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!”
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.
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
“… if the rest of you are eating…”
I’m, ah… not starving but…”
“… I do occasionally enjoy
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
we’re getting somewhere. Clainin thought.
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
“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
“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
“Clainin, I have your sack!”
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.
this is a lot of powder, Shamino! How did you get this much?”
Clainin looked up with a surprised smile.
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
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.
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.
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.