The Magic Quill #84: The Godfather Clock

by Robbie Fischer

“Where did you get this?” Merlin asked, turning the amulet over in his hands. It was hard, smooth, and heavy like a lump of crystal, but its surface swam and swirled with colors, like quicksilver. It was large as Rigel’s ten-year-old fist, shaped like an egg, but flattened on one side.

“My Godfather Clock gave it to me,” said the boy, with no consciousness of the oddness of his words.

“Your what?”

“My Godfather Clock. You see, my godfather was Tim Cogwith.”

“Oh, yes? The one who used to own that amazing timepiece shop in Diagon Alley?”

“The very. He was an old school chum of Orion’s—”

“Dad, you mean?”

Rigel favored Merlin with a dry look, then continued: “Cogwith grew very rich, sold some of the most amazing clocks and watches. Some even said he had a secret contract with the Ministry, though no one could say what for. When I was born, he was made my godfather. But he never made it to my first birthday. Vanished into thin air. It was a great mystery; you must remember it.”

“Of course I do,” said Merlin. “Read about it in the Daily Prophet, didn’t I? I was very interested, because some of the people who taught me my line were involved in the search.”

“The old fool,” said Rigel, referring again to his father, “spent a good deal of my legacy on that search. Pointless. The only clue they ever turned up was the fact that, the day Cogwith vanished, a six-foot floor clock was found in his shop that none of his shop assistants had seen before. They never found any record of it on the shop’s books, and those were the self-auditing, uncookable kind of books.

“The clock was exactly Cogwith’s height and weight, and the wood – pear wood, wouldn’t you know – was the very color of his mustache. The full moon on the moon dial looked a bit like him, and the chimes sounded like his voice, so they said. There was a finial on top that Orion says reminds him of the hairpiece Cogwith always wore – it was made of ash, so it has never looked quite right.

“The search went on for several months before the Ministry finally declared old Cogwith dead. Orion and I inherited everything. The old fool didn’t fancy owning a clock shop, so he auctioned off all the contents and sold the premises to some crackpot who wanted to sell seven-league boots.”

Merlin winced. As one who had once owned a pair of seven-league boots, he knew from dreadful experience how uncomfortable they were, and how difficult to keep shined.

“Poor fellow went bankrupt in six weeks,” Rigel added, with malicious pleasure. “Shoplifters walked off with all his merchandise, and they were devilish hard to catch. But I’ve strayed off my point. The one clock the old fool kept – Orion, I mean – was the pear one with the hairpiece finial, because it reminded him of his old friend. Sentimental sap. Odd thing was, no matter how they wound it, oiled it, spell-stripped it, and restored all the spells, the house-elves could never get that clock to chime the hour but for one day every year: my birthday.”

Merlin grunted contemplatively.

Rigel went on, “Also, every year at the stroke of whatever hour was my number of years-old, the clock would stop. When the house-elves would open it to wind it up, they would find a gift inside. Until I was twenty-four, that is….and interestingly, the gifts started coming again when I went back to being a baby. Well, today is my second eleventh birthday.”

“Is it?” said Merlin, his foxy nose twitching. “How lovely. I didn’t know you were so old before your accident.”

“I had found that evil was good for the complexion,” Rigel said, though to judge by his ghastly pallor and the dark circles under his eyes, he must have become considerably more virtuous than he seemed. “What I’ve been trying to tell you is that this amulet thing came out of my Godfather Clock today.”

“Have the presents your Godfather Clock gave you usually been needed or helpful at the time?”

“I don’t know,” said Rigel. “There was a door-knob cozy once that screamed when I tried to sneak out at night. And another time it was a piece of tooth-pulling gum that came when I had a toothache, but it nearly broke my jaw and I bled for six hours. I can’t remember the other things.”

“Hmmm,” said Merlin, a little doubtfully. “And was there a card with this?”

Rigel fumbled in the pockets of his mugglish clothing and dragged out a crumpled slip of paper. “‘Food Tasters’ Friend,’ it says. ‘Also good against snake venom, insect bites, plant poisons, and nundu breath. Not guaranteed to protect against werewolf bite or McKnickers’ Firewhisky. For a full disclosure of permitted and prohibited uses, send an owl to the First Wizard of Fiananarantsoa.’”

“It doesn’t say what to do with this,” Merlin observed ruefully, “and anyway, I wasn’t poisoned or infected by a bite. This is spell damage,” he added with a general wave to indicate his face, bristling with fox pox. “I appreciate your concern, though.” Contemplating the look of anger that suddenly crossed Rigel’s face, Merlin thought (not for the first time) that he had very little likelihood of influencing Rigel as he grew up for the second time, while he gave the flat side of the amulet a gentle rub –

— and the whole end of the ward was filled with a blinding flash of light –

+++ Double Challenge for TMQ #86+++

To send Robbie your personal feedback or original ideas, visit the Feedback Formhere.

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The SURVEY: Will Endora and Merlin ever get together? (A) They already have. (B) Any day now. (C) Eventually, but not very soon. (D) Not going to happen.

The CONTEST: What happens to Merlin and/or Rigel as a result of this “blinding flash of light”?

The Survey Answer that gets the most votes, and the Contest entry that Robbie likes the most, will be featured in Magic Quill #86. So be sure to visit our Discussion Thread – and if you aren’t a member of COS Forums, join today!