Chapter 3 – Ritual Mechanicians
Having broken down on their way to Blackpool, to save the place from becoming a seedy, tacky and depraved town, our magickal heroes are wondering how they will be able to continue their journey.
Inside the crowded motorway services at Knutsford, The Three Hidden Masters, two from Hemel Hempstead and one from Bricket Wood, sat around three cups of coffee and three doughnuts. Nigel’s hair steamed gently as it dried off in the warmth of the café. Around them, the sound of The Girl from Ipanema wafted gently above their heads in a version almost, but not quite, specifically designed to induce madness.
“What do you propose we do now?” asked Wayne.
“Well, I left my tools at home, so I could get all the gear in the boot,” replied Clint.
“That was a spectacular idea,” responded Wayne with a sarcastic tone.
Clint looked at Wayne with an irritated look, but didn’t have time to say anything as Nigel spoke. “I’ve got a multi-tool.”
“‘Scuse me, can I borrow your sugar?” asked a burly caricature of a truck driver. He sat down at the opposite table with a copy of Steven Hawkin’s Brief History of Time and a folded copy of The Sun newspaper.
Wayne passed the sugar to the truck driver who proceeded to pour a long stream of its contents into his steaming mug of tea.
“A multi-tool?” quizzed Clint.
“Oh yes,” replied Wayne enthusiastically, “rather clever, brushed steel devices similar to a Swiss Army Knife, except that they have spanners and scissors and contraptions attached. They are awfully good.”
“I had a Swiss Army Knife once,” said Clint, “it was made in China.”
“That would be a Chinese Swiss Army Knife then,” responded Wayne.
“That’s what I used to call it.”
“Can I look at it?” asked Wayne of Nigel.
“No, that’s a bit personal. Piss off!” replied Nigel.
The truck driver glanced across at them briefly over the rim of his mug.
“I think he means the multi-tool,” said Clint.
“Oh yeah, sorry.” said Nigel in response “It’s in with my stuff for the weekend.”
“Surely not in with your magical equipment?” asked Wayne with a mock tone of shock.
“No, with my spare t-shirts and clean underwear and stuff.”
Clint raised his eyebrows at Nigel. “You brought clean underwear! I bet you won’t use it.”
“There speaks the voice of a true festival goer,” replied Nigel.
“That all depends what we come up against this weekend,” injected Wayne in sympathy. “I remember the last time we saved the universe, I nearly …”
Nigel interrupted before Wayne could say anymore, “Too much information!”
Clearly, Wayne’s grammar school education, which he sometimes claimed was a fee paying education, had only influenced his accent and had not affected his sense of vulgarity, or rather lack of it.
“We could try to suss out what’s wrong with the car,” said Clint bringing the subject back on topic. “The way it happened so suddenly, it sounds like electrics.”
“On the other hand, it could be mechanical,” added Wayne.
“Or fuel,” continued Nigel.
“Well, that would just about cover all the options,” said Clint completely unimpressed, “I suppose, I should check it out.”
Clint was definitely the most mechanical of the trio, not that he did much of that sort of thing these days, preferring to trust to the infinite cycle of the second-hand car. Having been in the Royal Navy as an engineer, he had experience of all sorts of machines from the huge Deltic diesel engines, used in locomotives and ships, right through to some of the first nuclear power plants in submarines. Having left the navy so many years ago, he didn’t do much with engines now. These days he drove a road sweeper for a living, described as having more instruments than the Starship Enterprise.
“I think we should enchant to get it started,” said Nigel hopefully.
Clint looked scornfully at Nigel. “No way, man, you can’t do a ritual to repair a car!”
Nigel continued. “Well, if it’s an electrical fault, and a wire has just come loose, then surely a microscopic or quantum level of change might just be enough to make a contact.” The truck driver raised an eyebrow, glancing up from Stephen Hawkin as he took a longer look at the trio.
“I think you’re a bit out on the edge there,” responded Clint.
“We could draw a sigil in the oil on the top of the engine and perform an enchantment.” added Nigel becoming enthused.
“Let’s have a look at that multi-tool of yours,” replied Clint, trying to ignore Nigel’s madness, “and who said there’s oil on my engine?”
Nigel was, by now, scrawling a phrase on the back of the till receipt that read ‘Get us to Blackpool’. He crossed out all the letters that occurred a second or third time in the phrase and was quickly left with ‘GETUSOBLACKP’.
“Look dudes,” continued Clint, “you two are weirding me out! I can’t believe you are even thinking about this!” Clint’s complaint was tempered by an attempt to avoid raising his voice. Looking about, he checked that there was nobody paying any attention to them.
Wayne looked on silently for a moment then added, “Perhaps it would be a good idea to add something pertaining to getting us home again?”
Nigel stopped and gazed into the distance for a moment, as he is inclined to do. Some think that at these times he is consulting his inner oracle while others suggest he is listening to the voices, others believe it’s down to indigestion. “No I don’t think so. Once we’re there we’ll be fine. We’ll get back okay,” he replied with confidence.
“I think, perhaps, I can detect a Ten-inch Pianist coming on,” said Wayne with a note of concern, but without any care for people who might overhear the statement.
The truck driver glanced up briefly from his book and frowned.
* * *
The Ten-inch Pianist is a term The Three Hidden Masters use for any magical working which could go awry. The idea came from the joke about the man who walked into a pub and put a tiny man and a piano on the bar. When the barman asked for some explanation the customer explained how he met a Genie who gave him his wish for a ten-inch penis, but he happened to spell his request wrong. It’s an old joke, but it serves a purpose. So the Ten Inch Pianist is used for acts of magic where the magician gets exactly what is asked for, rather than what is desired.
The fact that the truck driver and a couple of other people in the café thought they heard Wayne say ten-inch penis was completely missed by our three heroes.
* * *
Nigel tore off and discarded the part of the till receipt with the original phrase, so he had just the string of letters remaining. Then, on a separate scrap of paper, he started to draw a diagram made up of each of the letters in the string. This left him with a jumble of letters, some large, some small, some upright, some inverted, which people in the know will recognise as a sigil. Those of you not yet in the know can think of this as a magickal symbol. The original piece of receipt, with the string of letters, was discarded into the ashtray and he held up the finished sigil.
“Okay, orrff we jolly well go,” he declared.
As The Three Hidden Masters, two from Hemel Hempstead and one from Bricket Wood, got up, they nearly bumped into the truck driver as he stood up to make his way towards the toilets. Stepping back carefully, the truck driver let them go in front of him making a mental note to avoid any contact with them again.
* * *
Out in the drizzly car park, now with more wind than rain, they stood in front of the slightly descript Japanese car. The bonnet was up as Wayne held a torch for Clint as he looked at the engine, gently tugging wires and leads to see if any had come loose.
“Here it is,” said Nigel emerging from the boot as he squeezed from between Clint’s car and an elderly Volkswagen Beetle which had parked close behind them. He proudly held aloft a small elongated leather pouch with a press stud closure.
“That is nice,” declared Wayne taking the pouch from Nigel. He was fascinated by the quality of the workmanship as he looked at the fine stitching and smooth hardened leather. “This looks like one of those devices available from Sunday supplement catalogues for executive toys.” He popped the press-stud and removed the smart brushed steel multi-tool from inside.
The folded device was about ten centimetres long and perhaps two or three centimetres across. The ends were pleasantly rounded with a pair of rivets through each end. The rivets at one end were connected by a hidden hinge between the two sides and each side had a small elliptical cut out, which Wayne grasped as he pulled the two sides apart.
Unfolding the device, he pulled the two sides outwards and back on themselves as they rotated around the rivets at the connected end. This left Wayne with a pair of pliers about 15 centimetres long and a series of other tools now revealed where they had been hidden in the handles.
“Where did you obtain this delightful device?” asked Wayne as he passed the tool to Clint.
“Oh, I treated myself to it when I left my last job,” replied Nigel as Clint examined the various penknives, screwdrivers and things for getting boy scouts out of horses’ hooves. “It was in the shop at work where you can buy all sorts of executive stuff like in those Sunday supplement catalogues.”
* * *
What none of our heroes knew was that Nigel’s multi-tool was an imitation of a device known to many as a Leatherman. Quite where Nigel’s multi-tool originated they knew not, but it may very well have been from China. Of course this would be another example of synchronicity and the interconnectedness of all things. Perhaps then, all multi tool copies—whether they be Chinese Swiss Army Knives, imitation Leathermans (Leathermen?) or other such cheap versions of useful camping equipment—are connected in some way by a sort of symbolic representation of handy screwdriver and boy scout removing essence. There may even be a demi-god of imitation multi-tools, subordinate to the god of genuine branded multi-tools, all paying homage to the greater god, Grand Old Penknife himself who leads the pantheon from his palace in the shape of a neat little pouch hanging on the belt of the supreme deity of all campers, Ray Mears … or something.
* * *
As Clint tried the various options offered by the multi-tool, tightening screws, fiddling here and there, Nigel leant forward to look at the top of the engine.
“Has it cooled?” Nigel asked.
“Sure, it’s okay,” replied Clint “Try turning it over,” he said looking up at Wayne.
Wayne climbed into the driver’s seat and tried the ignition…
Clint continued to fiddle under the bonnet, but he knew it was really just for show.
“I don’t think this is really doing any good.” Clint was growing a little frustrated by the situation. “We’re hung up without my full tool kit.”
Nigel leant forward over the engine and brushed his finger across the edge of the air filter cover. Looking at his finger tip, he observed a thin film of blackened oily grime. “Hmmm.”
Clint looked up at Nigel but said nothing. His silence, however, was enough to show his disapproval at what Nigel was clearly suggesting.
Wayne stepped out of the car and stood with the other two staring at the engine.
“I think we should put our robes on,” declared Nigel.
“This is rubbish!” replied Clint.
“Well, we have to do it properly, if we’re gonna do it at all,” responded Nigel to Clint’s complaint.
“What sort of magical weapons would you recommend?” asked Wayne.
“Not you as well!” said Clint increasingly irritated as he tried crimping a wire as a last ditch attempt at rationality. “I suppose you’ll suggest you want to use the sacred soldering iron of the art!”
Nigel was not at all fazed by Clint’s sarcasm. “Well, there is an argument to suggest that in this sort of circumstance the mediaeval elements and weapons would be inappropriate.” As he spoke, he was already carefully copying the sigil from the scrap of paper onto the flat circular space on the air filter. “Grab my robe from my box, will you Wayne.”
Wayne opened the boot and pulled his robe from his violin case and then rummaged around for Nigel’s from the tarot chest.
“All right then dude! Just what sort of magical weapons would you suggest?” Clint spoke in a defiant tone.
“I’ve got a multi-tool!” exclaimed Nigel smiling. He was clearly gleeful at having got the better of Clint.
Wayne handed Nigel an unkempt bundle of grey fabric as he struggled to pull his own black robe over his head.
As Wayne and Nigel climbed into their robes, Clint looked on in some disbelief. The large car park was quite dark with cars peppered here and there but mostly away from where they were parked. Their robes were of different designs, but they were similar in that they were both hooded and very flowing. Nigel’s hood was detachable where it was attached to a diamond shaped tabard the width of his shoulders. Once in place, the matching grey tabard came to a point at Nigel’s waist both at the front and back.
Wayne and Nigel tied knotted white cords around their paunches, leaving the loose ends hanging down to one side. They pulled the hoods up, giving them some protection from the wind and rain, but also obscuring their view as the deep cowls were blown across their faces.
“I’m getting in the car,” said Clint. “You two are going to get us busted!”
“Ready?” enquired Wayne. Nigel nodded in response.
Unnoticed by the two magicians, a figure came out of the building and started walking towards them.
“The abbreviated version I think?” asked Nigel of Wayne in a deliberately overacted voice with more than a touch of pretension.
Wayne nodded in response as the wind blew their robes flat against their bodies causing the rolls of fabric to outline their contours as they billowed like sails.
Holding up the multi-tool, Nigel began his magic with the standard incantation that he used in most of their rituals. This was the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram. There is a Greater Ritual of the Pentagram, but they tended to use the lesser as it was easier to remember and they couldn’t be bothered with the extra complications of the full version. It was adapted from the works of Aleister Crowley, who undoubtedly got it from someone else, probably McGregor Mathers who, in turn, had probably got it from someone further back in history, in much the same way that second-hand cars change hands.
The Greater Pentagram ritual can be used for both banishing or invoking, but The Three Hidden Masters, two from Hemel Hempstead and one from Bricket Wood, tended to use the lesser ritual, just for banishing at the beginning and end of their ceremonies. Effectively, it was like a magical air freshener, which banished the mundane world at the beginning and banished any unwanted magical influences at the end. (The Grumpy Wizard of the West might have interpreted this with the idea that it primed the mind for magical practice and made you feel like a magician.) This time, because of the circumstances, Nigel shortened the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram even further to its most basic elements.
Bringing the multi-tool to his forehead, he spoke with a deep, vibrant, serious tone, “Ateh.” Touching the tool to his chest, “Malkuth.” Touching his right shoulder, “ve-Geburah.” Touching his left shoulder, “ve-Gedulah.” Clasping both hands to his chest with the multi-tool between them, “le-Olahm.”
As the truck driver approached he stopped dead for a moment, almost dropping the collection of chocolate bars, CDs and other stuff he had just bought in the shop along with his copy of A Brief History of Time and The Sun newspaper. As he stood there, he felt the wind gusting, blowing the rain into his face.
Holding the multi-tool in his right hand, Nigel drew a five-pointed star in the air above the engine and chanted, now in a more guttural tone, “Ye-ho-wau, Adonai, Eheieh, Agla.” When delivered, each word was almost reduced to a single syllable, forcing the words out with a punch on each breath.
Extending his hands out to either-side, he spoke again, his voice now strong and clear, the bat-wing sleeves of his robe blowing dramatically. “Before me, Raphael; Behind me, Gabriel; On my right hand, Michael; On my left hand, Auriel. For about me flames The Pentagram, and in The Column stands The Six-rayed Star.”
Dropping his left hand to his side, he raised the multi-tool to his forehead again and repeated the first sequence of movements, only this time with greater resonance. “Ateh, Malkuth, ve-Geburah, ve-Gedulah, le-Olahm…”
The wind seemed to blow stronger, his voice trailing off on the wind and rain as he paused, standing before the car in silence save for the sound of the weather. Clint looked on in continued disbelief from his position in the driving seat.
Looking around to see if anyone else was taking any notice, the truck driver continued to walk towards his car. Apparently he wasn’t a truck driver at all, or if he was it was his day off. He ducked his head down to escape the worst of the rain in his face.
Nigel stepped back, his work complete for a moment, as Wayne took his place and began to enchant with his face raised to the heavens and the wind and rain lashing his thick black beard.
Nearly all of Wayne’s words were lost to the lorry driver as he neared them. He did hear something sounding like ‘give us the swiftness of the beasts that we might run’ as he skirted round the back of the Volkswagen Beetle, fumbled for his keys and quickly climbed inside. He never took his eyes off the two robed figures standing in front of the Japanese car, dripping with rain by the time he sat behind the wheel.
Wayne finished his incantation and stepped back from the engine of the still silent car.
Clint sat in the drivers seat with the door partly open, not daring to look at the figure whom he had seen climbing into the car directly behind. He called out to the two magicians. “I told you man! You can’t start a car by magic!” The others seemed oblivious to the off duty lorry driver behind.
The lorry driver sat and stared at the antics, as he watched Wayne lowered the bonnet while Nigel approached Clint’s door.
“Do you feel better having tried that?” enquired Clint.
Thinking it was time to leave, the lorry driver, grasped the gear leaver of the Volkswagen Beetle, depressed the clutch and turned the ignition key. The engine of the Beetle burst into life, his wet foot slid off of the worn clutch pedal and the car shot forward at as much speed as an ancient Beetle might muster under such circumstances, perhaps even more!
There was a crunch, as the front of the Beetle pushed forward into the slightly descript Japanese car, denting the rear—so making it that little bit more descript—causing its boot lid to close as the whole car rolled forward. Having been left in gear, with the ignition on and the handbrake off, something microscopic took place deep within the mysteries of the engine, and the Japanese car burst into life continuing to roll across the car park, towards the exit.
Wayne, still standing in front, leapt out of the vehicle’s path as Nigel looked on in amazement. Their hooded faces looked at each other across the space where the car had been, stunned for a moment, as it started to move away from them, the engine revving as it receded. Then, taking to their heels they chased after Clint as he wound the window down shouting for them to get in.
The driver of the Beetle–now half sitting, half standing in the open door of his car—called out to the disappearing magicians, shouting after them.
“Sorry … my foot slipped!”
Wayne and Nigel clambered into the back of the increasingly descript Japanese car amongst a flurry and tangle of hoods, batwing sleeves and general hanging out robes. At the same time, music started to emerge from the tape player, something appropriate about leaving.
“Who left it in gear then?” asked Clint of Wayne.
“You must have left the handbrake off,” replied Wayne.
“And you left the ignition on,” continued Clint.
“I would have sworn that bloke was a lorry driver when he sat down next to us in the café,” said Nigel, “it just goes to show how you can never tell people by their appearance.”
Meanwhile, back in the car park at Knutsford Services the driver of the elderly Volkswagen Beetle thought exactly the opposite as he spoke to himself.
“You can always tell a bunch of weirdoes when you see them!”
Taken from The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil