The Magic Quill #19: The Owlympic Sprint
by Robbie Fischer, concepts contributed by: Jessica Parker & “Angelbot”
There are seven Owlympic dueling events, narrated the cloaked and hooded narrator, as his three listeners–one veiled, two covered by invisibility cloaks–drank their drinks and listened. Sparks danced in the smoke haze that hung over their goblets of firewhisky. The distant cheers and applause from a nearby fire-breathing cockfight helped them imagine a cheering crowd of spectators from all the countries of the world, spectating at the wizarding games.
Seven events? Merlin echoed.
Seven. First, there is the Single, like what our school Dueling Club practiced. Then theres the Team event, in which two entire teams face each other willy-nilly. Then there is the Relay event, in which each member of the team takes a different round of the duel. The fourth event is the Sprint, in which each wizard has to do so many things and the one who completes them in the least time wins. The fifth is the Marathon, in which the last wizard standing wins. The sixth is the Freestyle, in which you accumulate points for the variety, originality, and difficulty of your routine. And finally, there is the Overall category in which the team and wizard with the most total points in the other six events are awarded medals.
I’m sure you know that for each event–you must have watched the Owlympics that year, at least–they award a commemorative Galleon, Sickle, and Knut to the top three competitors. I believed I had a shot at a Sickle, at least, in all the categories except maybe the Freestyle. But when I realized I would be competing against Sid Shmedly, I decided I couldnt settle for any less than gold–not if it meant letting him win the Galleon!
Of course, you must realize how exhausting it was, competing in all seven events. It seemed we were either practicing or competing in the qualifying round of some event or other round the clock for the first three days. We snatched an hour of sleep or a bite of food where and when we could. On top of everything else, I was trying to go to all of Ilonas events, even though the Magymnastics Arena was located deep in the Forbidden Forest, while Dueling events were tucked between the hippodrome, where they held flying-steeplechase, and the lake where, they had mer-wrestling.
So I was stretched pretty thin, even with my RMB Detective-Level Apparition and Portkey License. Believe it or not, I slept through the Galleon round in Dancing-on-the-Tips-of-Bamboo, in which Ilonas victory was a major upset for the Chinese. And I totally missed the final round of Ceiling Tumbling, in which she scraped a Sickle. That time it was because I was dueling with Sid Shmedly.
As much as I had improved since leaving Hogwarts, Shmedly and I were still evenly matched. Beyond belief, but not beyond my expectations, we competed against each other in the final or semi-final of five different events. And though I faced many tough wizards and witches–clever, agile, creative, and powerful–he was consistently my most dangerous opponent. I had an interesting duel in the Singles quarter-final with a witch from Uzbekistan, and I tied for a Galleon in the Sprint final against the great Gustavo de la Mora of Argentina, who was competing for the last time. But mostly what I remember of those events is a succession of duels in which I faced Sid Shmedly. Our rivalry became so intense that the Daily Prophet commented on it, and I had dreams about it for weeks afterward. It is these five duels that I will describe to you now. I remember them as clearly as if they had happened yesterday.
Our first confrontation was in the Sprint semi-final. Youll know already that I won it, because I mentioned tying De la Mora for the Galleon. But it wasnt easy to beat Shmedly, by any means. He had been very strong in the earlier rounds; in fact, he had broken a record in the quarter-final. Now, each round of Sprint dueling is different; the task is chosen at random from an official list. In my final against De la Mora, for example, the idea was that the first to hit his opponent with three spells won; and in Shmedlys record quarter-final, the object was to be the first to blast through a succession of shields and barriers. In one of my earlier rounds, my opponent and I were placed on opposite sides of a table that had a hundred nails driven halfway into it, and I was supposed to pound them in and my opponent was supposed to pull them out–all by magic–until all the nails were either fully inserted, removed, or broken. You really had to be quick to win a Sprint.
The variant drawn for the Sprint between Shmedly and me was a transfiguration task. The judges conjured a platform between us with seventy-two eggs on it. My task was to turn as many eggs as possible into living things–Shmedlys, to turn them into inanimate objects. Eggs that were broken would not count either way, and the twist was: we couldnt turn any two eggs into the same thing. Each one had to be different, or the duplicate would be disqualified.
At the starting bell, I started turning the eggs into all the different kinds of flowers I could think of, ignoring what Shmedly was doing so I could work faster. This was a mistake. I started to wonder why I wasnt having to skip over eggs he had turned into dead things, but when I got to the second row I saw it. He was turning my living flowers into pieces of stained glass, statues, jewelry, coins, and painted miniatures. I was disgusted with this tactic, and I was even more disgusted when none of the officials cried foul. So, daring them to fault me for an unfair advantage, I pulled out my left wand and started adding shield charms to the eggs I had changed into flowers.
The crowd roared, and the judges began arguing in various languages, but I ignored everything but Shmedlys grunt of annoyance. I had soon run out of different kinds of flowers, so I went on to small animals–a snail, a rabbit, a mouse, and so on. I had lost a lot of time because Shmedly had turned almost a whole row of my blooming flowers into bric-a-brac, so I put on some more speed. I left off the shield charms, reasoning that Shmedly didnt have time to resort to his old trick again, and used both wands to transform eggs. Shmedly was working from his end of the table now, and the gap was rapidly narrowing. But when the last egg turned into a live partridge, it was a good way over onto Shmedlys side of the table. The officials counted and counted again. Even taking into account that first row Shmedly had ruined for me, and the fact that I had turned two different eggs into sparrows (though, in fairness, one was female and the other male), I still had thirty-six points to Shmedlys thirty-five.
The deliberations went on a long time before the judges decided that my double-barreled wandplay did not violate any rules. Then, to Shmedlys fury and the delight of my team, the score was posted on a flaming marquee, and I was sent up to the final and my first Galleon (or rather, half-Galleon). Ilona ran out of the crowd and kissed me. But I wasnt as happy as she and Crinkle and Ruff were. I had hoped I could beat Shmedly with one wand tied behind my back, but it wasnt going to be that easy…
Spanky squirted firewhisky out of his left wand until his goblet was full, then drank deeply.
Huh, said Merlins voice, as an empty goblet materalized from under his invisibility cloak. If I was you, lad, Id have turned an egg into a Niffler. It would have gone after old Shmedlys shiny buttons and brooches and things with a vengeance.
Well, thats an idea, said Spanky, mildly.
Sadie snorted as she scraped at the bowl of her pipe with a thin knife. Merle, you fool, she said scathingly. He won the Galleon, didnt he? If you can improve on that, why dont you try out for the Owlympics next time?
Maybe I will, Merlin sniffed.
Between the muttering under Sadies veil and Merlins continued grumbling, another invisible person spoke. Just ignore them, luv, Endora cooed from her seemingly unoccupied corner of the parlor table. Wasnt you going to tell us about the next event?
Oh yes, said Spanky, his voice half-muffled by the rim of his goblet. He took another sip, gave a satisfied sigh, and said, What shall I say about the Marathon?
What happens next? Send us your idea in 150 words or less, and tune in next week for another installment of the Magic Quill.