Read from the beginning

“Wha…what do you mean?” I was quietly reading the situation and slipped the copper cylinder with Tanaquil’s warning back into my pocket. Why did I hide it? I couldn’t have told you, but it had something to do with the fact that Ringo had already completed what Tanaquil had forbidden him to do, and now I felt myself caught in between them.

“It works, my boy, it works! Ah, this is magnificent! Thank you, thank you for your contribution, indeed your very personal sacrifice. I’m so sorry it had to take such a toll on you, but such is the nature of the higher elements. To be honest I was a bit skeptical myself. Plus, I didn’t even have any Marmite on hand. I wasn’t sure what would work at first, so I tried a little mandrake and camphor, and I believe the effect is a match. I am simply beside myself with glee!”

Could I tell him that Tanaquil had forbidden him from producing this new draft? What’s done is done, I reasoned. I decided to see how it would play out.

“But how do you know it works?”

“Try it for yourself.”

Nearby on his oaken table was a silver tray with several lead crystal shot glasses, and he took one and poured a small draft. I gave a moderate sip.

The first thing I noticed was a metallic shock on my tongue like a battery, unpleasant, even irksome and without flavor. But this was overwhelmed by what I can only describe as strawberry menthol, and then a paste on my tongue like old newspaper from my moldy basement back home. Seconds later I would have sworn that I had eaten a spoonful of salted caramel ice cream, followed by my aunt Gladys’s New Year’s Day 6-bean casserole, and finally the bouquet of peach schnapps as if drunk from the bowl of my own 100-year-old cranium.

I made up that last part, because I have no idea what that last flavor was except that it tasted the way my future dead self would remember me, the kid-self, sneaking sips of liquor from my father’s liquor cabinet.

It was a palette rollercoaster, and once again I felt that sense of longing to embrace all humanity in universal brotherhood.

“Yeah. I think that’s it.”

We looked at each other with an inner warmth and contentment, amazed at the wonder of life. Ringo giggled silently. I forgave him for everything. But we were not permitted to enjoy this euphoria for long.

The laboratory was a wide open space, as large as a school classroom. A distortion appeared in the center of the room, at first just a visual fluttering like heat rising from a burning stovetop. It grew larger and became a kind of vortex hovering in the middle of the room. Blue light shone in the center of the vortex until the whole thing was four feet in diameter and seemingly a confluence of phosphorus and electricity.

A rushing sound now commenced and Ringo looked at the phenomenon with little concern but rather a note of happiness on his face. He knew what was happening.

Within the flashing vortex in midair, Tanaquil appeared as if seated with her legs crossed. Ringo spoke as if this was a pleasant surprise.

“Hello my darling! So good of you to pop in. It’s been quite some time, hasn’t it. It’s wonderful to see you again.”

“Reginald,” her voice was muffled as if her voice was transmitted via a transistor radio. “Tell me you haven’t made a new concoction. Didn’t you get my message?”

“Message?” He absently patted his pockets. “Ah, no dearest. I don’t believe I’ve…”

It was then that I retrieved the copper cylinder containing the message from my pocket and held it up blushing.

“Oh! Hey! H—Here it is. I was just bringing it down to you Ringo.”

I handed him the tube and he took out the message and the little green vial from inside. After scanning the note, he looked at me with eyes of a New York playboy and a suggestive lift of his eyebrows. Then he held up the green vial before his eyes and shook the contents it. After a moment, understanding dawned on his face and something more. He looked at Tanaquil with horror.

He whispered, “What is this?”


“My God! No!” Ringo knew it was blood, and he broke into a gentle sob and held his face in his hands for some moments. At last he chocked out, “How did this happen?”

“Our friend Lorenzo reacted in haste. The two met when they shouldn’t have. Lorenzo started and pulled a gun, shot him and fled.”

“Oh, but this is tragic!”

I wanted to interrupt and ask what they were talking about but I could tell it was a tender moment, so I gave them a minute.

“Hey guys, uh, can you let me in on what’s going on?”

Tanaquil spoke first. “Two things. First, in my message, which you should have read sooner, I laid particular emphasis that a new concoction should not be brewed, and under no circumstances should it fall into Lorenzo’s hands.”

“I have already completed it, my darling, just now. It’s a good one too.”

“Then I urge you in the strongest terms destroy it. Lorenzo means to deliver it to Poignard—”

“Yes, I was aware.”

“—which would be utterly disastrous for all the good creatures in this world.”

“What’s the other thing?”

“Lorenzo came to the forest to pick up your new elixir so he could deliver it to the Puppetmaster. Since he does not know how to find your house (Bo, you’re probably not aware that an enchantment is upon this house to keep it hidden), he came to mine. The impetuous man, feeling too freely the casualness of our acquaintance, he entered my house without knocking. My kinsman and friend, Chrischilde, was in my parlor; I was in the scullery. Seeing Chrischilde, Lorenzo panicked. He fired a pistol inside my house and Chrischilde died on the spot. I came and saw the body on the ground and the fear in Lorenzo’s eyes. Without a word, he ran out the door and I do not expect he will return.”

“Tanaquil, I am so, so sorry.”

“I don’t understand,” I said. “Why would he just kill a guy? What was he so scared of?”

There was a moment of silence in which Ringo and Tanaquil exchanged eyes, then she said,

“Chrischilde was a special creature. An inhabitant of the middle world, not normally visible, but because he was in my house and feeling safe, he had made himself visible…”


Ringo finished the thought. “Bo, Chrischilde was similar to what you would think of as a faun.”

“A what?”

“Think back to your Roman mythology. It turns out…well, it’s not all mythology.”