A/N: Eighty-three-year-old Chosen One Edna Fisher hits the road to find the Sword of Destiny, the one weapon that can kill the evil sorcerer Redway. It is located somewhere in Michigan, in the keeping of a man called Theobald Smith.
By four o’clock, Edna and Benjamin had been on the interstate for an hour, Edna’s nephew had called to tell her he’d found a reasonably priced pocket dimension in which to store the things she’d left behind, and Mittens had exceeded Benjamin’s expectations by clawing not only the upholstery but Benjamin’s left leg. Luckily, he hadn’t drawn much blood, but Benjamin had nearly driven the van off the road. A bit of an overreaction, if you asked Edna. She’d been clawed by plenty of frightened cats in her day, not to mention the odd sphynx and, once, a very small saber-toothed tiger.
“It’s your own fault,” she said, wrapping Mittens in her favorite afghan to calm him down. “You shouldn’t have braked so hard. It scared him.”
“Excuse me for keeping us from crashing into that minivan.” Benjamin rolled up the leg of his jeans to examine his calf. “Ugh. I can’t believe I forgot to pack a first aid kit.”
“And you call yourself a healthcare worker.” Edna pulled an ancient box of Band-Aids out of her handbag. “Here you are, dear.”
They were back on the road again in no time. Benjamin dug around in the center consul with one hand, looking for spare CDs. Edna ate a sandwich and petted Mittens absently. He looked as grumpy as ever, but at least, safely wrapped in her afghan, he seemed uninterested in clawing anything else.
They drove all the way to northwestern Ohio that night and then pulled off the interstate to find a hotel. Edna couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed. A grand adventure ought to feel a little more promising than an ordinary road trip, but so far everything had gone smoothly (putting aside the incident with the cat). They hadn’t run out of money or food, the car hadn’t broken down, and they hadn’t gotten lost once. The hotel, once they found it, had plenty of rooms available and was neat and clean. The desk clerk was so preoccupied—a room upstairs kept ringing for service and complaining about how long it took, and the other desk clerk had called off—that it was even easy to sneak Mittens into the room. And then came the biggest disappointment of all, the same disappointment she faced every single day.
“Time to take your pills, Edna,” Benjamin said, checking his watch.
Edna sighed and watched him pull the pill case from his bag and fill a glass of water in the bathroom sink.
“Chosen Ones do not take pills,” she said. Mittens swiped at Benjamin’s ankles from under the bed as he brought the pills over, which she took as tacit agreement.
“Maybe not, but old ladies with high blood pressure and high cholesterol and a mild case of diabetes and a bad hip certainly do. Come on, Edna. You ought to be used to it by now.”
“I might get used to it if I thought they would cure me,” she said, and tossed down the first pill with a swallow of water and a grimace. “What’s the good of taking pills every day when they’re not going to make me better?”
“They keep you from dying, that’s the good.”
“I’m eighty-three,” Edna reminded him. “It’s all downhill from here, pills or no pills.”
She took the rest of the pills obediently, if glumly, and then fished around in her handbag for a cat treat to entice Mittens out from under the bed. He darted out to retrieve the treat from her fingers and then returned to his hiding spot. Oh, well. She pulled out her knitting things instead.
“It’s not what I’d imagined,” she said. “I thought it would be more exciting.”
Benjamin switched the television on and unpacked his toothbrush. “I’m sure it’ll be much too exciting for my tastes before it’s all over. Dominion? That’s where dragons live, Edna. Dragons. Thanks but no thanks. We don’t even know where to find this mystical sword, and we’re supposed to go fight dragons.”
“We’re not fighting dragons,” Edna said. “We’re fighting a man who happens to live near some dragons.”
“Same dif. Anyway, it’s not some dragons, it’s like the biggest colony of dragons in the world. Maybe you don’t think things are exciting now, but I bet when we get near Dominion you’ll beg me to take you back to the nursing home.”
“I certainly shan’t,” Edna said cheerily. Thinking of Golden Years reminded her why she’d agreed to go on this journey—even if it was sort of boring so far. At least it wasn’t a gosh-darned nursing home. “Now, Benjamin, I’ve been thinking, there must be an easy way to find this Theobald Smith.”
“Oh, yeah?” he said in a toothpastey voice.
“Yes,” Edna said, although she was suddenly less certain. It was a grand idea, a simple idea, an obvious idea, but she wasn’t sure he’d like it. “I was thinking…well, you have been studying magic, after all, so I thought, maybe, well, you could just…divine him.”
Benjamin gaped at her, his mouth foamy with paste. He turned to the sink, spit, and turned back to Edna, still gaping.
“No way,” he said.
“It was just a thought. If you’d rather just drive all over Michigan—I just thought you wanted some definite way to find the sword, and I thought—”
“Edna,” Benjamin said, wiping his mouth. “I’m studying theoretical magic. It’s not even, like magic-magic, it’s space magic, which is a totally different beast. But even if I was studying magic, like magic, it’s still theoretical, not practical, which means it would probably blow up in my face if I tried it out. Not to mention the fact that divining magic is really tricky and sort of unethical and really nosy and you have to have proper licensure if you want to practice serious divining magic, so if your goal was to have me burn down the hotel by accident and then get arrested for practicing divination without a license—”
“All right, all right. No need to get so grouchy. It was just an idea.”
Benjamin rinsed his toothbrush, plopped onto his bed, and pulled out his phone. “Well, I have a better one. I bet I can find this guy on Google.”
He searched for a few moments in silence and then snorted to himself and muttered, “And you wanted to use divination.”
In Edna’s defense, she often forgot Google was an option. Magic had been around a lot longer than the Internet, and she wasn’t even on Facebook, even though her nephew—the one who had rented the pocket dimension—frequently told her she ought to be.
There were a lot of funny cat pictures there. Maybe she’d sign up some time.
“Got him,” Benjamin said. “At least, I think do. That is, there are seven different Theobald Smiths in Michigan, so I’m not entirely sure it’s this one, but…”
He showed Edna the picture on his phone. It was a staff photo from the University of Detroit, an adjunct professor in the Department of Magical Archaeology. Aside from the obvious profession, you just knew from looking at him that he’d have the Sword of Destiny. He had one of those sad, square-jawed faces and spectacles that made him look very smart and a peppery beard and hair that made him look venerable and wise.
Edna surveyed him closely. “You’d think wizards would be smart enough not to put an important magical artifact in the hands of someone who has an uncommon name and works in a field known for dealing with magical artifacts. Anyone could find him.”
“Well,” Benjamin yawned, clearing the image, “I’m sure no one’s looking. It’s not exactly a well-known object.”
“Not with a name like the Sword of Destiny,” Edna agreed. She put away her knitting things and got cozy beneath her quilt. “It’s not exactly Excalibur.”
“Good night, Edna.”
“Good night, Benjamin.”
But long after her faithful orderly had fallen asleep, snoring lightly on the other side of the room, Edna lay awake in the flickering blue glow of the television. Mittens crept out from beneath the bed and joined her up top instead. He curled up at her side, purring, now that it was dark and secret and no one would ever know how affectionate he could be. Edna hardly noticed. She was too excited at the prospect of finding Theobald Smith—and the Sword of Destiny.
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