Chapter Seven

 

Next morning, Warloc came downstairs again. It was a new day. Last night’s apparition has been a new form. He’d been pestered for close to two hours by a talking Mooz-head, sandwiched between two pieces of bread. The Mooz had spent most of the time bellowing and spitting lettuce at him.

He came downstairs, still not fully awake. He strode over to the chair (where the snores were coming from) and poked the snoozing lump that was Siobhan. She wriggled out from under his cloak.

‘I don’t want you sleeping under my cloak,’ Warloc yawned, taking his staff in his hand.

Siobhan sat up. ‘Do you have any idea how cold it gets down here?’

Whilst Warloc re-lit the fire, she asked him what the plan was for the day.

‘What’s your real question?’ he said.

‘Are we going to get the portal back?’

‘No.’

Siobhan slid back into the chair and tugged the cloak over her face. Warloc strode over and yanked it away. He went to hang it up. 

‘I hate you,’ Siobhan said.

He ignored her. ‘Today, I’m going to write a letter to my parents and send it off, as soon as Hurley gets back.’

‘What sort of thing is Hurley?’ she asked.

Warloc sighed. More questions. Just what he needed after a long night of sleeplessness. ‘Hurley is a bird. I use him to send messages and bring things to me.’

‘Cool.’ She got up out of the chair and had another browse of the bookshelf. She saw a book entitled ‘Clag’ and almost laughed.

‘Did you really mean it when you said ‘clag’ was your only swear-word?’

‘Yes. How many could you possibly need?’

Siobhan paused, wondering how many there were. ‘Do you have anything I can write on... and, er, with?’

‘Quill and paper. I’ll get them.’ He went upstairs.

Siobhan thought of several swearwords while he was gone, including at least four that began with the letter ‘B’, and when Warloc returned with a roll of brownish paper and a quill and pot of green ink, she started to jot them down. It took her a while to get used to the quill, but soon she had no problem writing.

Warloc peered over her shoulder, all the time more and more amazed. ‘That’s fourteen already! Are you close to finishing?’

‘Almost,’ she told him, quite enjoying herself. ‘Actually a few of these – this one, like – they’re not really swearwords, they’re just quite bad words that don’t really count. Ooh wait, I’ve just thought of some more.’

‘So some swearwords are worse than others?’

‘Oh yeah. This one’s not really too bad. Now these three here at the top are the, er, main ones... these two here are really, really bad. Especially that one, I’m not supposed to know about that one.’

‘Well, how do you know all these bad words?’

‘I go to Secondary school.’

At that moment, a small feathery thing flew in through the window. It had another piece of brown paper in its beak. Siobhan watched in astonishment as it landed on the other chair.

‘Good morning, Hurley,’ Warloc said, walking over. 

Warloc’s familiar was an undersized parrot-like bird with brown and yellow feathers. Its beak was black and its eyes were two hollow black sockets. It squawked and dropped the piece of paper. Warloc picked it up and read it. 

‘What does it say?’ Siobhan asked, starting to draw on her Swear Sheet.

He shook his head. ‘It’s just a letter from my parents. They’re peaceable folk, so they don’t use magic, but we still write to each other. I need some of that paper back.’

Siobhan stopped drawing and handed the paper and quill over. Warloc glanced over it.

‘Is this me?’

‘Yes.’

‘In a frock?’

‘Yes.’

‘Charming.’ Warloc tore the paper, snatched a book up to lean on, and sat down to write. Siobhan slumped back into her own chair, bored again. Hurley was still perched on the other chair, and seemed to be moving its head from side to side, following Warloc’s quill movements.

‘Hurley,’ Siobhan said, and whistled. ‘Come here, good boy, girl, thing. Come on.’

To her surprise, Hurley flew over. The bird landed on her stomach and started clawing her jumper with its feet.

‘Hey, gerroff,’ Siobhan said, trying to shove it off, but it kept clawing.

Warloc looked up. ‘That’s odd,’ he said. ‘He seems to like you.’

‘Does he? Well it’s quite painful.’

Hurley let go and flew up to a perch near the ceiling. Warloc finished writing, folded his bit of paper and tucked it into Hurley’s beak. Hurley squawked again and flew out the window. Siobhan examined her jumper, wondering how to explain all the bobbly bits to her mum. She then started wondering how she was going to explain her two day absence to her mum. They were probably all still sitting at home, worrying where she was, and was she safe, was she wearing clean underwear and so on.

These thoughts weren’t very nice ones, so she tried to concentrate on something else.

‘God, I want some chocolate.’

Warloc looked up, startled. ‘I’m sorry?’

‘Oh yes, you don’t know what chocolate is. Oh, you should try it. It’s the nicest food in the world.’

‘Well I’m sorry,’ Warloc grumbled. ‘We don’t have any.’

If I ever get back home,’ Siobhan replied, ‘I am going to make sure you eat your weight in chocolate before you go back.’

‘Well, thank you very much.’ 

 

Siobhan passed another dull day. She quickly realised that Warloc was in no hurry to open the gateway or find another one so she could go home. She could be stuck here for a while. She didn’t want to be stuck here, but that was the way it was.

And if she was going to be stuck here, Siobhan reasoned that evening, it wasn’t very good for her to stay cooped up in one room all day. She’d been sitting in this chair for about two days, reading. The books were interesting enough, but she wasn’t the sort to stay sitting down for days on end, especially without adequate nourishment.

And if she was going to be stuck here, she’d have a much better time if she was free to roam the area. But she couldn’t do that without getting lost. And Warloc hadn’t exactly shown her round and made her feel comfortable. He’d dragged her into Augura, forced her to stay at his house and told her to sleep on the floor. How lovely. 

In fact, Siobhan thought irately, Warloc wasn’t very nice at all. He just wanted her to sit down and shut up all the time. And it wasn’t acceptable behaviour. Siobhan was from another world; she needed explanations, she needed guidance. She needed stuff to do. 

The trouble with Warloc, Siobhan thought, was that he was a hermit. He stayed inside all the time and didn’t talk to anyone – except maybe Dahlia. And what did he do all day? Study and write to his parents. 

Well, she’d had enough. Siobhan stood up and wrapped the cloak around her. She was going to march up there right now and tell him that, well, he’d better think of a way to get her back home pretty darn quick.

Siobhan clumped up the stairs. On the way up she heard more noises, and started clumping more quietly so she could hear.

‘Go away,’ Warloc was saying. ‘I’ve had enough; just let me go to SLEEP!’

Siobhan reached the door of Warloc’s room, and pressed her ear to the door. Inside it sounded like there was a fight going on. Something smashed against the door and she jumped back, startled. 

‘Hey, are you OK?’ she called to him, but the fight didn’t stop. She struggled with the door handle.

‘GET AWAY FROM ME!’ Warloc yelled, and something inside fell to the floor and shattered. Then everything stopped and she heard the sound of someone choking.

‘Warloc!’ Siobhan said, feeling both worry and annoyance. She kicked the door and then lunged at it. It burst open and she fell into the room.

Her face landed in a patch of dirty green carpet. She picked herself up. Her eyes darted around the gloom, searching for an intruder. There wasn’t one. Then she saw Warloc, leaning against the wall, gasping in air. He was wearing some green robe, but it was slashed. The hinge of his jaw was cut and bleeding. His knuckles were grazed and his arms were covered in scratches.

‘What the hell was that?’ Siobhan asked, standing where she was. She saw the remains of a glass jar lying near Warloc’s feet, which must have smashed just before she burst in. She looked to see if he’d stepped on any stray bits of glass.

Warloc looked up at her. He drew himself up, straightening the feathers on his head, and then pulling down his torn sleeves.

‘Don’t,’ he told her, ‘use words I don’t understand.’

‘What was happening? Were you fighting? There’s nobody here.’

Warloc just shook his head at her.

Siobhan was confused. She felt angry. She’d heard a fight and been worried for Warloc, and he wouldn’t tell her anything. She’d got all anxious, and now he was looking at her as if to say ‘Don’t be so silly.’ He was so infuriating!

‘Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrargh!’ she said, fists clenched at her sides and teeth gritted.

Warloc still stood there, a picture of dignified self-possession. Siobhan stormed back down the stairs, threw herself into the chair, and went to sleep.

 

 

The End

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