Note: There’s this fan community I recently joined that hosts an annual writing contest called Project Ink. I applied, surprisingly got accepted, and made it to the second-to-the-last round. Each of the bi-weekly rounds had the participants write short stories following prompts. I had the choice to build a new world with each new round, but I didn’t. Instead, I built the Cecilia Canon – a series of stories about this woman named Cecilia, her daughter Claudia, and her unnamed mother who all look like Eva Green.
Disclaimer: While I wrote this for Project Ink, this is not part of the Cecilia Canon. I’d forgotten I’d written it, too. HAHA.
Project Ink Round 3: Character Challenge, write two entries from Newt Scamander’s travel journal. Max 2000 words..
How to Be Jaded
19 March 1920
Black Forest, Germany
The first excursion I am taking on my own is not quite shaping up to be the adventure that I have been dreaming of since boyhood. I had expected to encounter a lot of creatures, of course – some harmless, some perhaps fatal. I had been prepared for all these, and I had even sharpened a boatload of defensive spells in the off chance that I might encounter an acromantula or something just as nefarious in the infamous Schwarzwald.
What I had not expected was the language barrier, for it seems in the southern regions all everyone speaks is an unfamiliar variation of German, a language at which I am woefully inept in the first place. The chap I had spoken with may not have understood my request for directions correctly – I would prefer to attribute this to my poor Deutsch rather than the copious amounts of beer he had gladly downed on behalf of the lightweight Englishman – and as such I found myself wandering in the literal darker shadows of the Black Forest. To think, all I had wanted was to validate a rumor that unicorns had been spotted in this particular section of the woods.
There I had been, following a charming brook while ignoring the sinister sunshine that filtered through the forest cover above me, when I heard the plaintive cry of a small child. It led me to a circle of spruce trees, where I found an older gentleman crouched before a little boy, an erkling cackling before them. The wizard’s wand had rolled off to the other side of the clearing, leaving both man and child defenseless. I had done my research on the creature – it was just as well that I had prepared for the inhabitants of the Schwarzwald – and sent spell after spell in its direction. It was unnaturally fast just as it seemed eerily clever. Eliminating every other possible solution, I pointed a Reductor spell straight at its chest. The poor creature exploded into a thousand bits in an unpleasant blast that the German Ministry had to sift out of its Muggle victim’s memory.
By the time the authorities hauled off the erkling and the child was returned to his home, the sun was down. It was then that Augustus Worme, the gentleman who had come to the boy’s rescue, offered to book me a room at the inn where he was staying for the weekend. I tried to wave off his offer to pay for me as politely as I could, but he would have none of it. He claims it is the least he can do for my having saved his life – although surely, I simply happened to come to his aid due to a fortunate happenstance.
Worme is a publisher at Obscurus Books. Business had brought him to a book fair in Leipzig, and since he was already in the country, he thought he might as well visit the Black Forest. Apparently they are featured in several stories by a pair of Muggle brothers called Grimm, and Worme promises to lend me his copies of their books as soon as we get back to England. As neither of us had a particular penchant for beer, we traded stories of our adventures over strong cups of tea laced with Firewhisky, with which to soothe our frayed nerves. Worme had apparently been quite the adventurer in his youth, although he had given up the habit once his hair had turned gray, and he could no longer carry a rucksack without his lower back complaining. After recalling an improbable escape from a Kappa in Hokkaido, Worme abruptly looked straight into my eyes. It was then that he asked me what my story was, what I was doing in the middle of the Black Forest in the first place.
Like any other twenty-year-old twit, I travel because I do not know what lies out there. There is something very seductive about the unknown, about not knowing if foe or friend is what awaits you with each journey you start. My short life, for all its conveniences, has always been a walled one. As my mother’s son, it was expected that I would hunt creatures for the rest of my life, as I do now. As a Hufflepuff, it had been implied that excitement and glory were beyond me, as those were apparently reserved for Gryffindors alone. I travel in part because I long to encounter creatures I have never yet seen. But I travel also because I long to meet a version of myself that I have never yet known or imagined possible.
The woods, these towering spruces of the Schwarzwald, they hold no prejudice, and it is in this anonymity that I find the freedom to become who I might. The trees would not laugh or scorn pale, knobbly Newton Scamander if he were to lift his wand against an erkling. They would simply look on, watching silently as they always have, and in that I find my peace. The change in me shall never be seen by anyone else, and I will always appear as my usual chuckling self, ready with a joke or a shoulder to cry on. But inside, I know each trip will transform me, and it is this private growth that matters most. I journey to be someone I have yet to become.
Of course, I told Worme none of this. I told him instead that I simply wished to see more foreign creatures, and he appeared to take my words at face value. Most surprising of all was his offer to have me write a book on beasts, if I planned to continue traveling the world. His proposal was most generous, and were I to accept, he would have a portion of my travel expenditures credited to his bookshop. Though I have never written and this travel diary is as far as I’ve come to an attempt, the chance to see more worlds, more creatures was too much of a good pull to resist. So I said yes, of course. We are to meet again to discuss the finer details of the contract as soon as I get back from Germany next week.
Tomorrow I set off to search for the ever elusive unicorns that I could not find this morning. If I once again encounter an erkling, I shall endeavor to be gentler in my handling of it this time.
25 April 1923
The creature is not, as hysterical Muggle locals claim, a wailing woman who drags innocents into murky depths to devour them. I credit, there is truth to the rumors of kidnapping and subsequent slaughter, but this is no malevolent human, ghost, or whatever it is the villagers have taken to branding it these days. It is simply a kelpie, and a particularly industrious and starving one at that, which will make the task of subduing it even more of a challenge. The public certainly should give Ministry workers more credit. We don’t all spend our working hours sharpening our quills, although our paperwork can be just as monstrous as the most fearsome Ridgeback at times.
This is my last mission before I travel to America for the exhibition Worme has insisted that I put up. Granted, he has taken care of all the details, and really, all I must do now is drag myself to New York and give a handful of lectures on Magical Creature Containment, as well as cute anecdotes about nearly getting poisoned in the Amazon. Worme says this is all part of the publicity effort for the book, but I have reason to doubt him. There is a woman he has not ceased talking about since his business trip to America, and as he has filled my travel itinerary with more dinner parties than actual work, I fear for myself. Were he not happily married I would be convinced he fancied her, but as he and Caroline are the sweetest saps I have ever seen since my own dear parents, his offer is made more ominous.
He had asked me over dinner last Tuesday if I had ever properly considered the possible joys of matrimony. If I had, he ventured, and all that was keeping me from engaging in courtship was an inner timidity, he would be glad to lend a hand and introduce me to his American friend, Porpentina Goldstein, whom he was sure I would get along fantastically with. I told him that I appreciated the concern, but that there was no need to be a bloody Gryffindor about these things, and if they are to happen, so they shall. Moreover, if this Miss Goldstein is like the majority of Worme’s English friends – upper-crust, stiff-lipped, and posh, with several well-crafted opinions on the different varieties of lace – I do not think we will get along. I rather like my dangerous pets, perhaps just as well as tumbling along foreign fields, and would be loathe to pretend to be more refined than I am.
I should like to meet a woman who would tolerate a man who disappears for weeks on end without a single owl. From what little I know of the female species, they are very easily affronted when one does not send them chocolates or other such impractical gifts. They are wonderful enough as friends and allies, but wives and lovers are a different debate entirely. I have mistresses enough – my travels, my beasts, the wind at my back, and the endless sky stretching before me. None of these I would be willing to give up for the folly of romance, for these are my addictions. I had ventured on my first journeys with the belief that I was simply searching the self I would eventually become, but now my wanderings have taken on a power of their own. I find I have been forever changed, as I had wanted. I can no longer sit still.
I fancy myself to be much like our English moors. They are vast, and quiet, and confident in their solitude. They seem peaceful at a distance, comforting to some, foreboding to most, but one does not see at first glance the many creatures they hold – the nifflers, the mooncalves, the pixies, and the mokes, among others. This morning alone, as I first flew into Cotterstock, I glimpsed a parade of gnomes happily traversing the moors just outside the village. Not many who would look at that vast tract of barren land could imagine the joy and camaraderie it is home to, for to begin with, not many are able to appreciate the beauty of beasts. I claim I am very much a moor. I have always been but a plain, boring man to many women, and for all my adventures, I am still pale, skinny Newton Scamander. I find myself interesting enough, but what is my opinion worth against that of womankind? For all his empathy, Worme cannot possibly understand that.
Still, perhaps I shall endeavor to humor him and his attempts at matchmaking. As soon as the local boy who will take me to the woods has finished with his afternoon duties, I plan to take the kelpie down and be home in Dorset by dinnertime. On Saturday morning I leave for New York, where Miss Porpentina Goldstein shall meet me, as Worme has assured. I shall no doubt be pleased to meet her, finally, and I shall attempt to become her good friend. After which I shall try to survive for three weeks in the United States. The social battlefield of America could not possibly be worse than the thick, unending rainforests of Borneo with the lethifolds I still have nightmares about from time to time.
And at the very least, these Manhattan toffs are more than capable of speaking English. A shared language is always a welcome comfort, better even than the warmest quilt.