The Magic Quill #50: The Shape of Things That Have Been

by Robbie Fischer, concept contributed by: Biblio

Thank you, dear reader Biblio, for suggesting that—as the Magic Quill reaches the big Five-Oh—we go back and summarize where the storyline has taken us so far, to help latecomers catch up. At first I was going to make a rude comeback like, “Why not try reading the column from the beginning and see if it makes any sense to you?” But then, I realized that this would be a good opportunity to “archive” the old numbers of the Magic Quill, and turn a new page, so to speak. So, with apologies to those of you who are eagerly waiting to find out what happens next, here is what has happened already:

1. “Tales from the Hog’s Head.” The stage is set as a veiled witch named Sadie, an invisible witch and wizard named Endora and Merlin, and a hooded stranger begin to swap tales in the less reputable of Hogsmeade’s village pubs.

2. “The Gifts of the Animagi.” Sadie opens with the touching story of baby Harry Potter’s first Christmas—but what Spanky, the hooded wizard, had to do with a certain werewolf that night is a tale that continues to unfold to this day!

3. “The Double-Barreled Wizard.” Spanky starts his story at the beginning, as he started his journey to Hogwarts with an unusual talent—he has two wands and can use them at the same time!

4. “The Mood Altering Vegetables.” During the first of many toilet breaks for Spanky, Sadie discusses her promising career in the magically-enhanced grocery business. Show of hands (no e-mails, please): how many of you remember Miles O’Roughage?

5. “The Double-Barreled Wizard, Part 2.” Robbie shows his first sign of lacking imagination when it comes to titles. But seriously, this is the one where Spanky begins to describe his career as a competitive dueler, with his early adventures in the Hogwarts Dueling Club with his as-yet-mysterious friend, Otis.

6. “McKnickers Dreams.” The first night of stories completed, our characters have various dreams and recollections, stimulated by the Hog’s Head house brand of firewhisky. This is where we first learn that Spanky is an agent of the Rogue Magic Bureau.

7. “The Double-Barreled Wizard, Part 3.” Honestly, the reason I kept using the same title was that they all had to do with Spanky’s dueling career! It makes sense, doesn’t it? Well, in this one, we meet Harvey, he of the handkerchief-covered face, and retire to the back parlor where all our stories have been told since then. It was also an important number because it introduced Spanky’s boyhood nemesis, Sid Shmedly.

8. “The Double-Barreled Wizard, Part 4.” Yeah, yeah, I know. Great title! Well, this long installment is stuffed with stories of the Dueling Club, mainly featuring Spanky and Shmedly. Pop quiz, hotshot: what effect does the Saltatrix curse have?

9. “The Iwixarod.” Spanky takes another pit stop while Merlin narrates his adventure in a long-distance broom race.

10. “The Affair of Gryffindor’s Sword.” In my (Robbie’s) opinion, one of the low points of the series (this is why I need your ideas, people!). This is a mysterious but ultimately pointless story about a duel between Shmedly and Spanky that comes over all kinds of weird.

11. “Meet Joe Albuquerque” begins to explain how Spanky got involved with the RMB, not to mention how he met the love his life, Ilona, and the greatest wizarding detective in America (guess who).

12. “The International Conspiracy of Clichés” is what you get for asking to find out what happens to Spanky during his trips to the bathroom. Some of you actually want to hear more from the ICC. It takes all kinds! Well, if you can think of a way to do it without being boring, I’d like to hear about it.

13. “The Bette Noir Affair,” the first of another series showcasing Robbie’s dazzling powers of inventing titles. No one has even noticed, apparently, that this title is a pun. That’s today’s education system for you! In this installment, a replica of Gryffindor’s sword is stolen and the trail of clues leads Spanky to a rendezvous with Joe Albuquerque.

14. “The Bette Noir Affair, Part 2” further establishes the “femme fatale” character, also known as Maleficent Cacklebury and various other punning names. (My favorite is still “Mercedes Binns.”) By the end of it, we find Spanky walking up the twisting path to Ms. Cacklebury’s bizarre, California mansion.

15. “The Bette Noir Affair, Part 3,” in which Spanky interrogates Ms. Cackelbury, a.k.a. Ms. Noir, and suspicion begins to fall on Joe Albuquerque.

16. “The Bette Noir Affair, Part 4,” in which Ms. Noir describes the colorful Egyptian adventure in which she and Joe Albuquerque were banished to a pyramid by an evil, magic-carpet dealer named Abdul Aberber Amir. It ends with our supposed friend Joe blasting a death curse in the direction of Spanky and Bette. (Dramatic organ chords…)

17. “The Bette Noir Affair, Part 5,” by which time I was starting to get a hundred e-mails a day suggesting new titles—hmm. I should try that strategy again! Of course the mystery of who stole the replica sword, and why, is finally unraveled…Joe is cleared of suspicion…and the femme fatale comes to a tear-jerking end. Sniff!

18. “The Double-Barreled Wizard, Part 5” begins another series that, by the time it ended, I regretted starting as much as anyone…but, in the long run, I think it worked out well! You see, wizards and witches have their own World Games, and among the events are Quidditch, Magymnastics, and—you guessed it—dueling! Lots and lots of two-fisted dueling!

19. “The Owlympic Sprint”—Spanky and Shmedly duke it out in a test of fast thinking, with wands!

20. “Marathons and Relays”—Two more Owlympic events, in which a great deal of general mayhem takes place.

21. “Bewitched Bewitched” (or vice versa). Spanky takes a long-overdue toilet break, while Merlin tells how he messed with some Muggles watching late-night TV.

22. “The Relay Final”—Another Owlympic dueling event in which Shmedly and Spanky face off.

23. “Team Dueling”—Does anyone remember the names of Spanky and Shmedly’s Owlympic dueling teammates? Who do you suppose they “really” are?

24. “The Interview”—By this time, the real Olympics were long past over with, but the Owlympic saga dragged on and on!!! Here is the chapter in which Spanky and Shmedly take part in a public relations disaster!

25. “The Freestyle Event, Part 1”—Further evidence that Owlympic dueling will never die! No matter how much you want it to!

26. “The Freestyle Event, Part 2”—An intense confrontation between Spanky and Shmedly (predictably, in the final of another Owlympic dueling event). This time something happens that changes Spanky’s life—and we still haven’t heard the end of it. What became of Ilona? Well? Ideas? Anyone?

27. “Single Combat”—The final showdown between Spanky and Shmedly (so far). The moral: never mess with a man who has nothing to lose!

28. “A Break for Station Identification”—Advertisements on the Wizarding Wireless Network. Twenty guesses: which band played the song “Werewolf Scratch Boogie”?

29. “Night Owls By Daylight”—Metaphorically speaking, of course. Harvey begins to introduce the special talents of each of the characters in that cozy back parlor, and starts to lay out a plan for how to put them all to good (?) use. And at the end, an unexpected new visitor turns up…

30. “The Circle Completed”—Joe Albuquerque and Spanky catch up, and Harvey gives the floor to our resident Gringotts expert: Merlin.

31. “Vold-Mart.” Merlin begins to narrate a new story, involving a spoiled young wizard named Rigel and a worried father’s resolve to keep his son out of evil.

32. “Uncle or Aunt Leslie.” A gruesome new villain—I’m still waiting for you to help me bring him or her back—sends Rigel, along with his invisible friend Merlin, on a dangerous quest into the depths of Gringotts.

33. “The Vault of Yves the Leper.” Merlin and Rigel break into a forgotten vault at Gringotts, on a mission to steal a forgotten potion of unimaginable power. But they don’t get too far!

34. “Riddle Me This.” The Quill takes a break from the story-line to put a few Harry Potter-related riddles to you—some of which remain unanswered!

35. “More Riddle Me This.” The Quill’s holiday break continues with ten more Harry Potter-themed riddles.

36. “Forward and Back.” The plot inches forward as the Hog’s Head storytelling circle adjourns for the night. Then, “Riddle Time” makes its debut as a weekly feature, with discussion of HP-related riddles.

37. “Back and Forth.” This time, no storyline, just chit-chat about riddles old and new.

38. “Chokechain’s Labyrinth, Part 1.” Merlin reveals his “true face” at last, and begins the story of his imprisonment in the labyrinths of Gringotts.

39. “Chokechain’s Labyrinth, Part 2.” Merlin’s tale continues as he and Rigel face a wily sphinx…but their troubles in the lower levels of Gringotts are not nearly over!

40. “Unfinished Business, Part 1.” Spanky satisfies your burning curiosity about the ending of the duel that began with “The Affair of Gryffindor’s Sword,” and he also begins anew in his loooooong story about how he dealt with the werewolf that tried to kill baby Harry on his first Christmas. The tale picks up as Spanky hears a couple of Death Eaters plotting against the as-yet-unborn Harry Potter…

41. “Unfinished Business, Part 2,” for which, very appropriately, you had to wait several weeks while I moved from Arizona to my new home state of Missouri. Talk about cliffhangers! The plot against the pregnant Lily Potter takes shape, and Spanky realizes he has to do something to stop it.

42. “Orel Prevention.” Spanky’s attempt to stave off a Death Eater attack on Lily Potter goes awry when, thanks to a (perhaps impossible) mishap with a Pensieve, he finds himself trapped INSIDE THE HEAD of a Death Eater disguised as a Merlin Scout.

43. “Trussed, Mussed, and Imperiussed.” After being kicked around by the Death Eaters, Spanky wakes up in a deposit bag on its way to a Gringotts vault. How do you bribe a bunch of by-the-numbers goblins, when you have no cash on you? If you ever find yourself in that situation, this article might save your life.

44. “Orel Suggestion.” Spanky arrives at Godric’s Hollow just as Harry Potter is being born—but the Potters’ suspicious friends soon figure out that Spanky isn’t his own master at the time!

45. “Musical Interlude.” More toe-tappers from Nasal Drip and all your other favorites, from the Wizarding Wireless Network.

46. “More Unfinished Business.” This time it’s back to Merlin’s storyline, where we find him imprisoned in a Gringotts vault with the biggest brat in the wizarding world.

47. “Some Thirsty Work.” Merlin’s tale of his imprisonment in Gringotts continues, as he and Rigel dig their way through the wall into a wine cellar occupied by clown wizards and Durmstrang runaways.

48. “More Thirsty Work.” The clowns plan Merlin and Rigel’s escape from Gringotts, with the unwitting aid of the goblins and the servants of an evil count. This number was also, for the record, the end of the “Riddle Time” subfeature.

49. “The Silken Ladder.” Merlin and Rigel are foiled in their attempt to escape Gringotts, and this time they are given a choice between being eaten by a manticore and having to grope through a pitch-dark dungeon in search of a silver shield.

50. “The Shape of Things That Have Been,” in which Robbie raises the art of STALLING to a previously unimagined level.

There. Now you have no excuse. You’re all caught up on everything that has ever happened (coughNOTcough) and you can start sending in your terrific ideas with total confidence (ppppllease?). All the same, it probably wouldn’t hurt you to go back and read the first 49 numbers for yourself. You might even enjoy them! Except the ones that sucked, like this one. But remember, if you don’t like it, you can change it. Send me a better idea for next time, and we’ll see where it takes us!

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