Somebody hit the rewind button…
Believe it or not, I’ve been losing sleep over this all week… Some of my readers said they were confused by the last sequence if Episode-16. I see that as a serious flaw in me, both as a writer and as an editor.
Just as the English language is vastly different in different parts of the world, so are the many forms of writing. Software manuals are a world away from biographies. Speech writing has little to do with writing poetry. Copywriting is quite different from fiction writing. In writing a serial — though it might later be pulled together as a novel, it has to be presented in a much different way than the novel, which gives the reader the entire story at once.
Even though I meant it as a play on words last time, maybe I really did “mangle the mangle.” The last part of Episode-16 left some of you bewildered.
Serials and fantasies are strange beasts, and this story is both. Serials expect a reader to have a better memory than anyone is likely to have — and they demand that I repeat myself, since there’s a time-gap between publications. Fantasy demands mental agility, and leaps of thought from both the reader and the writer. As the cherry on top, this serial is pure pantser spontaneity. Even if part of this “game” was revising, I don’t have the time. I already give this serial the time I should be dedicating to writing novels…
Don’t think I’m going to make a habit of this — it’s a one-time thing; a sort of experiment in serial-story-blogging. (Somewhere in one of my “About” pages I describe everything about Indie, including blogging, as part of my grand experiment.) I’ll take one shot at clarifying that part of the episode, addressing each of the things that confused some readers. Then I’ll either move on or move out. Also, if I’ve broken it down too far, I’m certainly not trying to belittle anyone. I’m showing my clarifications in bold, so you can decide for yourself. Don’t feel like you have to tell me.
Hopefully this will give a boost to anyone who might have fallen off the steam locomotive. (And now, hopefully I’ll be able to finish Episode-17.) Let’s take the Laterna Magica backward to the last part of that mangled episode…
Someone please get the lights…
A subtle green aura emanated from the alchemist, alerting me that he was doing one of his tricks. He turned the harmonic tuner onto its side and rolled it around on the map in the area Wong indicated.
“Where were you going, raven?” the alchemist murmured the question making it part of the magic he worked.
At his words, the topography on that part of the map blurred and became three dimensional. Then a part of that area took on a phosphorescent glow.
Although mesmerized by the magical transformation of the map, I was vaguely aware of faintly padding footsteps. I turned to see Copper, wearing a dressing gown and slippers. She clutched something wrapped in a scarf to her chest.
“Miss Copper,” Alastair Wong addressed her in a playful tone that was likely meant to distract her from what we were doing. “You needn’t have come down here,” he told the girl and then turned to Cornelis and me somewhat awkwardly.
“I suggested Copper go back to bed when she saw me in the hallway. I apologize that I made a bit of noise, and she got up to see what the bother was. Copper I hope I didn’t frighten you, in a strange place, trying to sleep,” Wong told her. “I said that I was bringing boring grownup things to show you,” he turned and said to us.
The girl must have begun to worry that she was about to get into trouble for leaving her room at so late an hour. She hadn’t even noticed the phosphorescent glow that meant Cornelis worked his alchemy on the map, but then, Alastair may have blocked her view.
“Yes, but I had a favorite thing to show you too!” Copper told him, clearly wanting to participate. “Because you’ve been so nice. This is my favorite thing that Daddy gave me.”
Suddenly I realized that Copper held her cherished “mystic monkeys” bell, which her father had given her. It was an ornate bell with detailed carvings of the fabled three mystic apes — see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. It was also a harmonic tuner. Yes, a magical implement with powers similar to the tuner Cornelis was using at that very moment. The night we ran from the Hixon estate, the two harmonic tuners being in close proximity had a profound effect. The magic the alchemist worked that night went out of control when the other harmonic tuner’s influence became involved.
I glanced at Cornelis for his reaction. The alchemist was so focused on his trick with the map that I wasn’t sure he had even noticed Copper’s entrance. He was completely absorbed in his work. “What will we find here?” he muttered over the map as he rolled his harmonic tuner across the glowing area, asking the alchemy to show him what or who was in the area of the map that his harmonic tuner touched.
“Here it is,” Copper said proudly, and before I could shout a warning, she unceremoniously plopped the second tuner right onto the map on which the alchemist worked his trick.
Once again the inadvertent influence of the second harmonic tuner had an unpredictable effect on the magic Cornelis was working. The existing harmonic sound from the Dutchman’s tuner quadrupled. A varicolored aura made a rainbow around the bells and the map. The sound seemed to vibrate through the entire world. Then I felt it inside my throat, and just as before, I couldn’t help wondering if my voice would take on that dual harmonic sound when I spoke.
Alastair must have felt the bizarre sensation as well. He put his hand to his throat. The tiny woman dropped her tray to the paved terrace. Fine china shattered, the sharp noise blending with the harmonic sound.
As I said, the sound seemed to vibrate throughout the entire world. The magic reached far and wide. In the distance I heard noises that I couldn’t quite define. It reminded me of the sound of men scuffling, but it sounded heavier than that. Then I heard a crash from that area, and I knew it had to be the work of the alchemy gone awry. The din was followed by clacking and clanging sounds. The louder noises were enough for me to know the commotion came from the hot spring. The magic had traveled all the way down there.
Everyone turned at once, ready to race toward the sounds and the runaway magic. Thankfully I had the presence of mind to tell Copper to stay where she was. Even better, with a wise wink, Victoria, the tiny woman took the girl’s hand and led her to the kitchen with the promise of a serving of the apricot Charlotte. I heaved a sigh of relief and followed Cornelis and Alastair toward the disturbance.
When we reached the hot spring I saw that the door to one of the small gold-painted buildings was off its hinges. The wayward alchemy affected the washing machine. It had somehow bumped and thumped its way out of the storage building, under the influence of the magic. It looked as though the machine had clambered around until it was caught between two maple trees. Every few seconds it gave a futile bump to the trees.
“There’s something in the mangle,” Cornelis muttered, and I was sure that was also the magic at work.
“What’s that you say? Oh yes, the mangle. Here they call that part the wringer,” Alastair said absently as he looked in astonishment at the rogue washing machine and the damage it had done.
When the washing machine made its magical escape from the storage building, the washtub had been dragged along by the machine, halfway to the spring. I remembered the young man putting a tablecloth in the tub to soak. I suspected that was what hung from the mangle, or wringer — the magic having pulled the cloth into the wringer. When I cautiously walked over to the still grumbling machine, I found that I was right.
Cornelis held out his harmonic tuner. A faint magical current of green streamed from the tuner to the washing machine. That had another effect on the washing machine. It wobbled, gurgled, and creaked. The mangle started to supernaturally turn again, pulling the tablecloth on through as we watched.
“All that hubbub and the cloth is not clean,” Alastair said, surprising me with his acerbic wit. Of course he had no concern about whether the table cloth was clean. Rather, he jokingly referred to something he saw; something the enchantment had put onto the cloth.
He was correct, there was something on the tablecloth, but it wasn’t simply dirty. It looked like writing — phosphorescent writing. Cornelis flicked the tuner with his fingernail, causing a faint ting sound and then the tuner cast a bright light like a torch. The Dutchman shined the light on the cloth as it finished rolling from the mangle.
A word had been written by the rogue magic that resulted when Copper accidentally added a second harmonic tuner to the magic worked by the alchemist. It wasn’t something anyone would want to wash away, because it was never part of the laundry. As I said, that was only Alastair’s wit; a joke. It was a magically provided clue, resulting from the alchemist’s spell.
It shone in large glowing green script. I read the word aloud.
Photo/image credit: Wikipedia