Billy Ballabriggs; The World's Worst Sorcerer

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic


Billy Ballabriggs dreams of becoming the world's greatest sorcerer. There's just one problem. . .

Submitted: May 14, 2018

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Submitted: May 14, 2018

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Billy Ballabriggs was the worst sorcerer in the world.

His journey to mediocrity started when he was six-years old when he stole his father’s staff to magic himself a new pet cat after his last one, Mittens, was tragically killed by an enchanted washing machine. All he had wanted was a little friend to play with and to occasionally chase his bigger brother away whenever he was being teased.

The funeral of Richard Ballabriggs had taken place later that week. He had been eaten by a lion.

The next indication of his inevitable pathway to permanent poorness came during his first ever date with a lady. He was sixteen-years old, scruffy haired, scruffy clothed and perpetually awkward, yet for some reason Eliza Ramtinkle had seen fit to accept his hastily written and poorly spelt invitation to the Friers’ Ball.

It had been the most intoxicating moment of his life, seeing Eliza dressed in a lovely purple robe, waiting at the doorstep to her house for his arrival. He was a romantic at heart; he had seen Love Actually at least twelve times. To show how much he appreciated her giving him this chance, he had delved deep into his magic powers in an attempt to create something that he knew girls would like. Something cute. Something fluffy. Something girly.

The funeral of Eliza Ramtickle had taken place three days later. She had been eaten by a pink lion.

And the third and final occasion, by which point even his dear sweet nana was begging him to give up the sorcery and become an accountant, had come only days ago. He had been cornered on his way home from the comic book store by a gang of young goblins, lead by none other than the meanest young goblin of them all. James. James the Goblin.

He had been chased. He had never been athletically inclined, and goblins were naturally quick on their feet. In his panic he had stumbled down an alleyway until he had reached the dead end. If he had been perceptive and had checked the road sign, he might have guessed where ‘Dead End’s Avenue’ might have got its name from and the inevitable predicament he would quickly find himself in. James had cackled, saying something about his father not being around to protect him this time.

So Billy had closed his eyes. Reached deep within himself for something strong and powerful. Something fierce that would be able to beat the goblins up, maybe even eat them! No one would miss them after all. He had glowed as his magic had been released.

There had been no lion, and both Billy Ballabriggs, and an innocent penguin, had spent the next four days in the hospital.

Now, he was sitting patiently outside the office of his father, face still bruised and purple, but functional. Several employees hurried past, each giving him a look of disapproval or disappointment, or it may well have been a pleasant glance? His eyes still barely opened.

The door to his father’s office opened and the blurry outline of Sandra appeared before him.

“He’ll see you now Billy.”

Billy winced as he got to his feet and limped into his father’s office, a place he had only been in once before. That time hadn’t been much fun either.

His father was sitting beside his desk, hands clasped. A quill was moving beside him. Billy kept his head down as he moved to sit opposite his father. He heard the door shut behind him, and all was silent, save for the scratching of the quill. When it finally stopped writing and lowered itself to the surface of the table, Reginald Ballabriggs began to speak.

“I just got off the phone with the penguin’s lawyer,” said Reginald. “He has decided that an out of court settlement will suffice. Two hundred herring and tickets to see Madonna.”

“That’s reasonable,” Billy croaked.

“Reason has nothing to do with it,” his father muttered cryptically.

“Is this why you called me to your office?” asked Billy, a faint glimmer of hope churning within.

“Of course not,” replied Reginald with a bite. “I’ve called you in so you can explain to me how this ridiculous situation even came about.”

So Billy proceeded to explain what had happened on Dead Man’s Avenue. He omitted nothing, for he was sure that his father could read minds anyway, and he was too scared to even consider lying. When he had finished, he reached for the jug of water.

“Goblins,” growled Reginald, “have no magical powers. There are unlimited ways in which you could have subdued them.”

“I know,” said Billy glumly.

“A simple mind disorder trick would’ve done the job,” his father went on. “Why didn’t you try that?”

“The last time I tried that,” said Billy miserably, “Gulliver ended up in a constant state of desperate confusion as to how scone is pronounced. Doesn’t know what to believe anymore. He’s not been the same since.”

Reginald gave his son a cold, hard look. To dissipate the tension, Billy reached for a Werther’s Original. He forgot to unwrap it.

His father sighed.

“William,” he said. “This isn’t an easy thing for me to do. I know how much you love doing sorcery. But there comes a time when I have to consider what is best for both you and those around you. Today it’s a penguin. Tomorrow it could be someone, or something, far more serious.”

Billy continued to chew, his heartbeat rising.

“That is why, having talked it over with your mother, I have decided to take away your provisional sorcery license.”

Billy swallowed.

“This does not have to be a permanent arrangement,” said his father, holding his hands up. “We will reintroduce you to the world of magic in incremental, structured stages, so that episodes like these do not continue to occur. If, and when, I am satisfied that you have control over your powers, then your license will be reinstated.”

Billy’s head dropped to the ground. His face screwed up.

“Do you disagree with this course of action?”

Billy disagreed with the action. Disagreed with his entire being. His insides were roiling. He could feel the magic below the surface, threatening to burst. He wanted to turn his father into a profiterole.

“No sir.”

Reginald grunted, before looking back down at his papers as the quill leapt up once again.

“I have nothing more to say,” said Reginald, with a hint of regret in his voice. “You are dismissed.”

Billy rose mechanically, turned, and hobbled towards the door, which opened by itself. As soon as he was clear of the building, he began to cry.

 

*** 

 

For the next few days, Billy had wallowed in misery and self-pity. He had few friends, and most of those he did have had done well in their schooling and were now out in the big wide world, pursuing all manner of reputable careers. Except for Jacklin who, for some reason, had always dreamed of being a professional scarecrow. Still, he had achieved his life ambition, something that was now seemingly denied for Billy. His one good friend left in town, Casper the Friendly Gremlin, sat beside him in the park as they munched down on a picnic of snacks.

“It could be worse,” said Casper brightly. “You now have the opportunity to do anything you want. Your father has always expected you to join the family business. Now you don’t have to!”

“But I want to,” said Billy. “I really do.”

“I’ve only heard good things about accountants,” said Casper. “They’re very knowledgeable and are very good at taking constructive criticism on the chin.”

“But I don’t want to be an accountant,” Billy moaned. “I want to be a sorcerer.”

“Oh Billy,” said Casper. “I wish there was more I could do to cheer you up.”

“Thanks Cas,” said Billy, “but unless you know of a way that I can prove to my father that I can do magic, right now, I’m afraid that might be quite difficult.”

“Hmm,” said Casper, scratching his furry chin. “Well, there is the Isle of Preznan Festival. There’s a magic tournament that takes place. Loads of different types of magic people enter. It’s one of the highlights, along with the dragon races, the giant wrestling and the coconut shy.”

“I’ve never heard of that.”

“Oh don’t worry about it,” said Casper, patting Billy on the shoulders. “There are probably hundreds of things that you know that I don’t!”

“Probably,” replied Billy, as he felt a drop of rain fall onto his head. Casper looked upwards.

“Oh fiddlesticks,” he sighed, before he unleashed a giant umbrella that completely covered him.

“If I win the magic tournament,” said Billy, as Casper struggled with his waterproof jacket,” then there’ll be no doubt that I am skilled. My father will have to give me my license back. I might even get a full one!”

“Yeah, maybe,” said Casper. “I think it’s a great idea!”

“I’ll tell him tonight,” said Billy, rising to his feet and allowing the sweet wrappers to fall to the ground. “I’ll see you later Cas.”

Casper coughed indignantly. When Billy looked back towards him, Casper was looking pointedly the ground, then back up at Billy. Billy rolled his eyes and began to collect the wrappers.

“A clean world is a happier world!” said Casper, beaming.

 

*** 

 

A few hours later, and Billy’s heart was once again hammering as he, his father and his mother sat around the dinner table. His father seemed to be in an amiable mood, which could only be a good thing to help with what Billy was going to ask. His mother had done most of the talking. She, too, was a sorceress of considerable skill. The entire meal had been prepared by a highly skilled standing lamp.

When the meal reached its natural conclusion, and Reginald leant back in his seat with a satisfied sigh, Billy cleared his throat.

“Father?”

“Yes William.”

“I -,” he began, before glancing at his mother, who was looking at him intently.

“Come now William,” said Reginald. “Get to it.”

Billy looked back to his father, before taking a deep breath.

“I want to enter the magic tournament on the Isle of Preznan so I can win the tournament so that I can prove that I’m actually good at magic and then you’ll give me back my license.”

His mother raised her saucer to her lips, as Reginald placed his hands behind his head.

“The Isle of Preznan?”

“Yes father,” said Billy. “Casper told me about it today. If I can win the tournament, then –“

“You wouldn’t win the tournament.”

Billy clapped his mouth shut as his father leant forward.

“The prize on offer is the Preznan Globe and is one of the most sought after accolades in the world of sorcery. It attracts all manner of highly skilled, experienced sorcerers, conjurers and tricksters, as well as Timothy the Troll who enters every year for some reason. You would not stand a chance.”

“How do you know that?” said Billy, surprised at how his voice had risen.

“Because no winner of the tournament has ever accidentally turned their grandfather into a clothes rack.”

Billy looked helplessly at his mother, but she gave a gentle shake of the head. Perhaps thinking of the father she once had.

“So, no, son,” said Reginald firmly. “There will be no Isle of Preznan for –“

“What if we make a deal?”

Reginald glared, most likely at the indignation of being interrupted, but Billy pressed on.

“What if we make a deal?” he repeated. “Something that will mean you cannot lose.”

“This isn’t about winning or losing son,” Reginald growled.

“Just let me tell you?”

Reginald paused for a few moments, glancing at his wife, before exhaling irritably. He gestured with his hand before folding his arms.

“If I win the tournament,” said Billy slowly, “then I get my full magic license. Not a provisional. A full.”

“And if you don’t win?”

“I will never do sorcery again,” said Billy, “and I will become an accountant.”

Reginald snorted, shaking his head with a rueful smile. He looked back up to his son, who was staring at him with every bit of brazenness he could muster.

“You’re actually serious.”

“If I win, then you are safe in the knowledge that you actually have a son who can do what you always wanted him to do. If I lose, I will never embarrass the family name again and nana will be extremely happy. Either way, you win.”

His father paused. If truth be told, Billy was amazed he’d gotten this far. He had expected a flat out refusal and a scalding to boot. The fact that his father was considering –

“Please father.”

“Politeness is not a factor in this consideration,” Reginald muttered.

“Reginald,” came the dulcet tones of his mother, “our son is no longer a boy. He is a man who has just made the first adult decision in his life. Perhaps this is the turning point.”

“You are aware of what he has just said,” said Reginald. “A defeat and no more magic. He has made that vow. The family line –“

“I am aware of this.”

Reginald was beginning to anger, his somewhat pleasant evening somehow nose diving before his eyes.

“I can win it,” said Billy. “I know I can.”

Reginald eyed his son one final time, before placing his elbows on the table.

“If this had been for the Shield of Tortured Mercy, I would naturally and immediately have said no. But the Isle of Preznan is at least fair and well regulated. It is unlikely you would come to any harm.”

Billy’s eyebrows rose, his hopes –

“But I simply cannot allow you to jeopardise your future in magic for such a folly. You will not win the tournament. That is the reason I am saying no. That is the end of this discussion.”

And as if to reiterate the fact, before Billy could even protest, Reginald Ballabriggs rose from the table and exited, without so much as a look to his son and with Billy’s plan in tatters. He looked desperately to his mother, but she too had risen and was having a word with the standing lamp.

There was nothing else to be said.

 

*** 

 

In his bed that night, he tossed and he thrashed, partly from his dreams and partly from his frustration. He was dimly aware that something had been chasing him as he jerked awake. It had either been a centaur, or a rumbling sense of failure and injustice.

He ran his hand through his tangled hair, and with his other, reached for a Werther’s Original. He always kept a small box beside his bed. It was one of the few things he and his father had in common. In his anger and irritation however, he forgot to unwrap it, barely noticing as his mind raced.

He was twenty-years old. He had nothing to show for his tepid existence and had done nothing of value to merit his position. And now his position was being undermined by the very people who had enabled it in the first place. And this was how it was going to continue. Billy could see it already, unravelling before his eyes. He swallowed and pictured himself as a forty-year-old man, still sitting at the family table and begging his aged father to let him use magic to clean his bicycle, for there was no question that he still would not be road legal. It was a frightening scenario.

Something in him steeled, there and then. It would enrage his father and disappoint his mother, but that was already a reality.

If they were not going to let him pursue prestige, he would have to chase it himself.

There was a banging at the window, as the wind caught the little latch and rushed into the room. Billy stomped over to the window and reapplied the tape that was holding window to pane, before replacing the latch.

“Stupid wind,” he muttered, before trudging back over to his bed. He threw himself under the covers and tried to settle, knowing that he had made his mind up. Two minutes later, and he was snoring.

A further minute later, and the wind had disappeared completely, to be replaced with utter stillness.

 

*** 

 

Two weeks later, and Billy had come to the conclusion that he had made the dumbest mistake of his life.

It was Casper who had made it possible. He had cleaned the house of a friendly out witch for several years, and the witch knew a dwarf, who knew a werewolf. This werewolf drove a truck, and had agreed to take the two boys over to the Isle of Preznan, providing Casper would come by to clean his den. Casper happily agreed. Billy had told his mother and father that he was sleeping at Casper’s.

Now, the two of them stood outside the ring, watching as a first-round contest got underway. Casper was more interested in handing out the muffins he had made, but Billy had his eyes glued to the match.

One combatant was a man in slick black robes. The other was a woman with the eyes and poise of a cat. The contest took the form of a duel, with each taking a turn in trying to put the other in an unassailable position or trap. Billy had failed to see how the cat lady would present any magical power.

That was before she had coughed up a series of fur balls and launched them at the other, as if they were throwing knives.

His stomach was on the floor. He watched as the cat leapt, but the wizard had been expecting it. There was a whoosh of wind, strong enough to send the cat woman completely off course, her body twisting in all sorts of positions, her face alarmed. Eventually, she landed on her feet, but it was outside the ring.

“How are you doing friend?” Casper chirped. The box of muffins was completely empty. Billy looked towards his friend, who grimaced.

“Looks to me as though you’ve got the case of the heebie-jeebies!” he said, before he fished into his coat pocket. “Here, have one of these.”

Billy reached his hand into the packet as he diverted his gaze back to the ring, where a giant of a man was limbering up.

“Um, pardon me friend,” said Casper, “but you forgot to unwrap it.”

Billy wasn’t listening. He, like everyone else in the ring, gave a gasp as the behemoth of a man was stomped on by a giant foot that had appeared out of nowhere. When the foot dissipated, only his head was visible, which was looking dazed.

“And our winner,” said the announcer, “by technical magical foot. Miller the Mouse!”

The crowd cheered as a little mouse wearing a wizard’s hat waved towards them, before scurrying off towards his watching mouse family. Billy swallowed.

“And now,” said the announcer, “permit me to introduce our next two combatants. In the red corner, with a degree in magical literature and three entries into the Kremlock Book of Original Spells, please welcome, Pixie Peter!”

There was a cheer as a pixie came drifting into the circle. Almost completely pale but with enormous glasses, he took his place in the centre and settled down on the ground, cross-legged.

“And his opponent in the blue corner. With a kick-ass bandana and a lifetime subscription to Kerrang magazine, please welcome, Billy Ballabriggs!”

There was less of a cheer, but substantial muttering and repetition of his surname as Billy wobbled into the circle. Pixie Peter was eyeing him carefully. Billy stood, unsure whether he should be striking some form of pose.

“Standard rules apply gentlemen. Incapacitation or removal from the ring will result in victory for your opponent. Spells up!”

There was the ring of a bell. Billy braced, but Pixie Peter simply continued to sit.

“You don’t seem like much of a reader,” squeaked the pixie, “so I shall incapacitate you with the greatest spell I possess. The spell, of words!”

There was a puff of smoke. Then Billy watched as a book gently lowered itself into Pixie Peter’s palms. He smiled mischievously as he opened the pages.

“Once upon a time,” he began, “there was a horse called Sugarplum.”

The effect was immediate. Billy felt the world around him grow hazy and his legs begin to sway. Kerrang magazine was the only thing he read. Story books were an unknown entity.

He forced himself to concentrate, even as he yawned. Pixie Peter was a lover of books. His power was in his voice.

It was unerringly simple.

Billy flicked his wrist. A few moments later, and Pixie Peter began to look round in alarm, even as those in the audience fell about themselves with laughter.

His voice had grown several octaves higher. Billy had intended to silence him completely, but this was enough.

“Stop laughing!” Pixie Peter squeaked. “Or I shall curse you all!”

He was distracted. Billy concentrated, desperate to press home his advantage. He clapped his hands, which were immediately engulfed in a puff of smoke. When the smoke cleared, he held in his hands a magnificent tome, pristine and crisp. The cover was laced with real gold.

It had worked! His magic had come to him, in the manner in which he had intended! He looked down at the book, then to the pixie.

“Oh, Petey!”

“What do you want?” Pixie Peter said, but his eyes dropped at the sight of the book.

“Oh,” stammered the pixie. “It’s beautiful.”

“Yes,” said Billy, “yes it is.”

Then he let the book fall open, took hold of a page, and ripped.

“No!” squeaked the pixie. “Stop!”

But Billy didn’t stop. He placed his fingers at the top of the next page and dog-eared them. He summoned a quill from out of thin air and began to draw on the pages. Then, in a final devastating insult, he opened a page at random and began to read.

He ignored all punctuation and inflection on the dialogue.

The pixie was inconsolable. He had dropped to his knees and was practically begging Billy to stop. Billy decided to put the pixie out of his misery.

He willed a dirty puddle to form just outside the ring, and form it did, thick and sticky with mud. Then he launched the book.

Pixie Peter took off, eyes blazing in a furious rage. He leapt and flew through the air, before sprawling himself face down in the mud so that the book landed on his back.

Billy had won.

Just like that. No devastating fireballs. No earthquakes or morphing into dragons.

Just a book, a weakness, and a will.

Casper embraced Billy in a firm hug when they came together again. Billy’s emotions were sky-high, his confidence absolute.

And it didn’t stop there for Billy. He was unstoppable. The next round, he came up against Chef Davidov, whose manipulation with food was unrivalled. Billy had been mind controlled into constantly eating a bowl of macaroni and cheese that never emptied. Billy, stomach full to bursting, finally managed to summon a television that played ‘Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares’ on repeat. Fifteen minutes in, and Davidov stormed out of the ring in a rage.

Next, he came up against Pyrinda, a young sorceress who commanded fire and who was one of the big tournament favourites. Billy had spent most of the contest dodging fireballs, before he finally summoned the rain. Pyrinda responded by attacking with a blue flame that was unaffected by water. Billy called upon a sandstorm to engulf and drown the blue flames. Billy then countered with a fire trick of his own, and gave Pyrinda unbearable heartburn. Pyrinda submitted, bent over in considerable discomfort, and Billy presented her with Gaviscon to make amends.

In the semi-final, he came up against a man simply known as The Cloak. In an unnerving show of power, Billy found himself being wrapped by The Cloak’s own cloak, which had expanded on its own. With his hands and legs tightly bound, all that remained for The Cloak was to roll Billy out of the ring.

But Billy did not need his hands. With his will stretched to its limits, he watched as his long hair grew and grew, eventually wrapping itself round The Cloak, whose face was awash with surprise. It appeared as though it would be a stalemate, with the two opponents both completely restricted. Then both reached for the same ploy, and two pairs of scissors appeared out of nowhere. Billy was one step ahead though, and immediately changed The Cloak’s scissors to a nefarious pair of left-handed scissors! As The Cloak began to panic and fumble, with the scissors not working for him, Billy freed himself from his confinements. Then he swung his hair, and flung the still-trapped Cloak clean out the ring.

With each passing round, his cheer grew louder and louder, and the one that met this victory was the loudest yet. He could barely contain his excitement as he stepped back towards Casper, his hair winding its way back to his scalp.

But even as he did, he began to feel as though something was not right. It was as though his energy was being drained from him. It was as though his body itself dropped a few inches, and the sense of elation that he had felt only seconds earlier was gone completely.

He was still shaken when Casper wrapped him in his arms.

“That was the best yet,” Casper chirped. “I really thought he had you there. You –“

But as he always did, Casper immediately sensed that something was wrong.

“I feel weird, Casp,” said Billy, “as though all of my powers have suddenly gone. Like I’m empty.”

Casper immediately fished into his pocket, and withdrew a crumpled bag of sweets.

“Take one of these,” he said. “The last one seemed to perk you up a lot. Even if you did eat it with the wrapper on.”

“I did?”

“Uh-huh,” said Casper, before jiggling the bag about. “I thought it was a bit weird at the time. Do you always do that?”

“I don’t think so?”

But then it struck him. His Werther’s Originals that sat on the side of his bed were finished. He distinctly remembered checking, moments before he had slipped out and into the werewolf’s van, and had been disappointed to find that there were none left.

Neither were there any discarded wrappers to clean.

Could the secret to true magic be. . .

“Finalists,” boomed the announcer. “Please enter the ring.”

Billy turned shakily. That had seemed a remarkably quick turnaround. He gave Casper one final look of apprehension before moving back towards the ring, with the spectators either side wishing him good fortune.

There, standing in the centre of the ring, was Timothy the Troll, the winner from the other half. He scratched his naked belly and grinned as Billy stepped towards him.

“You look like you seen ghost,” said Timothy.

“I’ll be fine,” Billy muttered, as he readied himself for the bell, shaking the sweat from his eyes. Was it possible to have withdrawal from such fine toffee-flavoured delicacies?

The bell rang. Billy concentrated and considered his opponent as best he could.

Timothy was a troll. Trolls were notoriously clumsy. Billy pointed to the ground and willed it to turn to ice, but instead what he got was a puddle of muddy water. Timothy looked down and furrowed his brow.

“These boots were designer,” he mumbled.

Billy shook his head again. What else did he know about trolls?

Eyesight. Poor eyesight. They spent their lives under bridges. Which meant that he likely could smell and hear really well.

He tried to summon a skunk playing the bagpipes. Instead what popped out of the smoke was a patriotic fox who lead the crowd in a rousing rendition of the National Anthem.

Nothing was working. Timothy the Troll sighed.

“That comedown is real kicker right?”

Billy was just about to start lobbing rocks at the troll when he froze.

“What did you just say?”

“The Werther’s Original wrapper withdrawal,” said Timothy shrugging. “I’ve seen it from many young sorcerers over the years I been to tournament.”

Billy was dumbstruck. Timothy trampled over to where Billy was in two easy steps and leant in so that his voice was not quite a shout.

“But there is big difference between you and those others,” said Timothy. “Those others were frauds. You the real thing. Your magic is real.”

Billy stared up at the troll with wide eyes. The troll grinned.

“Don’t think about toffee,” he said. “Think about magic. It will not let you down.”

Then the troll stepped back and began to roar, his feet thundering against the ground.

“You have til count of five until I come and squash you like a bug,” the troll bellowed. “One. . .”

The battle cry had roused the spectators, who must have been quite confused as to what was going on. Billy looked down to the ground.

“Two!”

Trolls were strong. Billy had no way of removing him from the ring.

“Seven!”

Billy opened his eyes. Trolls were strong. But the earth was even stronger.

“Four!”

Billy reached deep within himself, deeper than he had ever reached before. Magic, power, previously untouched. Raw and relentless.

“Five!”

As Timothy took his first terrifying bound towards him, Billy unleashed.

He had intended for an earthquake to shake the troll from the ring. He had hoped for boulders to appear from the very earth itself.

Neither of those things happened.

There was another roar, far louder than the trolls, as out from the blinding light leapt a magnificent lion, with golden fur and paws the size of bin lids. Timothy stumbled to a halt, eyes wide. Billy could’ve sworn that Timothy had given him a wink, before he turned and ran for his life.

The cheer was immense. They rushed towards him, swamping him with congratulations and several clumsily placed kisses. Eventually he found Casper, who guided him up to the podium where he was presented with his two tokens of victory; the Preznan Silver Globe, and a golden ring stamped with the island’s emblem.

He was in shock. The power had left him drained and woozy, but the adulation he was receiving was enough to keep him standing. Casper, steadfast as always, kept the mob at bay.

“William.”

Billy’s blood froze. Slowly, he turned towards the source of the voice.

His father, Reginald Ballabriggs, was standing with a severe look upon his face. To either side, the spectators and stepped away, almost revering his father as though he were royalty. Reginald strode over to his son in four swift movements. Billy refused to allow his gaze to drop to the ground.

He had made his stance. Now came the consequences.

“You disobeyed me,” Reginald growled. “You disobeyed your mother. You were deceptive and disrespectful. I have grounds to banish you from the Order.”

“I know sir.”

Reginald remained silent for a few moments. Then he sighed, and his face softened.

“You’ve also made me jealous. Let’s face it; yours is far more grandiose than mine.”

Billy cocked his head, and felt his heart skip a beat as Reginald lifted his hand. There, on the middle finger, was a ring, with the emblem of Preznan proudly displayed. Identical to Billy’s.

“You –“

“First thing I ever won,” his father muttered, “and I didn’t do it until I was twenty-one.”

Billy’s breath caught, as Reginald placed both hands on Billy’s shoulders.

“Your license will be reinstated and upgraded to full with premium privilege. You will have all of the appropriate benefits befitting a fully fledged member of the Order. You will also have an office with a window.”

Billy’s mouth dropped, as for the first time in a very long time, Reginald Ballabriggs smiled.

“I am proud of you son.”

 

***

 

It was several hours before they were back on the road to home. Reginald, in an arrogant display of sorcery, disappeared from view with a flourish in front of an adoring crowd. Billy and Casper sat in the back of the werewolf’s van, as Duran Duran played on the stereo.

“Quite an adventure right?” said Casper, who was somehow still as perky as ever.

“Certainly was,” said Billy. “I can’t wait for my bed now though.”

Casper gave a chuckle, as Billy closed his eyes.

“One thing I don’t quite get though,” said Billy.

“Oh?”

“Well,” he continued. “Timothy has come to this tournament for years right? But every year he gets knocked out in the first round. Yet this year he makes it to the final. Don’t you find that a bit strange.”

“Not as strange as you might think.”

Billy frowned, and eased his eyes open to face Casper, who was looking directly at him. He was still smiling, but it was a different smile. A crooked smile.

“You get some rest now,” said Casper, patting Billy on the knee. “I shall wake you when we are home.”

Billy gave a nod, though even as his eyes closed for a final time, the smile lingered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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