Guest Story: Forgotten Friendships

22 Apr

A Note from Jagi:


Back in 2018, when Chris was in the hospital, I wanted to write something to cheer him up. He had asked me if I would like to write a story where my heroine, Rachel Griffin, meets Emily. I loved the idea, but I didn’t have any clear notion of a plot. So I spent some time thinking about his world and where I might fit in a story. 

As I thought I recalled that he had a plot hole, where the Warden–a one of a kind irreplaceable homuculus–had been destroyed, but in a later book, the Warden was alive again.

Could I write a story, I wondered, that would fill that plot hole for him? I thought it was the kind of thing that might give him a bit of a chuckle and raise his spirits.

But then, life intervened. My computer crashed, and I lost what I had already written. Then the kids were out of school, and I had no time.

But the story stayed with me. I kept thinking about it. Then, last night at 3 am, it suddenly all came together in my head. 


And here it is!

Forgotten Friendships

The candles flickered, illuminating the black lines of the designs drawn upon the stone. The two students hunched over an arcane book, stolen from the restricted section of the library, which they read by the light of a glowing ball of light.

“And you are sure this will work?” asked the first young man, who looked to be in his late teens. He had dark hair that hung over his eyes and, like his fellow, was dressed in the black robes that all Whitehall students wore.

“Sure. I’ve seen my father do it loads of times,” replied his companion, who was approximately the same age, with freckles and a thatch of blond hair. “He uses it every year to make the tax man forget that he didn’t tax us.”

“And it will make Professor Locke forget that we didn’t hand in our assignment?”

“Definitely.”

The boys began to chant. A darkness swirled in the center of the star drawn on the stone. A figure began to form: ugly, horned, wings of smoke.

“Oh great demon,” the boys chanted, “Cause to be forgotten that which we…”

“What’s that?” cried the dark-haired boy, pointing.

Something dangled from the demon’s hand and it was writhing. Something dark blue that stuck out from a mass of writhing black cloth. Looking closer, they realized that the fiend was clutching a single leg, clothed in some unfamiliar style of loose, dark blue pants. Exactly what the leg was attached to, they did not wait to find out.

Terrified, both boys turned tail and ran, nearly knocking over a young woman who happened to be walking by in their rush to escape.

*                                                          *                                                          *

Emily stepped into the chamber the two boys had just vacated, wondering what had sent the upperclassmen scurrying. Was there another mimic free wandering the corridors? Then, she stepped back, startled, at the sight of the demon. She was only a second year here at Whitehall. No one had covered what to do about demons.

“Put me down, you annoying rotter!” a young woman’s voice issued from the writhing form beneath a single leg—clad in navy blue sweatpants? Apparently, the demon was holding a young woman by one foot.

With a jolt of shock, Emily realized that the girl had a British accent. What’s more, she was speaking English.

“Release me, fiend of the pit,” the English girl said sternly, “in the name of…”

“Yes. Yes. I will go,” the demon said languidly, “but here’s a little present to keep you busy.”

The demon vanished, dropping the girl, who fell to the floor with a thump and a cry. In the fiend’s place growled three hellhounds, gigantic black dogs as big as Shetland ponies. The infernal canines howled and dashed forward, out the door, and down the hallway, nearly bowling over Emily. Only newly developed instincts from her martial magic training saved her.

The girl jumped up and pelted out of the chamber, and down the hallway after the dogs. Shoulder-length black hair flew every which way and the skirt of her robes flew out behind her. It was not a Whitehall robe but looked like something worn to a graduation, but old fashioned. The newcomer was tiny, probably around eleven or twelve, and Asian.

“Quick!” the girl, “We must stop them before they hurt someone.”

Emily ran after her.

*                                                          *                                                          *

Around the corner, the two boys who had fled were backing slowly away from the slavering hellhounds. Emily promptly turned both boys into frogs. Served them right for summoning a demon. That was forbidden magic and would probably get them expelled if they were caught. Besides, dogs were not likely to be too interested in frogs.

Sure enough, the hellhounds loped down the hall, ignoring the green, hopping amphibians.

“Wha—!” the young girl cried, stopping abruptly. “You turned them into frogs w-with no wand! You just did it!”

“Sure,” Emily panted as she ran by her, “It’s a beginner’s spell.”

“No,” the girl objected hotly, sprinting to keep up. “No, it’s not! I’m Rachel, by the way. Rachel Griffin.”

“I’m Emily.”

“Pleased to meet you. American, are you? Glad of that. When the demon yanked me away, I was afraid I might end up in another world.”

“We are in another world,” Emily said grimly.

“Oh,” the girl sounded glum. Then, more cheerfully, she said, “There’ll be time enough to worry about that later. Let’s stop those evil dogs.”

*                                                          *                                                          *

Ahead, they could hear a deep barking. Bursting around another corner, they saw a terrifying sight. The gigantic dogs were dragging a body, a dead body, by the look of it.

Emily skidded to a stop, horrified.

“Stand back,” Rachel announced.

She drew a wand from her sleeve, a length of silver with a gem at the tip, and whistled. Blue sparkles came from the wand and from her mouth, dancing through the air. The sparkles missed one hulking hellhound but swirled around the other two. Both of these stopped moving, freezing mid bark and growl.

Emily turned the last dog into a turtle. Stooping, she turned it on its back so it could not get away and then ran over to the dead body.

“Oh, thank goodness!” she exclaimed, relieved, “It’s just the Warden.”

“Why does that make it okay?” Rachel gazed at the canine-worried body curiously.

“He was already dead. His body must have been waiting in that room for burial, or whatever they do with dead homunculi.”

“He…” Rachel knelt and peered at the Warden closely, poking it in the cheek and stomach, “…wasn’t real?”

“Not the way you and I are, no. He was a very complicated artifice.”

“A person made by alchemy?” Rachel titled her head, still peering at the Warden intently. “How bizarre.” Then, turning to Emily, she blurted out. “Can you teach me to do that? Turn a person into a frog!”

Emily hesitated. “I’m not sure if I should.”

“Why not?” she cried. “It would be so useful. You have no idea how tedious and irksome transformation spells are when you need to use thaumaturgy to prepare them.”

She hesitated momentarily. The girl’s appearance reminded her of Lin and everything that had gone wrong this year, but she had seen how the child arrived, and the girl spoke English, so she was probably telling the truth, not another plant sent to gain Emily’s trust for some nefarious purpose. Besides, it was not as if the spell to turn someone into a frog was any great state secret. The very fact that she could perform magic and didn’t know it corroborated her story. So that left…

“It’s just,” Emily said apologetically, “you’re so young. I don’t know if they teach these spells to children as young as…”

“I’m sixteen,” Rachel said dryly. She pulled her overly large robe tight against her body, so that Emily could see she was, indeed, shaped like a sixteen-year-old.

“Oh. So you are.” Emily replied just as dryly. “Sorry.”

Rachel shrugged. “No worries, as Zoë would say. Everyone makes that mistake. So…can you? Teach me, I mean. Is there something I could do for you in return?”

Now it was Emily’s turn to shrug, “Not unless you happen to be carrying a copy of The Way Things Work.”

“The one with the mammoths?” asked Rachel, curiously.

“I hadn’t thought of that one, but it would do.”

Rachel rocked back on her heels, thinking. “Do you have a way to copy pages?”

“You mean like a Xerox machine?”

Rachel paused a moment before admitting, “I… don’t really know what that is.”

“There’s a spell for it,” Emily assured her.

“Splendid!” Rachel clapped her hands together. “I think we have ourselves a deal.”

*                                                          *                                                          *

For the next hour, Rachel and Emily sat hunched together in an out of the way corner of the library. Sitting on a stool meant to help students reach higher shelves, Rachel closed her eyes. Then, with a word and a gesture, she pulled a double-sided page of The Way Things Work, complete with illustrations garnished with mammoths, out of mid-air. She did the same thing over and over and over, until she had done it four hundred times. Each time, she had Emily copy the page, both sides because, she insisted, her pages would vanish within 24 hours. It was tiring, but Emily did not mind. Having these pages were going to be so useful to her efforts to modernize the Nameless world

*                                                          *                                                          *

“So you don’t have a temple to Apollo at Westminster or on Fifth Avenue?” Rachel asked during a break, after the two young women had paused to compare their home worlds.

Emily shook her head. “No. It sounds like we’re from different worlds.”

“A pity. Else I could have taken you home when I go,” replied Rachel kindly.

Emily nodded. She did not say that she was not at all sure she wanted to go back. Here she could use magic. She had defeated a necromancer and was considered a Child of Destiny. Back home, she had nothing.

But she did have questions. “So your world has cars and airplanes but also magic?”

“The magic is hidden, from the Unwary,” Rachel responded.

“Like Harry Potter,” said Emily. “Is there a Hogwarts?”

“Yes, up north, just south of Scotland, but it’s just a School of the Wise. There’s no Harry Potter.”

“Oh, too bad.”

“Indeed. Though,” Rachel said thoughtfully, “I’ve always rather thought that James Darling, Agent, was a bit like Harry Potter—or maybe like what that story would have been like if Harry’s father, James Potter, had been in Harry’s shoes. James and the other Six Musketeers—our James, not Potter—even defeated a terrible enemy and saved the world. As to his friends… Scarlett Mallory was a bit like Hermione, and Mr. Fisher could have been Neville. But, sadly, the resemblance ends there. The rest of the Six Musketeers—the MacDannan—really aren’t much like anyone in Harry Potter. In fact, we’ve found out that they are from a completely different story, one about Celtic gods and fairies and Queen Elizabeth.”

“People come out of stories,” Emily asked skeptically.

“Some do,” said Rachel. “Or rather, what is true in one world is reflected as stories in another. I bet there are stories about you, too.”

“I doubt it,” Emily snorted. “At least, I hope not. That would be disturbing.”

“Oh, I don’t know. You might be a very popular heroine, with fans all over the whole globe.”

*                                                          *                                                          *

The two girls returned to their work. About half an hour later, Rachel held up the very last page.

“There it is. The whole book.”

Emily smiled, pleased. “If what little I already shared with the world has had such an effect, I can’t wait to see what the rest of this does. Come on. I’ll teach you the spell now.”

There in the back corner of the library, she quietly taught Rachel how to turn someone into a frog and explained the basic principles both of how to alter the spell to produce mouse, or a turtle, or some other animal. She also tried to teach her how to break out of the spell. Rachel grasped the concept of the transformation spell instantly, but try as she might, she could not break out on her own when Emily turned her into a frog. Emily gave her what she hoped was an encouraging smile and told her to keep practicing.

Then she told Rachel to cast the spell.

“You mean, on you!”

Emily nodded.

“What if I muck it up?

“You won’t. Even the first years master this spell easily. And you obviously already understand more of the concept than I did when I learned it.”

Rachel bit on her lip, concentrating. Her first two tries did nothing. Then, poof, Emily turned into a mouse.

Emily broke the spell and stood up. “Very good.!”

“I did it!” Rachel jumping up and down, grinning with delight. “I did it! I did it!”

In her excitement, she knocked an old book off a cart. The aged tome split in two  Rachel’s face fell as she looked at the broken spine.

“Poor book.” She picked up the damaged volume and petted it gently. Then her face lit up. She pointed her wand at the book. There were no sparkles this time, just a slight glitter in the diamond at the tip.

The broken binding knitted itself back together.

Emily’s jaw dropped. “How did you do that?”

“It’s just a cantrip I have stored in my wand,” Rachel explained. “Mends broken things.”

“Does it work on people?”

“No. Only on inanimate…” Rachel suddenly grabbed Emily’s arm. “Oh my! I have just been struck by the most brilliant notion!”

*                                                          *                                                          *

The two girls stashed the newly-minted copy of The Way Things Work under a back shelf in a hiding place Emily had discovered during her time working in the library. Then, they returned to the corridor where they had first met. Looking left and right down the hallway to make sure no one was about, they slipped into the room where the damaged Warden lay. Rachel pointed her wand at the homunculus. The tip glittered.

“I fired off three of them just to be sure,” she whispered to Emily. “When adults do big repair jobs, they have many people work together. Multiple cantrips is the closest I can come.”

Before their eyes, the Warden’s mauled body knitted back together.

“Oh.” Rachel’s face fell. “I thought it would come back to…er…not exactly life.”

“All its magic was drained.”

“Was that all?” She gave a crisp nod. “I can fix that.”

Rachel closed her eyes for a moment. Opening them again, she touched her wand to her mouth and then pointed it at the Warden. The diamond tip glinted. Rachel winced in pain. She looked a bit wan.

The Warden opened its eyes and sat up. “Are you reporting for punishment?”

It seemed confused. Emily felt a slight sense of surprised. Usually, the Warden seemed to have an uncanny ability to know just about everything.

But then, it had been dead all day.

“No, sir,” Rachel replied very politely. “You were injured. We have repaired you.”

“Then go about your business,” stated the Warden.

*                                                          *                                                          *

“Do you have to go now?” Emily asked as they left the Warden. “That’s too bad. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the questions I want to ask.”

“I feel I must,” Rachel said sadly. “I would love to stay and learn more. I’m sure we could have such fun! But those at home must be worried about me. I was, after all, yanked off by a demon. Last time they saw me, I was dangling by one foot.”

“True.” Emily grinned at the memory. “Can you visit again?”

“Oh, I do hope so!” Rachel replied.

*                                                          *                                                          *

Alone in the empty chamber where she had first appeared, Rachel Griffin knelt upon the floor and placed two origami cranes made of pure 24 karat gold upon the floor in front of her.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, as if gearing herself up for an ordeal.

Then, she called out, “Kefwyth Caziel!

The corner of the room grew darker and darker. Then a wolf made entirely of blackness stepped from the shadows. It shook itself. Then suddenly, it was merely like a unusually large black wolf. It was a large and majestic animal with blood red eyes, and yet, somehow, it managed to look slightly scruffy.

“Rachel Griffin.” The Wolf trotted closer, growling slightly. “Why should I do whatever you are about to ask me to do?” He stopped suddenly and looked around. “Where are we?”

Rachel knelt quietly, waiting for him to notice. The Wolf glanced back at her and saw the golden cranes.

“Ah,” he muttered under his breath, “using my own gratitude against me.”

“Caz,” Rachel spoke up. “Be a dear and take me home, will you?”

The Wolf grunted. “If I must. I supposed Zad would be miffed me if he came back and discovered that I’d misplaced his pet.”

Rachel lowered her eyes and hid her smile. She knew the Wolf referred to her that way to in hopes of irritating her, like calling someone the teacher’s pet, but secretly she loved the idea that Caziel thought of her as belonging to the Raven.

The Wolf looked down at the cranes. Then he stepped forward and put his mouth over them. He did not swallow, but when he lifted his head, they were gone. “Why did you put out two?”

“I need another favor.”

“Oh, do you?” he drawled sardonically.

“A demon brought me here. Can you clean off whatever it did to me? After all, you don’t want to take some demon curse back to our world. What would Zadkiel say?”

The Wolf sniffed her and backed up, his nose scrunching as if he had smelled something bad. He stood stiff-legged for a time. After about a minute, he spoke.

“It left a curse of forgetfulness. Won’t affect you, of course. I can clean it off of you all the same. But it will still be on this place.”

“What will the curse do?” she asked.

“It will make everyone in this place forget you and anything you did here.”

“Even Emily?” Rachel cried, aghast.

“Even so.”

“But she’ll have the book I made for her,” Rachel said, relieved.

Caz shook his wolfy head. “She won’t remember to go back for it.”

“Oh, that is a shame. And after all that work?” She sagged. Looking up, she asked plaintively, “Can’t you remove it, the curse, I mean? At least from her?”

He shook his shaggy black head. “I’d have to fight the demon. Not a hundred percent sure I could take it. Maybe if I were on my own time, but as long as I am temping for Zad—as you so obnoxiously put it—” he glared at her, “I dare not risk it.”  

Rachel giggled.

The Wolf cocked his head as if looking into the distance. “I can’t remove it, but I can make it so that if your friend Emily uses the local memory magic, she will happen to remember everything she would have found useful from the book. Best I can do.”

“That is very kind of you,” Rachel said, touched. “Thank you.”

The Wolf grunted.

Sabriost,” he growled, growing slightly larger.

Rachel did not wait to be asked twice. She sprang up and leapt onto the back of the black Wolf. She put her arms around his neck, laying her face against his thick fur. The Wolf grunted again, not entirely unkindly.

As he prepared to depart, Rachel asked suddenly. “Oh, but what about the Warden? I restored him to working order. Surely, someone will have to remember that!”

“Nope.”

“What will they think happened?” Rachel asked as the Wolf leapt and stars began to stream by them.

Caziel shrugged. “Most likely? They’ll just forget it had ever been damaged. Or maybe they’ll just think they’ve made a new one.”

6 Responses to “Guest Story: Forgotten Friendships”

  1. Jared April 22, 2021 at 7:29 pm #

    Lol sounds apocryphal. But it was fun

  2. benbailey12373 April 22, 2021 at 7:59 pm #

    Oh that was good! Explains how Emily was able to pull so many things using memory spells!

  3. John April 22, 2021 at 9:28 pm #

    I liked that a lot! Very good.

  4. yetanotherjoe April 23, 2021 at 2:32 am #

    Nice crossover story!

  5. Barb Caffrey April 25, 2021 at 12:31 pm #

    Fun story! I enjoyed it very much.

  6. Joaquin Castillo April 26, 2021 at 10:09 pm #

    Any update on the new AR book?

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