The Magician’s Land

The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

Book: The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lev Grossman
along the banquettes so as to put the maximum amount of distance between them. Nobody spoke as the limo slid smoothly out into the New Jersey night, through the parking lot and onto the turnpike, past a seemingly endless power plant lit up with a grid of pale orange lights.
    For a second Quentin was reminded of nights in the
Muntjac:
gliding from island to island on oily blackness, far out in Fillory’s EasternOcean, seawater slapping wood, creamy wake streaming out behind. He was heading out into the unknown again.
    Then the LEDs came on—the kid had found the controls. He’d chosen a disco rainbow pattern.
    “What can I say,” he said. “I love the nightlife.”
    “So,” Plum said, to the group in general. “I’m Plum.”
    “I’m Betsy,” said the Pixie.
    “Quentin.”
    “My name is Pushkar,” the older Indian man said. He had a salt-and-pepper goatee and looked way too placid and suburban to be involved in something like this. Everybody turned to the kid. Quentin put him at around fifteen.
    “You’re joking, right?” the boy said. “You’re all gonna use your real names?”
    “No,” Quentin said, “we’re not joking. And yes.”
    “Well, I’m not. You can call me the Artful Dodger.”
    The Pixie—Betsy—cackled.
    “Try again.”
    “What’s wrong with the Artful Dodger? Like in
Oliver!

    “I know where it’s from, I’m just not calling you that.”
    “Well I’m not going to be Fagin.”
    “Maybe we should call you Stoppard,” Quentin said.
    The boy looked confused.
    “I don’t get it,” he said. “Is that from
Oliver!
?”
    “That is the name of the man who wrote the book that you were reading earlier,” Pushkar said. “At the bookstore.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

    “Jeez, I thought that shit was Shakespeare.”
    “Well,” Pushkar said pleasantly, “you thought wrong.”
    “Fine, OK. I’m Stoppard. Whatever.”
    “Stoppard, please set the lighting system to a neutral white.”
    Stoppard huffed loudly, but he did it.
    In the white light Quentin could see better, and what he saw was five people who didn’t look much like a team of world-beating master thieves. He felt more like he’d just joined the French Foreign Legion:they were the sweepings of the magical world, the lost souls, here because nobody else would take them. When he leaned back Quentin caught a whiff of skunked beer and dead cigarette smoke, the ghosts of bachelor parties past.
    “Anybody know where we’re going?” Betsy said, studying her reflection in the ceiling.
    “If I had to guess,” Plum said, “I’d say Newark.”
    “You don’t have to guess,” Stoppard said. “We’re going to the Newark Liberty International Airport Marriott.”
    “How do you know that?”
    “I saw the guy put it into his GPS.”
    “Now that is some master magician shit,” Betsy said. “Right there. Damn, I was hoping for at least a DoubleTree.”
    Of them all she was the only one who really fit the profile. Lots of attitude, lots of aggression. And something else. She kept the banter coming, but she had the air of somebody who’d survived some tough breaks along the way.
    “So have you guys done stuff like this before?” Plum asked. She was showing a lot of persistence in keeping the conversation going.
    “Like what?” Stoppard said. “Like stealing something?”
    “Like stealing something.”
    “Torrenting porn doesn’t count,” Betsy said.
    “I have,” Quentin said.
    “Really. You have.” Betsy had dramatic eyebrows. She knitted them skeptically. “What have you stolen?”
    “A crown. Some keys.”
    Betsy didn’t look impressed, grudgingly or otherwise.
    “Anybody else?”
    “I’ve stolen things,” Stoppard said.
    “Like?”
    “Like I’m going to tell you!” He opened the mini-bar, but it was empty. He slammed it shut. “Cheap crow.”
    “Like you’re such a big drinker. What are you, twelve?”
    “It’s not a crow, it’s a blackbird,” Plum said. “Crows have

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