the other goblin disappeared under a silent stream of silk.

Joe applauded, and the invisible children laughed.

“What kind of wand was that?” Rigel asked, before snuffling a swallow of blood.

“Acromantula silk core,” came Ethelfrigga’s voice out of nowhere.

“Very well,” said Joe. “Now let’s hide all this evidence before another squad of goblins comes along. There’s a vault over there. Rigel, help me carry this stunned goblin...woof...all right, take his claw and scratch the door with it thus...”

The vault opened. There was nothing in it but a large rug, rolled up and cinched with a dragonhide belt.

“Ooooh,” said Rigel. “This is a good break. I’ve been trying to get one of those for years, but the Out of This World Surplus Outfitters stopped carrying them. Some fuss about a ministry decree...”

“Are you going to talk all day,” goblin-Joe spat, “or are you going to help me with the rest of these goblins?”

“Well, let’s unroll the magic carpet, then we can use it to get the other goblins in here without any trouble.”

Joe’s horrible, goblin eyebrows rose. “All right,” he growled. And that’s what they did.

They kept the carpet with them after all the goblins were in the vault. Rigel aimed a kick at the door as it slammed shut, but Joe pulled him away. “Don’t be a thestramule,” Joe warned. “That’s one of those sucking doors. You could end up trapped in the vault with those goblins for ten years.”

The carpet hovered nearby. Rigel and Joe climbed aboard.

“All right,” said Joe, “show yourselves so we can count heads.”

Five invisible children became visible. Four of them looked tough and defiant, which meant they were scared. Their diversion had not worked exactly as planned. The youngest, Bob, sucked his thumb and clutched a toy dragon, complete with smoke coming out of its nostrils.

“All accounted for,” said Rigel.

“What’s that?” Joe asked, pointing a long claw at the toy dragon, a rather realistic replica of a Chinese Fireball.

“That,” the dragon answered for itself, “is none of your concern.”

“Well, where did he come from?” Joe demanded. He wasn’t used to kids.

One of the older children, a boy called Marmaduke, explained that the toy dragon was named Spoof, that he could shrink down to the size of a galleon, and that Bob must have brought him along in his pocket for good luck.

Joe hid his face in his claws, moaning, “O the wizardry! We should not have done this!”

“You’re right,” said Rigel. “It was stupid and reckless...”

“Don’t tell me about stupid and reckless,” Joe snarled, then he pointed his wand and muttered, “Accio disguise.”

A goblin mask and a pair of goblin-claw gloves flew out of the darkness and smacked against the side of Rigel’s face.

“Your reckless stupidity might have doomed these children...” Joe faltered as Persephone began to snuffle, and Spoof the dragon grew to the size of a large dog.

“Well done,” Spoof purred, as the littlest boy buried his face in the toy dragon’s wings.

Rigel sheepishly put his disguise back on as Joe added, lamely, “Only it seems we were lucky this time. The children behaved very well, and they saved us all. Now let’s get off this thing. You and I will take that cart back up to the bank, and the children will follow – invisible, mind – on the carpet. Perhaps we can slip out the staff entrance before anyone notices that we aren’t real goblins....”


First, I have a confession to make. I knew that this week’s storyline was going to focus on Rigel, Joe, and the Spankison kids, yet my poor planning left their fate to Survey #1 for next week’s tale (see discussion thread for TMQ #94). So I waited a bit to let some people respond to Survey #1, then stole the results. It was a close vote; at this writing the survey stands at 3 votes for A, 4 votes for B, and 2 votes for C. So please pardon me for grabbing the survey for next week’s story and using it this week – and if your vote wasn’t counted, please understand!

Second, I want to shout out a special word of thanks to all the folks who took part in the Contest in TMQ #93. You contributed some of the most exciting ideas I have seen since The Magic Quill started, and lots of them. Before the discussion thread for that chapter goes away, let’s hear it for Noodles (who suggested a dirt-eating dwarf a la Mulch Diggums) – Celairiel (a psammead) – Linda Carrig (card tricks) – _houdini (wizard turtles a la the Young Wizards series, and fairy godparents) – Cady (math-e-magic) – Sorwyn (super mushrooms, and Chemical X) – yeahimsirius (a death-defying stunt magician like David Blaine) – jatibbal (flesh eating acid) – Daedalus Diggle (human-sized wings) and Asteria (a giant spider with a human head). This is all besides our winning entries by lupa (magic carpet) and TWZRD (talking stuffed animal, PLUS a transmogrifier/duplicator a la Calvin and Hobbes).

It was tough deciding on just 2 winning ideas out of all these awesome suggestions! Ultimately I chose the magic carpet and the stuffed toy, not because they were necessarily the most exciting ideas, but because they fit best with the storyline that was percolating in my mind. But I’ll keep your ideas for a rainy day and, hopefully, remember to give you credit when I use them. Thanks for participating in the Double Challenge, and please keep it up!

And now, for the next-to-last “Double Challenge” before The Magic Quill turns 100...

To send Robbie your personal feedback or original ideas, visit the Feedback Form [EDIT: Rather, leave a Comment]. To vote in the Survey and Contest to determine what happens in the Chapter-After-Next, visit the Discussion Forum [EDIT: This discussion is closed].

SURVEY: The tattoo guy who is romancing Sadie – is he just a human billboard, or is he a secret agent with his own agenda?

CONTEST: Name a historical person who might have ended up lost in Gringotts.

The Survey answer that gets the most votes, and the Contest entry that Robbie likes the most, will be featured in Magic Quill #97. So be sure to visit our Discussion Thread – and if you aren’t a member of COS Forums, join today!

[Originally posted 7/23/06]

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