“Abraxas is the sun, and at the same time the eternally sucking gorge of the void. Abraxas speaketh that hallowed and accursed word which is life and death at the same time. Abraxas begetteth truth and lying, good and evil, light and darkness, in the same word and in the same act.
Therefore is Abraxas terrible.”
~ Carl Jung, Seven Sermons of the Dead
Memphis Nova I (Ganymede)
Imperial Pyramid of Garuk Motankhamun IV
1969 AD SR
A portion of the pointed crystal capstone shifted out of phase and was shunted into a dimensional pocket that had been created for it as an architectural feature when the pyramid was built some 400 years ago. The flat, horizontal surface left exposed with the capstone gone was crafted from the same dense Jovian marble as the rest of the pyramid, but had been polished to a mirror finish in contrast to the matte finish of the pyramid’s sides. The glistening platform, which was half a kilometre square, sat three kilometres above the planetoid’s surface.
The open area atop the largest pyramid in the Martian merchant empire was the imperial landing port for Memphis Nova I: the throneworld and largest planetoid in the group of four that collectively served as the capital of the First Martian Solar Dynasty of Garuk Motankhamun IV.
In the leaning crystal tower – the part of the structure that remained when most of the capstone shifted away – teal double doors twenty-two-meters-high opened just enough for the Pharaoh, and two of his imperial guard to walk through.
In keeping with a personal ritual he observed every time he came up here, the Pharaoh habitually walked over to a small platform on the north side of the tower and ascended the solid crystal stairs. His guards took their formal stations, one at each side of the enormous doors. In standard Martian military fashion, they wore only sandals, skirts, bracers, wide, round metal collars that came down over the chest, and a simple metal nemes helmet with striped-silk lappets that flowed around their shoulders and down their backs. Their rank, the highest in the empire, was designated by the gold used for the scant amount of armour they wore and the teal silk accents. Regular soldiers were outfitted in silver and green. On the left hip, each wore a holstered Martian sun-pistol, on the right, a simple, curved short sword.
Garuk Motankhamun crossed the elevated platform and stepped up a dais to regard the solid gold telescope there. He ran his fingers over the plaque underneath. It was engraved, mostly with Martian hieroglyphs, but there were Latin letters as well. Sanctuary letters they were called out here beyond the edge of Sanctuary Rim. And as one who had visited Sanctuary perhaps more times than any other person from outside The Rim, the Pharaoh could read the letters easily.
To Galileo Galilei
these worlds are
Ganymede, Europa, Io, Callisto
He admired the primitive telescope with respect just as he had so many times before. Indeed, every time he came to the landing area. It reminded him that the beings of Sanctuary had the potential to move forward just like any other intelligent, sentient species. It incited him to consider yet again, the perpetual sacrifice of humanity, who for good of the rest of reality, were being held back, limited, and kept in the dark. He had long ago stopped questioning whether this was right or wrong and had simply resigned himself to respecting and protecting the people of the little blue and green jewel at what had become the sacred, diplomatic heart of all reality.
Occasionally, he heard the tick and a whir of servo-actuators altering the direction of the telescope so that it always remained fixed, ceremoniously, upon the state of Italia on Sanctuary: fixed on the very place where Galileo had first discovered the four Galilean moons of Jupiter: those worlds that had become the seat of his empire.
Though a man of average height, Garuk Motankhamun was thicker, wider and more powerfully built than seemed possible. A lifetime of training with the Martian warpreists in the high gravity arenas of the Jupiter stations had assured him an intimidating, confident presence. And while he proud, he was not haughty. Further, this pride was offset perfectly with a gregarious nature and a legendary sense of humour. His subjects loved their Pharaoh, and even his rivals, both in commerce and war, found it difficult to dislike him. He was a consummate merchant, diplomat and host, but despite his patently gruff form of graciousness, most deemed it wise to be wary that the bright light of his social graces did not shade from view his proficiency and his passion as a fierce and knowledgeable strategist and warrior.
In this moment though, the great and esteemed Pharaoh Garuk Motankhamun IV of The First Solar Martian Dynasty was a father filled with high emotion at the thought of seeing an adopted son he had not seen in over a year now.
He felt the tingle in the artificial atmosphere before he saw the orbital gatestream open.
“He arrives Pharaoh!” announced the senior of the two imperial guards. His tone, rather more casual than one would expect of one addressing an emperor, was tinged with excitement. But Garuk was a gentle ruler who trusted and respected his aides and treated them as equals unless business dictated he must do otherwise.
The exodus had demanded much of him; and had offered an unparalleled education in the art of leadership.
He had been a young man when the Pentarchy had asked him to move his imperial capital from Mars to the four moons, and even then Garuk had felt no bitterness. This, despite the enormous undertaking it had necessitated. He had agreed completely with the Council of Five’s insistence that, now that the Earthers had developed the capacity to look out beyond their world, it was no longer reasonable for his capital to remain on Mars.
Relocating the seat of the empire out beyond The Rim where The Glamour kept humans from seeing the truth of their unique place in the multiverse, would mask its existence from their eyes. It was the reasonable – the necessary – thing to do; and the nearly planet-sized moons of The King (Jupiter) were the reasonable choice. Their proximity to Sanctuary would ensure the Pharaoh could continue to fulfill his millennia-old hereditary obligation of serving as its protector – an obligation he executed proactively and passionately. He genuinely loved and revered the innocence and beauty of Sanctuary above all the other worlds known to him – he loved it even more than stale, dry Mars in the end.
In ancient times, before intelligent beings even walked on Sanctuary, The Wrath of Sol had destroyed Tiamat, the fifth planet of the Sol system. The resultant reorientation of gravitational fields had moved the event horizon of Sanctuary Rim outward and, robbed of even of the scant, residual fluxing probability weak force made available by proximity to the Rim and channeled to them by the 22 equatorial and 22 meridial pyramids, the enormous realization engines at the martian core, had ground to a halt – never to come on again. Eventually, Mars began to dry up. First the water disappeared from the surface. Then it began to leave the atmosphere as well. Once the alchemical power of the realization engines was lost, the consensus was that the planet was doomed.
As he descended the stairs to the main platform, the Pharaoh kept his eyes to the east. In the evening sky, Jupiter filled the lower third of the view to his left. Its enormous arc ran behind Memphis Nova II (called Europa by the Earthers) almost perfectly bisecting it along its equator. In the distance, the pale blue point of light that was Sanctuary was beginning to shine above the darkening orange of the sunset. Garuk smiled at the astronomical perfection of the moment.
The electricity in the air became more pronounced and the hair on the Pharaoh’s arms and full beard stood on end (it was the fashion of Martian royalty and their courtiers to have clean-shaven heads). The teal lines of the landing lights were now fading up into view. It was impossible to tell if they lay upon or beneath the polished marble of the landing area. They began at the edge of the pyramid and ran to its centre gently curving here and turning sharply there to form the outline of a giant, shining ankh, the imperial symbol of Mars.
Effortlessly and silently, the glowing teal ankh in the polished marble rotated around a point at the centre of its loop at the top so that the lines of its shaft moved from their default position facing south toward the east face of the pyramid just as a silvery blue flicker appeared in the sky in the distance. The gatestream was opening. The point of light was perfectly centred between the parallel glowing landing lines formed by the staff of the ankh.
Then, with a flash of white light the gatestream ignited fully, burning open a hole in spacetime. It continued to burn until the large ship had passed through. And not just any ship: a Martian dreamship: a rare remaining testament to the power of the ancient realization engines and that powered the Martian alchemy, now lost forever.
Beyond amplifying Mars’s intrinsically limited ecological potential, the realization engines, informed by the focused thoughts of the imagineers, had also created the alchemically powered talismans: the sun guns, the gatestreams and the dreamships.
Having traversed the dimensional threshold from the Sea of Tears to regular spacetime, the Ramses Dynasty galleon glided toward the Pharaoh and his guards at an altitude that set it on a perfect vertical line with the height of the landing surface of the pyramid.
The imperial guards had walked up to stand with the Pharaoh just outside the glowing light of the loop of the ankh at their feet.
All three men were smiling as they watched the ship glide onto the edge of the pyramid perfectly centred between the landing lines. Even after her flat bottom had connected with the marble surface she slid silently toward them. When the galleon had reached the crossbars of the ankh, it triggered the return of the hollow capstone of the pyramid to this dimension, the evening sky faded from view to be replaced with four triangular walls of solid, two-meter-thick crystal that soared half a kilometre up to a point. The crystal capstone diffused the orange of the setting sun in a way that, while making the room brighter, imbued it with a softer, more pleasing ambiance. The dreamship glided silently into the ankh until her prow came to an easy rest precisely in the exact centre of the loop.
She was The Ramses IX, flagship of the Martian navy. Of the four remaining Martian dreamships in existence, she was undoubtedly the most magnificent.
Every aspect of her structure, even the rigging and more superficial appointments, had manifested permanently in some alchemical form of solid silver-blue light of varying shades. The only exception was her enormous sails, which were only ever invariably, a perfect, unsoiled white.
The typical din of landing preparations was heard before the dreamship settled to a complete stop. And then over the starboard railing of the foredeck came the voice the Pharaoh had so missed hearing for the past year.
“A teee—ay—ayy—EN if I don’t say!” the voice squealed with wild exaggerated exuberance. “Wouldn’t you say so landlubbers? A PERFECT little-green-men TEN!”
The lad looked older, thought the Pharaoh who was grinning from ear-to-ear. The senior of the guards affectionately slapped him on the back.
“I stuck the landing for you, your highness. Did I not!” The boy’s hair was shorter, in the navy style, and it was hard to tell, for the deck upon which he stood was about 12 meters straight up from where they were standing, but it looked as though he had filled out some. Otherwise he had not really changed. The Pharaoh reminded himself it had only been a year. It had felt longer for he had missed him so.
“I see they have not educated the Sanctuary gibberish out of your lexicon master Kilroy! But I must admit that it does appear they have taught you how to properly land a dreamship!” The Pharaoh’s heart was bursting with pride.
“That they have, King Gary! That they have!”
And so, the Pharaoh of the First Martian Solar Dynasty, guardian of the gateway to Sanctuary and the young man whose care and training he had been entrusted with, rushed to the gangway for a long anticipated reunion.
Fifteen years later…
Largest of the remnants of the planet Tiamat that was destroyed in the Wrath of Sol approximately 22,000 years ago, Ceres is an astronomical mass roughly 950 kilometres in diameter. Within the elliptical orbit of the asteroid belt between The Warrior (Mars) and The King (Jupiter), Ceres intersected with the perfectly circular equator of the event horizon of Sanctuary Rim four times. This meant that in a Cerean year, the planetoid spent almost equal parts within the confines of The Rim, where magic was not possible, and outside, where it was.
On its equator, on the dark side of Ceres, hidden from the curious eyes of the humans of Earth, there is Punta Epsilon: a luxury resort that rides the celestial edge between the peace of non-magical Sanctuary and the limitless wild of the magical multiverse.
At this time of year, the elliptical orbit of Ceres had brought it into the Sanctuary side of The Rim, which meant magic was not possible on Punta Epsilon, and would not be again until it intersected and crossed The Rim in a few months. This stretch of time, when Ceres was assuredly within the circle of The Rim, was known as the diplomatic season. It was a time when Ceres in general, and Punta Epsilon Resort in particular, was booked solid with diplomatic sessions, trade agreement negotiations, family reunions, and tourist arrangements. It was also the time of party goers and people fascinated with the prospect of experiencing the effects of Sanctuary alcohol, which was highly coveted among the elite of the multiverse for the unique, unpredictable, and impossible to reproduce, chemical effects it caused on sentient beings.
The resort itself was over 35,000 years old, and so was a haphazard conglomeration of predominantly Asgardian, Olympian, Heliopolitan, Martian, Venusian, Rigellian, Andromedan and even ancient Tiamatian architectures.
In the back of the Ares and Tut tavern, which was crafted in the style of the Martian Empire Middle Dynasty era, sat one of the mightiest beings in all reality. As Lord of Limbo, he was a time reader and a wanderer always in-between places and events. In the elite cosmic circles that would have known Punta Epsilon existed, he was well known but not feared. For just as he was well known, it was also common knowledge amongst those who knew he existed at all, that The Banjoman of Limbo was only ever dangerous when your interests were counter to his; and his interests were few.
Mostly he just wanted to be left alone. Mostly, he would intervene in the affairs of others only when it was absolutely necessary.
He was tall, slim and rosy cheeked, with a blazing shock of red hair and a matching, crimson gunslinger moustache. His perfectly grey eyes (which conveyed the exact spectral midpoint between perfect black and perfect white) were patient and kind, but at the same time, they looked right through you. And while they showed deep wisdom, compassion and discipline at work, they also betrayed that, should he or any in his company be maligned in any way, there would be swift and merciless redress.
He donned a worn, but not undignified, brown derby hat with purple-tinted goggles set about the hat-band, a grey-hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans of coveted, authentic Sanctuarian denim, and high-cuffed boots in the deep purple tint of the mists of Limbo. On his right wrist he wore a silver watch with a satin face of the same colour as the boots. It bore no numbers and no hands.
Slung over his back, on a strap of dark orange, demon-wing leather – there was a magical banjo, which – to one inclined to listen for it – could be heard on occasion murmuring its quiet wisdom to him.
The Banjoman enjoyed visiting Sanctuary. It fascinated him. And he both understood and appreciated its value as a place where complete absence of the wild whims of the wild minds of wildly powerful beings could make possible attempts to reconcile complex inter-personal, inter-planetary and inter-planar disharmonies.
Here, where he sat, he could sense the intensity of densely converging magical lay lines about 300,000 miles to the celestial west. The lines approached the event horizon at The Rim and curved sharply back into the space beyond from whence they came. Aside from the residual fluxprob weak force that had once powered the ancient Martian alchemy, the inaccessible probability fields this far within The Rim meant magic was not possible.
The absence of sorcery meant technology was required to render the resort inhabitable. Venusian atmo-interface field generators assigned upon arrival at spacedock, assured ideal atmospheric conditions for inhabitants of varying physiologies. Temporary PSI-EM translators were also assigned, but were mostly unnecessary nowadays as their implantation at birth had been a requirement of many regional treaties for millennia now. The Banjoman was intrigued by the technologies required inside Sanctuary Rim where run-of-the-mill magical standbys like brainmail and telepathy didn’t work.
Spacecraft were of particular interest to The Banjoman, who did not need them except when he came here. He had arrived from Memphis Nova III on a fantastic top-of-the-line Fey-Coven witchcraft he had bartered for. The Captain had wanted some unpleasant memories removed in exchange for the charter. Being lord of Limbo had its privileges.
“Well met again old salt! Dopplebocks tonight?”
The Banjoman looked up at the man approaching him with an overflowing flagon of dark German lager in each hand. It was the person he had come to meet.
With the paradoxically obnoxious grace unique to one who lives at sea – the man with the beers swung a leg over the chair back and dropped into the seat across from The Banjoman.
The sailor’s eloquence of speech and regal bearing could not have been more of a contrast to the grounded, sensible presence of The Banjoman. Obviously an experienced seafarer and commander by dress and demeanor, this one was the high watermark of fashion and class; and he pushed the embodiment of the word dignified dangerously close to the edge of being a dandy without crossing over.
“To be honest, I always get nervous when someone asks to meet in Sanctuary during the diplomatic season,” The Banjoman said. He was lying of course. He was not nervous at all and he had just been thinking about how much he enjoyed visiting Sanctuary.
He reached up to receive the flagon of beer the man handed to him but did not raise it to return the toast offered by the mariner.
The sailor furrowed his brow, stuck out his lower lip and feigned insult.
“Nervous and suddenly unfriendly as well it seems!” a grin exploded across his face. “I always thought you to possess a rare excess of manners for a nobleman, Banjoman! Why not more enthusiasm for a drink with an old friend? I am buying after all. And Earth booze no less!”
The handsome young man proceeded to look across the table at The Banjoman and silently drink his beer. He signalled a bar-bot to bring another drink despite only having finished half of the one in front of him. After a much longer pause from The Banjoman than would normally be socially reasonable, the sailor piped up.
“Relax then your mightiness. I’ll do the talking.”
“There is much I doubt these days, Kilroy.” The Banjoman offered a sly smile. “Especially when I am summoned to Sanctuary for German beers through the dream realm. But that you will do the talking, I most certainly do not doubt at all!”
The Banjoman studied Kipling Kilroy, Lord of the Sea of Tears and the legendary High Cormac (a title given by Olympus to the highest ranking contract freebooter) of the Stygian Navy of Olympus. As a time reader he was accomplished at determining when someone was at the beginning of something, in the middle, or at the end.
The Banjoman’s assessment was quick and conclusive.
Protected by Punta Epsilon’s atmo-interface field generation system, Kilroy had likely left his spacesuit in one of the spacedock bays. He wore his usual magical cloak, crafted from the blue-black wing of a dragon he had slain in the Realm of Fey. The Banjoman knew the lines of alien runes embroidered in spider-spun silver at the collar and the hem cast a charm about the cloak that imbued upon Kip the respect due to one of royalty. Of course, The Banjoman knew the charm would not work here in Sanctuary. He also knew it was not powerful enough to work on him anywhere else either.
At his right hip, on a loose hanging belt, he wore a British Navy cutlass from Earth. In a shoulder holster, hidden under a dark blue shirt of exquisite make, he could see the bulge of the priceless alchemical Martian sun-pistol he knew the sailor had won in a game of chess with his guardian and mentor, Garuk Motankhamun, the esteemed Merchant Pharaoh of the First Martian Solar Dynasty.
His curly, chestnut brown hair, was still clean and coiffed – but not too coiffed in its perfected unruliness. His blue-green eyes were clear and bright. And his tanned skin betrayed nothing beyond the healthy weathered glow of a still-young man of the sea.
There was no sign of hunger, fatigue or recent battle.
Cormac Kipling Kilroy was at the beginning of something. This was a relief to the time reader. But there was a tinge of apprehension, for in his assessment, The Banjoman also intuited that this beginning for the sailor was weaving its probability fields into his. He already felt, with a fair degree of certainty, that this was quickly becoming the beginning of something for him as well.
“I called you to Sanctuary because we need to talk seriously about one who lives there. Someone I plan to meet with as soon as possible, though he does not yet know it,” said Kip.
“Then I regret this already,” said The Banjoman. “I have not finished even a single drink and already you are befouling the sanctity of Sanctuary and forsaking The Binary Proclamation.”
In a cosmos vibrant – some might say mad – with the practice of sorcery, Sanctuary was a reprieve. It was hallowed as a place where the cosmic elite could meet on a level playing field and find common ground. In the magical impotence forced upon one in the unique, inaccessible probability structure of Sanctuary, tolerance amongst gods was possible. The typically hair-trigger impulse toward spellcasting could be mitigated, reason could be brought into negotiations, and agreements could be made. In the beginning this was just important. Then it was essential. Eventually it was sacred.
Over time, The Binary Proclamation was developed to preserve what had become the diplomatic heart of all reality.
The Binary Proclamation consisted of two edicts. Both named from indigenous Earth culture.
While the Earthers, knew nothing of true magic, they did within their rich cultures, whisper of gods and wizards, angels and devils, dragons and fey, which had indeed wandered – though impotently – into and out of the realm of Sanctuary, and thereby into and out of Earth’s history.
Magical beings also sometimes interacted with sleeping, meditating, entranced or chemically intoxicated Eathers while their souls peeked into the proximal planes: the dream realm, and the astral plane, in particular. But in nearly all of these cases, Earthers wrote these interations off as dreams, daydreams, visions, or other such phantom encounters with no basis in reality.
The first proclamation was The Eden Edict. It stated simply that, inhabitants of Earth were to be kept unaware of the sorcerous forces that ran rampant across the wider multiverse.
Humanity was never to know of the arcane, alien world beyond Sanctuary Rim.
Enforcement of The Eden Edict was overseen by five wizards and gods appointed to serve in secret on a high council known as The Pentarchy. This group had cast a vast and powerful spell, referred to simply as The Glamour, about the sphere of Sanctuary so that humans looking out into the multiverse would see only the illusion of barren, uninhabited space.
The Binary Proclamation’s other edict, The Reaper Edict, proclaimed that killing to acquire a soul distinctly for the purpose of powering magic was the highest sin in sorcery. Policed and enforced by the powerful Knights of the Order Oblivion under the authority of the Court of the Celestial Necropolis, violation of The Reaper Edict was punishable by the madness of the deathless solitude brought about by eternal imprisonment in Limbo the realm between realms in the thoughts between thoughts.
If this was not disincentive enough, there was the phantom phenomenon to deter a would-be soul thief. The disembodied entity known across reality as a ghost, was a being generated from the aetheric body of a person murdered for their soul. This zombie-like aetheric doppleganger single-mindedly pursued its murderer to recover its stolen soul. Shambling doggedly across spacetime, it would siphon off more and more of its killer’s aetheric energy the closer it got to its prey. Acquiring both material substance and mental sensibility as it closed in, it would finally strike the death blow, recover the soul that was taken, and claim the last of its murderer’s aether. In so doing it would recover its physical form at the cost of the soul-thief’s life.
The effect of the two edicts of the Binary Proclamation had been that, except for a few occasions, which had been dealt with abruptly and possibly rather too harshly, Earthers knew nothing of magic, or of the vibrant sorcerous bedlam just beyond their doorstep.
The Eden Edict, a simple law about non-interference in the lives of the Earthers of Sanctuary, had worked so well because it was fiercely enforced. It was not something to be disregarded lightly. Over the millennia, aside from the Mars problem, which stemmed from feelings that Mars had been given unfair access to the rare riches of Earth, most among the elite who were concerned with such things had simply, over time, just accepted the Pentarchy’s management of the issue.
For The Banjoman, Kip saying he planned to make direct contact with an Earther was unsettling; but it also piqued his curiosity. He knew the character of the Lord of the Sea of Tears, and so it was interesting to him that the mariner would propose undertaking such a risky proposition – one rife with the severest consequences imaginable. Whatever the young sailor’s motivation was, he deemed it must be worth the risk of breaching The Eden Edict.
The Banjoman repeated his disapproval to see what it would shake loose.
”You are still aware of The Eden Edict, I’m sure,” he patronized. “You didn’t invite me here to give you a refresher on Cosmic Law now did you…” He paused for effect, lowered his head and looked menacingly up from under his copious flaming red eybrows. “… young man?”
The sailor’s upbeat demeanor, which had been maintained effortlessly up until now, disappeared in an instant. This concerned The Banjoman. He had meant the insult, and had expected anger or frustration in response. But the reaction he got was unexpected. Kilroy, youngest ever to achieve the rank of Cormac in the Navy of Styx, Lord of the Sea of Tears, most favoured ward of the court of Mars, and captain of one of the legendary dreamships, the Lady Anuket, actually looked afraid.
Kilroy was not known for seriousness, but he was definitely not known for cowardice. The Banjoman was shocked that he had so jarred the sailor. He leaned in to convey interest and to show some concern. He figured he had been sufficiently standoffish at this point. He liked the sailor and despite doubting him in the past, he had learned to trust his judgment. Talk of interacting with a native of Sanctuary was a serious matter. The Banjoman quickly discerned that Kip Kilroy must have had a good reason for planning to something so dangerous.
Now The Banjoman was genuinely interested – and more than a little concerned. He decided to set the lad at ease and let him make his case. Besides, the boy had been right, the Earth beer was damn good – and the sailor was paying!
“Fill me in then! I am sorry for my mood. How can curiosity not get the better of me when tidings undoubtedly grim have darkened the countenance of the fearless Cormac Kilroy?”
Kip leaned back in his chair and noticeably exhaled. “You are too kind, Banjoman,” he said. “I never know with you. For a moment there, I forgot we were in Sanctuary and feared you were about to wink me off to one terrible hell or another.”
Then he leaned in toward The Banjoman. He did not want what he was about to say to be overheard.
“A connection of mine – a connection of the Pharaoh’s actually – thinks she knows where to find The Glass Grimoire,” said the seafarer. His face was almost childlike in its enthusiasm and that grin returned, ear-to-ear across the face so handsome it had once been invited to the legendary orgies of Mount Olympus. “And I know where to find the one who will be Abraxas.”
The colour disappeared from The Banjoman’s face, his eyes widened and a hint of the deep purple of Limbo came into them. He put his flagon down and forgot to wipe the suds away from his moustache.
“The Grimoire?” The Banjoman whispered the words so quietly that he actually just mouthed them. Kip nodded excitedly.
As Lord of Limbo (the timeless, spaceless realm) and by default something of a steward of time – at least time as it is perceived linearly by most sentient beings – he knew that The Glass Grimoire would come into being and achieve sentience about 30 years in the future. When this happened, he knew that the Earth professor Dr. Ancaster Crowley would become the host for The Grimoire’s power and in so doing would become the dreaded Abraxas. Then, after the three-thousand-year-long War of All Gods he would finally be defeated by the robot-sorcerer Tin Prince Twain. It was a secret history very few in all the multiverse knew. And The Banjoman understood why this was.
The Abraxas was the god above all gods. The force above all forces. In the Abraxas, all opposites – the forces of dark and light, order and chaos, good and evil – would be reconciled into one. And though The Banjoman had initially thought (upon first hearing this tale centuries ago from a Norse Norn) that this sounds good in principle, it most certainly was not good in practical terms.
For though the Abraxas would bring perfection to the cosmic balance by way of assimilating all life into a single hive-like mind, in so doing it would eliminate the kernel of variable probability enshrined in each being’s soul: the kernel that was the splinter of autonomy that was the key to individuality, and thereby the basis for the existence of free will in the cosmos.
Were the Abraxas to succeed in achieving its singular purpose – the sole reason for its existence – a multiversal, eternal, mindless, soulless unity of all things, sentient and otherwise, in reality would be the result.
This state of affairs should not to be confused with the dynamic, vibrant holism conveyed in the conception of mystical reality as celebrated by the sorcerer. No indeed! For in that conception, that kernel of individualism possessed by all the souls in reality remains intact to fuel the diversity, beauty and mystery of a reality that manifests like a meadow of wild flowers.
Victory for the Abraxas would mean a perfect grid of unthinking, unfeeling, static compliance and predictability that is not entirely possible for beings now in possession of free will to understand. Suffice it to say that, where once their had been a variable, rolling meadow of wild flowers, now there would be a flat, colourless, perfectly uniform carpet of mould.
All one needed to know was that all the things that made life worth living would be lost. In simplest terms, the Abraxas was the embodiment of perfect unity, and as such, its success would mean the end of free will for all life in all the multiverse.
The Banjoman recalled all that he knew of this dark future. And he took some small comfort in the fact it was a future not yet carved in stone.
Tin Prince Twain would defeat the Abraxas by some means unknown to end a three-thousand-year war that would kill uncountable numbers of the most powerful beings in all of reality. Then, The Glass Grimoire would be taken by the Pentarchy to be hidden in a time and location known only to The Five.
The Banjoman had intuited this tale in flashes of images, for as a time reader, he could, to some degree, even without magic, perceive spacetime in its entirety. This was especially true in situations that involved him directly. But with time, nothing is certain; and everything is only probable as a matter of degree.
The shock of hearing that The Grimoire had been found had instantly caused The Banjoman to feel his way around this reality’s timeline. As usual, the patch around the future period involving the rise and fall of the Abraxas was blurred and scratched with what he thought of as a form of scarring. This meant it was both a significant event in the grand scheme of the cosmos, and that the history leading up to the event had been tampered with.
The fact that Kilroy had said The Grimoire had been found told him the Pentarchy had taken it from the site of the fall of the Abraxas and hidden it somewhere in the past. But why? It was as though they needed to leave open the possibility that it could be found. This perplexed The Banjoman. But he knew the Pentarchy. They were no slouches. They would have thought things through with all the significant genius at their disposal.
The nature of the images he was seeing in his mind’s eye told him something else as well. Yes, the images were scarred, like the timeline had been mauled and abused but what he could see was more vivid than it should have been. This told him one thing. There was a high degree of probability that he would be present at the moment the Abraxas would be defeated.
But again, he thought, as was often the case with major historical events like this, this was just the most probable future at this moment. It was not yet fixed.
Thankfully, this meant the probabilities there were still loose and flexible. He began to suspect what Kip Kilroy had in mind and this jived perfectly with notions beginning to form in his mind about why the Pentarchy had chosen to hide the most dangerous artifact in all reality in the past. Was it possible they thought they could use it to prevent the Ascent of the Abraxas and the devastating War of All Gods in the first place? Even for a Lord of Limbo, whose understanding of spacetime surpassed that of most other beings, this sort of conjecture was almost pointless. He dropped the line of thinking. And shifted to a new theory that the existence of time paradoxes were compensated for in the cosmic balance by the spectacular effects of this Sanctuary alcohol.
The Banjoman swallowed hard, shook his head, and wrapped his hand around the handle of his flagon of beer until the white of his knuckles showed.
“I won’t even do the clichéd thing and say – but that’s impossible,” he said in a deadpan voice. He looked visibly weak – possibly annoyed – to one who did not know him.
Kip had been sitting quietly letting The Banjoman think. He respected that he would need to process news of this significance and had guessed that he would be scanning probability fields and time lines and other such Limbo Lord stuff in his mind. He had quietly drunk half of another flagon of beer when The Banjoman suddenly decided to pick up the conversation.
“Just get on with it then, Kip. If you are right on this, then you already know I have no choice but to help you.” With this, he lifted his flagon to his mouth and emptied it, plunked it on the table, and smiled at the bar-bot who had just then, put down two new drinks.
Kip was practically bouncing in his seat he was so anxious to share what he knew.
“To beginnings,” The Banjoman raised the new flagon toward the sailor and Kip knocked his flagon against The Banjoman’s with more enthusiasm than was necessary. Foam spilled onto an ancient tabletop.
“I knew you couldn’t turn down saving all of reality again,” Kip said.
“Unfortunately young friend, you would be surprised at how much my involvement in these kind of things is not up to me.” The Banjoman, looked suspiciously around the room then took his Banjo off his back and leaned it against the wall. He settled back into his chair and crossed his arms on his chest. He was genuinely interested now. How could he not be? This was history in the making – but that wasn’t the only thing it was.
His consciousness, which was intricately intertwined with the loose meandering threads of possibilities that might or might not become reality with the perception of the passage of time, gave him insight into the relative significance of particular events. And what he was feeling right now told him that what was about to happen was going to set him on a course in one of only two possible directions. This moment was a fork in the road and the Lord of Limbo knew it.
What would be decided in the next few hours, would determine the fate of all life in the multiverse.
“Beer, even miraculous Sanctuary beer, wasn’t strong enough for this,” thought The Banjoman.
And almost as though he had read his thoughts, Cormac Kipling Kilroy excitedly handed the Lord of Limbo a more comprehensive drink menu than any Earth human had ever laid eyes upon.