Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Wizards of Winds and Waves, chapter 16

Seeking Safe Haven

If a magically protected condo isn’t safe enough, it’s time to move to someplace safer. The question is … is anyplace going to be safe enough?

Wizards of Winds and Waves
Chapter 16

I showed Mrs. Bullfinch to the guest closet, and then to the bathroom, and then returned to the bedroom to get myself dressed. Pierre was buttoning up a fresh polo shirt as I entered. The room was a mess, broken glass covered everything, the curtains were in shreds, the carpet and the bed and all of the other furniture was drenched – except the slave bed. Through some strange force, a panel of the heavy drapes had blown on top of it, and the water-repellent fabric had kept it completely clean and dry. “Dora’s with us,” Pierre said, drawing me into a hug. “She’s watching over us.”

As I was finishing getting dressed, Mrs. Bullfinch came out of the bathroom wearing an outfit of a pink blouse and navy slacks and blazer that took about 20 years off her appearance. “I must say, Sarah, looking better does help one to feel better. Your father’s closet is … well, I guess he works hard to make any woman feel like a queen.” Little did she know, I thought. I kept mum about the magic part.

Runyon came to the door. “The van’s in the garage, in the fire lane. We need to get going now.” We headed down the service stairs rather than waiting for the elevator. The van was blue, with faded, peeling paint and rust in the wheel wells. A twisted coat hanger stood in for a radio antenna. The seats were vinyl, and cracked with age; bits of crumbling foam floated in the air. As we climbed in, I noticed a smell, sort of a combination of rotting fish and wet dog. After we shut all the doors, Runyon said, “I’ve put a quickie protection on the van. It’s not completely safe, but it’s better than nothing. We can talk safely.” He started the engine and pulled out of the garage.

Mrs. Bullfinch’s eyes popped wide open. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you’re talking about magic or something.”

“We are,” Pierre said. “By the way, Runyon, when you put the protection on the van, do you think you might have been able to do some odor control? This thing smells like a sofa I used to know.”

“We need to tell you the truth,” Runyon said to Mrs. Bullfinch. “There is such a thing as magic, and Sylvia, Pierre, and I are all wizards. Sarah will be one, too, if we can keep her alive long enough to get her through the training. She’s already using powers beyond what most accomplished wizards have, which is why we think the Others are trying so hard to eliminate her. With the training, she’s likely to be the most powerful one of us.”

“But aside from lending you my van, what am I supposed to do to help you out? I’m no magician.”

“Actually, Mrs. Bullfinch,” Runyon said, “you are. You just didn’t know it. You’ve been able to sense the Others’ magic in the atmosphere, and that has contributed to protecting Sarah. And I’m going to ask you to contribute further. When a person starts the training program, that person’s parents participate in the ceremony. I’m going to ask that you be allowed to stand in for Sarah’s mother.”

“It’s perfect,” Pierre said. “You really have been standing in for her mother for several years now – she told me so herself.”

“I – I’m honored, I guess. This is rather a lot to take in. And please, call me Edna. If all of the rest of you are on a first-name basis, you don’t have to treat me like your old English teacher.”

“So, Edna,” I said, “will you be my mother?”

“It will be nice to make it official, won’t it? Who would have ever thought that in two days, a career ladies’ man would turn out to be both a wizard and a family man, and my tenant would become my daughter, who’s also his daughter? But don’t I have to become an official wizard first, before I can be a wizard-in-training’s mother?”

“Not for this purpose,” Pierre said. “You just have to be willing to take the responsibility of being a parent. Lots of students at the school have parents who aren’t wizards and don’t even have the magical power to become one.”

We traveled up the coast for about an hour, and Runyon turned off the main highway onto a barely visible dirt road that wound down toward the ocean. We descended toward a small cove, alongside of which sat a deserted building. The upper floor of the building looked like it might have been a pretty nice place, with walls of windows overlooking the water and wrap-around decks, but now it was boarded up. The lower floor was partially open with what looked like garage doors covering the face toward the cove. A decaying boat dock extended out into the water from the base of the building. “This used to be a yacht club, but it went out of business,” Runyon said. “Now it’s our training center.”

“It’s awfully small, isn’t it?” I asked.

“Small is in the eye of the beholder,” Pierre said. He got out of the van and pressed a hand to the wall next to one of the garage doors, which rolled open. Runyon drove the van through the door, Pierre rejoined us in the van, and the door closed behind us. We drove down a long, sloping ramp and ended up in a parking garage, but it was like no parking garage that I had ever seen before. The walls, and the pillars holding up the roof, were not concrete but rather carved out of golden-brown stone, and the lighting was torchlight rather than the conventional sodium-arc lighting of a typical parking garage. Also, in addition to about a half-dozen motor vehicles, there were dozens of boats of all sizes, on trailers. “This is our academic fleet,” Pierre said as we got out of the van and headed to a door in the wall. “You’re already accomplished enough that you probably won’t be spending much time on them – unless they make you an instructor!”

“You know, Pierre, that isn’t such a bad idea,” Sylvia said. “We have plenty of people to teach the magic skills, but not so many sailors.”

We passed through the door into what at first glance might have been the reception area of any school, except for being underground, carved out of stone, and lit by torches. The receptionist looked up, startled. “Runyon! Sylvia! We weren’t expecting you! Does this have to do with the disturbances in the aura that we’ve been feeling?”

“Yes, it does. We need to see Dr. Jackson immediately.”

“Come on back.” The receptionist led us through the office to another office in back. We entered, and Runyon introduced us to Dr. James Jackson, head of the school, a tall black man with close-cropped snow-white hair.

“We need to get Sarah into the program immediately,” Runyon said. “We can’t wait until the next group ceremony. She’s in far too much danger. The Others killed her this morning.”

“She’s looking pretty alive for a dead girl.”

“I came back,” I said. “I had to.”

“She hasn’t had any magic training, and already she can do what most of us have always heard is impossible,” Pierre said. He then recounted the events of the past night.

“Quite a story,” Jackson said. “All right, first, we’ll have to install the surrogate parents. I assume Pierre is one – is Edna the other?”

“Edna’s a surrogate,” Pierre said. “I’m real.”

Jackson looked at Pierre, then at me, then back at Pierre. “So Sarah isn’t an orphan?”

“She’s the daughter my second wife kidnapped twenty years ago.”

“Ah, that explains that note of pride I hear every time you open your mouth. Well, that reduces the amount of work to be done.” Jackson shuffled some papers on his desk. “We need time to prepare, so we’ll set the surrogate ceremony for three o’clock this afternoon, in the small ceremonial room, with the matriculation immediately following. Meantime, Rhonda can show you to the guest quarters so you can all rest – it sounds like you have all had a hard night.”

The guest quarters consisted of several bedrooms clustered around a central sitting room, and they were the most comfortable caves I’d ever seen – not that I’d seen many caves in my life. The sitting room was furnished with overstuffed armchairs and sofas, tables, lamps, a dining table and chairs, and dozens of bookshelves, all well stocked. The bedrooms each had a large bed, a couple of chairs, a desk, and a bookshelf. It was funny, I thought, that this space, designed for temporary occupants, looked far more homey than Pierre’s condo with its top-end luxury-hotel-suite feel.

Pierre and I went into one of the bedrooms, where I settled down on the bed and he parked himself in an armchair next to the bed. “I know we’re in the most protected place on the planet, but I’m still not letting you out of my sight,” he said. “I’ve come too close to losing you too many times, even when you were in protected places.” He reached over and took my hand.

“I love you,” I heard myself whispering as I dropped off to sleep.


Blogger Tillerman said...

Love the realistic touches like the smell in the van. Wet neoprene has a unique smell too after a week in the back of my car.

Wed Jan 25, 07:36:00 AM MST  

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