The Magic Quill #80: The Thief’’s Tale

by Robbie Fischer

Contest Winners: willh87 and hpwestham13

Endora, wearing a set of eye-glasses with a fake nose and mustache attached, sat huddled and fidgety in a waiting room at St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. Beside her sat Sadie, still veiled, scraping the bowl of her pipe with a small knife in spite of a large sign posted directly above her head: THANK YOU FOR NOT SMOKING, FIZZING, POPPING, SENDING JETS OF LIGHT, OR BRINGING GUBRAITHIAN FIRE ON THIS WARD. From time to time, Sadie paused to pat Endora’s hand and say something comforting, such as, “I’m sure old Merle can hold off those quack healers long enough to make a getaway.”

Across the aisle, Joe Albuquerque (disguised as a vicar, the next best thing to invisibility) was reading a newly-released book titled Growing Up Twice, which had a lot of adult material in it for a book written by a little kid. On the other hand, it was ghost-written by the same ghost who had co-written Joe’s favorite book: Become a Metamorphmagus in Thirty Days. Joe grunted with pleasure as he recognized an incident Merlin had described in one of his stories. So far, there hadn’t been many similarities between the book and the tales Merlin had narrated in the back room of the pub.

By and by, Spanky and Harvey came out of Merlin’s ward and sat down with the group. Harvey held a small wooden box that hadn’t been in his hands when he went into the ward.

“Oi, what’s that?” Sadie demanded.

“Merlin slipped it to me when the healer’s back was turned,” said Harvey, prising the lid off the box. It was built like a square hatbox, made of age-darkened wood. Inside was something that may have been a stone, or perhaps a bone…

“Why, it’s that goat’s hoof that I ni-HEM, that I acquired for that pubkeeper fellow,” Sadie exclaimed.

“A goat’s hoof?” Spanky said, looking outraged. “That stingy old goat sent our friend into mortal danger for a goat’s hoof?”

“Well, it does turn trash into food,” Sadie explained apologetically.

“He should use it more often,” mumbled Joe Albuquerque, without looking up from his book.

“Probably saves him a mort of money,” Harvey added.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” Endora wailed. “All that panic over a bit of cookware?”

“He said it was something his late brother gave him,” said Joe, closing his book. “He made it sound very valuable, or very important.”

“Wait a minute.” Sadie snatched the box out of Harvey’s hands. Harvey groped for it uselessly, then gave up with a small chuckle. This was the very sort of thing he needed Sadie to do for him. At least she was good at it.

“See,” said Sadie, poking her finger into the box and then measuring the outside of the box with it. “There’s got to be a hidden compartment in it.” She held it up to her ear and gave the box a gentle shake. She tapped it very gently with a fingertip, across the bottom and around the sides. Then, snatching up the box lid from the empty chair next to Harvey, she closed the box, turned it sideways, and pulled off a lid facing a different side of the box.

“I didn’t know it could do that,” said Joe, beaming with interest.

Sadie held her breath as she fished out the object inside the box. It turned out to be a large pocket-watch, rimmed with strange symbols. The watch had more than the usual number of hands moving at different speeds, some of them anticlockwise, and some odd-looking dials on the clock face as well.

Harvey stood up so suddenly that he might have been mounted on a spring. “Put that back,” he whispered harshly, “before someone sees it.”

Eyeing him curiously, Sadie did as she was told, and handed the box back to Harvey. The latter stuffed the box into a pocket of his robes where it didn’t seem to make any bulge at all. Everyone sat back in their seats, waiting for Harvey to tell them something, but he held his silence for now.

A few minutes later, Joe had returned to his book, Endora to her fidgeting, and Sadie to cleaning her pipe. Spanky scribbled something in a notebook, and Harvey scrounged a copy of Healer’s Journal from a nearby table. The lead article, announced in bold letters on the cover, was titled: “Medical Divination: Head Off Health Problems Before They Happen!”

“For Albus’ sake,” Endora exploded. “Will someone please say something to get my mind off…”

Everyone looked at her. They looked at each other.

Sadie gave the table a loud rap with the bowl of her pipe, startling Endora slightly. Then she said, “All right. Since I can get a word in edgewise for once, I’ll tell you how I made my first six or seven fortunes. It doesn’t hold a match to Merlin’s story, but it’ll have to be told eventually…”

Spanky put his notepad away. Joe and Harvey ditched their reading materials. Everyone prepared to listen, while Sadie rubbed her nose and prepared to tell.

+++ DOUBLE CHALLENGE FOR TMQ #82 +++

To send Robbie your personal feedback or original ideas, visit the Feedback Form.

To vote in the Survey and Contest to determine what happens in the Chapter-After-Next, visit the Discussion Forum.

The SURVEY: Depending on when Merlin and Rigel finally escaped from Gringotts, Rigel must be at least 4 years old now. How old is he?

The CONTEST: Describe a magical theft-protection spell, device, or guardian beast or plant.

The Survey Answer that gets the most votes, and the Contest entry that Robbie likes the most, will be featured in Magic Quill #82. So be sure to visit our Discussion Thread – and if you aren’t a member of COS Forums, join today!