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Makers of Fine Wands by CanisMajor

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The next day dawned cloudy and dull. The paving stones in Timandridas' courtyard were grey in the half-light, and the water in the wash-jug was chill. Ollivander was glad to heft his leather bag and escape to the street, leaving the house before most of its occupants were awake.

Callias came with him. Ollivander was surprised and made wary by that, exposed as he was now to questions about his mysterious elder wand and the way he'd acquired it. He would say nothing, he decided: if Callias wanted to probe further, he would have to break the ice himself. But the other man was content to simply follow at first -- and when he did speak, it was apparent that he had other things on his mind.

–What did you think of my sister?” he asked, at the second street-corner. –There might be an opportunity there, if you cared to pursue it. I could see my mother approved of you the moment you came in the door.”

That might be true, thought Ollivander to himself, although he seemed to remember rather less approval at some of the other moments. But he would not take the conversation in that direction; there were things he had to do first.

–Does she have many other suitors?” he asked instead, cautiously.

–Half a dozen at least,” replied Callias cheerfully, –but none you need to worry about. The longest any of them's lasted so far is five days from the first introduction. Your luck might be better, though. She likes you.”

This was not the conversation Ollivander had expected to be having today. –I know almost nothing of your sister, beyond her name.”

–A beautiful name it is, too,” urged Callias enthusiastically. –Isn't it?”

–It's common enough. Half the girls in Greece seem to have the name 'Hermione' attached to them.”

–Don't play the fool, Ollivander. Simaetha was the one looking at you all evening. She's almost a little past marriageable age now, and -- well, never mind that, why not agree to be introduced to her properly?”

It seemed to Ollivander that at present he was surrounded by rather too many half-open doors with dubious hopes beyond them; he felt a strong urge to simplify matters by firmly closing a few. But how was he to know which one concealed his destiny? He wondered if he should be asking Callias to recommend an honest Diviner of genuine talent, and trusting in the gods.

–Maybe, but not today,” he temporised. –There are other matters I must attend to.”

Callias chuckled. –Too busy to fit it in? Perhaps you should buy a slave to remind you of your many appointments.”

Ollivander ignored the gentle sarcasm. Callias was all right, he decided, even if his sister was putting him up to intercession on her behalf.

–As a matter of fact,” he said, with careful dignity, –I do have an important purchase to make this morning. I need a young piglet.”

Thankfully, Callias didn't demand an immediate explanation; he only scratched his beard in thought. –You should have mentioned that yesterday,” he said. –It was market day in the agora. But Miklos the butcher might be able to help you. His shop is just around the corner here.”

Athenian butchers kept early hours, it seemed: the stout wooden door of Miklos' shop was already propped open when the two young men arrived, and a trickle of slightly bloody water was emerging from within, accompanied by a tuneful whistling. Callias hung back, and gestured to indicate that Ollivander should enter first.

Inside, a huge block of stone bore the hindquarters of a goat. The whistler, a portly individual with a red nose and a black moustache that extended to completely cover his cheeks, was busily dismembering what remained of the animal, carefully ensuring that each portion got its fair share of the fat.

–A piglet?” said Miklos, after Ollivander had verified that it was he. –I've a nice one out the back; just finished draining it. Two obols, will that do?”

Ollivander explained that it wouldn't do; what he wanted was a live piglet, with the blood still inside it.

Miklos looked carefully hesitant; he ruffled his moustache by blowing on it. –There is one I was keeping, to be fresh the day after tomorrow,” he admitted. –There's only one, mind, but it's yours if you want it badly enough.”

There followed a lengthy discussion on the monetary value of the trouble Miklos might be spared by not having to feed his last piglet for one more day. Ollivander thought he was handling the negotiation quite well, at least until it was complicated, in its later stages, by his belated realization that he would also need a small sack to carry his purchase away in. A proper fool he'd look in front of Callias, if the animal escaped.

–Right,” said Callias, when he, the piglet, and its new owner were back in the street outside the shop. –I think you should probably tell me where you're planning to do it -- and more importantly, why. I don't mind helping, and two heads might be wiser than one, don't you think?”

–I -- well, I suppose so,” Ollivander replied. In truth, he hadn't considered taking anyone's advice but his own. He'd expected to be alone again today; he didn't really know why Callias was here at all. –You must be wondering what I'm doing.”

–No, that's obvious enough,” said Callias dismissively. –You're going to make a sacrifice to Zeus, anyone could have guessed that. Very pious of you, I'm sure, to be honouring the Father of Gods on a day of no particular significance whatever. Either you're a lot more devout than I've noticed so far, or you have a fairly urgent favour to ask. Something to do with those two ghosts that came after us yesterday, perhaps?”

–Yes -- well, maybe,” Ollivander conceded. –I was thinking things over last night and, well, I've become concerned that my father might have become a ghost. Not an ordinary one; he wouldn't have wanted to linger. But it can happen, can't it, that a wizard is so troubled by some terrible purpose that he cannot truly die, in the same way that you can't fall asleep when there's something on your mind? The grave doesn't press heavily enough on him, and he cannot depart?”

Callias nodded. –Yes, there are a few of those. Most are still furious over some wrong done to them in life, and too stubborn to let it go. Was your dad like that?”

–Well, no, he wasn't, not really. He forgave all kinds of transgressions when he was alive, especially mine. But he's the only person I know who's died recently, and I have his wand. He didn't say I was to have it, I just sort of claimed it, after he was gone. He never said anything about it being a legendary wand made in the underworld, either; it was always just my dad's wand as far as I knew. Might he be mad that I took it? Might he have driven those two others to attack us last night?”

–He might,” said Callias briskly. –It's possible. So -- we're going to address this in the usual way, are we? A decent sacrifice and the right spell, and any local ghosts who might be angry with you will be irresistibly summoned, whereupon we can sort them out?”

The businesslike tone was quite reassuring, as if the laying of ghosts were quite a routine matter. Perhaps, in Athens, it was. Not that Ollivander hadn't been quite confident he could perform the necessary magic unaided: he knew how to do it, in theory at least. But Callias seemed to regard it as a mere exercise, something that any of his family could have done while mentally composing an essay on Scythian timber species, and trimming the edges of the papyrus they meant to write it on.

–Have you done this before, then?” he asked.

–I've seen it done once or twice,” Callias replied casually. –Where would be a good spot for it, do you think?”

–Outside the temple of Athena, on the Acropolis?”

–Yes, good choice. If I were a restless spirit, I'd think twice before refusing a call from the home of the city's own goddess. You should see the inside of the temple, too, it's really quite impressive.”

–Business first,” muttered Ollivander. –I can play tourist later.”

As they ascended the city's central hill, the first sunlight reached them through a break in the clouds, and the air immediately felt warmer. It seemed odd to be speaking of ghosts outdoors in such comfortable weather, as if they might enjoy the fresh air. Surely some dank crypt would be a more conducive spot for the work they had to do. But Ollivander had no family cemetery available, nor even a dark night. He had, in truth, nothing at all but the clothes he wore and the ground he walked on; they would have to suffice.

It was crowded atop the Acropolis: every space big enough for five or six men to gather seemed to be occupied by some statue or temple. Narrow paths and squeeze-ways somehow fitted between the monuments, sidling around sculptures and beneath the carved glyphs and friezes. It was hard to be sure, but amid all the Pentelic stone there didn't seem to be anyone around, a circumstance for which Ollivander was grateful. If this didn't go well, there would be no-one else in Athens to ridicule him further.

As if guessing his thoughts, Callias pulled out his cedar wand and began gesturing with it, tapping it on invisible walls behind and ahead of them, muttering incantations. Ollivander thought of offering to help, and drew his own wand, but instead found himself regarding his father's unintended legacy with new eyes. This humble elder stick was both the cause (possibly) of his current peril (if peril it was), and the instrument with which he would resolve it. Perhaps even Plato might have approved of the symmetry, had he been a sorcerer after all.

–That should give us some privacy,” announced Callias with satisfaction, finishing his enchantments sooner than Ollivander had expected. –Nothing to do now but get started.” A muffled squeal from the sack in Ollivander's hand seemed to express -- rather unwisely for the squealer -- similar sentiments.

Ollivander gave his wand a determined look. Reaching into his leather bag, he pulled out a handful of crumbs -- the last of yesterday's bread -- and salt. He sprinkled these on the ground in a rough circle around himself, purifying the place for sacrifice. A libation of wine wouldn't have gone amiss, either, but he couldn't supply that just now. He hoped almighty Zeus would understand.

–Eimai edo, o thanatos!” he declared, making gentle circular motions with his wand-tip. –O person, whether you are a man or a woman, come forth and reveal to me why you linger, and will not cross the Styx. I would know the causes of your quarrel with a living man, and how you may be given rest.”

–Or otherwise dealt with,” muttered Callias in the background. Ollivander felt reassured to have a friend watching his back; it was good to know that any Alastor coming from that direction would not get far.

–In the name of immortal Zeus, attend me!” he cried. Laying his wand on the paving stone in front of him, he drew his belt-knife with one hand, and reached into Miklos' sack with the other. Out came the piglet, snuffling a little, perhaps expecting to be fed. –Drink of the blood that runs down into the earth, O spirit, and be at peace.” He mentally rehearsed the correct way to jugulate the animal.

–No need for that,” called a voice. Ollivander, his concentration broken, turned his head quickly to see a stranger appear from behind a temple column. He was no ghost, and no Athenian either -- his beardless chin and completely shaved head vouched for that. He wore a kind of long robe dyed darkest black, and there was a wand in his hand.

–Who are you to say so?” Callias challenged him at once, his own wand held out combatively in front of him. –This is a public place; anyone may sacrifice here. Our doings are our own business, and none of yours.”

–I am called Moeris,” said the newcomer easily, his voice honey-smooth. –And you are very much my business, Ollivander; I am not yet finished with you.”

Ollivander had never seen this man before, and said so. He gripped the knife-handle tightly, and would have liked to take up his wand as well. But then he would have to let go of the pig.

–You are no citizen or metic sorcerer,” Callias stated suspiciously, –or I would have met you before now in polite society. So who--”

–Oh, but we have met, young man,” said the wizard. –Yesterday, before you so ably dispelled my servants.” He chuckled, at a pitch just slightly too high to be reassuring. –I fear you were blinded by your own bright lights; a common failing, in the young and talented.”

–What do you want?”

Moeris nodded at Ollivander. –Aren't you going to pick it up? Your father was much quicker than this to put it into play, I must say.”

Ollivander, who had indeed been on the point of relinquishing both knife and piglet to seize the elder wand with two hands, hesitated. He sensed a trap. Confrontations between wizards, he reminded himself, were usually decided by the best spell, not the fastest. He had Callias there to react quickly if things turned nasty; instead of grabbing for the wand, he should be thinking of something clever to do with it once he had it.

–How did you know Ostanes of Croton?” he asked cautiously. –I don't remember his ever going to Egypt.”

Moeris laughed again, under his breath. –A good guess. No, I crossed the sea to come to him, and I would have gone peacefully home again, had his interfering wife not denied me my prize.”

–Which was?” Ollivander began to ask, but his words were overtaken by a jet of blood-red light from Callias' wand, which struck the foreign wizard precisely between the eyes. Or so it seemed -- and yet a moment later, Moeris stood unharmed two hands-breadths to the left of where the bolt had struck. He did not even seem to have taken a step.

Before Ollivander could think twice, his own wand was in his hand. Whispering –Apokalypto!”, he swiped it quickly across his own face at eye level. At once the scene changed: now he could see the cracks deep inside the marble statue beside him, his piglet trotting away into his peripheral vision -- and Moeris, pressed up against a wall where he had leapt to his right to evade Callias' spell. Already the Egyptian was readying a counter-attack, his wand foreshortened to a point as he took aim.

–Avada Kedavra!” Ollivander threw himself forward, flat on his face with arms outstretched; emerald green light flashed above him. He took another breath and realised he was still alive. Somewhere Callias was working up another curse (–Taartanak Betan!”) and Moeris was shouting something in return. He scrambled back up to his knees and then -- one moment his wand was between his fingers; the next, it wasn't. Horrified, he watched it sail through the air, its dark elderwood glinting in the sunlight for just an instant before the foreign mage snatched it, turned on the spot, and vanished with a sound like the snapping of Zeus' fingers. A heartbeat later, a huge and ropy cobweb, suggestive of a bear-sized spider, thudded into the column by which Moeris had stood, completely enveloping it.

–Too slow!” Callias cursed. –Ollivander, are you hurt?”

–No, no; I'm fine.” Ollivander climbed back to his feet. –That is, I'm not injured, but I'm wandless.”

–Not a problem, for the moment. I don't think our friend will be back.”

Ollivander clenched his empty hand into a fist. –He has what he came for, you think?”

–I'm sure of it. He as good as admitted trying to steal that wand from your father, and if my dad's notions about its origins are accurate, it's not hard to see why. Not many versed in wandlore would care to take on the Wand of Orpheus, but if it's wielded by an old, sick wizard -- or a young one, far from any friends or help -- well, he must have thought it was worth a try.”

–But he won't get to keep it.” Now that the excitement of battle was draining away, Ollivander began to feel the loss of his wand -- his special wand! -- for the first time. –We'll get it back. That is, I will, and I'd be glad to have you with me if you want to come along.”

Callias shook his head. –We might find him taking ship at Piraeus, if we chase him, but it's more than likely he has other means of transport. He could be halfway back to Egypt already, for all we know.”

–But he tried to kill me! You heard him -- Avada Kedavra! That's a crime in Athens, isn't it?”

–Under Athenian law,” said Callias carefully, –he who kills a man with magic is neither more nor less culpable than any other murderer. So if you were dead now, you would be perfectly within your rights to pursue this Moeris through the courts. Or rather, your grieving family would. But the law of Athens does not run throughout the whole world: it can be evaded, by those willing to settle for residence elsewhere.”

–But he has my wand!” Ollivander insisted with hot desperation. –The only one like it in all the world, and it's mine!”

–Better not,” Callias admonished him. –Only one Wand of Orpheus, but no lack of dark sorcerers who fancy having an invincible weapon. Let this one spend his life fending all the others off! Besides, I know someone who'd be happy to make you another wand just as -- well, almost as good.”

–You mean your father Timandridas, I suppose.”

–I might.”

–Who else? Not your sisters, I'm sure.”

–I might. You might be surprised what Simaetha can do, when she thinks she has a reason to. Have you considered taking her to the theatre? They're doing Oedipus Tyrannos again this year; it might be just her sort of thing.”

–Perhaps. I'll think about it. The drama, that is, not the wand-making.”

–Of course, there is someone else who might make your next wand.” A small smile curled around Callias' mouth.


–Ollivander the son of Ostanes. He comes of good wand-making stock; hasn't the taste for philosophy, it seems, but might have the patience for something more practical, if he applies himself to it.”

Truly, this was a day for opening doors. –It's worth considering,” Ollivander said.