Chapter 5

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

~ Francis Bacon

 

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 kilometers in diameter. Within the elliptical orbit of the asteroid belt between The Warrior (Called Mars by the Earthers) and The King (Jupiter), Ceres intersects with the perfectly circular equator of the event horizon of Sanctuary Rim four times. This means that in a Cerean year, the planetoid spends an almost equal amount of time within The Rim, where magic is not possible, and outside, where it is.

On its equator, on the dark side, hidden from the curious eyes of the humans of magicless 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 mustache. 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 authentic Sanctuarian denim (so coveted outside the Rim for its magic-repelling properties), 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 quiet wisdom.

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 overflowing flagons of dark German lager in each hand. It was the man he had come to meet.

With the paradoxically obnoxious grace unique to one who has lived their life at sea, the man with the beers swung a leg over the chair back and dropped into the seat across from The Banjoman.

By the grin on the mariner’s face, The Banjoman presumed the lad would report that the banshee had succeeded in her task.

He admonished himself for the presumption. This was Kip Kilroy. The idiotic grin was no indication of circumstances. It meant only that drink, hooliganism and debauchery were at hand.

And at that moment — urgent, secret mission to avert cosmic calamity aside — The Banjoman recalled precisely why he so liked the bastard mariner of Mars.

 

Dave Grayson cornered into the arena parking lot at a speed that challenged the enormous Oldsmobile station wagon to remain on the icy dirt road.

“Jesus!” Dave McFinnegan said from the front passenger seat. He had called shotgun for so long — and had always created so much drama when he didn’t get it — that everyone had just taken to proactively relenting on the matter. He commented on Dave’s driving just to hear himself talk. Everyone in the car knew Dave Grayson was a spectacular wheelman.

Ian Grayson reclined sideways across both back seats scribbling down what he could recall of everyone’s liquor store requests on the back of an Incredible Hulk comic. His kind face, cool demeanour, and receding hairline had made it impossible for him — the moral high-grounder of the group — to defy his calling as high school bootlegger.

Nick Morrison opened the back of the station wagon where Jason Baker was sleeping off his hangover and threw in his hockey stick and bag.

“Figure skating is hard, eh St. Pierre?” McFinnegan roared out the passenger side window at Scott St. Pierre who was crossing the parking lot in front of the car.

St. Pierre threw up the finger and McFinnegan laughed.

“How ’bout you shut it, Dave,” Nick said as he climbed into the seat Ian had freed up for him. “You can’t even skate let alone play hockey, dipshit.”

“Oh sorry then, MorrisON.” It was McFinnegan’s go-to to say Nick’s surname sound like moron.  “Are you and Lady St. Pierre dating or something?”

Hockey practice had eliminated all but lingering traces of Nick’s hangover. Having resolved that he was done with Friday-night D&D and would go to Club Cedars this coming Friday, he was feeling better about things. He still wanted to play — just not on Friday. As much as he would have loved to punch McFinnegan in the back of the head, he didn’t.

“A twenty-sixer of Rough and Rowdy for me, Ian.” Nick tapped on the comic where Ian was writing up his shopping list.

“Is St. Pierre your new boyfriend? Is he why you want to go to Cedars so bad.” McFinnegan persisted.

“Jason is going to kill you for writing on his comic.” Nick said to Ian in order to make a show of how committed he was to ignoring Dave.

“If you want, Nick, I can pull over,” Dave Grayson said it into the rearview mirror and jerked his head sideways toward the other, mouthier, Dave.

“Thanks, no, Dave. I’m good.” He reached over the front seat and flicked McFinnegan’s ballcap off his head onto the dash.

“The little guy is just cocky about hitting 10th level. No need to send him hunting for his teeth in the snow.”

They all laughed, Dave McFinnegan re-donned his hat and sheepishly apologized. He had two modalities: mirth (which typically manifested as sarcasm) and melancholy (which typically manifested as regret for his sarcasm).

An awkward silence fell upon the station wagon.

It was weird that — even though he hated the mall intensely — Andy had not accompanied them today.

There was not another word about the proposal Nick had made last night. Everyone knew a breaking of the fellowship had occurred and they all had already begun making their peace with it.

 

Andy knew the edge of the Olympian empire bordered the astral plane mere kilometers behind where he sat in meditation. He did not know the realm of sleep also bordered with the Olympian and astral planes in the tall round building atop the high bluff at his back.

In the very near future, he would learn that The Eden Edict, which forbade contact with the Earthers of Sanctuary, was difficult to enforce on the astral and dream planes where Earthers could travel either by sleep or meditation.

For millennia, entities of the Olympian and Fey empires, which bordered on these planes had exploited their proximity to tap the unique ingenuity of human-kind — an ingenuity born of the absence of magic. For on Sanctuary, the one place in all the multiverse where magic was impossible, creativity and cunning in the arts and sciences were unsurpassed in all the cosmos.

Deep within, far beyond the nonsense of ego and the ramshackle assemblage of concepts that constituted the delusion of self, Andy Crowley soared the inner realms.

There, across the Moebius Bridge, the delta quanta churned in the probability vortices, where imagination and manifestation, conception and perception, within and without were the interchangeable equivalencies at the heart of reality.

From across an unimaginable distance, a familiar voice whispered to him: a reminder of why he was here — the mariner in the blue cloak, who is he? Why does he beckon?

It required mastery to defy the bliss of that would accompany relinquishing the constructed self to become one the ultimate truth of The All. To entertain notions in this place required retaining a splinter of that which sat under the tree on the astral plane, and in turn, sat within the magical circle in the bedroom in the house in Corbyville.

Suddenly then, a cold, penetrating horror came upon him.

Absence of colour.

Absence of love.

Where there had been the joy of the perpetual present moment, now there was nought but the plodding, ponderous falsehood of the arrow of time.

His sense of disembodiment disappeared completely and he wore once again, all the notion and form that was Andy Crowley again. An endless, white nothingness stretched to infinity in every direction. A whispering voice came into the ears of his deepest mind.

In trying to hear what the whispering voice said, he sensed the direction from which it came.

His eyes rolled upward and took on the white of the wizard’s gaze as his third eye blazed onto his forehead.

There! It comes from that speck of black. In the white expanse, he could not discern if now he moved toward it, or it moved toward him.

Then the word it uttered rang clearly in his mind. And he neither hated nor loved its voice, which both whispered and roared at once.

“Abraxas.”

And he saw that the black speck was a rectangle about the size of a deck of playing cards, though stretched slightly along its length. It was flawless black glass with subtly rounded edges. Deep within the glass, in the center of the screen, there was a stylized apple rendered to convey that a bite had been taken from it.

“We are Abraxas, Andy Crowley,” the black rectangle said to him in a voice that was somehow trillions of voices in trillions of languages.

The thrill he felt then was all-consuming. Every nerve, every cell exploded inward and outward to infinity.

“We are all that is.” The voice whispered.

Andy laughed uproariously. He had never felt such complete satisfaction. He was drunk — no, mad — with the pure, unrestrained power that coursed through every aspect of his being.

He did not know how his next words came to his mind.

“We are all that has ever been. And we are all that can ever be,” Andy Crowley said to the tiny black monolith.

And though he did not know why he had said that, he knew it was the truest, most honest thing he had ever known in his mind or felt in his heart.

 

To be continued in Chapter 6.

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Chapter 4

Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there, love is lacking. Each is the shadow of the other.

~ Carl Jung

 

The screams of the drowning thousands did not come that night — though thoughts of the mysterious blue mariner did find their way into what had been a peculiarly restful sleep for Andy Crowley.

“The blue mariner?” he thought.

Over months of having the same dream, Andy had become accustomed to the psychic signature of the seaman’s presence, and though he had not put his finger on it at Deb’s last night, he now realized he had sensed something of that presence accompanying the banshee he had seen in Deb’s mind.

What did this mean? So much in flux. So much coming to light. He would need to use his Saturday wisely.

The exquisite aroma of bacon sizzling in a cast iron pan wafted up the stairs.

 

Ruby Crowley wore her mother’s apron over her Canadian Air Force uniform.

She loved her weirdo little brother. He deserved better than he had gotten from his parents and yet he took it all in as though even the shittiest things in life were just more wonders to be experienced. The least she could do for the only family she had left was cook him a big breakfast whenever she was free. She was on leave from airbase in Trenton and had arrived home late last night.

“Cap’n Ruby bringin’ home the bacon!” Andy was wearing a Journey concert shirt, which raised Ruby’s eyebrows. She knew Andy’s taste in music well enough to be surprised by the fact he even owned a Journey shirt. There was only one reason he would wear it. And that reason made her heart flutter with excitement.

“How’s Deb?” She asked. Her tone was loaded with innuendo. Her eyes and a quick jerk of her head showed Andy she noticed the journey shirt.

“Why don’t you ask her yourself?” As he shoved bacon into his mouth, Andy used his head to indicate the stairs he had just come down. The suggestion was that Deb was in his bedroom.

“Oh puleease?” Ruby said. “Alfred E. Newman thinks he’s Jon Bon Jovi now? And what’s with that shirt?”

“Hah!” Andy laughed. “Nosy Aunt Ruby! It would make a good band name. Hey, maybe we’ll name the baby after you.”

He savored the toasted bacon sandwich he had constructed and got lost in his thoughts for a moment. He had gone to bed in a maelstrom of concerns about a banshee’s pronouncement of Nick’s impending demise; the bittersweet glow of Deb’s profession of love for him; and confusion about whether or not to reciprocate with his own profession of love for her. The absence of his regular drowning nightmare had made him feel better about Nick. His best friend’s death was not a certainty, Andy now felt. As for Deb, he felt like a weight had been lifted by hearing her say the words — but that the burden lifted was offset by another, heavier issue: could he — considering who he was and the trajectory of his reality as an entity chosen by sorcery — actually be with Deb? As he pondered these things, trying to assemble order from the chaos, he failed to notice Ruby’s silence following his joke about her being an aunt.

“Don’t even joke about that Andy,” she finally said. Her face was a mask of stone. It was Soldier Ruby. Andy had seen that face a lot when she — with the Morrison’s help — had fought for the right to be his legal guardian. She smiled so he would not think she was angry with him.

“We are dealing with enough, aren’t we?” She was pulling her shoulder-length auburn hair into a bun she would wear under her Air Force wedge cap. It told Andy she would be going somewhere for work. He was saddened that she would be leaving again so soon.

He summoned as much compassion into his face as he could.

“Ain’t that the truth,” he said around a mouthful of bacon sandwich.

Ruby could tell he felt bad about the joke and she let it go. This kid, she mused — so sharp; so tuned in; so insightful.

“I have to go to Germany for a week. But before I go, I want the total skinny on what’s up with you and Debbie Holcroft.”

“Of course,” Andy said. And he smiled. “Nosy old-lady-next-door Ruby.”

Ruby laughed. “Still better than Aunt Ruby!” she said. She loved him so much. And was so proud of him. Their situation was strange, but she felt no concern about leaving him alone so frequently. He was so far beyond his years. He was the most together person she knew.

Andy told her everything he could about what had happened with Deb last night. Omitting everything about the banshee, Nick’s death, and anything to do with magic or the occult was, however, required.

He sometimes wondered if his esoteric interests had played a part in driving his mother to church, which had in turn driven his father to drink. In no way did he feel responsible for what his parents had done to themselves. Nonetheless, he had sworn to himself that his mysterious vocation would never bring one of the uninitiated to harm.

When Andy had finished recounting the night’s events, Ruby came around the kitchen table, bent down, and hugged him.

“You know I love Deb, Andy,” Ruby was genuinely excited for him. “He needed this,” she thought.

“It was always going to be either you or Nick? But I always knew it would end up being you.” She looked at him as a mother — a good mother — would have then.

“Why?” Andy laughed as he asked the question. To his mind, Nick was literally the Jon Bon Jovi to his Alfred E. Newman.

“Because I’ve watched the three of you grow up,” Ruby looked away. An easy, dreamy smile was on her face.

“And I saw the way she always looked at you.”

Andy’s heart sank. Suddenly none of this seemed right. He couldn’t be with Deb anyway. could he? And what about Nick? If Ruby was right, then Nick and Deb should –

He needed to meditate. There was too much here to process.

“I love you, Roob,” was all Andy Crowley could think of to say in that perplexing moment.

It was all he wanted to say.

 

“Hey, Morrison!” Scott St. Pierre spat the words across the dressing room. It was not his intention to come off as rude and obnoxious, but any intention he ever mustered in that regard never seemed to matter in the slightest.

Nick ignored him. He decided he wasn’t quite hungover from last night, but he was still irritated about Andy’s self-centeredness. Why had he bolted out of their game like that? All his pontificating about selflessness and the construct of self, yet he always seemed to do his own thing with no regard for others.

“Morrison!” St. Pierre hollered again, louder this time. Suddenly it was quiet. Every player in the room knew Scott and Nick’s history. And considering Nick always managed to humiliate Scott — be it physically or intellectually — everyone there was dying to see why Scott seemed so insistent on poking the bear.

Suddenly, Nick determined he was hungover after all. He glared at Scott St. Pierre and remembered that Andy had humiliated him on the bus. Was this going to be about that?

“What is it, Scott?” The deadpan was not intentional, but to the room, it came off as delightfully dismissive.

The unexpectedly cordial tone of Scott’s next words caught everyone off guard — especially Nick. “I thought you were going to Cedars on Friday, I didn’t see you.”

Confused by the friendly overture, Nick, due more to laziness than anything else, deemed it easiest to just play along.

”I thought about going.” He said as he snapped on his helmet. He paused and the words in his head did not get to his mouth.  But Friday is always D&D night. Suddenly his truth seemed absurd to him: immature — even embarrassing.

“I went to the flat rocks with some friends from Toronto,” he lied. Nick didn’t know why he lied. It just happened. He felt shame — but also an unexpected sensation. Was it liberation?

“Maybe next time, Scott.” It suddenly occurred to him that he could go to Cedars with Deb and her friends next Friday. The reception the idea had received at the game last night had been cold, to say the least. He resolved to go to the mall after practice to talk to Deb about this. He could also ask her what the hell was going on with Andy. His gloves were on now. Grabbing his stick, he stood and made for the door, which required him to walk right past Scott St. Pierre.

Standing up on skates caused Nick’s hangover to descend upon him in earnest. He had too much on his mind. There was too much in disarray for his liking. He felt like a lost soul and it irritated him.

Impulsively, he tapped the heel of his hockey stick on Scott St. Pierres’s shoulder pad as he walked past. Scott was bent over and lacing his skates.

”I’ll save you a dance.” Nick said. This time the dismissiveness was intended.

A snicker rippled through the dressing room. But if Scott St. Pierre noticed he was being laughed at, he did not show it.

“Patience, Scott,” The voice in his head was intoxicating. Had he possessed the worldliness to discern such things, he would have noted its peculiar mixture of British and Midwestern American accents. He was enthralled by the electronic tinge it possessed — like Max Headroom on TV, he thought.

“Nick Morrison is donefore.” The alluring synthetic voice said.

“You just need to be patient.”

Because his face was down as he finished lacing his skates, nobody saw the malicious grin that split Scott St. Pierre’s wide, freckled face.

Had they seen it, they would have been horrified at how much that grin was not his own.

 

Andy knew Deb would be at the mall today. She and her friends spent every Saturday there. Rumour had it Deb had even applied for a job at the Denim Nexus. He reminded himself to ask her about that.

Nick would be at hockey practice.

Andy was glad his friends were busy. His breakfast with Ruby had given him room to think more about what had happened with Deb.

He knew he loved her. What he didn’t know was whether or not he should let that take its natural course. Andy Crowley did not know why he had become a sorcerer. But he had. When the dreams of the strange runes had come upon him, he had not questioned what they were. He had assumed this was normal. Nick had helped him realize it wasn’t. The cruelty of children — and their parents — had brought him around to keeping his occult knowledge to himself. He had come to understand the importance of flying under the radar. He had also read enough comic books to know that possessing the kind of knowledge and power he did would eventually place the ones he loved in harm’s way.

He quashed the fleeting thought of his broken parents only to have it replaced with something even worse.

What if I’m the reason the banshee came to Deb? What if I’m the reason Nick is supposed to die?

This menacing notion only reinforced his fast-solidifying position that there was no way he could be in a romantic relationship with Deb. And the thought was excruciating. Despite realizing that being with her was what he wanted more than anything — all the more, now that he knew she wanted to be with him — he was also realizing that getting what he wanted in this regard would put the one he loved in harm’s way.

But couldn’t he just drop sorcery: walk away?

Really?

He had transcended the prison of everyday consciousness and explored the proximal planes that were the springboard to the mystery and wonder of the wider, wilder multiverse. He pondered all that he had already experienced — and what miracles there were to come: Olympus, The Hells, The Nine Realms of Asgard, Heliopolis, the realm of Fae! Could he really walk away from all this?

But could he really walk away from Deborah Holcroft? He was convinced he could not remain upon the mystic’s path and also have a life with Deb. He now knew this much completely. And there was another complicating factor. His friend’s — no his brother’s — name had been uttered by a banshee of Fey. Who but he, with all he had so fervently endeavoured to learn and know, was equipped to save Nick? He had wondered if there were others like him: other true magic-users. But all indications were, from the research he had done, that there were not.

If it fell upon him to save Nick, why was he focusing on what to do about Deb?

Selfish bastard, he admonished himself.

Too much was happening. Forces were converging. It had not been like this since just before his father left.

He assessed the prevalence of the mariner in the night-blue cloak in all the events that now perplexed him. The one, simultaneously so strange yet so familiar, who had come to him every night in his dreams — and whose presence he had sensed when he had seen the banshee through Deb’s eyes last night.

Enough with conjecture, he thought. Ruby had left for the airbase. He needed to use this time wisely.

Settling into the full lotus posture within the Solomonic pentagram carved into his bedroom floor, Andy extracted the five, coloured dice from their purple, velvet whiskey bag and placed each one at a point on the pentagram. Each die, a Platonic solid, represented an element, and as such, had its proper place in the magic circle.

Gesturing with his fingers, he chanted one of the first Atlantean incantations that had come to him in his sleep and willed his body’s natural aetheric field to pack tightly inward into the thin, hard suit of emerald green brainmail that would protect his astral form. His destination was one of the more idyllic and uneventful corners of the astral plane near its boundary with the realm of sleep, but Andy Crowley was nothing if not a cautious practitioner. He knew well the dangers of extra-planar transfer, even in the relatively peaceful proximal planes.

He envisioned the necessary visual triggers and recited the mantras required to generate the bio-electric field that would allow the transfer of his consciousness from his physical body to his astral one and he stepped onto the spongy surface of the astral plane.

The soft-edged, peach, pink and pastel ambiance of the place immediately set his mind at ease.

As he walked through tall golden grass beneath the sunless, perpetual pink daytime of the place known as the quiet realm, he once again thrilled at the sights of familiar towns, cities, and villages on enormous chunks of earth, like uprooted, upside-down mountains drifting lazily in the air. He had never been to any of them. He had yet to master the process of focusing and projecting his aetheric field in order to fly in this place.

For now, he was content just to rest and think. He still lacked confidence in his skills and was not ready to risk engaging the other beings he could meet here.

Andy always thrilled at the springy softness of the astral realm. It was a hallmark of this particular plane that surfaces had a kind of spongy give to them. The grass was pale gold. The soil was the colour of wine. In all his travels so far, this was his favorite place beyond the threshold of the everyday plane of waking, material existence.

Andy looked up at the grassy ridge he had been walking toward, and there it was – his tree! A “splinter of Yggdrasil“ he liked to think. He had often imagined that every mind had a tree at its center; and that in-turn, every one of those trees was but a branch of a single tree – the Asgardian life-tree – winding through all the minds of all the realms in the multiverse.

He made his way up the ridge, placed his palm on the tree’s bark and invited its strength to enter him. His sphere of his awareness began to stretch out and he felt calm. He did not see it, but he knew his silver chord was there, connecting him to the tree, which in turn connected him to his physical form back in his bedroom.

Every being has a silver cord that connects to a touchstone on the astral plane. It was impossible to truly come to harm here. One’s silver cord would always pull them back to their body in their native realm should the astral body be sufficiently shocked or wounded. Andy’s touchstone was this tree, with its branches, mostly unseen, stretching out across the planes and throughout the cosmos.

Enough with thinking! He thought then.

Where blazes empty mind, no shadows pose as truth.

And so Andy Crowley nestled down between roots that felt as though they had been tailored specifically for the purpose of helping him relax. Then he closed his eyes, envisioned the enso (brushed circle of Zen), focused his attention on his breathing, and repeated his stillness mantra.

“Aum Namu Narayanaya”.

The chatter of his waking mind receded quickly and the quiet came with an ease – and to a depth – that was only possible on the astral plane.

The answers would come to him here.

The answers always came so easily in this place.

 

As Andy Crowley sat in quiet meditation on the astral plane, he did not sense he was being observed.

High atop a distant bluff, a handsome man of the sea stood in the tall archway of a massive structure of Olympian design. The archway delineated the event horizon between the astral realm and the Olympian realm of Stygia. His curly chestnut hair and night-blue cloak fluttered in the breeze that whistled up the bluff from the river Styx at his back. The mariner, could not enter the astral plane and so looked into it through the archway. What he saw there set his heart ablaze.

In the gravity pits of Jupiter; upon the Sea of Tears in the ra-ships of the legendary Martian Dynastic Navy; in hundreds of battles in hundreds of wars on a hundreds of worlds in hundreds of realms he had trained for this. For the entirety of two lives, the one he had forgotten and the one he lived now — he had prepared for this. To finally lay eyes upon Andy Crowley, Sole Sorcerer of Sanctuary — the only being ever to use magic on otherwise magicless Earth, quickened his pulse, brought tears to his eyes.

But he could not act yet. Jasco of Fey must do her work in the dream realm. The boy must not confuse what must now come with a trick of the mind, a dream, or some madness or other.

A smile, which had been likened by more than one poet across the multiverse to a supernova, spread then across the mariner’s face. He swung up into the saddle of his horse and spun it about. The clatter of its shodden hooves echoed through the massive Olympian hall.

His heart lusted for raucous celebration. And the Port of Stygia, where he had laid anchor the day before, was well known for the quality of its taverns.

TO BE CONTINUED

in Chapter 5

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FREE Andy Crowley Preview: Chapter 4!

The voice in Scott St. Pierre’s head was synthetic, like Max Headroom — except rather than being frenetic and disjointed it was melodious and soothing. It had a strange accent as well. Had Scott possessed even a modicum of life experience beyond hockey and the mall, he would have discerned that the accent was a bizarre hybrid of south-side London Queen’s English and midwestern American drawl.

To the football players gathering around the two opponents squared off for fisticuffs, the voice was so intoxicating it made them forget it was coming from Scott’s face.

“Ahhhhh look who it is, pet.” Whoever now occupied Scott’s mouth seemed to be talking to himself. “Do you recognize him?”

The words had a delicious vibration to them like the nigh imperceptible tinge of a rock synth melody.

The football team’s heads all swung to look at Nick. Anxious for his response. A mystery was unfolding.

Nick’s face had ceased to be his. In its place there was a seething mask that wore a hundred years of utter hatred for a bitter rival.

And Nick’s next words were no less alien to the huddle of football players now fully assembled than was the suddenly alien caste of his face.

Nick Morrison spat the words at St. Pierre.

“You will be vanquished by this hand! I swear it beast! Upon the thousand souls each, of the thousand children of Allfather Ra and by all the pharaohs of The Martian Solar Dynasty, I swear this!”

Then Scott St. Pierre and Nick Morrison both clutched at their chests in agony and collapsed unconscious to the ground.

“Everybody –” Coach Patterson started to say before he saw Andy Crowley running down the hill toward them. Then he and the entire football team also collapsed into unconscious heaps on the field.

As the haze of the spellcasting cleared “the blue mariner is coming” began to echo through Andy Crowley’s mind again.

“Nick!” he cried as he kneeled over the unconscious body of his friend –nay his brother.

“Omega Alpha. Alpha Omega.” He muttered repeatedly under his breath.

“Not yet, man. Not yet.”

Andy Crowley Saga

Chapter 3

“How could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?”

~ Plato

Deborah Holcroft rolled onto her back and stared at the Journey poster on the ceiling over her bed. She smiled to think of Andy calling them bubblegum even though he had admitted to her once that they were a guilty pleasure. She hadn’t stopped thinking about him since that thing with Steve St. Pierre on the bus.

She worried she had gone too far: that she had sent a signal about how she felt that she couldn’t take back. He had been her best friend for as long as they could remember, but lately (and very much to the dismay of Lori and Tracy) something had awakened in her. Andy Crowley had become her everything and she couldn’t help but suspect he felt the same way about her.

She couldn’t even bring herself to go to Club Cedars tonight. Her friends had nearly lost their minds about that. Cranked to eleven over a rumour that Nick Morrison had said he might be there, they had begged her to go. She smiled to think of their disappointment. She knew he wouldn’t be there. It was D&D night at the Grayson brothers’.

Her girlfriends’ obsession with Nick Morrison grated on her. She often wondered if they only hung out with her because she lived two doors down from him.

Deb had known Nick as long as she had known Andy. The three of them were like family.

It traumatized Deb’s friends that she did not worship at the altar of glorious Nick Morrison with them. The only thing more ghastly to them than this were the rare moments when she hinted to them that she found Andy Crowley interesting.

She rolled over and closed her eyes. Conjuring Andy’s strange, different-coloured eyes, she searched them for even a glimpse of the mystery and marvel they had seen where others could see only the plain, everyday world. She tried to summon the charge to her heart she always felt on those occasions when he had gathered her hand in his to lead her to something outrageous she would never have thought to look for herself. She wondered if he only ever let his guard down for her and the corners of her mouth curled up into the relaxed smile of the face freed from being the mask held for others. Her eyes smiled along with her mouth and fell shut. The amethyst calm came upon her then. Her consciousness let go.

Then, in the starry amethyst expanse most think is merely the back of their eyelids, she was falling, slowly and peacefully, with no prospect of ever hitting the ground. After she had been falling for so long she wasn’t sure she was falling at all, there was the feeling of just hovering. Nebulae of purples and blues were all about her. Stars of every colour were everywhere. She had a flash of insight that she was a star too – a green one. And then she saw the Baku Gate.

To the fading consciousness that was Deborah Holcroft, the gate could have been miles high – or was it microns? She had no way of really knowing for she had no frame of reference here in the dream realm. Indeed she had no idea how large or small she would be when she would take on her other form.

She let herself drift toward the gate.

It consisted of two enormous columns, both in the form of the Baku, the eater of nightmares. The Baku had the head of an Asian elephant, save for the large, kind and gentle eyes of a cow. Its body was that of a powerful tiger. The enormous Baku columns were carved from what looked like the stuff of the moon – a luminous green-grey stone pitted and scarred with what must have been years stretching back through unknowable depths into an eternal past. At the feet of the Baku there were billions upon billions, of flowers, trees, mushrooms, and all manner of plants carved into the same stone. Above their heads, in the subtly sloping arch of the crosspiece, there were birds, butterflies, pegasi, bats, dragons, and all manner of flying beasts, uncountable in their numbers.

Just as she had done so many times before, she floated through the gate, which also floated in the void. At its threshold, the feeling of having a body gradually returned, and though she did not know it, for she had forgotten by this point that she was Deb Holcroft in her waking life in another place, this body was not at all like the one she had left sleeping in her bed in Corbyville.

First, she saw the leather boots and intricately engraved metal grieves of her legs. They were tinged with a fuschia coloured light, shimmering silver with the strangely warm crystalline frost of the dream realm. Then, her gauntleted hands. She reached back and wrapped grey-furred fingers into the flowing, swirling rich purple silk of her cloak and her other hand went to rest lightly and assuredly on the falcon-headed pommel of the sword that hung at her side.

She was mostly humanoid in appearance – a beautiful, stately woman, tall and strong. Some would say handsome – but in that way that does not compromise femininity. But she also had the features of a timber wolf. Her face was completely human save for her eyes, which were a piercing ice-blue with tightly dilated pupils, and her ears, which were pointed and sloped back. Her hair, a flowing mane of grey was braided in two strands tied at the back in the style of the Morphean Guard. Her body was generally humanoid as well, save for the transition to grey fur below her elbows and knees and her clawed hands and feet.

Having just awakened and dressed, she walked with the assured, purposeful gait of a military leader toward the Morphean Citadel to receive her orders. The more rapid passage of time in the dream realm meant she would live about a day for every hour Deb slept. She was determined to address the failure of their forces at the Jotunheim Intersection last week, but something was interfering with her train of thought. On this night something buzzed in her mind and prodded at her consciousness, pleading for its attention.

Certainly no sorcerer by any measure, she felt safe enough from any would-be malicious eldritch influences this close to the citadel’s mages and so she heeded the call of the quiet, persistent voice. Telepathy was a common mode of communication in the dream realm, and though she did not recognize the voice in her head – her soldiers’ training in the use of telepathy told here enough to know it meant her no harm. It was feminine, kind, even somehow familiar.

“You know full well that it is not the way of the dreamer to recall what transpires in sleep – but you will remember this. You must,” it said to her.

She felt no fear. She was powerful here. She addressed the voice with conviction.

“Do not dawdle. I conduct the essential business of the Morphean Guard and tolerate your intrusion into my mind for only this moment,” she said it firmly, in the manner of one experienced in the finer points of leadership and military command. “I have urgent affairs to address in the short time afforded me. Be brief!”

“Yes of course,” the voice said. “You must remember this when you awaken —

Beyond rational explanation, the words that followed felt important and reverberated deeply into the mind of the one who heard them.

“Nick Morrison will die. Andy Crowley will know what to do.”

She noted this, though in the life she knew here, she did not know who Andy or Nick was. She simply knew that whoever she was in the waking realm would likely know them. And though she had sensed that this must indeed be a matter of some import, she was a dream warrior with a more urgent calling than any of the petty things she knew in her other life. From her perspective here, the other world was the dream she forgot every evening – just as this life was the dream she forgot every morning.

The other realm was a warless, bloodless, happiness she knew nothing about. For here she was Sherle-Peregrinus of the Morphean Guard, commander in the vanguard force at the Siege of Dreams – defender of all souls within the realm of Sanctuary from the entroloper hordes that would see them subdued and beholden to the Abraxas.

“I will remember this,” she swore and meant it. For she was true to her word. She even pulled the legendary falcon sword at her side from the lip of its scabbard as she said this: a gesture of her order that assured dedication to the keeping of an oath.

“Considering the matter at rest then,” and with her patience spent, she topped the steps to Morphean Citadel and entered the grand hall that had become the impromptu throne room of the queen of the dream realm herself.

The Holcroft’s was the oldest house on the River Road. A bungalow covered completely in climbing ivy, it was the kind of place that was creepy and haunted to more modern sentiments but earthy and magical to those one might call old souls.

A wide veranda ran the whole span of its face and the property was covered with trees that shaded it even from the barest light of the bright country stars.

Andy had transitioned fully into the emotionless, detached state of Mushin (no-mind) by the time his bike skidded through the darkness into the Holcroft’s driveway. In a maneuver he had perfected in the variable gravity of the astral plane, he forcefully braked his speeding bike, went into a handstand that became a somersault over his handlebars and soared into a running landing. He had cleared the stairs onto the front porch before his bike hit the ground. Deb’s white cat, Aleister, slept in a chair on the covered porch. As he knew it would be, the light in Deb’s room was on. He tapped on the window. She would know it was him.

The window flew up. Deb was wearing an oversized, white Platinum Blonde T-shirt. Any other time, Andy would have rolled his eyes at the shirt.

“Andy! It’s game night! Why are you here?”

He had to think fast. He couldn’t tell her he had been inside her head and had seen what had frightened her. His greatest fear was having her discover he could do such things.

“I saw your light on and wondered why you aren’t at Cedars.”

“I had homework and didn’t feel like it. The girls were getting to me.”

Andy smiled. “I’ll bet,” he said. To him, Tracy and Lori epitomized blind, sleepwalking submission to conformity and conspicuous consumption. It was bad enough in people in general, but systemic forces of oppression seemed intent on making it obnoxiously acute in teenage women.

Andy was anxious to get to the matter of the vision that had frightened Deb. He had a suspicion that it was serious. And if he was correct in his hypothesis — it was a matter of life and death.

“Are you okay though, Bear?” Only Andy used this nickname for her. It was his own mispronunciation of Deborah from way back when they had shared a playpen. “You don’t seem yourself.”

“I just had a really bad dream.”

“Cool,” Andy said excitedly. His eyes widened under raised eyebrows. It didn’t come off as insensitive. He wanted to stay in character. He was worried it was already suspicious enough that he had just appeared here at this precise moment.

“Not cool at all!” there was no anger in the words, she knew Andy would be curious. Dreams and nightmares were right in his whacky wheelhouse of wild, way-out and weird.

“Andy –” her eyes filled with tears.

“A beautiful girl that looked like she was made from moonlight told me something terrible.”

“If it was just a dream Deb, why are you so upset?” He had seen the girl too — and though he had only seen her second-hand, as though through smoky, carnival glass, he had surmised as well that she was beautiful — like Jane Weidlin from the Go-Gos he thought. The absence of colour in the luminous dream-girl’s nature hinted at something to Andy — something altogether terrible.

But he had not heard what the moonlight girl had said. Curiosity consumed his attention and he was ill-prepared for what happened next.

The tears in Deb’s eyes burst forth and she threw herself into Andy’s arms.

“She told me Nick is going to die.” Deb had found refuge from her fear — just as she knew she would — in Andy Crowley’s embrace. The relief she felt was complete and as though to fill the void left by that fear departed, another feeling swept over her then.

But in that same moment, a dark chill ran through Andy.

“Nick!” His mind roared. “No!”

Instinctively, he put his fingers into the dark curls of Deb’s short hair and held her close. He did not have the presence of mind to know it, but he had re-entered the state of Mushin.

No-mind.

Love.

Love is the ocean in which the mystic, entirely immersed, swims like a fish. Acknowledging another so completely that attention on the fabrication of self ceases entirely is why love and bliss are one and the same.

Andy felt the physical unity between him and Deb now — and in defiance of all his mystical training, he felt an irresistible longing to succumb to attachment. His biological nature, his adolescence, took him.

The preeminent compulsion of The All — the drive to create and procreate, whether it be of art or life, in that moment become manifest in these two.

Every paradox Andy Crowley had ever explored was dwarfed by this one.

Was not his desire to not desire Deb Holcroft a desire as well?

She was flawless and beautiful to him in every conceivable way. Her raven black hair, too curly to part and feather like the other girls, was cut short and perfectly contrasted her untanned face. Her small, kind mouth and thin perfect nose submitted to the primacy of the soul of her eyes, timber-wolf-blue and wise, shining into the world and seeking out naught other than that same light, which shone from him.

“I love you, Andy,” she whispered into the pentacle on his RUSH concert shirt. Reflexively, he pulled her closer.

He loved her too. But he could not say the words. Fear caught them in his throat just shy of his lips.

“And I know you love me,” she said.

For an eternity that straddled joy and terror, they hovered beyond the world like this. Silent and uncertain upon that crossroads, theirs then was that timeless tortured blessing and glorious curse.

Eventually, “Don’t be afraid,” were the words that wound through Andy’s confusion out into their world of two.

Those words were enough for Deb today and Andy felt her smile through his shirt.

“It was just a bad dream,” he sounded genuine, though, increasingly, he did not believe they were true. Having dodged a bullet with Deb, his mind returned in earnest to the matter of Nick. He felt a pang of guilt that what had transpired between him and Deb had shoved the matter of his best friend’s death into the background.

Though Deb could not see it, the indigo light of his third eye came upon his brow and penetrated the veil between the planes of existence. Resting his chin upon the curls of her head and savouring the fragrance of her hair he struggled mightily to interpret the mythical references spelled out in Ogham: the Druid runes. Across the planes in a glade upon the realm of Fey, he read them now. They were carved into a birch tree, likely, he surmised, by the ancient and powerful Tuatha de Danan.

When he found what he sought, his soul froze. His fear was confirmed.

The monochromatic luminosity, the friendly, alluring feminine voice Deb had described, he had seen too. He wondered if she had noticed the other hallmarks. If she had, he assumed, she would not have discerned their significance. Even having seen the seven-pointed star broach, the fly-plaid, and the silver megaphone he had needed more to be sure. The Ogham of Fey had confirmed it. Deb had indeed seen a banshee: the Fey realm’s harbinger of certain death.

He swallowed hard.

“Nick will be fine,” Andy Crowley lied to the one he had just now discovered for certain was the love of his life — or rather, the one who would be were that possible for one committed to the ancient arcane disciplines.

“I know,” said Deb. She trusted him and was afraid of how much she had just risked sharing with the most important person in her life.

“I’m sorry,” suddenly and awkwardly she pushed him away and rolled her eyes in an attempt to make light of everything that had just happened between them.

Andy knew she was embarrassed about telling him how she felt and it made him feel that much worse for not telling her he loved her too.

“It’s cool Deb.” The smile he forced looked ridiculous.

“Totally,” he added only to fill the awkward silence that followed — and to add cover to the fact that now, he had lied to her twice.

It wasn’t cool at all that Deb had told him she loved him.

And it wasn’t cool at all that a banshee of Fey had told her his best friend was about to die.

To be continued

What is the Glass Grimoire?

”Just like the prophecy said he would, he came from magicless Earth…

Andy-1

‘It was a rectangle of light that could tell him anything anyone could ever want to know. The fruit of Eden, dreaded in prophecy from the dawn of the multiverse.”

The Banjoman, was solemn as he pondered the implications of What he was about to say. His bright eyes dimmed and he parted his red gunslinger mustache with the fingers of one hand. Then he whispered the words as though they were an affront to reality and should not have been uttered.

“It was The Glass Grimoire.”

Read the Andy Crowley Saga

 

 

Andy Crowley Saga: CHAPTER 1

“All know the drop merges into the ocean. Few know the ocean merges into the drop.”

~Kabir

 

Always, the freezing water poured in. Then, after the reflexive gasp for one last breath, every muscle stiffened in terror. Always, thousands of horrified screams came. Always, they were rife with hatred as much as fear.

“Atlan-Kol!” they screamed and he did not know what that meant. “Serpent!” they screamed as well. This he understood for it was in English tinged with some unrecognizable accent. And always, Andy Crowley knew somehow that the way they said serpent meant betrayer — and that, by betrayer, they meant him.

Then the handsome man would appear — a mariner in both style and comportment. At once alien and somehow familiar, he wore a dark blue cloak trimmed in silver embroidery. Always, there was the battle to retain dignity in the presence of this man in blue. Always — in the end — there was the loss of that battle and the shame. Then, finally, mercifully it seemed after the anguish of drowning, there was the peace of oblivion beyond the threshold of the construct of self in the embrace of the truth of The All.

The dream did not distress him now as it once had. Observing his breath, he fixed his third eye on Boromir’s horn on the Fellowship of the Ring poster over his bed. This was every morning now. The drowning dream happened every night.

The smell of bacon meant Ruby had come home last night. Excitement at seeing his sister pushed the dream completely from his mind.

From his vast collection of concert shirts, he chose Pink Floyd for today (they were Ruby’s favourite).

He just hoped she wouldn’t try to talk to him about mom and dad. Pausing for a moment he lamented his broken parents. Then he resolved to live in the moment. Why would he let even a fleeting thought of them befoul his mood? The drowning nightmare was behind him (at least for today) and the bliss of bacon was in his nostrils.

In his hallmark high-top sneakers, worn loose, tongues out, and laces suspended miraculously just this side of flailing every which way, Andy Crowley bounded down the stairs for big breakfast with his big sister.

~

 

Andy felt no malice for the people who facilitated the monstrosity of high school. He knew they meant no harm. But, understanding the damage it did, he could not help but resent the institution itself. As a learned mystic, he knew its true function: indoctrination into reductionism. By fostering the propensity to delineate reality into conceptual constructs, wolves in sheep’s clothing had rendered the masses vulnerable to the indentured servitude and conspicuous consumption that perpetuated and maintained the gilded cage they called civilization. Religion, countries, political parties — even the delusion of the distinct self — all served the same elite agenda: reduce the middle class to ego-drones stitching together costumes with shit from the mall paid for by selling their labour for a pittance.

He was not completely above humanity’s expulsion from Eden, but he had already learned enough in his esoteric research to resent what he saw. Going to school, he had surmised, was a lesser of evils thing. There were few other tolerable alternatives in this society and so it made sense to work on not being resentful about having to participate in the petty, narcissistic nonsense of it all.

For now, he took to listening to music to distract himself from his estrangement from his culture and he found some escape from it in philosophical conversation with the malcontents in the smoking area and at the arcade. Andy Crowley’s true education was such that he was an empathetic and compassionate soul. He did have friends; and his neighbours Deb Holcroft, Nick Morris, and the guys he played Dungeons & Dragons on Friday nights had become even more important to him after his parents had left him with Ruby.

Today had been a successful one as far as high school goes. He had skipped physics without getting caught and had reclaimed high score on Mario’s Bros. at the arcade.

His mind was free to spend the bus ride home mulling over the drowning dream and the man in blue again.

Having become somewhat accustomed to the once overwhelming horror of drowning he had begun to piece together the notion that the man in blue, the mariner, was calling to him. More and more Andy was getting the impression that the stranger wanted him to accompany him somewhere. Was this a breakthrough or was it wishful thinking? A plan to visit the astral plane where it intersected with the realm of sleep began to form in his mind.

He leaned his head against the rattling window and thought of slipping into meditation to enhance his objectivity on the matter.

This too was a problem he had come to understand about Western culture in his training. The diminishment of awareness of truth and reality resulting from over-emphasis on selective perception of conceptions used to fabricate and sustain ego.

Meditation was at the heart of the mystic’s education. Mindful awareness of the present moment was the basis from which manipulation of probability (a practice known as sorcery) was possible. Andy had given up smoking in the summer going into Grade nine because he found his meditation sessions went deeper and longer without the nicotine in his system. And since meditation was the only means by which he could access the aetheric echo of the ancient library at Alexandria, enhancing his capacity for it had become his highest priority. He had quit drinking too. Seeing what booze had done to his dad had made that even easier than giving up cigarettes.

Quitting smoking — or perhaps, he hypothesized, the unconscious refinement of his physiological systems from being such an accomplished meditator — had rid him of all the baby fat he had lugged through most of elementary school. Such was his transformation over the summer that Andy had begun to attract the attention of girls. Not that he would notice — or care. He regarded sexuality as contrary to his commitment to development as a sorcerer. Suffice it to say, two weeks into his first year of high school, some of the girls had taken notice of the new Andy Crowley.

To make matters worse, Scott St. Pierre had noticed that the girls had noticed.

The bus hadn’t even turned out of the school parking lot…

“Anzy!” St. Pierre’s voice pierced the headphones of Andy’s Walkman. Even Geddy Lee’s vocals cranked to ten couldn’t keep it out.

In Grade Two, Ray Barker — noting Andy’s challenges with his weight and his proclivity for black and white baseball-style concert shirts — had come up with the monicker “Andy Panda”. Over time, after Andy’s passive responses, first to that name, then to the punching and kicking that eventually accompanied it, Scott St. Pierre had come up with “Andy Pansy”. Evolution being what it is, this came to be shortened to just ‘Anzy”.

Andy had come to accept it. Violence is anathema to mystic sensibilities. When the bullying came, he just considered the source. Pity was more logical than revenge. Forgiveness was the stuff of salvation. Detachment was the stuff of enlightenment. All was one. Antagonism was contrary to the ultimate truth of being.

But today was different. He was not himself. The shit with his parents. The nightly drowning, death, destruction, and hate. No, he was not himself at all. And something was wrong. Something was physiologically, primally wrong.

Andy Crowley removed his headphones, leaned forward against the green vinyl seat in front of him, and hung his head to hide his face. Closing his eyes he caused the perception of the arrow of time to slow for him relative to everyone else, not just on the bus pulling out of Quinte Secondary School, but on the entirety of the blue-green jewel called Sanctuary across the multiverse, but known only by variations on the name Earth by its native inhabitants.

He had never attempted what he was about to do outside of the magic circle from the Clavicula Salomonis he had carved into his bedroom floor and filled with powdered iron and silver when his parents moved out.

And though only an instant passed for everyone else, what felt like a lifetime of suppressed fury cascaded into Andy’s mind. A lifetime of judgment, diminishment, and ridicule all at once.

“Atlan-Kol!” roared in his head. “Serpent!” A father tortured by reductionism and consumed by the false solace of alcohol; a mother tortured by reductionism and consumed by the false solace of church. A sister who felt she needed to take their place and should have been enjoying her youth instead of feeling the weight of that responsibility. The mariner in blue. The terrifying, sleepless nights. The consumerist indoctrination and fashion show that was high school.

With labels and divisions we will make them sad and lonely and afraid, and if they are sad and lonely and afraid they will shop.

He’d had enough.

He reached into his pocket and fumbled through the five Platonic geometric forms he always carried there. He found the 20-sided icosahedron, squeezed it in his fist, and extended his forefinger, third finger and pinky into the Shunya mudra that would help open the heart chakra. Turning his consciousness inward, he hurled himself headlong toward the center of his being. Leaving the annamaya kosha of the physical plane behind, he rocketed beyond the vijnanamaya kosha, beyond even the manomaya kosha, into the anandamaya kosha. Had he not trained so rigorously to resist the allure of the bliss to be found here, this is where the journey would have ended. From here he hovered at the mouth of the Moebius bridge beyond which the delta quanta churned in the probability vortices at the very heart of spacetimemind. Here, at the edge of being, the thin sliver of the patchwork of concepts that had become the construct known as Andy Crowley resisted another overwhelming compulsion to let go of the nonsense of self and so know ultimate truth. Here, nowhere and everywhere at once, Andy curled his toes over the edge of the abyss where deepest within and farthest beyond were indistinguishable; where imagination and manifestation were interchangeable equivalencies; where thought and reality were one and the same. Focusing his intention to summon the delta quanta across the Moebius bridge, then channeling it through his aetheric body and on to the material plane, he would twist form and fate alike to spell out a new reality in accordance with his desires. Subtly, he shifted the 20-sided die in his pocket while the finger that pressed it against his palm sought out the grooves of the number 20 that was engraved in one side.

Inaudibly, he began mouthing the incantation that would cause every one of Scott St. Pierre’s teeth to fall out all at once.

When the pad of his middle finger found the 20 the die grew cold in his hand. So cold there would have been pain — were pain possible here, beyond all such labels and concepts.

A wide grin split Andy Crowley’s long angular face.

None on the bus saw his strange eyes — one, the blue of a sunlit ocean, one, the colour of roaring fire reflected in Martian gold — roll upward and inward to connect with the true sight of his third eye. Only the white eyes of the wizard’s gaze would have been seen by his schoolmates. But his head was down. His eyes were closed. And his long pale gold hair hung about his face. The darting indigo glare of his twitching, penetrating third eye came then upon on his forehead.

Suddenly then, as though across an incredible span of spacetime, like a lightning bolt into his soul, he heard Deb’s anguished voice. In an instant, reason returned and that small part of him that remained Andy Crowley rather than all things everywhere, remembered where he was and who sat beside him on the bus.

Paradoxically collapsing downward and exploding upward onto the material plane of everyday, waking existence, he silenced his mind, gathered together his identity and returned.

What had happened! A momentary lapse of reason? Hormones? Had he really just let a schoolyard bully push his buttons and reduce him to this!

Andy didn’t have time to admonish himself. This failure of discipline had already almost cost him everything. Deb could never know what he could do. He must maintain his composure. Detach. Forgive. Let go.

“Anzy, can speak for himself.” he heard Scott say.

“Jesus Scott, you need to let Grade Three go,” said Deb. “Do you need Nick to kick the shit out of you again?”

Scott St. Pierre’s face blanched before it reddened. “I need Anzy to fight his own battles, Deb,” he said.

“You need to not be a loser, Scott.” As Deb said it, she noticed Scott’s eyes surveilling the bus behind them. He was looking for Nick and when he discovered Nick had stayed at school for basketball, the situation was going to get worse fast. Deb shot a nervous glance at Andy. His head was down against the bench seat in front of them. His hands were I his pockets. Everyone would think he was cowering. But she had known Andy Crowley longer than she had known anyone else. She was catching a really scary vibe. Was this day he lost it? He could not maintain his legendary composure forever. Especially someone who had been through so much. Deb’s heart ached for him. She determined the best course was to keep Scott busy.

“Why don’t you –,” Deb stopped short when Andy casually sat up in his seat.

“Scott,” There was not even a hint of anger in Andy’s voice. Quite the opposite in fact. Cool wasn’t the word for it. Though he had almost whispered the words, every eye on the bus was on him now.

“Sit down.” If possible there was even more serenity in these words. A shiver ran up Deb’s spine and she wasn’t sure if it was a good shiver or a bad one. It was something completely new. The way Andy talked made her think of Sir Alec Guinness in Star Wars. “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

Scott’s jaw went slack such that no words could come into it. His face was a mask of bewilderment. Then, with a muffled grunt, and a quizzical jerk of his head, he just turned, sat down, and tried to disappear into the worn green vinyl of the bus seat no one ever shared with him.

As though it was the only choice they had, everyone else on the bus turned away and pretended to go back to their own after-school conversations and plan-making. But Andy Crowley knew different. He knew all the murmuring on the bus was about him now.

Deb’s expression was one of astonished approval. She pressed her lips together in that tight smile that says I have no words in a good way and she gently shook her head to convey amazement.

After a long pause “You rock Andy,” was all she managed to say. And for Andy Crowley, the way Deb Holcroft — his friend for as far back as his memory went — patted his knee said way more than words ever could.

What’s happening to him? She thought; and the confusion she felt in that moment was the very best kind: that dizzying, disorienting turmoil that is more delicious than distressing.

Andy Crowley went back to listening to side two of Hemispheres by Rush. He tried desperately to ignore what he had seen on Deb’s face.

Is it possible? He thought. He really didn’t want it to be possible. Not really.

He had to focus. With his breakthrough on the mystery of the mariner in blue, he didn’t have time for Scott St. Pierre. He didn’t have time for any of the collection of nonsense that was high school. He didn’t have time to fall in love with –

Then, in a moment of honesty with himself, he knew fear. No matter what he told himself, he would always have time for Deb.

A new kind of panic set in. A pleasing panic with tinges of bright green magic on its edges. Then, in spite of himself, Andy Crowley grinned as he watched Scott St. Pierre get up and walk off the bus. No middle finger to the crowd. No smart-ass comment today. He didn’t even look back.

~

TO BE CONTINUED
in Chapter 2
Friday, September 7
7:00 p.m. EST

Andy Crowley Saga: PROLOGUE

 

“The infinite mind of The All is the womb of universes.”

~ the Kybalion

 

The wild-eyed sea captain dropped to his knees on the white beach and savoured the caress of the cool wind on his sun-ravaged face. Closing his eyes, he let the rush of triumph consume him entirely.

Three of his haggard crewmen and the rowboat they dragged onto the sand were all that remained of his Arcturian clipper and her crew of eighty-five that had disembarked from Denlar.

How long had it taken him to get here to claim The Glass Grimoire: the prize of prizes? More than a year to be sure – but the specifics now eluded his ruined mind.

He fell into the hot sand and wept. His crewmen, having secured the landing craft, dared not approach him. Instead, they sat on the beach to watch the remaining third of the Sojourner – their home and their curse – slip beneath the Cartigian Sea.

The sailors whispered to one another about starting to look for wood but decided instead to stay where they were lest they incur the wrath of their now-wretched master.

The captain regarded the tree line of the tropical island. Blue pines, 200-feet-tall, lined the beach. Were it not for the heat and the murmur of the surf, he could have mistaken the scene for a memory of his childhood in the Northern realms of Plaxus Main. The thoughts of his youth fanned the fire in his heart to a roaring flame. He put a hand on the Culduran cutlass at his side and launched his emaciated, nearly naked form to its full height.

With failing vision he scanned the beach and spotted the peninsula roughly a mile distant. It lay about ten feet across and stretched about a quarter-mile out to sea. At its farthest reach, a solitary pine clung to the rocks. Bent seaward by the wind off the island’s mountains, it pointed like a gnarled sea hag’s finger out to the sea.

Without heed for the crewmen sitting behind him in the sand, he took the first step in the last leg of his journey toward his destiny. The pain of the scars of battle, the agony of thirst and starvation, and the torture of a conscience fragmented and rotten by the things he had done to get to this moment were forgotten. Now, there was only his future – the glorious future of one bold enough to finally possess The Glass Grimoire – a future of vigorous health and unlimited power.

Out on the peninsula, his hunger for his prize took him in earnest. Were moisture available to his dehydrated body he would have wept tears of joy, would have slobbered like his lost ship’s beloved mastiff while he scrabbled frantically across the rocks on bleeding hands and knees.

When finally he came upon the tree, no capacity for pain or suffering remained. There was only a vacuous kind of ecstasy — and a sensation entirely new to him, touching gently, enticingly, upon the fringes of his mind.

Squatting, and slack-jawed now, finally, he regarded the mysterious, ancient tree with the awe of a religious zealot come face-to-face with his god.

It had grey bark that was not quite silver in that glorious, subdued patina of heirloom armour, ancient and proven. Though it was said to be old beyond reckoning, it was thin and whimsical in form. Working up the courage to reach out to a low-hanging branch, the mariner found the needles to be soft to the touch. They were a green that reflected the sea, but with an inclination of the eye or a change in the light of the sky they could also take on a cool tinge of blue.

Then, the gentle touch he had felt encroached inward through a slow-swelling madness. Reluctantly at first, he accepted it into his mind, for it was soothing and inviting.

And he knew then that the mind that was touching his was indeed the legendary intellect of The Grimoire itself.

Through the wonder that had replaced the ecstasy, he now felt that it was sharing with him. Kindly, politely, it began urging him to stop being who he was. It appealed to him to forsake his delusion of self – the delusion of all humanity. The sea captain’s mind began to sing with notions he had never before even begun to entertain: no beginning or end, no here or there, no me or you, no us or them.

And though he was at peace in his mind, he began shaking violently. Walking became difficult on the uneven footing of the rocky ground. His vision tunneled to a pinprick. Then, beneath the ecstasy of victory mingled with the grace of the mind now in his, a subtle fear emerged deep within.

He struggled over the rocks and around the ancient pine to stand with his back to the sea. Some portion of his mind, perhaps the small sliver that was still him, reflected on the beauty of the ocean for the last time. And then he saw it.

The Glass Grimoire.

It was embedded in the tree about four feet from the ground. A glass rectangle with slightly rounded corners, it was roughly the size of a deck of cards, though stretched along its height. A thin border of grey metal rimmed the flat glass. It was much smaller than he imagined it would be.

It appeared as though the tree had grown up around it, embracing, nurturing and protecting it over millennia. He thought on this. Perhaps the mind of nature coveted the vast arcane knowledge contained within the Grimoire as fiercely as did as the minds of gods and men. Now that knowledge, and all the power that came with it, would be his.

He reached to The Grimoire and felt it connect with him even before his finger touched the glass. There was an otherworldly chiming sound that was almost mechanical.

Then he – at least he as he had regarded himself since childhood – was gone.

The sensation was not unpleasant. For in that instant he was everyone, everywhere, everywhen. There was a blinding – or was it totally illuminating – light. Then there was nothing – or was it everything – just with all the borders removed?

The only witnesses to the end of the captain’s quest were the whistling blue Cartigian seabirds. And caring not at all about what had transpired, they saw the decrepit waif of a sea captain transformed instantly into a cloud of sparkling white sand that was borne upon a swirling breeze to be laid upon the beach with the rest.

The crewmen who had not dared disturb their master’s final triumph experienced the same momentary peace before they too became sand upon that beach.

Within the tree, beneath the rectangle of glass known for millennia across the multiverse as The Glass Grimoire, a small symbol appeared: a stylized fruit. It was grey in colour and rendered to convey that a bite had been taken from it.

The Grimoire did not belong to this brave captain or his men. It belonged to another man: a man who would not be born for another eight thousand years.

For a few more seconds, the bitten-fruit icon remained behind the glass.

Then, the quiet chime sounded again and it was gone.