The Magic Quill #97: Bashmace and Ripsnarl

by Robbie Fischer

Inspired by contest winners: voldymortus, jatibbal and Cady

When Rigel came out of the tunnel into the main lobby of Gringotts, his heart lifted…right into his throat. So many times in the past, he had been close – but not this close – to escaping from Gringotts, only to find himself back where he started again. As his heart hammered, and as he saw dozens of surly and suspicious goblins all around him, he knew the last few steps toward the great golden doors would be the longest walk of his life. The thought of being captured now was so bitterly cruel that he tasted it in his mouth, and winced.

“Oi,” barked a nearby goblin, who clutched a battered clipboard in his claws. “Who are you, and what are you doing here?”

Rigel’s heart plummeted. He felt like his blood had turned into icewater. He opened his mouth to answer the goblin, but only a squeak came out.

Luckily, Joe Albuquerque was at his side. Joe growled, “Didn’t they tell you? We’re to be transferred from the armory squad to record-keeping….”

“What are your names?” the bouncer-goblin demanded.

“I’m Bashmace and this is Ripsnarl,” Joe said instantly, with a meaningful sideways look at Rigel.

Rigel’s eyes widened, and he nodded. In a pocket of his goblin disguise, he fingered his wand and whispered something under his breath.

Meanwhile, the bouncer-goblin peered at them suspiciously. “Why haven’t I heard of you?” he said. “I was starting to think I knew every goblin who lives here.”

“We keep our heads down,” said Joe, or Bashmace. “They’re a tough lot, the armory squad.”

This explanation seemed to satisfy the bouncer-goblin, who shrugged. Then he looked through the scraps of parchment on his clipboard, and found the names Bashmace and Ripsnarl on the list after all. He was sure they hadn’t been there the last seventeen times he had looked at the list. “Right,” he said. “You’re to report to the document-shredding room, fourth door on the right.” He pointed a claw toward the wall behind the row of desks where teller-goblins were waiting on witches and wizards.

“Lovely,” Joe hissed in Rigel’s pointed, goblin ear as they threaded their way between the teller-goblins and the wall. “Now we have a job. It could take hours to get out of this.”

A muffled giggle floated down out of the air above them. Joe rolled his eyes, remembering the Spankison children, invisible on their flying carpet.

“And you lot,” he hissed over his shoulder, “stay near the door. When it opens for any reason, get out. Go straight to The Leaky Cauldron, and take the Floo home. Understood?”

No one answered.

Joe gnashed his pointy teeth. “We should never have done this,” he said in a strangled voice, fighting not to let the nearby teller-goblins overhear him.

They edged through the fourth door on the right. Joe pushed the door shut quickly, to make sure the children did not follow them in.

Before them stretched a room so enormous that the aisle directly ahead of them vanished in the distance. Torches in shelf sconces illuminated not only the floor level, but six or seven higher levels accessed by a system of rail-mounted ladders. More rows of shelves ran parallel to this one. All of the doors on the right side of the bank would have led to this warehouse of records. However, only this door led to a large, round table with a hole in the center.

Several sullen-looking goblins sat at the table, using their sharp claws to shred sheafs of parchment and then sweeping the fragments into the dark hole. There were also a couple of humans chained to the table, covered in long matted hair and moth-eaten clothing that hung loosely on their shrunken bodies. They were both writing lines into enormous tomes, each of which must have weighed as much as a grown man. The frailer and older of the two seemed to be nearing the end of his tome. Rigel glanced at what he was writing. Over and over, it said: My ancestors should have known better than to mistake the goblins of Virginia for natives, and to try to give them wampum as a down-payment on Roanoke.

Rigel scratched his fake, goblin scalp with a fake, goblin claw, and squinted at what the other man was writing; he was only about a fifth of the way through his book, though he had already covered a thick pile of pages with his scrawl. It read: It was silly of me to try to organize the undergoblins, and to expect them to help me regain control of the Teamsters. I will never do this again. Noticing Rigel’s scrutiny, the second man looked up miserably and said, “Haven’t I learned my lesson by now?”

“Silence,” spat one of the shredder-goblins, who then turned on Joe and Rigel and said, “What are you two doing here?”

“Reporting for duty,” said Joe. “Bashmace and Ripsnarl, late of the armory squad.”

Rigel was amazed that Joe could even remember those names, but even more amazed that the goblins were buying them. “Sit down and get to work, then,” said the leader of the shredding squad.

Rigel sat down next to the Teamster man, who whimpered half to himself, “I should have been satisfied with Nixon’s pardon. I would have been back in the Union ages ago. What’s a little ten-year ban from union activity, compared to this?”

Rigel had no idea what the man was talking about. Barking mad, probably. He began to shred paper and hoped the time would pass quickly.

“Where does this hole lead?” Joe asked one of the other goblins, conversationally.

“Only the baling room,” said his neighbor. “All the crushed tins and shredded paper are carted away and sold to a recycling shop on Charing Cross Road.”

“Oh!” Rigel exclaimed. “Do you – I mean, do we make a lot of money in recycling?”

“Enough to keep the larders stocked, without dipping into the treasure,” said the lead shredder-goblin, with a knut-pinching gleam in his eye.

“Talking of larders,” said Joe, touching his belly with a grimace of pain. “I think something in my tea disagreed with me. Is there a little-goblin’s-room nearby?”

“All the way to the end, by the last door into the lobby,” said the lead shredder.

“Ow!” Joe groaned. “I say, Ripsnarl, old thing, would you come with me? I may need – ouch! – an arm to lean on….”

“If it’s all right,” Rigel said, giving the lead goblin a pleading look.

“All right,” said the lead goblin. “But I expect each of you to shred his daily quota, even if it takes you all night.”

Joe limped away, supported by Rigel.

“What now?” whispered Rigel as they approached the evil-smelling toilet.

“Isn’t it obvious?” said Joe. “Last door on the left before the toilet. Then, we climb over the desk if we need to, and get out the front door before anyone stops us. If challenged, yell that there’s a dragon loose in the records section. Ready? On the count of three…”