"There! what was that? No, back a bit, bit more, there!" Two tall figures peered into a small stone bowl half filled with amber liquid. The man was pointing at an image which seemed to float just above the surface.
"No, no good, sorry! Thought we had something then, snake skin armour and a bent stick are no good for what we need."
The woman sighed "This could take weeks at the rate we're going." She rubbed her fingers across a line of polished stones set into the side of the bowl and the image moved on.
"Let's take a bit of a breather shall we," said the man hopefully, "We've been at this for hours."
"No, not just yet, we'll try a bit longer, his majesty wouldn't like it if we failed him."
"We haven't let him down yet, have we? Anyway what gratitude does he give us, ay? None that's what! Not even a thank you note or a bunch of chrysanthanumanums."
"Yes dear, but it's not just for him this time is it? The whole town has been challenged and it's up to us to provide a champion."
"And that's another thing." The tall figure stood up straight, pushed his long wavy hair out of his face and began pacing the darkened room.
Where is the mighty Thaw Axe, defender of the Gods, right hand man to kings, etc. Off galivanting I'll be bound. When did you and me get to vant our gallis ay? A long time ago, that's when."
"Wedgil do stop pacing dear, you'll ruin the glyphs, let's just get this out of the way shall we." She gave the man a sweet smile.
"Yes my little kumquat, you're right as usual." Wedgil assumed a martyred expression. "Let's get on with it."
"He's at it again dear, making those funny noises in the conservatory, I can hear him from here with the window open, I wish that woman at number twenty seven would cut that tree down a bit, I could see him properly then." From the back of the room the sound of knitting needles stopped.
"I wish you would come away from that window Kenneth, I dread to think what the neighbours are making of it. They can see you, you know."
"I'm not doing any harm dear, I am just a naturally curious individual," Kenneth pushed his glasses further up his nose, looked wistfully towards the ceiling and declared, "I care for my fellow man."
"Yes dear, that's all very well, but do you have to use those step ladders in the house?"
Kenneth ignored the last comment and carried on, "He seems to be wearing some kind of white suit, and he keeps throwing his hands in the air and shouting, you don't think it could be that American bunch, the Du Lux Clan, or whatever they are called?" The sound of knitting needles started up again, "Aren't they the ones who paint themselves white and wear silly hats?"
"No dear, you're thinking of the Masons."
"What, Audrey and Cyril Mason from the corner shop? Well I never did!"
"Perhaps if we adjust the seaweed a bit we can get a narrower search pattern, what do think, Pol?"
"It's worth a try, but we're straining the goat's bladder as it is, if that goes we'll be out of action for hours."
"We'll just have to risk it, that's seven of those funny green men in half an hour, did you see those little metal tubes they had? What use would they be against a sodding great man- mountain?"
"Well Wedg, if we don't summon a warrior soon it's the end of the road for us and everybody in town, we just lose by default if we don't even field a champion." Wedgil scowled, then forcefully grabbed the seaweed and began squeezing. The image in the bowl started to whirl, the water began to steam slightly under the increased magical field.
"Careful Wedg, not too fast, things are hotting up. There what was that?" Poleyela pointed into the image suddenly, catching Wedgil off balance, he stumbled, reaching out a hand to steady himself his fingernails brushed against the internal organ of a sheep like animal, which immediately began to leak a blue liquid.
"Oh no! Quick activate the catcher," Pol yelled in a rather shrill voice. Wedgil hesitated for a moment then stamped down on a wooden peddle beneath the plinth, which, via a thin piece of catgut, released a mauve powder into the air above the liquid.
A moment's silence was followed by a thunderous crash. About 8 cubits away on a raised platform a ring of red fire had leapt up then dropped back to a steady blue flame.
"Right. That's that then, let's wait and see what we get."
"Got, see what we have GOT," corrected Pol.
"Yes, sorry this instantaneous calling always gets me confused." Wedgil looked at Poleyela and slapped his hands against his stout belly. "Shall we go out for lunch or eat here?
I've heard there's a pretty good Greek restaurant near the market."
"Yes, that sounds good, a nice skin of wine as well, we need to relax." Wedgil grinned, "I should marry you one day you know, you think just like me." Poleyela smiled wisely, took his arm and together they walked out of the Lab.
"Look left, one two, turn head right one two, forward... damn! Always forget the Tettsui Uchi, start again...". Stuart Bramley was practising the ancient art of Shotokan Karate. Sometimes he would practise the art on the lawn, turning his body into a steel killing machine, but today it was raining so he was in the conservatory. There wasn't a lot of room, what with the wicker effect plastic furniture and the banana plant, but it was better than getting his pure white, immaculately ironed Karate suit, or 'Gi', dirty. Sometimes he would pretend to be Bruce Lee (who actually did Kung Fu, but hell, it was his fantasy) kicking and chopping in a way that would have sent his wife into hysterics.
He was a slightly built man, with thining hair, a rather weak moustache his wife made him grow, large feet and no dress sense. Today he was serious, Saturday was gradings day, the day he went from green belt to purple, if he practised enough. He was just about to execute a rather tricky Hiza Geri Uchi with Kiai when he suddenly smelt burning. Looking down he saw a thin flame run in a circle around him, the tiled floor of the conservatory turned into a stone one covered in strange symbols. As the sound and everything around him faded away, he thought he heard a rather piercing voice shout "Kenneth! Put that camera down!"
It wasn't as if it was particularly horrible being mentally ill, it was just, well, disappointing. Melanie will be so upset when she finds out, he thought. He knew he wasn't dreaming because he hadn't been asleep. He had come to the conclusion that the last Kiai or shout he did had ruptured a blood vessel in his brain causing a temporary, he hoped, mental episode. How else could you account for suddenly being ripped from the safety of one,s own conservatory and being sent hurtling through a dark void?
Stuart practised a few Mawashi Geris then sat down on the surprisingly warm floor. Perhaps I ought to make the most of it he thought, Melanie always said that he needed to broaden his horizons, Wargaming and Karate are not the only things in life she would say, frequently. "Well, new experiences broaden the mind, so here I go, if only in a metaphysical sense." He said out loud.
What felt like several hours later he was woken by the sound of strange voices, he didn't know the language but he knew they were drunk, that translates every time.
- Copyright Steve Dean