TITLE: How Many 9-Lived Enchanters Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb?
AUTHOR: Roseveare,
RATING: PG, with a warning for a slightly warped slash pairing
LENGTH: 1,500 words
SUMMARY: An unusual 'magical hiccup' occurs -- and Chrestomanci is quite beside himself.
NOTE: Written from a challenge on LJ: Boniblithe requested 'Chrestomanci/himself in a bizarre time travel accident'.
DISCLAIMER: Not mine, just borrowing. Chrestomanci is owned by Diana Wynne Jones. Er... I'm really sorry?
How Many 9-Lived Enchanters Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb?

It started with one man in a rather fine dressing gown falling out of the sky - albeit only by about six feet, he having materialised that distance above the ground - to land with an inelegant 'thud' and an unmistakeably indignant proclamation. "Drat!"

The man stood up, brushed himself off, and gave a careful look around to make sure nobody was listening before he added some rather stronger invective under his breath. He had, after all, a Reputation to uphold.

Once that was out of the way, he looked around more determinedly for the individual who had called upon him. The search, however, succeeded in registering only his location (a busily familiar town in an obscure series whose name quite eluded) and the fact that apparently nobody had the slightest interest in his sudden appearance in the middle of their street. Crossly, he put his best foot forward, quite intent upon stalking up to the nearest passer-by and demanding some Answers -- and stopped short as a second man appeared out of thin air to block his path.

The second man coped rather better with the mechanisms of appearing suddenly elsewhere since he not only shared the (dubious) advantage of having done so numerous times before but had also, this time, the damnable luck to arrive with feet planted on terra firma.

"That's my dressing gown!" the first man announced indignantly by way of greeting.

"No, it's not." The second man severely eyed down his nose across the space between them in an obvious Point. (The second man's dressing gown was dark blue and had clouds on it -- not the usual fluffy white clouds adorning the majority of cloud-patterned dressing gowns, but rather a more stormy breed which looked as though they might be capable of lightning bolts, or at least the odd downpour. The first man's dressing gown, on the other hand, was red and criss-crossed by a complex pattern of embroidered gold watch-chains, the watch itself emblazoned upon its left breast over the heart.)

"But I do have one just like--" they both began to say, hands raised to point, until the second - and somewhat more crucial realisation - simultaneously occurred:

"That's my face!"

"Wait just one moment now, this can't possibly be happening - it's quite impossible that I should--"

"Well, obviously I can't meet my counterpart - I'll have you know there are no alternates of me on any world--"

"But you--"


"--You do look exceedingly convincing," they concluded.

The fellow wearing clouds stuck out his hand. "Chrestomanci," he said, rambunctiously.

The fellow wearing watch-chains hesitated on the handshake, but added, "The same."

"Christopher Chant," the one tried instead.

The other merely nodded, this time, eyes narrowing in thought. "I'm - hmm! - rather wondering if the world will cease to exist if I should shake my own hand," he said shortly. "Considering the risks, I'm not entirely sure it would be a wise idea."

They put their hands in their pockets and stood faintly awkwardly instead - albeit not for long before another man popped into existence a few feet away, effectively breaking the uncomfortable mood in a timely fashion. This Chrestomanci was not in a dressing gown, but in an austere suit which had nonetheless almost as much personality.

He stared at the other two and said, "Goodness me... Twice, it would appear!" He, unlike the others, had traces of grey upon his temples, and there was the brief silence all of them noticing, followed by a mutual, "Aha".

Clouds voiced it: "Time travel."

The other two nodded, and Suit said, in irritation rather than argument, "Oughtn't I remember? It all seems quite unreasonable, not to mention inconvenient, if you ask me."

"Quite so," agreed Watch-Chains. "Someone ought to be held accountable."

By this time, two more Chrestomancis had joined them, but their precursors had barely finished recapping the situation before more appeared, and still more. Passers-by were beginning to take notice and frown.

"Good Lord," Clouds said, "this is almost embarrassing!" even as another fellow joined them and asked, "Goodness, what's going on?" and a Chrestomanci at the back shouted, "Indeed! Fill that handsome chap in on things, won't you!" and Clouds rubbed his head and groaned. "I'm heckling myself - how undignified!"

"How many of us are there? Somebody do a head-count."

"Twenty-seven," said twenty-seven voices, including the one who had posed the question.

"Oh, this is beyond ridiculous!" snapped a handful more, and intense glowers subsequently jostled between them, until a another figure popped up in their midst and a twenty-eighth voice duly protested, "Well, this isn't normal."

"No offence, you fellows," said one of the previous newcomers, looking drowsy in a bathrobe (ordinary white), "But I do seem to recall 'uniqueness' being an essential part of the job description - nine lives, and all of that - so all of you really will have to hop it. Although as a matter of fact, I'm fairly sure there shouldn't be this many of me anywhere."

"Tch. It's some kind of ridiculous cosmic hiccup. Damnable universe. It's always tetchy on a Friday--" Suit coasted through a series of objections upon the subject of exactly what day it was by raising his voice considerably louder than any of them. "I posit that we merely have to work out the problem for which we've been called here, and this will all sort itself out."

"What if the problem is largely an excess of Chrestomancis?" was voiced, followed by the curious clearing of a throat and, "Hmm, makes me rather wonder what ought be the collective noun."

"A 'pomposity'," came a cheerful suggestion from the back, and Chrestomanci largely nodded with consideration -- although a few of him turned and glowered at himself, all depending upon whether he had landed in an appropriate mood for self-deprecation.

"You don't suppose someone with an especially large problem might have said my name a few too many times?"

"Or possibly sneezed? A sneeze can be the very devil to enchanting, you - I know."

"Oh dear," Watch-Chains observed, gaze having wandered to a pair of himself tucked away at the back. His brow creased in perplexity. "That's not very proper at all."

Suit released a short bark of laughter and remarked, "Well, well. I seem to have discovered a hitherto unsuspected narcissistic streak in my personality there."

"I believe we're a traffic hazard," Clouds remarked, his attention elsewhere as their number seemed to have expanded to block the street.

"Hang traffic. I'm not standing for this. As if it's not enough that I get called up in singular every hour of the day and night! I'm not quite sure who a fellow ought rightly complain to about this sort of thing, but I shall most assuredly be finding out and complaining to--"

"You know, that really is the most bizarre thing to watch oneself... ah, doing, from the out--"

"I'm sor--?"


"Well," Chrestomanci observed - to himself - as one by one the rest of him proceeded to disappear. "Whatever the problem was, it looks like one of me must have solved it."

Chrestomanci was relieved to find himself returned to his own bedroom. Millie, sitting in bed with her reading glasses on and the lamp lit, dropped her embroidery onto her knees as he reappeared.

His wife frowned at him, frowned at the embroidery, then picked it up quite calmly. "You flickered," she said with a curious sort of accusation. "When you disappeared. And again just now. You don't usually flicker, so far as I remember. Is everything quite all right?"

"I believe so." Chrestomanci brushed down his dressing gown. "At least, I should think this to be a very peculiar sort of a hiccup - that is, one that would likely require an inordinate number of factors of circumstance contributing to its Occurrence - that is, certainly I hope it to be an event not endeavouring to repeat itself in any--"

"You're meandering," Millie pointed out. "Come back to bed. You can talk about work in the morning." Putting her embroidery away, she reached for the lamp. "...Christopher?" She halted, poised, expression pinched in concern as she regarded him. "You are all right, aren't you?"

"Ah. Hrm. Yes. Bed. Sleep. Definitely." Chrestomanci's memory had that moment decided to catch up with him, and if the state of his expression was anything like the state of his brain as he digested it, he considered he must look very odd indeed. "Hrm. What a very... interesting sort of experience." He felt his brows knot themselves in the middle of his forehead; eyed Millie, and winced. "I can't imagine what possessed me. Quite out of character - I'm sure you'd agree, Millie dear--"

"Christopher." She tugged at the sheets his side of the bed in sharp reminder, cutting him short just in time to realise that this was possibly not a magical mishap of a sort his wife would understand.

She hit the switch on the lamp as he sank down and, still bewilderedly muttering under his breath, the worlds' most powerful enchanter crawled beneath the covers.

"And to think I was worrying about a handshake!" he marvelled to himself as his head hit the pillow.