Tiffy was delighted. The land may be at war, the fortress soon to be under attack, Clover in danger and Brandon seemed very much insane in his youth, but she was still happy, if not quite delighted. She got to make a potion, and there was nothing quite like making a successful potion. Sewing paled immensely in comparison. And since Brandon had put her in charge of the task, she right away began taking full advantage of this nice little source of temporary power.
“Chris, Lance, you’re with me. We’ll go to the kitchen.” She marched her pretty little frame across the room and out the door so quickly that the two brothers only had time to turn around and watch. She stopped just as she entered the hallway and called back. “Right this way boys, come along, hurry now!”
The Mightfords followed hastily, and Roary came out from behind Alister’s legs and ambled after them. Curiosity is not only reserved for cats. Besides, he thought it might be a nice break from the general boredom of the last few days to watch the little magician mixing mysterious potions. For this dog, sarcasm not only influenced what he said but also why he did things.
“Weren’t you going to go catch that evil hooded magician Senny?” he asked the military man as he passed by him, not waiting for a response. Senny snapped his feet together and rushed out of the room.
Tiffy entered the kitchen, and addressing the the one overweight cook and her two skinny assistants who were washing dishes in the corner, informed them of her task and ordered them to stay out of her way, which they currently already were. She then perched herself on the big wooden table and gestured for the Chris and Lance to sit on stools across from her.
“Now, did you create the potion?”
“Well, yes,” said Chris, “Er, no. Actually, I watched this old fellow make it. And,” he continued quickly as he saw that Tiffy had begun to frown, “he explained to me everything he put in. There weren’t very many ingredients.”
“Well, alright,” said Tiffy, “what were they?”
“Ok, let me see,” Chris took off his hat to think then promptly dropped it on the ground in order to tick things off on his fingers, “it sort of rhymed. Grass makes it green. And three sweet beans. A handful of chicory leaves, and…” he paused for a very long time, quietly repeating to himself, “leaves, leaves, leaves, leaves…” Tiffy almost interrupted three times but every time she leaned forward to do so Lance would gesture wildly for her to wait. Finally, Chris spoke again, “A handful of chicory leaves, and grind eight black glass beads.” he said triumphantly and continued with confidence. “Three rings of a bell and one miss-spell.”
“Miss-spell?” asked Tiffy. “What’s that?”
“That’s the most important ingredient, apparently. The old man got very excited and kept saying things like, ‘now this is the active ingredient’, ‘very hard to get, miss-spells.’”
“Well, what is it?”
“Apparently, you have to get someone who is really good—I mean like notoriously good—at spelling to misspell a word. Then you put that miss-spelled word, parchment and all, into the potion.”
“Hmm,” said Tiffy, not at all disheartened by this new challenge. “Notorious, eh? Do you mean famously?”
“No, I mean notorious. After all, nobody likes a good speller. They make the rest of us look bad.”
Tiffy laughed at that and Roary snorted.
“But where to find someone notoriously good at spelling..? I’d say my uncle, as he’s driven people crazy with his correct spellings, but he’s currently cooling his jets in an igloo somewhere in the far north and it would take days to reach him. He's an inventor, actually--of top class variety, but I distract myself. It would take too long to reach him as we have mere hours to make this potion.”
“Umm,” said Lance unhelpfully, “Ummmmm…”
Chris glared at him and his shut his big jaw with a little snap of teeth. Then Chris spoke, just as unhelpfully, “I can’t think of anyone either. The old guy, I guess he must have been a wizard of some sort, didn’t mention who he’d gotten to mis-spell for him.”
“Well, you’re not going to like this idea,” said Roary slowly, “actually, I hate this idea so much I might as well draw and quarter myself as suggest it.” He stopped talking, apparently having decided not to share his idea.
“Go on Roary, what’s your idea? It can’t be that bad,” said Tiffy.
“No, it’s worse.”
“Tell me. It’s not like we have to take your suggestion. So you aren’t responsible for it.”
“Yes I am.”
“This is brainstorming… everyone has to share,” she wasn’t going to let him off the hook.
“Alright,” said Raory, reluctantly. The thing to note here is how much ‘reluctantly’ is an understatement. “I’ve heard it told that the awful Kewn Guire is a notoriously good speller. Apparently, not that long ago, he was so desperate to have someone to have a spelling bee with that he actually offered all his prisoners the opportunity to compete with him. And if they won, they would win their freedom.”
“Did he actually free any of them?” Tiffy asked eagerly.
“No,” said Roary, “Kewn was too good and won every game.”
“Well,” said Tiffy brightly, “I don’t see why that is such a terrible idea!”
“I was afraid you wouldn’t,” said Roary under his doggy breath.
“I’ll just have to disguise myself and go to him and challenge him to a written spelling bee!" said Tiffy. "Then I have to give him a word he can’t spell, and he’ll write it down misspelled, and I just skip home and pop it in the mix and Brandon’s your uncle!”
“No he isn’t,” said both Chris and Roary at once.
“No he—” Lance began half a second late, then fell silent.
“But that’s beside the point.” Tiffy leapt up onto the table and turned her back to them. She did a strange little dance and blue sparks crackled around her dress and she seemed to be growing taller. When she turned back to them, instead of Tiffy, there was a tall man in a dark blue suit with a long white beard that flowed all the way down to his toes. The old man thumbed his beard thoughtfully and looked down at them. “Terrin Endorius, master of words and letters at your service,” said the deep voice of the man who was Tiffy.
Lance and Chris responded with silent dropped jaws. The cook and her assistants had stopped washing dishes and were watching eagerly as if this were some form of new entertainment. You have to admit that people changing their entire appearance before your eyes, with lots of bright blue sparks for effect is a lot more interesting than most television shows, and these folks didn’t even know what a television was.
Roary just ran his pink tongue along his droopy lip and said, “no, too stereotypical, try something else.”
“Ok,” said Terrin Endorius, clearly a bit disappointed, and he turned his back on them, his impressive cape obscuring his body. There were more blue sparks and the figure on the table shrunk again. When Tiffy turned around again, there was a boy with wide, pleasant features, freckles on his nose, tussled blonde hair covering his ears and a big grin on his face. “Tif’s the name and spellings the game!” the boy exclaimed, and then laughed loudly.
“Where are you from, Tif?” Raory took seriously his assumed role of ‘tester-of-disguise.’
“From the fields by the Fray Mountains. Never was good at much—always getting’ in ta trouble. Then, one day, I discovered that I cin spell! Believe it? Little me, little good-for-nothin’ cin spell like no tomorrow! And I heard that you were soon to be takin’ over the ol’ fields where I live, and I heard that you cin spell too. And so I said to myself. 'Maybe, Tif, you should take yerself over to Master Kewn and challenge him to a good ol’ fashioned writtin spellin’ bee.
"An if you so happen to win—he can promise not to hurt yer ma and pa and ta let them have their littl’ spit of land!' I’ll show them ‘good for nothin’.”
“That will do,” interrupted Raory before the boy could natter on any more. “But you may want to drop some of the mispronunciations, so that he won’t suspect that you can spell as well as you can pronounce.”
“Naw, I think the unlikelihood of it all makes it all that much more believable,” said Tif—Tiffy. “Well, I must be off to see a villan. In my absence, Roary and Chris—no, never mind, Cook!” she called over to the cook who came at once.
“Could you see to gathering a pot of boiling water, a bushel of fresh green grass, a handful of chicory leaves, eight black glass beads and a small silver bell? Roary, Chris and Lance will help you. Now, I must be off! Wish me luck!” And with that the boy who was Tiffy dashed out of the kitchen and off to the stables to find himself a horse.