Chapter 18—How to Maneuver an S-bend
In a manner of speaking. Note was starting to feel sorry for the poor boy. He had spent more time unconscious than awake in the time of their brief acquaintance. He gently picked up the Fullmetal Alchemist and was struck by how small the boy really was. When awake Ed tried to compensate for his size with his language and energy and gruff manner, but when asleep he seemed to become the child he actually was. Except for the fact that he weighed about three times as much as he should. That was annoying. How could the boy walk with all that extra weight?
"Molly, do you have a sofa or something? I think the spell exhausted him."
Molly waved her wand and a pile of clothing dispersed to the various corners of the room, revealing a lumpy, rather well-used couch. Note made the conscious decision to not wonder if the original color had indeed been that splotchy brown as he placed the small boy upon it. Luna trotted over as he adjusted Ed's feet to a more comfortable position. She gently lifted his head and scooted underneath. She grinned up at Note.
"Look! I'm like a Ryophlabit!"
"A Ryophlabit! You know, they hold you when you're sleeping and suck your brains out your ears with a long orange straw shaped like a carrot!"
Note gave her a little smile before turning to the others in the room. Dean was looking a little green. "Bill, Tom, Dean—I need you to debrief the Weasleys and Mr. Potter and Miss Granger. Charlotte, please come with me." He turned to Mr. Weasley. "Arthur, do you have somewhere private? Charlotte and I need to do a little follow-up on the spell and we need absolute privacy." He glanced at the unconscious boy lying with his head on Luna's lap. "Obviously the boy is not supposed to be unconscious."
As Arthur led them upstairs, Note heard Bill mumble to Tom, "Didn't you feel like the spell wasn't quite done?"
Bill replied, "Yeah. Like it needed one more rhyme."
Note glanced at Charlotte and was sure she had heard the comment as well. She gave a brief shake of her head and entered a small room piled high with preservatives and extra potion ingredients. Arthur muttered a spell that made the ceramic jars full of oil sputter to life and begin to burn. "Will this do?"
"Of course. Thank you."
"Not at all. Just try not to smash the jars of thistleburr oil. Molly spent ages on those." He closed the door behind him.
Note sighed and looked up at the orb of light bobbing above their heads before turning to his companion.
"Well? Shall we?"
Charlotte nodded and sleeved her wand. "We shall."
Note absently flicked a finger at the door and a spell more powerful than a thousand Imperturbable Charms swept along the door frame, covering the wall, filling in and openings, forming protective bubbles around the jars on the shelves.
Inspecting to make sure the bubble was secure around the door frame, Note asked, "Do you think they suspected anything?"
"Possibly. Either way, that was the signal."
"Mmhmm. That woman really needs to find a better way to tell us she wants to talk to us."
"The number of unconscious people that show up while we're doing spells is a slight reputation destroyer."
He stretched and took a deep breath. "Well, we'd better get going, then."
Charlotte made a simple hand motion and recited the final words of the Spell of the Seven Songs of Merlin:
And now ye may attempt to find
The Otherworldly Well.
But lo! Do not approach the Well
Until the Songs are done.
For dangers stalk your every step,
With Balor's eye but one.
Note touched her fingertips as she finished. A wave of light spread beneath their feet, and a thin strand of light appeared just to his right. He gave Charlotte an ironic grin as he grasped the glowing string.
"Don't you always feel like you're flushing a toilet?" He pulled, and suddenly they were falling through the bright hole beneath their feet.
Traveling through the Light Tunnels was the fastest way to get anywhere, as long as you didn't know specifically where you were going when you first jumped in. Once in the Tunnels, a trained eye could interpret the flashing images that swirled around them, pick out the image of the person or persons they wanted to see, and manipulate the Tunnels into spitting them out precisely where they wanted to be.
To an untrained eye, however, the Tunnels were more like the plumbing of the various universes. These travelers would get swept away with images of forgotten places and times and eventually (though it may take a few hundred million years) end up in a gigantic glowing refuse bin, where in time they too would be forgotten. They could of course eventually be returned to the Tunnels, but only if someone's imagination required it.
Luckily, Howard Note and Charlotte Troffs were experts at navigating the Light Tunnels. They synchronized their motions and flowed around difficult S-bends and through Light Valves. The Tunnels were difficult to maneuver, but they were the only way the two could get were they were going.
How better to find a being that could be anywhere and nowhere at the same time than to visit the conduit of his travels?
Charlotte suddenly reached out and seized an image. "Here!" Note grabbed on and with a great sucking noise they were spit out into a foggy wasteland.
"Ugh," said Note as he picked himself up off the ground. "Clingers." He brushed the image of a group of four young children locked in an underground cave with a small rock as their only light source off of his sleeve as Charlotte pulled a string of symbols out of her hair.
"If I wasn't everywhere and everywhen, I would say that it took you long enough."
Note and Charlotte looked across the wasteland as they brushed images off of their clothing.
"Hey, Pig," said Note.
The Transcendent Pig waddled up to them and gently blew a particularly stubborn piece of light off Note's shoe.
"What's the meaning of Life?" teased Charlotte, which only elicited an exasperated sigh from the Pig.
"At the moment, I think it has something to do with saving the universe from the stupidity of teenage children, but I don't think that's the answer you're looking for." Charlotte laughed and nodded. The Pig gave a rather strange looking half-grin and continued. "Put on your circlets. The others are waiting at the meeting place. Though," said the Pig as an after thought, "they were waiting and aren't waiting as well."
Note rolled his eyes and sighed before digging in his pocket for what looked like a golden double-ended unicorn horn that circled around so the tips met. Dangling from the tips was a short gold chain with a black stone at the end. Charlotte pulled out a similar one, though her stone was gold-flecked white. The stones fell right between their eyes where nose met forehead when the circlets were placed on their heads.
"Have I told you I think these things are ridiculous?" asked Note. "You know what they call us because of these things?"
The Pig sighed and plodded along in front of them. "Of course I do. I was, am, and will be there when the Lovegoods invent that silly name." He glanced at the two humans behind him. "Though I believe changing your name and pretending not to be married is a little excessive."
"Tell that to Hallia," muttered Note. He gently took Charlotte's hand. "She seemed to think the initials would give it away if they thought long enough about it."
The Pig shrugged. He ed his head to one side before responding. "That, and she loves the name. She gets a kick out of a being such as me being referred to as," the Pig sniffed, "one of those."
Note had to agree, and said so.
"It was for the best, Howard," said Charlotte. "Besides, even though I don't use it, I like the name 'Note' a whole lot better than--"
"Good evening, night, day, and morning," interrupted a new voice. "Did you find the Tunnels to be satisfactory?"
The new member of the group was a tall man with messy red-brown hair and a long cloak covered with the images of stars. His circlet had a bright green stone that exaggerated his colorless eyes.
"You need to clean them out again, Gainel. We each had about six Clingers on our way out."
The God of Dreams sighed. "Beings these days do not get enough sleep, and when they do sleep it is so deep I cannot access their dreams as easily as I used to."
Note clapped the god on the back. "Someone getting a little lazy?" he teased.
Charlotte elbowed her husband in the ribs. "Surely with the amount of day-dreaming that's done you could get them a little cleaner?"
Gainel lifted a shoulder in a non-committal shrug as Note laughed at a sudden mental image.
"Time to grab the plunger, people! The Universe is backed up! Stand clear or it'll overflow!" He laughed at his own cleverness and mimed plunging a toilet.
Charlotte just rolled her eyes and exchanged amused glances with the Pig. "Howard, dear, would you like me to remind you who did most of the plunging during the early years of our marriage because someone, and I quote, 'couldn't stand the thought of poo on his hands'?"
Note sobered quickly. "Don't you dare."
The group entered a ring of seven grey rocks that blended into the foggy background. A woman reclined on the largest of the rocks, idly fiddling with her long red-brown braid. She had a long chin and big brown eyes. Her circlet had a clear stone with a jagged white line down the middle. Gainel, Charlotte, and Note stopped at the edge of the circle and bowed deeply. The Pig just ambled to the smallest rock and sat down with a huff. The woman nodded to the others and they each took a place in front of a rock. Gainel's cloak hardened to form a star-studded chair, and the Note and Charlotte each waved their wands to form chairs of their own.
There was a brief moment of silence before Note coughed.
"Well, Hallia, we got the message, though you probably could have picked another person to render unconscious. That poor kid has been through enough already without having to fall into a magically-induced slumber."
The woman raised an eyebrow at that comment. "He has already interfered with the fabric of the Several Universes enough. I decided to put him to sleep so that he could not find more trouble while you are not there to look after him. His presence is already a nuisance."
The Pig stomped a hoof and each pair of eyes turned to look at him. "As the unofficial leader of this group, I suggest we get things underway in the proper order. First, roll call."
"We already know who's here," muttered Note, earning him a glare from the Pig.
"Howard Note, Keeper of Legends."
"I think we've already established that I am here."
"Charlotte Troffs Note, Golden Child of Time."
"Gainel, God of Dreams and Caretaker of the Light Tunnels."
"Hallia, Lady of Lake and Forest and Meadow, and Surveyor of Light and Dark."
"I am here."
The Pig's ears sagged as he looked at the other two stones with no one seated in front of them. "Our other two members are fallen from their station."
The other three bowed their heads.
There was a moment's pause before the Pig pulled out his own circlet, which surprisingly did not look as odd as one might think as he rested it on his head. As he spoke, the red stone dangling between his eyes began to glow, and the light reflected in the stones of the other members of the group.
"Very well. I am the Transcendent Pig, and I hereby affirm that all acting members of the Council for the Harmony of the Several Universes are present and accounted for."
"Thus," continued Hallia with a laughing glint in her eye that rivaled the brightness of her stone, "we commence a meeting of the Crumple-Horned Snorkacks."
Well, there it is! Yeah, the beginning was kind of anti-climactic from the last chapter, but I thought Note and Charlotte being Crumple-Horned Snorkacks was pretty funny. The next chapter is going to be REEEEEEEEEEEEALLY explanatory, with the meeting and everything. They'll decide what to do about a lot of stuff, and find out some stuff about Luna's mom. I'm actually looking forward to the next chapter, where a lot of the questions people have been asking me will be answered!!!!!!!!!! Yay!
(Yes, I know, there hasn't been a lot of Ed and Luna and Dean stuff going on lately, but we'll get back there, don't worry!)
Thanks to all the people who are still willing to read my story after that horrendously long wait and to all those who are looking at this for the first time! I *heart* you all!
PS. Word from the wise--If you go out in tall grass, use bug spray! Mosquitos and ticks are , not to mention they are diseased and gross and they suck your . Yuck.