"It is good to meet you again, Steve Addison." Lord Marius smiled with what looked like genuine warmth. "And so many people are impressed at your ability to provide honey from the other side of the world..."
The bar surrounding them slipped away. Steve looked around. Lord Marius froze. They had met in a bustling, upmarket pub with a big screen in the corner showing the big match. Now they were in a dark, cavernous space. Faint lights glowed some distance above, too distant to show the edges of the room. Cold, damp flagstones had replaced the pub carpet. Steve swore and purple sparks arced off into the dark corners.
"Someone has pulled us into a dark realm." Lord Marius said quietly. "And I know not why."
"It always comes down to money." The voice that floated out of the darkness sounded dry and dusty. "Money, power and sex. But money, mostly."
"I only have small change on me." Lord Marius said coolly as he watched the figure approach. "Steve Addison, have you met a lich before? Those who have died yet remain, animated by magic. They can be quite dangerous."
Steve could feel the tension in Lord Marius as he watched the violet flame encircling them flickering soundlessly as it marked a line that they should not cross. "I haven't much money on me myself."
The lich strolled casually into the faint light. Once he had been a handsome man, but now he looked dried out and papery, his sunken eyes looked mockingly at the two in the circle as he adjusted his old fashioned velvet jacket. "Steve Addison has made a fortune trading with the elfen - and good luck to him. There are few who would take that risk. So the plan is that Mr Addison is the hostage while Lord Marius goes and gets the money. I believe there is a cash machine less than a hundred yards from the entrance to my realm." The lich smiled thinly. "Lord Marius, you can try your best, but your magic is no match for mine. I've bested you before, remember."
Lord Marius glanced at Steve and stepped forward. "I do not forgive insults of such magnitude." He said coldly, catching the lich's gaze and keeping it. "I do not lightly accept such a slur on my honour to be a boy to fetch pennies."
The lich's mocking laugh started to break. He stared at Lord Marius. "What have you learned?" He held up his hand and a violet glow surrounded it as he pulled it back, claw like and ready to strike. Lord Marius watched impassively as the violet glow shimmered and the colour slid to scarlet and started to flame upwards. The lich stared in horror as his own magic consumed him, burning him up in a smoky pyre, Lord Marius stepped through the fading violet circle. "I have learned that Steve Addison is a far greater sorcerer than I will ever be." He bowed politely to Steve and the pub returned around them. "I believe I owe you at least a drink."