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Witchcraft

©1999 Jari Komppa

Storm beat on armored men defending a lone castle on a hill. The enemy approached steadily no matter how many times they got beaten back. Food was getting scarce.

A lone cloaked figure climbed onto a tower, lifted his staff and shouted, thunder drowning his voice as lightning split the sky and stroke the ground where the enemies were thickest.

"Hey Eric, could you do me a personal favor?"

"That depends"

"I'd love to have this stuff analyzed", Chris said giving Eric a test tube containing almost clear liquid.

"What's that?"

"That, is what I'd like to find out. Especially what would happen what it would do to a man if someone would drink it."

Eric looked at the liquid against light, looked dubiously at Christopher and asked, "Is there a biohazard?"

"I'm still alive.. no, I didn't drink it."

"Where did you get it?"

Glancing at the clock, Chris answered, "I'll tell you after work, OK? Can you check it out?"

"Sure, it's been a bit slow in the lab lately.."

"So, what did you find?", Chris said, ordering couple beers.

"It would seem to contain typical stuff you'd find in a ditch, very small amounts of anything toxic, and something I would group into synthetic growth hormones, except that it isn't anything I've ever seen or heard before."

"Interesting..", Chris said, sipping on his glass.

"So, tell me?"

"You know, I just came from my deserved vacation.. I went to Scotland."

"Yeah, you told me before leaving.."

"..yep, but this wasn't your basic tourist trip. I just dug up some maps and traveled on my own. So it happens that I find myself near the ruins of some old castle, and I invited myself in. There wasn't anyone to ask around, just some sheep.."

"There's bound to be someone around then."

"Yeah, but nobody was there to stop me anyway. So I go inside and find one wall with a gorgeous painting thingy on it. Except one stone was strangely colored, so it broke the symmetry."

"And?"

"Naturally that stone was a dead giveaway so I figured out what other stone should be changed for it to fit into the symmetry. I found it and gave it a kick."

Chris took a long drink to catch up with Eric's drinking.

"And then," he continued, "I fell down the trapdoors."

"You're kidding me."

"No, really. I fell down some ramp for a while and found myself in a nearly dark room. Luckily I had my minimag with me. It was some sort of a study, underground. Rotten desks and rusted candle holds and everything. I found another exit which was blocked by a huge stone balanced so that it was easy to push away from the inside but darn hard to move from the outside. Except that when I got out I could easily replace it. But I took the book from inside with me."

"The book?"

"Yeah, funny, how everything else had rotten but this book still just sat there in the middle of the desk, open at some page, and seemingly.. well, old, but not damaged any way."

"Hmm.."

"I made my way back to the nearest village and asked about the castle.. and heard some half-hearted stories about witchcraft and stuff. I rended a room for the night and started reading. It wasn't a long book, mind, but it was written in some ancient version of English, but you know me.."

"Yeah, the puzzle solver. Hey miss, another two here."

"Yep, so I figured out that it was some sort of a cookbook of sorts. I missed the point after couple pages, but I translated the first pages. This liquid was called the 'gate' or the 'key' or something."

"Hmm.."

"So, getting bored in a vacation is not a habit of mine, so I went and collected the stuff required, asking the locals what some plant might be nowadays where i couldn't figure it out myself, and did some cooking. That was interesting enough as it was."

"I'm amazed that you're still alive."

"How come?"

"You most probably breathed this stuff already."

"Oh, would you expect to die from boiling some random plants off the woods?"

"Well.."

"So, it boiled and changed colors for some eight times or so, before becoming transparent. It was odd enough to look at."

"How much did you cook anyway?"

"Just couple cups worth.. I poured it into a jar and tucked that into my briefcase. I got a bit nervous when the customs people wanted to look at it. I told them it was a water sample. Which it was. In a way."

"And here you are then."

"Makes you wonder, doesn't it?"

"You're not stupid enough to try it? Even if it was some sort of a, key to the mystical powers", Eric said, playing the Voice from the Beyond, "it would probably kill you if you were the wrong age. Remember, we're both older than anyone from that era. Maybe it should be taken in the teens or something. Most probably it doesn't do anything."

"Yeah, you're right.. but still.."

The two men then sat there for a while, with an innocent-looking test tube on the table between them.

"Yep, makes one wonder."

Afterword

I'm not too much into dialogues. Here's one very short one that's based on it.. I played what-if games in my head for long enough to decide that the story might as well end here.

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Possibly modified around: April 25 2010