Chapter 7: The Invisible Bridge.
At last, the scene that inspired my very first awesome Poser art.
I nitpick my own writing a lot. It's because of things like this:
Charlie screeched angrily, and Alexandra stood between the cage and her stepfather. “You're not shooting Charlie!”
she said furiously.
See the part I struck out? It's completely unnecessary in this sentence. There's an action attribution, so no need for a dialog tag at all, "furiously" is a textbook case of an unnecessary adverb, since we can already infer Alexandra's tone from context (and the exclamation mark!), and worse, it's repetitive with the preceding adverb "angrily."
Now, is this is a horrible, awful, no-good sentence? No, but it shows the sort of lack of polish that I, ahem, aspire to achieve with anything that I actually, ahem, get published.
“There's a big difference between collecting leaves and keeping a pet cr – raven!” her mother exclaimed.
Monday morning, Alexandra dressed herself according to the Charmbridge Academy Dress Code. In her dark slacks and white shirt with black jacket, she thought she looked like a waitress in an expensive restaurant (the sort her mother never took her to), and grimaced at the thought of having to always dress this way for class. At least according to Gwendolyn, they were allowed to wear normal casual clothing when the school day was over.
Aha. So I did give myself an out there. But I'm still going to have to double-check the references to what students are wearing during the school day.
So, after a chapter prologue that probably goes on too long (and definitely has way too many exclamation marks), Alexandra gets on the bus and heads to school — finally, after seven chapters.
“I'll miss you, Alex,” her mother said, and drew her into a tight hug, squeezing her harder than Alexandra could ever remember being hugged by her mother, and this did embarrass her a little.
Claudia knows that Alexandra is leaving her old world behind.
The bus repeated the route they had taken on the previous trip, stopping at Detroit to pick up David. He was wearing another sports jersey and a cap this time, as well as baggy pants and expensive-looking sneakers. He had earphones on and practically swaggered down the aisle. Heads turned as he passed by, until he sat down next to Darla, across from Alexandra and Angelique. “Yo, wassup?” he said, pulling his earphones out.
“Trying to look like the biggest Muggle around?” Alexandra grinned.
David grinned back, but it was a rather belligerent grin. “Just wait until some punk calls me a Mudblood again.”
Poor David, trying to act all 'hood.
Blood status in the Confederation
“You said your grandmother is a Muggle,” Alexandra said abruptly. “Wouldn't that make you a... m-word also?”
Darla sat up, and a dark flush spread beneath her cheeks. “Well, not, I mean, some very nasty, very old-fashioned families might say so, I suppose,” she stammered. “Not that it matters! I'm not ashamed of having Muggles in my ancestry at all! But technically, that is to say, in the Confederation Wizard Census my family is listed as pureblood. I suppose technically I might be listed as a three-quarters blood, but my grandmother wasn't part of the census so I don't know why anyone would bother to research our blood status in that much detail. Of course blood status is so old-fashioned, no one really pays attention to it anymore anyway.”
David and Alexandra looked at each other as Darla's words poured out in a rush, and she could tell David was thinking the same thing she was. Darla was awfully defensive about something that “didn't matter.”
“One drop,” David muttered. “Don't kid yourself, girl.”
Darla's claims, of course, should not necessarily be taken at face value. An eleven-year-old's knowledge of blood politics is probably less than encompassing. But she's more right than David is in this case: Darla is officially listed as a pureblood on the Confederation census, even though her grandmother is a Muggle. This is of course much less stringent than the Death Eater view of things, let alone the one drop rule that David is referring to.
Something that Darla only barely hints at here (because she's probably only barely aware of it) is that certain families (like wealthy, powerful ones, like the Dearborns) might just have the ability to use their influence to affect how they are listed in the Confederation Wizard Census. Darla has been told no one cares about her Muggle grandmother. But she also betrays a hint of awareness that this may not be entirely true either.
(I in fact have a rather extensive backstory concerning the Dearborns, but most of it is never likely to appear in the books, as it's largely irrelevant. Largely.)
“Quite a view, ain't it, Starshine?”
Alexandra blinked and turned around. There was a tall man with long blond hair in a ponytail and a beard and mustache, looking down at her with a kindly smile. He had bright blue eyes and looked like he had probably been quite handsome when he was younger, though his face now was now weathered and his ponytail and beard were going gray. He had a brightly colored scarf tied around his head, and beneath his long and faded leather jacket he seemed to be wearing a tie-dyed t-shirt. His jeans and boots were also very Muggleish in style, but he was carrying a broom over his shoulder, and she saw a wand sticking out of one of his jacket pockets.
Introducing Ben Journey, Radicalist warlock, and of course, the secret villain. Who now and then people have criticized for being "too obvious." Which always puzzles me a bit, because yeah, there was intended to be a bit of a mystery here, and of course Dean Grimm gets to be a red herring for a while, but I never expected that it would be that hard to figure out who the villain was. I could have gone to greater lengths of misdirection than simply not revealing immediately that Mr. Journey's given name is Benedict, but really, the point of the book was not that Ben Journey is a traitor, but why.
Incidentally, I once started posting Alexandra Quick and the Thorn Circle on harrypotterfanfiction.com. But this chapter got me a mod note for the following paragraph:
“Years and years ago there was some Muggle fad for dressing in rainbow clothes and dancing naked and smoking herbs that make you have visions and stare at the sky,” Darla explained. “They thought they were actually learning magic. Some wizarding families in Alta California – they've always been a little odd out there, my mother says – actually began imitating the Muggles. They had a lot of strange ideas, like ending the Confederation and trying to teach Muggles magic. Total nonsense. They even started a wizarding school. It's still running but of course no one who cares about their reputation would want to attend Sedona.”
I was told I needed to add a warning for "drug abuse" because of the reference to "smoking herbs."
I gave up on HPFF after that.
“Yeah, it's been almost ten years since the last kid fell off!” called an eleventh grader, provoking laughter and hoots from his friends.
“John, would you like to start the school year with detention?” Mrs. Speaks snapped. “No one has ever fallen to their death from the bridge since it was completed, and the stabilization and windbreaker charms are reinforced every year.” She smiled at Alexandra's group. “This is a sort of rite of passage for new Charmbridge students. You can hold hands if you like.”
Was that our old friend John Manuelito? Maaaaybe. At the time I wrote this, though, "John" was just a random name I used on the spot.
He spoke in a lazy drawl, and Alexandra thought he really was a little odd, his eyes not really focused on the raven but at some middle point in the distance. To her surprise, though, Charlie made an acquiescent chirping sound that she hadn't heard before, and hopped off the bus and landed on her shoulder.
Like, dude, see how sneaky and mysterious I was? :P
“Charlie save us, or we'll die!
Bigger, stronger, faster fly!”
So, as much as I liked this sequence, and the whole concept of the Invisible Bridge, which was one of my better ideas if I do say so myself :D, I admit that it also tied me in knots trying to work out what I saw as a few plot holes that I never really did reconcile to my satisfaction. Maybe they are things that no one else noticed. (Most of the criticism has been along the lines of Alexandra being able to cast such a powerful spell with doggerel verse.)
Alexandra and David are walking along a stretch of the Invisible Bridge when it disappears. Mr. Journey couldn't have made the entire bridge vanish — it's a mile long, so there had to be other people still on it. So presumably he was able to make one piece of it temporarily disappear? How? What is the Invisible Bridge made of? And how is the entire staff not immediately freaking out over part of the bridge just randomly... vanishing?
I did my best to handwave this, and I know you can just say "Eh, magic." It seems to work in the story. But I've never really been satisfied with this particular plot twist, because I felt like I didn't thoroughly work out the implications.