The Magic Quill #48: More Thirsty Work

by Robbie Fischer, concepts Contributed By: Jon and Lighthouse Junkie

Merlin’s story continued…

“And so a couple of months passed. Nine wizards, trapped in a Gringotts vault together, speaking three languages, and one of them not speaking at all. The vault was quite large, and it was full of wine—mostly in bottles packed in crates, but also a good number of casks and barrels. We drank through many of those bottles, in search of the elusive djinn that was supposed to be somewhere in the vault. We had plenty to eat, thanks to Don Pagliai’s enchanted handkerchief. And even Rigel’s spirits improved, as he learned bits of the Durmstrang lads’ language. They had a lot in common, evidently.

“It didn’t seem that anything was likely to change for a long time, but then we heard the locks being undone on the door of the vault. The clowns, swiftly and efficiently, stuffed the Durmstrang lads and Rigel and me into empty crates and arranged the lids to look as if they had never been opened—though we had discreet breathing holes, by which we could also hear what was going on. The vault was opened, and the voices of wizards and goblins approached.

“’I will never understand the tastes of the rich,’ said a human voice. ‘What Il Comte sees in Muggle-made wines, when he could easily conjure any kind of wine with his wand, I hardly know. But he absolutely insists on stocking the cellars in his alpine villa.’

“’Here you, clown,’ barked a savage goblin voice. ‘Come back here. I don’t see your name on this invoice. Until Il Comte signs for your withdrawal, here you stay!’

“Another goblin growled, ‘Well, here are your wines. I wish we had time to do an inventory to see how much wine the clowns have used. My overseer gives me no end of grief about this vault. We goblins like to keep strict accounts, but it is difficult to do when your hoard is being consumed from inside!’

“’All the more reason to keep the clowns from escaping,’ laughed the human voice. ‘So much has been invested in keeping them here!’

“Other voices, meanwhile, were grunting, and I could hear barrels and crates being dragged around. A trolley of some kind was being loaded, it seemed. A goblin voice remarked, ‘They don’t get any lighter with age,’ and another said, ‘This crate must be half-empty, thanks to those drunken clowns!’ A third goblin shouted, ‘That’s none of your concern! Move the crates that are listed on the invoice.’ A fourth goblin added, ‘This trolley’s full. We’ll have to come back for a second load.’

“’Very well,’ said the human voice. ‘While these fellows are at it, why don’t we go to see the other vault, with the Countess’s furs?’

“After a bit more banging and dragging, we heard the vault door closing again. Everyone had left. The clowns let us out of the crates.

“’That was close,’ said Rigel.

“’Close? Are you crazy?’ cried Don Pagliai. ‘That’s your ticket out of here! You all have to be in the crates that those goblins pick up on their second load!’

“’But how will we know which ones they are going to take?’ I asked.

“’Easily!’ said Don Pagliai. ‘The goblins already stacked them up, ready to go, in this pile near the door. Help me shift these bottles!’ The purple-haired clown began repeating this information in several languages, and the other clowns and the Durmstrang students and Rigel and I hastened to open the crates and transfer the bottles from them to the empty crates and barrels nearby.

“’It is a pity we clowns must stay behind,’ panted Don Pagliai, as we all worked. ‘We will miss the company. Besides, who knows if the djinn is in one of the crates the goblins already took?’

“’But why shouldn’t you come with us?’ I said, astonished.

“’Well, the goblins would miss us, for one,’ said Don Pagliai, sadly. ‘They would never close the vault door without being sure we were inside. And also, we do not want to be in the crates when Il Comte opens them. We would rather stay here than meet him again.’

“’To each his own,’ said Rigel, who was doing a good job of acting busy while doing less work than anybody else.

“’But that’s not right,’ I insisted. ‘You have been here longer than any of us. We can’t leave you behind to rot in this vault!’

“’Right or not,’ said Don Pagliai, pausing for breath, ‘there is no escaping the fact that the goblins will not leave the vault unless they see us in it.’

“’We could fight them,’ I suggested, but the fat clown laughed. I knew it was an absurd idea.

“’I am touched by your determination to help us,’ Don Pagliai said, and he squeezed my shoulder. ‘But what are we to do against goblin magic? Even Boccachiusa needs a wand to do his mime spells! But let us hope that once you are out in the world, you can find a way to come back and set us free. You have made it this far into Gringotts already, have you not?’

“’If you’re staying,’ I said firmly, ‘We’re staying.’

“’Speak for yourself!’ Rigel screamed, as I began to load wine back into one of the crates to be moved. ‘I’m getting out of here, whatever you do.’

“’Fine,’ I said, turning away from Don Pagliai before he could protest any further. ‘Then at least I will have seen the last of your useless, ungrateful, selfish, whinging face, and your father will be saved from eating his heart out about what happened to you.’

“This gave Rigel pause. He stared at me for a moment, then said, ‘You really wouldn’t try to stop me from going?’

“’Don’t make me laugh!’ I sneered. ‘Give me a hammer and I will pound the nails into your crate!’

“’But you wouldn’t come as well?’ Rigel asked, in a small voice.

“All the clowns and Durmstrang people were watching us in silence, as if they could understand every word—and perhaps, after all those months, they could. At last, Don Pagliai put his hand on my arm and said, ‘Don’t be a fool. You must go. Then you can come back, perhaps, with a portkey and get us out of here. And besides—the young one will need someone to keep him safe when Uncle or Aunt Leslie finds out that he did not complete his assignment.’

“’Oh, no!’ Rigel gasped. His face went pale. ‘That settles it. If you don’t go, I’m staying too!’

“’Someone has to get out!’ Don Pagliai exclaimed. ‘Only three of us are staying!’

“With that, he and the other clowns rushed me and stuffed me into an outbound crate, pounded the lid on, and put another crate over the top. I protested the whole time, but Don Pagliai reminded me, ‘If you make a sound, the crates will be searched, and everyone’s escape will be ruined. Tst! Farewell!’

“Moments later, the locks on the vault door began to come undone…and as I fumed and bit my tongue inside a wine crate bound for an evil wizard’s alpine villa, I hardly thought that I was about to taste freedom again…which is just as well, because if I had thought so, I would have been wrong…”

+++ And now, the very last RIDDLE TIME!!! +++

Answers to last week’s classic riddles:

D) Man (he crawls on all fours as a child, walks upright as a man, and uses a cane in old age).
E) Mountain.
F) River.
G) Secret.
H) Candle.
I) Moon.
J) Shoe.
K) Tongue.
L) School.
M) Vowels.

In Cheledine’s riddle, the judge is the boy’s mother. In Lighthouse Junkie’s riddle, the king’s friend is married to the king’s sister. Claire’s riddle is about a pair of dead goldfish, and Ethan would like to point out that roosters don’t lay eggs (except in Cornelia Funke’s Dragon Rider, when the resulting hatchling is a basilisk). Jade’s two answers are, respectively, “second place” and “the letter M.” Gotcha!

Amazingly, I seem to have used up all the good riddle ideas you all have sent me. Maybe it’s about time to lay this little “subcolumn” to rest. Let me cap off the riddles—many of them, poems—with a humorous little poem about a wizard, which I wrote back in college (President Clinton was in his first term then)…

As threads I weave with fingers quick
The elements untied,
Wind time about a borrowed stick
From planes of eye unspied.
Tied thus, what happens now would change
What happened long ago;
As such, the future would estrange
The present which we know;
And twisted so, our own locale
Would touch the far-away.
This way it makes, if aught at all,
A gift for St. Ann’s day.
So I unravel and crochet
The fabric of a dream,
Or spend in mending all the day
A fraying warpal seam.
They say the magic-spinner’s life
Is quite the feather tick;
I doubt there knows a darningwife
So well the needle-prick.

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