By David Kirkpatrick
It was late and I sat in my study finishing my last bowl of tobacco for the night. The pipe, an old, rusticated lovat, was one of my favorites and it held the remnants of my last tin of Haddo's Delight, a wonderfully spicy blend created by the dark lord of tobacco himself, G.L. Pease. The night was comfortable, the single malt rolled smoothly down my throat and the smoke was exquisite. I set my work papers aside and leaned back in the old rocking chair to watch the hypnotic trails of smoke loll about me. Everything conspired to create a deep calm within my breast and I closed my eyes. Closed my eyes only to drift into a shallow slumber …
In the next moment my eyes snapped open. I still held my pipe, which continued to smolder, and my glass of scotch still rested beside me. But I was no longer in my rocking chair, nor was I in my study. The room was more somber and positively filled with books, animal skins and other ornamentation, and a fire roared in the hearth.
I then realized a man sat across the room from me in a large leather chair, matching the chair in which I was resting. The man was immensely corpulent, completely clean shaven and mostly bald, although he had a longish crescent-shaped fringe of hair that ran from ear to ear across the back of his head. Even more unusual, the man was attired in very bold clothing -- a ruffled shirt of deep emerald under a waistcoat and his pants were tucked into boots of unusual fashion -- the effect of his appearance made me think of another age, a time before the first World War.
"Your name is Michael, correct?" the man asked with a British Isles accent. "Michael Hanover … "
"Yes," I replied.
"I thought that was so. My card." With this the man handed me a card embossed with the name "Oliver Haddo."
"Mr. Haddo, I'm pleased to make your acquaintance, but you must forgive me. I'm not quite sure where I am or how I got here."
"Not to worry Michael, and please, call me Oliver. I've been expecting you for some while. To answer your first question, you are at Skene, my home in Staffordshire. As for the second, I believe you arrived of your own will."
"I came here of … of my own will?"
"I believe so. By any matter, I was expecting you. I have so many things to ask you, Mr. Hanover. You are from a different age than mine. From a time long past my demise, which I fear is looming far too soon on my horizon. Have you, perchance, read the Vanity Fair review of the Somerset Maugham volume, 'The Magician'?"
"No, I haven't," I replied.
"Ah, that is too bad. An amusing bit of prose, but it was written in my name by a charlatan who calls himself Aleister Crowley. However, I've already taken care of that business. One with a propensity to braggadocio and nothing behind the words should never trifle with a true mage. Yes, Mr. Crowley will meet a pitiful end of poverty and pain, and will live long enough to suffer through it all."
As Haddo was speaking, I felt an odd sensation come over me. At first I thought it was his voice, it had a hypnotic quality that, combined with the extraordinary circumstances, gave me deep pause. Then suddenly I realized what caused the unease. His eyes. He looked directly at me during our conversation, but instead of converging on my face as most people's eyes do, Haddo's remained perfectly parallel, giving the effect he was staring at a spot one thousand yards behind me while keeping his attention focused squarely on my person.
"Oliver," I asked, "you mentioned a true mage. Are you saying you are a magician?"
"Actually I prefer to refer to myself as the Brother of the Shadow. I have studied the black arts of antiquity and traveled the world in my quest for knowledge. Let me give you a small demonstration. Hand me your glass."
With this Haddo took my glass of scotch, and promptly drained it of its contents. He took a small pitcher and half-filled the glass with a liquid and handed the glass back to me.
"Pure water. Please go ahead and test it and hand the glass back to me," he said.
I tested the liquid and it was water. Haddo took the glass from me, took what appeared to be a small snuff box from his breast pocket and sprinkled a tiny bit of blue powder into the glass. As the powder reached the surface of the water a hot flame quickly danced up out of the glass and continued to burn until the glass was completely empty.
"A powerful invention indeed, Mr. Hanover. I have created a substance that will cause water to burn. If I so chose, I could burn all the water on earth leaving this planet drier than any desert and dooming all life to an instant armageddon. I do hope this small presentation helps you understand the powers I command through my arcane learning."
I had to admit I was both impressed and taken somewhat aback. Haddo actually burned a glass of water with nothing more than a pinch of some unknown powder. Fear began to come over me as I realized I was in this man's home, in another time and another land, and I had no inkling of how I got here or, more importantly, how I was going to get back to my own study.
"Mr. Hanover, your pipe is most intriguing. The blend is something I've never smelled before in any of my travels. Perchance did you bring a pouch of this wonderful tobacco with you?"
"No, I'm sorry Oliver. I only have what little is left in the bowl of this pipe. Would you care to try a taste?" And with this I offered my lovat to Haddo. He took the pipe and first let the smoke rise from the bowl up to his face and inhaled deeply.
"Yes, this blend is most extraordinary," said Haddo. He placed my pipe in his mouth and took a long, slow draw of the tobacco. A great smile broke across Haddo's face and he slowly nodded with his eyes closed as he said, "Yes, most extraordinary. Michael. You will bring me more of this blend."
With this Haddo's eerily parallel stare fixed itself on me and his eyes began to shine, to almost glitter. He said, "Yes, you will bring me more … "
And then, just as suddenly as before, I found myself back in my old, comfortable study in my own rocking chair. I was holding a very warm, but very empty glass, that what seemed like only moments before contained a couple of fingers of scotch. But my pipe was missing. I had it just now, filled with the end of my last tin of Haddo's Delight. I quickly checked my lap and the floor to make sure I didn't drop it as I dozed, possibly setting my house or myself on fire in the process, but the pipe was nowhere to be found.
Then I remembered -- the well-appointed room, the lion skin rugs, my scotch being drunk by a very fat man in a frilly shirt. A very fat man, that man -- Oliver Haddo! Haddo had my favorite rusticated lovat along with the end of my tobacco for the night. But I was home and safe.
I never did find that pipe, and never again did I fall into the reveries of light slumber to be taken back to Oliver Haddo, the Brother of the Shadow.