When it Rains, it Pours
AN: Well, it starts. This is my first story, so don't go easy on me. For my full reviewing policy, check my profile, but please know that while a adore constructive criticism and will take into careful consideration any changes that are suggested, I can't guaruntee that I'll agree with you on everything. So if their's something you don't like, feel free to tell me, but if I don't agree with you, I'm not changing it.
This goes out to Iolanthe 8, who sent me a really nice review response, is also just starting her own D. W. J. fic, and is of the same mind, it seems, as far as this section goes.
Chrestomanci should have known the day would be unusual when it started out with Cat leaving the castle to visit Irene and Jason. It seemed that lately, whenever the young enchanter wasn't around, something would happen in which he needed his heir, and his special brand of magic, the most. Like the incident with the Farleighs.
However, as in all the other instances, he was blissfully unaware of the impending disturbance; probably because everything was perfectly normal right through breakfast, and continued to be during lunch and the first thirteen minutes of tea-time (of course it would be thirteen). But that was the limit.
The family—Chrestomanci, Millie, Roger, Janet, and Julia—was all settled serenely on various sofas and armchairs, nibbling on finger sandwiches and sipping tea, the peaceful scene peppered here and there with conversation. Chrestomanci was just about to remark how nice it was to have at least most of them all together at one time, when there was an almighty clap! and an oddly, if impeccably, dressed man and a ginger-haired woman appeared in their drawing room.
Anything they might have said (though they probably wouldn't have said anything—they were all too shocked) was cut off when the ginger-haired woman whirled on the impeccably dressed man. "Howl! How could you do that?" she near-shrieked, a little breathlessly.
The man gave her a lopsided grin. "With great difficulty, Sophie dear." The woman, Sophie, opened her mouth to retort, but gave instead a small gasp and caught Howl as his knees buckled. "Are you alright?" she asked concernedly.
"I'm fine, just a little exhausted," he replied, waving her off nonchalantly. "That's only the second time I've done that in my life, and the first time there was already a door."
"Are we in Wales?"
"Excuse me," Chrestomanci chose that moment to regain control of the situation and his drawing room, giving the two interlopers his vaguest look and looming over them rather. "Not to be too much trouble, but may I enquire as to what you two are doing in my drawing room?" He used his driest tones, and made a mental note to check and double-check the castle wards; they obviously weren't working very well.
Howl rose, running a hair through his slightly mussed golden locks so they were now becomingly mussed, and bowed gracefully. "Howl Jenkins, Royal Wizard of Ingary, and wife Sophie Jenkins," here he extended a hand to his spouse, who took it and rose, giving the occupants of the room a shaky curtsy.
"We're terribly sorry to have burst in like this," she said, blushing slightly. "But—" she paused, and it was obvious on her face that apologies were the last thing on her mind at the moment.
"It's a long story," Howl supplied, "But suffice it to say that someone was after us, and we needed to get away fast. I really didn't mean to transport right in the middle of your tea. I'd leave you in peace, but world-hopping isn't something I do often, so I'm afraid I'll need some time to recover."
"Howl." Sophie drew him aside this time, and spoke in low tones. A quick listening spell fixed that for Chrestomanci, and a glance at Millie told him she was doing the same.
"Howl, what about Morgan? The finding spell." Her voice shook slightly.
"Wasn't working," Howl said shortly. "And it wouldn't have worked, no matter how much time we spent on it."
Sophie gave a small strangled sob. Howl looked in horror at his wife's bowed head for a moment before sweeping her up into his arms, murmuring soothing words punctuated with what sounded like Welsh. "Shh, shh, caraid, I only mean that particular finding spell wasn't working. We'll keep trying; I for one won't give up until I have the little terror back in my arms. Will you?"
She gave a little hiccup and shook her head. "No, no I won't. It's just… first Lettie and Ben, and now Morgan. Something terrible is happening, and I feel like I can't do anything but watch. Ben's a powerful wizard, and so is Lettie, and they couldn't do anything."
"Pish and posh," Howl said firmly. "They were just caught by surprise. So were we. But that won't happen again."
"Howl, what if the finding spell isn't working because—"
"That's not it," he said sharply, unconsciously tightening his grip on her. "We would know. We would know," he repeated more softly, as if convincing himself now. There was a pause as the two held each other in silence. "On the bright side," Howl said finally, "the king can't summon me from here."
"Which means you won't be hogging the bathroom," Sophie replied with a small laugh.
They turned back to the others, who quickly shuffled their teacups and pretended they hadn't noticed the private conversation. Chrestomanci looked very vague.
"So," Janet said, clearing her throat and a place on the sofa (which Howl took with a grateful smile, seating his wife on his lap), "Mr. Jenkins—"
"Oh please don't call me that," Howl interjected in horror. "It's Howl. You'll make me feel like my father."
"Howl," Janet amended, giving a shy smile. "Which world are you from?"
"Ah." He paused, accepting a cup of tea from Millie. "Ingary? Which world is this?"
"Twelve A," Chrestomanci supplied indifferently. "You're in Chrestomanci Castle, if you care to know."
"There's an interesting name for a country," Howl said brightly. "I'm afraid our introductions were cut short—you are?"
"Chrestomanci, the nine-lived enchanter."
Howl's eyes widened almost imperceptibly, and he eyed the man across from him shrewdly. "You don't say? That must be useful. And you others are?"
"My wife Millie, my children Roger and Julia, and one of my charges, Janet."
"How do you do," Howl said, smiling charmingly. Janet and Julia both gave little sighs, and Julia whispered, "Such a shame," glancing at the ring on his finger.
"You said someone was after you?" Chrestomanci said, casting the girls a dry glance. "Do you know who?"
Howl shrugged. "Someone powerful. Powerful enough to kidnap a royal wizard and his wife, who also had significant magical talents."
"And how did you know they were coming?"
"I'd set up wards around the house. They had come once before, and taken—" here he drew Sophie closer—"my son, Morgan. We were attempting to track him when they came again. We barely had warning; hence our awkward entrance."
"You say you're a wizard," Sophie said. "Maybe you can help us."
"Sophie dear, I don't think we need to bother the nice people with our business." Howl used his most pleasant tones, by which she knew he was very annoyed, which of course only made her more determined to enlist their help.
"Actually it is my business," said Chrestomanci. "I hold a government position in this world to keep track of any and all magical disturbances. Everywhere."
Howl was becoming visibly irritated, and seemed about to say something, when there was a clanging of the castle wards, and the air by the hearth shimmered. A great roaring wind rose out of nowhere, throwing everyone and everything about; someone shouted, and Chrestomanci was about to call on his magic when it stopped at quickly as it had come.
The area by the hearth was normal, as was the rest of the room, unless you counted scattered cutlery and broken crockery, or Howl sprawled on the floor holding his nose and staring at the hearth in shock, and the blatant absence of Sophie Jenkins.
AN: I think the dialogue is pretty bad in this chapter, but I'm not sure. I always have to remove myself from my writing for a bit to be sure of it's flaws, but I'm too impatient for that. I should probably go and re-read The Pinhoe Egg and Howl's Moving Castle to get myself in the flow of how they talk. What do you think?
You may already be able to guess what I have planned here, at least somewhat. Have fun trying to figure it out if you don't ;).
Oh, and if anyone knows a place where I can find a good Welsh-to-English dictionary or translator or something, it would much appreciated if you'd clue me in.