The Auld Alchemist: Epilogue

“And so by the time we had gathered ourselves, pretty much all of the Draco Viridis people were gone,” said Sir John.

He, Marie, Frater Magnificus and Soror Beatitudinum were in the parlour. They were all were sitting and looking grave apart from Sir John, who had been talking and waving his arms about with a biscuit constantly in his hand. Frater Magnificus was brushing off some crumbs that had fallen on him whilst Sir John was talking about the two stones.

“There were a couple left that were still interested in meeting Phlebotomous, but we sent them away. Or rather Miss Henderson did,” finished Sir John, “rather forcibly.”

At that moment, Miss Henderson entered the room with tea and glanced at the diminished biscuit pile and the crumbs on the floor. She pulled a small face. The two members of FOLI looked nervously at the maid.

“Miss Henderson,” said Marie, “how is Morag?”

“I think she is starting to feel a little better,” said Miss Henderson, “although her spirits are understandably low and her nose is a little dry.”

“Thank you,” said Sir John and looked at the biscuit plate. “Perhaps we could get some more for our guests?”

Miss Henderson left then and Sir John continued.

“What happened to the other chap?” he said.

“Frater Lorem Ipsum has decided that he no longer wishes to follow the path of the true seeker,” said Frater Magnificus. “We believe he may have been a trifle overwhelmed by events. He has, though, taken a most severe oath to remain silent and never speak on what he has seen and learnt. But, Sir John, what of the lens of Mac Dubh, was it…”

“Destroyed,” said Sir John. “At least we believe so. The whole area for several feet around the two men was vaporized, including the apparatus to make the Summum Malorum.”

Frater Magnificus nodded.

“We have carried out some research into the building,” he said. “It was built by Lord Anglestone’s grandfather, we believe for the purpose of making the stone. We also believe that Draco Viridis was created primarily to support this aim, the creation of this Green Stone.”

“And we have traced the Anglestone tree,” said Soror Beatitudinum glumly. “The first Lord Anglestone achieved his peerage around 300 years ago, by paying the crown a large sum of money. The source of the money was unknown. We believe he may have been an associate of Mac Dubh who had taken some of the Red Stone for this purpose.”

“And so,” continued Frater Magnificus, “whilst you have not been able to recover the lens, we believe you have done a most excellent job. For you have certainly thwarted a most powerful foe and robbed it of its purpose and leader.”

Sir John sighed.

“I imagine now you’ll be giving us an honorary rank within your organization,” he said. “Something fitting for a servant of the seekers of the truth.”

Frater Magnificus and Soror Beatitudinum glanced at each other.

“Or some amulet that reflects your admiration of our deeds or possibly even a hand-carved wooden plate depicting the destruction of the Stones.”

Frater Magnificus looked nervous.

“I am embarrassed to say that we have nothing so spiritual,” said Frater Magnificus. “We are a humble order and we strive for such virtues, but in truth some of our power comes from the more earthly realm. We had intended to give you this, but if you would prefer these other things…”

Frater Magnificus indicated to a wooden chest which Sir John opened and peered in. His eyes widened and he looked in shock at his wife. He turned the chest so she could see the contents and she smiled warmly at him.

“Under the circumstances,” said Sir John, in a thin voice, “this will be more than acceptable.”

Frater Magnificus and Soror Beatitudinum both relaxed at those words. Just then Miss Henderson came in with a tray of biscuits. Sir John opened the chest filled with sparkling treasure to show her.

“Look at that, Miss Henderson!” he said.

“Bloody Nora!” said Miss Henderson and dropped the tray of biscuits on the floor.

aaepi“Bloody Nora!”

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 14

Voler!” shouted Marie, and Sir John shot back several feet down the aisle. The masonry crashed on the floor where he had been. She heard Pook snigger and glanced up and saw another chunk of masonry head for her. Before it hit her something else barreled into her from the side, knocking her to the ground and pinning her down.

“Sorry we’re a wee bit late,” said Morag standing on top of her.

“Apology accepted,” said Marie.

Clackprattle had reached Frater Princeps and grabbed the Stone from the cushion.

“What are you doing man, that’s mine!” said Frater Princeps, but Clackprattle didn’t hear him. He was clutching the Stone in his hand and screaming. His hand was turning the same dark green colour as the stone, spreading from his palm.

“You’re taking the power from it!” said Frater Princeps. “Stop it! Give it to me!”

The dark green colour had covered Clackprattle’s hand and was starting to spread over his wrist. Frater Princeps grabbed Clackprattle’s arm and tried to shake it, but Clackprattle hung on and continued screaming.

aa-ch-14“Stop It!”

Sir John stood up from where he had been knocked down. He glanced down the church and saw Miss Henderson, a large staff, some fleeing order members, and a grateful looking vampire. He looked at the altar and saw Clackprattle and Frater Princeps.

“Clackprattle, I have my gun,” shouted Sir John. Instantly Clackprattle dropped the Stone and covered his crotch with his hands.

“Stay away from me!” he shouted. Frater Princeps grabbed the green stone and held it up in his gloved hand.

“The Summum Malorum is mine now,” he said manically. “It is mine!”

“Sir John,” said Diarmuid Mac Dubh, who had just appeared beside him. “May I ask you a wee favour? Will you promise me you’ll look after Morag?”

“Yes, of course, but what do you mean,” said Sir John to his retreating back.

“Anglestone!” roared Mac Dubh as he approached the altar. “You are surely one massive arse!”

Mac Dubh opened his hand to reveal a bright red stone. He clasped his hand with the red stone over Princeps’ with his green stone. The two met and matched. There was a bright light between the men’s hands that grew brighter and stronger. Princeps shouted in dismay as both men were engulfed by light. A sound like thunder cracked and the light retreated. Both men, both stones were gone.

“Father!” shouted Morag, but Marie held onto her.

“It may not be safe,” said Marie gently.

Sir John came over to where they both were.

“Where’s Clackprattle?” he said.

“Gone. Again,” said Marie, “Along with Pook.”

“That little weasel?” said Sir John. “Still leaching off his boss?”

“We need to talk about those two sometime soon,” said Marie.

Miss Henderson wandered over with a shaken-looking Phlebotomous.

“Those people are crazy!” he said. “Who would want to be a vampire! It’s a terrible life! You can’t even get the early dining discount!”

“Did we win?” said Miss Henderson.

Sir John looked down at Morag.

“More or less,” he said. “More or less.”

The Auld Alchemist: Epilogue

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 13

“Fraters and Sorors,” intoned Frater Princeps at the front of the church. “We are close to concluding a dream of one hundred years. Tonight we shall use this lens, this mirror, to call down the Dark Light of the veiled moon. On this night, the longest, darkest night, we shall call down the shadow and make the Summum Malorum. This Dark Stone, this evil, will grant the order unparalleled power over life and death and the riches of the world. For where the alchemists sought only to prolong life, we seek also to end it, and whilst they sought only riches, we seek to destroy our enemies’ wealth.”

Frater Princeps went to an altar covered with cloth where there was a screen and pulled both cloth and screen away. They revealed a large container, shaped like a giant bullet pointing up, made of wrought iron. Pipes came out from the side and fed into a larger container underneath, which formed the altar.  Frater Princeps then signalled to two people dressed in robes on either side. They both stood by statues of angels with swords. They pulled the swords down like levers, and the roof over the altar started to open up, exposing the moon above. A shadow was starting to form over it. Frater Princeps went to the top of the smaller container and opened the lid. He slid a small glass item across the opening.

“Nothing can stop it now,” he said to the church. The large group of people in robes all muttered in approval.  Suddenly, the entrance door swung open at the back of the church and Sir John, Marie, and Phlebotomous charged in.

“Stand back, I am a vampire!” said Phlebotomous. Immediately the man closest to him exposed his neck.

“Bite me! Give me your Dark Gift!” he said. The person next to him did the same, and soon Phlebotomous was surrounded by a group of people asking to be bitten.

“Get away from me, you freaks!” he said as they crowded into him shouting “Me! Me!”

aa-ch-13“Bite Me!”

Sir John and Marie headed for the altar.

“Use magic to stop Anglestone, no, immobilize the crowd, no, can you close the roof?” said Sir John to Marie. She started to speak but stopped each time as he changed his mind. They were at the altar when someone large stepped forward.

“Clackprattle?” said Sir John.

“Welcome, Sir John,” said Clackprattle. “It’s so nice that you came here to be the Stone’s first victim.”

“It is complete!” said Frater Princeps, bringing forth a shiny dark green object on a cushion. “The Summum Malorum is formed.”

A short person in a hood sidled next to Marie.

“How delighted I am to once again make your acquaintance, Marie,” said the man. “I have truly missed our conversations.”

“Pook.” said Marie. “Didn’t you learn last time?”

“Oh, yes,” he said. “Clackprattle, go and get the stone.”

“It’s Frater Gra…” started Clackprattle.

“Yes, whatever, get the stone, that is why we joined this ridiculous order,” said Pook.

“All right,” said Clackprattle. Marie watched as he headed for the altar.

“Oh, Marie?” said Pook. “You should always watch the hand, not the puppet.”

He glanced up, and as she followed his gaze she saw a large chunk of masonry falling toward Sir John.

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 14

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 12

Sir John snored happily. He was dreaming something about a tall man with a mustache and a shorter fat man. They were carrying a stone made of the moon. There was something troubling about the dream but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Maybe it was just that the fire wasn’t as hot as it had been earlier.

aa-chapter-12-sepia“He’s Drugged!”

There was some banging from far away and something like a shout or a scream. There were footsteps running and more shouting and banging. Then he fancied he heard his wife’s voice in distress. That made him stir a bit but he was so comfortable it was hard to move. Perhaps he should just sleep some more. Then he thought he heard voices, a woman and a man, voices he knew. He heard the words ‘he’s drugged’ and wondered who they were talking about. Then he heard his wife’s voice say ‘reveiller’.

Sir John sat up bolt upright. Marie, Phlebotomous, and Miss Henderson stood around him.

“It’s Lord Anglestone, he has the lens,” said Sir John wide eyed.

“We know,” said Marie. “It’s why we are here.”

“He’s part of Draco Viridis, maybe the head,” said Sir John.

“We know this too,” said Marie.

“He’s going to use the lens to make a, a Dark Stone, an evil stone,” said Sir John.

“That bit is news,” said Marie. “But settle, mon cher, we are rescuing you, let’s get away and you can tell us what you’ve learnt.”

“No time,” said Sir John, “he’s doing it tonight. In a building built specially for it.”

“How do we find this place?” asked Phlebotomous. “Did he tell you where?”

“No,” said Sir John. “I was … in and out of consciousness.”

“Bet they’ll know,” said Miss Henderson. There were a number of large men scattered on the floor.

“Miss ‘enderson,” said Marie, “try not to hurt them. At least not again.”

Miss Henderson went over and picked up various frightened looking ruffians.

“There is a lunar eclipse tonight,” said Sir John, “or so he said. It seems like this whole operation is some kind of reverse alchemy. He intends to create this Summum Malorum, this evil stone. We have to go and stop it.”

There was a scream of terror from the other side of the room.

“But how, mon cher, we don’t know what he is doing or where,” said Marie.

“Got the address,” said Miss Henderson, “and, as luck would have it, the key. That gentleman with the limp had them both.”

“Very good, Miss Henderson,” said Sir John, “I think. I have one more task for you. Can you go to Mr Cunningham’s shop as quickly as you can and fetch Diarmuid. I fear we will need his help. Marie, Phlebotomous, we should go to this place and try and stop this evil before it’s too late.”

“Well, I…” said Phlebotomous, “it sounds a bit … dangerous.”

“Look man, sorry, vampire,” said Sir John, “are you part of this investigation or not?”

Phlebotomous’ face lit up, which made it seem luminous.

“I’m in,” he said with pride.

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 13

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 11

“Thank you for coming at such short notice,” said Lord Anglestone. He was sitting with Sir John in a large room. They were both in comfortable arm chairs near a roaring fire.

“My pleasure,” said Sir John. “You said you had some news?”

“Indeed,” said Lord Anglestone, “I believe I have a significant lead on the robbery. In fact, I think I may be very close to recovering the items. I was hoping you would have a drink with me to celebrate.”

“I, er…” said Sir John, “I’m a little off the drink right now.”

“Temperance pledge?” said Lord Anglestone.

“I’m close to that,” said Sir John.

“Well, will you take some lemon tea at least? I would be offended if I couldn’t offer you something,” said Lord Anglestone.

“That would be very refreshing,” said Sir John.

Lord Anglestone clicked his fingers and a butler appeared. The Lord ordered some drinks then sat back.

aa-ch-11“Later, Clackprattle”

“So tell me,” said Sir John, “what have you learnt?”

“Well, it seems there has been a most remarkable chain of events,” said Lord Anglestone. “I can tell you I have tracked down and spoken to the miscreant who broke into the Museum. It transpires that shortly after robbing that august institution, he was himself robbed, by a person he struggled to describe.”

The lemon tea arrived and they both drank.

“I think I may have an idea who that person is, but do go on,” said Sir John. The fire and the comfortable chair were starting to make him sleepy, despite the excitement of the meeting.

“Ah, I have the advantage there,” said Lord Anglestone, “for I know for sure. The person was none other than Diarmuid Mac Dubh himself. The old fool had somehow managed to find out about the theft and stopped it.”

“I … er … what,” said Sir John, who could barely keep his eyes open.

“Yes, the old failure thought he could stand between me and my rightful heritage. He stole again the lens, made by my ancestor, my family, to make another pointless attempt at leaving this mortal coil. But I fashioned, with the help of my order, a golem to steal it. Right now it is being prepared and moved to the building my family has had constructed for the very purpose of housing it.”

There was a clink as a cup and saucer were dropped.

“You see Sir John, I am the heir to an analchemical process that has been operating for 99 years and 364 days. It has all been planned to complete on this night, on the lunar eclipse. I will channel the dark light of the moon into the lens, into the alchemical workings I have inherited from my grandfather, and I will make the Summum Malorum, the Dark Stone. And then, Sir John, the power of life and death, the power of poverty and riches, will be mine!”

Lord Anglestone stood up triumphantly but Sir John ignored him as he was fast asleep and snoring a little.

“Do we kill him now?” said Frater Gravitas Maximas as he came out the shadows.

“Later, Clackprattle,” said Lord Anglestone. “Later, when we have the Stone.”

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 12

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 10

“And that’s when Marie created a small insect from a stone, attached the golem’s clay to it and let it loose,” said Sir John.

The three members of FOLI sitting in the Jennings’ parlour looked grave at this news, although it occurred to Marie they looked grave at every bit of news. The younger one, Frater Lorem Ipsum, looked slightly nervously at her.

“We had no idea your wife was…” started Frater Magnificus, “talented.”

“It’s a common experience,” said Sir John, “to underestimate her. But I must ask you all to treat this information with the strictest confidence.”

“Sir, we are a secret society with a noble history,” said Frater Magnificus. “If there is one thing we can do, it is keep silent.”

“It’s just I found this in the bookshop,” said Sir John, holding up a book titled “Rites and Ceremonies of the Fraternal Order of the Light Incarnate”. Soror Beatitudinum screamed.

“Frater Lorem Ipsum, avert your eyes!” shouted Frater Magnificus. “Avert your eyes!”

Sir John took the hint and put the book away. Just then the door opened and a short humanoid creature with a white skin and no facial features came in, breathing noisily. Frater Lorem Ipsum jumped up from his chair and the other order members looked shocked. The creature peeled back its face.

“Mr Bosch!” said Sir John, “what a surprise!”

The vampire looked around him. The order members were all standing now and looking aghast.

“If you hear any more, please contact us,” said Frater Magnificus, “we have an urgent … ceremony to attend.”

“We do?” said Soror Beatitudinum.

Frater Magnificus nodded vigorously and the trio left.

“Well…” said Phlebotomous, “how’s the investigation going?”

“It’s been better,” said Sir John, “it seems the objects have slipped through our fingers, but we have managed to find their original owner and a talking dog.”

“Yes, my day’s been busy too…” started Phlebotomous. Just then Miss Henderson came into the room. Phlebotomous flinched as he saw her.

“Telegram for you, Sir Jennings,” she said and passed a note to Sir John. She was carrying a tray with a pot and five cups on it which she took away again.

“Yes, my day has been so busy…” said Phlebotomous but noticed no-one was paying attention.

“it’s an invitation to see Lord Anglestone,” said Sir John. “Apparently, he has some important news on our ‘mutual interest’ that he wants to tell me right away. I shall leave at once.”

aa-ch-10Mon Dieu!

Sir John left the room at haste and shortly after the front door slammed. Miss Henderson returned to the room with a pot and three cups. She pointedly served two cups of tea then left.

“How was your day then Mr Bosch?” said Marie to be polite.

“Well, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you!” he said.

“Go on,” said Marie.

“Really?” said Phlebotomous. He then regaled her with several tales involving dangerously malfunctioning inventions, a case of near asphyxiation with a new sunlight protector, and an unsuccessful attempt to recruit some household staff.

“And the last one ran away as soon as I opened the door,” he concluded.

Marie could feel her heading nodding, even though Miss Henderson had brought in some tea. She felt a tap on her foot and looked down. A small stone smeared with clay was next to her foot.

“Ah,” she said, “my stone bug.”

“I haven’t seen one of those in years!” said Phlebotomous. “Where is your map?”

“Map?” said Marie, “I have to walk the streets to find where he has been.”

“No, you don’t,” said Phlebotomous. “You can use a map and a bit of string to make a pendulum.”

Marie produced a map and tied a bit of yarn to the stone. She held the pendulum over the map and it swirled round in circles before pointing straight at one place on the map.

Mon Dieu!” said Marie. “The place the golem came from, it is Lord Anglestone’s house!”

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 11

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 9

“Tell them about the artefacts,” said Morag. Diarmuid sighed and continued his story.

“I suppose some people came and took what remained after the fire. These were the artefacts that resided in the British Museum. As for me, I used the rest of the stone to extend my life and make some gold, then started again. What else could I do? I managed to recreate most of my tools, but the items I had lost, well, one of the items, seemed invaluable. They were in the hands of one Sir Hans Sloane. The crucial item was only needed for the last step, so I waited until just before the work was complete. I broke into the gentleman’s house to retrieve my tools and to complete my work. I did not see it as theft, as they were mine to start with.

“Alas, again I was unsuccessful, as my physical form here attests. Some Red Stone, but no elevation. I sent back the items to Sir Sloane in frustration, but then started again. One hundred years ago I was also close and again needed that crucial item. By now the artefacts were in the museum, which is from where I ‘borrowed’ them. I hardly need tell you that attempt failed. I believed then there was a flaw in the items I had used. I set out to create new tools from scratch. Again, I returned the ‘borrowed’ items so no one would look for them, or more importantly, me, and thought no more of them until recently.

“It was just a few short weeks ago that I was carrying out a divination and I saw there were others who wished to use my tools for ill ends. I could not be sure who they were, but it was reasonably clear the tools would be stolen. I waited each night outside the museum until I saw some rogue enter the building. On his exit, I relieved him of his ill-gotten gains. I established that he was a mere hired hand and knew nothing. I brought the artifacts back here. Albert has been kind enough to let us stay, you see.

“I thought the matter over and the crisis averted until yesterday. I believe you visited a couple of days before? Ah, curses, if we had only … still, hindsight is the wisest yet tardiest wisdom. During the night there was a disturbance. I woke to see a creature of some kind, a golem I think, leaving the window. It had only taken one artefact, the most dangerous, the most powerful.”

“What was it?” asked Sir John.

“It is a glass, a lens,” said Diarmuid, “which at the very end of the process is used to turn the alchemist from his fixed earthly form to a being of spiritual light. The danger is that it may be reversed, may be used to turn a spiritual being, even a malign one, especially a malign one, into something physical. This is what I believe these people are trying to do.”

“This Draco Viridis?” said Marie. The alchemist looked at her.

“Is their their name now?” he said. “The names don’t matter. It is the intent that is important. And now they have it. And the serpent is clever, sending a golem. If it were a human who had stolen the lens, Morag could track them. But a creature of clay … it is impossible.”

aa-ch-9“Quite Special!”

“Marie,” said Sir John, “there must be something you can do? Could you try visualizing the golem to determine the direction it went.”

Diarmuid looked confused.

“My wife is a witch,” said Sir John, matter of factly. Miss Henderson glared at him.

“He means…” said Morag, “for real.”

“Oh, yes,” said Sir John, smiling lightly. “She’s very powerful. Quite, quite special actually.”

“I don’t think this visualization thing works mon cher, but I ‘ave an idea,” said Marie. “Was any of the clay left behind? On the window sill or somewhere?”

“There was a little, yes,” said Morag.

“I’ll need that,” said Marie, “and a small stone…”

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 10

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 8

The window blinds were rolled down and the closed sign was set on the door, an act that had made Albert wince. In the shop were Albert, Morag the dog, Sir John, Marie, Miss Henderson, and an elderly gentleman with a long grey beard.

“So, then,” said the old man, “I’m Diarmuid Mac Dubh. I daresay you’d like some sort of explanation?”

aa-closed“So, Then…”

There was a general murmur of assent although the question seemed rhetorical. Mac Dubh sighed and started to speak.

“So the history books have it that I died 300 years ago in a fire which destroyed my house and killed my family. All that remained of my life’s work were some glass oddments which were undamaged by the blaze and have been kept, until recently, in the British Museum. Some of these facts are not entirely accurate, as I’m sure you can gather.

“First, let me tell you a wee bit about alchemy. You see, the Great Work takes exactly one hundred years. Completed correctly, it elevates the alchemist beyond the corporeal form, transports him to the angelic world and brings him in contact with God. The Summum Bonum, also known as the Philosopher’s Stone or the Red Stone is a mere side effect, not the goal. Nevertheless, the powers of the Stone, to extend life and create gold, are necessary to prolong the alchemist’s life and to allow his time to be devoted to the Great Work. So first, one must find a master willing to gift some of the Stone. Then the alchemist may attempt the work himself.

“As for me, my first attempt, ending three hundred years ago, ended in catastrophe. I was a mere 121 years old and my daughter, Morag, was my apprentice. You see, I had given her some of the Red Stone meant for me, so moved had I been by her mother’s death. As the work neared completion, a small amount of the Red Stone appeared. I was ecstatic, and I leapt in joy. Alas, in that moment my concentration on the Great Work was broken and success became failure. The apparatus flared violently and the flames caught the house. The three of us, Morag, myself and our dog tried to escape. I grabbed Morag and dragged her from the wreckage of our home, my skin burning. When I was outside I realized I had taken the dog by mistake and my daughter was still inside. In despair I threw the some of the Red Stone into the burning house to try to save her.

‘Her body was destroyed, but her soul somehow …  migrated … to the dog. She spoke to me immediately, asking what had happened. I realized we would have to hide, or else she would be killed as a demon. We ran from that place.”

Diarmuid looked at Morag with tears in his eyes.

“My poor daughter, we have been running ever since,” he said.

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 9

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 7

Albert Cunningham was sitting in his shop behind the counter reading the newspaper. The dog was snoring quietly near to his feet. The quiet sounds of customers not buying anything filled the shop. Suddenly the tinkle of the bell announced arrivals and Albert looked up. The gentleman, wasn’t he a knight, and the French lady from the other day were coming in along with a younger lady that seemed somehow familiar. The knight was looking rather the worse for wear and the young lady looked rather stern. Albert remembered where he’d sent the knight at that point.

open-1“Oh Bugger!”

“Hello, Albert,” said the young lady. “I don’t suppose you remember me. It’s been a few years.”

“There’s a vague familiarity,” he said. “Was I overly familiar with your mother a few decades ago?”

“No,” said the lady, “I’m Felicity Henderson.”

“Old man Henderson’s daughter?” said Albert.

“Exactly!” said Miss Henderson.

“Oh, Bugger,” said Albert, and Miss Henderson grabbed him by the collar and dragged him over the counter. The dog jumped up to look at the events, and Marie looked askance at the dog.

“Do give him my best regards,” said Albert in a gargled voice, “and let him know I shall return the money presently.”

“I ain’t here for him,” she said. “I’m here for them.”

She pulled Albert’s head toward the older couple to illustrate.

“Good day to you both,” said Albert.

“You sent poor Sir Jennings here on a right wild goose chase to that den of thieves in New Malden. Worse, he was practically force fed alcohol and swindled out of a not inconsiderable sum of money by the very gent you sent him to. He handed over a large slice of cash for a collection of beer bottles.”

Miss Henderson held up a bag which made a loud clinking sound. Sir John winced slightly.

“Well, he won’t be the first gent who handed over a large sum of money for beer bottles,” said Albert, “even if they are usually full.”

Miss Henderson pushed Albert’s head down onto the counter with a small thump.

“Albert, you may as well tell them, especially now,” said the dog. “I don’t think these are criminal masterminds.”

“You ain’t met her old man,” said Albert to the dog.

“Excuse me,” said Sir John, “is this hangover getting worse or did the dog speak?”

They all looked at the dog.

“Are you sure about this,” said Albert.

“They trusted you,” said the dog to Albert, “or at least the witch did. And now that … well, maybe they can help.”

“Very well. Gentlefolk, Miss Henderson, let me introduce Morag Mac Dubh,” said Albert. “Morag, you’d better go upstairs and get your father.”

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 8

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 6

The public house was gloomy and a pall of smoke filled every inch of it. Sir John walked to the near empty bar and sat down. The place was filled with menace and bad humour.

“Good job I didn’t bring Marie,” he said to himself. “Goodness knows what might happen to her in this place.”

A sour looking fellow with a bowler hat loomed from behind the bar.

“Good evening, sir,” he said, the pleasantry doused in contempt. “How may I help you.”

“I’d like a half pint of your finest ale and, if you know, the whereabouts of one Mister Bobblewit,” said Sir John.

The publican’s eyes rolled and then darted to the right of Sir John. A decrepit looking man of indeterminable age and long greasy hair was sitting there staring in front of himself.

“Whadyawanimfor?” said the man, slurring the words.

“I’m hoping Mister Bobblewit can assist in helping me find some artefacts,” said Sir John. “Do you know where I might find him.”

“Buy us a drink and I might tells you,” said the man, turning to Sir John and showing his pockmarked face.

“A drink for this gentleman,” said Sir John to the publican, who was just returning with Sir John’s beer, holding it at arm’s length as if it was infected.

“No, no, no!” said the long haired man. “You gotta buy US a drink. You and me. Can’t you speak the English? Two whiskies.”

“Er, two whiskies,” said Sir John to the publican, and turned to the long haired man. “So, you know where he is?”

The long haired man looked pointedly at the barman and waited. When the two whiskies arrived he drank his in one slug, then indicated to Sir John to do the same.

“Thass besser,” said the long haired man. “Now, you buy two more whiskies and sit in that corner there and I shall send Mister Bogglewit to youse.”

aa-ch-6-color“Bottoms Up!”

Sir John did what he was told and sat in a corner conspiring to be even shadier than the rest of the bar. After a short while the long haired man came and sat down next to him.

“You’re Mister Bogglewit?” said Sir John.

“Yes, indeed,” said the man and grabbed his whisky. “Bottoms up.”

He drank the drink in one shot and stared at Sir John until he did the same.

“So, what’s your name,” he said, “and don’t tell me your real name.”

“Er … my name is Patrick,” said Sir John.

“Well, Peter,” said Mister Bogglewit, “how can I help.”

“I said my name was Patrick,” said Sir John.

“But it ain’t your real name,” said Mr Bogglewit, “so why do you care? Tell you what, get another drink in Percival and tell me what you need.”

Sir John returned with two more whiskies which were drunk rapidly. Sir John was beginning to suspect he would be drunk rapidly, too. He decided for the bold approach.

“I am looking for the lost Diarmuid of artefact Mac Dubh,” he said. Something seemed wrong with the sentence, but he wasn’t sure what it was.

Mister Bogglewit nodded sagely.

“The pretty bits of glass, yes I knows what you wants,” he said. “The question is, have you got the money?”

“Two more whiskies, on the house,” said the barkeeper dropping two drinks in front of the men. He winked at Mister Bogglewit when Sir John was knocking his drink back.

“I am fully prepared to go the paying price,” said Sir John. “In fact…”

“Wait!” interrupted Mister Bogglewit suddenly. “Shh! Do you hear that?”

Sir John listened to the murmuring chatter in the bar and watched the table spin a couple of times.

“I don’t hear anything?” he said.

“No,” said Mister Bogglewit looking around suspiciously, “me neither. You wait here and I’ll get the goods.”

He went away whilst Sir John sat reeling in his chair. He was pleased to have solved the case and thought he was making a genuine friend with Mister Bogglewit. He considered telling him this fact when he next came back. Mister Bogglewit appeared in the seat next to him with a bag. There was a sound of chinking glass from inside.

“Here you go, friend,” he said. “For you, a mere 5 pounds.”

“Thank you, friend,” said Sir John, gleefully handing over the money. Thank you very much indeed.”

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 7