Patti Posted March 1 Share Posted March 1 First 2 chapters introduce setting, main protagonist and main antagonist, set tone and foreshadow the primary conflict. Create sympathy for the protagonist as he tries to “save the cat.” CHAPTER ONE Behind the cover of a tree, Olaf watched the humans soar through the night on their broomstick. The baby’s laughter had attracted him—distracted him from foraging for food. It sounded like the chirping of baby birds, even sweeter than blueberries. The adult female carried the baby, and a hunk of metal which glinted in the moonlight. She was tall, taller than Olaf when he stood on his hind legs. She had a lot of unruly orange fur on top of her head. The male steered. He had a big, round belly. Like Olaf. He, too, must be storing food for the long winter. As Olaf was a bear and had no need to sweep floors, he had never seen a broomstick before. But his best friend Essex was a curious red fox. She, too, was not fond of cleaning, but liked to spy on the nearby humans in the dwellings surrounding the park. She had told him of witches flying on broomsticks—at least, on the TV. This one slowed, descended, and landed in the meadow. Right near the great black tupelo. Which shook its branches sadly, as if it knew what those humans were up to. Olaf shoved a pawful of blueberries in his mouth, and kept watching. Why were these boneheaded humans here? What boneheaded thing were they about to do? It wasn’t safe for humans to be in the park after dark. Even were they not fighting amongst each other, the human species was in general unreasonable. Prone to violence. A human could be lurking here right now. Just waiting for other, careless humans to happen along with their precious baby. Good thing they’d happened by where Olaf happened to be tonight, so should something happen, he could protect their baby. And them, he added, somewhat grudgingly. He had good reason not to like—not to trust—humans. But the baby—like all species’ babies—was weak and vulnerable. The adult male at least had the sense to keep looking about. Probably watching out for bears . . . bears like Olaf. Or other humans. Who, if they were in the park after dark, were likely up to something shady. Essex had taught him that human expression. Olaf didn’t understand what doing morally questionable things had to do with shade from a tree, which was cool and refreshing on a hot day. But then, Olaf really didn’t understand humans. They dismounted. The male slung the stick over his back by its strap and took the baby off the female. They shuffled down the woodchip footpath into the woods. Olaf left the blueberry bush, and followed. CHAPTER TWO Harvey and Mabel hated each other. They had used to be in love. Funny, how that worked! At this precise moment, Harvey specifically hated his wife for her plan, and himself for going along with it. Filming the baby in distress, here in the darkness of Central Park. The baby they’d stolen, the daughter of Chief Detector Damon Thomas, the head of New York’s Magic Detection Unit. “We won’t actually hurt the baby,” Mabel had said. “We’ll just frighten him we’ll hurt it.” Harvey wasn’t sure the ends justified the means. He’d grumbled, but given in. Mabel was a much more powerful witch than he, and had repeatedly threatened, over the years, to turn him into a frog. He didn’t think she was actually that powerful. But you never knew what was possible, and Harvey wasn’t about to push his luck. He peered into the dark between the trees, shrubs and rock outcrops. Few ventured into the wilderness of the Ramble anymore. The park hadn’t quite reached its 70s nadir, but after peaking after fifty years had woefully declined only a decade later. This area was called Muggers’ Woods for a reason. Anyone in the park after dark was likely up to no good. Like, uh, him and Mabel. A horrible noise! Harvey jumped—ready to defend himself—and the baby— Eh, it was only an owl. Mabel hadn’t even noticed. He cursed the owl, and silently cursed himself for even being out here. He hated being in the park at night. The eeriness, the creepy sense something from the Other Side would suddenly emerge, to punish him for all the terrible things he had done . . . and was about to do now. The owl hooted again, angrily, as if it had understood him. Which was ridiculous. He was losing his mind. Even Mabel glanced worriedly about. She claimed everything had sentience: the trees, the animals, even the rocks. It was best not to arouse ill will, so she and Harvey needed to act ‘nonchalant.’ “We’re just out for a nighttime stroll with our baby . . .” she loudly proclaimed. “Who we love a lot . . .” “Whom.” “Oh, do shut up, Harvey.” Mabel looked around furtively, and softened her tone. “Heh heh, just a little fond banter with my husband, whom I love . . .” He glanced sidelong at her. All seven feet of her. It wasn’t that she was bad-looking. He wasn’t sure she was particularly good-looking, either, but she certainly was striking. Flaming, frizzy hair. A wide mouth he’d once enjoyed kissing. A nose, long and crooked, seemingly undecided whether to snub you or poke itself into your business. But over time, with so much hatred spewing from that mouth . . . Imagining it now, it’d be like kissing a frog. Gross! What if Mabel actually could turn him into a frog? What if the spell backfired, and turned her into a frog instead? Eh, who was he kidding. Spells backfiring was a Harvey thing. The only thing he was any good at was flying. Which was why he’d had to lug her here . . . all seven feet of her. They stepped off the dirt path, over the wire fencing and into the dense undergrowth. He looked back down at the baby, which was gazing at the trees with awe and wonder, and waving. He stared at the trees . . . through them, almost. The Delacorte Theater stood not far from here. He’d enjoyed many of the Bard’s plays, in the years the theater was still hosting free ‘Shakespeare in the Park.’ Macbeth was his favorite. The drama. The violence. That weak, pathetic thane, totally led around by the nose by his—hey, wait a minute . . . Mabel yanked the baby out of his hands and shoved the video camera at him. She knelt before a clearing, by a trio of trees—a birch, a maple, a holly. He waited while she propped the baby up against the trunk of the maple. It gurgled and waved its tiny hands, smiling up at him. He glanced away, too ashamed to look it in the eye. Wild eyes seemed to stare back at him through the trees. Shivering, he jerked his gaze away. Mabel stepped back and pulled her wand from her pocket. The wind howled. Harvey set the camera to recording. “By the might of the moon and stars—” She swirled the wand above her head. A blue ember of light glowed at the tip. “Chief Detector Thomas, you will release all incarcerated witches—” “Actually,” said Harvey, “Gertrude Gawfersheen hexed that poor innocent traffic cop. She had double-parked, and not for the first time. Now every time he cuts his beard, it grows twice as fast. Last week he tripped over it and broke his—” “Oh, do shut up, Harvey.” Mabel glowered and lowered her wand. The blue light faded. Harvey stopped the recording and started over, grumbling. It wasn’t like Mabel actually cared about their magical brethren rotting behind bars. But the Conflict Resolution Department—especially the Magic Detection Unit—was scapegoating them all, and something did have to be done about it. Mabel raised her wand. “By the might of the moon and stars—” Blue flames coiled, waiting to strike. “Chief Detector Thomas, you will release all unfairly incarcerated witches, end harassment of magic-competents, and dismantle the Magic Detection Unit. Or . . . your only child . . .” “Dum-dum-duuuuuuum . . .” hummed Harvey. Mabel shot him a dirty look before refocusing on the baby. “Will pay the price!” The ball of blue light erupted. It rushed at the baby—enveloping it with cold— It didn’t scream. It didn’t cringe. It laughed. A pleasing sound, thought Harvey. Like the chirping of his boyhood pet bird, Burt. The ball of cold light rushed at Mabel. She screamed. (Also a pleasing sound, thought Harvey.) Mabel flicked her wrist and deflected the spell. It dissolved into the dirt, freezing a tiny puddle of evening rain. She stared at the baby. “His offspring—it’s . . . it’s a magic-competent!” Harvey snorted. “Didn’t see that coming.” “But how . . . how can it know how to deflect a spell? At this age?” “Ha! I mean, strange.” Harvey hid a grin, and busied himself with pretending to delete the video footage. (He was planning to listen to that scream over and over again.) Mabel scowled and aimed her wand—repeating the incantation to the heavens as Harvey began recording . . . repeating the threats . . . the demands— Shoots of blue flame spat out into the night. Onto the ground, freezing the earth as they travelled toward the baby. . . enveloping tiny toes . . . The baby giggled, as if the cold had merely tickled. The flames swerved and surged toward Mabel. On guard this time, she deftly deflected them, up and around, striking the baby from the flanks of the tree— The baby gurgled with pleasure. The blue shoots fizzled and dissolved into the ground. “Make it stop, Harvey, distract it in some way!” “Sure. Start over.” He began a new recording, and made funny faces at the baby as Mabel launched another spell. The baby laughed, as if Harvey were the funniest thing it had ever seen. (As it was pretty new to this Earth, he probably was.) The cold rays melted. “Huh. That sure worked.” “You made it laugh on purpose!” “You said to distract it!” “You know what I meant!” “What does it mean, to know a thing? As Socrates said—” “Oh, do shut up, Harvey!” Olaf heard the humans arguing, but didn’t understand what about. Although he always hid from humans—so far his existence in the park had gone unnoticed—he was concerned for the baby. Clad in only a diaper, it was surely cold. As the humans’ arm-waving and foot-stomping and even a spiteful kick or two caused them to shuffle farther away, not sounding like the chirping of baby birds at all, Olaf followed, getting closer than he’d ever dared. He growled to get their attention. Harvey froze. That did not sound like an owl. He chanced a glance back, and stumbled in fright. He grabbed onto the sleeve of Mabel’s robe to stop himself from falling onto the hard ground. She tried to shrug him off but he held on, righting himself. “What the—let go, Harvey!” Obviously she hadn’t seen the huge black— “Bear!” he managed to get out, right before tripping over a rock and falling onto his face, his broomstick plunking him on the back of the head. What a boneheaded move coming here had turned out to be! He lifted his chin off a patch of some sort of . . . animal dung?!? Gross! . . . Just in time to see Mabel brandish her wand, and fire a blast of ice. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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