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P is for Prestidigitonium

by on December 3, 2013

Last time, in the Catrina Chronicles, our heroine had just been saved from certain death by meteor, thanks to the timely intervention of her magical babies. Unfortunately, she still had to deal with the problem of the Atlantean fleet of sky-ships just outside her castle. Meanwhile, in a nearby forest, the Yellow Fairy was about to make a slightly unfortunate error….

“Right,” the Yellow Fairy said, having recovered from her surprise that the meteor hadn’t fallen and wiped everything out. “I suppose that’s Peter Mordred then.” She hadn’t seen him since he had teleported himself away in the aftermath of their wizard’s duel and then called down the meteor. The Yellow Fairy didn’t know whether Peter had been on board the meteor as it fell, or whether he had simply transported himself to yet another place and watched from a safe distance. She didn’t care, really. She had clearly won the wizard’s duel, and therefore, according to their deal, she was entitled to change Catrina’s consort Perry back from being a bear. “Let’s get on with this, shall we?” she said, rolling up her sleeves and flourishing her wand.

Perry the bear made a gesture with his paws that indicated assent, as he was quite tired of being a bear and wanted to be his old self again. The Yellow Fairy paused a moment, trying to remember the exact magical phrase. Changing a transmogrified bear back into a human was a tricky business, to say the least; she didn’t want to get it wrong. “Ahem,” she coughed. “Winnicus, poohicus, christopheri robininius! Higitus figitus migitus mum, prestidigitonium! Shazam!”  There was a flash and a bang.

She hadn’t gotten it wrong. Perry wasn’t a bear anymore. Unfortunately, the Yellow Fairy’s spell to remove the enchantment that had made him into a bear had also removed an enchantment she didn’t even know he had: the magical memory-blocking spell that had been put on him by the Atlantean magicians, so he wouldn’t remember that he was actually a spy for their side. Now he remembered who he really was.

The Yellow Fairy expected some sort of expression of gratitude, something along the lines of, “Thank you very much for changing me back from being a bear.” But Perry didn’t do that. Instead, he casually pulled a slender wand from his pocket. The look he gave it was the look one might give an old friend, whom one has not seen for some time, and whom one has missed very much. “Do you know what this is made of?” he asked.

The Yellow Fairy was taken aback. “Well…I couldn’t say really… ”  Her own wand was made from willow, very nice and springy.

“Gopher wood,” Perry said, and for the first time the Yellow Fairy noticed that his voice was an octave or so lower than it normally was. “What they used to build the Ark with. It’s very rare. No one’s even sure what gopher wood is, now. They mainly called it that because people tended to use the wand for pathetic, middling purposes, household chores and so forth. They’d use it to go for this, go for that….they never knew what they had. Not till Atlantis got hold of it. We used it proper, we did. This wand is the very first one, handed down from our first Emperor all the way to me.”

“But…” said the Yellow Fairy, not being entirely up to date on the recent developments around Shmirmingard, “Atlantis isn’t real. It was made up by Plato. I thought you would’ve known that, Perry, you being a librarian and all.”

“One,” he replied, “Plato didn’t make it up. Everything he said was real. Two, I was a librarian’s assistant, not a full librarian yet. Three, my name’s not Perry. It’s Luke. Luke, son of Madrigal, Emperor of Atlantis, Conqueror of Shmirmingard Colony.”

The Yellow Fairy instinctively brought her wand up in a defensive stance. “I don’t know what’s got into you, but you’re not this Luke whoever. And even if you are, you haven’t conquered anybody yet. I haven’t seen Atlanteans marching in my garden, have I?”

“You know, I am sorry, but I’m afraid you’ve gone past your usefulness. I appreciate you solving the bear problem, but now…: the wand twitched in his hand. He hadn’t even said an incantation yet. The Yellow Fairy tried to block his spell, whatever it was, but it turned out it wasn’t aimed directly at her. What it was aimed at the cottage behind her, which promptly exploded in a blossom of fire. The shock wave leveled trees, sent poor squirrels flying, and knocked the Yellow Fairy out flat.  Luke, sensing his cue, turned his back on the fire and faced towards the distant Shmirmingard Castle. The fire formed an epic backdrop behind him. He was about to say something appropriate, when to his surprise Catrina came running towards him. He vaguely recalled her, but only as a fragment of a memory from his alter ego, now thankfully got rid of. He certainly didn’t feel any attachment towards her now.

It hadn’t taken Catrina long to work out where her consort had gotten to. It was all quite logical, really. He had been turned into a bear, and fairies were very good at turning people back. The Yellow Fairy, in her village of Ewokington-on-the-Sticky-Bun, was the nearest one to the castle. She had to arrange a babysitter for the twins first, and then of course there was the invading Atlantean fleet to deal with, but to her surprise they suddenly pulled up sail and withdrew over the horizon. She didn’t know whether they’d all gone back to Atlantis, or whether they were still hanging round someplace nearby. But at least this meant she could deal with them later. Right now, she had to find Perry.

Catrina didn’t quite, even then, believe that what the Atlantean officer had said was true. Perry wasn’t a spy or a traitor; how could he be? She’d had twins with him, for heaven’s sake! One didn’t have twins with someone who would sell one out to Atlanteans, right? That was the thought that kept her running through the woods, even when she heard the explosion in the distance. Surely it had all been a ghastly mistake, like when she had attempted to brew her own blueberry cordial, and instead created an extraordinarily powerful laxative. (Christmas dinner that year had been memorable indeed.)

But then she emerged into the clearing, and saw him, standing there in a black cloak, with the Yellow Fairy’s cottage blazing merrily behind him, casually flexing the gopherwood wand in his hand, and she knew. She felt a blaze of hurt and fury, but she couldn’t let him see all that. So she decided to cover with some witty banter. “So, you’re from Atlantis really, are you? Does that mean you’re actually Aquaman?”

Luke blinked. “How would you even know who he was? He’s from the 20th century, you’re still mired in the 12th. Bit out of your time, isn’t he?”

Catrina recovered quickly. “Why, yes. Yes he is. Which is exactly what you are. Out of time, that is to say. I brought the Shovel with me, you know.” She held it up so he could see. “Thought I might have to scrape up some dirt. I wasn’t wrong.”

“You know what thrives in dirt?” he retorted. “Moles. Which is what I’ve been. I’ve been reporting on your kingdom for years. And you never even suspected.”

“Maybe you are a mole, but moles have very poor eyesight! Which is while you’ll never be able to see the light of justice! And truth!”

“Ah, but poor vision problems can be corrected with the glasses of evil!” Luke shot back.

Catrina thought quickly. “Well, you won’t be needing those glasses in a minute, because I’m going to correct your poor eyesight with the laser corrective eye surgery of justice!”

“But ‘ll just reflect that laser right back at you with a mirror of evil!”

“Oh, I don’t think it’ll reflect my laser. I think it’ll break, and breaking a mirror gets you seven years bad luck!”

“Luck favors the prepared, and I have been preparing for this day for years!”

“Prepared? Prepared for what?”  That wasn’t strictly banter, but Catrina felt like she was supposed to say it anyway.

“For the death of the king!” he said on cue.  He half expected her to reply, “What, is he sick?”

Instead, she went with, “He’s not even in the country, you moron! My father is on an anniversary vacation with my mother. That’s why I’ve been running things this whole time! I thought you knew that! You wrote it down in your appointment book!”

“I’m afraid I have another appointment….with destiny.”

“Actually,” said Catrina, rolling her eyes. “You have yet a third appointment. With my shovel. I cannot believe I actually married you. And had twins, even! Well, no more of that! I would say we should go in for marital counseling, but failing that, I’m going to wallop you over the head.”

Luke smiled, and raised his wand. “You will try.”

Catrina readied herself, placing her boots apart, shifting into a battle stance. “As someone much wiser than I said, do, or do not. There is no try.”

Somewhere in the background, epic music in dramatic minors began to play. Raindrops splashed across their faces. With that, on the cue of a well-timed flash of lightning, Catrina and her ex-consort hurled themselves at each other.

This has been another exciting episode of the Catrina Chronicles. For previous episodes, go here. For more Catrina stories which you can buy for yourselves on Amazon, go here. Thanks for reading!

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  1. I freely admit that I sat at my desk here at work and chanted the Yellow Fairy’s incantation out loud, both because it made me think of Merlin with his knobby knees and because I really wanted to say the word prestidigitonium because who the hell ever gets to say that in real life? Plus, it was hilarious. Their witty banter made me picture an exchange on Tumblr 😉

    • The banter was partly inspired by the banter scene in Megamind, when Megamind and Metro Man get into an argument about revenge being reheated in the microwave of evil.
      Also, I will apparently have to cross “get people chanting incantations in workplaces” off my bucket list. which makes me very happy 😀

  2. The shovel…just hit him with the shovel 🙂

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