Wednesday, September 9, 2009

163. The Golden Cap

Contest winner: Sir Read-a-Lot

All the ghosts in Venice were rioting. Head Quidditch hooligans, every one of them. Il Comte di Bestemmia winced at the sound of massed wailing, moaning, and rattling of chains. The walls of his compound dripped ectoplasm as ghostly apparitions of severed body parts were hurled at them like pieces of rotting fruit. It was giving him a splitting headache.

"Ombra," the wizard called weakly, shuddering as an army of ghosts marched below his window playing musical saws. "Fetch my manual of exorcism, if you please."

A simpering house-elf ran out of the room. While il Comte waited for his return, something went crash in the garden. He hurried, muttering, to a window on another side of the room. The beastly ghosts were getting into his greenhouse now! Il Comte wrung his hands, thinking about some extremely rare plants that might not recover from the cold, clammy touch of these unquiet spirits. "What is taking that elf so long?" he wondered aloud.

All his attention was focused on the lagoon side of his private island, from which more ghosts were still rising from the sickly fog over the water. So il Comte did not notice a separate disturbance developing on the canal side. In a small square just opposite il Comte's jetty, Rigel was encircled by five burly figures cloaked in heavy furs. He turned round and round in a defensive posture while rummaging in his parallel-universe pocket locker. His assailants seemed content, for the moment, to wait and see what interesting weapon he would come up with.

Rigel's fingers closed around something. He pulled it out with a triumphant "Ha!" The defiant gleam in his eyes changed to dull grimness when he saw what he held. It was a rubber chicken.

Before he could recover from this disappointment, the first of his opponents charged. Rigel flourished the chicken in its face before stepping aside. The wind of the giant's passage caused the young wizard's robes and hair to flutter. A flapping hem of the attacker's fur cloak slapped against Rigel's calf.

For a moment the five cloaked men stamped and pawed. Then the one most directly behind Rigel charged. He felt rather than heard its approach, felt it in the ground vibrating underfoot. He turned and smacked it in the face with the broad side of the chicken. When a third opponent came at him, Rigel stuck out his foot and tripped him. The fellow went stumbling out of the circle.

"It's a lucky thing the bad guys always attack one by one," Rigel mused aloud. Then he added, "Whoops," as four massive figures closed on him at once. He crouched down and rolled through their legs, laughing at the sound of their bodies colliding and the brief bout of shoving and cuffing that followed it.

Now Rigel was outside the circle. He turned to face a line of five gigantic men. No, not men... yaks.

"Yikes," Rigel squeaked. He started backing away, digging once more in his pocket.

The next thing he pulled out was a golden cap. The Golden Cap, rather. Rigel allowed himself a half-second's distraction as he recalled purchasing it at Jude the Insecure's "From Out of This World" outfitter. He racked his brains, trying to remember whether he had used it twice or three times...

The yaks took a step toward him. Rigel was not keen on turning his back on them. Did yaks have an instinct to chase anything that ran from them, he wondered? He walked backwards, faster, risking a glance over his shoulder as he turned the cap round and round in his hands.

"Well, there's nothing for it," he told himself when his back bumped wall. He tugged the cap onto his head. The yaks were a dozen meters away now. Standing on his left foot, Rigel chanted: "Ep-pe, pep-pe, kak-ke!" Seven meters and closing. Shifting to his right foot, he intoned: "Hil-lo, hol-lo, hel-lo!" Three meters! On both feet now, Rigel screamed: "Ziz-zy, zuz-zy, zik!"

The nearest wereyak was so close by now that Rigel could smell its breath. It reeked of rancid butter, fermented tea, damp fur, and a sweet, gassy, grassy scent. Slobber dangled from the creature's lips. Its nose was damp with yak bogies.

"I'm only going to say this once," said Rigel warningly. The wereyaks stopped. Swallowing with an audible gulp, he added: "Surrender now, and it will go easier for you."

The yak in front of him snorted. Foul-smelling snot splattered the front of Rigel's robes.

"All right then," Rigel said in a shaky but grim voice. "Give these dirty beasts a bath, boys!"

The air was suddenly filled with the flapping of wings, screeches and howling laughter. The already shadowy corner of the square darkened even more as the space overhead filled with a squadron of diving, grasping creatures.

Winged monkeys.

The yaks turned and bellowed. Rigel edged toward a nearby alley, barely wide enough for his thin shoulders, and darted away from the ensuing melee.

Moments later, he found himself on the edge of the canal. Il Comte's private jetty stood but a stone's throw away. It might as well have been miles, with the waters in between infested with merpeople who served that cruel master. In the distance, he could see flashes of light as the ghosts, at his instigation, continued their riot. It seemed they were trying to burn down il Comte's gatehouse, using ghostly torches that burned only on their own, insubstantial plane. He sighed and shook his head, then began digging around in his pocket again. There had to be something to get him across the water...

+++ DOUBLE CHALLENGE FOR TMQ #165 +++

You can help decide what happens next in The Magic Quill! Simply leave a brief comment (up to 150 words) answering the following Survey and Contest. The survey answer with the most votes, and the contest answer that Robbie likes best, will turn up in the chapter after next.

SURVEY: Which Hogwarts subject includes a lesson that will soon save the lives of Merlin and Miss Pucey?

CONTEST: Rewrite a portion of a famous speech, from either history or literature, to make it apply to the magical world of Harry Potter. (Examples: Hamlet's soliloquy, Patrick Henry's "liberty or death" speech, the Gettysburg Address, Mary Schmich's "Wear Sunscreen" speech, etc.) Use your imagination! Entries will be judged on the basis of entertainment value.

10 comments:

Robbie F. said...

SURVEY: Which Hogwarts subject includes a lesson that will soon save the lives of Merlin and Miss Pucey?

CONTEST: Rewrite a portion of a famous speech, from either history or literature, to make it apply to the magical world of Harry Potter. (Examples: Hamlet's soliloquy, Patrick Henry's "liberty or death" speech, the Gettysburg Address, Mary Schmich's "Wear Sunscreen" speech, etc.) Use your imagination! Entries will be judged on the basis of entertainment value.

Robbie F. said...

Sorry this took me so long. As I commented before, my new job has taken a bite out of my discretionary time. Hopefully, as I get used to it, I'll have a bit more time to write columns & reviews. Thanks for your patience!

greyniffler said...

Which subject? How about History of Magic! I think Miss Pucey might have been a better student than Merlin, too.

Robbie F. said...

Timothy Walsh writes the following contest entry via the MuggleNet feedback system:

My entry is a poem that paraphrases the three witches' "Double Double Toil and Trouble" from Shakespeare's MacBeth.

The Polyjuice Potion Poem

Fluxweed, knotgrass, leeches too,
They make up our witches' brew.

Horn of bicorn, boomstang skin,
Lacewing flies; just throw them in.

Three weeks must the cauldron boil.
Then add hair of Crabbe or Goyle.

Take a swig and feel it bubble.
Look! You're Crabbe's and Goyle's double!

Hair of Bulstrode, I'll add that.
Oops! I've turned into a cat!

Dragonic said...

For the subject, I would say... Transfiguration. I's like to seem them save themselves by transforming whatever puts them in danger into something hilarious.

How about a portion of Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?"

That wizard over there says that witches need to be helped off of broomsticks, and not apparate alone, and get the best seat in the Knightbus. Nobody ever helps me off broomsticks, when I apparate, or or gives me a good spot anywhere! And ain't I a witch? Look at me! Look at my wand! I have cast spells, and stirred potions, and wizard could head me! And ain't I a witch? I can produce as many charms and enchant as many objects- when I'm given the chance- as any wizard- and endure all your prejudices as well! ANd ain't I a witch! I have borne sven children, and seen 'em all labelled as second-class for being born to a mudblood, and when I cried out the injustice, not even the Seers heard me! And ain't I a woman!

Linda Carrig said...

Another fantastic entry, Robbie!

I say the subject would be Herbology. Some obscure plant...

I'll have to think about the contest...

to hex or not to hex, that is the question....

Morning Star said...

I think Muggle Studies includes a lesson that will soon save the lives of Merlin and Miss Pucey. The speech I`ll have to think about.

Sir Read-a-Lot said...

I think astronomy. when the alignment of the planets (and/or the moon) is auspicious, powerful magic can be used.

As for a speech, the Duchess's moral from Alice in Wonderland:

Be what you would seem to be, or if you'd like it put more simply: Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.

I don't think it needs any alterations to apply to Harry Potter. Something to do with transfiguration, perhaps? (animagi/were-animals?)

Linda Carrig said...

Here's another version of the "Get a Bird a Dress"

4 charms and 7 spells ago this wizard conjured on this tea caddy a new creation, concieved in timeturners, and dedicated to the composition that all billywigs are transfigured.

TWZRD said...

Let's see if it spits me out yet again! This web site seems to have it in for my browser lately.
(BTW Loved the slap stick attack on Rigel, and the monkeys too.)

OK, Merlin and Miss P were at an underground door. If they don't get in before the catwalk retracts, they'll hope they studied their apparation, of maybe levitation in Charms class. But for further ahead, I think arithmancy will help them navigate the path ahead. It should be laid out on some magical principal, and that seems the most likely subject to intersect the plan.
On the other hand, if they forgot to bring any supplies, and they start to get hungry, remembering lessons from herbology might keep them from a fatal mistake when they find some food stores.

Great speech, Dragonic! I'll have to research that one before I respond.