The Magic Quill #64: Boggart In My Pocket

by Robbie Fischer, concept contributed by: Jade T.

Merlin and the four Slavs froze for a moment as Rigel’s worst nightmare loomed over him, obscenely obese, darkening with fury.

“You’ve disappointed me,” said Uncle or Aunt Leslie, quivering vastly. His or her voice sounded strangled and hoarse. “Do you know what happens when someone disappoints Uncle or Auntie?” Its fleshy hand grabbed Rigel’s collar and hauled him to his feet. “No? Not even a guess?”

“Er…I-I-I…” Rigel stammered.

“I’ll tell you, then,” said the wicked thing, pulling Rigel’s face so close to its own that their bodies collided. Ripples spread out across Uncle or Aunt Leslie’s body. “When I’m disappointed, I get hungry.”

Rigel finally managed to spit out the words that kept getting caught in his throat: “I’m not afraid of you!”

“You just keep thinking that,” said Uncle or Aunt Leslie. His or her sharp teeth gleamed in the light from Rigel’s glowing cloak. “That’s right. Uncle or Auntie will forgive you…after I digest you…”

Rigel burst into tears. “Help me,” he sobbed.

That brought Merlin out of his paralysis. He rushed forward, and before the boggart-Leslie could do more than turn his or her head, Merlin head-butted him or her with a sound like a watermelon falling into a shot-put pit. The monster staggered, gaping, while Rigel slid precariously between its legs. As the boggart, recovering, began to lunge toward Merlin with murder in its eyes, the four Durmstrang runaways leapt forward and surrounded it. Anatoly dragged Rigel out of harm’s way, and a moment later the six of them were standing in a circle around the flustered boggart, holding hands.

“No wands,” Rigel said tremulously. “We can’t banish it.”

“No, but we can sure make it miserable,” Merlin replied.

And so they did. Uncle or Aunt Leslie turned round and round, fuming yet confused. A slimy tentacle reached for one of the Durmstrang lads, who ducked out of its way. Something viny and covered with thorns darted in another direction. Strange growths erupted all over the boggart’s body, as it tried to decide what shape to take.

“Let’s do ring around the Leslie,” Rigel suggested, brightening at the sight.

Merlin shook his head. “I have a better idea. Tell those three to herd it toward me, while you get your pocket universe ready.”

Rigel looked wonderingly at him, but as Merlin backed away a step or two, he began fumbling in his robes.

The Durmstrang comrades made a rush at the boggart, hallooing. It backed, disoriented, toward Merlin – the only direction in which it had room to move – and suddenly Merlin stepped forward.

“Back off, you three,” he hissed, as the hideous, multi-appendaged thing between them turned its many eyes toward him.

It went pop and, just as suddenly, a small glass sphere the size of Merlin’s fist was rolling toward his feet. He nodded at Rigel, whose eyes looked close to popping out of his face. Then Merlin gave the sphere a slight kick while Rigel lowered his pocket to the ground and scooped it inside. Before the boggart could change shape again, a faint hiss of escaping air proved that the pocket universe had sealed again.

“Brilliant,” Rigel exulted. “Now, do let’s get out of here!”

In spite of the shaking and rattling artifacts around them, the party of six made it through the door at the end of the passage without any further incident.

Instead of finding themselves in another dank railway tunnel, however, they emerged into a warm, brightly lit, richly furnished room. A fire crackled in a grate to their left, illuminating a tapestry on one wall and a painting on another, and surrounded by heavy armchairs and claw-footed ashtrays. A long, dark, marble-topped table filled much of the remaining space. The smell of tobacco held the room. Above the end of the table farthest from the fire was another painting, showing a very sharp-toothed, fierce-looking goblin wearing a smoking jacket and ascot, and holding a smoking pipe shaped like a witch on a broomstick. The smoke made it look as if the witch’s hair were on fire.

“That’s Undergrim the Unsavory,” Rigel breathed, indicating the same painting that had caught Merlin’s eye. “The founding chairman of Gringotts.”

“And I,” said a sharp little voice from only a few feet away, “I am Undergrim’s direct descendant, twenty-seven generations removed.”

Everyone started at the first sound of the voice, and looked around for its source. Presently a goblin revealed himself, stepping from behind a corner of the tapestry. “Greetings,” it said with a bow and a smile that made Merlin want to go back to Uncle or Aunt Leslie. “My name is Dewclaw. Congratulations. You have come closer to escaping than anyone since that adventurous American fellow in the last century. What was his name? Ah, yes, Bierce. Mind you, it took him eighteen years to reach this room, and that was with a gobbledygook dictionary and a deathwish. But enough chatter. My associates will take you back to the pit now, where you will find there have been some cave-ins and a bit of mason-work since your last visit.”

“But…” Merlin protested, as armed goblin guards poured out of several hidden doors and seized the lot of them. “But didn’t you…”

He caught himself on the edge of saying the word promise, and backpedaled. “I mean, don’t we deserve a reward? You know, for helping you analyze the flaws in your security?”

For an instant, the well-dressed goblin’s look of urbane nastiness changed into something quite dangerous: pity. Now Merlin understood what a voice had been telling him all along, though most of his mind had ignored it. The goblins weren’t interested in anything the wizards did. They were, in fact, expecting them all to die of starvation, or perhaps some quicker and stickier means. The fact that they were still alive made the goblins uncomfortable, but only the way a human squirms when an insect keeps wriggling after several attempts to crush it. As far as Dewclaw was concerned, the six wizards were beyond any chance of survival now. Their failure to become extinct made them feel not anxious or concerned, but impatient. Dewclaw’s eyes told Merlin: “If I had known what spirit you gentlemen had, I would not have sent you to your doom before. But it is done, so I can only hope we won’t meet again.”

And with that, the prisoners were swept through a narrow opening, into a dark place where bags were pulled over their heads. In moments Merlin felt the bruising hardness of an ore cart and began another sickening, wild ride through the rail tunnels.

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