(National Novel Writing Month, eh? —Ed.)

The King said to the shepherd boy, "How many stars are there in the sky?"
The shepherd boy said, "Give me a great sheet of white paper," and with a pen made so blindingly many points on it that they could scarcely be discerned. "There are as many stars in the sky," he said, "as there are points on the paper; just count them."
And a passing wizard said, "I happen to know how many visible stars there are in the sky, and at ten stars a second it would have taken you fifteen hours to peck that paper with them all.
"I also know to an order of magnitude how many stars there are in the sky, and were you to note them all you would never lay down your pen."
And so the shepherd boy was generously spanked and sent home, where he later got in terrible trouble for crying wolf.
- Sylvia Eventi, untitled work in progress.


Westward Ho! (7e: Back Alley Smatter, Part Deux)

The Tutor swept through the store-room towards the alley exit, abstractedly scratching the back of a hand.

{ Do we really have to leave? } said Harry. { I sort of wanted to ask Iain Adams what the Great American Confundus was... }

Yes, well, I wanted to ask him what Americans call the feathers in their caps, said the Tutor. I keep thinking it's quackaroonie and that can't be right. We can take it up later if his paintings turn up at school.

Careless and unwise and almost certainly a terrible mistake, this venture, he added, but if you make a list of questions and do a proper interview write it up and you could get an extra credit in History. And submit it to the Howler for an extracurricular. Harry Potter, mild-mannered reporter for a great metro...scholitan newspaper, how's that sound?

{ Like work, } said Harry.

The Tutor dodged around the scale model of Chrysler Building, which come to notice it had a nameplate at the top reading Horngate Institute of Thaumaturgy. Ah well, another one for Unanswered Question Time.

But wouldn't it be nice for you to get something out of the trip? Other than a high probability of Professor Dumbledore's Christmas present.

{ Well...wait, Christmas present? }

Yes. The Iain Adams Personal Effects Collection. It's not in the Alumni room in the library, I'd have seen it, but he did send it, so where might youinfer it to be...?

{ ...In the Lost and Found! }

Excellent boy!

The Tutor bounded through the missing back door of HMT Stieglitz III as though it weren't there, which was still the case, and immediately had to skid to a halt on account of a large circular planter that had sprouted in the alley while they'd been away; wizard constructors evidently worked fast.

In the planter was a pole, topped by a brass-faced clock, its base surrounded by purple-flowering frost mint. According to the clock, KIRKUS SQUARE WELL-TEMPERED TIME was now somewhere between 3:34 and 3:35. It was a time that was perhaps accurate but deliberately imprecise; the minute hand became increasingly cloudy in position towards its tip, and the second hand curved from a line into a smoke ring.

He stepped up onto one of the curved benches to have a closer look; under the central pin of the hands, in tiny type, he read the legend Abend Clockworks / Chicago 18, Illinois / U.S.A.

Curving under the clock face like a smile was the engraved motto AMISSUM NE CREDE DIEM.

{ What does that mean? } asked Harry. { Amissum, I mean. }

Loosely translated, said the Tutor, 'you're not losing daylight'. Still, take no chances, eh?

He leaped off the bench and scampered for the book-store — or would have done except that he immediately had to dodge a tall grey-haired wizard who looked like he'd just gotten back from a night at the opera. The wizard took no notice of him, but maintained a purposeful course past them and straight into the solid wall of number 39A. Which was to say he bounced off it. Grumbling to himself, the wizard retrieved from his pocket a small widget with a button on it; he pressed the button, the widget went 'parp' twice, and the wizard tried again, rather more gingerly this time, and successfully disappeared into the wall.

Number III accounted for, observed the Tutor. In the HMT Stieglitz department, I mean.

{ Huh, } said Harry. { If it was locked, how did I get in? }

Confident accident is how I get everywhere, said the Tutor.

A few quick steps down the alley brought them alongside Scapegrace & Crackrope's Back Of The Wagon Bargains, which was having its Going Out Of Business Welcome Sale interrupted by a squad of badge-bearing wizards who were floating its entire stock out into a waiting Law Enforcement wagon. He paused to watch the removal of a grand piano, two organs, a glockenspiel, six different guitars, a mandolin, and, judging by the glowing golden ropes binding their hands behind their backs, Scapegrace and Crackrope.

"Hi ho, hi ho," said the one that looked like a Scapegrace.

"It's off to jail we go," said the one that looked ropey.

There was a bit of desultory whistling as they were loaded into the van. Everybody involved seemed to be quite used to the operation, really.


They had changed out the best-sellers in the display window of Wulfræd Letter's Book House. The new set comprised An Answer for Night-Hags; What To Name Your Nameless Horrors; Basil Thyme and the Central Park Dark; Three More Centuries of English Spells; The Life and Letters of Silenus; Basil Thyme and the Inferi Inferno; Nymphs and Their Ways; You Just Might Be A Hufflepuff; Basil Thyme and the Obverted Obliviator; Hardesty's Universal Omnium Gatherum; and Basil Thyme and the Great Glass Library.

He had just noted approvingly that several were children's books when a hand reached down into the display and set another book in place.

Bond Inviolable:
Conclusion of The Blood Trilogy

by (oh blimey) [he can't be real!] (but maybe he is!)

Jormungand Fafnir Nidhogg van Eyck Spungen III

Jormungand Fafnir Nidhogg van Eyck Spungen III!

Best name ever, not even spelling it with "!" instead of "III" could improve it — by a name like that, even Synpoietic Construction of Transperambulative Semiotic Paramorphisms, vol. 2A would sound worth reading...

{ No it wouldn't, } said Harry, and the Tutor realised he was internal-monologuing too loudly again.

Don't knock it 'til you've tried it! said the Tutor, and entered the book-store. He crawled under the small crowd that was blocking the entranceway — oogling over the latest magical equivalent of Burke's Peerage, they'd unfolded the family forest section all the way ("So Hexia of Speld marries Ganra of Huldoke, and that's where things get complicated for the Lestrange family line…") — and popped up by the checkout counter.

Behind the counter a shop assistant was packing up a very large box, probably containing everything the man with the very long list had bought, and the clerk was ringing up a purchase for the attendant from the companion animal companion shop (Bad Birds No More: S. Pascal Foreman's Guide To Training Your Raven).

"Dinsdale," said the assistant.

"No, not Dinsdale," said the clerk patiently, "Nithsdale."

"Near Stranraer in Dumfriesshire?"

"That's the one," said the clerk, giving the animal companion attendant a receipt.

The assistant applied a Wingardium Leviosa, picked up the weightless box, and disappeared with a snap.

The clerk looked around for another customer, found none, and attacked the shop type-writer with all digits.

A telephone-like object rang under the counter, and the mad typist answered it. "Bloomsbury eight double eight," she said, typing one-handed. "... Readings in Proarcheology? Yes, I think so. Aaand The Diary of the Earl of Devonport. Hm? Revised edition. One moment please...yes, yes we do...happy to hold them for you."

A glowing silver bird flew out of the wall behind the mad typist, and then through the mad typist, and then crash-landed on the floor in front of the counter.

By the time it had reassembled its dignity she'd replaced the telephone on its hook and resumed her typing. "And how many we assist you today?" she said, still clacking away.

The bird fluttered up onto the counter, fluffed itself and said "We require a copy of On Turbulence In The Void by Q.D. Cordis."

"Sorry! Delayed by publisher. The appendix got so big they've broken it out into a second volume. Won't be out until March, probably."

"But it is on the best-seller list?"

"Advance sales, yes."

The bird sagged. "Is there an equivalent?" it said hopelessly.

"Hang on, let me ask Dr Augustine." Still typing, the mad typist turned and called "Jeane, need a consult on chaos magic!"

A strained voice from the depths of the store replied "Send them back here, please, Carol, the kneazle's kittling! —Not there! Not th...oh, boggarts."

The bird flew off and cautiously angled out of sight behind a bookcase.

A grandmotherly witch stepped up to the counter and set down a stack of Basil Thyme books. The Tutor took up a position behind her.

"Could I have these done up in paper suitable for a birthday?" asked the witch. "Oh, splendid. I also need a bit of advice."

"I make a market in advice," said the clerk, smiling.

"Well, it's difficult...it's actually twins, you see, the birthday, and the other...well, the other's...oh, dear, not magical, and I don't really know what I could possibly get..."

"Hmm," said the clerk, "tricky." She turned the set of books over to the shop assistant, who looked rather irritated to be handed more work immediately upon Apparating. "Flameless Firework paper please," said the clerk.

"Tricky?" said the witch, disappointed.

"We do non-magical books through the Waterstones outside the Square, ma'am," said the clerk, "currency conversion and all, but...muggle children's books are a world I know nearly nothing about." She looked rather irritated by the lacuna in her experience.

He raised a hand. "Excuse me!" he said brightly. "I was raised by muggles. I think I might know exactly the books you want. If I could borrow a quill?"

"Have a complimentary pencil," said the clerk, indicating a cup full of pencils stamped in gold with the name Wulfræd Letter's Book House.

The Tutor took up a wand of cedar with a graphite core. Right, Harry, write these titles down, he said.

{ Why do I have to do it? } groused Harry.

Cos you've got beautiful handwriting.

{ Since when?! }

Compared to mine, I mean.

{ …Fair enough, } said Harry, and obediently took dictation onto the back of a shop bookmark. They handed the list over to the grandmotherly witch, who looked at it and blinked with an almost audible dear me before handing it in turn to the clerk.

The clerk looked at the list and read it silently while her eyebrow crawled skyward.

"...Cosmotron Express," read the clerk aloud. "That is a name to conjure with. Triphibian Atomicar? That's a lot of syllables."

"Lots of syllables are the best part," said the Tutor, giving her his sunniest look.

Treatment plan, he added privately. First, something for the pain: books from the world beyond the hill, where science and mathematics are the real magic. And for my next trick...well, I'll add it to my to do list.

"Some of them may be hard to get," he added. "Out of print, imports, out of print imports..."

"No book has ever escaped me," the clerk said decisively. "If I might have your address, ma'am, we'll owl you as soon as we've got them in."

The gran'ly witch gave the clerk her address and the Tutor a friendly pat on the head ("oh, you helpful thing!") before making a hopeful exit with her wrapped package of Basil Thymes. The Tutor added her address to his To Do list.

"Books for squib children," said the clerk, making a thoughtful note on the page she was typing. "I think Basil Thyme's going to get into that area. —And how many we assist you today?" she said, returning her hands to her keys and typing madly by touch.

"I've got," he said, taking another bookmark and turning it over, "a little list."

"Sublime," said the attendant, widening her eyes at him while her fingers continued working on their own.

"Optimally with delivery to Hogwarts on Christmas Day," he said.

"Not a problem — we've got a house elf arrangement."

"Spiffing!" he said, and leaned over the counter — partly to write out his list, mostly to turn the quidditchy eyeballs on what she was writing.

"You have been very, very naughty," cried Carol, and with a wave of her cedar wand detonated Aureus Mons — and amid a raging storm of volcanic fire and rock and ash, the battle of Witch and God began.

"What are you writing?" he said, dotting the i's on Burrill's Explorations in Onomastic Herbology. "If you don't mind me asking."

{ You forgot to cross the t, } said Harry.


"It's called Carol le Fay's Conquest of Mars," said the clerk. "It's sort of a romance."

"Mars the god or Mars the planet?"


"Sounds bloodthirsty," said the Tutor.

"Oh, I'm hell on gods," said the writer. "But only when they're bad. Mars — he's an old softy, really; started out as a god of farming, you know, he just fell in with the wrong crowd. One strategically placed waft of manure and a pitchfork in the right place and he'll start weeping with nostalgia."

"My aunt says she doesn't understand why people keep writing books when there's so many already," said the Tutor.

{ How'd you know?! } said Harry.

It was an inspired guess. Shush!

The writer raised an eyebrow at him. "The sins of the aunts shan't be visited upon their nephews," she said, and then wrung her hands while simulating the cracking of all her finger joints at once with a rattle of her tongue. "As Mr Lewis said, If they won't write the kind of books we want to read, we shall have to write them ourselves. Now about this list of yours..."

And that was the readers taken care of. The cost was quite reasonable, too.

"May we assist you with anything else?" she said.

"Just one more question," he said, tucking the receipt into a pocket. "Is Wulfraed Letter a real person?"

She looked around warily, and then leaned in close. "Just between you and me," she said, "I made him up. But I do sort of hope he'll come in one day..."


Let us stand up.
What is known I strip away;
I launch all men and women forward with me into THE UNKNOWN.
The clock indicates the moment - but what does eternity indicate?
- Whitman.

The historian Amelia Sturgis-Podmore has stated that there is no American style of castle; there is, of course — we just took a little while to settle on it.
— Orientation booklet, Horngate Instutute of Thaumaturgy (I. Adams, founder).