Five days later, Warloc was showing Siobhan a book of spells from one of his bookcases upstairs. Siobhan didn’t have a staff, like Warloc’s, but she’d been given a rather old and scratched wand that Warloc had found at the back of a cupboard that morning.
‘Seeing as you won’t be here long,’ he’d said to her, ‘you won’t need anything too fancy.’
‘Thanks a lot. Does this even work?’ she said, waving and swishing it around.
‘Yes, it should, but frankly not too well. I’m afraid a lot of my possessions are old and used.’
‘Your staff looks very nice,’ she complained.
‘That’s because Gargantuum made it for me. Giants are very good with carving wood.’
‘Why’d he make it for you?’
‘It was a birthday present actually. You’ll meet him today, I think. He usually visits about once every two weeks.’
‘How big is he exactly?’
‘His head reaches my chamber window.’
‘Oh. I thought he’d be bigger than that.’
Warloc flipped the book’s pages, finding the section for beginners. ‘Here we are. This a very basic spell. Say these words and then I’ll show you the gesture.’
‘Wingardium Leviosa,’ Siobhan said, waving her wand.
‘Siobhan! You’re not listening.’
‘I am! I’m sorry, say that bit again.’
‘Warloc sighed. ‘Say these words and bring the wand forward like this.’ Getting behind her, he took her right arm in both hands and snapped it forward. ‘Just like that.’
Siobhan picked up the book, looking at the words. ‘This writing is tiny. How do you pronounce that bit?’
‘What bit? Prograenzhun?’
‘What the hell does that mean?’
‘It’s just a word.’
‘OK. Progranny-pants lu -’
‘It’s not granny-pants. Prograenzhun, say it again.’
‘Now say the whole thing whilst making the arm movement.’
Siobhan adjusted her grip on the wand, and looked straight ahead. ‘Sumo Prograenzhun Lumi,’ she said, snapping her arm forward.
‘You mispronounced another word. It’s loo-mee, not loo-mi.’
‘Oh, what difference does it make?’
‘It makes a lot of difference,’ Warloc said, gesticulating.
‘Fine, fine!’ she glowered. ‘Sumo Prograenzhun Lumi,’ she said as clearly as she could. She snapped her arm forward. This time, she felt the wand move and splutter.
‘Try again,’ Warloc urged, standing over her shoulder.
Siobhan said the words again, willing them to work. And this time it happened. The wand gave a definite jerk between her fingers, and five sparks flew out the end.
‘Yay!’ Siobhan squeaked. ‘Is that what’s supposed to happen?’
‘It is,’ Warloc said, almost smiling.
‘Yay!’ she squeaked again.
Warloc tilted his head on one side, as if listening, then nodded to himself. ‘I think Gargantuum is here,’ he said. Siobhan shut the book while he opened the front door. Warloc stepped outside, and she quickly followed.
Standing outside was a man. He had dark red hair and the beginnings of a beard. He wore a woollen cardigan and dark green trousers. He looked normal enough, except for his impressive height of five and a half meters. He knelt down to get a closer look at Siobhan, who waved. She’d had a go in the bath a few days ago, but her uniform, which she’d been wearing for a week, was still a problem. For now, she’d changed into her P.E. kit, which had still been in her bag.
‘Hello!’ Gargantuum said, wiggling his fingers at her. ‘And who are you?’
‘My name’s Siobhan,’ Siobhan said waving. ‘And you’re a friend of Warloc’s?’
Gargantuum nodded. He looked at her contemplatively. ‘Red hair and freckles. Well, your Mageliness, I’m sorry for doubting you,’ he said, turning his head to Warloc. ‘Siobhan... now how would you spell that?’
Siobhan answered. ‘S-I-O-B-H-A-N.’’
Gargantuum thought, and then his face split into a wide grin. ‘Aha, now that is a lie. I don’t mind though, it’s not too important. But spelling and things do interest me. Can’t read too well, but I know the alphabet, so I like to just, you know, learn a few words now and then, whenever I can. Names, places, objects, things like that. Can you read?’
‘I can,’ Siobhan answered.
‘Well done. I don’t know what things are like where you come from, but over here,’ Gargantuum said, getting into the conversation, ‘not many people learn to read. Not anymore, anyway. Warloc can read. He has to; most of his Magely studying comes from books.’
‘He must have been studying a lot since you’ve been here. Do you like it here?’
I do. But... I miss my family and everything,’ Siobhan admitted.
‘I don’t really associate with my family,’ Gargantuum confided. ‘They’re all proper giants. They walk around most of the time, roaring and fighting and letting their beards grow. All giants have beards, even the women. I try to keep mine trimmed down, but it just keeps growing. Look at it now!’
Siobhan peered at the stubble round his jaw. It looked a bit longer than before.
‘How often do you have to shave it?’ she asked. Warloc stood idly beside her, looking impatient.
‘About once every two hours. I had a razor made for me. So, Siobhan, what brings you here?’
‘He dragged me through a portal.’
‘Gateway,’ Warloc corrected.
‘Aha. I take it this is a gateway you didn’t summon, Warloc?’
‘No,’ he replied. ‘Unfortunately.’
‘Have you been treating her well?’ Gargantuum asked, feeling his stubble.
‘As well as could be expected,’ Warloc said curtly.
‘He made me sleep on the floor and failed to point out where the toilet was.’
‘Ah. Just as I suspected.’
‘I’m not that bad,’ Warloc protested.
‘Your Mageliness, as a friend it’s my job to tell you when you’re being a complete clag-head. You should be nicer to your guests; I have a feeling two years of living alone has made you forget your -’
‘Stop right there,’ Warloc warned, but it was too late.
‘Two years?’ Siobhan asked. ‘So someone else was living in your house.’
‘No, no, no,’ Warloc said. ‘There was nobody. It’s, er... I had a pet. But it died, er, two years ago.’
‘What?’ Gargantuum asked. ‘Oh, grow up, Warloc.’
‘You have a pet,’ Siobhan reminded him. ‘Hurley, wasn’t it?’
‘Oh, mind your own business. Garg, do NOT tell her anything. And there isn’t anything,’ he said, pointing at them both. He turned round and went back inside.
‘Don’t mind him,’ Gargantuum said. ‘He gets a lot of bad moods.’
They stood in silence for a bit. Gargantuum peered absentmindedly over the tops of the trees, and Siobhan wondered what to say. What did people normally talk about when they first met?
‘What music do you listen to?’ she asked without thinking.
‘Music? Oh, we don’t have music very often. Certainly not in Giant County. But sometimes I’ll come here and hide in the trees – people don’t like giants, you see – and they’ll sit round a fire and play music then.’
‘What sort of music?’
‘There’s only one sort of music – the music sort of music.’
‘What’s it like where you come from? Where was it again?’
‘England. We have all sorts – there’s rap, R&B, pop, er, screamo, rock, classical...’
‘All strange words,’ Gargantuum smiled. ‘Can you describe any of it to me?’
Siobhan thought. ‘Well, not really. I, er, might have my MP3 with me, hang on.’
She went inside. Warloc was sitting on his chair, glasses on and reading a book. He still looked moody. Without saying a word to him, she located her school bag, rooted inside and dug out her MP3 player and speakers. She ran outside.
‘OK,’ she said, flicking though the songs. ‘I dunno if you’ll be able to hear this, the speakers aren’t very good, but... OK, here’s a nice gentle one.’
Gargantuum bent lower to the ground to hear what was playing.
‘Good old Queen,’ Siobhan grinned.
Warloc’s giant friend seemed to enjoy it, and by the end he was thoroughly caught up in the song.
‘That’s good!’ he said. ‘I’ve never heard anything like it.’
‘Glad you like it,’ Siobhan said. ‘I’ve got some more Queen on there, bit of Take That, some Avril Lavigne and Eminem. I don’t really like those last few but, er, I have them on there so I can sing along, practice for Choir, you know.’
‘It’s a group of people at my school, we all get together and sing, and perform in front of our parents at the end of the year. The year elevens get to go and perform in Madrid, but I’ll be lucky if I can afford to go.’
‘Wow. Would you sing some for me?’
‘Oh. Er, no, I don’t really...’
Siobhan looked up at him, bemused. ‘Well, I... OK. Well, this is one we have to practice, um... OK. Chill out, what you yelling for, lay back; it’s all been done before. And if you could only let it be, you would seeeeeee.’ She stopped, hoping that would be enough.
‘Sing some more!’
‘I don’t want to, I don’t like that song.’
‘Please, you’re really good!’
‘No, I won’t. Look. You go and listen to this,’ she said, holding the MP3 and speaker attachment up above her heard. Gargantuum gingerly took it. ‘It’s set to play all the songs, but if you want to hear a song again, press,’ she pointed, ‘THAT button to go back, and THAT button to switch it on and off.’
‘Alright,’ Gargantuum said, looking at the device in his hands, clearly bamboozled. ‘Well, I suppose I should go and trim my beard.’
Siobhan looked at his face. There was a definite beard emerging. She nodded. ‘It was good talking to you,’ she said. ‘I should probably go back in. Warloc’s agreed to teach me magic.’
‘Really?’ Gargantuum said. His eyebrows shot skywards.
‘Yes! I’ve been doing magic, sort of, back in England, so he’s giving me some training. We don’t really know how long I’m going to be here, so...’
‘I see. Well, I’ll just borrow this then,’ he said, waving the MP3 in the air. He wiggled his fingers at her again. ‘It was good meeting you.’
‘You too,’ Siobhan said as he straightened up and left. She shrugged and went inside.
Later that day, Siobhan took her school uniform up to the bathroom, filled the bath with hot water and used a paddle to swirl them around. She did this until she felt sure they were clean, and then draped them over the side of the bath to dry. She didn’t really want to risk using Warloc’s various potions on them, in case they made her clothing catch fire every time she sat down in them, or something.
She also managed to find an interesting book down the back of the big blue bath. It was called ‘The Other Places’ and it was about the appearance of people who claimed to be from another world. People like her.
From what she read, there had been more than a few appearances of strange people in Augura. One of them had been Arthur. He’d fallen through a gateway to Augura, carrying a collapsible metal table, a mirror, some vegetable seed packets and a new pair of leather shoes. Apparently he’d been to town, picked up a few things at a car boot sale and was on his way home when the portal opened.
The people of Augura had welcomed him initially. He’d been lucky enough to land in the Enchanted Woodland and had met a group of elves, who were very hospitable creatures. They’d taught him how to hunt non-vicious animals and gather fruit. He’d given them carrots and cabbage, the concept of leather shoes, and assorted phrases from Britain, like ‘Please,’ Thanks’, ‘That’s rubbish’, ‘Shut up’, and ‘Ta very much, old bean’.
Unfortunately he never found a way back home. An elf had gone to walk to Wizard County with him, presumably to get a Wizard powerful enough to recreate the portal. But Arthur had had a heart attack and died on the way there.
After his death, the people of Augura started making shoes out of Mooz skins (whatever they were), and the phrases he had used were adopted into everyday language. The metal he’d brought with him was reproduced magically and now used on a very small scale, but Siobhan suspected the idea hadn’t really caught on yet.
Another person who’d come from Britain was Manny. He’d been posting a letter in Fife when a portal had opened beside him. He’d arrived in the Rider District, where dragon tamers lived. He’d stayed in Augura for a week before a dragon ate him. He’d managed to introduce them to plastic drinking straws, but they didn’t really have the necessary materials to recreate them. There were still a few straws on display somewhere in the Imperial Palace.
She’d brought the book downstairs, and, as she’d thought, Warloc had been thoroughly perusing it.
‘Very interesting book,’ he told her. ‘Most of them turned up without any magical help. It can’t be that unusual, gateways opening by themselves. Of course I don’t mean people haven’t turned up before as a result of Wizards opening a gateway.’
‘How long have people been turning up in Augura?’
‘I really don’t know. It’s a big book, so I’d say a long while,’ Warloc said. ‘I haven’t read it all yet.’
‘I might. In fact, when they next publish it, you could be one of the listed persons.’
Warloc shut his own book and put it down. He peered out the window. It was getting late again, and Siobhan yawned. Warloc, meantime, was putting a log on the fire. He seemed to be taking Gargantuum’s advice on being nice to Siobhan, but was still retaining some of his grumpiness. He chucked his cloak over to Siobhan, who snuggled down underneath it.
‘Go to sleep,’ he told her. ‘I’ve got plans for tomorrow, and we both need to rest.’