The five-legged, lion-headed demon, Baur, had given Doctor John Dee just three days to unearth the key which opened the passage to the Underland, far beneath The Squid and Teapot. Dee immediately decided that the only way that this might be achieved was with the use of a scrying mirror. While he would be the first to admit that he had no talent as a magician, he was more than adept at the art of scrying. Back home, in sixteenth-century England, he had possessed a shallow obsidian bowl, which, when filled with water, did the job admirably. Now, however, on Hopeless, Maine, he would need to improvise.

A niggling thought occurred to Doctor Dee, as he wandered into the kitchen of The Squid and Teapot. Baur was powerful, there could be no doubt about that. He had been seen all over the known world; nothing barred his way. ‘How is it, then’ Dee asked himself, ’that one who commands so much power needs a simple brass key to access the tunnel?’ Surely, the demon could wish himself anywhere.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sight of Philomena Bucket scrabbling about beneath the table.

“Has something gone astray, Mistress Bucket?” he asked.

“I dropped a teaspoon,” replied Philomena. “It’s not that important really, but if there’s a spoon on the floor, it’ll be bound to attract them spoonwalkers in. I swear the little devils can smell lost cutlery.”

With some difficulty Dee got on to his hands and knees and helped her with the search.

“If I had a pint of Old Colonel for every spoon that’s gone missing, I’d be permanently drunk,” said Philomena.

“Then allow me to locate them for you,” replied Dee, an idea forming in his mind. “Furnish me with a dark bowl and some clean water and together we will find them. You and I will go a-scrying.”

“Scrying?” queried Philomena. “I thought that was for looking into the future.”

“Not solely,” said Dee. “You have to concentrate, state your intentions, and the surface of the water, or mirror, if you’re using one, will show you that which you ask for. You need to be careful though, especially when looking into the future. There you will be shown a possible future, for although the ultimate destination is inevitable and decided by destiny, the journey may take one of several paths.”

An hour later Philomena found herself watching, fascinated, as John Dee located the whereabouts of more than a dozen missing spoons. Several were scattered around the inn, but more than a half had been taken to a spoonwalker’s nest, up in the Gydynap Hills.

“There will be no getting those back,” said Philomena. “Leastways, not if you want to hang on to your sanity.”  

She had heard enough tales of islanders being driven mad by prolonged exposure to a spoonwalker’s gaze to doubt the truth of this.

 “May I borrow this for the morning,” asked Dee, flourishing the now empty bowl.

“Of course,” smiled Philomena. “Pottery bowls are something we have plenty of.”

She watched Doctor Dee amble off to his room, clutching the bowl under his arm.

What was it that he had said?  Concentrate, state your intentions, and the surface of the water will show you that which you ask for. That did not sound too difficult. And the doctor had told her more than once that she possessed some magical ability.

Philomena took another bowl from the shelf and filled it with water. Then she lit a candle and tried to remember what Dee had done, how he had sat, what movements he had made. Despite her best efforts, nothing seemed to work and the dark surface of the water remained stubbornly devoid of any image. Philomena shrugged, and was about to give up, when the memory of Granny Bucket’s ghost, sitting on the bottom of her bed, came flooding back to her. Granny had been most dismissive about Philomena being in thrall to John Dee.

“Who cares what Doctor Dee says? Know yourself, girl,” these were Granny’s exact words. Well, maybe it was time to practise her so-called magical powers.

Philomena blew out the candle, settled once more in front of the scrying bowl, told it in no uncertain terms what her intentions were, and concentrated hard. There was no mysterious chanting or hand-waving involved, as Dee had done, no calling upon the spirits of the scrying bowl. Just Philomena and her ferocious desire to make this work. And work it did…

The water in the bowl grew cloudy, with a thin mist hovering above it. Minutes ticked by, then as the mists began to clear Philomena could just make out a figure on the water’s surface. With a shock she realised that she was seeing herself standing in front of, what looked like, a golden disc. The disc became brighter, and gradually grew until it filled the surface of the bowl; she had become no more than a tiny dot at its centre. Then she noticed that the disc itself was changing, and a face, with leonine features, now glared out of the bowl with blazing red, demonic eyes. Philomena could not tear her own eyes away from that stare and she found herself being drawn, as if into the bowl itself.  For an instant the whole world took on a vast golden glow. When it eventually faded, and Philomena had rubbed her eyes, she looked around at her surroundings. It was more than a little surprising to see that she was now standing in a lavishly furnished room. In a corner, sitting quietly in a deep, leather armchair, was a smartly dressed, somewhat languid middle-aged man. Seeing Philomena, he arose, smiled faintly and extended a pale hand.

“Ah, there you are Miss Bucket. I’ve been expecting you. May I call you Philomena?”

“Um… I suppose,” replied Philomena, hesitantly. She had no idea where she was, or even if she was still alive.  

“Am I supposed to know who you are?” she asked.

“I doubt it very much,” said her host, “But you may have heard of me… please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Baur…”

To be continued…

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