“We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.”
~ W.B. Yeats
Excerpt from the Promethean Gnoitalmanac:
Concerning Vital energy and Aetheric Beings
In general terms, there are two types of sentient beings in reality. Biological beings, characterized by the incarnation of a soul in a regular energy-matter matrix, and aetheric beings that are created when a bottled soul is introduced to a physical form manifested from the focused thoughts and aetheric energy generated by a conceiving biological entity.
All biological beings perpetually generate a field of aetheric energy (also called mana, qi, ki, or chi, prana, pneuma, lung, ruah, vital energy…). Aetheric energy, which is more commonly referred to simply as aether, is unique in that it exists outside the standard perceptual range of most beings. Indeed, it constitutes much of the unaccounted for mass and gravitational force — called dark matter — in the scientific construct of the universe as understood by the indigenous beings of Sanctuary. It is also unique from other forms of energy and matter in that it: is responsive to, and can be formed and moulded by, thoughts; can manifest sub-atomically as either particles or waves; and can manifest as all other forms of energy and matter under direction of a consciousness.
The first beings to evolve in the early multiverse were extremely powerful, immortal, biological entities. Called the demiurges (the Olympian titans, the Norse giants, the tree-minds of Fey amongst many other classifications), these primordial beings learned over millennia how to deploy the copious and dense concentrations of aether generated by their biological bodies to create beings that would function as both servants and companions.
Relative to their biological counterparts, aetheric beings age very slowly or not at all. They are not born, but rather are brought into being from the focused thoughts and aether of a biological entity. Also, rather than receiving a soul at the moment of biological conception, aetheric beings are granted a bottled soul by their creator after their manifestation.
The first, and oldest, of the aetheric beings were created from the thoughts and aether of the primordial demiurges. Then over the course of countless millennia, increasingly powerful aetheric beings, which came to be known as architects, began creating aetheric beings of their own. Pegasi, gryphons, goblins, golems, and a multiplicity of aetheric beings spanning the cultural spectrum of the cosmos are representative of this lower tier of fauna created by the aetheric elders of the multiverse.
Because all biological entities generate aetheric fields, powerful mortal beings capable of manipulating probability and possessing the requisite bottled souls required, can also conjure aetheric beings either using their own aetheric field or aether they have taken from another biological entity.
Hall of Memories
The girl in grey stepped into the massive hall, and even as one who favoured the haphazard curves and organic drift of the wild, natural world, she was impressed with the elegant beauty of the Olympian architecture. As she crossed under the 100-ft-high archway, which was one of eight spaced evenly about the perimeter of the expansive hall, she felt a sense of calm come over here.
Built precisely at the intersection of three realms, the ancient pale golden limestone was bathed in the lights of the worlds the great hall linked together. Through one arch the starless indigo night of Hades showed through: through others, the starry nebulous starscape of the dream realm: and through others still, there was the peachy pink of the astral realm.
Looking down at the floor, she found that when she focused upon the mosaic tiles she could recall in perfect detail any memory she desired. Such was the power of the Hall of Memories.
Immediately, her thoughts of the past few months – a preoccupation with her self-imposed exile from the faerie realm – took on a vivid realism. She allowed the memories to overtake her. She wanted them to come, for they would reinforce her resolve.
Now in her mind’s eye, she remembered standing under the stars in the Glade of Dana. She was on bent-knee before the bark-skinned, leaf-maned and elk-antlered Arawn. Lord of the faerie realm.
The last time the Reaper Jasco had spoken to Lord Arawn he had told her of the lofty and extensive plans he had in mind for an agent of her skills and loyalty.
She remembered his monstrous humanoid form sitting upon the mushroom throne, inebriated on the preferred intoxicant of the moment. She recalled the disgust she had felt at how he looked at her with longing, red-rimmed eyes, while – as was his loathsome fashion –a dozen or so of his servants writhed in silent, deathless agony impaled upon his enormous antlers.
She also recalled how he had sold the faerie realm into the possession of Lucifer for nothing more than an endless personal supply of drooling chemical oblivion. But of all the things she remembered, the thing she remembered most clearly was how committed she was to making that vile beast pay for his betrayal of all of faeriedom in the War of Hells.
She stooped down, unsheathed the iron wolf-fang dagger she kept hidden in her boot and drew a circle in the thin film of dust on the mosaic-tiled floor. Then, muttering an incantation to imbue the circle with properties that would shield her attempt to connect with Andy’s mind from anyone other than Andy, she sat in its centre and closed her eyes.
Like most beings in the multiverse, she had never heard of The Glass Grimoire before Kip had told her about it a few years back. Mysteriously, he had told her nothing other than there had been rumours in the Martian court that it had been found and that it was very powerful and dangerous. She had known from his tone – and from the generous amount of retainer she was being paid – not to ask questions. All she had been required to do was work her network of contacts for any word on the Grimoire, or its location.
When she had finally tracked down the surprisingly helpful leads Kip had given her, and surmised the location of the legendary artifact, she knew there was a high probability others would have become aware as well.
Aside from Kip, whom she had told, and The Banjoman, whom he had told in turn, she did not know who else knew. She had a suspicion that the Pentarchy had been behind all of this, and that Kip was their agent. She knew she was a good investigator, but the Grimoire had been surprisingly easy for her to find. Kip’s sources had been too good. She assumed the Pentarchy had known of its location.
But she had to assume others might know as well – and would be attempting to get to it. She had also been told by Kip that this Ancaster Crowley was the only being in the cosmos that could wield the Grimoire and that others would be looking for him. And so, in her ongoing endeavour to contact the one who would be Abraxas and introduce him to Kipling Kilroy, she had endeavoured to take every precaution she could.
She quieted her thinking and scanned the astral plane where she knew he came at night to relax. She was worried that he might be hesitant to go back to the quiet realm after what happened last night.
Because all of her previous attempts to reach him had resulted in him bolting back to his waking consciousness like a frightened bunny, she had tried something new last night. Having been told that he might have an affinity for another Earther, she had borrowed Kip’s magical dragon cloak and had used a glamour to look and sound like him. But this hadn’t worked either. She had pulled Andy’s astral form to the edge of the quiet realm – but it had all been too much for him and he had summoned his cord.
At first she had thought him cowardly, until she remembered that, even in his little jaunts into the astral realm, he had ventured further beyond his own plane of existence, and had shown more proficiency and courage in doing so than any other being from Sanctuary ever had before. She had to constantly remind herself that what was old-hat for many beings in her social circles was entirely unknown to natives of Sanctuary. And though she had only caught a fleeting glimpse of Andy last night, and had never conversed with him, she had sensed much from his presence when she had called to him. His nature was intelligent and kind, but more than that, she sensed his potential: his frightening, incredible potential.
There was something unusual about the nature of his aetheric body. Although he was a biological entity, the aetheric body he generated was so robust and densely concentrated that he seemed almost to be an aetheric being rather than a biological one. He was a veritable reactor and battery of aetheric energy. His aetheric form had also lacked a distinct periphery, which suggested incredible – potentially limitless – power later in life. Both the abundance of aether, and the rate at which it had been replenishing would have been unheard of for biological entities in general. For a being from Sanctuary it was disturbing. Indeed, Andy had made her think of the ancient myths of the primordial demiurges; and the thought had chilled her to her core.
She had come to understand why the likes of the Martian court of Motankhamun, the Lord of Limbo, and possibly even the Pentarchy as well, had taken an interest in this sole sorcerer of Sanctuary.
But none of this Earther’s remarkable potential altered the fact that he was terribly inexperienced – and obviously afraid.
As she reached out with her mind, she thought about the urgency Kip had expressed when he sent her here today. She had to convince Andy’s astral form to come with her to the Hall of Memories. Nothing she had done before had worked. Tonight she would try a new approach.
As a reaper, whose vocation was the collection and bottling of the souls of the dying, she had over nine centuries of experience comforting beings transitioning from their physical bodies into the afterlife. Early in her career, she had learned that comforting a transitioning soul made it easier to bottle. And she had perfected the phrasing, tone and delivery of the invitation to die.
Though this situation was different, she couldn’t see why what had worked to convince thousands of souls to come into her care, wouldn’t convince Andy to come to the Hall of Memories at the edge of the astral plane.
“There is nothing to fear.” The degree of sincerity and kindness in her voice was the product of trial and error over millennia.
“I know the sensation of leaving your physical body is new to you, but I have great experience in the realms beyond your world. I can guide you and protect you, if you will trust me.”
“You will find no danger in accepting my guidance, Ancaster Crowley. Indeed, I am bound by duty and a sacred pledge to protect you in your travels.”
Strangely, despite having uttered these words countless times before, she felt remarkably earnest saying them to this Earther. Something in her sympathized with his plight. His loneliness: his sense of alienation: his boundless curiosity – it all spoke to her.
And though Kip had told her nothing of Andy’s dark destiny, she had sensed something of it. She had surmised that if he was indeed the only being in all of reality that could wield The Glass Grimoire then he was about to take on a terrible burden. For though she knew almost as little about the Grimoire as she knew about Ancaster Crowley, she knew it was something to be feared. In her almost four-year search for word on its location, she had seen the depth of fear that had come into the eyes of any who had spoken of it.
She felt sad for Andy and she felt afraid for him, though she had not yet met him.
And also, though she knew not why, she already respected him.
Infusing her voice with the genuine empathy she felt for his plight, she resumed her call to him.
“I mean you know harm Ancaste –“
“SO AN ANGEL OF DEATH BECKONS ME INTO THE BEYOND!” From out of nowhere the voice roared through Jasco’s mind.
“IT IS NOT MY TIME, REAPER,” he continued. “RESERVE YOUR PLACIFYING PLEASANTRIES FOR SOME OTHER PREY.”
It took her a moment to process this. How did he know what she was? How had he heard her before she had heard him? His skills were remarkable for an Earther: perhaps the only Earther ever to use magic. How could this be? Enough! She could not let her surprise unravel her judgement. She would have to think quickly now.
“No Ancaster! I was an angel of death once – but no more. I am at your service and ask that you trust me to take you to one who would help you safely realize your true potential as a sorcerer. I know this is of great interest to you and I must commend you on how far you have come on your own.” Thankfully, she had thought up this angle previously: appealing to his curiosity. Now that he had taken her by surprise, she was thankful she had been prepared.
She stretched her consciousness toward where his voice had come from. He had cleverly – but amateurishly – attempted to deflect his voice to confuse her and keep himself hidden but with a little effort she tracked him down.
He sat cross-legged under an oak tree on a gentle ridge of golden grass over a meadow. His white-eyed wizard gaze looked through her. In the centre of his forehead the indigo light of his third eye shone through. Its intensity rose and fell with the breath that fanned its power.
Jasco watched Andy’s seated form. His head was perfectly still and the third eye, which had been scanning back and forth moments before now stared directly at her.
“I understand why you would think I came to take you beyond but you misunderstood my invitation.” She said, speaking as sincerely as she could. “I was a reaper at one time – first for the realm of Fey and then for Hades Prime – but now I assist one who seeks to aid you. And it may be aid you require, for it is likely that others who wish to do you harm now seek you as well.”
“I am not quick to trust the creatures of these realms,” Andy’s tone was critical, authoritative. He smirked to himself through the terror he felt to think that he was using his Dungeon Master’s voice. He wished he had dice to grind together in his hand for comfort.
“Just know that while I may be inexperienced here, I am not ineffective.” With this, Andy got to its feet and spread the fingers of both hands wide. The lime-green of his brainmail detached at his fingertips like glowing green mercury and formed into ten arrows of various designs. They lifted from his fingertips and swung their gleaming razor sharp tips to point in the direction of the disembodied voice of Jasco of Fey. They hovered there about his shoulders and head.
“Your talents are obvious.” In response to the provocation, Jasco, rather than increasing the intensity of her brainmail, which would have been the typical response to Andy’s display of hostility, dropped her defences altogether.
“I am not here as anything other than a steward and a guide, Ancaster. I agree you have no reason to trust anyone here, including me. But I assume you possess the skills to assess my true intentions. Yes I was an angel of death once. But that is not what I am now. I serve one who hopes to assist you. And if you do not accept that assistance, you will be in grave danger. Not just on the higher planes, but also in your waking every day life.”
“It is true that I sense no deception in you, but you must understand my hesitance to embrace the hospitality of an angel of death – especially one that dragged me to the cusp of the Olympian underworld. Are you the one who has called to me before? How do you know my name?”
“Yes Ancaster. I have been calling to you for months now. As you have acquired more experience on the astral plane, my beckoning has become more apparent to you. It was me that called to you last night though I wore the form and used the voice of the one I serve.
Hearing this, Andy blushed with embarrassment. The shame he felt was worse than he thought it would be. Jasco picked up on this.
“Your courage and your skill as an Earther, perhaps the only Earther to ever wield magic, is impressive. It is a true marvel that you have learned so much on your own.” She felt this genuinely and did her best to let that come through in her delivery.
“I’d invite you to think on this. If I was still operating in my capacity as an angel of death, I would have come to you once and the invitation I extended would have been rhetorical and only to comfort you. I know your name because the one I work with has asked specifically to meet you. He believes you need help with your magical training. He believes you have a noble destiny – an an urgent part to play in machinations of the multiverse.”
Her logic was impeccable, Andy thought; and his fear subsided somewhat. His fear was being displaced by an incredible curiosity. What if this wasn’t the threat he had though it was. What if this was the opportunity he had been waiting for his whole life?
What if this was a chance to no longer be alone? What if this was a chance to finally know what he was capable of? And most of all – what if this was a chance to acquire some context, some perspective with regard to his place in the world?
His fear was being replaced by a sudden elation. But he did not let it overwhelm his judgment. It was not time to let his guard down. Not yet.
He decided he would keep the alluring disembodied voice on the defensive for the time being.
“Who is your master? For that matter, who are you?”
Then, instantly, though her physical form still sat on the Olympian plane in the Hall of Memories, the astral form of the reaper Jasco was standing before Andy.
Startled, he leapt to his feet, and though he was terrified, he did not let fly with the magic arrows he had conjured. It would not be the last time his curiosity would trump even his instinct to survive.
She was beautiful in that girl-next-door way and this was perplexing for Andy, for it felt as though it shouldn’t be this way. Though there was a darkness about her, it wasn’t a darkness of character. It was more like a darkness of purpose: a kind of sadness.
Her skin was the colour of a beam of light from a full moon on a winter night. Her full, soft, curly hair, which was cut just above her shoulders, was a darker hue of the same colour as her skin. It complemented her pleasing face perfectly. Andy was shocked to note that her eyes were also the luminous silver blue of her skin and hair. She was entirely monochrome and radiated a pleasant, quiet grace. Andy altered his assessment of her. She wasn’t darkness. She was the strange feeling of mysterious safety that punches through the darkness. Hers was that precious sliver of light that made the dark navigable. Hers was the silent, gentle guidance of a full moon to a lost soul.
She wore a short grey military-styled bomber jacket completely covered in pockets and black denim pants tucked into military boots laced to the knees. Pinned to her jacket with the silver setogram of the faerie realm, was a blue and silver fly plaid that was thrown casually back over her shoulder.
Andy noticed no weapons of any kind. But hanging from her belt, he saw what looked to be an ornate silver megaphone.
He thought of Debbie Holcroft, whom he loved. But the beauty of the reaper Jasco was otherworldly. He had never expected to feel what he felt at this moment. He swallowed hard and resolved that he wasn’t going to fall in love with the first non-human woman he had ever met. That would be… pathetic.
Her voice, which was not just in his head now, was soothing and clear. There was courage in it – and sadness. She had been an angel of death. He could only imagine the things she had seen.
Jasco noted that Andy was startled by her sudden appearance and was thankful he had not attacked. Things were going her way now. She resolved to seize the initiative while she had it.
“I am Reaper Aideen Jasco of the Realm of Fey – banshee and master to the flaming Dullahan. Once a servant of the trading house of Lucifer and his Lord Arawn, I am now a free reaper, loyal to no realm or master. I present myself to you as emissary to Cormac Kipling Kilroy of the Stygian fleet of Olympus, ward of the court of Mars, Lord of the Sea of Tears and captain of the dreamship, Lady Anuket. And though you may not know it yet, both myself and Cormac Kilroy – at the cost of our own lives if need be – are already in your service.”
She bowed officiously and Andy thought he saw her blush. When she looked up at him, he saw a hint of embarrassment, which he interpreted as her thinking the bowing may have been a bit too over the top. In his head, he was grinning from ear to ear but he chose not to let his amusement show on his face.
“Please don’t presume that I trust you. You do understand that this is a lot to process all at once.” The green arrows that hovered about his head and shoulders dropped down and reabsorbed into the green glow of his aetheric brainmail. “You seem nice for an angel of death – a banshee no less – and I sense the truth in what you say.” He smiled at her instinctively.
“If nothing else, I am willing to learn more of your intentions.” Then he decided to bluff. He knew he had startled her by detecting her presence before she had detected his.
“I will listen. But you will listen too! I think you understand that while I may lack experience beyond my native realm, I am no neophyte in the practice of sorcery. I am a master of the mind and its many crafts. I am lord over reality and the unreal that brings it about. I am a gift of – and to – the high Atlantean practices, and as such, even I fear the extent of my power. I will listen respectfully to what you have to say, and I will assess your intentions. But be truthful with me – for I prefer we do not have to find out how easily I could destroy you.”
She smiled and it disarmed him. She was impressed with the bravado he had mustered – and with his cool reasoning and delivery. But she sensed that in truth, he was terrified.
“You have spoken your truth, Ancaster Crowley. I will offer you nothing less in return.“ She stood to her full height and it was his turn to blush.
“I know the potential of your power. And yes, you caught me unaware. That is because I underestimated you. But relatively speaking, you know nothing. Indeed, that is why I am here to help you. Cormac Kilroy believes you have a great destiny. But today you are but a frightened boy who has dipped his toe into an infinity he cannot possibly understand. If we are being honest with one another, you should begin by being honest with yourself.”
Jasco flicked a finger and muttered a word.
Before he could even think to defend himself, silvery roots shot from the ground and wrapped themselves about Andy’s hands, feet and mouth. He struggled in vain against the roots and branches. His eyes were wide with fear but there was no pain. The roots had immobilized him but had done no harm.
Jasco was relieved that her attack had not incited his silver cord and an evacuation. He was both stronger than he had been before — and more confident. She walked up to him and looked into his eyes. Andy saw kindness and curiosity in them. Then she turned and casually sauntered up to his tree.
“I apologize for this display,” she said with her back still to him. Then she nonchalantly waved her hand and the roots were gone.
She turned to address him directly, “But it is important for a person to know their limits. If I wanted to harm you, I could have done it a thousand times since I have known you. As for you harming me? That is simply not something you are capable of… not yet.”
Andy rubbed his jaw and glared at Jasco. He was angry, but not as much as he was fascinated. She had called his bluff, she was right about his inexperience, and she had just had him at a total disadvantage and had released him unharmed. He felt now, despite the direct and aggressive nature of her methods, that he had good reason to trust her. He began to think that this might indeed be the incredible opportunity he had always hoped for: the chance to meet others like himself: the chance to move beyond baby steps into the larger world he always knew was out there. Not knowing what to do now, he just stood there. She too, just stood and observed him.
It was Andy who broke the standoff of silence.
“Is there somewhere we could go to get something to eat or a drink or something?”
The reaper, expecting something less friendly than this from someone she had just insulted and attacked, was taken aback by the invitation. She was perplexed by the strange Earther and wondered at this peculiar reaction to her effrontery. He must have thought things through and understood her tactics. If so, he had done it almost instantaneously. Perhaps it was true what they say about the natives of Sanctuary. Perhaps the absence of magic had enhanced their capacity for reason.
She decided then that she not only respected Ancaster Crowley, the sole sorcerer of Sanctuary. Jasco of Fey decided that she also feared him. But more than anything now, she decided she liked him.
“I know the perfect place, Ancaster.” The banshee reached out to shake his hand and he took it.
“Call me Andy, please,” he said it with genuine annoyance. “Nobody ever calls me Ancaster.”
“Certainly, Andy,” she said with a wide smile that lit up her face. Andy saw that it was a genuine smile: the kind that shows in a person’s eyes: the kind that cannot be faked. The smile he gave her in return was automatic and just as genuine.
And had she not been so caught up in the feelings that overtook her in that moment, the reaper Jasco would have recalled that she had not smiled like that in years.