King Talan sent for Origath the Herbalist, most knowledgeable fairy in the kingdom.
'Do you have any idea why that foul beast should have appeared?'
Origath shook his head. He had never come across anything like the winged snake, even in legend.
'Do you have any idea why it disappeared after we killed it?'
Again, Origath was mystified. Though he knew of many peculiar occurrences in fairy history, he could not recall that happening before.
'The beast just appeared in mid air, killed the Elvish fencing master, and disappeared when we shot it full of arrows.' The King was very irritated. 'The Elves are going to make a fuss about the fencing master. Their ambassador has already lodged a complaint. I don't see how we can be blamed, it's not like we knew the snake was going to appear.' The King scowled. 'Maybe they should have sent us a better fencing master. One who knew how to dodge flying snakes.'
King Talan took off his gold circlet, looked at it for a moment, then put it back on his head. 'Really, Origath, can you tell me nothing about this?'
'I'm afraid not.'
The King frowned, and wondered if Origath really deserved his reputation as the most knowledgable fairy in the Kingdom.
Origath knew the King was disappointed. 'I possibly did sense something,' he ventured.
'It was very faint. But as I walked over the spot where the beast fell, I suddenly thought of Rainith the Red.'
'Rainith!' King Talan exploded. 'I might have known she had something to do with it! That fairy has been a blight on my kingdom since the day she was born! Did she send the snake?'
'I'm sure she didn't. I just felt there might be some faint connection.'
The King was already summoning his councillors and commanders.
'Origath thinks Rainith the Red was responsible for the snake!'
'That's really not what I said,' protested Origath.
'But she had something to do with it!'
'Possibly,' admitted Origath, who was now wishing he'd been more discreet. Origath had some sympathy for the exiled Rainith. He sent a message to Princess Sorena, asking her to meet him in private. Sowena was Rainith's only other friend, and he needed to talk to her, before the King did something rash.
'I can't tell you how much this annoys me.' Nakishdan was playing Skyrim, and looking angrily at the TV.
'If you want to kill that wizard you'll have to upgrade your armour.'
'That's not what I'm annoyed at. I'm annoyed because one of the characters just said they'd been running interference. Running interference? What sort of expression is that to use in a fantasy sword and sorcery game? Its ridiculous.'
Nakishdan could become very upset upset about anachronisms.
'It's a modern phrase. Worse, it's a modern phrase that practically no one in the world would understand. The Americans who made the game obviously don't realise that no one else cares about American football. It's just lazy dialogue writing.'
Mixt put her hand into the very large bag of cashew nuts that lay on the floor. 'Which one is American football? Is that the one with sticks?'
'No, it's the one where everyone is the size of a hippopotamus and they just crash into each other all the time. It's the worst thing ever. I can't believe they said running interference in a sword and sorcery game. It's really stupid. Also I'm annoyed because this wizard keeps killing me. I'll have to upgrade my armour.'
Nakishdan's character in the game, a female warrior, was dressed in fur, quite a revealing outfit, to which he was very partial. Unfortunately, it just wasn't strong enough.
'I could get Elvish armour. But it doesn't look so good.'
'You mean it doesn't show her tits.' Mixt smiled. 'It's funny how you're still shallow like that, even though you're 150 years old.' She looked at the carpet. After a lengthy stint at the playstation, it was covered in cashew nuts and empty beer bottles.
'Do you think we should get a cleaner?'
Neither of them really liked the idea. Though Mixt's mansion was so large that there was no possibility of them keeping it tidy by themselves, they valued their privacy. For a 4000 year old woman, and a 150 year old man, outside life could often be difficult. Mixt's phone rang. Nakishdan busied himself at the playstation, upgrading his armour as she talked.
'That was the department. We have another mission.'
'Already? I need a longer rest. We're not meant to travel so often.'
'They say they can't help it. But that's not the oddest part. We're meant to see a band called Raped.'
Nakishdan paused the game. 'Called what?'
'How could there be a band called Raped?'
'I don't know. But apparently there was.'
'I don't want to go,' said Nakishdan.
'I'm not very keen myself. But that's where we're going.'
Agent Duluth pulled over to the side of the road when Glade called.
'There's a problem. Nakishdan and Mixt haven't gone to the gig.'
'They set off but then they changed their minds and went home.'
'They can't do that.'
'Well that's what they've done.'
'Glade, you're meant to keep them in order. When they're sent on a mission they can't just abandon it. What happened?'
'I think they had an argument. And they didn't like the band's name.'
'It upset them. Or annoyed them, or something. Anyway they decided to go home.'
Agent Duluth felt his temper rising. 'These two are the worst agents in the history of the agency. They can't behave like this. You shouldn't let them.'
'What do you suggest I do? Threaten to have them executed for treason? We need them, they're the only ones who can go back.'
'What happened to Rainith?'
'When she found out what happened she went home too.'
Duluth shook his head, annoyed at both at the ineptitude of Search Unit Sigma and the inability of Glade to control them. 'They have to go to that gig. What if another flying snake appears? Can't you persuade them?'
'They're not answering their phones. I can hardly go to their house and drag them to the tube station.'
Duluth wondered if it might come to that. 'I'll call Ms Darben. Keep yourself available.'
Duluth, still at the side of the road, phoned his superior. She was annoyed, though not surprised. 'I suppose it was only a matter of time before they disregarded instructions. What does Glade propose to do?'
'Glade is probably on his way to the nearest bar by now. I'll visit Rainith, perhaps I can talk her round. I wondered if you might like to visit Mixt and Nakishdan. You're the only other person here they really know.'
Ms Darben noted Agent Duluth's willingness to visit Rainith. She found his attraction to the fairy rather odd. There seemed no likelihood of anything ever coming of it. She herself was not keen to visit Mixt and Nakishdan, though she agreed she was the best choice.
'I'll see what I can do.' Ms Darben paused. 'They've both lived a very long time. Shouldn't they be wise, instead of a pair of idiots?'
Captain Lir and his two subordinates emerged from their car in a side street close to the the club in West Hampstead. It was 1978. The captain glanced at the dent in the fender, and scowled at Aremin.
'You spent hours in a simulator. You were meant to be able to drive this machine competently.'
'Sorry Captain. There were more machines on the streets than I anticipated.'
The captain glanced at a scrap of paper in his hand. 'The Moonlight Club is this way.'
The three men walked along the pavement, mingling with a few others on their way to the gig. They halted in front of the club, studying the notice outside. The notice, no more than a flier placed under glass, announced the bands playing that evening.
'This is the correct place.'
'How are we meant to recognise Geeda Lala?'
'We don't know.'
'Will she look the same here?'
'We don't know that either.'
The Captain noticed that his subordinates were looking around them uncomfortably. In particular they seemed disturbed by two young women outside the club who's hair was died in startlingly bright colours, something for which they had not been prepared.
'Stop staring, and act like you belong here. You've been trained for anything, even this. 102 Woo does not countenance failure. We find Geeda Lala, kill her, and leave.'
The three men walked into the club, taking unfamiliar currency from their pockets, and queuing at the admission desk, much the same as the'd practiced in simulators, ever since 102 Woo had been engaged to bring the affair to a swift conclusion.