Locking and Loading
Concept Contributed by: Angelbot
Merlins story continues as he and Rigel find themselves trapped in a sort of anteroom to a dragons lair, deep in the nether parts of
Gringotts Wizarding Bank...
We discussed our options in a heated whisper for quite some time. Rigel was of the view that we should sit around in the big empty cavern,
whose only exit led straight into a dragons lair, and wait until starvation took us away. I reasoned that if we were both going to die
anyway, we might as well do it by the faster and therefore relatively painless method of getting mauled, crushed, eaten, torn limb from
limb, gassed, or fried by the dragonand there were enough possibilities to make it interesting, too. Plus, if we were really lucky, we
might find another way out through the dragons lair, without getting ourselves killed. I went so far in trying to persuade Rigel that I
even convinced himif not myselfthat I sensed a draught of fresh air coming from the next room. So at last, with the worst grace you can
imagine, Rigel consented to come along with me.
'Good, I said, much relieved. Now, we just need some weapons.
'You must be joking, Rigel hissed. We cant do anything to that creature without our wands. Nothing it would notice, anyway.
'You must have something in your bag of tricks, I pressed. I dont care if it scratches himherit. We may need a diversion, though. Even
just a moment of surprise might save our lives. Go on, turn out your pocket universe.
He rummaged around for a while, and finally there were five items that could have been interpreted as weapons, lined up on the cavern
floor. I got all these at the Out of This World Surplus Outfitters, he said. Youre not supposed to ask where they came from.
The first object was a garden tool like the ones Muggles use, poor dears, when they want to dig a hole in their gardens. Surprisingly
sharp, I remarked.
'Its been honed to razor sharpness, said Rigel. I remember the tag said it could be horribly handy in the hands of an underground sort
of chap, and were certainly underground now. Only the word horribly was misspelled.
'I didnt take you for the kind to be bothered by bad spelling, I put in.
'Im not, said Rigel. What bothers me is what that crooked shopkeeper was trying to get away with. When you deal with that sort, you must
always keep your eyes open for loopholes and no-refund clauses. Anyway, this next thing was tagged as a light sabre.'
'What a lot of bollocks, I said. Light indeed! Its so light that theres no blade at all. Reminds me of the tale my nurse used to tell
me about the Archmages New Robes. Youve been taken this time, for sure.
'I wouldnt speak so soon, if I were you, said Rigel. He picked up the bladeless sword-handle and suddenly, a long, deadly blade appeared,
shining as if lit from within. He whirled it through the air as if born to swordplay, and the sound it made was like the air being sliced
open. Then the blade went away and he tucked the handle into his belt, smirking at my look of awe and desire. Im afraid you would hurt
yourself, he observed with devastating mildness. The sword is a gentlemans weapon, is it not?
Instead of calling him a name that cannot be repeated in mixed company, I asked through clenched teeth after the third item, a box tied up
in a ribbon that had the words ACME 5-in-1 Anti-R.R. Kit.
'It is supposed to contain a number of devices for catching roadrunners, Rigel said, uncertainly.
'Whats a roadrunner? was what I wanted to know.
'Thats to be opened only in the direst emergency, said Rigel, ignoring my question. It was marked down because it tends to work against
whoever tries to use it. The tag said it contained a portable hole, a convincingly three-dimensional wall poster showing the opening of a
train tunnel, a plate of birdseed laced with high explosives, a bottle containing the sound of a yodeling voice loud enough to start an
avalanche, and an inflatable Steinway grand that is designed to float in midair until someone walks under it.
'I dont see how a piano-shaped balloon and a bunch of incendiary sunflower seeds are going to help us against a dragon, I griped, but at
least the portable hole might give us a place to hide. Whats next?
'A walking-stick, said Rigel.
'Right, I said. By the cold way he was staring at me, I could see that the walking-stick had some significance that he wasnt going to
tell me. So I pointed to the last object in line and said, And this? What are we going to do, invite the dragon to tea? For at the end of
the line was a blackened, dented iron kettle which had clearly been left to boil dry a few times.
'That, said Rigel, is something I used to read about in the Quibbler when I was a boy. My father always insisted that it didnt
'Well?' I snarled, at the end of my patience.
'Why, I would have expected you to twig it by now, he gloated. Its the sort of thing you wizard-of-fortune types are supposed to believe
in passionately. And in fact, the only reason the thing is even on the market is that the Outfitters pillaged a world where our most
spurious rumors are true. They had a whole shelf of stuff from there, like a Snorkacks crumpled horn, an Ickliböggs toenail, a memory
crystal of Stubby Boardman singing Azkaban Rock, and this...the mystic kettle of Nackledirk!
It was my turn to give Rigel a stonily indifferent glare. He squirmed for a second, then said desperately, I thought we might throw
boiling water at the dragons eyes.
'And where will we get the water? I asked sweetly. And how shall we heat it, pray?
'Then forget it, Rigel said, covering his embarrassment with anger. He aimed a kick at the kettle, and as it clattered away it made an
awful noise. We both flinched, and Rigels face had a look that said, What have I done?
The light coming out of the opening into the dragons lair grew brighter, and the deep thrumming sound turned into the hesitant, coughing,
louder-breathing sounds of a dragon beginning to wake up.
If looks could kill, I belive the look I was giving Rigel at that point should have crippled him for life. He looked at me with
uncharacteristic meekness for a moment, then realized that I was his servant after all, and turned brusque. The spade and the 5-in-1 thing
are yours. Ill take the staff and the light sabre. If we must go in there, we had better do it now, while its still half asleep. Once that
thing wakes up, it may not shut its eyes again for a week.
'Arent you the dragon fancier, I whispered as we tiptoed toward the vaulted arch leading into the dragons lair.
'Ill go to the left, you go to the right, Rigel said nervously. On my mark...now!
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