Scientific Discussion



 World News


As dusk settled, shadows stretched across the Britannia Castle’s cluttered laboratory like a slow liquid oozing across the room. Tiny motes of dust shone slightly in the orange light of the sunset that tried to maintain its grip on the end of the day. The wizard Clainin circled the room lighting candles one by one, gradually illuminating the faces of those who sat around his large circular table.

Krett, an experienced scientist, sat with his tinker’s tools spread out before him. Also before him, stood a strange metal device that clicked every few seconds. As he waited for the meeting to begin, Krett inserted parts into his device, parts that made strange springing sounds as they were manipulated. To his left sat Borvin, the alchemist. Borvin was a rather sizeable man. Unfortunately, his bulk contained very little muscle, but he was a very experienced and intelligent man when it came to alchemy. Clainin trusted his knowledge. To Borvin’s left was an empty chair that awaited Clainin; beside that sat Adranath, wise eternal of the Meer who sat calmly with his fingers laced.

“Gentlemen, thank you all for coming.” Clainin settled himself at the table and looked at his companions. Krett looked up and smiled as a large spring shot up from his device into the air. He snatched a hand up just in time to grab the wiggly bit of metal and set it back on the table gently. He grinned sheepishly. “It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to hold one of these little chats.” As Clainin spoke he brought a small sack out from behind his robe.

“I remember your last discussion I had the pleasure of joining.” Borvin laughed in his deep voice. “Who was that fellow, that mage who’s on the Council of Mages now? Kept going on and on about how the world is kept in some jewel!”

Clainin coughed nervously. “Ah… yes, that was… most amusing.” Quickly the young wizard changed topics. “Master Adranath, thank you again for taking the time to join us. How are things with the Meer?”

“We fare well, Master Clainin, I thank you. I am quite pleased you asked me to attend; it has been… well centuries since I have had the pleasure of discussing a scientific mystery with so many various knowledgeable scholars.” The other three men at the table with Adranath swelled with pride after being complimented so highly by a mage who was thousands of years old.

Clainin opened his sack and looked around the table excitedly at the others. “Let’s begin, shall we?” He reached carefully into the sack and pulled out a very large zoogi fungus, then set it in the center of the table. “As we all know, the Solen hive has been discovered. Unfortunately the danger prevents any safe scientific research at the moment. The question today, my friends, is how does she turn this…” he reached into the sack again and pulled out a small vial of translocation powder and placed it beside the fungus, “… into this?”

The men stared at the two objects on the table as if they had become entranced. The room became so quiet a pin could be heard dropping. Krett proved this theory by dropping 4 of them. “I, ah… oh, I am sorry. I forgot I had these, ah… in my hand. I’ll just put these… ah, yes away here. I’m sorry.” He coughed nervously.

Again the staring resumed, as if the gathered men could make the answers spring forth from the zoogi fungus by making it nervous with awkward looks. Occasionally one of the men would glance quickly around the table and then instantly back towards the fungus, making sure that everyone else was not staring at them waiting for words. Clainin could sense his social event collapsing. “Would anyone care for something to eat? I could have the cooks bring a small snack.”

Adranath, Krett and Borvin quickly exchanged glances that clearly indicated the world would crumble into space before they could collectively reach a decision about the food.

“… if the rest of you are eating…”

“… I’m, ah… not starving but…”

“… I do occasionally enjoy human food…”

Clainin held up a hand as the men all spoke at once. “I think I’ll have the cooks bring something up. Maybe eating will motivate us to think. Any requests?”

“Do you have… pizza?” Adranath asked.

As if time had come to a crawl the three human’s heads turned slowly towards the ancient Meer.

“Have I said something wrong?” Adranath’s brow wrinkled.

“No, no, not at all!” Clainin said quickly.

“But, ah… you know, I mean, ah… you like pizza?” Krett asked.

Borvin leaned forward, looking concerned. “You did have ale with it, yes?”

“I… no, I only tasted the pizza.” Adranath looked confused. “Dasha and I saved a small band of travelers from monsters near the Meer Crypt recently and their cook was rather insistent that we stay for a meal so he could show his gratitude. He made for us a… I am saying it correctly? Pizza?” The others nodded. “Your culture’s food preparation is so varied and complex to that of the Meer. It is quite new to us. But I found the pizza to be quite enjoyable, very creative.”

Borvin sat back in his chair and grinned at Clainin. “I think a few pizzas are in order and a few ales.”

“I suppose the cooks can manage that.” Clainin said. “Please excuse me, gentlemen, while I request the food. In the meantime, by all means, don’t stop discussing the zoogi powder.” His eyes rolled slightly behind his glasses.

When he returned three minutes later, the staring contest with the zoogi fungus had resumed.

“So…” Clainin said loudly as he sat back down in his place at the table. “Who has a theory of how she turns the fungus into the powder? Anyone?” The frustration creeping into Clainin’s voice was becoming evident.

Adranath cleared his throat. “Ah, perhaps she has some magic powers derived from the decay in Yew? If these creatures are so new to the world I would expect that the decay would be what made them change.”

“I’ve examined it in every way I know how, mixed it with every potion I have… I wouldn’t be surprised if some sort of magic was involved. I don’t know how it could be done with any form of alchemy.” Borvin said.

“Ah, maybe… ah… perhaps it’s something the fungus would do naturally on it’s own and she just, ah… speeds it along somehow?” Krett absently played with one of the gears on the table in front of him as he spoke, rolling it back and forth. “Some sort of, ah… substance she produces in her body perhaps.”

Now we’re getting somewhere. Clainin thought.

“How long before the food arrives?” Borvin asked.

* * *

Hours later, as the empty plates and mugs were taken away by a castle servant, the discussion had made little progress.

“What I’m saying is that perhaps being a product of the decay, she herself could be unknowingly producing and using magic.” Clainin said adjusting his glasses. Depending on how fast they grew and whether or not it happened over generations, or to one single generation, magic could sort of be a part of her anatomy, so to speak.”

“That was really your first ale?” Borvin said to Adranath.

“Can we please discuss the fungus and not ale, Borvin?” Clainin asked. “This little mushroom is a mystery and I’m surprised that you’re not fascinated by it. This is a huge discovery.”

“I, ah… wonder if these would be any good on a pizza.” Krett mumbled. The others nodded and mumbled in agreement. Clainin’s head fell into his hands.

“Clainin, I have your sack!”

A familiar voice bellowed from the hallway through the door. Shamino, the skilled and trusted ranger, walked into the laboratory with a sack in his hand, grinning. He nodded to the men sitting at the table and tossed the sack to Clainin, who caught it with a surprise and opened it to look inside.

“My goodness, this is a lot of powder, Shamino! How did you get this much?” Clainin looked up with a surprised smile.

“The Matriarch gave it to me.” The ranger sat down on top of a stool with his legs crossed.

“Ah, you met her? I’ve heard rumors that she existed.” Clainin closed the sack again. He walked over to a cabinet and put it away for the evening. “We were just… discussing how the queens make this powder out of the zoogi fungus.”

“If you like I could ask the Matriarch when I go back tomorrow.” Shamino offered.

“Go back? Why would you go back, Shamino? Wasn’t it dangerous enough going in there once?” Borvin asked.

“Certainly not, she made me a friend of the hive.” Shamino stood up and casually started to walk casually out of the room as he stretched and yawned. “Interesting creatures, when they aren’t trying to kill you. I actually got a worker to play catch with a small rock; he was fascinated.”

Adranath’s eyes widened. “They no longer attack you?”

“How… ah, how exactly did you manage that?” Krett asked.

Shamino turned and grinned again as he made the last few steps out of the room backwards. “You just have to know how to treat a lady.”

After Shamino left, the men stayed silent in the room for some time.

“Well, all this time and we could have just joined Shamino and stayed in the hive as long as we wanted.” Clainin sighed. “We could have probably figured out all this fungus business by now.”

“Nevertheless, Clainin, I did enjoy the discussion this evening.” Adranath said. “And the food was delightful.” Clainin did his best to not visibly wince.

Borvin smiled. “And you had your first ale!” Clainin winced.

“And it’s, ah… it’s not as if the evening was a waste. I think in general we accomplished somewhat of a, ah… scientific achievement here.” Krett said.

“And what is that?” Clainin asked looking up.

Krett held up the small tool handle to which he had attached the one of his fine-toothed gears. “I invented this pizza cutter.”



From the Britannia News Network - The Journal of Ultima Online, September 26th, 2002.