The Disenchanted Wizard - the original opening chapters

Unless you're a very organised writer, most books start out differently to the way they finish up. The Disenchanted Wizard in its published form now begins with Della, a teenage soccer player, admiring the poster of the local soccer star, Xanadu Whitworth, that her father has just given her. And then, with the arrival of her cousin who wants to show her his newly acquired map, things take off and her world rapidly changes.

But in the original two chapters that were to open the book, there was no Della. Instead, five young male students, who met together regularly, received a terrible shock one night at a bookshop, run by a certain Mr Crinch. 

The bookshop and Mr Crinch survived into the finished book. So did three of the students, but by the time we meet them in The Disenchanted Wizard, one of them is old enough to be Della's father. 

Original Chapter One

There were five of them at first. Five friends ˗ university students ˗ with a shared love of folklore and strange happenings from the past: ghosts, and animals sometimes seen, and other curious things. Even magic.

They’d started meeting at Crinch’s book and map shop near the Museum once or twice a week, in the evenings, after all the customers had gone. Crinch lived on the premises, and his living room was as organised as the shop: chaotic, in other words. Which appealed to the young men.

There was Archie Collins, studying to be a physicist and trying to juggle how the facts of science could connect to things that science couldn’t explain. Then there was Sanders ˗ no one remembered his first name; he helped out at the shop at odd hours when he wasn’t studying. The third, Mukkeljugson, who was called M because the others kept getting his name wrong, was a nervous young man who seemed alternatively enthused and repulsed by the ideas discussed in the shop. And there was Xanadu Whitworth, who by the end of this particular year would be receiving an enormous salary for doing what he did best, which was play football.

That’s four of them. The fifth was a different kettle of fish. He was known as the Dog, because his manners were almost nonexistent, and his appearance was increasingly scruffy. He was Archie’s old school friend, but already their lives were starting to move in different directions. The other three liked the Dog ˗ some days. On other days he took over the conversation and seemed to set out to make himself offensive to them.

The Dog had a real name, of course ˗ it was Hoyle ˗ but only people like lecturers and tutors ever called him that.

Crinch, the bookshop owner, was a genial host. He provided them with drinks, coffee, tea or hot chocolate; sometimes something stronger. The young men talked about everything, full of ideas, full of enthusiasm. It was an informal club. Crinch supplied them with plenty of things to discuss, and was always ready to add in a word or two to stimulate the conversation if it started to flag.

Some of the conversation centred around strange things: folklore, magic, ghosts, mysterious happenings, odd coincidences. Of the five friends, the Dog was the one who enjoyed these conversations the most.

If the conversation flagged, the young men would often explore the shop, turning on the weak light bulbs scattered above the innumerable shelves. It was curious the way the shop seemed to go on and on, though of course it couldn’t have; from the outside it wasn’t all that large.  Sometimes they’d take torches and explore the darker corners, where things were so covered in dust and cobwebs that the students would come out looking like they’d been in an unused garden shed.

It was in just such a spot that the Dog one night discovered a map. It seemed at first innocuous enough: an 18th century print of a hand-drawn map of the Isle of Dogs in London. Around the margins were sketches in little oval frames. Some of the pictures were ugly, and seemed to portray things that were best left undrawn. Others were obscure; it was hard to tell what the artist had intended to draw.

And there was an empty frame: an oval with nothing in it at all.

The map intrigued the Dog. He showed it to Archie who standing in the gloom nearby trying to read an old book on ghosts. ‘I think I’ve found something really valuable, Archie,’ said the Dog. ‘Have a look.’

Archie, more interested in his book, barely glanced at the map. ‘Sometimes all this ghost stuff seems like such rubbish, Dog,’ he said, shaking his head. ‘It’s hard for a potential scientist to get his brain around the supernatural.’ With a sigh he shoved the book back in the place he’d found it and led the way back to Crinch’s sitting room. The others were arguing at the tops of the voices about something Crinch had thrown into the discussion while putting the kettle on.

The Dog strode into the room and interrupted the others. ‘Mr Crinch,’ he said, ‘I found this Map out the back. Do you know anything about it?’ He thrust it at Crinch. ‘Any idea why’s there’d be a blank space there?’

Even in the weak light of the sitting room, the students saw Crinch’s face change colour. The tea bag he’d been about to put in a cup dropped out of his hand and drifted to the floor, joining other debris.

‘What are you doing with that? Put it back where you found it. Now!’ He was breathing faster than normal. ‘There are some things in this shop that need to be left where they are, left to rot.’

The Dog stayed where he was. ‘What’s the problem?’ He wasn’t at all upset by Crinch’s tone, and just grinned at the others, expecting support. But they sat ˗ or stood ˗ open-mouthed. Crinch’s tone had been unusually harsh. And when the Dog didn’t make a move to take the map back to its home, Crinch advanced on him with the tongs he’d been using to get the tea-bags out, and threatened him.

It should have been ridiculous, but there was something about his manner that made even the Dog cringe. With a quiet growl, he turned away, his tail between his legs ˗ as it were ˗ and headed off into the burrows of the bookshelves.

Crinch stared at the remaining four. ‘That boy will do himself some ill, no doubt about it.’ He poured boiling water into the cup before realising there tea-bag wasn’t in it. ‘There are times when you need to listen to people with experience. This is one of them.’ He face still seemed drained of colour.

When the Dog returned  ˗ ‘I got lost again in those blasted bookshelves of yours,’ he said ˗ Crinch didn’t mention the map. He said nothing more to the Dog, and dismissed his visitors earlier than usual.

Two days later, when the students were visiting Crinch again, the Dog stopped them on the doorstep. He slid his hand inside his jacket ˗ it was the sort of jacket that could carry a multitude of items without appearing bulky ˗ and drew out the map.

‘What?’ said Xanadu, with a sigh.

‘You were supposed to put that back, Dog,’ said Archie, cuffing him round the head.

‘Idiot,’ said Xanadu. ‘Crinch will stop us coming if you go stealing things.’ Sanders, who did a few hours’ work at the bookshop each week, said, ‘Give me the map and I’ll make sure Crinch doesn’t know you’ve taken it. I can hide it where even he can’t find it.’

The Dog sneered at them. ‘Not likely. There’s something special about this map. I want to know what it is. I’m not giving it back until I find out.’ He put it inside his coat.

‘He’ll tell you off again,’ said Mukkeljugson, biting his lip, and shifting back and forth from one foot to the other.

‘I’m not a kid, M. I know what I’m doing.’

Their conversation was rather muted that night, though Crinch himself was back to normal. And as the next few weeks went by the visits to the bookshop seemed less enticing. The Dog hadn’t said anything more about the map, and no one asked him, but his manner had begun to change. It wasn’t just his appearance: he’d never shaved very carefully, but now his beard was tangled around his face. He smelt less pleasant, and his coat, something he wore almost permanently, was filthy.

But the most different thing, when the other four thought about, was that there was an ugly look in his eyes. His look at always been rather fierce, but they’d accepted that that was just who he was. Now there was a wildness, as though he’d seen something horrible ˗ and enjoyed seeing it.

Archie became less and less comfortable with him, though they still met each other often during the week. Mukkeljugson refused to have anything to do with him, and only came to the gatherings at Crinch’s because the others insisted. It was ‘good for him’ Sanders and Xanadu said.

One afternoon the Dog said to Archie: ‘I know something you don’t know. That map’s given me some kind of power. A magic power.’

Archie said, ‘Get real,’ and changed the subject.

But the Dog reminded him about some of the strange things that had happened around the campus recently, things the Proctor and his staff had been unable to explain. ‘I did those, Archie. I can do things normal people can’t. I’m becoming a kind of...wizard.’

Archie looked at him askance. ‘A wizard. Seriously? You need to live in the real world. Stop dreaming.’

The Dog just smiled. ‘You’ll see, Archie. When we go to Crinch’s tonight, I’m going to tell him what the map’s been doing for me.’

Chapter Two 

That evening Crinch welcomed them in as always. ‘Sit down, boys, sit down. Who’s for a drink?’ He flicked the kettle on, glanced around and noticed the half-grin on the Dog’s face.

‘What’s up, Hoyle?’ said Crinch. ‘What’s going on?’ The others stopped their chatter.

The Dog said nothing for a couple of seconds, then pulled the map out of his coat.

Crinch nodded to himself. ‘So you couldn’t resist taking it,’ he said. ‘Didn’t I say there were some things that need to be left to lie?’

‘I want to know about this map. There’s something...magical...about it, isn’t there?’

Archie said, ‘Oh, for goodness sake, Dog,’ and the others laughed, though Mukkeljugson’s laugh was more nervous than amused.

‘Since I’ve had it,’ said the Dog, trying to gauge whether Crinch would be on his side or not, ‘I’ve been able to do things, change things, make things happen... just little things, but I know I can go on and do more. Big stuff. Things that make people sit up and take notice.’

When Crinch said nothing, the Dog added, ‘You know about this map, don’t you? You know what’s special about it.’

‘Give me the map, Hoyle, and we’ll say no more about this.’

The Dog straightened his shoulders. ‘Not until you explain.’  

‘This is your last chance, Hoyle. Give me the map.’ Crinch put his hand out for it. The Dog continued to hold the map tight, holding it close to his chest.

‘Have it your way, young man,’ said Crinch. He leaned back against the bench, folding his arms. The jug boiled behind him, steam rising into the room. ‘I need to speak to you all. You’re aware that there’s something different about this bookshop...’

‘There are way too many shelves for the size of the place!’ said Archie. ‘It’s physically impossible.’ He turned to the others. ‘By physically, I meant in terms of physics, of course.’

‘Yes, there is that,’ agreed Crinch.

Sanders laughed. ‘I can be right at the back of the shop and then turn round and find the front door’s only a couple of metres away.’

‘That’s not what you mean, is it, Mr Crinch?’ said Mukkeljugson, quietly, biting his fingernails.

‘No, M, it’s not.’ Crinch breathed in deeply. ‘What I mean is that there is magic in this shop.’

‘I knew it!’ said the Dog with a whoop, waving the map around.

Crinch continued. ‘So you have to be careful what you find. And what you do with what you find.’

The Dog gave a low laugh. The other four shuffled uncomfortably.

‘There is power in that map,’ said Crinch. ‘When I say in I mean inside. What you’ve discovered is just the smoke seeping through. The real fire is inside.’

The Dog was delighted, but puzzled. ‘But how do I get the power out?’ He opened the map, and stared at it, particularly at the empty oval frame. ‘Is that empty space something to do with it? Is that a door?

Crinch was silent for a moment. Then he nodded. ‘You might call it a door.’ He was staring at the Dog strangely, as though he was trying to decide what to do for the best. Finally he said, ‘You don’t get the power out, you have to go in and get it. It may take some time.’

The Dog gave him a sudden look. ‘Go in?’ For the first time he seemed to consider that maybe this wasn’t quite what he had in mind. ‘Go in?’ There was utter stillness in the room for several seconds, then his face began to change. An intense excitement came over it. ‘So if I go in I can get the power, the real power.’

Crinch nodded. ‘If you want to make that choice.’

‘Oh, yes, I definitely want to!’

‘The power is very strong. And dangerous. You could do an immense amount of harm with it.’

Archie said, ‘Dog, don’t do it. You’ll ruin yourself completely.’

‘Shut up, Archie,’ said the Dog, breathing more heavily.

Xanadu and Sanders joined in with Archie trying to persuade the Dog to get rid of the map. ‘It’ll destroy you,’ said Sanders.

‘It won’t destroy me, will it?’ the Dog said, with great confidence. ‘Crinch?’

Crinch replied, ‘You must choose what to do with the power. Some have used it for good. Others have not been so wise.’

‘I’ll work it out, Crinch. Stop worrying!’

Crinch looked at him. ‘I don’t think you’re ready for this, Hoyle. What if you can’t control the power. What if it controls you?’

‘I’ve been controlling it for the last few weeks. Of course I can control it.’

‘Think of the consequences, Dog,’ said Archie. ‘What if you harm other people?’

The Dog turned on him with a vicious snarl. ‘I don’t care!’ he shouted. ‘I want it!’ He gripped the map on either side, staring into it, and shaking with excitement . ‘What do I do, Crinch?’ he said, even more loudly. ‘What do I do?’

Mukkeljugson had drawn back into a corner, almost whimpering. The other three students fell silent.

‘You go into the map, Hoyle, for an allotted time. You learn all about the power, and when you’re ready, you can come out again.’


‘You have one last chance to refuse this, Hoyle...’

The Dog whipped around on him. ‘Get me in!’

Crinch hesitated, then raised his right arm and pointed it at the Dog. Nothing visible came from his hand, and he said nothing more than, ‘Door open!’ and yet the Dog shrivelled into a tiny ball in an instant. The tiny ball sped around the room in midair, making the students leap out of its way. The map had remained hanging in the air where the Dog had been holding it. The ball hit it, and the map gave shook violently as though it would tear itself apart, stopped and only then fluttered to the floor.

‘Give me your hands,’ said Crinch. ‘Form a circle around the map. Quickly!’ Xanadu pulled Mukkeljugson from the corner and they joined hands with the other two and Crinch. ‘Say with me, after the count of three, Lock!’ shouted Crinch, sounding extremely agitated. ‘One, two, three, LOCK!’

The four remaining students, terrified as they were, shouted Lock with Crinch, and watched as the map gave a lurch on the floor. Something like a wave passed over it, and then it remained still.

Crinch broke the circle of hands, picked up the map and pointed to the oval frame that had previously been empty. Quietly he muttered, ‘Door to window.’ A kind of mist blurred the frame for a moment, and then as it cleared they saw the Dog. He was raging at them, though they couldn’t hear a sound. It was plain enough that he was furiously angry at them.

‘What have we done to him?’ cried Archie, an anguished look on his face.

Crinch begin folding the map. ‘I told him the power could be used for harm, and he would have to control it. He refused to listen. He will gain the power, but he won’t be able to bring it out into this world again. He’s imprisoned in there.’

‘What?’ shouted Archie. ‘What? We’ve helped you imprison him inside there?’ Xanadu and Sanders shouted at Crinch as well.

Crinch nodded, calmly. ‘He can’t be let loose. He will destroy you and others, and do damage far beyond here.’

‘But you can’t leave him in there,’ said Sanders. ‘How will he live?’

‘He’ll live. He’s safe in there.’

Mukkeljugson started to behave very oddly. He screamed, and began to pull tufts of hair off his head. The others had to hold him, to stop him harming himself further.

Crinch said one thing more. ‘And we’re safe because he’s in there. Listen to me carefully. As long as this map stays in the shop and is never taken out of it, the Dog will be locked inside it.’

No comments: