The growth path of young Franiel, on the high peaks of Mt El’okram (Duane, Alienor).
On the high peaks of Mt El’okram, Franiel’s journey begins when he is sent on a mission to engrave a chalice with sacred words on a sealed scroll. Unbeknownst to him, Franiel is the chosen successor of the old abbot, who passed away recently. With the chalice in hand, Franiel meets Léonard, an alchemist who steals the chalice for safekeeping, leading to an unexpected turn of events.
Franiel finds shelter with Phoebe Chesterhope, a master thief who trains him, but disappears on a dangerous mission. As Franiel continues his journey, he encounters Léonard again, who teaches him about the chalice’s powers and his true destiny. With the chalice’s self-protective cloaking power activated, Franiel is temporarily relieved of his burden.
Now, Franiel is ready to claim his rightful place as the chosen successor of the old abbot and become the guardian of the sacred chalice. However, danger is always lurking around the corner, and Franiel must rely on his newfound allies to help him succeed. Will he be ready to face the challenges ahead?
So the Story goes...
On Mount Elok’ram, the old abbot Hrih Chokyam Lin’potshee was gardening.
Despite his old age, and his being at the head of the Monastery, Hrih Chokyam was always doing his hour of gardening with great application and talent, as was asked to everyone, from the youngest to the oldest monks studying here.
The Monastery was a place of healing and teaching, dedicated to Margilonia, the Elder Goddess thought to have created the Earths. As a matter of fact, gardening was the simplest —yet most effective— way to fully appreciate the grandness and the interconnectedness of the whole of creation.
Hrih Chokyam remembered when he was a little child in the vast fertile plateaus in the Eastern part of Dam Adbor, bordering the high mountains. He had always loved the mountains, better than the plains, or the towns where the wars and plots were fomented endlessly. So he was wandering many times in the mountains, to collect herbs and also just for the fun and exhilaration of climbing higher and higher, and seeing the world as a small thing that could be placed into his hands.
His parents had wanted him to become a farmer, but some wealthy neighbours had thought he was showing signs of being able to do much better, and even proposed to have him pursue a career in the administration of Dam Adbor’s capital.
Young Hrih had considered the proposition for some time, and one day, went deep into the mountains to make his decision.
There he’d got this powerful connection with an enveloping warm manifestation of Margilonia, who prompted him to go higher than anyone had ever been on the top of the mountains, were a natural point of great potential magical energy was. Here, she had conveyed to him, he would have a monastery built, a perfectly clear channel for this yet untaped magical energy.
Ninety nine years ago that was.
Hrih had been higher than any human had ever been, in the search of this point, knowing he would feel it resonate with him. The mountains, he had learned were not as empty as humans had thought, and there were many other kinds of sentient beings living here, far from the wars below.
Interestingly, assisted by these magical sentient creatures and Margilonia’s energies, building the structure had been easy. He had never thought harnessing magic would be that easy, perhaps just because the traveling magicians coming at times in the village to do some healing or just funfair exhibitions were making that very difficult, and requiring lots of training.
The truth was, magic was everywhere, only people had become blind to it, or just lazy to use it. But old Hrih, even if his eyes were not as sharp as they used to be, could see it clear as day. Magic was in everything. Especially in one’s own very existence.
That was the first of the things people coming to learn in the monastery had to understand. Deceptively simple, yet the most difficult lesson for many of them. He had to admit, he had struggled quite a bit with it too, during the endless wandering into the vast mountains. But there had always been a root to eat, or some fresh mushrooms or eggs apparently left here just for him… He laughed now, thinking of it.
Hrih’s life had been so fulfilling. He knew he was weak now, and would not see the springing season, and he was thinking he had to choose someone to take care of the monastery. Few people went to stay here, for as they had learned and applied what was to learn, their own passion was coming back to them, and they would not need to stay any longer.
But a few days ago, a young one had come, announced to old Hrih by a singing rosy finch.
As usual, all was provided when things were ready for it.
Hrih had no doubt that the hesitant young man would be the next one to hold the title of Lin’potshee, or “Precious Elder”.
The old abbot Hrih, was coming back from the gardens of the Monastery, the soil dampened and muddied by the heavy rains of the season sticking to the sole of his sandals. Hrih Chokyam loved to be reacquainted with the rawness of nature, and the fluidity that the rain provided to the ground by transforming it into malleable mud.
He was bringing back vegetables for the dinner’s soup, and was amazed at the fact that even though he had felt so close to the earth, barefooted in his sandals, he had not even a drop of mud on him.
He had delayed his choice for much too long already, and the not so subtle pressing of his main confident Aum Geong to officially elect his successor was making him unquiet. He was deeply trustful of Aum Geog, and of his sincerity as a Holder of the clear Light that was being tapped into, channeled and refined by the Monastery’s spiritual endeavours.
But Hrih was feeling that Aum Geong’s views were slightly too narrow for the heavy task he was wanting him to carry on.
He was too good at creating structures and rules, and Hrih felt that even if all done in good intent, it would be taking the risk of chocking the great outburst of powerful energy that was lying at the very foundations of the Monastery.
The young man that he had noticed a few hexades1 ago, though very discreet seemed bright and very dedicated to his task. He had been greeted by all, and had soon felt at home. Franiel, as he was named, was under the tutelage of Jog Lam, a very wise (albeit young) monk that Hrih had adopted some years ago as the parents had been abandoning him a young baby at the eternally opened doors of the Monastery.
Hrih had made a decision. He would not play favourites. Seeing the blank black Meditation Wall, an idea crossed his mind. He would announce at the dinner that the monks willing to do it could do a short poem of 3 stanzas where they would express their highest truth on the Meditation Wall…
1 On that part of the Duane (the planet where Mount Elok’ram is), time is divided in groups of six days or hexades, each being attributed to one of the Elder Gods: Ghört (Airs) Nærvel (Waters) Agnima (Flames) Selvaniel (Woods) Margilonia (Earths) and Lejüs (Forgotten). The names or the days are Ghordië, Narduë, Agduë, Seldië, Marduë, Shandië.
Name Element Quality Hexade Ghört Airs Male Ghordië Nærvel Waters Female Narduë Agnima Flames Female Agduë Selvaniel Woods Male Seldië Margilonia Earths Female Marduë (Shaint) Lejüs Forgotten Male Shandië
I wonder how delightful it may feel to become one with that butterfly, mused Franiel, his attention diverted from the job at hand as he followed the dance of a delicate white butterfly. He closed his eyes for a moment and merged with the creature, how free ! He sighed, trying somewhat reluctantly to pull himself back. Franiel had been sat there for quite some time now, supposedly engaged in the task of writing a short poem of 3 stanzas for Hrih, the Old One.
Of course there was no pressure. Yet in his desire to please, Franiel felt it as such. In his dreams of the previous night Hrih had visited him. He had offered Franiel a golden crown, a silver goblet filled with sweet nectar, and a jewelled sword. Choose! commanded Hrih. Franiel had chosen the goblet and drank thirstily from it, and yet he had felt that Hrih was not pleased with his choice, and upon wakening Franiel had felt a strange uneasiness.
Franiel had not been trained in the way of the pen, and he knew his words would be clumsy. He had been raised in a poor home, where words were not considered to be of much value other than to instruct him in his tasks, or berate him when those tasks were not completed. Being a dreamy child, this had often been the case.
He wished he could harness the power of words and use them to soothe and caress, to create beauty even, he thought, gently running his finger over the plain wooden table where he was seated.
Well for now he would not worry what form his words should take, for it was enough of a task even to know what his highest truth might be!
My highest truth .. my highest truth, … how many times now had he said these words, hoping perhaps if he repeated them enough the gods might take pity on his for his ignorance and provide an answer. How could he possibly know his highest truth? The very concept of such a thing perplexed him.
Day was turning into night before Franiel finally laid down his pen. In the end his words were simple. He sighed, saddened by the thought that they would surely be a disappointment. The best I can hope for is that the Old One will see these words as nothing more than a doorway to my soul. Hrih was wise, Franiel knew this, and trusted the decision of the Old One.
It was in the hands of the gods, for surely if I can’t trust this at least, all my fine talk and learning is for nothing.
I am the driftwood
the wave carried me
I was buried in sand
I am the flower
the butterfly touched me
I fell in love
I am the raindrop
the cloud released me
I became the ocean
It’d been two hexades that the Abbot Hrih Chokyam Lin’potshee had been laying in bed in poor condition.
At first, he had wanted to be as strong as he had always been towards hardships, but he’d finally admitted that quelching the pain wasn’t doing any good to him. So he had agreed to be taken care of by a young monk, and to lay in bed as long as was necessary.
He knew that he was very likely not to get out of that bed but with his body covered by a white sheet, nevertheless, the thought was still something distant. The pain in his body was making him so present to himself that the only thing that was still blatant was that he was.
More than the body, it was all his faith that was shaken. He had thought he would leave this life without mess, without pain, probably very discreetly in his sleep… But now, his head was wincing at every noise, even the nature’s sounds that once felt like music to his ears, he was eschewing them now as much as he could. His very skin was hot and couldn’t bear even the soft contact of the bedsheets.
What was the point of all of this? He had never doubted that everything had its purpose, but now, he was doubting…
He was even trying to find some reasonable reasons for what was happening, he who never trusted in reasonable reasons in the first place. Perhaps that was because of his seating under the chilly air and the warm sun in front of the Meditation Wall, reading for all of the poems that had been written by the monks who had dared to write. Perhaps he had “taken cold”, whatever that means…
“Perhaps not” the voice kept saying softly in his head.
Now, his whole succession was feeling like a moot point. After all, he was not even capable of saving himself from anything, then how could what he created make the slightest difference? These were all like an extension of his body, bound to decay and come back to Earths.
Not so many monks had dared write upon the Wall about their highest truth. A few jokesters had begun at first, helping the others to participate.
One in particular had had Hrih laugh for quite a while.
A toad is a toad
Then a dozen of others had flourished upon the wall, until Aum Geong decided to write his own. He’d not wanted to go first, to allow the others to express without the burden of comparison, and also to have some more time to write something deep and thoughtful. But that profusion of nonsense between some occasional pearls of wisdom made him write his own.
Unattainable is the Truth
For in the Dust of things
All in our View is bleak
Doing Wrong we forswear
For Dust to be lifted
And Wisdom we seek
In the deed of the Elders
And the Faith in the Community
Light and Trust bespeak
All the monks had been quite impressed, but Hrih had not been entirely satisfied by it… To be honest, he even completely disagreed with it.
Now, however, stuck in this bed, the poem was playing in his head and suggesting that the Worlds were something terrible that he had not yet understood, or be willing to avoid seeing. Perhaps Aum Geong was wiser than he was.
Perhaps all that Hrih had put as foundational to his life had all been Dust…
“There is no Dust, and you know that” the voice whispered softly.
Now that he is about to die, what difference will it make anyway…
He reach out for a bowl of water, and almost let it fall, as the weight of it surprised him. He was becoming so weak… He never had been so self-conscious in many many many years.
After he had propped himself up to drink a few burning swallows of the lukewarm water, he noticed something folded on his bedside, that had been put under the bowl… Young Franiel had been the one attending him with Jog Lam, so it must have been the doing of one of them. He intuited that was Franiel.
As he read the stanzas, tears were in his eyes…
I am the driftwood
the wave carried me
I was buried in sand
I am the flower
the butterfly touched me
I fell in love
I am the raindrop
the cloud released me
I became the ocean
The Young monk had probably not dared write it on the Wall, especially after most of the monks’ vocal appreciations of Aum Geong’s poem…
“Perhaps not” the voice again spoke.
Another reason for it formed into Hrih’s mind. Franiel perhaps didn’t feel ready for such responsibilities and his role and fulfillment in this community was not form rules nor to continue it.
It was more to inspire them, and perhaps to start his own discoveries.
Hrih wrote a note behind the paper. He wanted to leave something for Franiel, for him to keep faith in his coming adventures during these coming times of change.
After a deep breath, he took another paper that was with him for already such a long time, wrote down some words, and signed it, the aura of his hand burning a glyph that was his signature in the paper. He then called for Jog Lam.
— Jog Lam, my friend…
— I’m dying…
— I know Elder
— Let me continue. (Jog Lam nodded)
First, will you give that paper to Young Franiel after the cremation ceremonies. (Jog Lam nodded again)
Second, I want you to relay that I have made my decision, and that Aum Geog will succeed me (Jog Lam’s surprise was noticeable in his eye). He is, to date, the most adequate successor for this monastery.
— I will do as you want.
— Thank you my friend.
— Farewell, my friend, I am always with you.
When Jog Lam stoically left the room, Hrih Chokyam laid down, his eyes on the ceiling. His body was so weak that all he could do was to project behind his closed eyelids and see the starry sky, even if he would have wanted something different for his death. He would have loved something like a nap in a sunlit meadow with a little singing brook.
But seeing the actual World was something even more precious to him. The barren mountains of the icy season, the clear unclouded sky. His mind was so full of energy that his body lacked.
With a deep feeling of gratitude for his body, he bid it farewell.
Franiel offered his congratulations to Aum Geog along with the others. He did not mind that he was not himself chosen to succeed Hrih Chokyam, and neither would he have expected it, however he felt the physical absence of the Old One keenly. His powerful presence had cloaked the whole monastery in a sweet warmth, and even though Franiel had only been there a short while, he had felt close to the Old One. Of course his spirit will always be here, but the same time Franiel knew change was inevitable, and he was unsure of his own place within the boundaries of the monastery. Happiness and fun were valued highly by Franiel, they were more important to him than all the spiritual ideals others would speak of, and he had felt a slight greyness of late. He found humility difficult and did not enjoy following rules, neither did he enjoy listening to the wisdom of the other brothers. At times his sense of humor would cause them to frown upon him. He knew the Old One had understood this, but now he was gone he wondered how he would fit. He pulled out the note Jog Lam had given him from Hrih Chokyam, Listen to your heart…. it began. What was his heart telling him?
Brother Franiel, Aum Geog has requested you take this chalice to the Village, so the silversmith may engrave it with these words. Aba Tane handed Franiel a cup, and a piece of paper with a seal. He requested you should go right away and that you should remember that the cup is precious. He requested also that I sprinkle you with some Holy Water to safeguard you on your way. In customary manner, Franiel knelt and Aba Tane sprinkled the precious bottled water on his forehead. Love and Light, Brother Franiel. Blessings for your journey.
It was several days walking down the mountain to the Village. To be honest though, it was a task Franiel welcomed, perhaps to be away from the monastery at this time would give him a chance to better hear what was in his heart, and to miss the meeting was no loss for him.
He wondered at the haste, and at what the words might be, however it was not his business to question the directives of Aum Geog. He remembered also his dream of the silver goblet. Many things to ponder, he mused, a feeling of excitement growing within him.
Franiel felt an unaccustomed tiredness. The changes of late, his own indecision as to his path, were taking a toll and his spirit felt heavy. Despite the admonitions of Aum Geog to make all haste on this journey he decided to rest, and finding some soft grass under the shelter of a tree he sank gratefully down into it’s embrace.
Just a short sleep, he thought drowsily.
He was awakened by some gentle drops of rain falling on his cheek. Not knowing how long he had slept for, and seeing the darkness of the clouds in the sky, Franiel realised he had best find some shelter of a more permanent nature to wait out the storm.
Franiel, he heard his name being whispered in his thoughts, it was no louder than a clear sky, but rang as clear as any sound he had ever heard.
And Franiel followed. Though he knew not what spirit it was leading him, he went swiftly to the entrance of a cave set in the side of the hill, as though he had known of it’s whereabouts all along. Just in time, for with a deafening clap of thunder, the heavens opened.
From the shelter of the little cave Franiel looked out and felt a mixture of exhileration and awe at the power of the mighty elements he was witnessing . Though he kept his body dry, he sent his spirit out to dance in the rain, and laughing softly to himself, he at last felt the greyness of the last few weeks begin to ascend, as though lifted by the hands of angels, said the soft voice in his head.
Who are you? whispered Franiel, feeling an inexplicable and sudden longing.
It was the next day before Franiel was able to continue his journey. Making himself a small meal of bread and cheese from his provisions, checking that his precious cargo was secure in his pack, he set out feeling refreshed.
The landscape had become oddly unfamiliar to Franiel. He had walked this path to the Village at the foot of the mountains maybe a half a dozen times, yet he felt certain he had never before seen these surroundings. He had never seen this patch of bright yellow flowers with their golden centers, nor this gnarled tree whose branches dropped down over the path causing Franiel to stoop in order to pass by. He stopped, hesitating, should he return the way he had come, find where he had left the path? Yet even while his mind was telling him what he was seeing should not be, he knew in his heart that he had taken no wrong turning. He touched the trunk of the old tree, and asking for wisdom, felt it’s reassuring energy calm his anxiety. The way ahead, though unexpected, felt friendly.
As fate would have it he had not journeyed much further when he spied a fellow traveler coming towards him on the path ahead, a small figure swathed in colourful robes, wild and dishevelled locks of hair protruding exuberantly from beneath his brown leather cap.
Greetings Fellow Traveler, cried out Franiel as he drew nearer, My name is Franiel. I am travelling from the Monastery of Margilonia to the Village of Chard Dam Jarfon, and foolishly I appear to have mislaid my way.
The stranger chuckled merrily. Greetings Franiel, Indeed If that is your destination then I fear perhaps you are more lost than you care to admit. He motioned towards the grassy bank at the side of the path. Perhaps we might sit awhile and talk, for I know that I for one, could do with a rest and bite to eat.
A splendid idea, replied Franiel, sensing magic in the stranger and enjoying immensely the unexpected diversion.
So my friend you are a long way from the Village of Chard Dam Jarfon.
Am I indeed? mused Franiel, How could that be, for that was where I was heading, and as far as I know I did not step from the path, and yet here I am.
The stranger chuckled again, and his laughter was so infectious that Franiel joined in, not really being able to identify the source of the amusement, yet feeling all the better for it.
And how important is it that you get to the Village of Chard Dam Jarfon?
The stranger reached out for the chalice, and studied it intently for a few moments. He took some of the water from his own water bottle and poured it into the chalice. Muttering a few words which Franiel did not recognise, the stranger closed his eyes and held the cup up as though offering it to the Gods. After a few moments he took a sip from the chalice. A look of delight crossed his face, As I thought! he chuckled.
Now drink, my friend, he said offering the chalice back to Franiel.
This is the sweetest Nectar you carry in your bottle ! Franiel exclaimed in surprise after taking some sips.
The stranger chortled, It was plain water from the river I passed on my travels. I gather from your surprise that you do not know the magic of this chalice?
Franiel shook his head. Well to be honest I have not really given the chalice much consideration, only to briefly wonder at my task. My mind has been more occupied with other matters. Franiel looked at the chalice in his hands, And what more can you tell me of this magic?
I can caution you to be wary my friend, I would not be so quick to show strangers you meet on your path this cup, for be assured there would be some who would be keen to possess this. He frowned for a moment. What are the words which are to be inscribed on this chalice?
Franiel pulled the sealed letter from his pack, and, feeling only a moment’s hesitation, opened it; “Bibere venenum in argento”, he read haltingly, then shrugged. I confess I don’t know what that means, I have not been taught in the old language.
It is a curse of the Ancients, it means “drink poison from a cup of silver”. Seeing the puzzled look on Franiel’s face the stranger went on to explain. The magic of the chalice is to transform. I uttered words of love and the water transformed to sweet nectar. Had I whipered words of hate and fear, had my intention been to kill, I could have changed the water to bitter poison. The power though is not in the chalice, it is in the intention of the one who holds it and who knows of it’s magic.
The stranger turned and looked at Franiel, his clear blue gaze piercing and direct, I don’t know this Aum Geog, neither do I know his heart …. I know that you are the bearer of the cup now Franiel. Make sure you are asking the right questions.
The last words of the stranger were still resonating in his mind. Franiel was feeling a bit drowsy and he had the odd sensation of being looked from the inside. A smile illuminated the face of the man.
You are the weirdest man I ever saw. he said in a sigh. When he realized what he had told his guest, he blushed with shame. I’m sorry, I wouldn’t mean…
Hahahahaha. The man was slapping on his legs. Hahahaha, my dear Franiel, you don’t know how close to the truth you are. I appreciate when one speak his heart.
Franiel couldn’t say anything. He was aware that he should have been feeling shameful, but the laugh of the stranger had dissipated that convention. He was just feeling in harmony with his creation. This last thought surprised him. His creation? He’d been told that the gods created all that is on the Duane, her sister the Murtuane and their ghostly sister the Phrëal.
What was in the nectar? I’m seeing things. He frowned. Something in the surrounding objects, the mossy rocks and the earthly path, the grass and the insects flying or crawling around. The colors were different. Your eyes… they are… blue…
The stranger was still smiling, not saying anything, and though Franiel was feeling as if he was communicating him important things.
Something leapt from behind a tawheowheo, making the nearby dandelion seeds fly away silently.
The creature was barking and Franiel jumped on his feet, making the chalice fall in the dust. It was similar as a mountain wolf, but smaller. Black and fuzzy. And it was running toward him.
Don’t be afraid of Moufle, he’s my long life companion, he’s been following me in my exploration for quite some time in a form or another. He makes a lot of noise, but he knows his friends.
Moufle was trying to lick Franiel’s face. All the love he had felt a second before was shaded by the need to keep the animal away. Not that he was dangerous. The stranger… what was his name? He didn’t tell him his name. Franiel was too shy in his normal state to dare ask directly. But he could at least relax as Moufle was now occupied with his master, who spoke as if he’d read his mind.
I am not his master, you see. he was fondling his companion. He’s just choosing to come with me.
He kept silent for a minute, snooting around.
By the way, my name is Leonard.
Leonard stood up, stretched, and began to make strange movements with his body, much to the delight of Mouffle who leapt around him joyously barking.
Are you alright, Leonard? asked Franiel, a little concerned by Leonard’s gyrations. His voice sounded odd to his own ears, as though it came from a spot somewhere behind him. He was even unsure if he had spoken the words out loud.
I am very well indeed, thank you, Franiel. I am performing the motional practices of Ancient Kuzhebar aborigines. It is an excellent technique for straightening the mind. Perhaps you would like to join me?
Although I am sure my mind would benefit from straightening, perhaps I will just watch for now, said Franiel, feeling a persuasive tiredness sweep over his body. It must be the nectar, he mused. He lay back on the grassy verge, and though he tried his hardest, he found it impossible to keep his eyes open. I will close them just for a moment, he thought.
Franiel awoke, it took him a few moments to get his bearings. He stretched, and slowly adjusted to his waking state. He wondered how long he had slept, it was quiet and dark. Although he couldn’t see much, he could feel that dawn was not far away. The ghost hour.
He must have slept for hours.
Remembering Leonard he looked around and softly called out. There was no reply, and unless Leonard was sleeping, Franiel was alone. “Aye” he sighed, and finding the blanket from his pack, fashioned it into a tent over his head and took shelter in it. It was nearly day, another day.
It is no longer there
Franiel was not quite sure if he heard a voice utter these words, or if it was just a strange sense of knowing. He still felt around, taking out each item carefully and methodically, emptying the pack, not really wanting to believe the chalice has gone, nor to consider what the implications of this loss might be.
Perhaps he did not put the chalice back in the pack after all? He crawled around his surrounds, squinting into the half light of the morning, feeling the dew damp ground. Deciding to trust what he knew in his heart already he sat back and quietly watched as the sky eventually flushed brilliant crimson.
Red sky in the morning. A warning ….it is only weather words but ….
Reluctant to consider his options, he instead considered some dandelions, how luminous they looked in the morning light.
After all what did he care about the chalice? he eventually asked himself. It was will of others he had been following, and now the cup had been taken from him Franiel noticed a feeling of freedom within himself.
While Becky shivered in the rain sodden bush waiting for Elvira, the connection to the Kuzhebarian laughing monk was getting stronger, and she amused herself recalling the latest developments in the Reality Play in Limerick form.
So then, said Franiel sitting down beside a small mound of earth, what now?
The top of the mound of earth was smoothed flat, and with a twig Franiel began to form small spiral patterns abstractedly in the earth. He felt no desire to go back to the monastery and face Aum Geog with the news of the loss.
He held the twig high, and then released it to fall to the ground. It fell without sound, landed unharmed on the mound of earth. He closed his eyes and in the dark at the back of his mind, he heard the voice of his grandmother whisper; Spirals make more sense than crosses Franiel my boy, joys more than sorrows.
Spirals make more sense than crosses….
None of it made much sense to Franiel. The feeling of freedom he felt momentarily slipped away. He was left looking at the space where it had been, feeling empty. The task given him by Aum Geog had given him a feeling of purpose, for a short time had allowed him to forget how lost he felt. Yet now the task had been taken from him, and he was in no hurry to retrieve it, he saw it for the illusion it had been.
What would it feel like to want to go somewhere? Or to want to be something, to want to be a monk, to want to be a teacher, to want to be the father of a family? To be able to arrange oneself neatly in a box and say I belong here?
Spirals make more sense than crosses …. day becomes night becomes day, lives come into being, and go out of being … there is always new life coming into being …… around and around
He began to walk along the path, away from where he had already been …. towards something new? He caught sight of a dead blackbird lying in the long grass to the side of the track and knelt down to look at it.
It is quiet and still.
He dug a hole, scraping in the dirt with his fingers and then using a stone to lever the lifeless body into the hole. The bird’s brown eyes are still open. Franiel covered it with dirt, looking deep into it’s eyes, until there is no sign of it, just a mound of earth.
He traced a spiral in the dirt.
Joys more than sorrows…
He sat back on his heels, and keeping his mind empty, he sang to the dead bird.
As Franiel walked along the path a beautiful being of light dropped down from the heavens and stood before him.
— Hello Franiel where are you going?
— no idea, said Franiel
— well where do you want to go?
— if i knew that i would go there. I am not stupid, said Franiel, a bit tersely. I know I can create anything i want.
— tricky, said the Beautiful Being of Light ….well where don’t you want to go?
— I know I don’t want to go back to the monastery .. … may i call you BBL? Beautiful Being of Light is a bit of a mouthful.
— sure, no problem
They stood in silence for quite some time.
— I don’t want to live up in the mountains BBL. Detached, far from others, living a cloistered spiritual life. They said there was special magic in the mountains, but my belief is the magic is everywhere. Do you have any special knowledge, being a BBL? You know, to assist me in my path?
— I do actually, said BBL
Franiel dreamed of strange eggs being dropped from giant birdlike creatures in the sky. Some of the eggs exploded into flashes of light in the inky darkness of the night sky. He fell to the ground and hid his face in his arms and waited. He could hear the highpitched noise of the eggs falling, getting louder and louder as they approached the ground, and he knew his life was in the hands of the gods as to whether or not he was destroyed.
At last all became quiet. He raised himself cautiously and began to examine the earth to see what damage had been caused. The dog of Leonard accompanied him, yet all of a sudden it ran from him. All else was forgotten as Franiel followed the dog, fearing for it’s well being.
As if in pursuit of a hare, the dog ran and ran, eventually coming to a large mansion and running in through the open door. The walls and floors of the mansion were made of marble, ornate pillars and statues graced the wide entrance way. The mansion appeared to be deserted, yet Franiel had no thought for that, only of bringing the dog to safety.
The dog disappeared into one of the many rooms of the palatial hallway with Franiel in hot pursuit. The room was empty save for a large Bengal Tiger, a magnificent and regal creature, radiating a strange power from it’s shiny yellow eyes. The tiger was about to take the small dog in it’s mouth, and Franiel grabbed a branch from a tree which was lying on the ground (and within his dream he wondered how the branch came to be there) and fearlessly placed it in the mouth of the beast. The branch was woefully inadequate, a mere twig in the jaws of this powerful beast, yet it distracted the tiger sufficiently for the dog to run to safety.
Now Franiel faced the beast alone, perplexed, yet strangely unafraid.
Pondering the significance of his dream , Franiel set out again. It was the third morning since he had woken to find the chalice missing, and he was no closer to knowing where he was going. Yet he had taken the advice of the BBL and felt all the better for it in his spirit.
Morning! Franiel called a greeting to an old woman who was passing by, delighted to see signs of life, and wondering if it meant he was near a Village. Might I ask where you are taking that basket of eggs?
A good morning to you young man. Certainly you may ask, I am taking these into the Village Market to sell.
And where might that be, it is not the Village of Chard Dam Jarfon by any strange chance? asked Franiel, thinking nothing would surprise him anymore.
The old woman looked at him in astonishment. The Village of Chard Dam Jarfon! You surely have a very long journey before you if you are heading for the Village of Chard Dam Jarfon. No indeed, I am going to the Village of Chard Dut Jep, an hour or so from here.
Franiel considered this for a moment. And if I keep heading the way I am going, and from whence you have started, where might I be going?
The old woman hesitated and looked at Franiel with an odd expression in her dark eyes.
I am not sure if you want to do that, for this is a very long and lonely way you are heading. Unless you are going to the old Chesterhope mansion, and there’s not many who would do be doing that anymore.
How very interesting, said Franiel, rather intrigued. Is that where you have come from Old Woman?
The old woman gazed searchingly at Franiel for a moment before answering.
Aye it is, I work for Madame Chesterhope. I am the only one left now and it has been like that for many a long year, save for old Derwent of course, him who minds the gardens, but he’s not right in the mind that one and Madame keeps him on out of the kindness of her heart, said the Old Woman, and Franiel sensed some deep sadness in her voice, but in the next breath it was gone and he wondered if it was a trick of his mind.
Why don’t you come to the Village with me? she asked. Are you looking for work? There’s plenty would take on a fine young man such as yourself.
Would your Madame Chesterhope be looking for someone such as myself by any chance? asked Franiel, For I have nowhere in particular I am headed, and I am in need of some way of keeping myself. And as he spoke the words out loud he found himself wondering at them, yet he felt such an odd sense of anticipation inside himself, as though perhaps there was some new adventure to be had after all.
Again the old woman looked at Franiel appraisingly for a long time. Eventually she spoke.
When you get to the crossways turn left and keep heading that way for 2 miles till you see the Chesterhope sign. It’s an up and down path for a ways to get to the mansion from there. When you get there, it would be best to keep in mind all is not as it might seem. I will say no more and bid you farewell, for I have still got a ways to go.
Perhaps I will see you later then! Franiel called after her.
She turned and looked back at him. Perhaps.
When Franiel got to the crossroads the path turned abruptly to the left and plunged sharply down, past a crumbling and long-deserted stone cottage, to a little bridge built across a gently flowing river. Beyond the bridge there was a short ascent westwards through a thickly wooded area and then the way opened out rather suddenly. Such a pleasant and restful scene welcomed Franiel that for a moment he felt he may have entered a dream. The air was fragrant, the grass was sprinkled with daffodils and shaded by great chestnut trees. Confronting Franiel, at the south-west corner of the green, was a massive stone lych-gate. Beyond the lynch gate, and almost hidden by trees Franiel could see the roof of Chesterhope Manor.
In the day of judgment God be merciful to Derwent a sinner ……hehehehe. Well good riddance to God’s judgement! Begone God’s judgement! We’ve cheated the parson, we’ll cheat him again, for why should the vicar have one in ten ? Oh what’s this now then walking through the gate? A stranger! hehehehehe…tis one of God’s angels methinks, perhaps come to strike old Derwent down for his heathen ways and blasphemous tongue. Well does old Derwent even know what an angel looks like? and he chuckled in delight at the very idea of it.
You there! he shouted as Franiel drew close, Are you the angel Gabriel come as a messenger of God’s wrath? Or a wandering stranger come to pass the time of day with me?
Madame Chesterhope! Does she still live here then? He lowered his voice reverently. A real angel that one, better than those biblical ones by a long shot. So you want a word in her ear. You will have to find it first of course.
Should I try the house? asked Franiel politely.
Try the house? Derwent rubbed his bearded chin thoughtfully. I tell you what! Try the magic mushrooms first, and when you’ve tried them, try the patience of Saint Derwent. He gave Franiel a kindly pat on the shoulder. Good on you for trying Lad, anyway. I’ll bid you farewell now and if you do find an ear, best keep it, a spare ear can always come in handy.
Adorning the enormous wooden door of Chesterhope Mansion was a heavy bronze knocker in the shape of an ornate dragon. The door stood slightly open.
Hello! Anyone there! Franiel called out several times, each time pushing the door open wider.
Only an echoey silence responded.
Franiel mindfully removed his boots. With a growing sense of excitement, as well as some slight trepidation if the truth be told, he entered the massive entrance hall. A black marble statue of a tiger reminded him curiously of his dream. To the left and right were doors, but after knocking gently, he found these to be locked.
In the distance someone began to play the piano, a slow and simple melody. Franiel followed the faint sound to the door at the end of the hallway. He entered a massive dining room, in the center of which stood a very long table with 12 highbacked chairs. The furniture was heavy and dark, but sunlight streaming in through the window mercifully lightened the atmosphere.
Crossing the room he entered the rear parlour from whence came the music. A woman sat with her back to him playing an upright piano. She had long grey hair, worn loose down her back. Franiel noticed how thin she was, and how straight she sat as her long fingers delicately caressed the keys.
Hesitantly he knocked, not wishing to startle her. She stopped playing and turned towards him. Her face was gaunt, and such a pale colour, he found himself wondering if it had been a long time since she had seen the light of day. But her eyes were alive, bright and intense, and she did not seem awfully surprised to see him there.
Hello she said, Who are you? I don’t think I have seen you here before.
I am Franiel. I am sorry to arrive so unexpectedly … he began
Oh no! you mustn’t be sorry, the woman interrupted, jumping up with a speed and agility which surprised Franiel given her otherwise frail appearance. She rushed over to him and then reached out and lightly touched his cheek. A look of wonder crossed her face and she stepped back.
Oh my goodness! You are real! she exclaimed in astonishment. I thought you were one of the others.
Oh please, call me Phoebe. Phoebe smiled kindly at Franiel. Have you come a long way? Well really, I forget my manners. Sit down and I will prepare you a drink and some food. Then you can tell me your story and what has bought you here.
And so it was that just a short while later Franiel found himself ensconsed on the settee sipping hot mulled wine from a huge mug. What strange twists and turns life may take, he mused.
And whether it was the wine that loosened his tongue, or the kindly look in Phoebe’s eyes and the attentive way in which she nodded her old head so wisely, but he found himself telling her the most surprising things, as though she were an old friend he had known and trusted all his life.
Thus it was that it had soon been agreed that Franiel’s proposal would be a mutually beneficial arrangement.
It is as though you are an angel, laughed Phoebe, sent by God to help me, for it was weighing heavily upon me that there is much that needs doing. Dear Lydia who you met on the path, well what would I do without her, but she is not getting any younger, and Derwent …. her voice trailed off.
Well you are the second person to call me an angel, for I met Derwent earlier who also mistook me for an angel, but I am afraid I must disappoint you both, for I am a very ordinary mortal.
Oh I am not the slightest bit disappointed, smiled Phoebe. Here, she said, delving into the top drawer of a huge oak dresser, take these keys. I keep most of the rooms locked, for the place is so big and there is no need for all those rooms. Feel free to have a look around as you will. You will find your room prepared for you on the second floor, third room on the right.
Franiel was surprised and it must have showed on his face.
It is the room I keep ready for visitors. She chuckled. Most of the visitors I have here have no need of a place to sleep mind-you.
These are the others you spoke of earlier? asked Franiel,curious. At that moment though Phoebe’s attention was distracted. She looked towards the window, which was wide open though there was a chill in the late afternoon air.
Ah! there you are my lovely one! she cried, her face lighting up in delight as a large and colorful parrot flew in the window and landed on her shoulder.
The bird squawked and cast a steely gaze on Franiel.
Midora was perplexed. These books were like an open-ended uncharted territory. That territory was so vast and fractal-like in nature that each attempt at following a single thread seemed daunting. There were always details growing like a reckless plant from the entry points where she started her investigations. Badul seemed lost in this jungled maze.
Last time she’d tried to connect, she ended up with another focus of his, a child, vaguely related to the crystal skulls hunt.
All it requires is a proper compass to navigate the thought suddenly appeared in her mind as clear as daylight, carrying with it a trail of concepts and clusters of associated ideas.
One in particular…
She’d had that book of designs she’d always loved to read when she was a child. It was full of colorful symbols which were called by the authors “tiles”. The authors associated some properties to them, and she remembered one which was about a compass…
So she had found a compass… Now, she would have to learn how to use it. The introduction of the book said:
The tiles presented in this book all have different functions; they can be primarily understood as focal points which enhance specific uses of energy. […] As far as we know, they can be discovered in many situations, either objective events (e.g. something that catches your gaze in the street) or in the subjective (dreams, visions, inspirations etc.). In both cases, the recognition is instantaneous, as each tile carries a distinctive energetic signature which is the essence of its “function”, so to speak.
As such, it can be used theoretically in both situations (subjective and objective), though, as far as we have explored, subjective interaction with them seem to be the easiest and most quickly rewarding way of accessing them.
Subjective interaction, yes that was child’s play, she would have said, though she could vaguely understand why people before the Shift completed had more trouble accessing it. Objective wasn’t so difficult, once you get to the idea that it’s all one, and you can easily switch from each of the attentions used to focus on them.
The only thing that doesn’t seem to change, she thought, is the numbering. Even when the events shuffle through the pages and reorder themselves, or even when the very energy of the event subtly changes, their numbers were the same. She could start with that.
She cleared her mind, envisioning the compass, then took a deep breath and asked herself a question, Where do I find Badul?
Slowly, the compass started to shift and turn, while numbers started to roll in front of her mind’s eye, and like a lottery, at each draw a number appeared, slowly revealing a number: 1-2-3-8
She eagerly leafed through the books to find the reference. Well… that was more perplexing than ever, that seemed like a totally unrelated story.
But now, she was not so sure about that, as she read the entry and wondered about the fact that it seemed once again different from the first time she’d read it.
And now, she marveled as a new entry started to write itself under that one. It was the first time she actually saw an entry write itself. Those she had spotted that were not here before, she just assumed they had appeared instantaneously. But not this one… and it started to link Franiel’s and Badul’s explorations…
— That’s funny you say that, said Franiel recovering his marbles after a bit of an aghast moment. This name sounds oddly familiar… Is… he a talking parrot?
— Oh, yes of course, said Phoebe Chesterhope, though that’s not the least of its particularities she added with an eerie smile on her thin wrinkled mouth.
The others, you said she snapped back, her gaze suddenly sharp as a sword. I suppose you’ll meet them, unless you’ve got already.
— I’m not sure to know what you’re talking about, Milady said Franiel slightly perplexed.
— Oh well, I can see from the clothes you are wearing that you’re coming from a place of peace and sainthood. This place is a haven too, in many ways. This place has been kept as such since a few centuries, and I intend it to stay that way. Though the Others are devising ploys always more clever to have a hand on this place. For that, I know how to keep a keen eye on what’s happening, she said with a troubling wink to her parrot.
— The valley is surely a nice place, said Franiel not sure of what he should say.
— To the contrary. It’s full of marauders if you ask me, but for good reason. Uleÿa’s valley is a place not easily reached, and there are not many portals around here. No official ones at least… So in a sense, it’s an exchange of good will between me and them.
Franiel was not sure he wanted to delve more into all this intricate political web of alliances and plots, no more than he wanted to be involved in religious beliefs and fanaticisms…
— I can see you are a little troubled, but you’ll find your place in all these events, assuredly, Phoebe said gently. But be certain that whenever you are wanting yourself out of them, you sure will find yourself right in the midst of them, without you even knowing it.
— I only want to be a good man, and do the least evil in this World, I suppose finally answered Franiel after an awkward moment.
— This, I am sure is true… You know, I’m a little bit of a witch, I mean, intuitive person, and I can pick up images from yourself. I’m not sure about some of them, but most of them are as clear as the waters of Uleÿa. Take your time to feel at home around here. Vincentius will answer you if you need anything, in any case better than Lydia or Derwent.
— But… I mean no offense here, dear Lady,… Vincentius is but a parrot, isn’t it?
— Listen carefully, my friend. I can see you can be trusted, as much as your mind is thirsty for the truth, so I will tell you. Vincentius is no mere creature. He’s the result of a little experiment I had once with a former guest of mine. Another divine being, as pure and innocent as you, going by the same very name of this creature. I captured a spark of his radiant aura, and mixed it with an egg I had kept for the occasion. And so it was born. A perfect spy, as well as a faithful friend.
Franiel recoiled in horror… What have you done?!
— Oh, don’t be so dramatic, my young friend Phoebe said with a little giggle. No one has been harmed, and even if at times, there seem to be some side-effect when my former guest seems to see or speak through my parrot, it all has gone very well… And no, I don’t intend to do it to you… Don’t give me silly ideas, ahahah.
Aum Geog spent a long time seating motionless before the piece of parchment which had just been delivered by a specially trained fincheon.
Fincheons were not particularly elegant, (not to say downright ugly) one had to admit, but they were very convenient, once you noticed that their feathers were a special shining tint of grey which almost made them invisible. They always knew how to fly back, and this one had made no exception.
But it was a bearer of annoying news for the newly appointed Elder of the Monastery who was trying to curb his irateness by staying still.
This… he was at a loss for words. Breathe, breathe he exhorted himself.
A few months ago, when he was appointed Elder, his patient work of diligence seemed to have just paid off. He had thought he would be given the keys, and more importantly, the chalice.
But that sly dog of Hrih had decided otherwise. He had transmitted the chalice to that irresponsible and naïve novice Franiel, while giving him a bunch of rusted keys he didn’t give two poohs about.
Of course, it was only a matter of time before he could get it back, all he had to do was to make Franiel uncomfortable enough that he willingly relinquish the ownership to someone… someone like himself of course!
The annoying thing about this damn chalice you see, is that it won’t properly function with anyone else than the rightful owner (except for small uninteresting tricks). Obviously, Hrih didn’t want him to have access to its powers, but that old monkey was now gone, and there wasn’t much he could do about what was going on.
In fact, the plan was nearly perfect. Two birds, one stone. Bring Franiel to have some appropriate spell modifications carved onto that chalice, and have him give it back to the Elder, Aum Geog himself.
Obviously, he couldn’t just let go such a precious artifact in the nature without appropriate stealthy surveillance. Thanks to one of his faithful servants, Brother Derwish, he was kept informed of the progresses. A former master of disguises that a other-Worldly experience had him join the orders, Brother Derwish was no short of brains nor tricks in his bag, and that parchment was another proof of it.
If he had renounced to contact Elder Aum Geog directly through the glowing balls, and take the risks of unexpected delays, it was because they were most probably watched and their communication monitored.
So here went the news:
SPARFLY HAS MADE CONTACT WITH BIRD OF PREY. EGG DISAPPEARED. NESTING CHANGED TREE. GNAT STICKS TO THE POOH.
Brother Derwish imaginative poetry could mean but one thing. Or two perhaps.
The little twit had been watched by someone else who had showed him some of the powers of the egg… err, the chalice. It would have partly activated the chalice, and make it disappear unless its owner needs it enough to have it appear again. Obviously, without chalice, or thinking it was lost, he had changed his course to another place.
Hopefully, Brother Derwish was following his trail closely.
If more disastrous news had to come, Elder Aum Geog would have to summon his char of marmoths (big toothed hibernating woolliphants) and go there by himself.
Leonard was content. It had not happened exactly as he had thought, but as he had explained to Malvina, the only wise thing to do was to teach the boy about the powers of the chalice. That would active its self-protective cloaking power, and have the boy temporarily relieved of this burden.
For if he had been entrusted the chalice by the old Abbot, that was surely for a good reason.
As Franiel had been moving, Leonard had had Moufle watch over him. Apparently, Leonard and his dog weren’t the only ones on his trail… The wiry gangly tonsured guy clothed in a potatoes sack didn’t seem to be here by chance either…
Oh sorry, yeah, I was just thinking about Aum Geog. I really should have sent him a message, you know about losing the chalice.
Phoebe looked thoughtful. Well we could send a message via one of the Fincheons if it would set your conscience at ease.
Fincheons? Those are those really beautiful silver birds aren’t they?
That’s right, they are spectacular aren’t they! I have a pair I use for sending messages on occasion.
Oh great! Franiel looked immensely relieved. I will go and write a note to him them. He won’t be happy though, I am fairly certain of that.
Although … silly me. Would you like to use the phone to call him? It would be much quicker. Honestly sometimes I think I am living in the dark ages, not 2008! chuckled Phoebe merrily.
Franiel laughed with her. Oh I know just what you mean!
Oh by the way, said Phoebe, there’s a motorbike in the garage. It hasn’t been used for years, but if you can get it going, you are most welcome to use it.
Franiel lifted the metal latch and pushed open the creaking door of the old shed. In the darkness he could make out of the shape of boxes and other various objects, then, as his eyes became more accustomed to the darkness, he saw the motorbike propped up against the far wall.
What are you up to young man?
Franiel jumped and spun around. It was Lydia, just returned from her journey to the market.
Oh hello again! You startled me … Phoebe suggested I check out the motorbike, see if I can get it going.
Lydia looked grave. Did she now? Well it’s been many a long year since that piece of junk worked. Anyway so you’ve met Madame Chesterhope then, and what did you make of her? She was giving Franiel that deeply penetrating stare again. Franiel wondered kindly if perhaps she was shortsighted.
Oh very nice … and I met Vincentius the parrot too.
Lydia chuckled. Did you now?
Yes, actually Phoebe told me a rather unusual story.
At that Lydia broke into gales of laughter. Let me guess, about mixing the aura and the egg?
Yes, that’s right, replied Franiel, his face breaking into a smile too as he realised the absurdity of it.
Lydia wiped the tears of laughter from her face. ’Ere Lad, I told you things are not what they always seem. She thought for a moment. I’m parched from my long walk, I am going inside to make a brew. Why don’t you join me? If you are going to be stopping then there are a few things you need to know.
“Franiel, dear lad, are you here?”
The voice was sweet yet authoritative.
“Yes, M’am. Is there anything I could do for you?”
Franiel had been at the service of Madame Chesterhope for a few moons, but he felt like it had been his whole life. He quite enjoyed the peaceful life at her mansion, which was interestingly only seldom visited.
He was offered food and shelter for his doing some repair work for Madame Chesterhope when she was requesting it. The rest of his time was free, and he used to go wander in the calm neighbourhoor to observe the nature which was so different from anything he had seen before. It was as though the whole countryside was by eerie mimicry perfectly suited to the strange lady with the foreign accent.
The simple work in communion with this nature had streams of words rise inside him like seeds sprouting after a warm rain. He wasn’t sure he wanted to express them however.
He had tried a few times to tell Lydia, but her merciless laughter alone would have nipped any of his attempts in the bud.
One of his greatest satisfaction was to go to the ‘motorbike’ and try to figure out its functioning. Lydia had laughed at his stubbornness to try to make the old piece of junk work —by her own words, she’d rather delete the whole thing out of reality, if it was for her to decide. Luckily enough, it wasn’t for her to decide, and nobody else really cared for his attempts.
He wasn’t seeing Madame Chesterhope so often, and sometimes she seemed gone for hexades without anyone being able to tell if she was there or not. She simply seemed to have disappeared.
He had been buggered for a while to figure out who the “Others” she had mentioned on their first encounter were, but apparently, had said chatty Lydia who believed the lady to be completely nuts, she was referring to “TEAFERS” (said in a mock-conspiratorial tone). “Teafers?” Franiel had asked puzzled. “Ahaha, you’re so thick sometimes.” had answered Lydia almost chocking herself into gales of laughter “Thieves! She’s obsessed about thieves! I suspect she’s got some precious stuff she would hate to lose. But believe me, to be as obsessed by thieves as she is, she probably hasn’t got all this stuff willingly given to her…”
— “Yes. There is something I’d love you to do, sweetheart. There are people who seem to be coming, and the mansion hasn’t received that many gentlemen for a while, as you can obviously tell. I would love you to assist Lydia in preparing the ball room, and the main hall, do some fixing where it’s needed, that kind of things.”
— “Yes, sure M…”
— “I won’t be there the next days, so be sure to make all things necessary before I come back. I count on you.”
— “Very well M’am.”