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The Last Real Fake Magician


by neesboy

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A plushie Kougra scurried down the corridors of New Maraqua, moving as fast as he dared in his ungainly suit. He was going to be late, and then all the weeks of waiting would be for nothing. This place was a veritable labyrinth!

      As he hurried along, he pulled out a rough sketch of the passages he'd made earlier. Take the next left, then a... "Oof!" Staggering back, he looked at what, or rather who, he'd run into. It was a red Shoyru in a black silk top hat and cape. "Oh dear, I'm very sorry, I didn't mean to, that is to say, I wasn't looking where I was going."

      The Shoyru cocked his head inquisitively. "That's quite all right. Now where are you off to at such a tremendous pace?"

      "I'm late to Kelp, and if I take much longer, they'll cancel my reservation!"

      "What a coincidence, I'm on my way there as well. I can get the two of us in. I'm Verhale Partent, and I'm putting on a show. I'm a magician of sorts, you see."

      "Gee, thanks. That's awfully nice of you. I'm Maddock Waserman. You do magic, you say?" That was certainly odd. Why put on a magic show? If you wanted magic, you bought a nova.

      Verhale's face spread into a grin, his eyes glittering. "Magic. Plain, old, boring, everyday magic. You turn the light on, and what makes it work? Magic, of course. You can get to Faerieland even though it's a city floating half a mile up. Because of magic, naturally. Your opponent creams you in the Battledome. What with? Magic, what else? Perhaps that's the best example of everyday magic. What with faeries blessing every other pet, twig, acorn, and squeeze toy they come across, it's no wonder magic makes up a major portion of our weapons. The only real exceptions are due to the ingenuity of Virtupets and the improvisation of the Smuggler's Cove.

      "Magic can make things vanish, appear, transform, and explode. So what can a run of the mill magician, such as myself, do that's so impressive? Well, for one, all of that, and without the faintest glimmering of enchantment. In any case, I do so hate to think of myself as a magician. It's so... lackluster. The term seems to imply somebody who doesn't have to figure out how to put the snowbunny in the hat beforehand. I much prefer the term 'charlatan.'"

      "Oh. Okay."

      "My job is quite a bit harder than it sounds. I am not really trying to fool the audience, as anybody can do that. I must let them know they are being fooled. It's more than enough to keep a fellow on his wings, I'll tell you that.

      "Ah, here we are. The finest dining establishment in all of Neopia, Kelp. Well, thanks for the chat. I hope you enjoy the show."

      The tables were crowded, as they always were at Kelp, but Maddock was able to get a seat as he had been promised. Waiters bustled to and from the kitchen, deftly navigating the maze of chairs. Meals were made, served, and above all, eaten. Savory, if somewhat petite, dishes made their way to the diners, accompanied by large numbers written in small neat handwriting to indicate the quickly mounting price of the manifold courses.

      After some time, the bustle slowed as one by one the patrons were stopped by judgment, stomachache, or economic necessity. One of the waiters walked up to a microphone, tapping it to make sure it was on. "I trust you have all enjoyed your meals?" A murmur of contented agreement rippled outwards. "Good. For your entertainment tonight, I would like to welcome the magnificent master of the mundane, Verhale Partent." He stepped down as the audience clapped politely.

      Slowly smoke began to creep along the stage, billowing upwards lethargically in the traditional entrance of practically any magician. As it began to spill outwards a silhouette formed in the smog. Then the smoke alarm went off, and water spilled from outside the building onto the stage. As the smoke cleared, there was the red Shoyru, dressed in magician's hat and cape, holding an umbrella. "That's the second time that's happened in the last month, you know," he said with a smile. "Now, before I start, I would like to emphasize to anybody who does not already know that I do not use any magic at all throughout the entire act. After all, that would be cheating.

      "Obviously, I'm not going to be using an umbrella the whole time." He folded it up, and casually set it point down. When he walked away, it remained standing up in place, neatly held by a small cylindrical hole in the floor. But the audience couldn't see that. "I've got much more sophisticated tools that fit the part." Putting his fingers together, he pulled them apart, and was holding a wand in one hand and a stalk of asparagus in the other. He paused, looking at the asparagus. "Not to mention a gift from Adam, it seems." He handed the offending vegetable to a rather bewildered Mynci and continued. "Now I've got everything except a deck of cards. Has anybody got a deck of cards?" The crowd just stared blankly. "How about you?" Verhale enquired of the Mynci, who merely shook his head. "Now now, be honest. I know you've got one." So saying, the performer pulled a deck from the Mynci's ear.

      "Now I'm sure you've all seen a performer pull a snowbunny out of a hat before. If you haven't, I heartily suggest you get out more often. However, I'm quite sure of the fact that you've never seen a staff member of Kelp do so. Anybody have especially good service at their table?" Partent queried. A few tables had raised hands, and he selected one. "Now who was your waiter?" They pointed out an Aisha watching from the kitchen doors. "Excuse me? Would you mind coming up here? Now all I want you to do is reach into this hat," here he withdrew it, holding it out so everybody could see it was empty, "and pull a snowbunny out. Nothing to it."

      The Aisha looked a little nervous, but shrugged and reached in. As soon as she did so, the hat snapped shut on her hand and she jumped. "Nasty bite those snowbunnies have, hmm?" he said with a wide grin, taking the hat. "Thank you very much; you were wonderful. You can go back now." Turning back to the audience, he chuckled. "They are called magic tricks for a reason, aren't they?"

      Verhale picked up his deck of cards, and began shuffling them, talking in an offhand manner as he did so. "I know, like most everybody else, about the clientele of Kelp. Those who've risen to the top, a sampling of the most prestigious Neopians. It's where all the cultured, sophisticated, and of course affluent come. As such, I'm sure I'll be able to find somebody who's willing to make a small wager. I'll explain the whole thing beforehand." Maddock thought about it for a second. He'd lose whatever the bet was, naturally, but the act was worth it. He put his hand in the air. Verhale smiled. "How about you?" he said, nodding to the Kougra. "Come on up."

      Partent's fingers spread the cards out in a fan, and he proffered it to Waserman. "Pick a card, any card." He handed the plushie the selected card and explained. "I want you to remember that, and show it to everybody else. Don't let me see, though. Then put it back in the deck anywhere, and shuffle it yourself." It was the eight of diamonds, slipped out from the bottom of the deck in place of the actual choice. The audience smiled, making a mental note of the card.

      Maddock stuck the card back in and shuffled it into the deck thoroughly. Verhale nodded, took the deck and started dealing the cards face up. "I will be able to correctly predict when I turn it over before I do so." He dealt about seven cards before he flipped over the eight. The gathering sucked in its breath quietly. But he kept turning over for three cards. He stopped, and set the deck down. "I will bet you a 10k note that the next card I flip will be the one you picked."

      This certainly came as a surprise to Maddock. He didn't think he'd have any chance of winning a bet against a magician in their own show. But the trick must have been messed up. "Sure. But you're going to be ten thousand Neopoints short."

      With a shrug, the self-proclaimed charlatan reached down. Before he did anything he paused. "You can back out if you want, you know." When this evoked no response, he deliberately put his hand on the dealt eight of diamonds, and turned it face down. "I do believe I've won the bet." The crowd clapped and cheered at this, and he merely winked at his participant.

      The act continued for a while longer, with Partent performing such feats as producing a flour bouquet in place of a flower bouquet, turning a brown weewoo into a brown handkerchief, bleaching it, and then turning it back into a white weewoo, and making his umbrella rain. When it drew to a close, he made a flourishing bow, and thanked the waiters for putting up with his antics. The guests left one by one, until only the plushie Kougra remained.

      "So what did you think?"

      "It was amazing! Does anybody else do this sort of thing?"

      The red Shoyru grinned. "No. Not many others would bother putting on something as pointless as a magic act with no magic. So I guess that's what I am. The last real fake magician."

The End

 
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