The Magic Quill #150: Warp and Weft
by Robbie Fischer
At last, the “third season” of the Magic Quill has come to a much-delayed close. The time is ripe for another 50-chapter digest. If you’ve tuned in late, it may also help to read these capsule summaries of the first and second seasons, as well as this handy guide to the characters in the first 100 chapters. The real pleasure is in the details, though. It pays to read all the chapters in full!
A lot has changed for the Magic Quill. When this column started in May 2004, readers were invited to send me their story ideas through the MuggleNet feedback system. This proved to be too open-ended, even with a 150-word limit. As of Chapter 73, this changed to submitting answers to specific survey and contest questions, via the Chamber of Secrets forums. As recently as Chapter 145, things changed again with the arrival of the Magic Quill blog, where survey and contest answers can be submitted as comments.
I would like to hear from you about which method of participating in The Magic Quill works best for you. For now, either leave a comment or send me feedback through MuggleNet, indicating whether you would prefer to work through the blog, CoS, or MuggleNet feedback. Perhaps having all these options available will prove to be best, but for now it’s nice to be able to find all the readers’ responses in one place.
Above all, I appeal to everyone reading this to do their part to help The Magic Quill make it to Chapter 200. Simply share your brief ideas in response to each week’s Double Challenge, by whatever method works best for you. And now, without any more mucking about, let’s review what happened in Season Three…
CHAPTERS 101-104. In “Eulogy for a Dark Wizard,” we learn of the death of Vold-Mart’s founding villain, the ravenous Uncle or Aunt Leslie, plus some colorful details of his or her background. Totally obsessed fans may remember that Leslie’s last name, revealed in this chapter, changed shortly after it was first published. The reason? The name I originally came up with proved to be religiously offensive. We at the Magic Quill are all about pushing the boundaries! “The Drains” showed us where our friend Harvey lives, as his friends from the back parlor of the Hog’s Head help him move several barrels of dragon bogeys into his flat. You might notice that this chapter takes place during the Scrimgeour ministry. Harvey continues his preparations to drink the Essence of Merlin in “From the Weasley-Wheeze Press,” a chapter filled with adverts for joke items. In “Vitis Leprosa” Harvey tests his potion for living backward in time on one of Miles O’Roughage’s trees.
CHAPTERS 105-109. “What’s the Rest of Me Doing There?” reveals the trouble Spanky’s son has adjusting to no longer being able to turn parts of his body invisible. It also introduces the idea of a magical scavenger hunt which, for some reason, never came up again. In the next chapter, Harvey has “Tea with Il Comte,” in what starts out as a very civilized wizard’s duel and ends with the discovery that his travels through time have (will?) split Harvey into two people. Merlin resumes his account of his and Rigel’s escape from Gringotts in “The Ossuaries,” in which a goblin graveyard raises the hopes of Merlin’s party. They get as far as “The Final Causeway” in the next chapter – which is their last stop before rushing through the ground floor of the bank in “Murder on the Hogwarts Express.”
CHAPTERS 110-114. In “Refilling the Ink Pot,” readers responded to the question of how much longer the Magic Quill should continue. It is now only a few weeks since we fulfilled our commitment to write at least 36 more chapters together. Everything from here on is gravy! “An Elopement Postponed” continues the story of how Spanky and Ilona started their family, which involved overcoming her little problem of being invisible to everyone but him. Their first assignment as a couple is to guard Sir Lionel’s gardens, which are threatened by a magical saboteur. The clues lead Spanky to a duel with “The Savage Noble,” otherwise known as Sid Shmedly. The question becomes: How did Shmedly become immune to jinxes? Next, an anonymous tip leads Spanky to visit “Full Moon Kennel,” sort of a Club Med for werewolves, and our introduction to the silver-dagger-making Goode Brothers. The Potters turn up at Sir Lionel’s in “The Unusual Suspects,” which also includes a letter from Horace Slughorn on the question of what makes Shmedly spell-proof.
CHAPTERS 115-119. Spanky wears Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak in “The Day of Five Puzzles,” in which an entire team of RMB agents goes missing, a house-elf gets a poignant death scene (mind you, this was before Deathly Hallows!), and a trail of clues points toward a finishing school for hags. We get a look at the perspectus for Madam Hunsicker’s Academy in “Home Wiccanomics,” where the school motto means “The spiders are watching you.” Spanky questions Madam Hunsicker herself in “Two If By Biscuit,” until a cherubic villain named Minimilian appears. This story is interrupted by “Laughing Matter,” Bo Dwyer’s report of the wedding of Erastus Sidwell and Doreen Pinch – better known to us as Merlin and Endora. This chapter reunited so many members of TMQ’s cast that there wasn’t room to include blog labels for all of them, so if you sense a gap in the history of your favorite character, it may be here. Spanky’s boyhood nemesis comes to a sticky end in “Farewell to Shmedly,” where Minimilian claims Spanky has something that belongs to him.
CHAPTERS 120-124. In “The Safety Pin” Minimilian proves to be as stupid as villains usually are when he goes off to play golf while Spanky considers his offer. This gives Ilona a chance, in “Madrigal Unchained,” to explain the history of the ring of Count Matthias. Minimilian is last seen running-flat out with a hungry hag at his heels. Between this chapter and “Mr. Exion’s Daughters,” Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released. That book changed a lot of things for the Magic Quill, starting as Spanky wakes up from the Battle of Hogwarts and finds himself serving as the guinea pig in a diabolical experiment. The fallout from Book 7 continues in “The Care and Feeding of MIADs,” as an indoor rainstorm in Hogwarts’ Great Hall leads Joe Albuquerque to realize that one of his friends is in grave danger. We meet RMB Agent Caspar Dalrymple in “The Eyes Have It,” when an interrogation of a magical swindler holds the key to saving Spanky from a terrible fate.
CHAPTERS 125-129. While Sadie enjoys a magical advice column called “Ask Fran Sanders,” her cellmate comes closer to recovering a missing object of unguessed-at power. The cavalry comes for Spanky just in time to save him from “The Platypus Test,” but not soon enough to prevent the Exion Sisters leaving an unseen mark on him. “Oldmanson and Son” meet at Vold-Mart (“FEWER CURSES. MORE DAMAGE”), but one of them isn’t what he seems. When “Vivis Exion” meets Spanky, by chance, in the potion abuse ward at St. Mungo’s, she tries to avenge her nieces on him, only to be avenged for what they did to Spanky. Rigel’s captors immure him in “The Crystal Cave,” where he meets a strange-talking figure in the darkness.
CHAPTERS 130-134. Harvey and Spanky undergo group therapy together in “Wish Wash,” where we learn a lot about the dangers of potion abuse. Meanwhile, Rigel and the other Harvey start trying to round up help for a raid on the Drains in “Scratching Post.” In “Harvey Face to Face,” the two Harveys meet again in another group therapy session. Miles O’Roughage gets recruited to join the raid while dealing with one of the Ministry’s pettiest bureaucrats, “Titus Fistley.” Harvey’s plan, in the making since Chapter 7, finally comes off when he extorts the largest fortune in magical history from the man who knows how to make “Hot Ice.” But even that is only the first step in his Grand Plan…about which we still know nothing.
CHAPTERS 135-139. Sadie puts her catfish-burglar skills to good use in “The Spy Who Jinxed Me,” but a young master of disguise named Chat Noir gets to the ring of Count Matthias first. Noir then uses the ring to obtain a deadly potion from “Fistley Confunded.” Working with Joe Albuquerque, Sadie follows Noir to the secret lair of Uncle or Aunt Leslie, who is not only surprisingly alive but planning to unleash “Death by Aromatherapy.” Next, we flash back to a Las Vegas casino, where a meeting of two masters of disguise leads to the duel of wits known as “Elvis vs. Einstein.” More disguises, booby-traps, and a house on chicken’s feet complicate the plot in “Don’t Kid a Kidder” so much that it doesn’t really make sense if you think about it. Oops!
CHAPTERS 140-144. “Persephone’s Yak” launches Spanky on a new trail of clues, beginning when his daughter finds a dead beast under her bed. This somehow connects with an unsolved murder and the Goode Brothers’ silver daggers, which just goes to show my way of treating loose threads from earlier chapters. Why tie them up neatly? Why not follow them and see where they lead? Meanwhile, our Merlin begins a new quest with “The Gift-Giving,” when the clown wizards hire him to prove that Il Comte has something that belongs to the goblins. (Let’s call this “Thread A” for now.) Spanky’s investigation (“Thread B”) leads him to the sitting room of “Madam Solfeggia,” who proves that music really does soothe the savage beast, or breast, or whatever. Sadie (“Thread C”) watches “Enormity in Action” – which is to say, a duel between Il Comte and Uncle or Aunt Leslie. And Spanky goes to remarkable lengths to question the magical world’s most secretive merchant, Julian Cribble – a.k.a. “Jude the Insecure.”
CHAPTERS 145-149. Bo Dwyer reports on “The Hexischoleiad,” giving us our first hint about Thread A since Il Comte stuck Merlin into a cage. Merlin summons Rigel to a vault deep under the canals of Venice, mainly to help him distract “The Merhags.” “The Hexischoleiad, Part 2” hints that Il Comte plans to use the ring of Count Matthias to go into politics. Eventually we find Ilona investigating a new mystery (“Thread D”?), or perhaps the point where all the other threads come together. Sadie, meanwhile, grabs the ring of Count Matthias from under the noses of Il Comte, Chat Noir, and Uncle or Aunt Leslie and runs for it, only to find herself trapped “Between the Lines” of a piece of paperwork. Finally, in “The Fruit Troll” Spanky sniffs his way to his old hometown, where Sir Lionel Niblet’s disappearance compounds the mystery that started with a dead yak in a child’s bedroom.
Got all that? Great! Now you’re ready to take part in our…
+++ DOUBLE CHALLENGE FOR TMQ #152+++
You can help decide what happens next in The Magic Quill! Simply leave a brief comment (up to 150 words) at this blog, answering the following Survey and Contest. The survey answer with the most votes, and the contest answer that Robbie likes best, will turn up in the chapter after next.
SURVEY: The shiny object found inside the falcon figurine at the end of Chapter 147 means: A) The figurine is a fake, since the real one is unbreakable. B) Il Comte is planning something even worse than what Uncle or Aunt Leslie would have done with the ring. C) The makers of the falcon planned for it to open at a time when the object inside would be needed. D) The makers of the figurine designed it to open only at the touch of a certain future person.
CONTEST: Describe a piece of clothing with helpful magical properties.