The Magic Quill #67: Under the Sic-‘em-more

by Robbie Fischer, concept contributed by: Angelbot and Poet


The Durmstrang lads were unnerved by the sound of the Augurey’s singing. They had all been taught some silly old superstition about the bird being a harbinger of misfortune. Rigel laughed at the lot of them. “If we haven’t got misfortune already, I want to see what it’s like,” he said.

Slavik shuddered. “You shouldn’t say such things. You want more misfortune than you already have?”

In the end, only Rigel and Merlin went out in the rain. They prowled through the woods, hoping to catch a glimpse of a great, green-feathered bird. Once or twice, Merlin thought he saw a winged shadow flit past–but of the bird itself, he saw nothing.

Soaked and shivering, they crawled into the hut as the rain stopped. The next evening (they all thought of the rainy times as night) they were out searching again.

After hearing the bird cry several times, and following the sounds of flapping wings and various other signs, they soon narrowed down the location of the Augurey’s nest to one corner of the underground forest. By now Rigel had a nasty cough, and Merlin had lost his voice. While Rigel was digging in his pocket locker for a throat lozenge, both wizards were startled by a sudden, deafening cry directly in front of them. The rain started to come down, with a whoosh that flattened them both to the ground, a great swan-sized creature shot out of a hollow in the crotch of a tree. The wind from the beating of its wings all but stunned them, and before they could get a clear look at it, it was gone.

“That’ll be its nest, then,” said Rigel, who for once was quicker to recover. He helped Merlin rise to his knees, and together they crawled toward the opening in the tree roots.

“Did you hear that?” Rigel said, holding Merlin back.

Merlin shook his head, asking a question with his eyes.

“It was as if the tree growled at me,” said Rigel. “Ha, ha! I’m sure its bark is worse than its bite, what? Now come on, let’s see what this bird has left in its nOWCH! By Slytherin, what WAS that? Look what it did to me!”

Merlin examined Rigel’s right hand. It had a strangely shaped cut above the thumb. Rigel thrust his other hand toward the base of the tree tentatively. So rapidly that it could scarcely be seen, a low-hanging branch darted at Rigel’s left hand and gave it a vicious pinch. Rigel swore loudly and added, “It bit me. It actually bit me! Ow, ow, OW!!! It was like being hit with a hammer! What is this tree, some kind of dogwood?”

Merlin couldn’t say it, but he thought the tree must be some kind of cross between a whomping willow and a devil’s snare.

“It’s a Sic-‘em-more, of course,” said a tiny voice next to Merlin’s knee.

Both men started away from the voice, kicking up enough dead leaves to hide the speaker from view for another few seconds. Then the air cleared, and they found themselves staring at a tiny gentleman wearing a bottle-green waistcoat, earth-colored trousers, pointy black boots, and a busy red beard. A floppy hat covered most of his hair, but it seemed as bushy and red as the beard. He stood regarding them solemnly, tossing a gold coin up and down with one hand, and wielding a minuscule rake in the other.

Rigel was as speechless as Merlin. All he could do was make a vague, choking noise.

“You’ll be wanting me treasure, then?” said the leprechaun.

“Why would we want fools gold?” Merlin rasped, in a painful whisper.

“Why, since you’ve found your way into this goblin gulag, I’d take it you’ve had little success getting the other kind. Perhaps it would be comfortin’ to you to feel some chink between your fingers. Eh?”

“We just want a few feathers from that bird’s nest,” said Rigel, in a shaky voice. “But the tree won’t let us in.”

“Of course not!” said the leprechaun. “That’s why the bird lives there, isn’t it? Doesn’t want a body of sticky-fingered ne’er-do-wells grubbin’ about in its glory hole, does it? Now shove off.”

“I beg your pardon,” said Rigel stiffly.

“Couldn’t we just have one or two?” Merlin squeaked. “We only need them to make wands. It’s a matter of life and death!”

“Well, in that case, you can still shove off,” said the leprechaun, folding its arms across its tiny chest. “I mean it. Shove it, or I’ll burn you. Better yet, I’ll touch you with me green thumb. After that, you won’t ask for another, please, sir!”

“But–” Rigel’s plea was cut off short.

“Away with you! Begone! Or I’ll set me bowtruckles on you! See if I don’t!”

The two wizards exchanged looks of frustration and helplessness. Without wands, they could do little to defend themselves against even the smallest magical being.

“I give up,” said Rigel, his shoulders sagging dispiritedly.

As he turned away, the leprechaun chuckled. Whirling about, Rigel grabbed the leprechaun with both hands and shoved him toward the crotch of the tree.

“Yow! Murder!” screamed the leprechaun, as the tree’s branches attacked him. “Let me—ouch!—go, you—ouch!—cursed, cauldron-headed—yowch!—ham- fisted—help!—wand-sucking broom jockey, you!”

Rigel set his face grimly, enduring so much pain from the tree’s attacks that he bit his lip bloody. Tears ran down his face.

“All right!” the leprechaun screamed. “Have mercy, and I’ll grant your wish!”

Rigel pulled the small creature out of harms way. The Sic-‘em-more branches stopped attacking. The leprechaun doubled over, panting for breath for a minute, then stood up. His face was covered in welts; one of his eyes had already swollen shut. His hat was gone, and blood ran down his face from somewhere on his scalp. However, the first thing he complained about was:

“Ah! Me smart clothes! What have you done, you beastly wizard?”

The leprechaun’s clothing had been shredded so completely that one piece could hardly be distinguished from another. Most of the blood on it had come from Rigel’s arms, but that didn’t make the creature’s appearance any less ghastly as it stamped and swore and sobbed.

“Honor your word,” Rigel said firmly, though the wet snuffle that followed his words somewhat spoiled the effect.

“All right, then!” the leprechaun growled. “Here, have your feathers. Have six of them, even! And don’t look for any more favors from the likes of me!”

Six beautiful, velvety-green feathers appeared in Merlin’s hands. In his amazement at their appearance, he did not see the leprechaun slipping out of sight.

“That will do nicely,” said Rigel, trying to sound unruffled. Then he snuffled again.

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