“You will be pleased to know, dear Gilles, that your master is about to retrieve his book and end this ridiculous farce once and for all.”
“Who the deuce is it?” asked Simon, annoyingly close to his ear.
Wilfred was bent over a pile of grey dust on the stone floor. He was holding a brown amphora urn, upside down, emptying more dust onto the pile. The room was small and dark, the only light coming from an adjoining chamber that was lit with candles and lamps. At the far end of the room was an arched aperture that led to a narrow alcove. A symbol in the shape of a ram’s horns was carved into the stone above the arch.
He shook the urn to empty the last of the dust, relishing the ease with which his young muscles handled the heavy pot. As an old man, he’d struggled with even the simplest of spells, but now his muscles felt like springs: well-oiled springs that pushed and pulled and lifted and twisted with ease.
“He knows how to control the Messenger of Yog-Sothoth,” he muttered, straightening and pushing Simon out of the way.
Replacing the urn on a long shelf, he turned to watch the fruits of his labour. There were four such shelves, each holding a dozen or so urns labelled with a code: two digits and what appeared to be a date. Arranged on the floor were six more urns, these ones labelled with the names of animals: bull, lion, hyena, eagle, wolf and ox.
The stone of the floor was etched deeply from wall to wall with a pentagram. At each of the five points was a hieroglyph; between the hieroglyphs were concentric circles that swirled with fractals. The grooves in the floor were filled with a purple liquid that glistened in the dim light.
Lifting a heavy bucket, Wilfred carried it with both hands to the pile of dust. He removed the lid, dropped it with a clatter to the floor and began tipping the contents onto the dust. Blood and entrails slopped out and splashed on the floor and on his white sneakers. The room quickly filled with a sweet, sickly scent.
As the bucket emptied, he mumbled a chant. The mixture began bubbling.
“Yog-Sothoth,” scoffed Simon, who was standing in the doorway reading from Wilfred’s notebook. “What a bore!” He turned the page. “Bore, bore, bore.” Dropping the book on a table, he went back to Wilfred. “Why not go straight for the great Kragn? Nothing like a little pandemonium to preface the end of the world.”
Wilfred shot him an angry glance. “Impatience will be the end of you, Simon. Things must be done in the correct order.”
“We’re talking about chaos here, old man.”
Wilfred squinted at the bubbling mass of blood and entrails on the stone floor. “Creating chaos is like building a house of cards. You have to build it high to truly appreciate its destruction.”
“Spoken like a true pedant. Well, Wilfred, forget that for a while. I have news for you. I went back to my old Borellus – sorry, your old Borellus – and remember that spell that allows the dead to sense the whereabouts of the Necromonicon?”
“What about it? We tried that a hundred times. It doesn’t work.”
“Apparently we were missing a vital ingredient.”
Wilfred turned to him. “What are you talking about?”
“You need a mouse to catch a mouse.”
“Don’t play games with me, Simon. I don’t have the patience for it.”
“I’m not playing games, old cock. Borellus transcribed the text from memory and he made a few mistakes.”
“And how did you suddenly come upon this little gem?”
“I took your advice and googled it.”
Wilfred shook his head. Everything Simon did annoyed him. “So … cough it up. Impress me.”
“Think of a dog being sent off to search for a lost child. It needs to have a whiff of something the child has touched. How else would it know what it was looking for?”
“So we needed to have the book and then lose it in order to find it again?”
“And you just happened to find this on Google?”
“Well, perhaps I shouldn’t take all the credit. I set it as an assignment. Two of my students found it. It’s a brand new world, Wilfred, and the young are set to inherit it.”
“I couldn’t agree more. So, what do you suggest we do?”
Simon smiled at him. “Cast some spells. Raise the dead. Find your book.”
Wilfred turned back to the entrails. He could see the form starting to take shape. He always loved this part of the ritual. It was the time when life re-entered the dust of the dead, the time when he felt closest to becoming the god he knew he was destined to be.
But tonight he was too excited over Simon’s news to concentrate on the resurrection. Still, he’d be damned if he would show it. Simon was already too cocky for his own good.
“I’m not drawing any more attention to myself,” he said from the corner of his mouth. “You know what happened to Jonathon when he grew rash and stupid.”
Simon took the empty bucket away. “What exactly do you think happened to Jonathon? Have you found any clues since you’ve been here?”
“Either he succeeded spectacularly or failed miserably. I suspect the latter. The price on the head of a master wizard is extreme, and I’m betting some hell demon conquered him, ground him to paste and used his essence in whatever vile ritual it was performing.”
“I suppose you’re right. He was so fixated on bringing Kragn here, we would certainly know if he succeeded.”
“That we would.”
“Jonathon was always shooting for the impossible. But he did teach me everything I know – at least, everything he knew back then.” Simon sighed. “A shame we became enemies. We may have learnt so much more if we worked together.”
“He almost cost you your neck.”
Simon had grown wistful. “True. The closest I ever got to the hangman’s noose. If ever there was a pathological narcissist, Jonathon was it. After Joseph’s death, he got even worse. It wouldn’t have cost him tuppence to break me out, but no, he left me there to have my neck stretched. And so commenceth the wizard wars.” The misty look in his eyes turned into that mischievous look he got when a nasty thought crawled his mind. One thing hadn’t changed over the years: Simon could never keep his fool mouth shut. “Just think what would have happened if he hadn’t betrayed me and almost caused my demise. You and I wouldn’t have met. He wouldn’t have seduced your wife and then she wouldn’t have run away with Ephraim to America, and we wouldn’t have found out about this farm. All things lead to the present. And so here we are, you and I: friends again, close to having everything Jonathon built, without having the psychotic control-freak around to kowtow to and threaten us with annihilation if we don’t do exactly what he orders.”
Wilfred was intent on the bloody mess on the floor and hardly took in any of Simon’s monologue. He held out a hand. “Pass me another bucket.”
“Bucket! A bucket!”
Simon dragged over another bucket filled with blood and entrails. “So, Wilfred,” he said, taking off the lid, “shall we cast the search spell?”
Wilfred was thinking of a way to cast the spell himself, without Simon’s interference. Trouble is, Simon had his Borellus and there wasn’t time to go out and find another before Magacanta.
“How else will you get the book?” Simon persisted. “A couple of living dead, late at night, no one about. What could go wrong?”
Wilfred mumbled the chant as he poured the contents of the second bucket over the bloody mess on the floor. The mess was moving, spreading out. The arms, legs, torso and head were now clearly discernible.
“A couple?” he said.
“You said a couple of living dead. Borellus said three.”
Simon was staring at the body forming on the floor. He knelt close to the face, which was slowly revealing a forehead, chin, cheeks, nose and ears. “I think I might know him. Can you give me a clue? … Where did you dig him up?” He glanced at Wilfred with a smile. “You’re right: three. They have to be recently dead and related. If you remember, they triangulate the whereabouts of the Necromonicon and together retrieve it.”
“Three recent carcasses?”
“And related. Can you manage that?”
“Of course. A breeze.” Wilfred wracked his brain. Always eager to kill three birds with one stone, he soon landed on the ideal candidates.
“Any ideas, old man?”
“I know a family. Local layabouts. An annoying waste of space. High time they did something useful with their pathetic lives.”
“Excellent. I knew you’d come through.” Simon got to his feet. “Now you are going to let me have a play with this fellow, aren’t you?”
“Gilles!” yelled Wilfred.
When Gilles appeared in the doorway, Wilfred said to Simon, “Our friend here will have to wait. I need to ring Snyder and put the wheels of my plan in motion.” To Gilles: “Call Rudi and get this to the holding cell.” His face relaxed into a smile. “You will be pleased to know, dear Gilles, that your master is about to retrieve his book and end this ridiculous farce once and for all.”