The Magic Quill #22: The Relay Final

by Robbie Fischer, concepts contributed by: Jessica Parker and B*

“In the first round of the Owlympic Relay Dueling Final, Crinkle and Lobster were given the task of tying a knot in a tree trunk. This time, Crinkle proved himself the cleverer wizard. Lobster conjured an oak seedling, which he bespelled to grow extremely fast. He was still busy bending and straining and trying to bend the growing thing into a loop when Crinkle simply conjured a large hollow log, crawled inside, and made a knot in his handkerchief. I remember he was still picking woodlice out of his robes at the closing ceremonies. He received full marks, and the duel proceeded to the second round.

“Ruff and Quadrille matched each other in the transfiguration task. Ruff picked a ceramic cat, a small handbell, and a skeleton key; Quadrille rummaged through the pile of junk presented for their choosing, and came up with a toy dog, a rare Chocolate Frog card of Dunstan MacBone, and a twisted piece of copper tubing. Quadrille drew the first move, so he turned the MacBone card into a walking skeleton which went toward the ceramic cat with threatening, bony fists. I was surprised by this, because I was expecting Ruff to turn his skeleton key into a skeleton. Quadrille had anticipated him, with more cleverness than I had expected of him. But Ruff simply animated the key, which attacked the joints of the skeleton and unlocked them, causing the bones to collapse in a heap.

“Once again, Quadrille must have been anticipating that Ruff would do this. I can think of no other reason for him to choose the MacBone trading card when Ruff had chosen a skeleton key. For while Ruff was busy directing the key, Quadrille animated the stuffed dog, which also chased after the fragile ceramic cat. Just in time, Ruff saw the danger and transfigured the cat into a cat-o’-nine-tails, which slithered around on its nine leathery legs and attacked the dog. The dog, leaking stuffing, ran whimpering off the stage. The cat-o-nine-tails turned on the copper tubing, but this had turned into a cobra, which rapidly coiled itself around the cat-o’-nine-tails and immobilized it. It lookeed like Ruff was going to win–and the Galleon would be ours in only two rounds–because he still had his bell. Ruff put an engorgement charm on it, so that it grew to the size of a church bell, and it looked as if it was going to come down over the cobra and trap it. Ilona was already jumping up and down in the stands, cheering our victory.

“But it turned out that, joints or no joints, Quadrille’s skeleton still had some life in it. The individual bones slid and hopped and rolled so that the bell came down resting on them, and the snake was not trapped. Then more of the bones began beating the bell, creating such a deafening noise that the judges themselves put a Silencio spell on the bell. They argued over the points on the second round of the duel; some thought Ruff had won because the bones were legally out of play and the bell would have stopped the cobra. The other judges said Quadrille had won the round, because Ruff’s bell hadn’t succeeded in trapping the snake, and the bones were still living as a result of Quadrille’s original charm on them, so there was nothing illegal about them continuing to participate. After a long deliberation, the judges decided to call the round a draw.

“And so, with one round to England and a draw, the Relay final went into its third round: a duel between Shmedly and me, which I had been dreading more and more, ever since his bolt of lightning in the quarter-final knocked me off my feet.

“When the judges rang the starting bell, I instantly conjured a thick leather matt under my feet with one hand, and another lightning rod with my left. This time I wasn’t going to get a shock through the ground. Infuriated, Shmedly threw the last spell I would have expected from him (one I had never dreamed of preparing for): Legilimens. As memories of long, hard practices, strategy sessions, and tender moments with Ilona coursed through my mind, I struggled to understand why the judges weren’t calling foul. Shmedly was basically reading my playbook! How could I defend myself when he would know every move I was going to make?

“Bitter, vibrating wrath filled me from the toes upward. I concentrated my power on creating a shield spell, which deflected the Legilimens spell. Looking back, I realize that he must have known I was going to do it. I think he planned it that way, for now I could see into Shmedly’s mind, see what he and his cronies had planned. And it wasn’t good. Lobster, Quadrille, certain other members of the Romanian team and their trainers were sneaking around while everyone else’s eyes were riveted on our duel. One group was going about the Owlympic village, marking the places where Muggleborn competitors were staying with foul sigils, placing runespoors between people’s bedsheets, and turning the foundations under the magymnastics grandstand into spotted dick. Another group, wearing Bubblehead charms, was deep in the Forbidden Forest preparing to open an enormous crate on which warnings were stenciled: “DANGER. PLAGUE RISK. NUNDU INSIDE. APPROACH WITH EXTREME CAUTION.” And perhaps even more dreadful than this, the seventy-seven-foot wand right next to the aerohippodrome, on which the Owlympic flame was balanced, was tilting slowly toward that arena and its unsuspecting crowd of cheering spectators.

“Suddenly I knew that Shmedly and his mates were about to unleash a huge, deadly, and highly-coordinated terrorist attack in the midst of the most sacred international event known to wizardkind. If I could possibly have been more furious, it would have been because I knew Shmedly had given me the chance to read his mind on purpose, at this critical moment, so that I would have to choose between winning the Owlympic Galleon, or doing my duty as an RMB agent and trying to stop those dastardly attacks. If anything could make terrorism even worse, it was that lousy, dirty trick!

“But as the rage was about to explode out of me, I suddenly realized what I could do to save both the Relay Galleon and the Owlympic games. Holding the reflected Legilimenscurse on Shmedly with my right wand, I conjured a Fabergé roc’s egg with my left, placed a Portus charm on it, and threw it toward Shmedly just as I lifted the mind-reading spell. Knowing that a person of his tastes wouldn’t let such an enormous, gaudy piece of magical haute couture fall to the ground and shatter, I didn’t worry that he would try to bespell me. I instantly turned both my wands on the tottering tower of flame beside the aerohippodrome. With my right wand, I cast a series of high-intensity shield spells until it tilted upright again. With my left wand, meanwhile, I transformed the soft sand that someone had placed at its base into solid rock. That wand was going nowhere, for the time being.

“Meanwhile, you may as well know that Shmedly had vanished from the stage the instant he caught the portkey I had thrown at him. He thereby forfeited the duel, and England won the Galleon. But this was all by the way. He had instantly appeared inside the Nundu’s cage. How he escaped being breathed upon I do not know. What I do know is that no Nundu was ever seen near the Owlympic village, and that Shmedly showed up for the medal ceremony looking very windswept and bothered. He must have banished the Nundu back to its Himalayan lair before it could so much as sniff in his direction. He’s a quick thinker, Shmedly, I’ll give him that. And the Owlympic Security Force, thanks to an anonymous tip, had already rounded up all the runespoors, removed the sigils, and reinforced the foundations of the magymnastics arena, besides foiling a few plots they discovered on their own. Seven members of the Romanian contingent–unfortunately not including Shmedly and his cronies, who had made themselves scarce during the OSF purge–were thrown out of the games and deported.

“So far, my competition with Shmedly had gone mainly in my favor. Other than beating me in the Relay quarter-final, he had nothing to boast of except one Knut and one Sickle. I had three Galleons, and I had foiled a plot to disrupt the games with terrorism. But he wasn’t done yet. If anything, he was more determined than ever to defeat me in the remaining Dueling events. Indeed, our most intense duels were yet to come…”

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