by Robbie Fischer
Contest winners: TWZRD and i6uuaq
Spankys tale continued…
I kept a close guard on the Niblet estate after my little tiff with Shmedly. I still had no idea why someone with Romanian connections would want to do Sir Lionel in, or what they would want from his property. The RMB sent a few junior agents to reinforce my watch. Everything seemed quiet and in order, but I sensed the danger had not passed.
After a couple weeks with little to do, apart from perfecting the role of a hardbitten veteran to keep the younger agents in awe of me, I received an owl from the Blokebury office, reporting an anonymous tip about suspicious activity in a nearby county. I was desperate for something to do, so I decided to follow up myself. I took Ilona along as backup, leaving the other agents in charge at Mangeford.
The directions on the note from Blokebury led me to a farm on the edge of a great, dark forest. I smelled it before I saw it, a sharp astringent odor combining the best parts of animal waste, rotting meat, disinfectant soap, and certain marginally legal potions. As I came over the last low hill, already taking care to breathe through my mouth, I saw a small farm was surrounded by tall, dense hedges full of thorns and creepers. The road led straight up to the hedge, while a solid sheet-iron gate stood over to one side, surrounded by ill-disguised deadfall traps made, I guessed, with portable holes and the cheapest type of magical wall — the kind that only appears to be solid ground but has no substance at all. In short, it wasnt a welcoming place.
I marched up to where the road met the hedge, magnified my voice, and asked for admittance in the name of the law. After only two repeats, each one louder than the last, the hedge stood up on its roots and walked widdershins until the gate stood before me. Then the gate creaked open, and I followed the road into the farm, holding both wands in one hand and my RMB badge in the other. I was very glad to have Ilona, armed and invisible to all but me, covering my back.
The farm contained three buildings and a fenced-off herb garden. One of the buildings was a long, stone stable with arrow-slit windows just under the eaves, and another heavy iron door fitted with two thick, iron bars and an enormous chain secured by an equally enormous lock. The curious thing was that all these security devices were on the outside. The second building was a two-story, wood-frame house that looked ready to collapse at any moment. By the blank, grimy windows and the overgrown path up to the door, I could tell that no one lived there.
Between these two was a third building — a round, one-room hut with smoke coming out of a hole in its thatched roof — and in its doorway stood a gristly, scarred, twisted little man holding a large crossbow. An armed crossbow. Pointed at my chest.
’Identify yerself,’ snarled the little man.
I identified myself very clearly while Ilona held a shield charm over us.
’State yer business,’ barked the little man.
’Im here to find out about your business,’ I replied. ‘There have been complaints…harboring dangerous creatures, cruelty, Dark magic…’
’The ones that complained is them as does dark magic,’ the little man growled.
’Then youll have no objection if I take a look around,’ I said as cheerfully as possible without getting shot.
’Got trade secrets to protect,’ the little man rumbled. Why should I trust yer not to sell em?
I assured him that I would only report details of actual, rogue magic. So he finally lowered the crossbow.
Whats your name? I asked.
Goode, he said. Zophar Goode.
And what, Mr. Goode, is that? I asked, gesturing at the long, stone building with the high-security door.
Kennel, snapped my host. While no longer forbidding, he wasnt exactly welcoming either.
May I see whats in it? I asked.
Nothings in it, said Goode, who nevertheless charmed the lock, chain, and bars off the iron door with a wave of his wand. Only occupied a few days each month, round the full moon.
If the smell outside was strong enough to knock a man down, the inside of Goodes kennel had a pong that could pick him up, shake him, rip him open and eat his liver. Even breathing through my mouth did no good; I could actually taste it — the choking, close, unventilated smell of werewolf. I found myself holding the collar of my cloak against my face and sucking air through it, as I inspected a row of empty stalls. Empty, except for battered and chipped bowls, scattered straw, tufts of fur and even streaks of blood stuck amid the stones of the outside wall, and deep, savage claw marks on the wooden partitions that separated one werewolfs quarters from another.
I treat em perfectly humane, Goode went on, while I was unable to speak for fear of gagging. They come here voluntary. I let em in from forest side, so they dont have to go by the village downroad. Soon as the full moon rises, I lock the pen and move the gate round to the traps. No danger to anyone outside the farm, and very little danger to me.
How many, er, clients do you have? I asked through clenched teeth.
Seven or eight, regular, said Goode, leading me back outside where I began sucking in lungfuls of relatively fresh air. Sometimes up to a dozen. Some of em live around here, some only come when theyre in the neighborhood when that time comes. I try to keep the place warded so outsiders cant hear the howling an yowling. Tend to sound like theyre murderin themselves sometimes. And look like it, too, afterward.
I had no idea such a place existed, I admitted. Have you placed ads?
No need, said Goode proudly, leading me toward the round shack. Place been in me family for generations. Them as knows of it, spreads the word to them as needs it. Them as dont need it, or want it, dont know about it. Thats the way of it. Otherwise thered be no end of trouble for the pour souls.
“‘Poor you,’ I said, looking at the many scratchmarks and bites on Mr. Goode’s arms. ‘You’ve taken a bit of punishment yourself, haven’t you? Makes you wonder…’
“‘Why I still do this?’ Mr. Goode asked, pausing on the path and looking at me almost pityingly.
“I laughed. ‘I was going to say, why you aren’t a werewolf yourself.’
“He shrugged. ‘Same answer either way. Some of me ancestors were werewolves. So a certain feeling for the hairy wretches runs in the family, like. Plus, we’re born carriers. We have it in our blood, so we’re fairly resistant. Been bitten dozens of times, and will never be more of a werewolf than what I was born. It’s just that I only turn if I get scratched right on the full moon. Even then I keep my right mind, saving a strong urge to bury things under the hedge.
Goode led me through the door of his little shack. Inside, to my slight surprise, there was a clean, well-appointed house with rooms opening out of a main hallway and a broad spiraling staircase at the end.
Dont have guests in here, mostly, said Goode. All this is thanks to their contributions, which they pay of their free will, but it doesnt do for them to know how much more comfortable we have it than them.
He led me to the stairs and then downward to a flagstoned passage with more iron doors in it. He touched one and it opened. This is me lab, he announced proudly, though I could already see that it was a lab. It had jars of potion ingredients lining the walls, cauldrons bubbling over plates of magefire, and a long, scarred bench heaped with ingredients in various stages of being chopped and shredded. From the ceiling hung a variety of shiny instruments for testing the products of each experiment. Books and loose pages of notes were piled on and around a standing desk under a floating candelabra.
The other rooms are only storerooms, Goode explained, for what I make in here.
And what do you make? I asked, unconsciously keeping myself between him and the door.
Were-kibble, said Goode, his twisted face beaming with pride. Been trying to come up with a substitute for people-meat, to stop the guests going mad and trying to eat themselves. Tried tofu people first, but that didnt have the right nutrition. Guests were still weak and sickly after their spell passed, and after a while their instincts told them to stop eating the stuff. At least it helped us test the artificial people-flavoring. Never thought wed perfect that, not knowing how people taste, ourselves. Kept the flavor, binned the tofu, started over to create a crunch, tartar-control Werewolf Chow with all the nutrients needed by a mad creature of the night. Each guest gets a bowl of kibble before lockdown. Sadly, theres no way to refill the bowls without risking a bite or worse.
I told Goode he should be packaging the stuff and selling it, to help werewolves everywhere.
I used to think that, too, he said, his face darkening. Found out about two facts of life that changed me mind. First, lots of werewolves dont want the help. Second, lots of wizards dont want to let the werewolves be helped. Last year a shopkeeper in Diagon Alley agreed to sell a few sacks of Werewolf Chow. He sent them back couple days later, along with a bill for two broken windows and a coat of paint to cover what somebody wrote on his wall. The only item we can sell is this.
Goode unsheathed a long, deadly looking, silver knife that had lots of edges, to make sure any attacking lycanthrope gets the point. I call it my Ounce of Prevention, said Goode. Ive never had to use it. Just the smell of it on me has stopped more than one unruly guest in his tracks. Of course, some who own these knives think differently about how to use em. Lost some dear friends because of one of these, whose owner made it his mission to save the world from werewolves. The old fellow looked grim and angry as he said this, rather than sad. But it cant be helped. The gift of a knife like this is sometimes the price of our clients safety and privacy. Me brother Zichri makes em. Here, take this one. Oh, no, I insist.
Against my will, Goode forced the handle of the knife into my hand. It was beautiful, perfectly balanced, and definitely weighed more than an ounce. In fact, it felt more like a sword than a knife — a sword that responded to my grip as if it belonged there, as if it wanted me to own it, as if it had plans for how I would use it in the future. While I stared at its beautiful, terrifying blade, Goode unstrapped its sheath and handed that over as well.
Then he did an odd thing. He spat on the blade I held in my hand. I stared at him, shocked as much by the feeling that went through my knife hand when his saliva hit it as by the mans behavior. Do the same, Goode grunted. He stared back at me until I did as he said.
This binds you never to return to this place, never to reveal where it is or what is done here, and never to use this blade except in extreme need
Merlin snorted, breaking the flow of Spankys narrative. Everyone turned a hostile glare on him.
What? he said, defensively. I mean, think about it. If that binding had any power, we wouldnt be hearing this.
Everyone turned back toward Spanky, who now (they suddenly noticed) was making a spiral cut into a ripe lemon with the very knife he had been describing.
You didnt let me finish, he said, after waiting long enough to be sure of their undivided attention. With a deft twist of the knife he separated the lemon into five twists which flew up in the air and came down on the rim of each goblet of firewhisky on the table. Merlin blinked furiously as a bit of lemon juice hit him in the eye.
The binding, said Spanky, was only in effect until I did use the knife in a case of extreme need. Possibly old Goode didnt mean it to work that way, but it doesnt matter now. He and his brother are dead. They have no heirs, and the Full Moon Kennel was destroyed by Death Eaters at the height of the last war — which, after all, was only a few months later. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named wanted all werewolves who didnt join his side to be destroyed. With people like Fenrir Greyback working for him, it was only a matter of time before some fool of a werewolf led the forces of evil to Goode.
Huh, said Endora. I never knew there were many werewolves who didnt join You-Know-Who.
If there were, they would be the type who would spend their time-of-the-month in a place like Full Moon Kennel, Joe Albuquerque observed.
Merlin said, And if those places were destroyed
there wont be many good werewolves left in Britain, Endora concluded. She laughed nervously, half wondering if anyone was going to point out her unintentional pun on the name Goode, and half thinking it odd to hear herself speaking of good werewolves at all. The others, however, took her quite seriously.
They all turned and looked at Spanky with big, questioning eyes. He slid his knife back into its sheath and softly said, Not many.
+++ DOUBLE CHALLENGE FOR TMQ #115 +++
To help choose the direction of the next few chapters of The Magic Quill, visit the Discussion Forum, or send Robbie feedback. The survey answer with the most votes, and the contest entry (or entries) Robbie likes best, will be featured in the chapter after next.
SURVEY: Does Spanky ever meet Zichri Goode before the climax Vold-War I?
CONTEST: Name and describe some dances that young witches and wizards might enjoy.