Sacred Wind — Chapters 11-15 (of 48)

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A tale set in an alternative reality, featuring conscious curries, headbanging sheep, telepathic cats, magic cheese, an evil Baron, some very sexy faeries and a Welsh Viking Flatulence Rock band. 'Sometimes there are tales that must be told, songs that must be sung and farts that must be farted'. —

Chapter 11 – Metal and Curry

As Aiden walked into the pub he was greeted by the sight of one of the biggest drum kits he’d ever seen; two huge bass drums, eight concert toms, a huge floor tom, a very deep, steel snare drum, at least ten cymbals of varying sizes, and the obligatory peddle-operated hi-hat cymbals. A couple of side-lights on the wall shone down, highlighting the polished chrome fittings, in stark contrast to the gloss black finish of the drums themselves.

Maurice was behind the bar, watching the band set up and cleaning glasses. ‘Would you like a drink, Aiden?’

‘No, thanks, I’d better take this lot up to my room,’ he said, pointing at the large bag of clothes he’d purchased from Mr Kneepatcher.

Room 11 was pretty much as Aiden had pictured it in his mind. It was scrupulously clean with two very neatly made single beds, both with little bedside tables and accompanying lamps. There was a writing desk and chair by the window, and a large, oak wardrobe stood ominously in the far corner next to the television. The adjoining bathroom was bright and immaculate, plus it even had a little cupboard stocked with toiletries, including a new toothbrush and toothpaste.

Aiden was quite surprised to see a television, and he made a mental note to ask Cracky more about the history of this reality after they’d had their conversation tomorrow. As there didn’t appear to be a remote control, he simply pressed the ‘On’ button.

‘Good day, you’re watching the Blacktie News channel,’ a man dressed in a dark suit with a flamboyant cravat said. ‘Welcome to the news at six. Today, our glorious leader, the revered, ennobled, handsome, clever, artistic, charming, well-endowed and virile Baron Blacktie announced that all entries for The Cestrian Music Tournament 1987 have been received and that the tournament will take place this Wednesday at the Grand Gateway Theatre, Chester. On this year’s judging panel will be none other than Colin Mowsel, the Head of Dee Records. As this year celebrates the tournament’s 100th anniversary, Mr Mowsel has kindly agreed that the winner will receive a one-album international recording deal. As usual, the entries have been wide and varied, covering the entire spectrum of musical styles… apart from heavy rock and metal, which, of course, the Baron has banned. In other news, a local hair salon had its flatulence license revoked after being reported for exceeding its allocated number of farts per hour. The owners of the salon blamed the events on the accidental inclusion of Bishop’s Bowel Bubbler cheese in the selection of hors d’oeuvres being offered to customers. Also, a local man stands accused of the heinous crime of cheese sniffing without consent. Witnesses say that whilst in the “Pandemonium of Cheese” outlet store, he blatantly sniffed cheese already purchased by Mr Douglas Crumbly-Texture. An angry mob gave chase and eventually cornered the man, who was then handed over to the authorities. If found guilty, he will be sentenced to the maximum penalty of extreme forced teeth flossing and fifteen years of community service…’

Aiden shook his head and switched off the television, and then the floor began to rumble. ‘Can I have a bit more bass in the monitors,’ Agnar shouted to Oldfart, who was manning the mixing desk situated at the back of the room.

‘Okay, try that,’ Oldfart said, twisting one of the little knobs on the desk. Smid played a few notes and Agnar gave Oldfart the thumbs up.

As Aiden wandered up to the bar, drawn to the sound check like a moth to a flame, the front door of the pub was flung open and the huge Viking he’d seen on the ship earlier in the day walked in, with a guitar case and a ridiculously shiny helmet.

‘May Odin bless your wind!’ Olaf the Berserker shouted, followed by a loud fart.

‘May Odin bless your wind!’ the other members of Sacred Wind shouted back, responding with farts of their own.

‘Where’ve you been, Olaf? Assuming you are Olaf,’ Smid said, shielding his eyes. ‘I can’t really make out your face because of the glare coming off your helmet.’

‘Well, you know what Ophelia’s like,’ Olaf said. ‘She wants me to look my best so she just kept on rubbing!’

‘Was that after she’d finished shining your helmet?’ Grundi said, laughing.

‘Very funny, Grundi,’ Olaf said, with a grin. ‘And I know that I’ve gotten out of carrying any gear in, but I’ll make sure do plenty of humping after the show.’

‘We can imagine,’ said Smid.

‘Is Roisin coming to the gig with Ophelia later on?’ Agnar asked.

‘She is,’ Olaf replied, ‘but you’re not going after her again, are you? I fear you’ll have no luck there, my friend.’

Agnar looked slightly crestfallen and gave his snare drum a good whack. ‘We’ve already had this conversation,’ Grundi said to Olaf.

Olaf took his guitar out of its case and plugged it into his amplifier, which was sat on top of two large speaker cabinets. He checked the tuning and then walked up to the microphone, perched high on its stand in front of him. ‘One, two, one, two,’ he said, checking that it was actually switched on. ‘Right, shall we have a run through “Metal and Curry”?’

‘Why not,’ Agnar replied, counting them in. ‘One, two, three… ’

The first thing that struck Aiden was how good they were. If truth be told he was expecting a bit of a train crash. However, they were all more than competent musicians and Olaf’s voice was superb.

‘Hello there, Aiden,’ Oldfart shouted, as Aiden joined him behind the mixing desk. ‘Glad you could make it. What do you think?’

As Aiden listened closely to the band’s sound, it quickly became obvious that he could radically improve it. Oldfart’s experience at mixing appeared to involve pushing the little slider controls for the levels to create a balance, but didn’t extend to tweaking the equalisation and other knobs on the mixing desk to enhance the sound. Not wishing to be rude, but itching to make the changes he knew would make a drastic improvement, he decided to combine diplomacy with fact.

‘Pretty impressive, I have to say, but the bass guitar sounds a little muddy.’

‘You sound like you have some experience here, my friend.’ Oldfart said.

‘It’s a hobby of mine, actually,’ Aiden replied.

Oldfart could see that Aiden was like a dog waiting patiently to be told he could now have the bone being held in his master’s hand. ‘To be honest, this isn’t really my area of expertise. So, if you wish, I’m quite happy to let you take the console, so to speak. Our last mixing engineer had a bad experience at his bank, I’m afraid, and we’ve not been able to find a replacement.’

‘Was he overdrawn by any chance?’ Aiden asked.

‘Sadly, yes,’ Oldfart answered, ‘it may take some time for his ears to recover.’

Aiden went at the knobs on the desk like a man on a mission, tweaking and twiddling away. He gave the bass more punch and tone, gave the drums more crack and sparkle, gave the guitars a much more defined and powerful sound, and stopped Olaf sounding like he was singing through a sock.

‘That’s incredible,’ Oldfart said. ‘I’ve never heard them sound as good as that before. You, my young friend, are a genius.’

The band stopped playing and Oldfart waved them over. ‘This is Mr Aiden Peersey,’ he said, introducing Aiden to the band, ‘and, if he has nothing better to do this evening, I think we should ask him to mix the sound for us. It’s powerful enough to stir Odin’s bowels, trust me.’

‘I’d love to,’ Aiden said. It seemed like the natural thing to do.

Agnar gave Aiden a friendly smack on the back, which nearly pushed most of his internal organs through his rib cage. ‘Well done, my scruffy-haired friend! This place is going to be rocking tonight!’


Chapter 12 – The name of vengeance is Sacred Wind!

‘Are we nearly there, Saffy?’ King Beef Vindaloo-Boiled Rice III said, bubbling with excitement.

‘Honestly, Vindy, you’re acting like a young curry whose rice has just been boiled for the first time,’ Queen Chicken Tikka Masala-Coconut Rice said affectionately to her husband.

‘I know, I know, Tikky. But it seems like ages since I’ve been able to loosen up and just let everything slide around my plate.’

‘We’re just coming into Llangollen now, Your Majesty,’ Saffy shouted, from the driver’s seat at the front of the carriage. ‘I can see The Sheep’s Stirrup from here.’

Within a minute or so they pulled into the carriage park next to the pub and the driver tethered the horses, before disappearing inside, carrying Saffy.

It was now 8:00 pm and The Sheep’s Stirrup had transformed from a quiet country pub into a heady mix of chatter, laughter, music and dancing. People and sheep mingled happily together and conversation was light and joyful, the perfect end to a day of celebration. Two members of the OSO, Oriana Oftsheared (flute) and Cliff Corriedale (cello, and nephew of Charles) were performing a lively impromptu duet in the corner, and a small congregation of children and lambs were showing their appreciation through traditional dance.

‘Hello, General, lovely to see you again,’ Maurice said as the driver placed Saffy on the increasingly busy bar. ‘Are the “special guests” outside? I have a table prepared for them.’

‘They are indeed, Maurice, and it’s equally pleasant to be in your company once more,’ Saffy said. ‘The King is very excited; I thought he was going to lose his chutney at one point during our trip.’

‘Typical! It’ll be good to see Vindy again,’ Maurice laughed. ‘Is Her Majesty still looking as delectable as ever?’

‘She is, and although she’s a bit more composed than His Majesty, I know that she’s really looking forward to the evening. Are the two rooms ready, by the way?’

‘Yes. The King and Queen are in the deluxe suite in Room 1 and you’re right next door in Room 2.’

‘Excellent, and thanks again, Maurice. I’ll go and escort them in,’ Saffy said, beckoning the driver to pick him up. ‘Is there any sign of the other “guests” as yet?’

‘I’m assured that the good Doctor and the General will be arriving at around 10:00 pm. I’ve reserved a room for them too.’

Upstairs, Aiden was just finishing his bath. Given all the trials, tribulations and shocks of the day so far, it was nice to soak peacefully in warm water and suds, letting the stress just drain away. Oldfart had treated him to a quite excellent bar meal of steak and chips, and he was genuinely looking forward to the evening’s events. After he’d dried himself with one of the sizeable, fluffy towels in the bathroom, he started to get dressed and overheard voices in the corridor.

‘Now remember, let’s simply mingle in with the crowd and try not to attract too much attention,’ Mr Breezy said.

‘Understood,’ replied Mr Waft.

‘Let’s see what we can find out about the mine from this Agnar, but let’s not be too pushy and make him suspect we have any ulterior motives.’

‘Good plan,’ Mr Waft agreed.

Aiden opened the door as Mr Breezy and Mr Waft were making their way down the stairs. Although he couldn’t quite make out what they’d been saying, he had an uneasy feeling about them.  As he made his way to the bar he saw Cracky chatting to Maurice. ‘Hello, Aiden. How’s your room then?’ Maurice asked.

‘It’s lovely, Maurice, really welcoming.’

‘Would you like a drink?’ Cracky said.

‘I would, thanks. Just an orange juice though, I’m mixing the band later.’

‘Are you now? My, you are full of surprises. Orange juice it is then, and can I have another pint of Riggley’s Piddle, please, Maurice.’

As Maurice poured the drinks, Aiden turned and saw three of the most beautiful women he’d ever seen in his life walking towards him. They were all quite petite, and he almost felt himself physically melt as they noticed him and collectively smiled. There was a stunning blond girl in a green outfit, a sultry brunette, dressed in black, and a gorgeous redhead, whose exquisite face was set off by a mass of copper-coloured curls. She gave Aiden another smile, as they stood at the bar next to him, and said ‘Hi, fella,’ in a lilting Scottish accent. They all had quite extraordinary green eyes, curvaceous figures and very shapely… gossamer wings.

‘Queen Ophelia, what a delightful pleasure to see you and your charming friends again,’ Maurice said. ‘To have my establishment blessed by the sight of such beauty is a gift beyond price.’

‘Oh, you smooth talker, Maurice,’ Ophelia replied ‘Are you flirting with me?’

‘I might be Your Majesty,’ Maurice said, smiling. ‘Would the Queen like her customary gin and tonic?’

‘Yes, please, Maurice. Roisin, what would you like?’ she said to the raven-haired beauty.

‘Ooh, let me see, can I have a vodka and lemonade, please,’ Roisin replied, in a beguiling Irish brogue.

‘What about you, Mara?’ Ophelia asked the lovely redhead.

‘I’d like a whisky and blackcurrant please,’ Mara replied. ‘Not too heavy on the blackcurrant, though, Maurice.’

Cracky gave Aiden a quick dig in the ribs. ‘If you don’t close your mouth soon, my lad, you’ll be letting flies in.’

‘Oh, right,’ Aiden said, tearing away his open-mouthed gaze and trying to regain his composure.

‘I gather you’ve not seen too many faeries before,’ Cracky said, smiling

‘Er, no, not really.’

‘The blond girl there is Queen Ophelia,’ he explained. ‘She’s engaged to Olaf, believe it or not. Her two friends are actually her hand maidens. I think Mara has her eye on you.’

‘Hey, Cracky, who’s the new eye candy?’ Mara said, pointing at Aiden.

‘This splendid chap here is Aiden Peersey,’ Cracky said, putting his arm on Aiden’s shoulder. ‘He’s visiting these parts, although somehow he’s managed to get himself a job mixing the band tonight.’

‘Nice to meet you Aiden,’ Mara said, winking at him. ‘Perhaps we can have a chat later on.’

‘Mara, you’re such a flirt,’ Ophelia said, giggling. And with that the three girls grabbed their drinks, waved at Aiden and were escorted to an awaiting table by Maurice.

‘It’s quite a night for royalty, you know,’ Cracky said, taking a long slurp from his tankard. ‘Do you see that table over there in the corner? Well, believe it or not, that’s the King and Queen of Wrexham. They visit every so often, but always unannounced.’

Aiden looked over at the two young people sitting at the table, with three plates of curry in front of them. ‘They look so normal,’ he remarked.

‘Well, as I said, they don’t like to draw attention to themselves on trips like this, so they tend to dress down a bit. Would you like me to introduce you?’

The closest Aiden had ever got to meeting royalty was when the Queenof England waved and smiled at him on one of her visits to Wales. He was only three-years old at the time and dropped his ice cream in the excitement. As he’d already had the pleasure of meeting one queen this evening, and given that he didn’t have an ice cream in his hand…

‘Yes, I’d be happy to.’

‘Okay, I’ll pop over to say hello and ask if I can introduce you.’

Cracky wandered over to the table and shook the hands of the two young people whose smiles and easy manner indicated they’d met him before. After a brief conversation, Cracky beckoned Aiden over with a wave.

‘Very pleased to meet you Your Majesty,’ Aiden said to the young man, bowing slightly and keeping a firm hold on his drink. ‘And also you, Your Majesty, and you look radiant, if I may be so bold,’ he said to the beautiful young woman.

‘Oh, he’s very charming, Cracky. I see why you like him so much,’ the young woman said, without moving her lips.

‘Indeed, he seems like a splendid fellow. Pleased to meet you Aiden,’ the young man said, also not moving his lips.

Given Aiden’s previous experience with telepathic cats, he remained completely at ease with this new-found form of communication. He even tried it himself by thinking ‘thank you, Your Majesty.’

‘Am I to understand that you are meeting some “friends” later?’ Cracky enquired.

‘We are,’ the young woman said, again without moving her lips. ‘The good Doctor and General should be joining us around 10:00 pm. It’s about time we got together to talk.’

Then the young man actually spoke. ‘Pardon me, Your Majesty, but some of your mango chutney is about to slide off your plate, shall I take care of this for you?’

‘Oh, yes please, Harold,’ King Beef Vindaloo-Boiled Rice III said.

Aiden dropped his glass on the floor (See appendix 3).

‘Are you alright, young man? You look like you’ve seen a ghost,’ General Lamb Korma-Saffron Rice said to him.

Aiden realised that this new voice seemed to be coming from the third plate of curry on the table, bubbling ever so slightly as the words hit his ears. ‘Yes, I’m fine, thanks. My glass just slipped that’s all, I’ll go and get a cloth.’

Maurice had already heard the noise and appeared armed with a cloth and a small dustpan and brush. ‘Sorry, Maurice,’ Aiden said.

‘Oh, don’t worry about it these things happen all the time in here. It won’t be the last broken glass this evening.’

‘Anyway,’ Cracky interjected. ‘We’ll take our leave at this point and let your Majesties drink up the atmosphere, and importantly the music. The band should be arriving shortly.’

‘I’m really looking forward to seeing them,’ Tikky said, bubbling. ‘They play such great songs. I’ll just have to watch that my husband here doesn’t get too carried away.’

When they returned to the bar, Cracky gave Aiden a look which suggested he already knew the answer to the question he was about to ask. ‘So, I’m guessing that you’ve not seen too many curries either?’

‘Oh, I’ve seen plenty of curries before, Cracky, I’ve just haven’t come across any with the power of speech.’

Cracky laughed. ‘Well, as we said, let’s have a chat tomorrow. I’m beginning to think the more I understand of your situation the more I’ll be able to help.’

Aiden ordered them another drink and it was at this point that he noticed a large plaque behind the bar.

‘The Sheep’s Stirrup is hereby granted a license to permit flatulence in this establishment under the following conditions – Monday to Saturday inclusive:

1) No more than a total of ten farts per hour from the hours of 12:00 – 2:00 pm.

2) No more than twenty farts per hour between the hours of 6:00 – 9:00 pm.

3) No more than thirty farts per hour from 9:00 – 11:00 pm.

 A special dispensation is also granted, thereby permitting a “happy hour” of unlimited farts at the proprietor’s discretion on a twice weekly basis. Flatulence is not allowed on Sundays under any circumstances.’

It was signed ‘B V Blacktie’.

The atmosphere in the pub was building nicely and Aiden was enjoying himself. Mr Kneepatcher had arrived feeling ‘all of a dither’, wearing a bright blue shirt and cravat, and Maurice introduced Aiden to his brother, Henry Fluffywool. Henry was delighted at the compliments Aiden paid to the OSO. ‘You have sublime taste, young man,’ he’d said.

Mr Breezy and Mr Waft were sat at the end of the bar being generally cordial, without getting involved in any meaningful conversations. They had asked Maurice if he would let them know when Agnar arrives, to which Maurice had cryptically replied ‘oh, you’ll know when he gets here’.

Aiden was wondering where Oldfart had disappeared to when he arrived at the front door, with a strangely dressed companion; a very short man with a floor-length black cloak. The hood of the cloak covered the majority of his face, with the remaining features obscured by a tightly-wound, black scarf. His hands were barely visible at the end of the sleeves and he seemed to be wearing ill-fitting gloves. He was holding a large notepad in one hand and a pen in the other. Oldfart led him over to the table next to the mixing desk and then headed straight for Aiden.

‘The band will be here any minute,’ he said. ‘Let’s go and get ready.’

Next to the mixing desk was a cassette deck. Oldfart produced a tape out of his jacket pocket, inserted it into the deck and pressed play. He also pressed a button on the console adjacent to the desk and dry ice started to fill the room. Maurice switched the pub’s main lights down low and Oldfart flicked a couple of switches on the lighting console. Four strategically-placed spotlights lit up and shone through the atmospheric fog. A low rumble emanated from the PA speakers and then erupted with the sound of thunder.

‘Today, four great warriors will take to the battlefield. They have been sent by Odin himself to vanquish the foes of freedom, to conquer the enemies of valour, and to triumph over those who repress our right to fart freely.’

The crowd cheered.

‘For vengeance has a name, and let this name strike fear into the hearts of all who seek to follow the path of injustice, tyranny and persecution; for the name of vengeance is SACRED WIND!’

The crowd cheered again.

Anthemic orchestral music started to blare through the PA as the narrator said ‘Can you hear the sounds of battle? Can you feel the thunder stir your bowels? They have the power of wind and metal coursing through their veins, and they have come to free you from fear and destruction. Behold, they are here!’

Oldfart ran over to the front door of the pub. ‘Prepare for Sacred Wind. Your salvation has arrived!’ he exhorted, opening the door and pointing outside.

The crowd didn’t need that much of an invitation and the vast majority ran out into the street. The air was still and all was silent, apart from the faraway hooting of a solitary owl, a melancholy lament echoing wistfully in the night. And then the silence was broken by the sound of hooves, distant and indistinct to start with but growing closer by the second.

Coming over the bridge in front of the pub were two giant, black horses, their riders twirling their weapons above their heads. On the road to the left another black horse and rider could be seen, and then another on the road to the right. They were equidistant from each other and approaching at breakneck speed. They screeched to a halt in front of the pub and the riders reared their horses, clashing weapons in a show of solidarity. ‘For metal, for glory, for honour and for Odin!’ Olaf the Berserker shouted, twirling his huge broadsword around his head. ‘May Odin bless your wind!’

‘May Odin bless your wind!’ the crowd outside shouted.

‘Right,’ said Oldfart, ‘let’s get the flashbombs ready.’

 

Chapter 13 – My Sword is my Sword

Aiden reckoned he got his sight back after about twenty seconds or so and really wished he’d listened to Oldfart when he told him not to look at the stage. By this time, Sacred Wind were blasting out the instrumental overture to their first song and the atmosphere in The Sheep’s Stirrup was crackling with anticipation. The overture ended with a mighty crescendo, followed by some very impressive guitar, bass and drum interplay. A crunching guitar riff and lead solo then set the scene for eight bars before Olaf burst into song… 

We drop our pants for Odin

And climb upon our steeds

We pass the Sacred Wind

Until our bottoms bleed

It's all in praise of Odin

We feel him in our hearts

For he gives us our power

And we give him our farts

 

Fart for Odin, Fart for Odin

Raise you bottom to the sky

Fart for Odin, Fart for Odin

Spread your cheeks, spread them wide

Fart for Odin, Fart for Odin

Let your bottom burp with pride

Fart for Odin, Fart for Odin

To the circle of wind we ride

The Sheep’s Stirrup was indeed ‘rocking’. The crowd were obviously familiar with the song and sang along enthusiastically to the chorus. Mr Kneepatcher had fainted as soon as Olaf had started to sing and was being revived by Roisin. ‘Ooh, have you seen how tight his pants are. I’m all of a dither again!’ he said, fanning himself with his hand.

Aiden adjusted the sound and equalization levels slightly, to account for the fact that the place was now filled with people and sheep. It was sounding pretty good; loud, but clear as a bell.

We hail the mighty Asgard

With fire in our veins

In all its strength and majesty

In flatulence it reigns

Oh hear this mighty Odin

From one who is so true

My rear end shakes like thunder

As I let one go for you

 

Fart for Odin, Fart for Odin

Raise you bottom to the sky

Fart for Odin, Fart for Odin

Spread your cheeks, spread them wide

Fart for Odin, Fart for Odin

Let your bottom burp with pride

Fart for Odin, Fart for Odin

To the circle of wind we ride

A symphonic mid-section had the crowd waving their hands in the air and Henry Fluffywool turning his nose up disapprovingly. Grundi the Windy then launched into a screaming guitar solo and Aiden was treated to the sight of some sheep playing air guitar… quite well, actually.

It was at this point that he noticed the strangely-dressed, small man that had arrived with Oldfart. The little chap was scribbling away on his notepad, hardly ever looking up and actually watching the band.

‘Fart for Odin’ reached its rip-roaring finale and The Sheep’s Stirrup exploded with cheers and applause. ‘It’s good to be back,’ Olaf shouted, with a huge grin on his face. ‘So, are you people ready for metal?’

‘Yes!’ screamed the crowd.

‘Are you people ready for curry?’

‘Yes!’ the crowd screamed again, and General Lamb Korma-Saffron Rice looked around nervously, raising one of his mini poppadoms in the air protectively.

‘Well, if you’re ready for metal and you’re ready for curry, what are you ready for?’

‘Metal and Curry!’ roared the crowd.

‘I can’t hear you!’ Olaf screamed back.

‘Metal and Curry!’ roared the crowd again, much louder.

‘Metal and Curry!’ screamed Olaf, and off they went.

Another town, another pub

Another place where I can get my grub

My axe is honed

It's in fine fettle

My pants are tight

And I'm ready for metal

 

Metal and Curry, Metal and Curry

Give it to me now 'cause I'm in a hurry

Metal and Curry, Metal and Curry

Pile my plate high and there'll be no worries

‘Try not to listen to the words, Your Majesty,’ Saffy said to Tikky. ‘They may upset you.’

‘Oh, don’t be so prudish, Saffy. It’s only a song,’ Tikky replied. ‘Anyway, I like this one, it really tenderises my chicken.’

‘Tikky!’ Vindy cried. ‘You shouldn’t say such things in public… you should wait until we’re alone afterwards,’ he added, simmering ever so slightly.

Another night, another gig

Another table

And my plate is big

The crowds are wild, they don't want no crock

They're primed for metal

And they're ready to rock

 

Metal and Curry, Metal and Curry

Give it to me now 'cause I'm in a hurry

Metal and Curry, Metal and Curry

Pile my plate high and there'll be no worries

Metal and Curry, Metal and Curry

Give me poppadoms too cause I want a full tummy

Metal and Curry, Metal and Curry

Make my plate big, don't be a dummy

Olaf and Grundi then executed a scintillating guitar dual, with Smid and Agnar hammering away in the background. Mr Kneepatcher was at the front of the crowd continually supplicating himself in front of Olaf.

As the band continued with classic songs such as ‘Warriors of Asgard’ (which contained quite a few references to buxom damsels in distress), ‘Rock, Rock, Rock, Rock Ragnarok’ (which told of the doom of the gods when ‘all things will go boom’) and ‘The Power of Cheese,’ (which paid homage to… cheese), Aiden was convinced that Sacred Wind were one of the best live bands he’d ever seen, even if the lyrics did seem slightly ridiculous on occasion.

‘What do you think, then?’ Oldfart said.

‘They’re fantastic, Oldfart. I can’t believe I’ve not come across them before.’ And then he remembered where he was.

‘This one’s for all the ladies, ewes and chicken tikkas in the audience,’ Olaf shouted, to the screams of ladies, the high pitched baaing of ewes and the hysterical yelp of delight from Queen Chicken Tikka Masala-Coconut Rice. ‘This is called “Sail with Me”.’

I was just a fool

Playing by the rules

Ravaging and pillaging

And trying to look cool

Then you made me see

All that life can be

Now you are inside my heart

I want you here with me

 

Stay by my side

Make my life complete, baby

You are the one, you're my light

Now you've made my helmet shine

 

Sail with me

Now I've found you I never wanna let you go

Hold my oar

Forever more

Sail with me

Now I've found you I never wanna let you go

Hold my oar

Forever more

Mr Breezy and Mr Waft stayed glued to the bar while the band continued to play. They sipped their drinks politely but looked increasingly uncomfortable. ‘How long is it until they finish?’ Mr Breezy asked Maurice.

‘Oh, well they’re due off stage at about 10:00 pm, so I guess about another fifteen minutes or so. Are you enjoying the concert, gentlemen?’

‘It’s an experience we’ll always remember,’ said Mr Waft, with a deadpan face.

‘It’s just a pity they can’t play in the Cestrian Music Tournament next week,’ Maurice said. ‘I’m sure they’d have a great chance of winning.’

‘I’m sure they would indeed light up that particular event,’ Mr Breezy said, with barely concealed sarcasm.

Henry Fluffywool was stood next to them and couldn’t help overhearing. ‘Of course it’s not real music,’ he said. ‘I’ll grant they can play their instruments and sing, but where are the nuances, the subtle counterpoints, the soft adagios, the delicate pastorals, the exhilarating allegros?’

‘Yes, it’s not really our cup of tea either,’ said Mr Breezy. ‘Our tastes are more, how shall we say, quieter.’

‘I couldn’t agree more, my good man,’ Henry said. ‘Give me a nice flute concerto any day and I’m happy as a ram in mating season.’

‘This next song is for the Viking on my left,’ Olaf said, as he and Grundi picked up acoustic guitars. ‘For a long time now, Grundi the Windy has been in love.’

‘Aah,’ said the crowd.

‘But this is a love that is unrequited,’ continued Olaf.

‘Aah,’ said the crowd again, and Grundi looked genuinely downcast.

‘For he is in love with a goddess; and not just any goddess, but the wife of our Lord Odin himself.’

‘Ooh,’ sighed the crowd.

‘Long has he yearned for her beauty, long has he yearned for her touch, long has he yearned to smell her armpits, but alas this is something that can never be.’

Grundi shook his head, dejectedly.

‘And so, in honour of our friend’s love we have written this song about the goddess of his dreams. This is called “Frigg”.’

Aiden panicked a bit, because there hadn’t been any sound check for the acoustic guitars. Fortunately they both sounded crisp and tuneful through the PA. Olaf’s voice was tender and mellow, and several members of the audience held little lanterns aloft. Dry ice drifted out from the stage area, creating a soft and wispy blanket that went up to everyone’s knees.

In times of silence

I think of you

You're in my dreams when I sleep

And my heart when I wake

You are my goddess

And my sword is yours

Your beauty shines like the sun

As my tears fall like rain

Then Oldfart hit the flashbomb button again as the chorus erupted.

Frigg… your face is eternal

Frigg… your body is divine

Frigg… your mouth speaks only wisdom

Frigg… your armpits smell of wine

I wish I could be your lover

Odin's such a lucky bugger

Frigg

Another heartstring-pulling verse followed and things really took off after the second chorus, when the guitar solo kicked in. Grundi played as though his life depended on it, hitting soaring notes, ripping through blindingly fast arpeggios and ending up on his knees with his head thrust backwards. The audience went crazy and Mr Kneepatcher was in tears. ‘I love you Grundi,’ he shouted, waving his tear-soaked hanky.

One of the other bar staff whispered something in Maurice’s ear and he nodded in understanding. He picked up his cleaning cloth and walked over to the King and Queen’s table. ‘Your Majesties, I am informed that the other “guests” have arrived. They are presently awaiting your company in the room I have prepared upstairs. I have taken the liberty of telling them it would be better to wait until the band have finished before having discussions.’

‘Thank you, Maurice,’ Vindy said. ‘That makes sense. And, as much as I’m looking forward to meeting our esteemed guests, it would be a pity to miss the end of the show.’

‘I second that,’ said Tikky.

As the noise of the crowd died down, Olaf held onto the microphone stand with two hands, letting his guitar hang loose on its strap. ‘I’m afraid that this is our last number for this evening.’

‘Aw,’ the crowd cried.

‘But, I’d just like to say that when we play our next gig, the audience there will have a lot to live up to, because tonight you’ve shown that Llangollen is the most rock ‘n’ roll town in the land!’

The crowd went completely wild, whooping and hollering. ‘This is for all of you. It’s called “Sacred Wind”. Now let me see some hands!’

And so the band launched into their theme tune with virtually the entire pub clapping along. Even General Lamb Korma-Saffron Rice was clicking his mini poppadoms together.

I can feel it building

From deep down inside

Can you see my cheeks tremble

As the gases start to rise

It's the breath of Odin

And it's forever hallowed

You better head for the hills now

Cause it's about to explode!

 

You can run

And you can hide

But you're never gonna last

Cause you'll be felled

By my sword

And a blast from my ass!

 

Feel the power of my wind

Sacred wind

Feel the power of my wind

Sacred Wind

Sacred Wind

 

See my foes as they scatter

As they flee from the smell

With my sword and wind with me

I'll send them straight to hell!

And they'll take a message

To tell to far and near

About the power of my sword

And of my bottom of fear

‘Sacred Wind’ ended with more flashbombs, dry ice and the stage area awash with strobe lighting. Then everything went black and when the lights came up the band were gone.

‘More! More! More!’ yelled the crowd, apart from the sheep who yelled ‘Baa! Baa! Baa!’

A minute or so of wild applause passed and then the lights went down once more. A single spotlight shone and Olaf the Berserker appeared. ‘Thank you so much. We love you all!’ he roared. ‘Now, we do have one more song for you.’

‘Here we go,’ said Oldfart. ‘This should be pretty spectacular.’

‘Many years ago there were men who wished to keep both people and sheep in a state of fear. They were bad men. What were they?’ he asked the crowd.

‘Bad men!’ shouted the crowd.

‘When we saw the deprivation these men had wrought, we knew we had no choice but to intervene. So, this song is based on a true story. It’s called “My Sword is my Sword”.’

The crowd went potty as Olaf, Grundi and Smid played the opening notes. Agnar battered a fast drum fill and then they were off; a galloping double-bass drum beat supported scything guitar and bass, with Grundi playing an emotion-filled guitar solo.

When we came to this land

There was evil in the fields

The trees had no leaves

And the sheep were in trauma

So we made a solemn vow

And gathered up our arms

And rode past all the farms

And the people were waving

(We said)

 

Have no fear

Help is here

And we ride now to bring you salvation

This is our song

It will make us strong

It will free you from fear and destruction

 

My sword is my sword

My shield is my shield

Together we ride

Into the battlefield

And our foes will fall

At our feet

As we fight

For honour

And glory

The audience sang along joyously to the chorus and even Aiden felt compelled to join in. The little fellow with the cloak was getting very giddy, trying to clap along while holding his notepad and pen… which he dropped on the floor.

‘Bless my clacky hooves,’ he said, as he picked it up. It was a voice Aiden found vaguely familiar.

So we polished our steel

And rode to the bad men's castle

We said there would be no hassle

If they left the people alone

But they laughed at us and swore

And showered us with spears

But we did not show fear

And that's when we got our swords out

(We said)

 

You will fall

Death will call

He waits now in anticipation

We will not fail

Yes, we will prevail

So for death now you should make preparation

A second uplifting chorus was followed by yet another virtuoso guitar solo from Grundi… and that’s when the two armed warriors burst through the door.

The crowd parted so the two warriors could get to the stage area, where they began clashing swords and hammering away at each other’s shields. The sound of metal on metal was audible above the PA as the music died down to a whisper. Then Olaf sang again, accompanied only by a dulcet bass line from Smid.

The battle was fierce

But we stood our ground

And their shields broke

As our swords crashed down

Then the band came in with crushing staccato bursts.

And so they got scared

And they ran away

So we sang our song

We had won the day

Somewhat inevitably there was an audience participation section, with more singing, baaing, clapping, poppadom clicking and lanterns, before the final chorus and massive flashbomb-littered finale. The band left the stage to thunderous applause and, after acknowledging the appreciative crowd, went straight over to the large table Maurice had reserved for Queen Ophelia, Roisin and Mara. Ophelia jumped up and gave Olaf a big kiss before sitting down on his knee.

‘Right, then,’ Oldfart said to Aiden, as he switched off the PA and lighting rigs. ‘I don’t know about you, but I need a drink.’

As they walked over to the table, Aiden looked around to see if the little fellow in the cloak was joining them, but to his surprise he was nowhere to be seen.


Chapter 14 – Ooh, can I have your autograph, please?

‘To good health, to Odin and to all of you, my friends,’ Olaf said, raising his tankard high, before farting loudly. ‘And you, Aiden Peersey, gave us the best sound we’ve ever had on stage, so… to Aiden,’ he added, raising his glass again.

‘Yes, the sound was fantastic,’ Mara said to Aiden, smiling invitingly. ‘You were wonderful.’ Then she turned to Ophelia and whispered ‘I’m going to kiss him afterwards.’

‘Do you have to kiss every nice boy you meet?’ Ophelia whispered back.

‘No, of course not… only the really good looking ones!’

Agnar was sitting next to Roisin, trying to look as appealing as a puppy. ‘Did you enjoy the gig, Roisin?’

‘You were excellent, Agnar. One of your best shows ever.’

‘In which case could I possibly have a celebratory kiss?’

‘No, don’t be so cheeky!’ she said, smacking his hand.

Agnar’s face dropped and he took a dejected slurp from his tankard. ‘He is very sweet, Roisin. And he obviously really likes you,’ Ophelia said to her. ‘Maybe you should give him a chance.’

‘He is sweet, Ophy, but he’s not really my type.’

Unsurprisingly, Sacred Wind were the centre of attention and they were quite happy to shake hands, sign autographs and chat to everybody. ‘Let me through, let me through!’ Mr Kneepatcher shouted, squeezing his way through the throng of people surrounding the table.

‘Ooh, can I have your autograph, please?’ he said, stuffing a photo of the band and a pen into Olaf’s face.’

‘Of, course,’ Olaf said. ‘Who do I make it out to?’

‘To my good friend Gilbert Kneepatcher,’ said Mr Kneepatcher.

Olaf wrote the message on the photo and signed it with a flourish. ‘There you are, and thank you, Gilbert.’

‘He called me Gilbert! He called me Gilbert! Mr Kneepatcher screamed. ‘Ooh, my heart, my heart, I’m all of a dither.’ And then he fainted again.

As the celebrations continued, Aiden noticed the two odd-looking men from room 13 making their way over to the table. ‘I don’t like the look of these two, Oldfart. I think they’re up to something.’

‘My good fellows,’ said Mr Breezy. ‘Firstly, we’d like to congratulate you on a most excellent show.’

‘Indeed,’ added Mr Waft. ‘It was an experience to live long in the memory.’

‘Thank you,’ said Smid.

‘But for us, the piece de resistance…’ said Mr Breezy.

‘The piece de resistance…’ echoed Mr Waft.

‘…was the drumming of Agnar the Hammered. Sir, we salute you.’ Mr Breezy said, doffing his hat and bowing.

‘We salute you,’ echoed Mr Waft, mimicking Mr Breezy’s doff and bow.

Agnar seemed quite taken aback. ‘Well, thank you, gentlemen. Did you like my paradiddles?’

‘Superb,’ said Mr Breezy.

‘Sublime,’ said Mr Waft.

‘And did you notice the snare drags in the verses of “Frigg”?’

‘Almost poetic in their execution,’ Mr Breezy gushed.

‘Poetic indeed,’ gushed Mr Waft.

‘In fact, it would be a great honour if we could possibly spend some time in your company to discuss the finer merits of your playing,’ Mr Breezy said.

‘An honour,’ said Mr Waft.

‘I don’t see why not,’ a particularly flattered Agnar said. ‘Grab yourself a couple of chairs and let’s chat.’

Mr Breezy and Mr Waft listened patiently as Agnar talked them through drum tuning, double-bass drum playing, accidentally hitting your nose with a drumstick, and how he once thought he was having a spiritual experience during a drum solo.

‘Mr the Hammered you are inspiring,’ Mr Breezy complimented. ‘It is surely a rarity to find a drummer who speaks with such intellect, erudition and passion. Why it’s almost intoxicating.’

‘Intoxicating,’ said Mr Waft.

‘But, may we be so bold as to ask you a non-drum related question that pertains to some information we received earlier today?’

Agnar was now very feeling very relaxed in their company, plus the three tankards of ale he’d drunk greatly assisted in loosening his tongue… which needed little encouragement on most occasions anyway. ‘Fire away,’ he said.

‘We are men of many interests, Mr the Hammered.’

‘Many interests,’ Mr Waft echoed.

‘One of these just happens to be a fascination with ancient structures, and we were told that the cheese mine near the Circle of Wind is in your possession now?’

‘That old thing, oh, yes, it was a present from my cousin Angus McSvensson a few years back. Well, I say a present; it was more a request to take care of it.’

‘So you do not actually own the property?’ Mr Breezy said, with a worried sideways glance at Mr Waft.

‘Oh, it’s my mine alright,’ Agnar said. ‘I’ve got the paperwork somewhere. Mind you, I’ve only been inside once and I got chased out by bats.’

Mr Breezy rubbed his chin, feigning being in deep thought. ‘Hmm, it could be that we may be able to help out here,’ he said. ‘A client of ours may be very interested in taking it off your hands, for a good price of course.’

‘Oh, I couldn’t sell it, Angus would kill me,’ Agnar said. ‘Although, I’ve not seen him for a bit so I could always ask him.’

‘No, no,’ Mr Breezy and Mr Waft said together, holding their hands out as if to avert an invisible danger.

‘That will not be necessary,’ Mr Breezy continued. ‘We would not wish to be the cause of any potential family disagreements.’

He looked at Mr Waft and nodded. Mr Waft nodded back. ‘Well, the hour is getting late and we must be up early tomorrow as we have a long journey ahead of us. So, if you don’t mind we’ll take our leave and retire to our room and into the arms of Morpheus.’

‘Oh, well don’t let me keep you, gentlemen,’ Agnar said, winking. ‘Is she a bit of alright, then?’

‘Who?’ Mr Waft said.

‘Morpheus.’

‘You misunderstand, Mr the Hammered,’ Mr Breezy said, laughing. ‘We are simply going to sleep.’

‘Of course, I understand,’ Agnar said, with another wink. ‘Goodnight my friends and may your night be full of pleasure, naughty dreams and fragrant wind.’

‘Good night, Mr the Hammered, it has been a joy to meet you,’ Mr Breezy said, standing up and shaking Agnar’s hand.

‘A joy,’ said Mr Waft. And with that they retired to room 13.

‘What a complete idiot,’ Hob said, as he sat on the bed. ‘This complicates matters a great deal.’

‘I agree,’ said Nob. ‘If he is unwilling to sell the mine, then the Baron may have to take it by force.’

‘I doubt he’d want to do that, the McSvenssons are not people you would wish to cross. However, there may be another solution but we will need to talk to the Baron first.’

‘Would this have anything to do with the tournament?’ Nob said.

‘It would, but we’ll need more information. Let’s get out of here after breakfast tomorrow morning and pay the Baron a visit.’

Down the corridor in room number 4, another conversation was taking place that would also have an impact on the momentous events to come. ‘Your Majesties, it is good that we meet at last,’ said Dr Lamb Dopiaza-Pilau Rice. ‘And may I introduce you to the head of our armed forces, General Beef Madras-Wholegrain Rice.’

‘Yes, it has been too long in coming,’ Vindy replied. ‘And I am delighted to make your acquaintance, General.’

‘The honour is all mine,’ the General replied.

‘Indeed, my good Doctor,’ Tikky said. ‘We meet as friends with a common goal and I hope we will also leave as friends.’

‘If I may,’ the General said, ‘I would like to share some information that has come to light that may force our plans to be expedited.’

‘Go on, General,’ Tikky said.

The curries were placed strategically on a large table near the window. Greta and Harold sat silently by. ‘Harold, will you please check there is no-one eavesdropping outside the window?’ Vindy said.

‘Yes, Your Majesty,’ Harold replied, pulling back the curtains and looking out the window. ‘It looks clear, Your Majesty.’

‘Please continue, General,’ Vindy said.

‘Mold has been subject to infiltration by two of Blacktie’s spies. We fear they have already informed the Baron of our potential alliance.’

‘That’s not good,’ said Tikky.

‘Indeed,’ continued the General. ‘We may need to move sooner than we would have wished. As we speak, I have four battalions of our finest Spiced Chapatis, three battalions of Garlic Naans, four battalions of Samosa Commandoes, and our own Rogan Josh Imperial Guard ready to move. We could be at Chester within the day. If you could provide a similar force I feel we could take the city.’

‘General, I do not doubt the quality and bravery of your forces, or of ours,’ Saffy said, ‘but to simply attempt to take the city in this way at present would be currycide.’

‘Why so? We’re led to believe that the Knights of Flatulence are engaged in the Scouseland Crusades. The city’s defences are severely weakened by their absence.’

‘Who told you that, General?’ Saffy said. ‘The Knights returned to Chester last week. If I were you I’d check your sources more carefully, and if I didn’t know better I’d say you may have a saboteur in your ranks.’

‘Did the information come from the Brotherhood, by any chance?’ Dr Lamb Dopiaza-Pilau Rice asked.

‘Yes,’ replied the General.

‘You suspect someone, Doctor?’ Vindy said.

‘Sadly, yes. Not all view this alliance of ours as salubrious. There is one in particular who has been most vocal in his opposition. He also holds supreme influence over the Brotherhood, and he advocates conflict with Wrexham as opposed to unity. If this is part of some subterfuge of his creation then I would guess that Your Majesties’ safety may also be in jeopardy.’

‘Whom do you speak of, Doctor?’ Saffy said, angrily crunching a mini poppadom. ‘I would seek words with this insolent and no doubt tasteless curry.’

‘He was once a holy curry, a member of the Order of Dhansak. These were curried monks pledged to live the simple life. They gave up their spices, dispensing with fineries like Basil, Sage and Chives, and sought solace in prayer and meditation. Brother Vegetable Jalfrezi-Basmathi Rice was once a shining light in the Order, but something or someone turned him against the holy ways.’

‘So now we have enemies within our own community,’ said the General. ‘These are sad times to be a curry.’

‘At least we seemed to have foiled this particular plot,’ Tikky said. ‘And I’m sure you gentlemen will be doing your utmost to have a talk with this “monk” when you return.’

‘I think Your Majesty can rely on that,’ said the Doctor.

Downstairs, things were starting to wind down. Most folk had now left the pub and Aiden was beginning to feel very tired and slightly tipsy. He hadn’t drunk that much, but the drink had gone straight to his head and he felt it was time to retire.

‘Oh, you can’t leave so soon,’ Mara said, grabbing his arm as he got up off the chair.

‘I’m sorry, Mara. You’ve all been delightful company but I’m absolutely beat. I’m sure we’ll all meet again soon.’

‘Well, here’s something to remember me by,’ she said, pulling him towards her and placing a lingering kiss on his lips. By the time she’d finished he was bright red and the table was full of smiles.

‘Mr Aiden Peersey, you may consider yourself to be an honorary member of Sacred Wind,’ Olaf said, raising his tankard again. ‘So, to Aiden, the finest scruffy-haired mixing engineer we’ve ever had.’

‘To Aiden,’ everyone on the table said, raising their glasses and tankards in salute.

‘Goodnight, Aiden. I wish you sweet dreams,’ Mara said, waving as he walked up the stairs to his room.

And so, as he climbed into bed and fell asleep almost immediately, the strangest day in Aiden Peersey’s life so far came to an end. He didn’t know at the time, but as strange as this day had been, there would be even stranger days ahead.

 

Chapter 15 – I’ve heard your sausages are to die for 

Bright sunlight sneaked surreptitiously through the curtains, as the sound of a cock crowing heralded the start of a new day. Aiden woke up with a start and looked at the little clock on the bedside table. It said 8:05 am. The delicious aroma of bacon and sausages infiltrated his nose and he sat up, stretching. He looked around the quaint room, his eyes blinking as the rays of the sun danced across his face.

He took a quick shower, brushed his teeth and felt considerably more awake after his morning ablutions. His stomach was imploring him to stop ignoring the smell of breakfast, so he got dressed and wandered downstairs.

The Sheep’s Stirrup had a small restaurant area, in a room adjacent to the bar, and several guests were already availing themselves of the early morning fare.

‘Good morning,’ Mr Breezy said, through a mouthful of toast.

‘Good morning,’ said Mr Waft, gesticulating with a sausage skewered on his fork.

Aiden nodded to both of them and sat down at a table near the window. ‘It’s a beautiful day out there today,’ said a small sheep, wearing a bonnet. ‘What can I get you for breakfast, young man?’

‘Well, I’ve heard your sausages are to die for,’ Aiden replied, with a smile.

‘Oh, I see Maurice has been singing my praises again, bless him,’ Blanche Fluffywool said.

‘He has,’ said Aiden. ‘I’m guessing that you’re Blanche?’

‘That’s right, and I’m guessing you must be Aiden,’ Blanche said, placing a tray of toast on the table. ‘He spoke a lot about you last night. You’ve obviously made a good impression on him.’

‘The feeling’s definitely mutual,’ Aiden said.

‘Well, then, we’ve got my speciality sausages, smoked bacon, both locally farmed of course, mushrooms, hash browns, poached eggs, fried eggs, the finest drippydizzle beans, and fried bread,’ Blanche said, taking a small notebook and pen out of her pocket. ‘What would you like?’

‘Would you think it greedy of me if I asked for a bit of everything?’

‘No, of course not, I’d take it as a compliment. Now would you like any tea?’

‘Yes, please.’

When breakfast arrived, it was indeed the feast Aiden’s stomach had been hoping for, and he wasted little time in cleaning the plate. ‘Blanche, that was possibly the finest breakfast I’ve ever tasted,’ he said, as she came to take away the used cutlery.

‘Ah, I bet you say that to all the ewes,’ she said, giggling.

At that moment a panic-stricken Maurice ran into the restaurant, puffing and blowing liked he’d just been chased by a herd of rabid dogs who fancied some lamb cutlets. ‘We have an emergency,’ he said, catching his breath between the words as he spoke. ‘Mr Breezy, Mr Waft, I fear we may need your expertise.’

‘Er, whatever for, Mr Fluffywool,’ Mr Breezy said, with a worried look.

‘It’s Mrs Ripsnorter, the handkerchief vendor’s wife. She’s claiming her vacuum cleaner is possessed.’

‘Oh, dear,’ said Blanche, ‘that’s terrible.’

‘It is indeed,’ said Mr Waft, with a nervous glance at Mr Breezy.

‘Quickly, gentlemen, she’s outside now with the infernal machine. We may not have much time, it’s started levitating.’

Mr Breezy and Mr Waft exchanged more nervous glances and Mr Waft shook his head. ‘I’m afraid we may not be able to assist, Mr Fluffywool,’ said Mr Breezy, feigning disappointment. ‘If a vacuum cleaner has reached the levitation stage, there’s not really anything we can do. Also, we have urgent business in Chester that we must attend to.’

‘Yes,’ added Mr Waft. ‘There have been several substantiated reports of vacuum cleaners reciting the black mass and shaping their hoses into inverted crucifixes. We must make haste, lest we fear the worst.’

‘Or you could just be scared,’ Aiden said, as he stood up from the table.

‘Scared? Scared?!’ Mr Breezy said, defensively. ‘Don’t be so insolent my good fellow.’

‘How dare you!’ added Mr Waft. ‘Why would we, of all people, be scared of confronting a possessed vacuum cleaner?’

‘Of course, how silly of me,’ Aiden said, his mind whizzing. ‘You gentlemen obviously laugh in the face of fear and would no doubt banish the foul demon in a second. It’s just a pity that in situations like this, scurrilous rumours of cowardice can spread. But I’m sure your reputation is such that people would never believe them.’

Everyone in the breakfast room looked at Mr Breezy and Mr Waft, whilst outside an eerie howl was followed by the sound of high-powered suction. ‘Perhaps we can take a quick look, then,’ Mr Breezy said, with a nervous smile.

‘Are you mad?’ Mr Waft whispered. ‘We may be found out.’

‘It will look far worse if we don’t,’ Mr Breezy whispered back. ‘We may need to use this disguise again. Look, let’s just say a few incantations and get out of here.’

Mr Breezy stood up and grabbed his briefcase and Mr Waft finished the last piece of toast on the table. ‘You are right, my good fellow. It would indeed be remiss of us to not assess the situation and to offer our services in this time of dire need. Come, Mr Waft, we have work to do.’

Outside, a distraught Mrs Ripsnorter was being comforted by a friend as her vacuum cleaner span in the air. Its hose was flailing about and it seemed to be moaning in at least three different voices. Mr Breezy raised his hands in a grand gesture and started to speak.

‘Oh foul demon of the netherworld, we command you to leave this poor vacuum cleaner. Be gone and do not return!’

‘Yes, be gone, dark spirit!’ added Mr Waft, dramatically.

The vacuum cleaner stopped spinning and pointed its hose at Mr Breezy and Mr Waft. ‘And who the bloody hell do you think you two are, then?’ it said, in a rasping voice.

‘Er, we are highly-trained Vagrant Vacuum Cleaner Exorcists,’ said Mr Breezy. ‘And we have come to send you back to where you belong.’

‘No you’re not!’ the vacuum cleaner spat. ‘You look like a right couple of plonkers to me. Bugger off, I ain’t going anywhere.’

‘I can assure you we have banished many of your kind back to their dark holes, where they now fester for all eternity,’ Mr Breezy lied. ‘Now, by all that is holy, by all that is cheesy, and by all that is held sacred by the Philosophising Priests of Penrith, may you be discombobulated, eviscerated and rusticated!’

‘You’re making this up, aren’t you?’ said the vacuum cleaner.

‘I am not,’ insisted Mr Breezy.

‘You, are!’ the vacuum cleaner said, chortling. ‘Look, I’ve been exorcised loads of times and you’re not saying any of the right words.’

‘What do you mean?’ said Mr Waft.

‘Well, for a kick off, I’d expect something along the lines of “We who stand before you have tickled our armpits, have drunk the holy sweat of Tipsybugger and have danced naked through the frozen wastes of Holywell. So, shoo, shoo, shoo, oh nasty one. Get thee hence before we reveal our underwear.” And then you’d bounce on one leg, clapping vigorously. That normally does it.’

‘Ah, yes, of course,’ said Mr Breezy, ‘but we were hoping we would not have to resort to incantations of that potency. It now appears you leave us little choice.’

Mr Breezy stood on one leg and Mr Waft followed suit. ‘We who stand before you have tickled our armpits, have drunk the holy sweat of Tipsybugger and have danced naked through the frozen wastes of Holywell. So, shoo, shoo, shoo, oh nasty one. Get thee hence before we reveal our underwear!’ Then they hopped up and down, clapping vigorously.

The vacuum cleaner stopped spinning. Then it pirouetted. Then it gasped and emptied most of the contents of its bag on the ground. Then it gave out an anguished cry and fell to the floor with a bang… and then it started to laugh hysterically. ‘I can’t believe you two fell for that. I mean, I’ve come across some real idiots in my time but you two take the bloody biscuit. Absolute quality, that was!

Mr Breezy was incandescent. Mr Waft was puffed out.

‘Oh, hang on,’ said the vacuum cleaner, ‘I’ve got a message coming through from the other side. Oh, yes, from the darkest pits of the nether regions this stems; a lost soul trying to get through to her loved ones. Here it comes.’

All went momentarily dark and the vacuum cleaner span faster. ‘It’s here, the message is here…“Oh, my dearest, please help me. I am forced to boil hosiery all day, and then when I am finished I have to garnish them with pepper and eat them. Oh, the torment, the torment. For this I must do for all eternity”…’

The vacuum cleaner went silent and stopped spinning. Then it pointed its hose right into Mr Breezy’s face and cackled hysterically. ‘You mother cooks socks in hell!

‘I think it is about time we made our exit,’ said Mr Waft.

‘Agreed,’ said Mr Breezy.

‘Yeah, bugger off before I get the urge to stick this hose up your trousers,’ the vacuum cleaner said.

And with that, they turned on their heels and ran off into town. ‘I think we must give more cogitation to our choice of disguise before our next assignment,’ Hob said, puffing as he ran.

‘Drifting Feng Shui Practitioners?’ Nob suggested.

‘My thoughts exactly, my good Nob.’

‘Had enough, boys?’ said the vacuum cleaner, triumphantly, as Hob and Nob disappeared from sight. ‘Vagrant Vacuum Cleaner Exorcists my arse. Now, then, who’s next?’

People and sheep backed away in fear and the vacuum cleaner looked smug, or at least as smug as a possessed vacuum cleaner can look. It randomly span to and fro, giggling gleefully and twirling its hose. ‘Why don’t you see if you have any messages for me?’ Aiden said, stepping forward.

The vacuum cleaner stopped spinning with a jerk and pointed its hose at him, moving it from side to side and applying a mild suction action, as if it were sniffing. ‘That’s funny,’ it said. ‘I’m getting nothing from you at all.’

It repeated the process, but more frantically. ‘You’re weird. Where are you from?’

‘I’m from a place where vacuum cleaners don’t have bags,’ Aiden said.

‘Bagless vacuum cleaners? You’re not serious,’ the vacuum cleaner said, startled.

‘Oh, yes. And they never lose their suction.’

‘Oh, come on now, you can’t expect me to believe that,’ the vacuum cleaner said, dismissively. ‘You’ll be telling me next they don’t get possessed.’

‘Never,’ said Aiden. ‘We worked out how to stop all that.’

The vacuum cleaner looked concerned. Its hose began twisting slightly and bits of dust started coming out of the seam of its bag. It moved back several feet. Aiden threw his arms up in the air, theatrically, and spoke in a booming voice.

‘I call upon the power of our Lord Dyson…’

‘Now, let’s not be hasty,’ the vacuum cleaner said.

‘… to rid the Multiverse of this entity…’

‘Can’t we talk about this?’

‘… for all time and…’

‘Sod this, I’m off,’ the vacuum cleaner said, dropping to the ground and switching itself off. A rush of wind was felt by all and in the distance a shrill cry could be heard, fading softly in the morning mist.

Mrs Ripsnorter tentatively approached the inert vacuum cleaner and prodded it with her walking stick. ‘It’s been cleansed!’ she shouted, and burst into tears.

For the second time in as many days Aiden found himself receiving a round of applause, just as Cracky was wandering over from the Diner. ‘You know,’ Cracky said, smiling, ‘if I didn’t know better I’d swear you were just an attention seeker, Mr Peersey. Now, would you like to join me for that chat we planned?’

www.sacredwind.co.uk

 

 

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