The Magic Quill #33: The Vault of Yves the Leper

by Robbie Fischer, concepts contributed by: Jade & Angelbot

The witches and wizards listening to Merlin’s tale were becoming restive. At one point, Sadie pulled an hourglass out of her pocket, glared at it through her veil, and shook it next to her ear. A few minutes later, Spanky shined his wandlight on a sundial strapped to his wrist. Even Joe Albuquerque sneaked a look at a complicated pocket watch that had seven hands moving at different speeds, and in different directions.

“I know, I know,” said Merlin. “It’s growing late.”

“On the contrary,” said the voice of the invisible witch Endora, “it’s growing early.”

“All right, I’ll make a long story short,” Merlin said bitterly.

“Patience, my friends,” said Harvey, who alone showed no concern for the time. “We are getting to the part that makes it all worthwhile. As you were saying, Merlin?”

“Well, obviously,” said Merlin, in a grumpy tone of voice, “the old man–Rigel’s father, that is–refused to accept my resignation. He took me out in his walled garden for a little talk and a little bludger practice. It was strenuous exercise, and I sensed a veiled threat in the way he kept batting those bludgers at me. I was finally so exhausted from defending myself that I agreed to keep a tail on Rigel, just so I could get away and have some peace.

“During the next week or two, I followed Rigel every hour of every day. He didn’t do much except spend his father’s money, though. He bought one of those expensive pen-knives that opens locks and undoes knots at a place in Diagon Alley whose door only opens to someone who has at least a hundred galleons in his pocket. He had a spell upgrade installed in his wand at Tappert’s, which, unlike Ollivander’s, would probably not send an owl to dear old Dad telling him what his pup was up to. At the Out of This World Surplus Outfitters he bought a holocaust cloak, a pair of infra-octarine spectacles, a set of phials full of mysterious powders with labels like Dens Drac. and Noct. Vest., a radiation-shielded thermos locker for storing supplies in a pocket universe, and a brace of kerbango charges with improbability-driven detonators. Also, at Bourgin and Burkes, he bought a hand of glory. And he made a purchase of some kind at the shop of a black marketeer called Jude the Insecure, a very shifty fellow who had two magical eyes, like the one our Mad-Eye has. I didn’t dare come within a dozen yards of his place, with or without my invisibility cloak, so at the time I didn’t know what Rigel had got from him.

“I had almost made up my mind that Rigel had given up hope, and was simply binge-spending his way through what he expected to be the last six weeks of his life. But at the end of the second week, instead of going to another shop with loads of galleons, he packed everything in his thermos locker, stuffed the locker into his pocket (which must have been amazingly roomy), and broke into a boarded-up shop in Open Close, that dark little alley behind Gringotts. I won’t bore you with the details, seein’ as how you’re all glancing at your timepieces again, but let’s just say that after using everything he had bought in one clever way or another, Rigel managed to dig through miles of rock and rubble, a net of befuddling charms and a lake of acid; he eluded a very hungry, pent-up dragon and got through its tightly packed tresure trove; and he even–since you’re so uninterested, I won’t bother to tell you how–got into the locked vault that even the goblins themselves could not open. I found myself admiring Rigel’s unexpected resourcefulness and bravery. He would have made a spectacular colleague if he hadn’t been a twisted little slimeball. It was all I could do to keep up with him, protected only by my invisibility cloak and a bubble-head charm that I had managed to stretch over my entire body.

“And then we were there. Inside Vault 1,066 in a long-abandoned branch of the Gringotts caverns. Surrounded by chests, cauldrons, racks full of rolled-up parchments, and shelf upon shelf of dusty stone jars. Each jar contained a different, long-lost formula of great power. Each was labeled with runes that seemed to refer to a master list somewhere, but there wasn’t time to find the list and figure out what each potion could do. Rigel simply pulled out his pocket-universe storage locker and began stuffing things into it.

“Unfortunately, clever as his break-in was, Rigel did not realize how many alarms his entry had tripped, or how swiftly the goblins would respond. Before Rigel had touched a hundredth part of the stone jars, a crack squad of twenty goblins, backed up by several security trolls, turned up and took him into custody. There was nothing I could do but hover among the racks of scrolls and try to be as silent as I was invisible. After all, I was only hired to keep an eye on the brat, not to sell my life to the goblins for him. But it was no use. One of the goblins waved a silver thingummy, somewhat like an egg beater, then pointed at me and shouted: ‘There!’ In two steps, a troll bounded to my side and grabbed my wand arm in such a grip that I dropped my wand.

“One of the goblins, who seemed to be second in command, said to the leader of the squad, ‘There! You see? I told you it would happen. We had better kill them, or it will happen oftener and oftener!’

“‘Hold your tongue, Sawtooth!’ yelled the leader. ‘Have you no discretion? Look what has happened! No one has ever penetrated as deeply as these wizards have done. Do you know what that makes them, Sawtooth?’

“‘Dangerous!’ squealed the second goblin.

“‘No, you nitwit! They are resources! And a goblin never wastes resources. Haven’t you learned that?’

“‘But Chokechain, sir!’ cried a third goblin, while Sawtooth writhed in humiliation. ‘You can’t mean they are to go unpunished? After the outrage they have committed!?’

“‘Ah, I did not say that, did I, Spleengraft? Although I certainly would like to shove them both into their own miserable storage locker and let them drift in a pocket universe for all eternity, I follow the goblin code! Profit ahead of vengeance! Duty ahead of gratification! Take them. We have a use for them. And perhaps they will suffer enough, in serving us, to pay them back for their trespass!’

“‘I say,’ Rigel cut in, with a quivering voice. ‘I don’t know why I should be a part of any of this. I only came with him because he forced me to.’ With these words, he gestured toward me with a tilt of his head, for his arms were pinned to his sides by the grip of a security troll.

“‘That’s nonsense,’ I shouted back. ‘I’m only here because his father paid me to follow him and keep him out of trouble!’

“‘Either way, you are both fools,’ said Chokechain. ‘Trolls, take them up to the bridge over the labyrinth, and drop them into the very center of it. Give them anything they ask for–food, drink, anything they can think of that will help them escape. Let them try. If they succeed, so be it. Then we can recapture them and set them another challenge. So we will learn from them how we must strengthen our security. And they will spend the rest of their miserable lives dodging dragons, trolls, and booby traps. Is that not a splendid punishment, gentlegoblins? Away with them!'”

The dregs of the night’s last goblet of firewhisky went down Sadie’s throat with a gulp.

“So,” Joe Albuquerque said after a goodly pause, “how long were you there?”

“Seven years, four months, twenty-two days,” said Merlin, miserably.

Joe rounded on Harvey, aghast. “That is where you want us to go? You expect us to break into Gringotts? Into the vault of Yves the Leper?”

“Of course I expect you to break in,” said Harvey, evenly. “Into Vault 1,066, indeed. I merely hope you can break out again. That will be the tricky part.”

“I’ll say,” said Merlin.

“Yes, you will,” said Harvey. “But that’s a tale for another time. Well, friends! Let us meet here again in one week’s time. We will need to draw on the experience of everyone here as we begin to lay our plans. But for now, go home; get some rest; and speak to no one about what we have discussed this night. Until then, farewell!”

With a loud pop, Harvey disapparated.

What happens next? Send us your idea in 150 words or less, and tune in next week for another installment of the Magic Quill.