Crossing the barbed wire had been fun. Without a wand Dad could manage just a hint of cantrips, the barest spark of magic. But he had decades of experience in coaxing sorcery from his fingertips, and coated Kade’s hands with a gauzy glow. The rusty wires felt gentle under his palms.

“Presto,” Dad said, on the other side. And not with the half-twist of his lip, like usual. He was sweating and paused with his hands on his knees, but he had done real magic.

“Yeah,” Kade said, to show he was deeply impressed. “Alright.”

“Heyyyyy presto,” Dad said, wriggling his fingers. “With a wand—” he stopped himself. Kade had heard hundreds of “with a wand” stories, until even Dad had called a halt. With a wand Dad would’ve tossed the entire fencing into the upper atmosphere. With a wand they would’ve turned into water and sluiced through the metal. With a wand Kade would’ve been a wizard.

The bombed-out ruins of Snall Academy were not far.

“Oof,” Dad said. He stopped short again.

Just in the past year the government had stopped blocking the display on Google Earth. From overhead it was rubble with a hint of craters. Dad had spent long hours printing available aerials at the library – not the local library, a distant drive. Just in case the government was still looking. Kade had been put in charge of watching the printer, snatching the prints and keeping them close.

“The entire air force couldn’t do anything,” Dad said, walking again. “Turned their engines into rocks. Or put a small but tasteful bureau right in the path of the turbine. All sorts of options.”

“Yeah, Dad,” Kade had heard this, from the backseat, on many drives. But this was actually it, the husk, formerly an edifice in towering pewter stone. Famous for its pennants, flags, banners, each alive with residents.

“Artillery, though. Artillery… Yeah. Those damn howitzers.”

Although from the pictures the area seemed flattened and empty there were still plenty of stones. There was the remnant footprint of a building, including some blackened rocks. And a pillar in chalky marble by a wide open space. It was a surprise to Dad, who went right over to it.

“A memorial!” he said, surprised. “To all their dead! They actually put something up!”

It had no acknowledgement of conflict and was simply inscribed with names. Many, many names, in a small font.

“Dang, Dad,” Kade said, uncertain. “Lot of carving.”

“Oh, we didn’t go down easy,” Dad said. He seemed uncertain, himself, about how to feel. “Even after the shells broke through we zipped over there on brooms and lit a brigade on— anyway. Join me in a piss?”

“Uh,” Kade went to the other side of the pillar. “Yeah.” He could just see Dad’s knees, peeking out, from the sides of the monument. Kade decided not to unzip. He didn’t need to go. Dad had insisted he went before they left, and it was not a far drive. He just listened to the tinkle.

“Alright?” Dad said, when he went back around.

“Didn’t have much,” Kade said. “But I tried.” Dad ruffled his hair. He hadn’t washed his hands or anything.

“I wonder if…” Dad put his hands on the stone, puffed out his cheeks. Another brief glow from underneath his fingertips. With a wand – even Kade did it, to himself, in his head – with a wand the monument could be driven deepwards down into the earth itself. Atomized into sand. Dad mouthed the words. A flash, and then the scent of burnt hairs. “There.”

A trickle of black lines networked from name to name, adding lines and curlicues and accents to the alphabetical rows. Francisco became Eramcisco. “Do you want to try?” Dad said.

Kade shook his head. In the old days he was guaranteed the words, wand, the candle, the rook. The books of lineage were gone but counted Merlin as just another entry, although a lengthy one. He’d been taught the words. The candle and the rook were symbolic. There were no more wands.