A Howl's Moving Castle One shot by:
The esteemed and revered author
Who deludingly overstates her own importance time and time again.
Micheal sauntered lazily down the street, a sumptuous cream pie in one hand and a shining new ring on the other; he and Martha had finally set a date for their wedding. It was a balmy June morning, a balmy early June morning to be precise. Martha had told him not to try and visit so early, but he was eager to spread the news. It would be a winter wedding ; By then Michael's December birthday would have passed and he would be eighteen, so they could really start their lives together. He hoped that he could catch Howl on his way out the door that morning, and then maybe stay for a bit to chat with Sophie. Martha had made him promise to get all the juicy details of her sister and brother in-law's situation anyway.
Micheal had left Howl and Sophie about six months before, when they rang in the New year together. Howl had officially announced that Michael's apprenticeship was complete, and it couldn't have come soon enough for the recently engaged seventeen year old. It had been sad leaving them of course, but he realized that Sophie and Howl needed the time alone to have a family of their own without his interfering. Or at least, (and this was where Michael couldn't help but blush) That was the reason if one listened to the rumours that Howl had locked Sophie in his bedroom for a week and refused to take any calls, commissions or messages for that time. This was about two weeks after Michael had moved out and started seeking work on his own. He managed to secure a position (mostly due to Howl's influence) working under the Wizard Suliman in the Castle. The real one Michael had to mentally tack on, not the flying one.
That Sophie had wound up pregnant by the end of that rumoured week, as they discovered soon after, did not help to calm the voracious ladies of the rumour mill much.
He jogged up the front steps of Howl's new Kingsbury door, careful to keep the pie level. It felt quite strange to be waiting outside a door he still considered his own, until a roundly pregnant Sophie answered the door. She smiled in a slightly distracted kind of way, the dark circles under her eyes clearly evident.
" Oh Michael, how wonderful to see you, come in!" Sophie cried, ushering the boy through the door.
" Sophie, what the blazes are you doing up this early," Michael yawned in spite of himself, then looked at her suspiciously, " This isn't a weird pregnancy thing is it? I thought Howl said you weren't to be up this early." He had learned to be wary of 'weird pregnancy things' in the six long months since Sophie had acquired her condition, " Where is Howl anyway?"
" Bother what he says, its his fault anyway, and I don't know where he is. He ran off while I was dozing, Hiding no doubt. Now get me some of that apple sauce that Howl hid behind the spell books. I can't reach." She told him. Her belly had swollen to the point of awkwardness but she had acquired a healthy pregnancy glow. Due to this new change to her complexion, it had been rumoured that the wizard Howl had been closeting himself away with his wife more often of late, much to Michael's eternal embarrassment.
" Howl said you weren't to have any more." Micheal said, getting the jar down anyway, "He told me that you've cleaned out half of Market Chipping of the stuff." Well, that was not precisely what he had said the last time he had run into Micheal, but the young wizard decided to keep that to himself in the interest of safety. Sophie had taken the pie from him at this point and tucked it away on the end of the workbench.
"Well Howl can go stuff himself." Sophie muttered, digging about for a spoon. They both of course conveniently neglected to mention that it was the wizard himself that continued to buy the treat for his wife. Michael handed Sophie the small glass jar.
"Aren't you going to put that in a bowl?" He asked, the spoon half way to Sophie's mouth. She paused, and then ate the spoonful.
" I was going to eat the whole jar." Sophie replied, shoveling more applesauce into her mouth.
Michael shrugged and subtly adjusted the ring on his finger, then eyed the cupboard with an expert's eye of edible foodstuffs. He wished that he had remembered to eat before he rushed out. The cream pie had been dubbed completely off limits before he left. Sophie glanced at him and smiled, giving him permission to raid their stores, which he did with gusto. Sophie just watched him eat, spooning the yellow mush into her mouth absentmindedly, but at a rapid pace.
" Why the early visit Michael?" She asked, frowning into her applesauce jar, which was now disappointingly empty, " And be a dear and fetch the new jar from that top shelf on the right. He's hid it in the magical fungi jar, " Sophie added, dumping the now empty receptacle in the sink. Michael did so ardently hoping that Howl had emptied the magical fungi before using it as a hiding place for Sophie's apple sauce.
" Martha and I set a date!" He proclaimed with a smile, handing the round little pot of sauce to Sophie. She accepted it and gave him a smile back, albeit one that was slightly distracted.
" That's wonderful, wonderful. When?"
" Just after my birthday in December!" Michael beamed at her. Sophie's expression suddenly turned gloomy, " Did I say something wrong? The baby will be born long before that, so you and Howl can still come. I'm sure you can find a baby sitter."
" Wonderful, wonderful," Sophie said distractedly, while pointedly jabbing her spoon into the jar, " Birthday. Hmmp," Sophie turned to the workbench and sifted through a pile of papers written in her rounded, scattered hand. The apple sauce got another vicious stab and the papers got a death glare worthy of the worst kind of mother in law. Something was clearly wrong. It was the certain kind of something that was liable to get a young man's head snapped off for asking.
" Sophie," Sorry Martha, it had to be done. I hope you find enough of my body afterwards for a proper burial, " What are you working on?" Michael asked, not daring to add the part where he inquired if her work was the reason for her rising ire.
" Howl's Birthday." She said angrily, suddenly slamming down the jar of applesauce. It slopped over the rim onto the table and she sighed again, crouching awkwardly for a rag under the bench. Micheal tried to help, but she batted his hands away impatiently.
" His birthday?" Michael asked, confused, " Why don't you just ask him when it is?"
" Because I did ask him and the stupid dolt won't tell me," She hissed, still under the table " Just because he's older than me is no reason for me not to know. Two whole years together and he still won't tell me!"
" Why is this so important?" Michael asked, nervously moving his pie out of the line of possible fire, " Why now so suddenly?"
" It's because of this little trouble maker." Sophie growled, pointing to her belly, having finally emerged and was now sopping up the applesauce she had spilled on the table, " We were talking about birthdays and when our baby would be born..." score one negative point for me... I mentioned her baby's birthday, "... and Howl said he could divine it. I told him not to and he did anyway." Sophie pouted.
" What day was it?" Michael asked, curious.
" I don't know, I distracted him by telling him that his son was kicking me. The man can't keep his hands away when I tell him that. Bad enough that he divined that we'd have a boy, now I have to know what day he's born? Can't I have a little mystery?"
" But how on earth does that relate to Howl's birthday?"
" Well, to distract him further I asked him if Megan knew when eactly her children would be born, and he told me that yes, she did, and I asked him if he wanted to be like her. Then I wanted to know when he was born, and he got this panicked look on his face and ran away. I've been trying to figure it out ever since, but none of the spells work any more." Sophie pouted. She grabbed a few random looking ingredients and threw them together into a charred wooden bowl and put it on the floor and chanted something under her breath.
The bowl exploded lightly, showering them with soot.
" Was that supposed to happen?" Asked Micheal coughing.
" No. It's supposed to light fire and then shout out the date to me. None of the magic works properly since this happened." Sophie muttered giving her belly another pat.
" What about Calcifer, did you try asking him?" Michael said, pointing to the cold fireplace, realizing with a start that the demon wasn't there
" On vacation. Went to visit the exotic places of the world or something. Besides, that little snot wouldn't tell me anyway."
" Let me try then," Micheal said, trying to sound consoling and curious at the same time, hoping desperately that Sophie wouldn't take offense.
"Please." She waved, and settled herself moodily down into the armchair. Micheal took this as permission and glanced over Sophie's madly scribbled notes. Finding them of little use, he dredged up a divination spell he remembered from his apprenticeship and cleared away the charred bowl. Finding the chalk where it normally was, he drew a five pointed star on the ground and chalked in the basic divination symbols. A birthday was in the past, and not nearly so hard as finding out something that would happen in the future. He obtained something of Howl's from Sophie, and drew the birthday symbol around it.
Micheal initiated the spell by giving it a tap with his chalk in just the right place and the star began to grow smoky.
" It should show us the date in this pool of water," He explained, pointing to the shallow dish he had set up in the center, "look, see the water is starting to cloud"
Indeed it was, as Sophie craned over to see, and Micheal hunched down over it, trying to keep the chalk dust off of his knees. The water turned white as milk, and began to resolve into a face.
" Hello Micheal, my dear apprentice," Came a voice from the hauntingly familiar face inside the bowl, if a bit younger, and blonder than his current incarnation, " I knew that your curiosity would get the better of you someday, But I'm afraid that today is not the day that you'll find out my birthday," He said, and smiled smugly. Howl's face suddenly aged slightly and his hair changed colour, and he spoke again, " And if Sophie's there with you, tell her that she isn't going to find it out either." The water then clouded back to milk and reverted to clear. Sophie and Micheal stared at the bowl in shock, and then at each other.
" He he he... That...!" Sophie exclaimed, and went on to say several words that Micheal was not entirely surprised to learn that she knew, but not entirely at home with the idea of seeing a young, heavily pregnant woman say either, " Alright, Now it's war."
Micheal had to go back for about half an hour to tell Martha where he was going to be for the rest of the day. He had promised to be back for lunch, but he saw now that this wasn't going to happen. He heartily suspected that they were going to have to delay their dinner plans as well, as Sophie had gained that look in her eye that let him know that this was not something that was going to die easily. To tell the truth, Micheal was moderately curious himself to know what was such a big deal that Howl had gone to so much effort to hide away.
When he returned, it was to a very disturbing sight.
" You summoned a Demon!" He yelled in utter horror, leaping through the door.
" Oh relax Micheal, he's perfectly bound and contracted," Sophie said, waving her hand dismissively, " It's only a simple water spirit Demon, nothing too dangerous," Micheal gaped at her, and then looked at the demon, a smoky blue thing with twisted horns that stood perfectly still inside Sophie's magical circle. It shrugged at him.
" Will you tell this crazy woman here to let me go already, I was in the middle of something," the Demon said in a multi- toned voice that set Micheal's teeth on edge, " I told her that I'm already under contract."
" Sophie, you didn't ask him Howl's birthday did you?" Micheal asked weakly, grasping the rail trying to get his heart to calm down from the initial shock of seeing that thing in the living room.
" Well, that's why I summoned him didn't I?" Sophie replied, her hands stubbornly crossed on top of her belly, " Now, what about Howell Jenkins, can you tell me that?" She asked the demon, glaring at it like a spot in the rug.
" Wizard Pendragon?"
" No Lady, I can't. Not Howl Jenkins or the horrible wizard Howl, or the royal magician of Ingary or any of the other names that he's put on. A contract is a contract, and that man knows how to make a contract." The demon told her, sounding annoyed, though slightly admiring, " Can I go back now?"
" Umm, don't you want to try to steal my soul first or something?" Sophie asked, glancing back at her reference book.
" No. Do you want me too?"
" No. Then, You can go back then. Oops, I mean ' I Abjure thee foul demon, to return to what foul depths from which you came'." Sophie intoned.
"Finally!" Exclaimed the demon with relief as a hole opened up beneath his feet. He descended down into it, muttering about crazy pregnant women all the way. The hole closed up with a glop. Sophie humphed in disappointment. Micheal stared at her and then :
" You Summoned a Demon!"
" I know it didn't work, no need to rub it in my face," Sophie pouted, " Now have you found another way yet?"
Thirteen failed spells and four hours later, Michael had truly reached the end of his rope. They had tried three different types of divination, magical darts thrown at a calendar, a minor curse, checked animal signs, and even, in an act of utter dispair, Sophie had bitten the bullet and contacted Howl's sister to ask her. Megan, who was even more surprised at the progression of Sophie's pregnancy than the surprise visit, was disturbed to discover that she couldn't remember when the blasted thing was either, and it was mysteriously absent from any of her calendars. It was at this point in time, they returned home, just at the point of total and absolute defeat.
" That's it Michael, It's cursed. This whole bloody quest was doomed from the start," Sophie cried from the armchair, groping blindly for a cloth. She dampened it with cool water and laid it over her eyes, her hand on her belly.
" Yeah, cursed," Michael muttered, sinking down onto the stool, when suddenly something occurred to him, " Cursed!" He said aloud.
" You said that already Michael," Sophie told him wryly.
" No, Sophie, Howl's curse, don't you remember? That one line of the poem!"
" What are you talking about?"
" Oh, what was it... oh yeah!" he exclaimed, and began to recite:
If thou beest born to strange sights
things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights
till age snows white hairs on thee.
Thou when thou returnest, wilt tell me
All strange wonders that befell thee,
Lives a woman true and fair
" You have a remarkable memory for someone who has only ever heard that poem once." Sophie exclaimed, " but I still don't understand. What does the Witch's curse have to do with anything?"
" Don't you see Sophie! The curse caught up with Howl when he was ten thousand days old!" Michael said, and he saw Sophie begin to catch on
" So if we work backwards from midsummer..."
" Exactly! Do you remember what day it was?" Sophie dove awkwardly for a book that she always kept under the workbench. It read 'Almanak of Dayes' in a spotted and abused looking script
" Says here that it was June 21st, that sounds about right doesn't it?"
" Right!" Michael said, dragging out a scrap of parchment and smoothing it over his knee, " So, three hundred and sixty five days to a year, and ten thousand days... three sixty five into ten thousand makes..." and he scribbled furiously at the paper, hoping that his long division was correct, " That makes twenty seven years and a hundred and forty five days."
" Howl was twenty seven!" Sophie exclaimed,
" What, you didn't know?"
" I thought he was at least twenty nine the way he kept going on when he proposed." Sophie muttered to herself, " No wonder he doesn't want us to know his birthday, Howl's going to be thirty."
" I guess" Michael shrugged, but he had a foreboding feeling that there was something more to it than that.
"Alright, so then we just have to count backwards from the 21st and..." She exclaimed happily, " Alright, so, twenty one days for June, and thirty one for may... Thats..."
" Ninety three days left," Michael filled in, " And April has thirty as well, and thirty one for March"
" Thirty two days from there," Sophie calculated, " And after February, thats only four days, so..."
" January 27th!" They exclaimed together. Sophie beamed at Michael, and he smiled back in relief.
" Of course, that's just an approximation," Michael said, " We could be wrong about midsummer."
" Oh whatever, it's close enough that I can use it to weasel the real date out of him." Sophie said happily, " Though I don't understand what the big deal is; after all we missed the thing by nearly six months..." She laid a hand on her belly, swollen with nearly six months of pregnancy. Michael suddenly stared at it, and his eyes met Sophie's.
So that's why Howl... Michael thought, but refused to allow that train to continue any further. It was too disturbing. Meanwhile an interesting series of expressions had begun to cross Sophie's lovely visage. The joy from finally cracking the impossible nut of Howl's birthday still remained, but you could see the stages of expression pass from curiosity, to astonishment, and then to anger.
" That! He!" Sophie screamed suddenly, and Micheal's eyes were drawn horribly, inexplicably to the roundness of his future sister in law's pregnancy, " Oh, He's sneaky," Sophie muttered, finally managing to calm down, " Michael, you'd better head on home. Howl and I need to have a... discussion when he gets back."
" Oh yes, of course, None of my business, not that I would know anything about that... why-ish, right, um," He said, trying to fight the rising panic, " Goodbye Sophie! I'll send you an invitation to the wedding!" Michael exclaimed quickly, deciding that this was not a place he needed to be. Sophie had a look on her face that told him that essentially, Heads were going to roll.
Once outside in the relative safety of three blocks away, Michael began to breathe again. It was then that he vowed to never, ever get involved with birthdays again. It was too dangerous for his health.
I don't Own Howl's Moving Castle, Sophie, Michael, Morgan or Howl's birthday, not that I ever claimed to.
I just thought that you should know that.
Anyways, Yay! I finished this babe! It's been sitting in my computer for about five months now. One day during my summer vacation, I decided it would be fun to try and calculate Howl's birthday. I did, using pretty much the same method that Sophie and Michael used, and it sat there, and I thought " Well, I may as well do something with it now."
Now, just in advance, I know that someone is going to pop up with ' But what about leap years?' To which I shall respond ' What about leap years?'. Basically I decided to ignore them, as there is no way of knowing exactly how many there may have been. There could be seven, there could be eight, depending on what year Howl was born on. If it bothers you that much, add eight days on to January 27th, making it about February 3rd or 4th. Of course, there is no guarantee that Ingary even has leap years, and that Ingary and Howl's Wales even are in sync with each other in terms of months/days/seasons. However, as there is no possible way of knowing this, were going to pretend that they are, and everyone goes home happy. I like the 27th, it sounds better than the 3rd or 4th. January is cooler than February anyway (she says, in an attempt to make some sort of arbitrary justification for not adding the eight extra days)
So thank you all for reading, I hope most sincerely that you enjoyed it, I know I did