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Smashwords — Spiritus Mundi – Book II: The Romance — A book by Robert Sheppard

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Robert Sheppard’s thriller novel, Spiritus Mundi, is an unforgettable read and epic journey bringing to life the sexual and spiritual lives of struggling global idealists overcoming despair, nuclear terrorism, espionage and a threatened World War…

Robert Sheppard‘s insight:

Spiritus Mundi–Book II: The Romance is now Available on Smashwords!—-Check It Out Now!

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Fantastic Voyage: Collected Naval Diaries, Ships Logs and Correspondence of Admiral Sir George Rose Sartorius (1780-1875)———————Excerpt from the Novel, Spiritus Mundi by Robert Sheppard

Related Links and Websites: Spiritus Mundi, Novel by Robert Sheppard

For Introduction and Overview of the Novel: https://spiritusmundinovel.wordpress.com/

For Author’s Blog: https://robertalexandersheppard.wordpress.com/

To Read a Sample Chapter from Spiritus Mundi: https://spiritusmundisamplechapters.wordpress.com/

To Read Fantasy, Myth and Magical Realism Excerpts from Spiritus Mundi: https://spiritusmundifantasymythandmagicalrealism.wordpress.com/

To Read Sexual Excerpts from Spiritus Mundi: The Varieties of Sexul Experience: https://spiritusmundivarietiesofsexualexperience.wordpress.com/

To Read Spy, Espionage and Counter-terrorism Thriller Excerpts from Spiritus Mundi: http://spiritusmundispyespionagecounterterrorism.wordpress.com/

To Read Geopolitical and World War Three Excerpts from Spiritus Mundi: https://spiritusmundigeopoliticalworldwar3.wordpress.com/

To Read Spiritual and Religious Excerpts from Spiritus Mundi: https://spiritusmundionspiritualityandreligion.wordpress.com/

To Read about the Global Campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly in Spiritus Mundi: https://spiritusmundiunitednationsparliamentaryassembly.wordpress.com/

To Read Poetry from Spiritus Mundihttps://spiritusmundipoetry.wordpress.com/

For Discussions on World Literature and Literary Criticism in Spiritus Mundi: http://worldliteratureandliterarycriticism.wordpress.com/

For Discussions of World History and World Civilization in Spiritus Mundi: https://worldhistoryandcivilizationspiritusmundi.wordpress.com/

To Read the Blog of Eva Strong from Spiritus Mundi: https://evasblogfromspiritusmundi.wordpress.com/

To Read the Blog of Andreas Sarkozy from Spiritus Mundi: http://andreasblogfromspiritusmundi.wordpress.com/

To Read the Blog of Robert Sartorius from Spiritus Mundi: http://sartoriusblogfromspiritusmundi.wordpress.com/

 

Note: The following novella appeared as one chapter in the new novel, Spiritus Mundi by Robert Sheppard. The novel focuses on the odyssey of Robert Sartorius, the leader of a global campaign to establish a  United Nations Parliamentary Assembly during which he takes a scuba diving trip to the Maldive Islands to discover the shipwreck once captained by his ancestor, Admiral Sir George Rose Sartorius. Prior to diving on the wreck he reads the following book published by his family precursor, and doing so finds himself, midway on an odyssey around the world, in a new odyssey in time, transiting past and present.  (For more background follow the above links.)

 

 

 

Collected Naval Diaries, Ships Logs and Correspondence of Admiral Sir George Rose Sartorius (1780-1875)

 

Complete in Seven Volumes

With Maps, Illustrations and Other Plates

 

LONDON:

 

Printed for

LONGMAN, HURST, REES, ORME & BROWNE

Paternoster-Row

1881

 

     Sartorius began to leaf through the Contents and beginning chapters. He knew that Admiral Sartorius had been decorated at the Battle of Trafalgar where he served under Lord Nelson. He glanced through the entries for those early dates: 1798-1805, beginning with the first:

“17 March 1798—Plymouth. I have shipped as Midshipman aboard the HMS Bellerophon under Captain Henry D’Esterre Darby. Though I have sailed as a child from India to England this is my first voyage in service aboard a Royal Navy vessel. Though my sailing knowledge and skill is but limited I am determined to learn under Captain Darby, who is a kind sea-father to us green Midshipmen. I am commanded to take charge of a gunnery crew on the upper gun deck. I order the men to attention and prepare awkwardly to take charge of the men of my first command, I being but 18 years if age and the first time at sea. I put on a front and assemble them for close inspection and drill….I get my first look at my men face-to-face………some wearing broad striped trousers, some plain sailcloth; some had fine red waistcoats and some ordinary blue jackets; some wore tarpaulin hats, in spite of the heat, some broad straws, and some spotted handkerchiefs tied over their heads; but they all of them had long swinging pigtails and they all had the indefinable air of man-of-war’s men. They were Bellerophons, and I looked at them hungrily as they padded by.

We are ordered to proceed to Gibraltar, then to Naples to join Admiral Nelson’s fleet, and thence to pursue Napoleon’s fleet to interdict their new campaign in Egypt, which is designed to cut our communications and join with the Mogul resistance to undermine our empire in India. Life aboard the ship-o-the-line is a new world to me, as is the command of the seamen, though most are older and more experienced than I. The men are high spirited and proud to be on the ship, which they call the “Billy Ruff’n” —short for “Billy Ruffian” for her glorious and aggressive battle history and spirit. We aim to bloody Napoleon’s nose in Egypt. Like the Bellerophon of old who rode Pegasus the winged horse to defeat the Chimera, we aim to show Napoleon’s power is but a show and chimera which the winged sails and cannon of the Royal Fleet will soon put paid.”

“August 1-2, 1798—Abu Qir Bay, Egypt-The Battle of the Nile—We are approaching the French Fleet—-chained and anchored in Abu Qir Bay, in a dangerous night attack. Captain Foley of the Goliath will try to sail through a breach in the shoals and attack the French Fleet at anchor from the rear while we follow Nelson in the the Vanguard to take the main line parallel to the French line for a frontal assault. Bellerophon will live up to her name as the chief dragon-slayer by engaging the French flagship L’Orient, though she is bigger and outguns us. We will rely on our seamanship and valor, and hope the Goliath and her squadron can surprise them from the rear as we attack head-on.

   I am frightened to death but I cannot show it to others, let alone the men I command. I am in charge of a line of cannon on the upper gun deck—we must aim and time the shots and reload more quickly than the French can. We have practiced for weeks and now is the moment of truth. The noise is incredible—-I am shouting and cannot even hear myself but somehow the men know what to hear and follow—all training and conditioning. I am terrified as the French shot smashes hole after hole splintering our hull and deck, killing my first gunner. I take over his duties as I shout commands at the others. The L’Orient is on fire and taking fire from the opposite side—-Goliath has gotten through!  L’Orient fires salvo after salvo nonetheless and an immense and thundering crash follows as our main mast comes smashing down and we are unable to maneuver and drift out towards the bay. I am commanding my men to put out the fires—-we have to stop them before they reach our powder magazines. We drift helplessly away from the line with our masts and rudder damaged, but we see the French Fleet under fire from both sides and ship after ship of theirs bursting into flames. Alexander and Swiftsure rush past us and fire fatal salvos and broadsides into L’Orient. I rush atop the deck with the men putting out fires. I look across the flaming waters and see on the deck of L’Orient staring back at me the face of a French boy of my own age in a midshipman’s uniform who looks so much like me that I feel I am looking into a mirror. He is trapped by the flames. He is staring back at me and there is a moment of mutual recognition. The boy stood on the burning deck…….then suddenly the whole world and the sky above it shudders at the incredible sight of L’Orient’s powder magazines exploding and the bits and pieces of mast, deck, sail and bits of human bodies flying hundreds of feet into the air and showering down upon us. We rush to put out small fires in the sails, and the French boy’s charred and severed leg falls and hits me square on the back, knocking me flat. I cannot talk of it but I have seen the horror of death for the first time, and it is a long time before I can deal with the reality of that reality. In the morning we know that we have achieved a great victory—but God what the price. Captain Darby is seriously wounded but recuperating belowdecks, and my arm is in a sling from a stray bit of shrapnel. The ship is unseaworthy and will need to be temporarily repaired, jerry-rigged and then proceed under tow to Istanbul for heavy repairs. A cutter from the Vanguard comes alongside with a letter from Admiral Nelson, which I retrieve and carry to Captain Darby, which he hands back to me after I have read it:

 ‘My Dear Darby,

I grieve for your heavy loss of Brave fellows, but look at our glorious Victory. We will give you every assistance as soon as you join us, till then God Bless You. Our Band of Brothers thanks you for your courage and sacrafice and for our lives.

Ever yours faithfully,

Horatio Nelson

Aug 3rd 1798

We shall both I trust soon get well.’

 

 

I know that now I too have joined this “Band of Brothers” with all of its glory and misery, its honour and its shame. For better or worse I am part of it now.

 

October 2, 1798—Istanbul—The Sublime Porte—-Our ship HMS Bellerophon has been in drydock for two going on three months affecting repairs from the severe damage of the Battle of the Nile. The Ottoman Sultan is allied with us in his attempts to drive Napoleon and the French from Egypt and restore his soveriegnty and control over that land. Thus, we have been entertained as allies and heroes for these last two months in royal style, and the officers are smartly housed and entertained in the Embassy quarter and are taking in the considerable cultural lore of this strange but beautiful city—-Christian Constantinople for a thousand years and now Istanbul, Muslim capital of the Ottoman Empire. The officers enjoy the company of the diplomats of the several nations and occasionally organize travels to places of interest in the region.  The men for the most part are confined to the seaport areas, including the “Mile of Shame,” the enormous brothel district, and are degenerating under the infuence of the Asiatic pleasures of this great metropolis, with not a few succumbing to the temptations of the innumerable hashish and opium dens of the area. 

October 15, 1798—Adrianople—Ensign Montagu and I have ventured a journey to vacation on the banks of the Hebrus river. We were punting in that river when an unexpected wind and wave knocked me off balance and cast me into the waters. I thus had the romantic conclusion of swimming down the same river in which the severed musical head of Orpheus repeated verses of love and longing for Euridice even following its dismemberment while floating down the same current:

                                                –Caput a cervice revulsum,

                                                Gurgite cum medio portans Oeagrius Hebrus

                                                Volveret, Euridicean vox ipsa, et frigida lingua,

                                                Ah! Miseram Euridicen! Anima fugiente vocabat,

                                                Euridicen toto referebant flumine ripaeae.

 

                                                (Then, when his head from his shoulders torn,

                                                 Washed by the waters, was on Hebrus born,

                                                 Even then his trembling tongue, Euridice his bride invoked;

                                                 With his last voice, Euridice, he cried;

                                                 Euridice, the rocks and river-banks replied.

                                                                        Vergil’s Georgics)

                                               

I am at present writing this in a house situate on the banks of the Hebrus, which runs under my chamber window. My garden is full of tall cypress trees, upon the branches of which sit and sing several couples of the true turtles—the immortal pairs of turtledoves, singing sweet nothings to one another from dawn to dusk. Who can resist the temptations of romantic pastoral in a place like this? Ensign Montagu is a fair Latin and Greek scholar from Eton school and we share our books during our happy hiatus from the war. For miles above and around Adrianople the Turks have cultivated wonderful gardens and divert themselves every evening; not with walking in the tradition of Mr. Wordsworth and our romantics, but in a set party where a congenial group of neighbors choose out a green spot where the shade is thick, and they there spread out a handsome carpet on which they sit drinking their coffee and generally attended by some slave with a fine voice or who plays a lovely instrument. Every twenty yards one comes across one of these little companies ensconced on the river bank listening to the plashing of the river, and this taste is so universal that the very gardeners are not without it. I have seen them so often sitting on the banks and playing on a rural instrument perfectly answering to the description of the ancient fistula, or ‘pan-pipe’ being comprised of unequal reeds laced together with an agreeable softness of tone. There is not one instrument depicted on the Greek or Roman paintings, statues or vases which is not in present use in these environs. The gardeners are the only happy race of country people in Turkey. They furnish all the city and capital with fruits, fresh vegetables and herbs and seem to live very easily. They are most of them Greeks who have little houses in the midst of their gardens where their wives and daughters take a liberty not permitted in the Muslim towns—going unveiled—and amoung their faces are the lovliest one can dream of. Their faces are so beautiful and their manners so natural that I no longer look at Theocritus as a romantic writer but as a realist! I read over my Homer here with infinite pleasure—the ladies here call to mind the passages in which the great women and princesses pass their time at their looms embroidering veils and robes, surrounded by their maids, which are always very numerous—exactly as Homer describes Andromache and Helen. The snowy veil that Helen throws over her face is still fashionable here, and the description of the belt Menelaus wears exactly resembles those that are now worn by the great men, fasten’d before with broad golden clasps and embroider’d round with rich filligreed work. I never see half a dozen old bashaws with their reverend beards sitting and basking in the sun, but I recollect Good King Priam and his consellors. Their manner of dancing is the same that Diana is sung to have danc’d by Eurotas. The great lady leads the dance, followed by a troop of young girls who imitate her steps, and if she sings, make up the chorus. The tunes are extremely gay and lively, yet withsomething wistful in them wonderfully soft—a feeling they call Huzun. The steps are varied according to the pleasure of her who leads the dance, but always in exact time and infinitely more agreeable than any of our common dances, at least in my personal opinion. I sometimes join a party and make one of the train on the male side, but am not skillful enough to lead. These are Greek dances, the Turkish being very different.

                        We officers in our idleness during the repair of our ship are often in the company of the Embassy folk, and come into commerce with the people of the Court of the Sublime Porte. The vulgar Turk of the countryside here is very different from the Turkish language spoken at the Court, or amoung the people of figure, who always mix so much of the Arabic and Persian in their discourse that it may very well be called another language altogether. The country accent would be as out of place at the Topkapi or Sublime Porte Court as would the broad Yorkshire or London Cockney accent at the Court of St. James.

 

October 30, 1798—Adrianople—During our layover, our ship’s physician, Dr. Beattie has made some researches into the occasion of the smallpox here. He records an interesting pratice that may be of use. In the autumn when the heat has abated people send to one another to know if any in their family is of a mind to have the smallpox. They make parties for this purpose, commonly ten or fifteen or so, and when they are met an old woman comes around with a nutshell full of the best sort of matter transmitting the smallpox in a weakend state and asks what veins you wish to have opened. Then she sticks a needle into the nutshell and sticks each person in the desired part of the body, binding up the wound. The Greeks often have themselves stuck in the pattern of the Cross, or children on the upper arm or leg. After several days a slight fever is incurred, but very slight, and after two days it abates, leaving a small mark or scar at the point of the pinprick. Thereafter it is impossible for them to contract the fatal disease and they are saved for life!  Dr. Beattie call this process ‘inocuation’ and likens it to stimulating the natural defense mechanisms of the blood. He is writing a paper to propose the introduction of the practice in England. If there are no ill side effects it may be of great value he opines.

 

December 2, 1798—Istanbul—-Captain Darby has set a firm goal to finish the repairs, refitting and replenishing of the Bellerophon and to make port in Naples by Christmas. He has set us to work in extracting the men from their degenerating pleasures in the Lotus-land of brothels, hashish and opium dens and turning them into British sailors again. Every day is a regimen of close order drill, calesthenics, ships chores and repairs and maintainance. The men have all but forgotten their duties and each night several go missing and are only recovered from the brothels or brought out of their opium stupor by force of the Marine guard. The brig however cannot hold them all and their recuperation is but slow. Once at sea we shall get them back to form.  

 

“13 July 1801, Plymouth.—Set sail as Ensign upon the reknown ship HMS Adventure, under the command of Captain Nicholas Furneaux. Captain Furneaux is the son of Captain Tobias Furneaux who commanded the ship on its previous voyages around the world and towards the poles accompanying HMS Endeavor under Captain James Cook. I am in trepidation as to my own competencies but I am determined to learn my craft and build my future. Captain Furneaux is an experienced commander from whom I may learn much. He appears to me kind but strict in his discipline and a bit hard to approach personally, or at least for us younger fellows. Our mission is to follow-up on Cook’s voyages and chart the islands and currents of the south seas, and Pacific Ocean towards Australia, New Zealand, and the Polynesian Islands, conducting commercial and botanical surveys as we go and establishing commercial and colonial relations with the native peoples. We are charged with concluding treaties and taking actions aimed at excluding French shipping and influence from the area.”

Sartorious continued flipping and through the pages at random, skimming the contents and reading where he found the entries of interest:

“8 February 1802—We have navigated the Eastern coast of Australia and proceeded as far South as Van Damien’s Land (modern Tasmania) and entering the Bass Strait have circumnavigated that land, confirming it to be an island separate from the larger Australian continental mass. Having lost sight of HMS Dolphin in a dense fog and storm we proceeded to the rendezvous point on Queen Charlotte’s Sound of New Zealand, but failed to find her. Following some rumors amoung the native peoples we persued her down the coast but were blown off course by a violent storm and a week of adverse winds that carried us far from the North and South Islands of New Zealand and we were only able to save ourselves by putting in to harbor in a set of islands to the southeast known as the Chatham Islands at 43°53′S 176°31′W / 43.883°S 176.517°W / -43.883; -176.517 by my calculations by the chart and sextant, first discovered and placed upon the Admiralty charts by Captain Broughton of the HMS Chatham in 1791 a decade ago. The natives were the most friendly, humane and hospitable one could imagine. I and most of the crew were ill from dysentery and scurvy and the Captain put us ashore to recuperate, though in trepidation as to our safety. Such concerns proved wholly unfounded as the natives and our own physician nursed us back to health with the aid of kiwi and other citric fruits and we rapidly redcovered. The natives refused to take payment for their services, holding hospitality and rescue to those in need to be a sacred duty for which recompense would be a sin. I am sure that but for their help I would have died an early death on my first voyage. These people called themselves the Moriori, and I was thankful to them for my life.

(Author’s Note—Added July 1842: In re-reading my entry of 1802 in London this year I enquired with Captain Henry Howser of the HMS Brighton which had just returned from those parts and visited the Chatham Islands as to the fate of my benefactors, asking if several individuals who had saved my life were still alive and well.  The grim story of their Laestrygonian fate was chastening. A British ship having watered at the Chatham Isles and then returning to New Zealand, inadvertantly informed the Maori tribesmen of  New Zealand of their existence, of which they were previously ignorant, and of the extremely peaceful, docile, kind and defenseless condition of the native Moriori peoples on the Chatham Isles; on November 19, 1835, following a war council a Māori flotilla of war canoes departed the North Island of New Zealand carrying 500 Māori warriors armed with guns, clubs and axes arriving in the Chatham Isles shortly thereafter, followed by another on December 5, 1835 with a further 400 Māori. They proceeded to massacre the Moriori people en mass and without cause or provocation and to enslave the survivors. A Moriori survivor recalled to Captain Howser: “[The Māori] commenced to kill us like sheep…. [We] were terrified, fled to the bush, concealed ourselves in holes underground, and in any place to escape our enemies. It was of no avail; we were discovered and killed – men, women and children indiscriminately”. The Maori genocidally butchered the peaceful peoples who had nursed me back to life, cannibalizing and eating not a few of the men who had saved me, castrating and enslaving their sons and raping and taking posession of the remaining women and girls, some of whom involuntarily repopulated the isles with mixed-blooded children engendered by conquering Maori and some of whom where carried back to New Zealand as the Maori tribesmen’s prize slaves and sexual trophies. To Captain Howser’s questioning a Māori conqueror justified their actions as follows: “We took possession… in accordance with our customs and we caught all the people. Not one escaped…..”. After the invasion, Moriori were forbidden to marry Moriori, nor to have children with each other. Only sexual intercourse with Maori conquerors was allowed. All Moriori became slaves of the Ngati Tama and Ngati Mutunga Maori invaders. Many died from despair or from insanity leading to suicide.  Many Moriori women had mixed-blooded children to their Maori masters and had no choice but to raise and rear them in captivity.  A small amount of Moriori women eventually married either Maori or European men in later decades, only slightly avoiding the total extinction and extirpation of the Moriori people.  Many were taken from the Chathams and never returned. The fate of my benefactors and gentle friends was a holocaust and genocide of Biblical severity but without the benefit of any redeeming moral value or the reward of faith of a suffering Job—It was to my mind at that time the worst imaginable demonstration of man’s inhumanity to man and of the inexplicable absence of the intervening hand of any God, Christian or otherwise, or of any visible justice or moral order in the universe.”

21 October 1805—The Battle of Trafalgar—I am assigned as ship’s first officer to the HMS Polyphemus under the command of Captain Robert Redmill. Formerly under the command of Admiral Collingwood aboard the Euralyus, our fleet formed for the blockade off Cadiz, joined by the Neptune, Leviathan, Brittania, Ajax, Agamemnon, Minotaur, Mars, Achilles, Phoebe and Naiad. We then rendezvoused with the squadron under Admiral Lord Nelson, aboard the Victory, with Conqueror, and other ships of the line, who took over overall command from Collingwood. The six ships of the line dispatched to Gibralter did not return in time for the engagement.

Captain Redmill and I attend dinner with Admiral Nelson aboard the HMS Victory. Nelson reveals his overall plan and instructions for each ship. Nelson has overthrown the orthodox strategy of forming the fleet in one battle line and engaging parallel to the enemy’s single battle line. Known for his unorthodox strategies since the Battle of the Nile, he does not disappoint, though uncertainties abound. His plan is to divide the fleet into two parallel lines and attack perpendicularly to the line of the allied French and Spanish fleet. The tactic is to cut the enemy in two and overwhelm the isolated half by superior numbers, seamanship and training before the severed half of their fleet can come back to the rescue. This will involve “Crossing the T” or sailing perpendicularly across the line of advance of the enemy fleet and then enveloping and boarding them in individual ship-to-ship combat. The concept is sound in theory but dangerous in that the enemy can fire upon the front of our column before our broadside can cut across theirs. It is a big gamble. Nelson believes we must strike a decisive blow now to terminate the invasion flotilla capable of reaching England and isolating Napoleon upon the continent. Nelson is betting on the inexperience of the French and Spanish gunners and sailors leaving room for closing on the enemy before they can inflict serious harm. He gives each Captain maximum initiative and freedom of action to exploit the situation after the initial battle contact, knowing infinite permutations of chance outcomes in battle cannot be reduced to advanced planning. He trusts in his “Band of Brothers” the highly proficient and battle tested brotherhood of his sea Captains.

Nelson leads the weatherward line directly into the side of the French line, gloriously cutting the allied fleet in two, sailing behind the French flagship Beaucentaur and in front of the Redoubtable, raking the stern and bow of the two ships with a devastating broadside. Victory as the lead ship with Nelson aboard takes the brunt of the French fire and is demasted after her initial coup. Unknown to us Nelson himself is mortally wounded by sniper fire from the French masts.

     Captain Redmill directs the Polyphemus to follow on the line and attack the isolated French ships—I am in charge of the boarding party bound to mount and board the disabled French ships and seize them as prizes. Following the line we approach HMS Victory and find her in peril, about to be boarded by French marines from the Redoubtable. HMS Conqueror ahead of us rakes the Redoubtable with a broadside of grapeshot and cuts down one company of French marines. Another company readies to board Victory as we come along the opposite side of Redoubtable and board her just as the French attack is about to take Victory, forcing them to retreat to defend their own ship. Caught in a crossfire the French marines are cut down and gradually decimated, with heavy losses on both sides. I rush across the deck of Redoubtable and make my way with my Marines and sailors onto the deck of HMS Victory, cutting down man after man of the French Marines with pistol shot, cutlass and grenades, attempting to rescue Admiral Nelson from the French marine onslaught. Finally, lightly wounded in three places I press forward and we secure all three ships, taking the French ship in prize and I am able to locate Admiral Nelson below decks, discovering that he has been mortally wounded from French sniper fire from the mizzen.

     Finding him still alive and conscious, I announce to him that I am Lieutenant Sartorious of the Polyphemus and that we have secured the French man-o-war Redoubtable in prize and that the rescued Victory is secure, awaiting his orders. He is slow and deliberate in his speech, seeming to know that his wound is fatal.

     “The Polyphemus, you say?” dragged out Nelson painfully. “Well it takes one Cyclops to save another, eh?” he says to me, pointing with his one good hand to his one good eye to make the joke. “They have killed me this time I am afraid….” he continued, “….but the great thing is that this dying Cyclops has been enough to put a stake in the eye of The Great Cyclops—Napoleon—–with his one and only Dictator’s Eye focused on the One Goal of Power and More Power over all it beholds—–I am gone, but Napoleon’s evil eye is put out as sure as Polyphemus’s eye is put out sightless, and he will be fashioning no nore lightning bolts and tridents at sea to defeat us I think——Thank God I have done my Duty.” he groaned out, as Mr. Scott his Chaplain and Doctor Beattie, his physician motioned for me to leave him rest.

22 October 1805—Admiral Nelson before he died ordered me to tell Captain Redhill to engage, sink or and capture as many French and Spanish ships as possible and then to anchor in readiness for an expected storm the next day. We continued yesterday, through the night and this morning to engage, sink, board or capture the Pluton, the Achille, the Argonauta and the Neptune. At break of day the word is passed from ship to ship: Twenty-seven British ships of the lineled by Admiral Lord Nelson aboard HMS Victory have defeated thirty-three French and Spanish ships of the line capturing French Admiral Pierre Villeneuve off the south-west coast of Spain, just west of Cape Trafalgar. The Franco-Spanish fleet has lost twenty-two ships, without a single British vessel being lost. Except for the death of Admiral Nelson himself, heroic in the extreme, the victory is on the scale of Agincourt and we are inclined to bow down to God to give thanks for such a miracle. I am inclined to agree with Lord Nelson’s last words to me before he died—-“the Great Cyclops is blinded and stumbling towards his inevitable death, as I am as well. We shall all see each other in Hades soon—and know we have met both enemies and comrades worthy of ourselves.”

     Sartorius flipped to a later Volume and located the entries for the sinking of The Hayston:

“July 1, 1819—–The Hayston, is a three-mast vessel given to me as my second full command. It is but a middling, slow and older ship but I cannot but relish the pride of commanding her in my own right. We set out from Isle-de-France (nowadays Mauritius) for Calcutta on July 1, 1819. For several days bad weather had prevented us from taking any observations and on July 20 at 8pm, some reefs were noticed in the gloomy night darkness. There was little time to tack and the ship struck the reef on Maamakunudhoo Atoll on the north west of the Maldives. In the enveloping darkness within a quarter of an hour, there was seven feet of water in the hold and we were at the mercy of the elements.  
       By he next morning’s light we discovered we had run on to an enormous reef, as far as the eye could see, which turned out to be covered with water on the high tide. A small islet was seen by telescope 25 km away which we called the “Isle of Hope”. On the 22nd, three sailors tried to reach this isle by raft but were never seen again.
       On the 24th, all attempts at repair and recovery of the ship proving futile, every sailor was employed in building a raft large enough to carry us all, but when it was nearly completed the Lascar sailors cut the rope and sailed away. One man who tried to reach them, was threatened with an axe.
       The long boat was taken out from the ship but was damaged on the reef and went adrift with a woman and her two daughters and three men, who were never heard of again. Then the barge was launched and it was not long before she capsized and split on the reef.
       A Maldivian sailing boat was seen and appeared to be heading in our direction, so my first officer, Schultz, and some crew gave chase in a dinghy. After several hours rowing, they found they were separated from the boat by a big reef and it passed by without noticing our peril.
        Two more sailors, Serang and his brother, were separated from the remaining survivors when a raft on which they were paddling between the reef and the shipwreck, was caught in the current and drifted away to the south east. In another accident, a rope was stretched between the reef and the ship and a young boy died trying to return to the ship.
        Finally, on the 26th Schultz and the remaining crew embarked on three makeshift rafts for the Isle of Hope which they obtained. I and two sailors were the last on the ship and we continued constructing a final raft and loading it with necessary supplies for our survival. On the 27th we abandoned the Hayston for good and set off for the Isle of Hope. Just then a tropical squall rose up and blew us in the opposite direction. Then things worsened to a gale and our raft was blown up against the coral reefs and shattered, killing the two crewmen. I was left adrift clinging to a single wooden spar from the raft, and the coral had torn my very clothes to shreds, leaving me naked on the face of the sea, with only a goatskin of wine strapped across my back which I had managed to preserve.

     For two days I drifted, lashing my body to the wooden spar with the remaining strand of rope attached to it from the raft. After that I had used up all the wine in the goatskin and began to become delirious from the sun, the sea and the lack of fresh water. Finally, after I know not how much time I drifted into sight of an island. Knowing this to be my only chance for survival I used the last desperate reserve of my remaining strength to swim towards the shore at a point I could see a small stream emptying into the ocean. Obtaining the beach I used my last remaining strength to crawl and pull myself up to the mouth of the stream and take mouthful after desperate mouthful of fresh water. I then collapsed into an unconscious sleep of an unknown seeming eternity in the underbrush grown thick by the banks of the freshwater stream.

I was awakened by the sound of voices coming from the freshwater pool at the mouth of the stream. I was still concealed in the underbrush of the neighboring thicket and heard the voices rising and falling from a distance of a hundred feet. I did not know if the natives would prove to be kind as the Moriori on the Chathams or prove to be cannibals or murderers of the like we discovered on Borneo and other islands, so I thought it best to keep myself concealed until I could spy out their natures and character.

Peering out of the underbrush I observed the male party depart down the shore and enter their canoes with their fishing tackle, leaving the female party at the freshwater pool washing their clothes. At length, the girls tired of their work and began to eat a picnic they had brought with them, then most began to engage in a game of ball tossing and kicking in the clearing next to the pool. The party comprised about twenty young women and girls, and they seemed to follow the one taller one of extraordinary beauty and long sculptured legs wearing a wreath of flowers about her kneck and chest and with another ring of flowers about her head. They would throw and kick the ball gaily, with some younger of the girls calling to the taller leader, pleading to have the ball thrown to them, calling out her name:  “Nooaysua!………Nooaysua!”

     I wondered how I might approach them and gain their confidence without frightening them away. This was no easy matter as I observed my total nakedness and my body covered with the slime and brine of the sea and the dirt of the streambank, my lips cracked from the sun, my hair matted and my skin reddened with sunburnt exposure and not a few cuts and bruises—a frightful if not monstrous appearance to anyone.

     Then as chance might have it, one girl kicked the ball awry and it landed in the bushes not far from me, hidden in the underbrush. A cry of dismay rose up collectively from the girls’ voices and several of them went to hunt for it. Bowing to necessity and having no other choice I broke off some limbs of the surrounding bushes and held them in front of me covering my privates, seized the ball and made my way out of the thicket of bush, holding the ball out towards the girls in offering, and calling out the only word I recognized in their language, the name of the young princess: “Nooaysua……Please, Don’t be afraid…….Nooaysua!…………..”

     Needless to say, there was a collective shriek of terror and a scampering and sprinting of desperate female limbs over the hillock in the opposite direction. In the clearing there remained but one form. The princess, Nooaysua, retained her position, though breathing heavily and took me in in her composure, frightened, but not giving in to fright. I smiled and bowed to her and tried to talk to her in English, not knowing but a word of her own language. I held out the ball from a distance and then tried to explain to her how I had come to that shore, knowing she could not understand my words but that she could perhaps follow my gestures and pointing. I pointed to the ball and rolled it to her feet, then bowed low to her to assure her of my peaceful intentions. I asked for help in English and tried to act out a pantomime to illustrate my predicament, then mad gestures of prayer and supplication and sat upon a large stone, covering myself with the branches of bush.

     Little by little she overcame her shock and began to take me in and understand my gestures. Luckily I was able to impress her of my peaceful intentions. She picked up the ball and made a gesture of thankfulness, then turned and walked away in the direction the women had run. I peered after her and saw their huddled faces behing a row of trees at the top of the hillock. She walked to the top of the hillock and made council with them for twenty minutes. Then she returned, marching at the head of her troupe and directed some of them to fetch food and water and a set of their men’s clothes for me to put on, and some kind of soap they used for washing.  I remained seated on the large stones and they placed these offerings on another stone ten feet in front of me, then backed off a hundred paces. I approached the food and began to eat. I was ravenously hungry and could hardly control myself, but I had enough self-control left that I kept myself in a minimum appearance of civility so as not to frighten them with savagery. I bowed and gestured thanks to them from a distance, then retired to the freshwater pool to wash and clean myself and put on the clothing they had given me.

     Reemerging, to their gaze apparently reborn and reincarnated in human form, I again approached the troupe of women and bowed and gestured thanks to their Princess, Nooaysua, thanking her by name, smiling and speaking to them in English and in the international language of gesture and tone.  After this, they gave me further food to eat and stared at me as a creature from another planet as I tried to talk to them in my language.

 I fingered the only possession of my former existence which I had left, a locket around my neck composed of a single silver rose upon a small iron-cross crucifix which opened to show the engraved portrait of my fiancée, Molly. Molly had had it specially made for me, and gave it to me on the eve of my departure on this latest voyage. The Silver Rose was a token of both her Rosicrucian religious beliefs and a reference to my middle name. I looked at it as I ate, recalling to mind her beautiful eyes. I turned it over and read the inscription on the back: “’From Molly to her beloved George Rose—Amour Vincet Omnia’—Hermes Jewellers, London.”

Nooaysua then motioned me in the direction of their village and the troupe gathered all their belongings together, which they placed in baskets on their heads, and then moved off in single file after the Princess in the direction of the village. We walked about an hour over several rises and ridges until I could see the outlines of the village in the valley below. Then Nooaysua motioned me to stop and wait in the clearing at the top of the hill overlooking the village. It would be evidently embarrassing to their womanly honor to be alone in the presence of a strange man, so they resolved to return alone and then tell Nooaysua’s father, the Village Chief, and the council of elders that they had chanced to see a peaceful stranger and ask them to come out to meet me.

     An hour later the Chief came out at the head of an hundred armed menfolk, dressed in his ceremonial robes and with an elaborate headdress of tropical bird feathers trailing down his back to his feet. After some gestures and pantomimed formalities we were able to communicate roughly, he recognizing a smattering of Arabic language that I had picked up in my stay in the Ottoman capital. He indicated that he would send a canoe to the chief atoll of Male a few hundred miles distant and inform the Sultan of my presence and condition and await the Sultan’s commands. In the meantime I would remain his guest. Afterwards, I was led into the village and given a hut to stay in, and a grand feast was prepared at which I ate and drank copiously of baked fish, Tuna rolls, yams and coconut wine, after which the troupe of women performed some rough singing and dancing which was nonetheless sublime to me emerging from my recent distress. Finally I slept for an entire day and was cared for by some of the girls of the troupe while I lay abed for several days recovering my strength. Over many weeks I remained the guest of Princess Nooaysua and her kind father Chief Alcinoukuykuy and mother Aretekuykuy, on this the Island of Maamakunudhooscherie, and enjoyed the simple but generous hospitality of these humane and kind fishing people, learning to appreciate their way of life and human warmth, and managing to pick up some bits of their language. I learned to appreciate their natural humanity, courage and nobility of heart which could put to shame the pretense of character of three fourths of the titled so-called ‘nobility’ I have come to know in our so-called civilized world.  

August 15, 1819—–Fortunately for the possibilities of communication during my stay, two weeks after my arrival a local Arabic scholar and minor local official from a neighboring atoll arrived who had been giving intermittent Arabic lessons to Princess Nooaysua in her father’s hope that with such cultivation she would become a candidate to become one of the Sultan’s wives and thereby be elevated into the royal family of the atoll archipeligo. With the help of his Arabic books and his third-hand acquaintance with French allowing a crutch through translation, and building on my foundations from my stay in Istanbul in the Turkic, Persian and Arabic languages in use at that court,  I was able to pick up a rough competency in rudimentaryArabic. The teacher’s name was Billali, and he proved to be a friendly and well-disposed septuagenarian pedagogue, though somewhat hidebound from age in body and mind. He had nonetheless traveled widely in the South Asian seas and knew quite a bit about its customs, history, peoples and lore. He himself had spent occasional sojourns at the palace of the Sultan and was a living archive of the local history. In addition he was the appointed local archivist on behalf of the Sultan in this remote corner of his realm, and kept local records of contacts with ships and important local events. He was also an official archivist of various of the shipwrecks in his local area and kept a log of the stories of the events leading to the shipwrecks, the loss of life and property and incidents and was charged with rendering a report of these matters to the Sultan. He interviewed me as to the happenings related to the loss of the Hayston and entered my replies into his official journal, and in turn I was to learn from him the fates of several of the other ships which had met a similar destiny in the domain of the Sultan. He even had in his archive copies of several ships logs and journals left behind by prior shipwreck survivors which he allowed me to read to pass away the hours.  With his help I overcame my isolation and was able to learn much from him and by means of his teaching me Arabic, was able to become better friends with Princess Nooaysua, who fortunately was quick of mind as well as handsome of character and appearance, and in the simple liberty of these southern islands was not subject to the constraints of purdah otherwise common in the Muslim world, allowing us to take lessons together and and become closer friends under the generous hospitality of her father.  So we whiled away several months while awaiting word of aid from the distant Sultan of Maleh.

     September 10, 1819——In our long talks of island isolation Billali told me the stories of the prior shipwrecks and the fates of their crews that were recorded in his official journal passed on for several centuries, and he gave me a copy of a Journal in French by one Francois Pyrard, who had been one of the survivors of a shipwreck in these atolls in 1601 as Third Mate aboard the French ship the Corbin, and who subsequently had spent over five years in these atolls prior to being repatriated back to his home country, keeping the while a written record of his experience. 

     Bilalli was a friendly old man, and when he gave himself up to excesses of palm date wine he became more effusively friendly and avuncular. Handing his books to me to read he said:

“Here my son, here my Monkey—learn how greed for money has made monkeys, animals and worse than animals out of your fellows and countrymen, as they have my own.”—-he called me ‘Monkey’ when he was drunk out of fatherly affection and upon noting a facial resemblance which I, without my razor and long-bearded as well as full-haired on chest and body unlike the local natives, resembled a figure from the Ramayana of Valmiki—Hanuman, which he said the Chinese also celebrated in the figure of Sun Wu Kong—a kind of monkey-faced hero-figure of great cunning and magic powers who defeats the forces of evil.  When he had passed out from excess wine I began to read of the fate of the Corbin.

The Corbin

The Corbin was a French ship of 400 tons, which set sail from St Malo with the Croissant on May 18, 1601, in search of trade with the east. Plagued by misfortune and ill discipline, the Corbin was destined for disaster and met its end on Goidhoo, or Horsburgh Atoll, on July 2, 1602. It was carrying a cargo of silver and attempted salvage at the time of loss was unsuccessful because of deep water.
          At the start of the journey, a bad omen occurred when the mast broke and the crew threatened to jump ship. Sickness and desertions threatened the expedition before the ship had even begun to cross the Indian Ocean. The stifling heat had destroyed many provisions, the water was putrid, fish and meat had gone bad and were full of big worms, butter had turned to oil, and scurvy was rampant. A short stay of 15 days at Malailli, one of the Comoroes islands, vastly improved the health of the crew before they crossed the Indian Ocean. On July 1, some reefs and islands were sighted which were correctly recognized as the Maldives by the English pilot. The night was supposed to be spent beating about, but the Corbin was virtually left to herself. During the night the captain was ill and in his bunk, the mate and second mate were drunk and the watch was asleep. In the early hours of the morning of July 2, the ship struck the reef.

          Of the 40 or so survivors, one band of 12 men stole a boat and made it to India. Only four of the remainder survived the five-year captivity. One of them was Francois Pyrard, who wrote this journal about his adventures (A copy of which I later learned he published in France on his return).  It wasn’t until February 1607, when an expedition from Chittagong invaded the capital, that Pyrard and his three remaining companions were taken to India and eventually returned to France. Ironically, it was the excellent cannon on board the Corbin that the raiding party was principally after rather than the rescue of their countrymen, which eventually led to the freeing the captives. As recorded in Pyrard’s Journal, the treatment of Pyrard and his companions by the Maldivians was uncharacteristically cruel but their fate was largely determined by their conduct in the days following the wreck of the Corbin. All the silver and the most precious merchandise were stowed at the bottom of the ship which, after running onto the reef was under water and irretrievable. What remained of the silver was hidden in their waistbands.
          During their first night on Fulhadhoo, they hid their waistbands for fear they should be searched by the islanders. At length, the sailors obtained little to eat and were dying of hunger, so they unearthed the coins and offered money for food, which they received. In turn, the natives would give nothing except for money and before long the coins started to run out. In some cases murder and cannibalism broke out.

Pyrard wrote:Those who had money, and who by this means could obtain food, filled their bellies without discretion; and being in a country where the air is very unhealthy for all strangers, even for those of a similar climate, they fell ill, and died one after another, nay more, in place of receiving aid and consolation from their fellows, those who were without money and in great need came and stripped them, and took their money before they were dead, the healthy who survived fought with one another who should have it, and banded themselves two against two, and finally messmate against messmate, with so little charity, that they would see their comrades and fellow countrymen die before their eyes without giving them any assistance or succour. I have never seen a sight so pitiable and deplorable.” (My translation).
          Pyrard was taken with two other crewmembers to another island, Fehendhoo. Unlike the others, they had no belts of money and although this caused some trouble at first, yet they found they were better off with nothing, as little by little, the natives gave them some food. News of the wreck and the money after long delay reached Male’ and commissioners were sent to Fulhadhoo to secure the wreck on behalf of the Sultan. All merchandise and money from shipwrecks automatically became the property of the sultan (which was the reason for Billali and his predecessors keeping such careful records of such mishaps) and Maldivians were prohibited from selling anything to the shipwreck victims for profit. When the Commissioner arrived at Fulhadhoo, he demanded to know who had the money from the vessel. To get hold of it, he arrested all the inhabitants, even the women, and had their thumbs put into cleftsticks and squeezed and bound with iron clasps, to see if they would confess. The villagers on the island of Pyrard’s captivity were in no trouble when it was proved they had taken nothing, for which they were grateful. Pyrard took great pains to learn their language and by doing so was able to largely determine his own destiny and obtain an insight into Maldivian society never before seen by a westerner, on which he wrote extensively and later published in France.

Pyrard wrote: I have remarked that nothing served me so much, or so conciliated the goodwill of the people, the lords, and even the king, as to have a knowledge of their language, and that was the reason why I was always preferred to my companions, and more esteemed than they.
      His account of the wreck and ensuing captivity made compelling reading for me and his description of life in the islands and the customs of the people made his book an invaluable source for my education in Maldivian history and culture. 

The RavesteinOctober 12, 1819——-After introducing me to the accounts of the Corbin, the next record of shipwreck that Bilali familiarized me with was that of the Dutch ship the Ravestein.  The 800 ton Dutch East Indiaman Ravestein was sailing to Jakarta from the Netherlands with a valuable cargo of gold and silver when it ran aground at Madhuveri Island in Mulaku Atoll on May 8, 1726. At the time of loss, nine chests of silver and one chest of gold were recovered. The captain, Antony Klink, sent the rest of the crew to Male’, while he remained for one month at the island near where the vessel was lost. The arrogant conduct of Klink tested the patience of the Maldivians, in particular, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar II. In a letter sent to the Dutch Governor of Ceylon, a copy of which was retained in the official record of the shipwreck retained by Billali, the sultan said Klink did nothing but complain bitterly of the inhabitants of the islands.The Sultan wrote:He (the captain) expected them to work like European sailors, not taking into consideration the fact that they are only wretched creatures who look upon the smallest service extracted from them as a grievous oppression. You are well aware gentlemen, of the nature of the islanders.”When the captain arrived in Male’ on June 13, he demanded from the sultan 50 men and four large boats to save the property of the company. The sultan was outraged by this extraordinary demand and gave no answer and, in any case, was not prepared to send boats to the site as the vessel was cast away on a place to which a small boat can approach only with great difficulty, as the seas were rough and the surf dangerous.
          The Dutch were invited to return in the calmer months to attempt further recovery and the crew of the shipwrecked Ravestein were returned to Ceylon with the gold and silver chests and other goods recovered from the wreck less salvage, commissions and bounty due by customary law to the Sultan.The Persia Merchant

November 11, 1819——-Later, one night after a long drinking party Billali recalled the story of the fate of an earlier English ship wrecked in the atoll.  He went to his locked chest and recovered his official record book and began to read out the account:   One night in August 1658, five months after her departure from England, the Persia Merchant was wrecked on Maamakunudhoo Atoll, while en route to Bengal. On board were eight chests of silver and probably gold from West Africa. Salvage was attempted at the time of loss but was unsuccessful.
          Many were drowned, but the 50 survivors were well treated by the islanders and after two months they were given a good boat in which they sailed to Sri Lanka. Among the survivors were Captain Roger Williams and the mariner-captain Roger Middleton, who wrote an account of his adventures which were appended to the official records in possession of Billali (a copy of which was subsequently published after he was repatriated back to British outposts in India.)
          Middleton said the ship filled with water quickly, leaving the survivors with nothing and within four hours she had broken into pieces. One of the boats sunk under the ship, leaving just one other to rescue the victims. The survivors found their way by boat and broken pieces of the ship to an uninhabited island south of Makunudhoo, but without food, drink or arms.

Middleton wrote: Being without food, wee ranged about the island. Wee found a well of water, of which wee dranke like pigeons, lifting head and harts for soe greate a mercy. Thus drinking water, by good providence wee found coker nutt trees, which is both food and rayment, soe wee went by the sea side and found little shell fish and the like, but wanting fire wee tooke sticks and rubbed them together untill they kindled, thus wee lived heare ten or twelve dayes, not knowing wheather it was better for us to be seen by the Neighbouring Islanders, for the ancient seamen sayd they would cutt our throats. Att last there arived three of their boats full of men, which wee dreaded but could not resist.

The stricken castaways were taken to the island of Kuburudhoo (South Thiladhunmathee) “where wee had fish and other good things, as honey and rice, on which wee, feed like farmers”. For the price of a gold chain and a 100 dollars from one of the merchants, they obtained a vessel and sailed to Ceylon.

 The Chinese Treasure Ship Wreck off Guraidhoo Island

November 18, 1819——-A week after relating the account of the Persia Merchant, Billali being increasingly loquatious as long drinking parties of local palm wine stretched into the wee hours, a befuddled recollection of the passed down accounts of the glorious visits of the glorious Chinese Treasure Ships of the Ming Admiral Zheng He in In the 16th century captured his mind, reminding him of an earlier account he had read in his archive journal. Never one to refuse or delay a quest once it had seized hold of him, Billali crossed the room and unlocked the official chest and tracked down the account of the earlier Chinese shipwreck:  A Chinese ship with a cargo of porcelain and Chinese merchandise was wrecked near the island of Guraidhoo in South Male’ Atoll. Little detail was given in the official record, but it caused me to revisit Pyrard’s journal in which he related his encounter of some of the relics of that earlier incident. The story is best told by Pyrard, who visited the island of the Chinese shipwreck in 1605.

Pyrard wrote: I was at that island one day, and saw the mast and rudder of the ship that was lost there. 1 was told it was the richest ship conceivable. It had on board some 500 persons, men, women, and children, for the Indians of Cathay take the greater part of their household to sea with them. These 500 persons were nigh all drowned, and there remained but a hundred saved. This ship came from Sunda (Indonesia), laden with all kinds of spices and other merchandise of China and Sunda. Judging merely from the mast of this vessel, I thought it the largest I had ever seen, for the mast was taller and thicker than those of the Portuguese carracks; and the king of the Maldives built a shed over the length of the mast so enormous as to keep it as a curiosity. I saw also another mast and a top much larger than those of Portugal. Thus was I led to believe that in the Indies they build vessels larger and of better material than in Portugal or anywhere else in the world. The greatest ships travel back from the coast of Arabia, Persia, and Mogor, and some have as many as 2,000 persons on board.

Billali related how the old folk on Guraidhoo still talk about visiting the wooden ship   wrecked on Medhu Faru near Guraidhoo centuries ago; however when he saw it only a scattered skeleton of the ship encased in coral and scattered artifacts remained to be seen.

 
The Prazer e Allegria

(Author’s Note: Years later through my services leading the fleet of Dom Pedro, Ex-Emperor of Brazil during the Portugese Civil War I had access to the Portugese records of an additional wreck in the neighborhood of my adventure in the atoll of the Sultan of Maleh, that of the Prazer e Allegria, which I investigated and had translated out of personal interest, an account of which I enter and insert here.)

“The Prazer e Allegria left Lisbon, Portugal, on November 8, 1843 with 84 convicts and relief officers and others, bound for Goa, India. She reached the Cape of Good Hope with the loss of 29 convicts from scurvy and on March 16, 1844, the crew sighted several islands which the captain declared were the Maldives. With the current running at three miles an hour towards land, the captain continued on the same course.

Major de Quinhones, who was in charge of the convicts, said in a report of the disaster: At about 4 o’clock in the evening the ship was so near land that we could see the people distinctly; and it was then that a little boat manned by blacks, and with an English jack fixed at the poop, came off from one of the islands. Approaching the ship one of the Moors pointed towards a channel which lies between three or four islands. The Captain hailed the Moors, and told them to come on board; but seeing the convicts they immediately departed through fear, lowering the jack. Thus we were committed to the current, which every moment drove us much nearer land, and upon a reef of coral which lies opposite the second island. The night was dark, and there was lightning; the breakers dashed incessantly on the sides of the ship, forcing her more on to the reef; at length the rudder broke, and the ship rested; but a large leak was sprung. All of us worked the pumps, but it was impossible to reduce the water.

The ship had struck the reef off Muli Island in Mulaku Atoll and on the morning of the 18th, the passengers and crew were transported to Muli Island without loss of life. On the following day the cock-boat, the long boat, and a hired boat from the villagers were dispatched in order to procure more provisions but all three boats were sunk by waves. Eleven lives were lost—mostly convicts.

The 104 survivors remained on the island of Muli for five days before being transported to the “King’s Island”. It took seven days sailing by day only and stopping the night at islands to reach Male’. The captain hired two Catamarans to transport the survivors to Ceylon, among whom were two ladies and three children.” (Author’s Insert)

       December 25, 1819——Finally, after five months of very pleasant sojourn the Sultan’s Comissioner arrived with a twin commission: The Sultan had decreed that he was to return with his flotilla to Male’ bearing me to the Sultan’s palace as his guest until the next of my country’s ships might chance to arrive to bear me home; and secondly, the Commissioner was to bear in the same flotilla Princess Nooaysua who was to be transported to the Palace in Male’ to become the Sultan’s twelveth wife. Billali was also ordered to accompany us to render an accounting of the shipwreck. After three weeks of entertainment and opportunity for Nooaysua to prepare her trusseau and her many chests of belongings and gifts we had a great feast of farewell which coincided with our Christian Christmas, allowing Nooaysua to take a tearful parting from her parents. Everyone gave her presents of well-wishing, which amounted to quite a bridal shower as well as a Christmas for her. Though Billali and Nooaysua were raised as Muslims, they were kind enough to assuage my lonliness for home and country by Christmas gifts which we exchanged between ourselves at the common party.  On the New Year we all set forth northward towards the atoll of the Palace of the Sultan of Maleh. On that bittersweet day of departure none of us had any inkling of the incredible and unexpected adventure that was fated to befall us.  

 

January 1, 1820—–Our flotilla of dhows and dhoni set off under the command of the Sultan’s Commissioner on the first day of the New Year, by our calendar, with separate boats for the Commissioner, Princess Nooaysua, and for Billali and myself who shared a dhoni, along with escorting vessels. We headed north with a prospect of fair weather hoping to make the Sultan’s Palace at Male’ in two weeks after numerous mandatory duty calls at intervening atolls occasioned by the duties of the Sultan’s Commissioner. After very pleasant sailing and sojourning at several atoll stops, after ten days we encountered an unpredictable and forceful tropical storm with intense winds and currents blowing us constantly towards the East uncontrollably, which then developed into a hurricano, or as it is termed in these parts, a ‘Typhoon,’ or ‘Tai Feng—Divine Wind’ as the Chinese put it. We fought the raging storm for the better part of two days after which a crisis arose in which the lead ships of the flotilla were separated from the rear van and lost in the raging storm and darkness. On the third day we searched for but could not find the Commissioner’s dhoni and its three accompanying vessels and our two dhoni and five accompanying boats were compelled to proceed alone in the now unfamiliar waters far to the East of our anticipated route. From the fourth day we were completely becalmed, which would have been a welcome relief had not our stores of food and water come unlashed in the storm and lost. We drifted, starving and near to death from thirst. Some of the native sailors in their extremity began to drink salt water and some succumbed to hallucinations in the hot sun. On the seventh day I was awoken by the fierce grip of three of the natives about my throat as they attempted to strangle and throw me overboard. My military training in hand-to-hand combat along with the tongue-lashing of the Princess allowed myself and Bilalli to subdue them. Though we had done nothing to provoke them the attack was not unexpected. The natives believe in their primordial way that every object of their surroundings—-sea, winds, waves, sun——has an enforcer,—-an in general a not friendly spirit—an enforcer of ancient, indeed, pre-human and savage laws, and thus a power that must be conciliated, never destroyed, in order to ensure their tribal survival. In the native view, by the very fact of our misfortune from the storms and sea and sun, some or more of us must have failed to observe the required deferences toward those jealous beings, thus inciting the Powers to unleash their necessary, condign and appropriate vengeance upon us. By the very fact of my strangeness and foreigness that someone must be me, and the only propitiation acceptable to these Dark Powers would be the sacrifice of the offending body which had so upset the accustomed equilibrium and cosmic order. Thus I, the foreign object intruding on the organic whole must needs die. I feared even their possible resort to cannibalism in the extremity. Thusly divided into hostile, unsleeping, ever watchful camps at either end of the ship, however, on the eighth day we were overtaken and captured by a large fleet of armed dhoni and war canoes which compelled us to follow them to a large archipelago of volcanic islands, which they proclaimed to be the domain of the sovereign Empress of the Cities of the Sea, this part of the world’s oceans, to whom they referred to enigmatically only as “She,” and into whose presence we were to be forcibly taken “By Her Command” by an armed guard which boarded each of our ships and commanded their sailors. After a day’s sailing an immense island appeared topped at one end with the cone of an active volcano from which rose a cloud of blackish smoke simmering forth, and the other end of which displayed atop a high rise the immense white battlement walls of an unassailable and impregnable fortress and palace built upon a shear cliff high above the sea. We anchored in a wide lagoon harbor beneath one face of the towering façade of the fortress. The lagoon harbour was surrounded on three sides by the inner circular walls of what appeared to be the core of an extinct volcano the inner part of which had been flooded by the sea through a passage to the open sea on the fourth side through a small inlet, creating a peaceful enshadowed womb-like sheltering bay protected against the ravages of the open sea beyond.   Met at the landing docks by a small army of over one thousand armed warriors, Billali, Princess Noosayah and myself were forced at spear and swordpoint to mount the narrow steps up the face of the cliff, punctuated by guardhouses and outworks, which led to the immense towering palace at the summit. Our sailors and the lower ranking part of our entourage were confined in a guardhouse at the lowest gate. As our train reached each successive gateway and guard station three priests in scarlet capes and yellow headdresses of extravagant tropical feathers mounted on the battlement above the gateway entrance would blow into the upward-curved projecting tubes of immensely long horns, each perhaps twenty feet long and curved up at their mouths in the fashion of those I had seen in drawings of Tibetan lamas, and which bellowed and warbled forth incredibly deep and somber plaintive sounding tones on our approach, halting with our arrival at the gate, after which the lead priest at each gateway, looking down flanked by an escort of an hundred or so armed warriors would step forward and announce from the battlement only “She Awaits You.”

            Attaining the summit and passing through the gates of the Palace in a similar manner we were finally escorted without explanations by the Major Domo of the Palace to a suite of handsome apartments, into which both we and our baggage were deposited, myself lodged in one apartment with Bilali and with a separate apartment appointed for Princess Nooaysua. Armed guards at the doorways intimated that we were as much prisoners as royal guests.  

     The first care of Bilalli and myself, after seeing to Princess Nooaysua’s safety and comfort, was to wash ourselves and put on clean clothing, for what we were wearing had not been changed since the boarding of the dhoni before the violent storms and our clothing was rank with the detritus and brine of the sea. Fortunately, by far the greater part of our personal baggage had been packed securely into our own dhoni in watertight chests, though Nooaysua lost a part of her bridal gifts and trusseau, and was therefore saved–and brought hither by the bearers–although all the stores laid in by us for barter and presents to the other natives of the neighboring atolls was lost. Nearly all our clothing was made of a well-shrunk and very strong grey flannel, and excellent I found it for travelling in these places, because though an Arab jacket, shirt, and pair of trousers of it only weighed about four pounds, a great consideration in a tropical country, where every extra ounce tells on the wearer, it was warm, and offered a good resistance to the rays of the sun, and best of all to chills, which are so apt to result from sudden changes of temperature.

     Never shall I forget the comfort of the “wash and brush-up,” and of those clean flannels. The only thing that was wanting to complete my joy was a cake of soap, of which we had none. Afterwards I discovered that the subjects of the dominion of She do not reckon dirt among their many disagreeable qualities, and use a kind of burnt earth and pumice stone for washing purposes, which, though unpleasant to the touch till one gets accustomed to it, forms a very fair substitute for soap.

     Naturally I made inquiry of our circumstances to the experience and knowledge of Bilali—-but here we were again in a realm and dimension beyond even his prior experience. Bilali had heard unconfirmed stories only—of an island realm ruled by an omnipotent supernatural woman—some said an Empress, some said a witch or sorceress, some said a naked face of the primordial inhuman force of Nature herself—-Bilali, supersititious by character, was sure she must be this primordial djinn—-a powerful super-human sorceress spirit of the realm between men and Allah—-accounts of which spirits were obliquely given in the Holy Quran—or in obliqly veiled references in the Biblical tales of the Occident—tales of a First Wife of Adam who had refused his and God’s service and lived an interstitial existence between heaven, earth and hell—sometimes referred to Biblicly as Lilith (Hebrew לילית) ——a mythological female Mesopotamian storm demon associated with wind and was thought to be a bearer of disease, illness, and death—–the figure of Lilith first appearing in a class of wind and storm demons or spirits as Lilitu, in Sumer, circa 4000 BC—–but just as it was considered sinful for men to utter aloud the name of God—-the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, so it was sinful to utter the name of the djinn mistress, and she was accordingly spoken only as “She,” until the days of the Quran, when Masters began to use the title of “Sheik” to impress their personal charismatic powers on others. From that time it is said that “She” assumed the title of the first female Sheik, and when her subject follows asked how to address her, she insisted they follow their traditions and refer to her in the customary manner of a Sheik as “Sir,” from which time legend has it that the world of men began to refer to her as “Sir She.”

    Billali told of how as a young man on pilgrimage to Mecca he had made use of his idle spare time in transit by reading the Thousand Nights and A Night, The Alf Layla Wa Layla, and had become fascinated by the lore of the djinn and had made a special study of them, even contracting a scholar’s mad passion for the subject at one time.  Stopping in Grand Cairo on his third Hadjj he had researched the legend of “Sir She,” and became convinced that the rumoured island goddess “Sir She” and the biblical Lilleth must be one and the same and alive in the world to date—-though after three years of such speculation in a Mosque in Grand Cairo he underwent a spiritual crisis and in a fit of repentence he made a vow to himself and Allah to put down and never resume such researches as an uncleanesss and affront to Allah. What he now recalled of his researches was that the earliest reference to a demon similar to Lilith and companion of Lillake/Lilith is on the Sumerian king list, where Gilgamesh‘s father was named as Lillu. Little was known of Lillu (“Wind[wer]man”; or Lilu, Lila) and he was said to disturb women in their sleep and had functions of an incubus, while Lilitu appeared to men in their erotic dreams. Such qualities were further suggested by the Semitic associations made with the names Lila and Lilitu, namely those of lalu, or wandering about, and lulu, meaning lasciviousness.

     The Assyrian Lilitu were said to prey upon children and women, and were described as associated with lions, storms, desert, and disease. Early portrayals of such demons are known as having Zu bird talons for feet and wings.  They were highly sexually predatory towards men, but were unable to copulate normally. They were thought to dwell in waste, desolate, and desert places. To ward them off, like the Sumerian Dimme, an icon of a male wind demon named Pazuzu was thought to be an effective charm against them.

     Other storm and night demons from a similar class Bilali discovered around this period: Lilu, an incubus; Ardat lili (“Lilith’s handmaid”), who would come to men in their sleep and involuntarily beget children from them, born always as demons; and Irdu lili, the succcubus counterpart to Ardat lili. These demons were originally storm and wind demons; however later etymology made them into night and darkness demons.  Lilith’s epithet was “the beautiful maiden,” She was described as having no milk in her breasts and was unable to bear any children, though sexually irresistable to any man but a saint or prophet. Others described her breasts as drippingly full of the mixed-venom of the cobra, the adder, the scorpion’s tail and the Black Widow spider. Babylonian texts Bilali researched depicted She–Lilith as the prostitute of the goddess Ishtar. Similarly, older Sumerian accounts asserted that Lilitu was called the handmaiden of Inanna or “hand of Inanna.” The Sumerian texts stated that “Inanna has sent the beautiful, unmarried, and seductive prostitute Lilitu out into the fields and streets in order to lead men astray.” That is why Lilitu is called the “hand of Inanna.”

      According to Bilali’s researches and belief,  Lilitu, the Akkadian Ardat-Lili and the Assyrian La-bar-tu like Lilith, were figures of disease and uncleanliness. Ardat is derived from “ardatu,” a title of prostitutes and young unmarried women, meaning “maiden.” One magical text tells of how Ardat Lili had come to “seize” a sick man. Other texts mention Lamashtu as the hand of Inanna/Ishtar in place of Lilitu and Ardat lili. This female djinn, “She—Lilith” was further associated with the Anzu bird, lions, owls, and serpents—were all animals associated with the Lilitu. It is from this mythology that the later Kabbalah depictions of Lilith as a serpent in the Garden of Eden and her associations with serpents were probably drawn, so Bilali opined. In his view in The Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh was said to have driven Lilith, an Anzu bird, and a “snake which fears no spell” from a tree that was in a sacred grove dedicated to the Goddess Ishtar/Inanna/Asherah. Other legends he researched described the malevolent female Anzu birds as “lion-headed” and pictured them as eagle monsters.

Billali discovered numerous ancient texts describing means and methods devised through the centuries to defend against and ward off the powers of ‘She—Lilith,’ such as that of Sheik al-Gnostikarbala, which he had committed to memory:

  ‘And I, the Instructor, proclaim His Glorious Splendour so as to frighten and to terrify all the spirits of the destroying angels, the Seductresses of the Flesh and the Seductresses of the Spirit, malevolent spirits of the bastards, the worldly and other-worldly demons, the lepers of the spirit and the seducers of the souls, of ‘She—Lilith’ and her followers—-the Handmaidens of Evil and Pesitlence, she-howlers, and the demon desert dwellers and the demon island dwellers howling into the Winds at the End of the World—-accurst by Man, Djinn and God alike, and those which fall upon men without warning to lead them astray from a spirit of understanding and to make their heart desolate during the present dominion of wickedness and predetermined time of humiliations for the Sons of Light, by the guilt of the ages of those smitten by iniquity – not for eternal destruction, but for an era of humiliation for chastening purgative transgression to be relieved by the Tempering Ray and Cauterizing Light that will rise up towards Heaven from the outstretched welcoming limbs of Allah on the Day of Final Judgment—In the Name of Allah the Compassionate and the Merciful and His Prophet we beseech your protection until that Final Day.’

Likewise to protect against all this a figured amulet from an Arslan Tash featured a sphinx like creature with wings devouring a child that has an incantation against ‘She—Lilith’ or similar demons, incorporating Lilith’s correlating animals of lions and owls, such amulet avowing in Heiroglyphic Script printed across it’s face—- “To Be Proof against ‘She’ A Million Times Over—-Guaranteed!” Billali also told me the secret names of She—-These names are said to cause Lilith to lose her power when chanted before her: ‘Lilith, Abitu, Abizu, Hakash, Avers, Hikpodu, Ayalu, Matrota, Hecate, Lamia, Karina, Lamashtu.’

Bilalli recalled depictions of “She” that he had copied out of ancient manuscripts in the underground archives of the remains of the ancient library in Alexandria: According to them ‘She’ was considered by the ancient Egyptians a demi-goddess and daughter of Anu, the sky god. Many incantations against her mention her status as a daughter of heaven and her power of exercising her free will over infants, men and worldly creatures.  This made her different from the rest of the demons in Mesopotamia. Unlike her demonic peers, ‘She’ was not instructed by the gods to do her malevolence; she did it on her own accord. She was said to seduce men, harm pregnant women, mothers, and neonates, kill foliage, drink blood, and was a cause of disease, sickness, epidemic and death for the shear instinctive joy of her lustful and twisted pleasure from it.  Some incantations describe her as “The Seven Witches and The Seven Hells.” Amulets depicted the space between her legs as a scorpion, corresponding to the astrological sign of Scorpio. (Scorpio rules the genitals & sex organs.) Her head is that of a devouring lion, she has the limb-severing knifed-edge-claws of the Anzu bird; like Lilitu, her breasts are suckled by a pig and a dog, and she rides the back of a donkey. According to legend she was bound to obey and fear only Allah and his Prophets directly, not being bound by any laws of men or nature or even of the Djinn themselves.

According to Bilalli, in the Book of Isaiah, it was related that Lilith used her powers to become Queen over the Edomites, the the red-skinned and coarse-red-haired descendents of Esau, him who had shared the womb with that brother Jacob who became one of the Patriarchs of the ‘People of the Book’ and who was later robbed of his birthright by Jacob by fraud.  ‘She’ then led the Edomites as their Queen to plan and contemplate a vengeant holocaust against the ‘People of the Book’ in reprisal,  until Allah was forced to exterminate them to fulfill the Biblical destiny of his peoples. ‘She’ was then said to have fled, first to the desert, and then to an island kingdom beyond the remotest reaches of any civilization where she reigned as sole and unchallenged power the extreme margin and last forgotten edge of the world and of the universe.

Billali recalled passages of poetry he memorized from the Book of Proverbs and Egyptian texts lamenting of ‘She:’

Her house sinks down to death,
And her course leads to the shades.
All who go to her cannot return
And find again the paths of life.

    — Proverbs 2:18-19

 

Her gates are gates of death, and from the entrance of the house
She sets out towards Sheol.
None of those who enter there will ever return,
And all who possess her will descend to the Pit.

    — 4 Qumrum Scroll 184

     Bilalli related the results of his earlier researches as to ‘She—Lilith’s’ creation, described in many alternative versions, none of which he could determine to be authoritative.  One mentions her creation as being before Adam’s, on the fifth day, because the “living creatures” with whose swarms God filled the waters included none other than Lilith. A similar version, related to the earlier Talmudic passages, recounts how Lilith was fashioned with the same substance as Adam was, shortly before. A third alternative version states that God originally created Adam and Lilith in a manner that the female creature was contained in the male. Lilith’s soul was lodged in the depths of the Great Abyss. When God called her her forth, she joined Adam. After Adam’s body was created a thousand souls from the Left (evil) side attempted to attach themselves to him. However, God drove them off. Adam was left lying as a body without a soul. Then a cloud descended and God commanded the earth to produce a living soul. This God breathed into Adam, who began to spring to life and his female was attached to his side. God separated the female from Adam’s side. The female side was Lilith, whereupon she flew to the Cities of the Sea and commenced eternal attacks upon humankind. Yet another version claims that Lilith was not created by God, but emerged as a divine entity that was born spontaneously, either out of the Great Supernal Abyss or out of the power of an aspect of God (the Gevurah of Din). This aspect of God, one of his ten attributes (Sefirot), at its lowest manifestation has an affinity with the realm of evil and it is out of this that Lilith merged with Samael.

     An alternative Biblical story links Lilith with the creation of luminaries. The “first light,” which is the light of Mercy (one of the Sefirot), appeared on the first day of creation when God said “Let there be light.” But this light became hidden and the Holiness became surrounded by a husk of evil. ”A husk (q’lippa) was created around the brain” and this husk spread and brought out another husk, which was ‘She—Lilith.’

     Billali also spoke of how the worshippers of Lucifer also worshipped ‘She-Lilith’  as his Dark Queen and consort—Queen of the Succubi: ‘Dark is she, but brilliant! Black are her wings, black on black! Her lips are red as rose, kissing all of the Universe! She is She—She is ‘She-Lilith,’ who leadeth forth the hordes of the Abyss, who bindith the wounded liver of Prometheus, and leadeth man to liberation! She is the irresistible fulfiller of all lust, seer and freer of all desire. First of all women was she – Lilith, not Eve was the first! Her hand brings forth the revolution of the Will and true freedom of the mind! She is KI-SI-KIL-LIL-LA-KE, Queen of the Cosmic Magic! Look on her in lust and despair!” These worshippers of Lucifer or Eblus declared ‘She’ to be the “Dark Moon”  or  “Nemesis” the hidden dark second focus of the elliptic orbit of worldly life corresponding to the other of the twin-foci—-the luminous bright sun. She is the Yin to His Yang! The mating of She and Lucifer would give rise to the Androgynous Baphomet–Anti-Christ delivering the world from endeadening slavery to a lifeless Heaven.

     Bilalli also related his related researches at Mecca, where he questioned the Kuraish and other tribes on their encounters with ‘She.’ He found that in Mecca ‘She’ was called Karina in Arabic lore.  ‘She—Karina’ is mentioned as a child-stealing and child-killing witch. In this context, Karina played the role of a dark “shadow” of a woman and a corresponding male demon—Karin, that of the “dark shadow” of a man. Should a woman marry, her Karina marries the man’s Karin. When the woman becomes pregnant is when Karina will unleash her chaos.She will try to drive the woman out and take her place, cause a miscarriage by striking the woman and if the woman succeeds in having children then her Karina will have the same number of children she does. The Karina will continuously try to create discord between the woman and her husband. Here, Karina plays the role of disrupter of marital relations, akin to one of Lilith’s roles in Biblical tradition.

Bilalli related all this to me, and told that this was the first time he had told any man about his researches in over forty years, following until now his vow to lay aside such studies as unclean in the sight of Allah. Having spent five months with Bilalli and his excesses of imagination brought on by late night bouts with his weakness for palm date wine, and his superstitious and slightly senile cast of mind, I thought he might be giving in to fearful exaggeration, but the inexplicable nature of our present predicament left me open to consider any explanation in the want of a better one. As a modern man though, I was sure that just as nature abhors a vacuum, in the human mind ignorance and lack of knowledge will cause the inrushing of unfounded fears and superstition, which must be much guarded against even in the best educated.  Yet there was no better alternative explanation on offer for our fearful predicament.

     After a night and day of desperately needed sleep in which I did not awake until near sunset, I was informed by the Major Domo that ‘She,’ whom he referred to as ‘Sheik Sir She’ had commanded us to present ourselves before her, and after her habit and fancy, She chose to hold court during the hours of night, never venturing out into the sunlight for many years, which she held to be detrimental to her beauty.  Bilalli, I and Nooaysua ate and dressed in our more presentable clothes, then followed the Major Domo leading a cohort of an hundred armed warrior before us and another hundred bringing up the rear behind us. Just as we had the day before painstakingly made our way up the flights of stone stairs to the summit of the Palace, so this night we entered an inner staircase of stone leading downward, flight after flight, corridor after corridor, like an endless mine shaft descending, descending ever deeper into the bowels of the very earth beneath the Palace. The Major Domo carried a burning torch at the front of our line and every third warrior carried also a burning torch. As at every flight of steps upward we were met and challenged by a guard at every gate, so on our downwards descent we were challenged at every level and codewords known only to the Major Domo were supplied to the satisfaction of the successive security details. As we passed through successive downward corridors we noticed the presence of warrens of Catacombs with the bodies of the dead, seemingly embalmed, on shelves stretching along miles and miles of underground walkways. So we continued for nearly an hour until we approached an immense chthonic Court guarded by one thousand warriors. Then we passed similarly through seven gateways into the Inner Sanctum of ‘She’ who’s whim and command ruled over all and of ‘She’ who must be obeyed.

     As we approached the three final gateways leading to the final inner sanctum, we noticed the presence of relief sculptures depicting the rites of preparation of bodies of the dead for entrance to the next world, after the figures of the Egyptian Book of the Dead or some like rite.

 The first picture represented his death of the dead person whose soul was descending into the Underworld. He was lying upon a couch which had four short curved posts at the corners coming to a knob at the end, in appearance something like written notes of music, and was evidently in the very act of expiring. Gathered round the couch were women and children weeping, the former with their hair hanging down their backs. The next scene represented the embalment of the body, which lay stark upon a table with depressions in it, similar to the one before us; probably, indeed, it was a picture of the same table. Three men were employed at the work–one superintending, one holding a funnel shaped exactly like a port wine strainer, of which the narrow end was fixed in an incision in the breast, no doubt in the great pectoral artery; while the third, who was depicted as standing straddle-legged over the corpse, held a kind of large jug high in his hand, and poured from it some steaming fluid which fell accurately into the funnel. The most curious part of this sculpture is that both the man with the funnel and the man who pours the fluid are drawn holding their noses, either I suppose because of the stench arising from the body, or more probably to keep out the aromatic fumes of the hot fluid which was being forced into the dead man’s veins. Another curious thing which I am unable to explain is that all three men were represented as having a band of linen tied round the face with holes in it for the eyes. Finally, the next series of bas-relief sculptures depicted the presence of a Thoth-like figure conducting the souls of the dead to their examination, weighing them on the scales of justice, and their consignment to a seeming Heaven or Hell as their deserts might justify.

Before the final double-door of solid gold the Major Domo halted, then turned towards me, informing me that Sheik Sir She herself had deigned to express a wish to see me–an honour, he added, accorded to but very few. I think that he was a little horrified at my cool way of taking the honour, but the fact was that I did not feel overwhelmed with gratitude at the prospect of seeing some savage, dusky queen, however absolute and mysterious she might be, more especially as my mind was full of equal concern for the fate of old Bilalli and for Princess Nooayesuaa, for whose life I began to have great fears.      

     We passed down the passage, crossed the great aisle-like cave, and came to the corresponding passage on the other side, at the mouth of which the guards stood like two statues on either side of the doorway, bronze helmets with feathered plumes adorning their heads and deadly halberds held in their hands, as well as swords displayed in sheaths about their hips.  As we came they bowed their heads in salutation, and then lifting their long spears placed them transversely across their foreheads, as the leaders of the troop that had met us had done with their ivory wands. We stepped between them, and found ourselves in an exactly similar gallery to that which led to our own apartments, only this passage was, comparatively speaking, brilliantly lighted. A few paces down it we were met by four mutes– two men and two women–who bowed low and then arranged themselves, the women in front and the men behind of us, and in this order we continued our procession past several doorways hung with curtains resembling those leading to our own quarters, and which I afterwards found opened out into chambers occupied by the mutes who attended on She. A few paces more and we came to another doorway facing us, and not to our left like the others, which seemed to mark the termination of the passage. Here two more white-, or rather yellow-robed guards were standing, and they too bowed, saluted, and let us pass through heavy curtains into a great antechamber, quite forty feet long by as many wide, in which some eight or ten women, most of them young and handsome, with yellowish hair, sat on cushions working with ivory needles at what had the appearance of being embroidery frames. These women were also deaf and dumb. At the farther end of this great lamp-lit apartment, bronze polished lamps adorning every ten steps along the walls,  was another doorway closed in with heavy Oriental- looking curtains embroidered with Mandala-like patterns, quite unlike those that hung before the doors of our own rooms, and here stood two particularly handsome girl mutes, their heads bowed upon their bosoms and their hands crossed in an attitude of humble submission. As we advanced they each stretched out an arm and drew back the curtains. Thereupon Billali did a curious thing. Down he went, that venerable-looking old gentleman–for Billali is a gentleman at the bottom–down on to his hands and knees, and in this undignified position, with his long white beard trailing on the ground, he began to creep into the apartment beyond, kow-towing every six steps.  I followed him, standing on my feet in the usual fashion. Looking over his shoulder he perceived it.

“Down, my son; down, my Monkey; down on to thy hands and knees. We enter the presence of She, and, if thou art not humble, of a surety she will blast thee where thou standest and end the short life thou has until now enjoyed. And mind yourself well—for she is known to be both mad and bad—–mad in part—but mostly bad.”

     I halted, and felt scared. Indeed, my knees began to give way of their own mere motion; but reflection came to my aid. I was an Englishman and a product of the Enlightenment, and why, I asked myself, should I creep into the presence of some savage woman as though I were a monkey in fact as well as in name? And I remembered many of the Sartorius clan who had been Puritans and even a few Quakers, who with George Fox refused to take off their hat and bow and scrape before the English King and nobility. I would not and could not do it, that is, unless I was absolutely sure that my life or comfort depended upon it and was by brute force or shear survival to bend my principles.  If once I began to creep upon my knees I should always have to do so, and it would be a patent acknowledgment of inferiority. So, fortified by an insular prejudice against “kootooing,” which has, like most of our so-called prejudices, a good deal of common sense to recommend it, I marched in boldly after Billali.

Seeing Bilalli in his ungainly position, a voice rang out from behind the curtain: “Old man, get up off your knees. I have enough dogs on all fours—I desire to talk to men not to snakes on their bellies or dogs on their paws.” Then I perceived a pair of eyes behind a gauze curtain stretched about the bed. A mellifluous voice rang out from the presence of those eyes. My mind was too disconcerted to make out her words, which spoke to me in Arabic. Concentrating and not a little unnerved by all that had passed and was present before my eyes, I was able to hear and make out in my by now fair Arabic:  “Why art thou so frightened, stranger?” asked the strong but melodius voice again–a voice which seemed to draw the heart out of me, like the strains of enchanting music.

 “Is there that about me that should affright a man? Then surely are men changed from what they used to be!” And with a little coquettish movement she turned herself, and held up one arm, so as to show all her loveliness and the rich hair of raven blackness that streamed in soft ripples down her snowy robes, almost to her sandalled feet.

“It is thy beauty that makes me fear, oh Queen,” I answered humbly, scarcely knowing what to say, and devising something that might fill in as appropriate—using the formal and slightly archaic respectful form of Arabic address that I had been taught appropriate for addressing personages at Court—I thought that as I did so I heard old Billali, who was still lying prostrate on the floor, mutter, “Good, my Monkey King, good stretch of the tongue!—-Stroke her backside with it!”

“And would’st thou be so kind as to inform me your name, your country and what sort of a man I am addressing.”  she spake forth commandingly, moving her lithe and beautiful body from behind the curtain, but retaining the veil across her face, leaving only the shadow of her lovely eyes discernable beneath it. I answered her to the effect that my name was Sartorius, Captain of a shipwrecked English ship, and on my way with these my friends, the Scholar Bilalli and Princess Nooaysua to the court of the Sultan of Maleh, when a gale blew us uncontrollably into the waters of her august domain.

Her eyes searched me, but not in suspicion. I could see she wasn’t troubling with the question of whether I was speaking the truth. She was sizing me up as a man. I cannot describe that calm appraising look. Seemingly there was no modesty in it, nothing even of that implicit sympathy which one human being explores the existence of another. Before her all those beneath her, even seemingly objects of her infatuation, were chattels, things infinitely removed from intimacy. “Mad and bad” Billali said of her, “but principally bad.” Viewing her before my very eyes, I did not think those were the proper terms, for they belonged to the narrow world of our common experience. This was something beyond and above it, as a cyclone or an earthquake is outside the decent routine of nature. Mad and bad she might be, but she was also great.

“Now, Sartorius,” she said, “how comest thou to speak Arabic? It is my own dear tongue, for Arabian am I by my birth, even ‘al Arab al Ariba’ (an Arab of the Arabs), and of the race of our father who created Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Esau, and of Ishmael for it is that fair and ancient land of Edom I was I born in. It is the tongue of the Prophet Mohammad, and of the great and learned from the Caliph Harun al-Rashid to Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd, al-Ghazzali and of the author of the Alf Layla Wa Layla, and I have spoken it with each and every one of them since my birth in the time of Moses, though the tongue of course changes over time” she informed me. As she spoke I seemed to get a vision of a figure, like one of the old gods looking down on human nature from a great height, a figure disdainful and passionless for centuries, but with its own magnificence.

 I told her of my sojourn in the court of the Divine Porte,of my service in the wars in the Royal Navy and of my further instruction in Arabic through the kindnesses of Bilalli. She then questioned why I had taken up this adventuring and seafaring life. Something in her otherworldly feminine grandness forced me to exaggerate and romanticize myself into the stature of an hero, perhaps by some inexplicable psychological necessity to inflate myself to the stature of her eyes.

“I will tell you, Madam, I am a man who has followed a science, but I have followed it in wild places, and I have gone through it and come out the other side. The world, as I see it, had become too easy and cushioned. Men had forgotten their manhood in soft and tamed speech and in even tamer and more aborted deeds, and imagined that the rules of their smug civilization were the laws of the universe. We had forgotten the greater virtues, and we were becoming emasculated humbugs whose gods were our own weaknesses. Then came the war and the sea, and the air was cleared. The Enlightenment, of which I am a native son, had the courage to cut through the bonds of humbug and to laugh at the fetishes of the common herd, and as I read history it is from the wild spaces—the deserts and the seas and wildernesses—–that purification comes. When mankind is smothered and its instinctive sources of life are snuffled out with the shams and phrases and painted idols of a decaying civilization, it is from the winds of the sea and the desert that purification and re-inspiritualization comes. The world needs space and fresh air and the sources of newer life. The civilization we have boasted of is a toy-shop and a blind alley, and I hanker for open country and the open and oceanic seas.” I dreamed out loud for her benefit.

The confounded nonsense was well received. Her dark eyes gleaned with the cold light of the fanatic. With her waving hair and the long aquiline cut of her nose and face she looked like some destroying fury of a Norse or Greek legend.

“You have the makings of a man, Sartorius,” she retorted back. “Though you have much to learn, you are of the Household of Faith and Greatness, and Faith and Greatness march hand in hand to Victory, but I cannot be sure yet that you are of its highest. You have the makings of a man—but that is nothing to me—I am in search not of a man but of a Superman.” she left me mystified.   

Then I asked, incredulously, “How can it be that thou were’st were born in the time of Moses—-surely all of that time have long since met their deaths?” I queried.

“Oh man!” she said at last, speaking very slowly and deliberately, “it seems that there are still things upon the earth of which thou knowest naught. Dost thou still believe that all things die, even as those very Jews believed? I tell thee that naught dies. There is no such thing as Death, though there be a thing called Change. Change and Transformation is the only constant—–nothing can die of matter or of energy, neither of soul nor of spirit, but only changes its form and its expression. Look forth…..,” and she pointed to some sculptures on the rocky wall. “Three times two thousand years have passed since the last of the great race that hewed those pictures fell before the breath of the pestilence which destroyed them, yet are they not dead. E’en now they live; perchance their spirits are drawn towards us at this very hour,” and she glanced round. “Of a surety it sometimes seems to me that my eyes can see them, my ears can compass their voices, and my hands can reach out into the darkness and feel the contours of their very faces.”

“Are you then of the Religion of the Prophet Mohammad—-of the Dar al-Islam?” I asked of her. She replied after a slight pause “Religions?…..Religions come and religions go. I do not believe in them but it is they who believe in me. I have seen the rise and fall of the Gods as you have seen the rise and fall of the daily sun and moon——Ishtar, Innana, Isis, Osiris, Amun, Aton, Ra, Vishnu, Shiva, Mohammad, Christ, Buddha—-I have seen them all come and go. Nothing dies, man or god, but only changes form. Time is an eternal river of change, and no on can step into the same river twice, yet nothing changes, all remains the same in a different form. The religions come and the religions pass, and civilizations come and pass, and naught endures but this world and human nature.”  ” she answered.

“And is this your country and these your people now?” I asked.

“My people! speak not to me of my people,” she answered hastily; “these slaves are no people of mine, they are but dogs to do my bidding till the day of my deliverance comes; and, as for their customs, naught have I to do with them. Also, call me not Empress or Queen, not Sir She or Sheik Sir She—–I am weary of flattery and of empty titles fit only for underlings——call me Lilith, the name hath a sweet sound in mine ears, it is an echo from the past. It was my mother’s name as well—I am not the Lilith created with Adam as his first wife but the lesser Lilith, born of a mother, yet I partake of the soul of my mother namesake as well. What is my country?—my bed is my country!—-My empire is of the imagination—but my bed, my lovers, my desires and their fulfillment are my country.”

As a sailor I had seen my share of shore girls, and had a sweetheart waiting at home, though to disappoint the commonplace illusion I was not deeply knowledgeable about women, even, I was forced to admit, shyish. But every man has in his bones a consciousness of sex. I was shy and perturbed but horribly fascinated. This well-bodied woman, poised exquisitely like some statue between the pillared lights, with her fair cloud of hair, her long and delicate face, and her black deep eyes, had the glamour of a wild dream. I hated her instinctively, hated her intensely, but I longed to arouse her interest. To be valued coldly by those so entrancing eyes would be an offence to my manhood, and I felt a latent antagonism rising within me, forcing me to assertiveness.

“Well then Lilith, if I may be so bold as to ask, who art thou, and why hast thou brought us to this place and what art thine intentions with regard to us?” if we migh’st know.

“Take off thine shirt, if thou would’st learn and understand” she commanded, and I complied with her request, though with some embarrassment. When I had removed this article of clothing she moved closer to me and her eyes looked out piercingly from behind her veil with a frightening frenzy of evident convulsive desire and recognition. “Yes, Yes, Yes—It is so! It is so! It was so in my dream and it is so in the world at last, at last, at last!” she wailed out in an ecstasy of joy, whirling her body covered in her soft white gown around and around in the manner of a Mevlevi Dervish. “This mark on your chest above the heart—in the shape of a scarab—-where did’st thou get it?” she raved, venturing to touch it gently, as if to prove even to herself that it was real and not a mirage.

“I was born with this mark—it is a birthmark I have always had since my birth in Benares, India—- before I returned to England for my education.

    “The dream doth not lie!” she ejaculated exuberantly. “Sartorius—I will tell you of the secret transformations of the souls of men and of heaven and on earth. It is written in The Treatise on the Left Emanation that says there are two Liliths, the lesser being mated to the great Master Demon Asmodeus. In answer to your question concerning Lilith, I shall explain to you the essence of the matter. Concerning this point there is a received tradition from the ancient Sages who made use of the Secret Knowledge of the Lesser Palaces, which is the manipulation of demons and a ladder by which one ascends to the prophetic levels. In this tradition, it is made clear that Samael and Lilith were born as one, similar to the form of Adam and Eve who were also born as one, reflecting what is above. This is the account of Lilith which was received by the Sages in the Secret Knowledge of the Palaces. The Mother Lilith is the mate of Samael. Both of them were born at the same hour in the image of Adam and Eve, intertwined in each other. Asmodeus the Great Master of the demons has as a mate the Lesser (younger) Lilith, daughter of the king whose name is Qafsefoni. The name of his mate is Mehetabel daughter of Matred, and their daughter is Lilith, and I am that Lilith, the Lesser Lilith. Three milennia ago in a fit of unthinking uncontrollable rage I put to death my great lover Asmodeus, who had shown me the power of endless life and beauty conveyed to me by immersion in the Pillar of Fire enclosed in the volcano of this island. Since that time I have live on, but in empty form only, these three thousand years—-though I have had innumerable lovers and disposed of them one by one as they bored and dissatisfied me, I remained barren and childless, and my one and only thought in my great regret and sorrow was, following the teachings of the Buddha, to await the reincarnation of the one spirit to whom my soul is eternally mated and be united again together! For three thousand years this has been an empty hope disappointed a thousand times—the return of the spirit and soul of Asmodeus to my heart and bed——–until today!  You Sartorius, thou art that returned soul and reincarnated spirit of Asmodeus, born from Benares, the holy city of the Buddha, in promise of a return to our eternal life and eternal love! Sartorius you are fated to share my throne and mirror my glory—the cosmic cycle has rounded full circle at last and brought you back to me, an Anti-Messiah delivering the spirit of the world and my heart—-not a man but a Superman mated by fate to the greatness of my own stature!” she inveighed towards me. She put me in a condition of blank bewilderment. I was to be tied to the chariotwheels of this fury, and started as her Superman on an enterprise of remaking and reforming the world like an Anti-Prophet. True I had been drawn to the sea in the quest of a greater spirit, a return to the primal and raw primitive sources of inner and outer life. The corrupt and corroded life of our jaded civilization was too much for me and I did seek the impulse of a return to a revitalizing simplicity that is often associated with the calling of a prophet. But Lilith’s simplicity was that of the neurotic, not the primitive. It was a simplicity of her megalomania and egotism and of a pride and hubris of Biblical proportions.  The prophet wants to inspire and simplify, but she wanted to destroy and simplify. Hers was not the simplicity of the saint, which is of the spirit, but thre simplicity of the madman who grinds down all the features of civilization to a monotony of submission to his will. I had heard from Shelley of the myth of Prometheus and the birth of the creative Superman, commensurate to the stature of the gods. Yet I never believed in the reality of this supposed Superman—Genius—-Creative Demiurge. Mankind has a sense of humor and of fellowship which stops short of the absurdity of the fancy type. It would no more exist than the Economic Man of the politicians. Nor I nor any other man could be this searched for Superman—but there might be a Superwoman!—I had fears that I had laid my eyes on her in the fact. Somehow women have a perilous logic which we men never have, and some of the best of them don’t see the joke and the laugh of it like the ordinary man. Yet I sensed that this and in women of genius was a capacity to go straight to the very heart of things. There never was a man so near to the devil. They in their extreme form can be far greater than men because of their unreflecting capacity for the fanatical—fanatical in love and hate—-there never was a man so near the divine as Joan of Arc. But I think the extraordinary of them can be more entirely damnable than anything in pants, for they don’t stop now and then and laugh at themselves. Perhaps it is bred out of their capacity for fanatical love perverted into its opposite—I don’t know, I can only guess at best. The Shellys with their Promethean Supermen remain idle dreamers—those men taken with the idea are either crack-brained Professors who couldn’t rule a Sunday-school class or blockheaded soldiers with tin-pot ideas who precipitate their own downfall. Only a Superwoman could be so fanatical to her type as to actually come into existence.  But such a Superwoman I believe could only give birth to aborted fetuses and not to any living thing, and her genius would die with her. All of those thoughts flashed through the back of my mind at lightning pace. But those were idle thoughts. But before me was an overwhelming presence that I had to admit brought me to fear and trembling.

 “Sartorius!—Sartorius!—thy very name reveals the truth of eternal regeneration in eternal change!” she continued inveighing of me,  “—-we but slough off past bodies and lives as we slough off worn-out and outgrown clothes, as the snake sloughs off old skins which restrain his further growth, —-We don ever new bodies and new spirits which we change into anew as our spirit outgrows our old clothes and our old beings—a Sartorial Truth!  As the Bagavad Gita says:  Worn-out garments are shed by the body; Worn-out bodies are shed by the dweller within the body. New bodies are donned by the dweller, like garments. (Verse 2:22) We shall slough off the old skins and old clothes of our past bodies, past lives and past sorrows, and tomorrow we shall clothe ourselves with new lives and newer hopes appropriate to the greater growths and depths of our ever greater love!  Tomorrow I will show you the secret of the Pillar of Flame and we shall share the endless life, the endless love and the endless ecstasy of our union!—–Now that I know that this has been fulfilled I must end the life of this woman of yours Nooaysua—-Guards!—we are each other’s sole destiny and nothing must stand in the way of that destiny!

                “No!—Don’t harm her—–she is not my woman—-she is promised to the Sultan of Maleh and we are but accidentally traveling together. I beg of you set her free and I will comply with your wishes.” I pleaded.

                        “So be it my beloved!” she responded warmly, and have you any other wish or pleasure before we seal our destiny?” she asked.

 “Ay, but one thing, oh Lilith,” I said boldly; but feeling by no means as bold as I trust I looked. “I would gaze upon thy face.”

     She laughed out in her silvered bell-like notes. “Bethink thee, Sartorius,” she answered; “bethink thee. It seems that thou knowest the old myths of the gods of Greece. Was there not one Actaeon who perished miserably because he looked on too much beauty? Were not sailors like you enticed to their very deaths by the fatal attractions of the Sirens? Bethink thee also of Semele. If I show thee my face, perchance thou wouldst perish miserably also; perchance thou wouldst eat out thy heart in impotent desire; for know until thou art transformed by the Pillar of Fire into the old Asmodeus–I am for no man, save one, who hath been, but is not yet.”

She lifted her white and supplely rounded arms–never had I seen such exquisite arms before–and slowly, very slowly, she mesmerized me withdrawing some golden fastening beneath her hair. Then all of a sudden the long, shroud-like wrappings about her head and the attached veil fell from her to the ground, and my eyes travelled up her form, now only robed in a semi-transparant garb of clinging white that did but rather serve to reveal  than cover its perfect and imperial shape beneath, instinct with a female life that was more than life, and with a certain spectre-like grace that was more than human. On her lithe feet were sandals, fastened with studs of gold. Then came ankles more perfect than ever an artist dreamed of. About the waist her white flowing gown was fastened by a serpentine Ouroubouros of solid gold, above which her gracious form swelled up in lines as pure as they were lovely, till the gown ended in the pure whiteness of her breasts, whereon her arms were folded. I gazed above them at her face, and–I do not exaggerate—staggered back overwhelmed. For a moment I thought of killing myself as the separation from that immaculate beauty was so painful as to be unbearable. As I showed signs of frenzied desperation the Major Domo motioned to his strongest guards to seize me by the elbows and held me fast until the fit had passed. I have heard of the beauty of celestial and supernatural beings, now I saw it visible to my very eyes—–only this beauty, with all its awful loveliness and purity, was a beauty of purest evil–at least, at the time, it struck me as evil. How am I to describe it? I cannot–simply I fail of speech! The man does not live whose pen could convey any sense of a tenth of the desire and convulsive beauty of what I saw revealed. I might talk of the hypnotic eyes of the deepest, softest, most inviting black, of the radiantly warm face, of the broad and noble—unmistakably queen-like brow, on which the hair grew low, swept across in delicate, straight features. But, beautiful, exquisitely beautiful as they all were, her loveliness did not lie in them. It lay rather, if it can be said to have had any fixed abiding place, in a spirit of visible majesty, in an imperial grace, in a godesslike stamp of softened divine power, which shone upon that radiant countenance like a living astral aura. Never before had I guessed what beauty approaching the limits of the sublime could be–and yet, the sublimity was a dark one–the glory was not all of heaven–though none the less was it glorious—it was the glory of a darker, deeper creation and a more sinister beauty. Though the face before me was that of a living and vital woman of certainly not more than thirty years, in perfect health, and the first flush of deep-ripened beauty, yet it had stamped upon it a look of unutterable experience, and of deep acquaintance with grief and passion and sorrow—the bearing of the eyes of woman knowing and fathoming life at its passionate deepest for a thousand years.  Not even the invitingly lovely smile that crept about her dimpled mouth could hide this shadow of sin and excess and of transgression, retribution and of sorrow. It shone even in the light of her incomparable eyes, it was present in her air of nobility, and it seemed to say: “Behold me, lovely as no woman was or is or will ever again hope to be, undying and half-divine; memory persues me from age to age, and passion leads from the explosive desires I create–evil have I done, and from age to age evil I shall do more—joyfully!—–and sorrow shall I know until the desires I unleash have burnt out this lovely world to an empty urn of ash and dust.” Taking in his shock, and the reverence for her it reveals, she herself is stricken with the depth of his passion, and she promises to make him live forever when they walk together into a pillar of flame.

I had never encountered a being so uncanny, strange, wonderful—-so absolutely beautiful if you like. But the word beauty had too kindly and human sound for such a face. As she stood with heightened colour, her eyes like celestial bodies, her poise like a wild animal’s I had to confess that she had such a terrifying loveliness such as to take my very self from myself. She might be a devil, but she also was a Queen, and such a Queen as could take possession of my very heart, despite my every resistance and mental reservation. I trembled for myself. I considered that despite my horror there might be glory in reigning at the side of such a goddess.

Returned to our own rooms the next day we slept until afternoon, dined and then set forth at sunset together with She—Lilith followed by a royal train of ten-thousand warriors and virgin maids bearing fire torches lighting the way to the rim of the large volcano at the opposite end of the island from the Palace. Bilalli was to perform the wedding vows and to serve as my best man and Princess Nooaysua as the maid of honour for Lilith—the wedding was to be consummated immediately after the rites of the Pillar of Fire were performed. She led the way with her royal train. We mounted the immense cone of the volcano, then surmounted the rim and began to work our way down the inwardly spiraling path towards its core. The smoking steam and roiling lava bed could be seen in a deep and seething pool far below. As we descended the path grew more and more rough and dangerous. At the bottom we came to a shaky stone bridge over the roiling lava bed below, which formed the only access to the lower chamber in which She indicated the Pillar of Fire was located. 

“Since I was last here, my Sartorius,” she called, “the support of the moving stone hath lessened somewhat, so that I am not certain if it will bear our weight or no. Therefore will I cross the first, because no harm will come unto me,” and, without further ado, she trod lightly but firmly across the frail volcanic stone bridge, and in another second was standing safe upon the heaving stone of the other side.

     “It is safe,” she called. “See, hold thou the plank! I will stand on the farther side of the stone so that it may not overbalance with your greater weights. Now, come, Oh My Beloved Sartorius, for presently the moonlight will fail us.” I passed over, followed by Bilalli and Princess Nooaysua carrying the wedding tokens.

     I crossed the stone bridge, but I could not bring myself to enter the iridescent tornado of the Pillar of Fire. My soul and senses balked. I instinctively clutched at the Silver Rose Crucifix about my neck with the image of Molly engraved within.

 “My beloved Sartorius! My beloved Asmodeus! It is safe,—safe! Trust in me as you trust in our eternal love! Here, I will’t show thou how to enter and consummate the rite of bathing in the Pillar of Fire and Life and share the endless life, youth, and ecstasy which we will share forever! I first, and then you follow my love!” she pleaded empassionately.

     “Oh, my love, my love!” she murmured, “wilt thou ever know how I have loved thee?” and she kissed me on the forehead, and then went and stood in the pathway of the Flame of Life.

     There was, I remember, to my mind something very touching about her words and that embrace upon the forehead. It was like a mother’s kiss, and seemed to convey a religious, almost sacred benediction with it.

Closer and closer came the crashing, rolling noise, and the sound of it was as the sound of a forest being swept flat by a mighty wind, and then tossed up like so much grass, and laid thundered down a mountain-side. Nearer and nearer it came; now flashes of light, forerunners of the revolving Double-helix of the pillar of flame, were passing like arrows through the rosy air; and now the edge of the pillar itself appeared. Lilith turned towards it, and stretched out her arms to greet it. On it came very slowly, and lapped her round with flame. I saw the fire run up and suffuse her form. I saw her lift it with both hands as though it were water, and pour it over her head, then flex her sensual body forwards to bathe in it.  I even saw her open her mouth and draw it down into her lungs, and a dread and wonderful sight it was.

Then she paused, and stretched out her arms, and stood there quite still, with a heavenly smile upon her face, as though she herself were the very Spirit of the Flame.

The mysterious column of fire played up and down her dark and rolling locks, twining and twisting itself through and around them like threads of golden lace; it gleamed upon her ivory breast and shoulder, from which the hair had slipped aside; it slid along her pillared throat and delicate features, and seemed to find a home in the glorious eyes that shone and shone, more brightly even than the spiritual essence.

Oh, how beautiful she looked there in the flame! No angel out of heaven could have worn a greater loveliness! Even now my heart faints before the recollection of it, as she stood and smiled serene at our awed faces, and I would give half my remaining time upon this earth to see her once like that again.

But suddenly–more suddenly than I can describe–a kind of change came over her face, a change which I could not define or explain, but none the less a change that began with an inner lurch like a small seizure.  The smile vanished, and in its place there came a dry, hard look; the rounded face seemed to grow pinched, as though some great anxiety were leaving its impress upon it. The glorious eyes, too, lost their light and lustre, and, as I thought, the form its perfect shape and erectness.

I rubbed my eyes, thinking I was dreaming or suffering some delusion, or that the refraction of the light from the volcanic surfaces might have produced some kind of optical illusion. As I did so the flaming pillar slowly twisted and thundered off, collapsing into the bowels of the seething lava bed below. As I gazed into her face the horror gradually congealed itself before me—–Her eyes lost their lustre and became deep and shrunken into their sockets; her skin dried and shriveled into parchment and took on the composition of a dried mummy; She was aging before my very eyes! Three Thousand Years in Three Minutes! Her back bent over and became humped, and her wonderful hair greyed, whitened and then fell to her feet as she clutched at it.

“What is it, what is it my dear Sartorius, my dearest Asmodeus? I feel so strange—What are you looking at?—-Do you see something?—–I feel unwell somehow—yet the Pillar of Life can only bring life—that cannot alter.” she spake forth, clutching at her hair as it fell away in handfuls onto the rocks below. In a handful of minutes she was aging three thousand years and her body was shriveling to the bent and monkey-like visage of a dessicated mummy.

“What is it my beloved? Tell me! Tell me!” she shrieked in increasing panic as her body deteriorated second by second. Then, finally realizing what was happening to her, she fell to the ground and began to grasp at her face with her hand, which had become nothing but a shriveled claw, and she shrieked with horror as her face and then her body crumbled into dust and ash and blew away into the winds like the volcanic ash around her. Shriveling into death her last words I hear are: “Sartorius, forget me not! Beloved Asmodeus—wait for me—I will come again! Believe in me and forget my shame! I will come again to you and be even more beautiful than before—believe in it!” And with that she ceased to exist.

            At that moment an immense rumbling roar filled the core of the volcano, and the lake of lava below began to rise, with sulphurous smoke filling the now dense air around us. From below an immense earthquake shook the volcano sending immense boulders raining down, killing hundreds of the awaiting train. The earth began to swell and tremble, forboding a swelling of the lava below penting up into explosive force. Billali, Nooaysua and myself were isolated on the far side of the stone bridge, which was then crushed in a rain of immense boulders cutting off our line of retreat. We looked up the opposite face of the core and spied a ray of light several hundred yards above us and tried to mount a perilous path towards its source, hoping for an opening allowing escape. I pulled the aged Bilalli forward as his weak legs failed him and urged Nooaysua to keep going and not give up hope. Aften ten minutes we attained the opening and were able to pull ourselves through  a tight tunnel and orifice to the outer slope of the now erupting vocano, bathed in the full light of the full moon. Hot flows of lava sped down the outer slopes on the side opposite to our own, engulfing the pressing throngs of She’s slaves and followers—-recoiling back in panicing horror.  We made our way a quarter of the way around the cone then spied the inlet to the harbor with many boats and dhonis anchored below at the base of the shear cliff looming hundreds of feet above the water’s surface. We made our way downward as far as we could, with the earth shaking, the sulphurous fumes choking us and the streams of lava narrowly passing us by.  The volcano began to tremble and explode violently above and below us. We had no choice. We jumped into the sea. Below one of the dhoni in which we came was set adrift. We dived and hoped against hope. The water was deep and we lost consciousness for minutes, then gaspingly re-attained the surface. We reached the dhoni and unfurled her sail. We paddled furiously, and a stiff breeze came up carrying us farther and farther from the island’s shore, the entire island bathed in a demonic red glowing half-light. Suddenly, we saw the vocano erupting with an immense explosion. Then the explosion deepened and widened and took on ultimate force, completely devastating and obliterating the remains of the island, and with an immense earthquake the smoking remains of the island, its palace and the shattered volcano disappeared beneath the moonlit surface of the sea. We were alone upon the night sea. At first light of dawn we searched for survivors and found some of our sailors who had escaped in a war canoe. Together we had sufficient hands to man the dhoni and a fair wind swept us into Male’ ten days later, where we were shown the generous hospitality of the Sultan, and in a weeks time had recovered our health and lifted somewhat our depressed and melancholy spirits.

(Author’s Note: After my service in the Portugese Civil War for Dom Pedro I reembarked on my Royal Navy career and rising to the rank of a Rear Admiral had some command over communications with India and Ceylon. I authorized the survey ship HMS Beagle to search for the ruins of Lilith’s Island, not knowing its precise location but using estimates based on dead reckoning. No remains or debris were ever found and She and her island City of the Sea disappeared from all traces of human memory as if it were another lost land of Atlantis, forever submerged beneath the sea, memory and time, or as if it had never been but as the dream of a madman reduced to nothingness.)

April 1, 1820—-At the time of our arrival in Male’ we were almost without food and water after ten days on the open sea. Luckily we had been able to catch some tuna and a rain squall enabled us to replenish our water supplies for the last three days. Nonetheless, when we arrived at the Sultan’s Palace we were already in a state of exposure and dehydration and it took us more than a week lying abed to recover our strength and become “Salonfahig” as the Germans put it, or “presentable,” Nonetheless we were very handsomely treated and entertained by the Sultan’s servants while recuperating in our private quarters, and for another week we were content to stroll about the gardens taking our ease.

                        After our arrival we learned of the fates of some of the other shipmates of the Hayston. We learned that on August 10, Serang and his brother had arrived in Male’. After drifting away on their raft, they spent three nights and four days out at sea and passed eleven islands before they landed on an uninhabited island. They were both very weak and survived on coconuts before being rescued by a passing fishing boat. They were conducted to the island where the fishermen lived and were treated with much kindness.
            We also learned that the six mutinous Lascars who stole the large raft at axepoint at the time of the shipwreck, had arrived on August 14 at Male’. They resorted to lies to explain the infamy of their behaviour, claiming the raft had been broken, had gone adrift and the current had carried them away. Despite their treachery, they were treated leniently by the Sultan and not prosecuted. 

During this time we were housed in the royal guest house, a small but immaculately appointed residence, which was especially reserved for the residence of the Captains or senior officers of the foreign travelers and for newly arrived future wives of the Sultan before their wedding ceremony. At the time of our arrival there was but one other resident, that of an older Chinese sea captain who had also been shipwrecked in the atolls. He spoke Arabic and introduced himself as Captain Zhou Chenggong. He proceeded to introduce us to his knowledge of the neighboring islands, which he had had time to explore as he had been stranded here for many years. According to him these islands constituted one of the wonders of the world, as they number well over one and perhaps as many as two thousand, many clustered together in rings of about one hundred. The islands are so close together that the people are visible on the next island, and it is the custom of the ships, dhoni and dhow traversing these waters that when passing through the narrow passages between two islands the ships are obliged to show the faces of all on board for inspection, otherwise they will not be allowed to pass through the channel.

                        According to Zhou Chenggong, the greatest trees on these islands are the coconut, whose fruit they eat with hundreds of varieties of fish, but chiefly tuna. The coconut palm will produce fruit twelve times a year he related, each month supplying a fresh crop, and he pointed out in our strolls through the garden how the fruit on some trees was large, on others small; on some dry, and on some green. And always this is the case so that there is a constantly renewed supply without regard to season. From this he explained, they make palm-wine, of which they are very famous and prodigious drinkers in spite of the discouragement of alcohol by their Islamic religion, and palm-oil, and palm-honey from which they make innumerable delicacies and sweets, which they eat with the meat of the coconuts. According to Zhou Chengong these foods greatly enhance sexual performance, for which the natives and those long resident in the islands show remarkable powers and even tend to become vain in their prowess. He explained the he himself has had several slave girls and four wives all during the time of his stay in the Sultan’s guesthouse, with whom he consorts every day together and spends the night with each wife in turn, without interruption, and was able to satisfy them all continually, including dalliances with the slave girls in the afternoons in addition to sleeping with one of his wives each night. According to Captain Zhou the people here by and large are religious, peaceable and chaste outside their homes. They eat what is lawful and their prayers are answered. Their bodies are weak and they make no war—–their weapons are their prayers.

                        According to Zhou, the women of the islands cover their faces, and also their bodies from the navel downwards, but are otherwise accustomed to bare their bountiful breasts in pride and sociability—-this is true even of the wives of the kings and of the Sultan. The attempts of the occasional judges and imams from more conservative parts of Islam to introduce the hijab or more modest dress have been completely unsuccessful in the face of the strong traditions of the people, which date, so they say, back to the practices of Adam and Eve in Paradise.

                        The cause of these islands becoming Muslim, Captain Zhou related, is contained in the story recorded in the official ‘Annals’ of the Sultan which he had been given liberty to peruse. Originally the kings and peoples of these islands were Buddhists for over one thousand years from the time of the great king Ashoka of India. The visit of the great Islamic voyager and Muslim judge Ibn Battuta changed all this however.

                        It seems for hundreds of years prior to the arrival of Ibn Battuta the islanders were plagued by the visitation of  a fearsome genii or djinn, who inflicted diseases, pestilence and famine upon the population. After years of terror and threatened extinction and untold misery a modus vivendi was worked out in which the islanders erected an idol-temple with the image of the spectre within, concealed behind a veil behind which islanders were forbidden to view but before which they were constrained to prostrate themselves and offer daily fresh fruits and other delicacies. Once every month, the spectre would visit at night in the appearance of a great sailing ship whose masts, spars, gunnels and decks were brightly lit with thousands of candles and would sail to the dock at the temple. The islanders were constrained on each such visitation to take a young virgin, dress her up in the most beautiful bridal robes, and place her in the idol-temple which was situated next to the seashore overlooking the dock and equipped with great open bay windows overlooking the sea. Here they would leave her for the night. When they came in the morning, they would find her sexually violated and covered with blood, her throat torn open as by the razor teeth of a wild beast. Continuing like this year after year the islanders adopted the custom each month of conducting a lottery, casting lots to determine which family would be constrained to provide their daughters to satisfy the unbridled lust for blood of this inhuman monster, the family to whom the lot fell giving up his daughter and dressing her in bridal dress for the spectre.

                        During this time the great explorer and traveler Ibn Battuta came to stay with them. In addition to being a great voyager he was a holy man who had committed the Holy Quran to memory, and served as a judge of Shariah and Islamic law in innumerable places, just previously with the Sultan of Dehli. While dining as a guest of the King of the islands he came upon the Queen and her daughter the Princess weeping and wailing in an uncontrollable flood of tears of lamentation. Ibn Battuta asked his guide, a courtier at the King’s palace, what was the matter. The guide replied that the lots had just been drawn, and that the sacrificial lot had fallen on the Princess, whom the Queen was just dressing in the bridal dress in which she herself had been married. So both were crying uncontrollably, as the Princess was her only daughter.

                        Ibn Battuta, who was a man of great heart as well as great faith, approached the Queen and her daughter, who were now being comforted helplessly and hopelessly by the King himself who joined in their tears. He announced, “With your leave your Highness, I will go to the spectre tonight instead of your daughter. If he takes me, then by my life I will redeem her, but if I come off safe, then that will be to the glory of God, Allah the Compassionate and the Merciful.”  The King, to whom his daughter was his love and life, tearfully agreed to try the measure. Ibn Battuta continued speaking to him “This I will do on three conditions: First, should I survive and succeed in ridding these islands of this ungodly spectre, you and your people will accept the faith of Allah, and of Mohammad as his Messenger and that in the idol-temple to this monstrous Djinn, you will rend the veil and smash his statues and images to pieces and replace them with this copy of the Holy Quran, building it into a Mosque to the glory of Allah; Second, that in the garden courtyard outside of the idol-temple you will plant this nut-seed, which I have brought with me from the tree in the garden in Medina under which Mohammad, Razul Allah, gave court and audience to the Ummah, and beneath which tree you will place a small Gazebo housing this second book, the Kitab Alf Layla, Wa Layla, the Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, containing innumerable and endless the stories and tales of voyages and voyagers like myself, endless pages of which shall endlessly grow and be renewed like the leaves that will issue forth from this nut-seed tree, being always open for any and all and all to read at any time to their instruction and to the delight of their imagination; And Third, that upon my departure from these islands you, King, will accompany me on my voyages for ten years until the tree has grown from a nut-seed to leaf, fruit and flower—-after which you shall return and enjoy the fruits of unlimited power, potency and youth so long as the stories of voyages and of voyagers are told to delight the imagination of the people of these islands and so long as gracious hospitality is afforded to any and all voyagers like myself, from any and all of the nations of the earth.” The King greatfully and tearfully accepted all of the conditions and wished him every success with tearful thanks.

                        With that Ibn Battuta put on the bridal dress of the Princess and veiled himself, covering his face, and that night boarded the King’s Palace Barge taking him to the idol-house in the place of the Princess. Ibn Battuta went in, and sitting down in the center of the hall upon a carpet with his back to the windows overlooking the open sea and facing the idol behind the Temple Veil. As the King and his guards and ministers left him with thanks and well-wishings, he began to read the Suras and Verses of the Holy Quran opened to the Sura in which it is related the story of how Solomon subdued the Djinn and married the Queen of Sheba, mothered by a Djinn.  By and by the spectre came, with flaming eyes like black fire, and he approached the figure clad in bridal dress with her back turned towards him. The spectre swelled with fire and became drunk with passion as he viewed the back of his victim and with one violent motion of his arm and turn of his head he reached around from the rear, grasped the veil across the face of the fated sacrifice and tore it violently aside staring directly into the face below. Ibn Battuta remained unmoved and composed, his eyes fixed on the book, moving his lips in recitation of the Verses and Suras of the Holy Quran. When the Djinn recovered a second later from his shock he looked down with horror to see that the book from which Ibn Battuta read was the golden lettered Holy Quran, and the Djinn burst into a rage of red and black flames which burnt his body violently for three minutes, accompanied by horrid shrieks and curses from the dying Djinn, consumed by his own fire, until all that remained before Battuta was a pile of grey-white ash.

                        When the King and his guards and ministers returned in the morning in the Palace Barge and saw Battuta sitting in exactly the same position as he had left him, they were greatly astonished. Ibn Battuta, raising his arm across the face of the open Quran and pointing to the fetid pile of ash before him indicated the remains of the Djinn. The King fell to the floor embracing Battuta and in a flood of tears thanked him endlessly. The King, recovering himself then took his sword in one hand and a halberd in the other and cut down the veil intending to smash the idol-statue of the Djinn. Cutting down the Veil, however, he found behind it only another pile of fetid ash upon the alterpiece. He smashed the alter to the ground scattering the putrid ashes. Then tearfully he turned to Ibn Battuta, who remained sedately and serenely seated, his lips reciting the words of the Holy Quran before his eyes, and the King said to him: “As I have promised and covenanted, so shall it be fulfilled, Inshallah!”

                        The King then told Ibn Battuta “stay with us for an additional month as a royal guest. All will be prepared for the fulfillment of our covenant. On the next thirtieth day you shall spend the night again here in the idol-house. If the Djinn has not returned in blood, then on the thirty-first day we shall celebrate my daughter’s wedding, plant the nut-seed in the garden, lay the  foundation-stone for the Mosque and I will call all my people to bow down and accept the faith of Allah and Mohammad his Razul. Then we shall depart together for the ends of the earth, not returning until ten years of indenture are out.” The King then paused for one more month, during which he prepared his daughter to be married to his young Vizir, prepared the plans for a stately mosque to be built on the site of the idol-house, and prepared the soil of the garden for receiving the nut-seed. He also prepared himself for his journey with Ibn Battuta, laying in stores, and fitting out ships and making plans for embarking for Quanzhou by way of Sunda.

            On the thirtieth day next, they all went with Ibn Battuta to the idol-house and left him there seated on the carpet as before, reading aloud from the Holy Quran. When the royal train returned the next morning they again found Battuta as they had left him, his eyes and lips moving serenely across the lines of Verses and Suras of the holy book. With that the young Vizir motioned for his troop of soldiers to bring in the immense cornerstone of the new Mosque, and busied them with digging and setting it in place according to plan for the beginning of the construction of the new edifice. Ibn Battuta arose from the carpet and unrolled the belt fastened around his waist and hips, and from the inner folds of the belt he withdrew the nut-seed, wrapped in a golden handkerchief.  Battuta picked up a workman’s spade and dug a hole of a goodly depth and let drop the nut-seed, which he then covered over with loose earth. Ibn Battuta then removed an ivory flask from his belt and uncapped it and poured water from the flask over the loose soil covering the newly-planted nut-seed. “This is Zam-Zam Water from Mecca and Medina which I have carried from my latest Hadjj.” he said, and then recited several Verses from Suras of the Holy Quran over it as it poured and was absorbed into the soil.  Then miraculously, the nut-seed sapling instantaneously burst forth as an infant tree rising to the level of Battuta’s knees, the supple green branches of which had sprouted leaves of every colour of the rainbow! “This is the Tree of the Coat of Joseph, some call it the Bodhi Tree, some heathens name it Yggdrasil; It is multi-coloured like the Coat of Joseph, and its leaves are of all of the colours of the earth and of the light created in the beginning of God Allah. It’s roots are in the darkest depths beneath all knowing and its branches reach the highest rays of the sun and the unseen spectra of the stars, bridging the realm of darkness and that of light with everlasting Life. On its leaves are written the stories and dreams of all mankind, which bud, blossom and fall in their season. After ten years, when the Sultan has completed his Odyssey and has returned from the ends of the Earth to his true home, the tree will mature to bear the fruit of wisdom and of beauty. Thereafter in Autumn on each leaf will appear a poem, or the page of a book. In Autumn its leaves will turn radiant of all colours of the rainbow and fall beneath it into Significant Soil. Each year the last and largest leaf will turn crimson and will be the last to fall. On this Last Leaf will appear as if written by the hand of an Angel a Sura of the Holy Quran. If the King, who has become Sultan, attends and catches this last leaf before it hits the ground each year and recites aloud the Sura, the Sultan will not age for a year and will retain his youth, strength and sexual potency unaffected by age, so long as the tales of peoples, and of voyagers and of heroes and of the livers of intenser life are told openly in his court, and so long as his hospitality is shown to all voyagers in his land.”  

                        Seeing the ashes of the Djinn and the miracle of the Tree of the Coat of Joseph all were struck with awe. The King called his people to be witness to the miracle and to the power of Allah and recited the prayer acknowledging Allah to be the only god and Mohammad Razul his Prophet. He called on all of his people to face Mecca and bow in prayer, following Battuta’s lead and instruction. The King declared himself thereafter Sultan, and his people as People of the Book. The King then presided over the marriage of his daughter the Princess to his Vizir, and then charged the Vizir to take the reins of government in his absence until his return in ten years time and charged his people to pledge to obey him as if he were the King, now Sultan, himself.

     Thereafter a great feast was raised admidst great dancing, celebration and the reciting of poems and songs. At the end of the day sunset intervened and the King, now Sultan rose with Ibn Battuta to enter the dhoni at the dock, which would ferry them out to the large dhows that would carry them across the sea to Sunda and then to Quanzhou in Cathay. He embraced the Queen, then kissed his daughter and blessed her and the new Prince, the Vizir and called down the blessings of Allah upon them, then finally resigned he entered the dhoni and entered its cabin, drawing the curtain before him, perhaps to conceal his manly tears.

     Then Ibn Battuta bade farewell to all the guests, the Queen, Princess, Vizir now Prince and those who had been his friends over the last months, invoking all to remain faithful to their hearts and faithful to Allah, which they would at length find were one and the same. Placing one foot on the gunnel of the dhoni, he turned to make a farewell address and speech to the gathered party, which speech was recorded, word-for-word in the ‘Annals’ of the Court which Captain Zhou Chenggong recalled from memory, having memorized it:

“Today we embark on a great voyage, having planted the seeds of a great faith, rooted in a primordial soil. When we return from our voyages across these nigh infinite seas we shall return with the stories of our travels and of our transformations. For only change and the stories of change are endless, and endlessly renewed.  Just as we embark upon these seas of the earth stretched before your eyes to their far horizons, so shall we return upon a Sea of Stories, to which the stream of the life and consciousness and of the story of each man is an infinitesimal yet an indispensible tributary; For by the inflowing and addition of each new story the Sea of Stories is endlessly renewed and cleansed, refreshed and regenerated in its vital springs. By each addition the springs, flows and sluice-gates of the imagination are re-opened and the Sea of Stories is kept clean and alive, and without which it would foul itself, waste and die, immense as it may be. Let each man voyage forth and return with his story, and each woman also, renewing the fount and wells of the Sea in everlasting life! Each life is a story, and each story is a life! Each voyage is a story, and each story a voyage! We shall return from our Odyssey and find ourselves rooted in the soil of our beginnings—-Inshallah!—–Fare not well but fare forward, O my voyagers!—-Allah’s blessing upon you all—Inshallah!”  And with that, and with the wave of a hand and the pushing off of a foot, they disappeared into the tropical night. 

               Two weeks after our arrival, however, it was suddenly announced that the Sultan would hold Court to receive us in state and we would be officially presented in three days time. The date for Princess Nooaysua’s wedding as the twelveth wife of the Sultan was set for the same afternoon, and a wedding feast and celebration would be the occasion of our presentation to the the Royal Court.

                        On the day of the Princess’ wedding she emerged immaculately appointed after two days of partying and preparations on the women’s side of the Guest House, including, so I heard from the servant girls, bellydancing, baths in sumptuous spices and oils, “Hennaing” or the painting of henna temporary tattoos upon the bride’s skin and like traditions. From there the longish wedding process began in the Islamic tradition with the reading of the Fatiha, which is the first Sura of the Holy Quran, and then the bride and groom taking Sharbat, or Sherbert, made of a mélange of syrups and fruits. After that the couple proceeded to the Nikah, or the signing of the marriage contract, and the delivery of copious gifts by the Sultan to the bride and her family. Following the Nikah, the Royal Procession proceeded from the Palace to the Mosque for the Katb Kitab, or religious ceremony presided over by the Sheik and Imam. The procession from the Palace to the Mosque was also the occasion of the joyful and boisterous Zaffa or wedding march, a grand musical procession of scores of bendir drums, bagpipes, horns, belly dancers and men carrying flaming swords. This announces jubilantly that the marriage is about to begin. Once within the Mosque the Imam then gave a small speech about how the Prophet honored his wives, and how to honor women, and how women should treat their husbands, and how to honor them, then the Imam, told the groom to follow his words, who accepted the proposal. This is more or less like the Nikah, but it is considered a more official one in front of god, Allah and then two witnesses signed their names, and they were now pronounced officially married. Through all of this Nooaysua carried herself with the confidence and bearing of a true princess, as she had told me that she must out of duty to her family and her position. She was resigned that her life was not her own and she was resolved to bear it nonetheless with a dignity and grace befitting her person. Having been together on a friendly basis a longer time we had talked of it on several occasions and though she did not know him, and certainly could not have loved the Sultan at that point, and the Sultan indeed was more than twice her age, though sexually fit, she did not think of love, though she did not necessarily exclude it, but sought to preserve her dignity, do her duty to her family and people, and hope that happiness of a sort might come with time.

            In the late afternoon, following the Katb Kitab, the wedded couple emerged at the head of the Royal train, including the Sultan’s eleven other wives and children, and all the chief ministers and court officials and made their way back to the Palace to begin the Walimah, or feasting and celebration. The hundred of retainers performed the Dabke, dancing and stomping the ground in dancing lines that snaked up and down the hall, while the royal couple took their places on the Royal thrones, which served as the Kosha for the wedding party. Then Nooaysua and the Sultan joined in the dancing, celebrating their new status publicly, and an endless stream of salads, fruits, sweets, stews, meats, palm-date wine, honey, fish, fish-rolls, Fattah—or lamb embedded in rice and bread and dipped in a delicious stew, and assorted delicacies were shared by the couple and guests alike.  

                        After the dinner and feasting the palm-date wine flowed copiously and the Sultan grew melancholy and called for his storytellers to entertain the assembled guests. The court had three official storytellers, who were known by their nicknames taken from the classical poets and storytellers, Abu Nuwas, Hafiz and Al-Jahiz. The Sultan, showing his wine and in an erotic mood called for Abu Nuwas to entertain with some novel stories of love. However, when the storyteller mounted the stage, he was struck dumb and couldn’t think of a single story. The Sultan was outraged and shouted angrily at him and demanded that he explain himself on pain of severe punishment. Abu Nawas explained “Your Excellency, for twenty years I have told stories in your court and I have wracked my brain for three days, knowing you would demand one for your wedding feast, but I must confess that after twenty years, my stock of stories is used up! I simply have no more new ones to tell!—I beg for forgiveness for my weakness, your Excellency!”  The Sultan was furious and ordered his guards to take the hapless man away and place him in the Palace dungeon until he decided whether to have him executed for his nonfeasance. Then turning to Hafiz and Al-Jahiz he warned them that they had better make good the deficiency of Abu Nuwas or they would suffer a similar fate. Both tried desperately to begin a new story, but became tongue-tied when they could not think of any but the old hackneyed tales which had been told and re-told into the ground a thousand times. Finally, Al-Jahiz lifted up his hands in desperation and confessed, “Your Highness, all three of us have been sleepless for three days and nights sitting up with one another and trawling the library in search of a new tale that had not already been told, but for the life of us we are talked out! We have served for twenty and thirty years and our stock has come to an end! We throw ourselves on your mercy, O Sultan, in the name of Allah the Merciful and the Compassionate!” after which they prostrated themselves on the floor at the Sultan’s feet.

            “Dogs!” shouted the Sultan, “Dogs!……how dare you disappoint me on my wedding night! Moreover the Covenant of the Mosque demands that the stories of voyagers, and of heros and of the livers of intenser life be told, lest the blessings of the Mosque cease!” and he ordered his guards to throw the other two in the dungeon along with Abu Nuwas, adding at the top of his shrill voice as they were dragged away—“If you do not bring me a novel story by sunrise you shall all lose your heads with the break of day!”

            With that the Sultan began to sink into depression and anger and to drink more and more heavily, conspicuously slumping across his throne.  Princess Nooaysua was visibly shaken and disturbed to have such a thing happen on her wedding night, and she became more and more worried when the hour grew late and the Sultan made no motion towards leading her to the nuptial chamber to consummate their new marriage.

                        The Sultan’s first wife, Melanokuikui, could see the tension in Nooaysua’s eyes and leaned over to her and whispered in her ear “Oh my poor dear! I am so sorry for all this—you see the Sultan is not so young anymore and, well, to put it delicately, he sort of needs to work himself up to make love—-he needs a good erotic love story to get his blood flowing to the right parts! Unless we find a new story I am afraid all this will end rather badly—and he has to fulfill the Covenant of the Mosque by keeping up the flow of new stories or the blessings of youth, potency and strength will leave him!”

            Just then the Sultan began consulting with his Vizir on how to solve the dilemma. The Vizir then announced the command of the Sultan: “His Highness, the Sultan of Maleh decrees that his bride and foreign guests shall take the place of the imprisoned storytellers and provide a novel story on pain of death for themselves and for those already imprisoned. Henceforth, it is decreed, that should a novel story fail to be told each night to the satisfaction of His Excellency, the Sultan, those failing shall be immediately beheaded by the Royal Executioner!  He commands that you three must draw lots to determine who shall tell tonight’s tale—should the drawer of the lot fail they will be immediately executed and the next called, and so forth—and if all fail to complete a tale—all shall be put to death!”

                        With that the Vizir prepared three straws and gave each of us, myself, Zhou Chenggong and Nooaysua chance to draw one. By chance, Nooaysua drew the short straw and the Vizir commanded her “Within one hour you must begin your tale and finish it before daybreak or you and those already failing shall be beheaded!”

                        “Go!—Prepare yourself! And if you fail to begin your story in one hour you wedding night will be your last night on this earth!” with which the Palace guards escorted Nooaysua into the antechamber.

                        After fifty minutes I and Zhou Chengong were twisting ourselves in angst, fear and trepidation as we waited for Nooaysua’s return. We knew not whether Nooaysua could create such a novel story in such a short span, and with that we did not know if we ourselves would be the next to die so cruelly. Three minutes before the hour had elapsed Nooaysua strode into the hall wrapped in her native inner dignity and gracefulness and addressed the Sultan: “Your Excellency and my good husband: The Imam has confided in the Mosque to me on my wedding today that it is fitting and meet for a wife to follow the orders and judgment of her husband though she may doubt their wisdom.  Though my mind might find your command surprising and arbitrary in its whim it is my duty to obey without questioning. I beg of you to spare those who have failed to recite and our two distinguished foreign guests and I shall comply with your wishes and recite your novel tale.” A wave of the Sultan’s hand impelled the Vizir to interpret the gesture for the Princess, stating “His Excellency accepts your conditions and commands you to begin your story.”

                        Whereupon, Nooaysua, having had but one hour to compose her tale, drew on her most recent memories and began to recite the story of our encounter with “Sir She—Lilith” and what we saw and how we escaped, detailing Lilith’s Island and the Palace and legions of guards and warriors; the catacombs in which she lived and her three-thousand year search for the lost lover Asmodeus, whom she had killed in a fit of jealous rage and whom she hoped and believed would return to her in reincarnation; of her love for Sartorius, convinced that he was the reincarnated spirit of her beloved Amodeus; of her search for eternal love and pleasure with her lover through the agency of the Pillar of Fire, and how She—Lilith came to an horrendous end devoured unto death by time reversed by the Pillar of Fire; and of how we escaped the devastated island to reach the shores of Male’. At the end of the ‘Story of She—Lilith’ and an hour before sunrise the Sultan was delighted with the tale and with the cleverness of his youngest bride and was convinced he had made a wise choice in the woman both for her beauty and for her wit. 

   “Excellent! Excellent!” the Sultan bellowed, “Most Excellent—–It is therefore my continuing command that each evening in which we dine together you three, Captain Sartorius, Captain Zhou and Nooaysua will draw straws and the drawer of the lot be charged with the recitation of a story, which must be novel and delighting, on pain of death!—for you and for all who have failed to serve me!—You are so commanded to continue until such time as you have delivered a son to me or, in the case of our Captains, until a ship of your own country calls at my harbor to take you home!–It is so commanded!” called he forth with the commanding tone of state he had become accustomed to in his arbitrary and capricious rule over the lives of others.  

     “And now my darling, we shall retire to our nuptial bed to consecrate our wedding vows. With the end of one story we shall begin a new one, for every new life is also a new story, and every new story is also a new life!——as Hadji Battuta has declared for us.” And with that the loving couple made their way to the Royal Bedchambers, and each of us, their guests, made his way to his own chambers, each with his own thoughts.

From that day we met as dinner guests sharing the Sultan’s table every night, save on each fourth night the Sultan took a Sabbath from his passion for novel stories and rested. At the beginning of each dinner the Vizir would place a silver ball under one of three overturned silver cups and mix them on a silver tray, bidding each of us to choose one. The one who received the silver ball would bear the lot of telling the post prandial story, while the others at court sipped their palm-date wine and ate Sherberts, sweets, h’ordourves, sweetmeats, viands and other delicacies. On the first night I was given the ball I began to recall stories from a book I brought aboard the Hayston to while away the hours—Homer’s Odyssey, to which I was addicted since boyhood. I began with the tale of Telemachus in search of his lost father and his visits to Menelaus and Helen of Troy, then recounting the events of the Iliad. Then Zhou Chenggong drew the lot telling tales from the Shan Hai Jing, The Chinese Classic of the Seas and Mountains, recounting the story of NuWa and the stone left out from repairing heaven. Then Nooaysua drew the ball and recited a story from the Mahabarata of Vyasa, the Friendly Game of Dice, the temptation of the great warrior Karna, the Exile of the Pandava Brothers and their return to claim their kingdom, and then of the story of Krishna’s instruction to Arjuna on the Field of Battle in the Bhavagad Gita. Then Zhou Chenggong drew the ball and recited stories of Pan Gu, the Primal Man and how the world was created from the demise of his body. I drawing the ball again told the story of Odysseus’ defeat of the Cyclops and of St. John’s visions shipwrecked upon Patmos. Then Nooaysua drew the ball and told of the story of the Ramayana of Valmiki whereby the evil Ravanna abducts the faithful Sita and is saved by aid of Hanuman the Monkey King. Next Zhou Chenggong told the story of Sun Wu Kong from the Xi You Ji, or Journey to the Westa later incarnation of the Ramayana’s Hanuman–wherein the Tang monk Xuanzang pilgrimages to India to recover sacred Buddhist texts in the company of Sun Wu Kong—Monkey King and master of magic powers, Zhu Ba Jie the Pig-man, and Sandy the monk. On and on we went in the endless cycle, each recalling the stories of his childhood or of his school. I told of Joseph and his Brothers, then Zhou told of the Strategem of the Empty Fortress of Zhugeliang from the San Guo Yan Yi, Classic of the Three Kingdoms; Nooaysua told the tale of ‘Sympathy the Learned’ from the Kitab Alf Layla Wa Layla, or The Thousand and One Arabian Nights in which the slave girl bests the greatest scholars of the Caliph. I told of the Wife of Bath’s Tale from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales  and next Camoes’ tale of the Lusiads, of the voyages of the sons of Lisboa—founded by the the seafarer Ulysses, and of the brave Sons of Lusus defying Adamastor’s Curse on rounding the Cape to found, Promemethean, a great ocean empire, and of the warnings of ‘The Honourable Man of Belem,’ and Zhou Chenggong told of China’s Emperor Qin Shihuangdi Burning the Books and Burying the Confucian Scholars Alive from Si Ma Qian’s Shi Ji, or Records of the Historian. Thus we went on and on and ever on in our whirlpool of stories on our island in the southern sea, sailing ever onwards through a Sea of Stories.  

In the course of our trials of narration I asked Zhou Chengong to tell the story of how he came to be stranded on the island and he told of how his Grandfather had been a captain under the great Chinese Admiral Zheng He who sailed from China to India, to Mecca and to the coast of Africa in his great Treasure Ships, and how the profession was passed down from him to his father and thence to him, when he had the bad luck to chance upon the Maldivian coral reefs in a great typhoon, sending his ship to the bottom. He then told how the Sultan had made him his royal guest since that time. I asked how long he had been on Male’ Island, and he wracked his brain to remember. He said when he first sailed the seas as a young man he heard the story of the discovery of the New World in the Americas by Columbus and that he must have been wrecked about the time of the news circulating about Cortez’s conquest of of the land of silver and of the human sacrafices on the bloody pyramids of Mexico. He then guessed he must have been here for nigh onto three hundred years. Asking how such a thing might be possible he cited the Tree of the Coat of Joseph in the garden of the Mosque—–the Sultan caught the Red Leaf of the Quran’s Sura each year and handed it to his guests. All who touched it aged not for that year so long as the stories flowed openly and endlessly in the court.  This Sultan himself was one and the same as him who had sailed with Ibn Battuta, and was reckoned to be over four-hundred and fifty years old! The endless Sea of Stories and the Tree of Joseph’s Coat kept them forever young. “But had you no desire to return home?” I asked him. “Always” he replied, “But that is my fate and the fate of my China—–you see, I have shared this island with the Sultan for over three hundred years and we have seen hundreds of guests from a score of distant lands stranded for a year, two, five….ten..…but always there eventually always came another ship of their land to take them home—-save me—for my ship was the last of the Treasure Ships of Zheng He—-after that China turned its back on the world and forced its people to abandon the sea, breaking up its Treasure Ships and burying itself behind its Great Wall—-you see there never was another Chinese ship—-the Emperors have locked me out of my home and turned their back on the World and I am afraid the World will take as harsh a revenge on China as it has inflicted on me, until we learn to follow Zheng He again and live as a part of the World rather than eternally re-building the Wall to keep it out.”

     So we went round, round and round in out circle of tales until the day that Princess Nooaysua gave birth to her first child, a son, and the Sultan pardoned her from the sentence of death should she fail in her stories, as had Shahrayar pardoned Shaherezade. In fact, so overjoyed was the Sultan at the birth of his son that he announced a general pardon for all, and both Zhou Chenggong and myself were released from our forced labours, and the three storytellers confined in the dungeon, Abu Nuwas, Hafiz and Al-Jahiz were taken from their chains and joined the birthday party—and, as their confinement had given them the leisure to replenish their store of stories they resumed their old duties with new relish.  One year later, on the young Prince’s first birthday, the harbor of Male’ was visited by the HMS Malabar and the ships crew were immediately invited to the royal feast and celebration to their great delight. To no less delight, though accompanied by a melancholy undertone of regret, I boarded the Malabar for Calcutta two weeks later and so ended the accident of my soujourn in Male’. Before leaving I took a tearful farewell of Princess Nooaysua and her young son—just beginning to walk but not quite yet to talk, Captain Zhou Chenggong and the Sultan of Maleh. The Sultan accompanied us on his barge to the boarding of the Malabar. Before taking leave of him I posed him a question “Excellency—tell me, had I failed to tell a story would you really have had me executed?”  He replied, “Of course not! Do you take me for a barbarian? I am not so far gone as Napoleon who would execute one Admiral ‘pour encourager des autres.’—–But the illusion of pending death may wonderfully focus the mind!—–and after all, if as friend Shakespeare has it all the world’s a stage, we must all be prepared to play our parts and recite the needed lines if the play is to go on!”  “And since I have answered your question I will ask you a question in return,”  sallied the Sultan, “………were all the stories that you told original?”  “Original?” I repeated, “………why, your Excellency, you may rest assured that they were all the last word in stolentelling!” I retorted, and we both laughed our good-byes to each the other. Thus blessing one another we took our last glimpse of each other’s faces as the great sails of the Malabar dropped and the wind rose into them, billowing them and us forward and onward.

Editor’s Note: Appended below is Admiral Sartorius’letter of thanks to the Sultan dispatched when he had next made his way back to the Admiralty in London, a fair copy of which has been recovered from the AdmiraltyArchives in preparation of this book:

“To His Serene Excellency, Sultan of Maleh:

Dear Excellency:

I am pleased to write to you from my home in London and inform you that your gracious hospitality and aid in the repatriation of myself and my surviving crewmembers has achieved its intended result and that we are safely landed in England. We are in your everlasting gratitude for our lives and well being, as well as for your personal friendship. The wreck of the Hayston was noted for the humanity of the Maldivians and generosity of Your Highness. I have reported to the Admiral of the Fleet that in all cases, the castaways were well provided for and that Your Highness was even so overwhelmingly gracious as to not allow us to pay for anything in your country. You may rest assured that the friendship of our two countries has been firmly bonded by your gentlemanly actions and will be reciprocated in future.  Let the Christians blush thinking that, though they profess a religion that enjoin the most tender charity, you turned out, in our minds, to be, as it were, superiors to them in the practice of virtue and humanity.

With eternal Thanks and Warmest Regards,

I am and remain

Your Most Grateful & Obedient Servant

Captain George Rose Sartorius

Admiralty House, London”

                 Sartorius finished his reading of the relevant parts of the annals of his forebearer, Admiral George Rose Sartorius towards the break of day, and put himself to sleep with a rum-coco, drawing the shades to keep out the gathering morning light. Luckily the next day was but a day of rest and he slept until noon and then after showering partook of the hotel buffet lunch, rested on the beach and took a leisurely dip in the water. He and Teddy Zhou then picked up two pretty Philippina girls on the beach who worked as singers in the lounge bar, treated them to dinner and made general fools of themselves for the rest of the evening.  

C Copyright Robert Sheppard 2011 All Rights Reserved

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Fantasy, Myth and Magical Realism Excerpts from Spiritus Mundi, by Robert Sheppard

Introducing Spiritus Mundi, a Novel by Robert Sheppard

Author’s E-mail:   rsheppard99_2000@yahoo.com

 

Related Links and Websites:  Spiritus Mundi, Novel by Robert Sheppard

For Introduction and Overview of the Novel:  http://spiritusmundinovel.wordpress.com/

For Author’s Blog:  https://robertalexandersheppard.wordpress.com/

To Read a Sample Chapter from Spiritus Mundi: https://spiritusmundisamplechapters.wordpress.com/

To Read Fantasy, Myth and Magical Realism Excerpts from Spiritus Mundi: https://spiritusmundifantasymythandmagicalrealism.wordpress.com/

To Read Sexual Excerpts from Spiritus Mundi: The Varieties of Sexul Experience:  https://spiritusmundivarietiesofsexualexperience.wordpress.com/

To Read Spy, Espionage and Counter-terrorism Thriller Excerpts from Spiritus Mundi:   http://spiritusmundispyespionagecounterterrorism.wordpress.com/

To Read Geopolitical and World War Three Excerpts from Spiritus Mundi: https://spiritusmundigeopoliticalworldwar3.wordpress.com/

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To Read about the Global Campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly in Spiritus Mundihttps://spiritusmundiunitednationsparliamentaryassembly.wordpress.com/

To Read Poetry from Spiritus Mundihttps://spiritusmundipoetry.wordpress.com/

For Discussions on World Literature and Literary Criticism in Spiritus Mundi:   http://worldliteratureandliterarycriticism.wordpress.com/

For Discussions of World History and World Civilization in Spiritus Mundi:  https://worldhistoryandcivilizationspiritusmundi.wordpress.com/

To Read the Blog of Eva Strong from Spiritus  Mundi: https://evasblogfromspiritusmundi.wordpress.com/

To Read the Blog of Andreas Sarkozy from Spiritus Mundi: http://andreasblogfromspiritusmundi.wordpress.com/

To Read the Blog of Robert Sartorius from Spiritus Mundi: http://sartoriusblogfromspiritusmundi.wordpress.com/

                                                           1

Teatro Magico: For Madmen Only!—-(Private Club: Admission by Membership or Personal Invitation Only).

A small porthole-like door at shoulder height opened to reveal the face of the doorkeeper, an immensely tall muscled man with a shaved head who appeared to be either a strong-man from a circus or a gangster’s “muscle,” who eyed the trio with a cold suspicion.  Sartorius silently presented the card to him through the porthole. He examined it for a full minute, his cold and suspiscious eye passing repeatedly from its face to theirs.  Hearing a voice shouting at him “Open up you moron” he was perplexed until he responded to the kicking against the bottom of the door and looked down to see Oskarnello venting his rage. The door opened. They found themselves in an ornately appointed hallway with crystal chandeliers and a plush red velvet carpet leading to a hat-check room where they gave up their things. Oskar then disappeared behind the counter with the hat-check girl. The trio then entered the theatre itself.

The Teatro Magico, was not one theater and had no central hall for an audience, but fashioned on the popular “Cineplex” model, rather consisted of an array of smaller theatres in a semi-circular ringed hallway sided at intervals by small lounges, to the far side which were arrayed various ornate gilded doors, each inscribed with an alluring title designed to invite entrance, and the near side of which was an endless curved mirror.  Anyone was free to enter or not enter as many of the smaller theatres as one wished or none at all at his own choice. This with one great difference, Teresa cautioned, there were no seats or audience, but that the partaker himself was taken up in a role in the drama, as it were, as part of a dream come alive, a ‘virtual reality’ or an incarnation into another life, to continue until he should chose to exit by the door by which he entered.—-Thus, transcending its origin as a ‘Cineplex,’ it might be better styled a ‘Psychoplex.’

Sartorius followed Maria into the first concave lounge area and Maria ordered a round of Mescals from the attendant. She then sat herself within a smaller curtained booth at the back of the lounge at the back of which lay a continuous mirror. The waiter brought her drink and drew the curtain behind him, leaving Maria enclosed alone within. With a note of confusion, Sartorius followed Theresa’s lead in taking his glass of mescal and sitting down on the long ottoman opposite the booth. Theresa then unscrewed the cap atop a large crucifix locket hung about her neck, within which was a miniscule spoon with which she extracted a portion of white powder which she raised towards her nose, drawing it forcefully inward while holding one nostril closed with her forefinger. She then offered Sartorius the next spoonful, with which after a small hesitation he took imitating her lead. From behind the curtain they heard Maria’s voice begin to hum absently, then break out with intermittent rushes of feeling into scraps and lines of her well-known cabaret songs.  Theresa then excused herself off to the ladies room, motioning with her head hintingly towards the booth curtain behind which Maria sat waiting.

            Drunk with a trembling expectation of the appearance of her face, and beginning to feel his pulse quicken under the kick, Sartorius braced himself with a second spoonful  of cocaine and walked precipitously towards the hanging curtain. Sartorius then, after a lingering moment of seeming numbness as he laid his fingers against the velvet cloth, pulled against the curtain, struggling against a charm that seemed to deprive him of all his will and all his energy, and of almost all of his lucidity at the moment he wanted them most.  He succeeded in drawing back the curtain that hid her face from him and he walked to where Maria stood. She herself seemed moving backward, towards the back of the small enclosure, the whole of which was occupied by a great mirror that reflected her image, but not his, for he was just behind her and entirely covered by her. He heard her voice singing the sultry cabaret song in ineffably exalted sirenlike tones that pulled against his heart with a physical force as she approached the mirror: “In olden days…………….Now heaven knows, Anything goes!”  As she sang Maria walked towards her image in the glass with her arms outstretched and the image came towards her. The two Marias—the real one and the reflection—ended by touching, and then their hands touching and seeming to melt and pass into each other just as Sartorius put out his arms to clasp the two in one embrace. But, by a sort of dazzling miracle that sent him staggering, Sartorius was suddenly flung back, while an icy blast swept over his face; he saw, not two, but four, eight, then hundreds of Marias spinning around him, laughing at him and fleeing so swiftly that he could not touch one of them. At last, everything stood still again, and he saw himself in the glass. But Maria had disappeared.

            He rushed up to the glass. He struck at the walls and at the glass surface with the heels of his hands and fists. Nobody! And tears from somewhere fell, streaming downwards like a soft rain upon the cold glass. Which way had she gone? Which way would she return? Only an invisible voice rang out again its sultry Porteresque echo: “Now heaven knows, Anything goes!”

Returning to find him, Teresa gathered Sartorius together and led him down the curving hallway towards the ornate multiple doorways of the Cineplex. She told Sartorius he was free to choose. Sartorius walked a few paces to inspect the titles of the offerings on the first three doors:  (1) “You Rule All Before You With Absolute Power!”

(2) “A Friendly Ball Game” (3) “All the Women of the World are Yours!”—–Sartorius entered the first door:

                        As the door of the theatre closed behind you, you strode forward, noticing first that you were clothed in a turquoise coloured ceremonial robe and with a large jade image of a Jaguar pendent from a heavy jade necklace suspended on your chest. On your head was a crown of jade and gold, topped with innumerable long and striking trogon feathers, the blue-green of meter long quetzal feathers, and the multi-coloured rainbow like feathers of the troupial. You were seated on an ornate throne of pure gold atop the Grand Pyramid, Tempel Major, above which was sculpted in bas relief the images of the Gods: First and foremost Huizilopochtli, the Sun and War God, patron and protector of the Aztec empire; then of Tlaloc, the Rain God; then Xochiquetzel, and then Quetzelcoatl, the Plumed Serpent and patron of the city of Tenotichtlan. A eunuch slave approached you, prostrating himself on the ground before he spoke without daring to raise his eyes to your own:

           “Lord Tlacaelel, the Tlaxcallan war captives have arrived at the base of the Pyramid. The priests and the warriors await your orders.”

“Bring the first son of the captive Tlaxcallan king to me here, and send his daughters to my palace apartment and prepare them for their fates.” you ordered.

You looked below, down the glittering and terrifying expanse of the Grand Pyramid. The eunuch made his way down the long stone stairs from the peak of the pyramid where you were seated towards its base, an armed warrior at every landing and a torchbearer at every ten steps. The steps were stained a purplish brown along their length from decades of the river of running blood from their top and the rolling of the dead, heartless bodies down to the base, where below the chiefs of the abbatoir severed and carved the limbs of the defeated soldiers into the cooking vats to be shared out to our victorious Aztec warriors. When the eunuch reached the head of the column of prisoners, their hands bound with leather straps behind their backs, and relayed the instructions to the ear of the Lieutenant of the Guard, the warrior guards moved to execute his orders. You could see the white haired head of the captive King of the Tlaxcallans drop  helplessly as he saw his children being led away from him—-his son to certain death and his daughters in sexual bondage to the harem of his lifelong enemy, you, Lord Tlacaelel. You saw his knees collapse and his white hair cover the ground as the body shook with convulsive sobbing.

The Captain of the Guard, Marlo Xiloj approached and prostrated himself, then rose to speak into your ear: “Lord Tlacaelel, shall the old man die as well?”

You answered: “No, he is broken to the power of Tlacaelel. He will return home childless and chastened before his people, a living testimony to our absolute power.”

The Captain responded: “Why do we let them live? Why don’t we exterminate the Tlaxcallans and their kingdom and reduce them to slaves, as we have all the other kingdoms surrounding us and them? They are defeated in battle—-why let them go on?” he queried.

You answered: “If we kill all the actors, our Theater of Terror will go dark! No! The whole world witnesses our power here clearly and willingly submits. And furthermore, the Tlaxcallans are our close cousins! Nothing is so sweet as to devour a hated brother! And furthermore, our God, the great Huizilopochli does not like the flesh of the barbarous peoples from far away. He devours his own close kin! To our god the captives from those distant foreign expeditions are like hard yellowish, tastless tortillas in his mouth! Only sacrificial victims from nearby cities, our own near flesh and blood will come to our god like warm tortillas, soft, tasty, straight from the fire!—sweet as your own sister!—-We keep the Tlaxcallans alive and free to suffer beautifully for the glory of our Beloved One, Huizilopochli—–Marlo Xiloj!—if you are going to be a captain you mustn’t be afraid to look straight-eyed into the dark beauty of the heart of darkness!” you say.

Then the bound captive Prince, proud and defiant, was led before you and the priests and guards forced him onto his back upon the altar. You took up the black obsidian knife, scalpel sharp, tore open the tunic of the prince and with a single deft motion entered the cavity of the chest, the priests prying back the ribs exposing the beating heart. You looked into the Tlaxcallan prince’s eyes, still conscious. With a motion of your arm you forced your right hand into the open chest and under beating heart of the supine prince, and without severing the vessels you lifted it up out of the chest where it continued to beat gloriously, hot and living in your hand! You looked from the heart to the eyes and saw the lids droop, and close, like the eyes of the Tlaxcallan queen, the boy’s mother when you entered her, forcing her legs apart for the first time after the victory at the battle at Taxcala. As you took the obsidian knife and cut the arteries of the beating heart in your hand, spilling and spattering the blood in a wild orgasmic chaos you were in near delirium as you raised the still beating heart to the beloved face of your God Huizilopochli and watched the streaming red blood bring life to the face of the Adored One before you!

As you felt your teeth enter the warm and still beating heart, the hot blood running down the corners of your mouth and as you kissed the upturned lips of the idol you convulsed, then began to shriek with revulsion and you ran, hyperventilating, to escape. You pulled open the door of the Theatre and saw Teresa standing next to a gilded mirror smoking a cigarette in a long cigarette-holder while leaning against an ivory statue of Cupid on a pedestal.

“Roberto!—what is wrong?” she pleaded, grasping your hand and comforting you.

“The horror!” you answered hypnotically, “……the Horror!”

“Well,  Roberto, you had better get a grip on yourself before the next feature. Here, sit down and have a drink.” She motioned for the usher behind the theatre bar and he brought a large bottle of Mescal, pouring out two glasses. You drained one glass, then half of the other. Though you were back in your own clothes, you noticed the stream of blood about your mouth from the previous scene trickling down the side of your mouth and into the cup. Teresa picked up the half drained, blood stained second glass of Mescal, raising it to her lips, saying jokingly to you as she drained it: “Leave me my bloody bever for soothsay,” after which the usher then refilled both glasses from the bottle. Then Theresa picked up one of the glasses, handing you the other and proposed a toast: “To Roberto—and his Brave New World!” and you downed the ether together, “…..but maybe you need something a little lighter for a change….which do you choose next?”

Having recovered yourself, you agreed with Teresa’s suggestion and looked down the hallway for your options. You chose door number two…….”A Friendly Ball Game…” Teresa said, to reassure you “And if you are still a little bit nervous, we can go in together.” You walked in side by side.

“Xbalanque! Quick get it!” you heard from behind you as you found yourself running forward. You caught the heavy rubber gummi ball full on the yoke you were wearing around your middle, then kept it in the air, dribbling it with the motions of your thighs and upper arms, which were padded. Two opponents were quick on your heels giving chase. Across the field to your right you saw Tiresias in his male form running parallel to you dressed in the same coloured yoke and pads. You and Tiresias were teammates, and bore an uncanny resemblance to each other—appeared to be twins, almost mirror images of each other. Just as you were about to be overtaken by the opposing trio you turned and quick-batted the ball adroitly towards the line of advance where Tiresias was sure to arrive in the next second when the ball would reach him. He looked halfway down the field and saw his object: a stone hoop mounted atop the stone wall of the court, towards which you were intent on propelling the ball.

“Your up, Hunahpu!” you bellowed out, “………to your right!…..Go!Go!Go!”

Both the Red and the Blue teams were shouting madly as Tiresias scampered down the right sideline, three paces ahead of his pursuers, frantic on his heels. The gathered crowd roared out their excitement, rising to their feet as Tiresias took his shot——A miss!—-but so close!

Happy you were, you Divine Twins, to be playing the Mayan ball game again, having swept out the ball court of your fathers, the prior generation of Divine Twins, One Hunahpu and Seven Hunahpu who had been so cruelly killed and dismembered by Xibalba, the Lord of the Underworld for disturbing his peace with their loud sporting revels, as was told in the Popul Vuh, the Council Book, which recorded all things past and and foretold all things…..whether there would be death, or whether there would be famine, or whether quarrels or wars would occur. You knew it for certain, since there was a place to see it—-there was a book. The Popul Vu, the Council Book, was your name for it.

Below the earth, as you and Tiresias played and shouted, Xibalba, horrible and stately in mein, covered his ears to shut out the din:

“Damn! Damn! Damn!—-I thought we had gotten rid of that horrible game long ago!” he, One Thanato, Lord of Death, said to his underling Seven Thanato, his captain. “Seven Thanato—-go up to the world of the Roof of the Sun and invite those damned new players down for a Friendly Ball Game!——-‘You are summoned you will tell them—–You must come—–We would play ball with you here in the Court of the Underworld.’”

“It is done, Lord Death.” said Seven Thanato.

You and Tiresias received Seven Thanato graciously and accepted his invitation. You knew that your own Fathers, One Hunahpu and Seven Hunahpu had received a similar invitation and met a cruel death by accepting. But you were not of a character to turn down a challenge, however daunting.

On the first day of the game, the team of Death played against you and Tiresias unto a draw, and you broke off, retiring for the night. Seven Thanato took you, the Divine Twins, you and Tiresias to the House of Cadavers to sleep, giving you a torch and two cigars. “You must burn the torch and smoke the cigars through the night, but return them intact in the morning, on penalty of death, instructed Seven Thanato,” who then returned gloatingly to Lord Death, sure that he would return to see their cadavers on the morn. You, however had a plan——you had brought a jar of honey with you to refresh yourself throughout the game, and you smeared some of the honey on the tip of the torch and the tips of the cigars. The honey attracted the fireflies during the night, so that from the distance that Seven Thanato watched you, it appeared that the you had lit them. Seven Thanato reported to Lord Death that the game was underway and that they were sure to find the dead twins on the morrow. However, much to his chagrin, on the dawn you returned the torch and the cigars to him intact, and the Lord Death was forced to concede his loss of the engagement and ordered the second day of the Friendly Ball Game to begin.

The second day of the game, so unexpected, attracted a jostling crowd of Demons, Spectres and Devils of the Underworld as spectators. Looking on as you and Tiresias donned your yokes, pads and equipment they gossiped: “What’s happening? Where did they come from? Who begot them and bore them? Our hearts are hurting, because what they are doing to our team is no good! They are different in their looks and different in their very being!” they said amoungst themselves.

Hearing thus, Lord Death, whose own name was Xibalba and who presided over the game stopped you both when you bowed before him to pay your respects prior to the commencement of the action, so as to ask a few friendly questions:

“Where might you have come from? Please name it.” Xibalba asked them.

“Well, wherever did we come from?” you asked rhetorically, looking towards Tiresias “To tell you the truth we don’t know!” That was all you said. You didn’t name it.

“Very Well, then.” said Lord Death “Let the game proceed!”

“Lets play ball boys!” you called over to the Team of Death, and you ran out in full spirits to enjoy the sport.

As they had done before to trap your fathers One Hunahpu and Seven Hunahpu to their deaths, Xibalba prepared tricks they were sure would prove fatal. Xibalba after an hour said the old ball which you both had brought with you was defective, and insisted on using a new ball. You complained, saying the old ball was fine and the new ball was nothing but a covered skull. Xibalba insisted, however and you acceded to his wish. The Captain of the Team of Death smashed the ball hard at you, aimed directly at your heart. Instead of intercepting the ball, you dove in a somersault on the ground, letting the ball pass over you and strike the stone wall of the Ball Court behind you. With a loud crash the new ball splintered and a knife blade emerged from it, clattering upon the ground.

“What’s that?” you and Tiresias cried, “Death is the only thing you want—-you don’t have the honour to play fairly! You summoned us to the game and now you cheat! If you can’t play fair we will simply take our ball and leave!”

“Well, don’t go boys! Don’t be spoil sports! We can still play a fine game, and to show you what good sports we are, we’ll even use your ball!” said Xibalba.

So the game continued through the second day, ending again in a draw. So Xibalba gave you both leave to retire for the evening. Seven Thanato again plotted your deaths during the night, locking you into to the Jaguar-Demon House to die. “Good-bye, my boys! I don’t think we will be seeing each other soon! Let me introduce our good friends you will be lodging with here tonight to you: Here is the one called Gouger of Faces, he delights in gouging out your eyeballs!—There is the one called Sudden Bloodletter, he snaps off your heads!—-then comes Crunching Jaguar, the eater of flesh, and Tearing Jaguar, who tears your bodies open!—Sweet Dreams!” The heads of the many demons loomed at you out of the darkness like the devouring heads of Scylla, the Hydra-headed devourer. You, however had stuffed your bag and poncho with the carrion bones from the House of Cadavers of the night before, and they threw them to the demons, saying: “Don’t eat us! We brought you something even better that should be yours! Bon Appetite!” with which the demons began to gorge themselves on the carrion, fighting amoungst themselves for the last scrap, until they fell asleep over themselves, tired and satiated.  Xibalba and Seven Thanatos arrived at dawn again in a light and joyful mood. Xibalba said to him: “Lets collect their skeletons and put them into our trophy case to remember this game by!” However when they opened the door they found the Jaguar-Demons on the floor, still asleep, and you two, the Divine Twins beaming with health, Tiresias calling out to them with a playful sneer: “Lets play ball boys—we’re up for it!”

“Why haven’t they died?” cried out the throng of demons assembled at the Ball Court, and were amazed at the feats of the two of you, the Celestial Twins in the House of Death. “I can’t believe what I am seeing—I must have drunk too much Mescal last night and I’m hallucinating all this!” said Seven Thanatos. The game proceeded and finally you made a supreme effort at the end of the last inning, and leaping a head higher than the captain of the Team of Death, batted the ball through the stone hoop with your shoulder.

Sweet as the victory was, there was great danger in it. You knew the Lord of Death was above all a sore loser, and spite was at the core of his being and character. Xibalba, Lord Death invited you to a celebration dinner before returning home, but you suspected another attempt on your lives before you would be allowed to leave his domain. You had in California been a fan of the Magic Castle, which had a club for teaching young magicians magic tricks. Knowing the delight of the demons and lords of death for destruction, you announced that you would provide some light entertainment at the celebration dinner by performing some magic tricks, destroying things and magically restoring them.

First, you took a watch and placed it on the table, covering it with an handkerchief. Then you smashed the watch into pieces, showing them to the demons. Then you placed the pieces in the handkerchief in the pocket of Seven Thanato. You chanted the magic phrase: “AllyeAllyeOxenFreeFreeFree!” and then took out the handkerchief, opening it. The watch was whole and restored! The Demons were delighted!—–You had discovered that they were all really such children at heart!

Next you drew a live dove from beneath your tunic. You took up an obsidian knife and cut off its head, and the Demons laughed as they watched the headless bird run about the floor, not knowing that it was dead! Then you picked up the carcass of the dead bird and the head and placed them within a bird cage. You covered the bird cage with its night cover and said the magic words: “EenyMeenyMinyMoe—CatchA…..” then pulled off the cover, opened the cage and the dove flew skywards to freedom! There was a stomping of feet and chortling cheering heard far and wide across the House of Death.

Then Xibalba, Lord of Death, arose and said: “Very Good! Excellent indeed! But before you can return home you must do one more trick for us. You know the rite of human sacrifice. The losing team in the Ball Game is condemned to death. You have yet to kill a person! Yet you must be confident in all your wonderful magic that you can bring him back to life! This is my command and condition for your safe return home to the World of Light: You must kill your Twin brother Hunahpu and bring him back to life! You must make a human sacrifice without Death! We love our small delights here in the House of Death— delightful entertainment is a bit in short supply down here unfortunately!”

So Seven Thanato and Xibalba laid Tiresias on a black marble altar and opened his tunic at the chest. Xibalba picked up an obsidian knife and incised his chest, then Seven Thanato pulled back the ribs, exposing the beating heart. They then handed you the obsidian knife and instructed: “Make your Deathless Sacrafice now, Magister Ludi!”

You wedged your hand beneath Tiresias’ beating heart and lifted it upwards. But instead of cutting out the heart you took the obsidian knife and applied it to the center of the top of his head and dissecting his entire body along the centerline, separating and bisecting his body into two neat halves. The demons, specters and devils of the Underworld gasped in amazement as they saw that one half of Teresias’ body was male and the other half transformed into a female, cut away separately completely,  linked only by the beating heart shared between them! Then Tiresias arose, severed and bisected into two halves, and his two halves began to dance and sing, sliding across the dance floor making a good imitation of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers: “S’Wonderful!—S’Marvellous!—-that you should care for me!” he-and-she sang and danced  and twirled together, breaking into a tap dance between refrains!

The demons and specters after recovering their breath burst into an uncontrolled applause: “They must be reincarnations of Ometeotl, the “Dual God,” male and female both—-both the mother and father of the Gods!” they shouted

Then you escorted the he-and-she halves of Tiresias back to the altar. You severed the beating heart between them and held it high above your head until it stopped and there was no doubt Tiresias was dead. You then replaced the heart between the dead male and female halves of the cadaver and covered them with a white sheet. You passed your hand over the cadaver and repeated the magic words: “NihilHumanumAlienumEst!”

Then Tiresias rose under the white sheet like a ghost at Halloween, the cloth still covering his face and body. You held the edge of the sheet in front of Tiresias’ body as his body rose to a standing position, and as the suspense built you finally let go with a dramatic flair, whipping the white sheet away! Before the assembled devils, demons and specters appeared Tiresias in his performance costume—half male and half female—half Teresias in a tophat and tails, and half Teresa in her drag dinner dress of silver sequin, bisected neatly down the centre! After milking the moment of shock for all it was worth Tiresias turned to break into his performance, singing, gliding and tapdancing:

You’re the top!

You’re the Coliseum.

You’re the top!

You’re the Louver Museum.

You’re a melody from a symphony by Strauss

You’re a Bendel bonnet,

A Shakespeare’s sonnet…..

You’re Mickey Mouse!

You’re the Nile,
You’re the Tower of Pisa,
You’re the smile on the Mona Lisa!
I’m a worthless check, a total wreck, a flop,
But if, baby, I’m the bottom you’re the top!

                        The effect was sensational and the applause thunderous! Then from here and there in the audience spontaneously you began to hear the words: “Me!….Me!….Let me try it!…..Cut me in two and bring me back to life again!……I want to try it!” as the hearts of the Underworld were filled with a childish longing and yearning for the dance.

                        You were about to perform the trick on Seven Thanatos, when Xibalba, the Lord of Death was insulted by your offence to his pride and announced: “No—-Protocol demands that I go first as the Lord of the Underworld”—he said as he moved to your side, shooing the captain aside.

                        “Very Well” you said, “You ought to come back to life. After all aren’t you Death? And aren’t we making you happy, along with all the vassals of your domains?”

                        Thus Xibalba, the Lord of Death was the first one to be sacrificed, and you cut out his beating heart, which was Black and spurted blood of black ink in your hands when it was severed. You cut, bisecting his body into two, as you had done with Tiresias. And, then you said the magic would take a short time, so you would do a few more while we all waited, and you similarly sacrificed Seven Thanatos and his lieutenants. They did not come back to life. They had no regenerative other, no soul to rejoin their bodies. Their bodies lay sexless and dead, the dismembered Eunuchs of Death. Their end was their end and no new beginning.

                        And then the Xibalban vassals, devils, demons, specters of the undead rose in a panic, seeing their Lords dead before them. “Death be not Proud!” they shrieked and scurried like lemmings to the edge of the abyss, the Pit of Eblis. There they piled up, on the edge of the abyss, like myriad ants, Marmydion spectres trying to make up a single body from a buzzing swarm of ants, to replace their dismembered Lord; but failing they tumbled into the abyss, free-falling for hours until they reached absolute bottom, all bent low in surrender, meek and defeated in the lake of sulphur and feiry brimstone. Then you and Tiresesias wheeled the dismembered bodies of Xibalba and Seven Thanato to the edge of the abyss and pushed them over, following them with your gaze, disappearing into the black chaos below.

                        Then you two, you Divine Twins, embraced each other and wept in each other’s arms with manly though tender tears of joy. Such was the defeat of the Rulers of the Underworld, the omnipotent Lord Death Xibalba and his servile minions. And you brothers accomplished all this only through Wonders and Self-Transformations.

                        Arm in arm, you glorious two headed for the exit door of the small theatre of the Psychoplex and returned to the hallway. Sitting to recover your breath, the usher poured two more glasses of Mescal, and you toasted each other: “Tie Ger Mer! Sworn Brothers!—Semper Fi!” you exchanged, drawing off the cool ether of the Mescal.

                        “Now I’m getting into the fun of it!” you blurted out, putting down your glass of Mescal. “Now for the next adventure!” you effused, moving towards the third door: “All the Women of the World are Yours!”—–“Perhaps I’ll try this one alone!” you said smiling back at Teresias, opening the ornate door.

                        Immediately you discovered yourself in a wonderful forested glade, watered with a beautiful stream with the most luxurious foliage, flowers, and the cooing voices of the exotic jungle birds—-quetzel, trogon and troupial. In the center of a large clearing in the glade was an immense tree, singular in its immensity, that seemed to tower to the heavens—a veritable Tree of Igdrasil in its proportions. Beneath it was a young Aztec warrior, exquisitely handsome and well muscled, Adonis-like in his beauty, standing ever vigilant with a sword beneath the tree, fields of ripening maize corn visible at the edges of the clearing further down the glade. Upon his head was a golden crown, encrusted with sun-shot jade and precious gems, ears of maize corn sculpted in purest gold upon the crown, and topped with a headdress of brightly coloured feathers, green-blue, orange and irridescant purple, of the quetzal, trogon and troupial.

            You crept in the underbrush until moving about behind the Aztec warrior, deliberately aside of his field of vision. Then wagering that you could effect the surprise, you drew your spear and ran straight at him, just out his peripheral vision. You built up speed and momentum as you neared the beautiful youth, raising your javelin to your shoulder. The warrior heard your footsteps and turned to face you—–too late!——and you released the javelin straight into the his naked neck, cutting the jugular vein and with  half its length emerging out the backside of his spine. The blood spurted frantically as the youth dropped to his knees, then looking up into your face to see his undoer. As his eyes caught your gaze, your hands rested boldly upon your hips, your pelvis thrust forward in proud triumphant display; the fallen man’s eyelids lifted, then drooped, and he died kneeling, the spear shaft thrust through his throat holding him up in a posture of prayer, his lips mouthing words, mocking speech, but with nothing to be heard but the congested gurgling of his ebbing and effusing blood.

                        From a palace far below you caught sight of a filing troupe of one hundred of the most beautiful women you had ever seen, clad entirely in immaculate white, their hair exquisitely done up, and carrying on their heads jars and urns of oil, food, dates, and other delicacies, or articles of gold embroidered clothing. Some played flutes and lyres and wondrous instruments. At their head was a being, one could say a woman, but the being was too beautiful to be an earthly woman, and seemed to have a superhuman radiant aura about her, intimating that she was not of earthly orgin but a Goddess.

  As the vestal column neared and found you standing over the kneeling corpse, the Goddess spoke out decisively: “The King is Dead—Long Live the King!” With that she lifted the golden crown from the blood-spattered head of the fallen youth and placed it on your head. Her underling women then stripped the robe from from the fallen victim, removed the spear, and laid him out naked upon the ground—the gaping bloody hole opened wide beneath his open gasping fishlike mouth, still in frozen dead posture seeming to want to say something, but unable. The women took the naked body on a stretcher, anointed it with oil, and then cast it into a newly dug and unmarked grave, between two rows of maize corn.

The women removed your blood-bespattered clothing, poured water, soap and then oil and incense upon your naked muscled skin, washing your naked body and genitals unashamedly, then clothing you in a gold embroidered tunic and adjusting the quetzal feathers on your golden crown. Then the Goddess spoke:

“I am Xochiquetzal, Goddess of Love and Fertility. You are now my earthly king! You shall reign with absolute power until the next King comes to slay you, as you have just slain the King before you! Until that time you shall rule with the power of an emperor, vital and unageing. All the women of this land shall be your harem and your semen’s seed shall spread over their bodies like the kernals of maize corn upon the land of the fertile plain! You shall marry me and become as a God! The women of the earth shall worship your body, your phallus and your seed as their God! We shall retire to the Palace and consummate the ceremony! Then the women carried you and the Goddess, seated side by side, hand in hand in a sedan-chair litter on poles, in royal estate towards the palace. As they chanted their entoxicating melodies, singing joyfully in choral unision as the procession neared the Palace, you abandoned yourself willingly to the songs of the Sirens.

                 At the palace thousands of women, all nubile and gorgeous, lined the halls and bowed to you as you entered, the Goddess at your side. They installed you in your apartments next to the Goddess’ and then bathed you in frankinscence and myrrh, and anointed your well-muscled body with holy oils, christening your skin. They brought you endless delicacies to eat, dates, exotic nuts, curries, puddings, gels, meat and fowl, fish and vegetables, in the most diverse sauces and spices. Aphrodisiac spices and wines were brought, powdered rhinoscerous horn and tiger bone, oysters and shellfish, and hosts of others. Music was played endlessly by a female band, naked to the waist who entertained you, while oriental singers sang lyrics of great seductiveness and delicacy, suffusing the imagination. You felt your potency surge within you violently.

Then the Chief Priestess returned at the head of an endless train of nubile women clad in the most enticing garments. Behind her walked three gruesome hags who carried a litter surrounded with a purpled cloth curtain. They placed the litter, which looked like a small puppet stage beside a white marble pillar thrust up behind the altar. Each hag, a pale semblance of a Medusa, was accompanied by a priestess of a secondary order of extraordinary beauty. The three gruesome hags, who alone could approach the litter, drew back the curtain of the litter and before you appeared an extraordinary face atop a limbless torso, limbless except for one withered leg which extended upwards and across the back of the shoulders and base of the neck, with a diminutive foot, exquisitely wrapped in Chinese foot bindings and a silken shoelet dangling helplessly behind the figure’s left ear. The leg was atrophied and devoid of muscle, and at its base their was but a small pubic mound from which the genitals had been excised. The torso was sewn tightly into a silken sack like a papoose on the chest of which was a mystic arabesque. Atop the torso was a face of seeming feminine beauty dressed entirely in a consummate feathered headdress of immaculately white down feathers which drew tightly about the outline of the face, concealing any presence of hair like a nun’s white wimple. The skin was of perfect smoothness and delicately rouged and the lips protruded thickly in a perfect guled cupid’s bow glossed and pointed at its tips and ridges. The eyes seemed splayed like two extended wings of a delicate small bird of an immaculate white that resembled a masquerade ball mask, but with the feathers seeming to grow from the eyes themselves. The eyelids were closed, but also shingled with tiny soft white feathers, which took the place of eyelashes, with a line of diamonds and tiny coloured jewels limning the very edge of the upper lid as if penciled by a royal cosmetician. The three hags lifted the papoosed torso up a small ladder and placed it in cradling nest atop the erect pillar.

At a signal from the Chief Priestess drums took up a relentless jungle beat and the train of maenad women raised their voices in a collective wailing song which must have been of the repertoire of the Sirens, jazzing to a mounting frenzy. The women of the train tore the clothes from their bodies and danced a frenzied writhing hypnotic dance, hormonally-crazed about the marble pillar, some by turns pressing and sliding their splayed vulvas up and down its erect length like the pole dancers of an erotic theatre. With the rising wails of the maenads the face began to turn upon its neck in slow tortured ritual circles and the grimacing mouth began to moan and attempt speech in an unknown glossalalia. At a climaxing drumstroke the perfectly fletched and splayed feathered eyelids of the face burst open with an awakening start, revealing within their downed frame the empty blood-red caverns of the gaping eye sockets from which the balls had been gouged and torn. The face shrieked in a tone that was clearly of a residual male timbre, and the mouth gaped open, from which issued not a human tongue but two, the tongue having been sliced precisely in two from its tip to its base, revealing two forked tips of red, snakelike, from which no human speech issued, but a serpentine babbling or talking in tongues or helpless shrieks and plaintive moans. All about the crazed maenad chorus rose and quickened to the drumbeats in a frenzying exstasy and violent crescendo of chant: “Imbunche,  Imbunche,  Imbunche……………………Imbunche!”

Finally, the Chief Priestess of the Goddess in a purple robe entered your chamber and announced it was time to conduct and consummate the marriage ceremony. The priestess performed the ritual, chanting the verses, and a maenad chorus replied hypnotically in sensual song and dance; then she led the Goddess to her nuptial bed, preparing her concealed behind the gauze curtain veil of the crimson-purple wedding chamber. Then the Priestess indicated only one thing remained of the ritual before the consummation and the night of pleasure and sublime exstasy: The Sacrafice.

She indicated that to consummate the ceremony the living, beating heart of a woman must be excised from her body, then placed upon a silver tray, and placed over the marital bed while still alive and beating. She led you to the sacrificial altar, where was bound the body of a selected victim, a handsome woman, writhing, naked to the waist, with her face covered with a veil. The Priestess placed the sacred curved obsidian knife in your hands, then pulled back the outer curtain of the sacrificial altar. You hesitated, unsure of yourself, then raised your hand. You could see the fear in the eyes of the sacrifice, somehow vaguely familiar. You watched as she struggled against the leather bands that held her hands tight, and she squealed against the gag in her mouth, emitting a high hysterical and plaintiff whine. As you stepped forward the Priestess uncovered the sacrafice’s veil and removed it from her face. It was Eva!—your sister and your own heart! To your horror you saw the Priestess cut open her chest and pry back her ribs. You reached between the ribs and held Eva’s beating heart in the palm of your hand. You froze, inexplicable to yourself, unable to move or act.

“Strike!” The Priestess shrieked at you “Strike and sever the beating heart!–Strike or you shall be stricken dead!”

You raised the obsidian knife above your head–the full arm’s length above your head….you struck downward with all your remaining might——striking dead—–the Priestess and not Eva! You rushed to Eva, cutting her bonds and gag with your obsidian knife, then kissing her frenzied face and lips, bent on your knees, so uncontrollably desperate and frantic in your holiness towards her. Then you then picked her up in your arms and rushing towards the Exit of the theatre of the Psychoplex you pushed open the gilded door, re-entering the hallway. But when you had regained the hallway all had disappeared as into a lost dream, and Eva was no longer in your arms. Neither was the Teatro Magico behind the door, but you found yourself naked in your own hotel room at the Marco Polo Hotel, pushing open your bathroom door and re-entering your sitting room, darkened except for the moonlight shining through the translucent curtains. You collapsed onto the sitting room sofa, then poured yourself a large water tumbler full of Mescal from a large bottle on the coffee table before you. You gulped it down incredulously, first one, then two then the final gulp, drawing down and draining the Mescal’s ether to the bottom. You wiped your eyes and heard the buzzing about your ears and the shock of the Mescal hitting your spine and your bloodstream. Then you looked towards the bedroom, and you saw Maria rise from the bed, naked except for her lace panties, drawing you backwards towards the bed. You saw the exquisite tropical butterfly, floridly tattooed, large and iridescent across the small of her back, moving above her sculpted buttocks as she walked you towards the bed—and beneath it, delicately stenciled, the word: “Mariposa.”  You became the butterfly as she moved, and fluttered drunkenly around her enticing body, like a moth before a flame in the night.

     “Roberto!” she intoned pleadingly, “Come back to bed!—–we are getting cold waiting for you!”  As she kissed you and and caressed you inside your thigh, fondling your genitals, the stiffening shaft and heavy balls, which lifted, hardened and surged before you at her caressing touch; you glanced to the other side of the double King-sized bed and saw Teresa in a seductive negligee, fully feminine and inviting, yet with Tiresias somehow, submerged somewhere there within, half-hidden under the sheet, beaming back at you warmly and joining Maria in caressing your hardening penis, then lowering to suck your aching left ball and mouth then the tip and end of your cock playfully as Maria slid her tongue, French kissing, inside your mouth.  Then the Mescal flooded your senses and you were unsure where you were, who, what you were doing or whom with, or doing to. You lost yourself in the rush of yourself, like the rushing wings of the butterfly emerging from the chrysalis into the unknown realm of flight towards the blinding sun upwards, and then dark, down into sleep and into a long unremembering…………..

IX.  The Central Sea, The Crystal Bead Game & The Quest

In the Crystal Bead Game, contemplation, the secrets of the Chinese I Ching and Western mathematics and music, Sufi and Gnostic contemplation, masterpieces of all human arts and fusions of the spirit—Apollinian, Dionysian and Promethean Tragedy, jazz and the African Ritual Tragedy of Ogun, the Yin and the Yang and the hexagrams, the Master Work of the Alchemists, the Dao and the,the Sufi fitrah,—-all the artifacts of the accumulated genius and heritage of all nations, religions, philosophies and races on earth are employed in fashioning a matrix of the mind and spirit resolving the perennial conflicts of life into a unifying design. The playing pieces are Crystal Beads——-Seed Crystals played within a transparent aquarium-like Reactor Core of fluid human knowledge and experience immersing and containing within it a matrix resembling a four dimensional chess game through which light pulses and refracts like the laser light within a fibre-optic cable. The spherical and transparent Reactor Core lies at the center of a circular amphitheater on the shores of the Great Central Sea at the center of the Earth in the monastic spiritual community of Castalia, Middle Earth. The head of the Order of the Templars of the Game of Castalia, the Magister Ludi, is also the Lord Master of the Game and acts as its referee and director. The players are seated in the surrounding amphitheater and by turns introduce new crystallizations within the Reactor Core. The players are the greatest creative and contemplative minds of the earth of all times and ages, and the crystal pieces are played by manipulating the control rods which extend deep into the Liquid Base Solution, much like in the core of a nuclear reactor submerged in its iridescent bath of heavy water.  By placing a new Seed Crystal, or Silmaril within the existing concatenation within the matrix submerged in the Liquid Base Solution of the Reactor’s retort the flow of light energy through the system changes and a new chain of crystal precipitates out of solution, altering the Crystal Matrix and revealing a new emanation of the light of the spirit in sublime art.  The attainment of newer and higher levels, densities and intensities of this Inlightenment is the Game’s objective, fulfilling the Life Force’s inherent and self-fulfilling Will to Delight—-in pursuit of an ultimate and infinite Delightentment.  The Base Solution contains and is linked by chains of causation and replication to the DNA of the human race, which in its onward evolution mirrors the outcomes of the game and thereby the historical destiny of the planet. Thus the destiny of the earth is played out in the destiny of the game and ever the one must find its resolution in the other. By this reciprocal pathway the conscious and unconscious will of the world dialectically transcend each other and manifest themelves in a newer synthesis, “The θέλημα,”—Thelema, or “True Will” of the world. By this reciprocal pathway life replicates the outcome of the game as the game itself mirrors, parallels and embodies the sum total and onward flow and evolution of all reiterated human historical and imaginative life experience on earth, conscious and unconscious. But the players are never in control of the game; rather they are ever more controlled by it. They are like sailors on the sea who can only move by manipulating the immeasurable flows of energy surrounding them by slightly altering the miniscule tools under their control, the set of the sails and the inclination of a rudder within an ever flowing fluid and gaseous mass infinitely beyond their control. This vast energy which moves the game and the players alike, flowing in tides about them and rising in parallel within them from their unconscious depths, and only fractionally accessible to the sails and rudders of human consciousness, is called Spiritus Mundi. And, as the movements of the winds and the seas of earth are ultimately derived from the energy radiated from the eternally burning sun, so the Spiritus Mundi in turn reflects, refracts, transforms and embodies the energies and spirit of the universal cosmic creation.

Thus it was, when the Nautilus broke the surface of the Great Central Sea, having navigated the Chthonic Passage which leads from the surface seas and oceans surrounding the continents of the earth to the vast system of the Amniotic Central Seas within, that on mounting the now emergent conning tower of that reknown submersible Sartorius and Andreas, Nemo, and the small band of refugees from the surface conflict, beheld a most wondrous sight. Across the short expanse of water of the Bay of Pellucidar that divided them from the shore appeared before their eyes and reflected in the babbling surface of the intervening waters the marvelous apparition of the huge spherical Reactor Core pulsing with light and energy at the center of the populated amphitheater on the shore of Castalia, Middle Earth. As Captain Nemo anchored and secured his craft from the great pier jutting out into the waters a large launch sped towards them. A very few minutes later the recently rescued refugees and their twin guides, Goethe and Sun Wu Kong accompanied Nemo and his officers onto dry land.

As they walked down the long jutting pier and onto the shore they found themselves comfronted by the approach of a vast procession from the amphitheater towards them. At its head was a most marvelous patriarch dressed in iridescent robes and with the long flowing beard and pure-shining white hair of the Ancient of Days. He announced himself as the Magister Ludi, Magus of Light and welcomed the newcomers to Castalia on behalf of the Order of Knights Templar of Castalia, Middle Earth and the participants in the ongoing game.

“You are none too soon, Captain Nemo, you can see for yourself that the Reactor Core is overheating with the Stalemate in the game, and if no solution is found soon it will descend into a feiry catastrophic meltdown. This has never before happened in the history of the game. At the rate of the rise in temperature I think we can count on only three or four more days. But in this no one can be certain—we are only extrapolating our ignorance. Everyone here is already occupied in preventing the meltdown, so you newcomers will have to make the journey. From my knowledge the only hope is to get to the Council of the Immortals convening at the Black Hole Amphitheater in the center of our galaxy and declare an emergency, requesting that they supply the missing Seed Crystal, the Silmaril, at once to prevent the extermination of the human race in a nuclear Armageddon. If the Reactor Core bursts, on the surface of the earth a thermonuclear war will break out, leading to the end of modern life and civilization as we know it. You are the last hope.”

“My ship is at your command, Magister Ludi. Professor Sartorius and his people have agreed to undertake the quest, and Lord Goethe and Master Sun Wu Kong are ready to accompany them. Their Questways are one. Are there none of your people who can join us?” he queried.

“We are all engaged in preventing the Core Reactor from going into meltdown……I can’t spare anyone. No wait, there is a way we can use the backup system to free up one hand. I will ask for a volunteer to accompany you……….Gentlemen, Ladies is there any who will join the Quest for the Seed Crystal, the Silmaril?”………..he turned about and looked into the crowd of faces. None moved forward. Then a pause ensued and he called out again. This time two African figures strode boldly forward dressed in brilliant headdresses and a skirt of palm fronds. The first announced himself:

“I am Obatala—-I will nominate and he has accepted, my brother Ogun to accompany you on your journey and quest. He is known as the Lord of Onward Struggle, Protector of Orphans, Roof over the Homeless, and Terrible Guardian of the Sacred Oath,” and then he began to sing a chant of praise:

“In the name of Oxalá, Creator of All and Lord of Light, and of Yamanja the Fair, of Xango and Oxum, of Omolo Lord of Death and of the Dark Lord Exu:

Rich-laden in his home, yet, decked in palm fronds

He ventures forth, refuge of the down-trodden,

To rescue slaves he unleashed the judgment of war

Because of the blind, plunged into the forest

Of curative herbs, Bountiful One

Who stands bulwark to offsprings of the dead in heaven……

Salutations O lone being, who bathes in rivers of blood……

Ogun!”

“Do you undertake this Quest, Lord Ogun?” asked the Magister Ludi.

“I do, my Lord Magister Ludi. I pledge my heart and blood and life to its fulfillment.” he responded gravely.

“Very well, your request is accepted. I can spare but one man and you are he.” the Magister Ludi replied. “Then I bid all of you farewell and God’s speed. You must depart immediately—–our fates depend on it. Good voyage Captain Nemo—–but beware—–Mephisto’s U-boat The Baphomet has been sighted in the sea three days ago. To all of you embarking on this solemn Quest, you—modern Argonauts, you the Warriors of Light, I look forward to your happy return, and if not, God’s love and grace to you for your hearts and courage.”

As the Voyagers prepared for their departure the Magister Ludi summoned Sartorius to his private chambers. He was led down a long hallway occupied by liveried servants—–the multi-colour skinned, turbaned and hermaphroditic Mégamicres, the traditional ceremonial “Swiss Guard” or Beefeaters of Castalia, Middle Earth and the surrounding adjacent county of Agartha-Shamballa, each holding before them the ornate phallic ceremonial staffs, the heel of which they banged loudly against the floor as he passed.  He entered the Magister Ludi’s private chamber and spoke to him:

“Professor Sartorius I know that you must feel great trepidation and anxiety, even outright fear to be given this momentous Calling and Quest. I myself embarked upon a similar quest long ago, and felt the same—but there is no time to talk of that now. Let it suffice that I assure you that you are here in consequence of your quest and the courage in pursuit of your dream through your life—-which means that you are living your Questway, your questpath, which though harrowing is also blessed with helping and sustaining powers. When you fear for your own adequacy in the face of these unprecedented challenges remember that you are here on your life’s questpath as a consequence of following your dream—-and where a man follows his dream’s questpath he becomes part of the Spiritus Mundi, and thus the entire universe will conspire to help you complete it!

“Thank you Your Excellency. I have made my decision. You may rest assured that I will undertake the quest, though I can in no way be confident that my abilities are in any way equal to the immense challenge. But I have made my decision.”

“Making a decision is only the beginning of a thing. Then you must ride the current and the unforeseen consequences. You must follow your questpath and be alert to the omens that may lead you to find the hidden forces which are allied in your cause. You must discover the signposts of your questway which will keep you on the right path.”

“How do I find such omens and signposts? I don’t know how.”

“You know much more than you realize. Listen to your heart. It knows all things because it comes from the Spiritus Mundi, the Soul of the World, and it will one day return there. If a man is following his dream and living out his desired destiny he knows everything he needs to know. What he doesn’t know will be revealed to him by the forces allied to his cause.  Believe me, the signs and the omens are there waiting for you and you will discover them. Everything in life is a sign for those who learn to listen to their hearts, which will speak to them in the Language of the World. The wise men understood that this natural world is only an image of a deeper paradise and paradigm of unfathomed dimensions. The existence of the world is simply a guarantee of the existence of this deeper and more perfect one, and therefore there dwell within it the signs, and omens and hidden allied forces which will aid you. This world is created that you may come to understand the wonder of its wisdom. That is what I mean when I assure you that all that is necessary will be revealed to you in action. Action is our journey through the signs of this world, a forest of signs, and into the deeper and more perfect one to which they point. The symbols like the crystals are but the signposts of the Way. There is only one thing that makes a dream and a quest impossible: the fear of failure………But let me give you something which will aid and protect you on the journey. This is my Crystal Aegis. Wear it as a talisman around your neck. If you show it to anyone on your way they will immediately recognize its authority and will aid you on your journey. It is like a cosmic safe conduct pass or passport.” With that the Magister Ludi hung the talisman around Sartorius’ neck, a gold medallion in which was embedded a brilliant crystal. Upon the Seed Crystal was written a message in symbols Sartorius stared long at it but could not decipher.

“It is a code.” Sartorius obserbed aloud to him.

“No. It’s like a signpost of the journey. It can’t be understood by reason alone. The crystal is a direct passage to the Soul of the World, to the Spiritus Mundi. You will begin to decipher and understand it as you live your journey, not before. Your heart’s Intuition will reveal it to you as you live the journey. It will speak to you in the Universal Language, the Language of the World that transcends and needs no words—the language of living experience.”

“Intuition?”

“Yes. Your intuition is but the sudden immersion of the soul, ino the current of life, where the histories and destinies of all things and all people are interconnected. When you listen to your heart and it reveals its knowledge to you in the Universal Language, it opens a direct and wordless channel of communication with the Spiritus Mundi, which aids you with its knowledge.”

“I thank you Your Excellency.”

“Any more questions before you depart?” he asked.

“Just one. What is this Silmaril that we must find—why is it so important?”

“The Silmaril contains the parallel sub-structure of reality, but unenchained by the constraints of history and time.  Within its unique and primordial crystalline structure is the sole preserved essence of the Big Bang of Creation—–the pure light of its original Essence, the last remaining vestige before modern light was polluted by the dullness of matter and degraded by time and causation. This doubling of Creation’s original essence, when perfectly mirrored and overlayed by supreme arts within the reactor of the Grand Retort, in parallax with the essence that drives history and the universe, each image in vectoral conjunction its parallel reality through parallel dimensions and beyond the constraints of time, allows the Vector Deviation and Dimensional Parallax, which in turn enables a bending, or alteration of destiny, by virtue of the Gravitational Pull Imagination exerts upon matter and energy, just as matter may bend light This alternative pathway revealed and unleashed in the Silmaril thus parallels in importance the discovery and realization of Imaginary Numbers, which also provide a doubling of the Mathematical Creation.

In essence the Silmaril Crystal provides an itinerary, a mapping and a pathway to a hidden extradimenional space of hidden possibilities. Doubling the light of the here and now with the primordial remnant of the pure and original light of the Big Bang, the original Creation—-a double refraction in multiple dimensions takes place in compound powers—2, 4, 16……n to the nth  ……permitting a view and access to a Creation Set just to the side of the flow of time of this one, so close as to overlap, where the membrane between the Real and the Imaginary worlds, refracted and mapped in imaginary numbers, in many places becomes too frail, too permeable, for stability—–then an alteration of the sum total and summation of all vectors—-an alteration of destiny may become possible.”

“I will have to take your word for it—–thank you Your Excellency.”

“No. It is I who thank you. But we may thank each other and thank the highest spirit above all. Now time is short and I must speed you on your way. Vaya con Dios.”

With that the Voyagers of the Quest re-embarked in the launch and again boarded the Nautilus, accompanied by their new comrade Ogun. The Nautilus set off  towards the center of the Central Sea, towards the Island of Omphalos, where the portal Gateway to the Umbilical Wormhole, the sole passage to the center of the galaxy and its Black Hole Amphitheater and the Council of the Immortals was to be found.

In the cabin, Andreas asked Goethe who this Ogun was, as he had never heard of him. Goethe replied:

“Ogun is of the cosmogony of the African Yoruba, but he is also the universal hero of the Dionysian and the Promethian spirit, translated into African terms if you will. Who is Ogun do you ask?………..He is a complex figure, the “Lord of the Road” and one of the few hero-deities who seek “The Way”—-alongside man. He is a master craftsman, a warrior, an artist and a farmer——-he is the essence of destruction and creation…….he is “The Way Opener.”  In the Yoruba cosmogony he is the jungle guide who hacks a path for the gods through sheer will through the impassable jungle-forest of Primordial Chaos. Some call him a god and some a hero, some a Savage Christ—-he is a being who comes to man anguished by and sharing a continuing sense of incompleteness——the incompleteness of the gods without man and of man without the gods, and a quest to open the way of reunion to that lost comnpleteness and totality. He is like Prometheus in bestowing craft, song and poetry upon men, and has initiated humans into the mysteries of the universe, and the mysteries of the creativity which brought the universe into being.

Ogun came into being as an impassable gulf had grown separating man from the gods and the cosmic origin. Neither the gods nor man could be complete without the other, yet they were separated by an impassable barrier, an inpenetrable void. Ogun undertook the Quest to cross that Void—-He became an explorer of that Chaos; he cleared the primordial jungle, plunged through the abyss and called on others to follow.  For this feat the Gods offered Ogun the crown as the King of the Gods, but Ogun refused it and dwelt in the wilderness instead to seek wisdom and wholeness. Then journeying again in the opposite direction, upon arriving on earth he was offered the crown of kingship over men. Again he refused and lived in the mountains in solitude. Again men sought him out to assume kingship over them, and pleaded so strongly that at length Ogun assented and came down from the mountains dressed in his battle dress and smeared with blood across his whole body. When the men saw him they ran away, later sending a messenger to say that he looked too terrible and frightful, and that if he would only clean himself of all the blood they would come back and be his subjects. He was crowned king and in war after war led his subjects to victory in battle.

Then finally came a day in the lull of battle when the Trickster god Esu left a gourd of palm wine spiked with a drug from a secret herb for Ogun to drink. Ogun found it exceptionally delicious and drained the gourd to its dregs. But now the drunken Ogun found his vision blurred and confused friend and foe. He turned on his own men and slaughtered them, leaving himself covered in blood. In despair Ogun fled and was literally torn apart by the cosmic winds, yet succeeded in rescuing himself by harnessing the untouched part of himself: the will. He put himself together like Isis reassembled Osiris, and resurrected himself like the fallen Christ. This is Ogun.” he recited.

Sartorius wished to welcome and thank Ogun for joining the Quest and becoming one of the Argonauts, so he invited him to a special dinner party in his honour in the main stateroom. At the end of the dinner as leader and spokesman for the whole group he toasted Ogun with palm wine and gave him a copy of Shelly’s poetry which he had memorized as a boy and then written out in ornate style for Ogun:

Percy Bysshe Shelley’s  Prometheus Unbound:

In each human heart terror survives

The raven it has gorged: the loftiest fear

All that they would disdain to think were true:

Hypocrisy and custom make their minds

The fanes of many a worship, now outworn.

They dare not devise good for man’s estate,

And yet they know not that they do not dare.

Ogun thanked Sartorius profusely and they lost themselves and their worries for an hour in palm wine and song making. Eva danced with Ogun, and being the only female present, by turns with all the rest of the party as they sang songs, recited poetry and capered amoung themselves. After several hours Eva retired exhausted to recover her energy in sleep and the men drank and indulged in fine Cuban cigars until the late hours, one by one slipping off to their quarters to rest. At length, the boat surfacing Sartorius and Andreas, the last remaining in the stateroom mounted the ladder-stairs to take in the night air before retiring for sleep, strolling up and down the deck as the crew accomplished its necessary maintenance. Something phosphorescent in the sea kept the night well illuminated. Though the moon could not be visible in the deepest bowels of the earth the vault of overarching basalt gave off a suffused iridescent light reminiscent of moonlight and gaps in a cloud-like fog revealed the glimmering of embedded crystal formations in the vaulted-sky which impersonated in Sartorius’ mind the light of stars. A cold katabatic wind beat against their backs and ears hastening the boat onwards into the chthonic night. Finally a physical weariness overcame their energies and they returned below and into the realm of unknowing sleep.

X.                    The Island of Omphalos & The Mothers

As the Nautilus sped away silently across the sea’s floor in silent running wary of ambush by Mephisto’s U-boat The Baphomet, Sartorius refreshed by a short but regenerative sleep tried to prepare himself for the tests and trials sure to await himself and his questing comrades.  The Master of the Game, Magister Ludi, had briefed him upon leaving Castalia that the only way to save the game, and hence the fate of the human race was to retrieve the missing Seed Crystal, the Silmaril and enter it into play in the game’s matrix before the apocalyptic moment—-The Crisis and moment of truth. The missing crystal was the only remaining piece that could yet be played in the game of the human spirit that could prevent stalemate and the fatal regression of all cumulated human powers into a final cataclysmic cycle of entropy and self-destruction. Only with it would the human life spirit, the Spiritus Mundi, attain the needed quantum leap of affirmation and by reaching the next Degree of Freedom and Negentropy escape the downward pull of Entropy,Thanatos and Dissolution and ascend to the next evolutionary level of onward energization of the Life Force. Without it the empire of negation would reign victorious.

According to the Magister Ludi, the double conic helixes of the game, representing the evolving human life spirit had reached their apex and history nearing completion of its movement along the outer gyre was beginning its corresponding course along the inner gyre. This apocalyptic moment would decide whether the movement along the inner gyre would be upwards or downwards. As the shark must always move forward to prevent death—so in the histories and fates of the lives of individuals as well as civilizations, life’s energies would be impelled ever onward, either upwards in a quantum leap forward towards a higher synthesis, or an unraveling downward descent into entropy, decay and surrender to the forces of Thanatos and dissolution, awaiting in latent appetency a newer creation evolving from the unraveling and dissolution of the old. The brutal law of life dictated the evolution must be either upward or downward, towards greater life or fated dissolution and death—-a constant yin and yang cycle in and out of the ever fecund-saturated solution of appetent existence and non-existence;—peace without fecundity, renewal of the life force and onward creation being only the illusory hiatus preceding the descent towards death and the start of life’s neverending succeeding evolutionary cycles.

The missing Silmaril Seed Crystal could only be obtained from the Council of the Immortals gathering at that moment in the amphitheatre within the black hole at the center of the galaxy. There was but one possible passageway to that amphitheatre thousands of light-years away: the Umbilical Wormhole short-circuiting the curve of Space-Time from the center of the earth to the galactic focus. Before they had embarked Goethe and the Magister Ludi had struggled to explain to Sartorius the most elementary principles of how the Missing Seed Crystal within the Grand Retort would channel the Universal Energy into the Spiritus Mundi and how it was possible to move faster than the speed of light through the Wormhole and Sartorius wrestled desperately to comprehend but it was clear that he was out of his depth. Twenty years ago he had made a valiant attempt to read and take in Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity but after six months had only a partial notion of what it was all about. Now, from Goethe and the Magister Ludi it was revealed to him that forces only dimly anticipated by Einstein himself were now in play in determining the fate of mankind. Goethe and Einstein had attempted to give Sartorius a brief layman’s introduction while the latter rested from his work at the control rods at the Grand Retort. They spoke to eachother in their native German and Goethe attempted to translate the ideas into both English and into concepts and forms of expression capable of being grasped by the non-specialist layman:

“How shall we put it Robert? Like learning a new language you have to set aside your own language’s grammar and operations to enter into another system of thought and expression, which is only partially possible. You know that in our day Albert and I were deeply engaged in the questions of light, mass, energy, space, time and the multiple dimensions of human and cosmic experience. We grappled with the questions of whether light was a wave or a particle, a phenomenon of matter or of energy. What we discovered of course was that both our words and our concepts were inadequate to the complexity of a reality of a dimensional manifoldness hithertofore undreamed of. Matter and energy at the deeper level of multiple dimensions were shown to be but different faces of a more deeply embedded unity. Like the parable of the blind men and the elephant, where one blind man feels the trunk and likens the elephant to a snake and another feels the leg and likens it to a tree.Each only had a partial truth to offer, based on his limited experience and the limits of his conceptual framework and language of expression. One ‘blind man’ looked at light and saw that it was something like a particle, and another that it was something like a wave. Now we know that our past dilemmas were false representations arising from the limited nature of our conceptions and language. Our subsequently evolved science has established that all those little things like quarks, protons, electrons, photons, neutrons and neutrinos, bosons, hadrons and leptons that we previously thought of as particles are actually of a deeper nature—–we might term them “strings” within multiple dimensions. Thus, rather than hard particles they prove themselves to be vibrating strands of energy oscillating within eleven known dimensions—possible more—-and the oscillating quantum states which we perceive momentarily of them are but the momentary and fragmentary glimpses of the blind men of the greater elephant—a deeper unity within unseen dimensions—–but the elephant exists in eleven dimensions instead of our supposed three or even Albert’s posited four! These oscillating strings of energy—we call them ‘Superstrings’ for convenience’s sake, are very tiny, and viewed in the cross-section of our own dimensionally limited experience and perceptual perspective they appear to us as point particles. You see, we utilize these “Superstrings” within the Grand Retort in transiting the eleven dimensions and channeling their energy to a slight degree to partially shape and steer human evolution within our familiar four dimensions—the world and time—-spacetime. Schrodiger’s Cat would thus not suffer an imagined quantum death but rather his life would be oscillating between the eleven dimensions!—-much better than his mere nine lives!  By bending spacetime within the eleven dimensions it is possible for you to transit the wormhole, even exceeding the conventionally understood speed of light in your cosmic journey, as seen from our limited conventional experience. When you reach the black hole at the center of our Milky Way you will then further transit the polydimensional “Membrane” or “Brane”—-passing through the successive surfaces of all eleven dimensions in a single quantum leap into the nexus with the infinite—the Council of the Immortals.”

Here Einstein grew enthusiastic and his eyes lighting up he switched into his heavily accented English, brushing his hands through his tangled mass of disheveled hair to enlighten Sartorius more directly, blurting out: “You see it is really quite simple once you see it! The heterotic string consists of a closed sting that has two types of vibrations, clockwise and counterclockwise, which are treated differently as they transit the polydimensional matrix. With aid of the focus of the telluric currents at the Ombilicus Mundi we can adjust the tenor of these vibrations at our end of the heterotic string, allowing the possibility of transit. The clockwise vibrations live in a ten-dimensional space. The counterclockwise live in a 26-dimensional space, of which 16 dimensions have been compactified—recalling that in Kaluza’s original five-dimensional, the fifth dimension was compactified by being wrapped up into a Moibius-ringed circle.”

Einstein then puffed on his pipe, the corners of his eyes smiling into Goethe’s own. The corners of Goethe’s eyes then shifted to Sartorius’ eyes and encountered there the blank uncomprehending stare that the Chinese so aptly characterize as that of a “Mu Ji—a Wooden Chicken.” Einstein then noticed his consternation and convinced that it was all so simple once you got the simplest insight he repeated his explanation: “Let me put it in a slightly different way and you will get it in no time. You see, the ekpyrotic process begins far in the indefinite past with a pair of flat empty branes sitting parallel to each other in a warped five-dimensional space……these are the Grand Horizons……The two branes, which form the walls of the fifth dimension could have popped out of nothingness as a quantum fluctuation in the more distant past and then drifted apart………..this assumes of course the Imaginary Time of the Kubo-Schwinger-Martin Condition that would characterize the state of the universe before the Big Bang………………..”

Sartorius after a long pause responded: “I’ll have to take your word for it.”

Einstein smiled and puffed again on his pipe, answering back: “Don’t worry! Nobody gets it all the first time—just let it sink in and you’ll get the hang of it all in no time!” Goethe smiled back, his eyes alternating from those of Einstein to those of Sartorius.

At length Goethe summed up the immediate practical consequence of all this that could never be rendered instantly clear—–There was but one entrance to the Umbilical Wormhole:  they must pass across the Island of Omphalos at the center of the earth’s Central Sea and enter the Gateway. To do so they must pass through by the temple of the Mothers and the hideous and deadly guardians of The Gateway, the Grigori–fallen angels of the abyss, —–“The Watchers.”

Now, all of these anxious and desperate thoughts sped Sartorius’ mind forward, moving faster even towards the great Central Island of the Central Sea at the center of the earth than the mighty surging course of the Nautilus, so formidably powered as it was by the deuterium and tritium extracted from the very sea of its path and united as in the sun’s inner burning within the fusion reactor at its core.  He lay at Eva’s side as she slept on, unable to sleep with his mind drawn to the beauty and warmth of her breasts pressed against him and to the swelling of her belly, which was also his future, if indeed any of them had a future which could yet be saved. His sleeping son, in unborn dreamtime within her womb was also a submarine traveler, travelling in odyssey a parallel path to his very own within the bent dimensions and whirling eddies of a Space-Time which embraced him as lovingly as his mother’s womb. He must not fail.

Early the next morning, if there had been a visible sun to calculate the morning’s arrival, Captain Nemo knocked them up to announce their arrival at Omphalos. Rushing up to the conning tower they beheld its shores dense with a tropical vegetation of uncanny growth, drawing its life without sunlight from the chthonic iridescent radiance of the suspended earth’s core overvaulted and glowing about them. The landing party embarked in six rubber landing craft inflated on the spot. Sartorius and Eva rode with Captain Nemo and his crewman, while Goethe and Sun Wu Kong rode in another piloted by Lieutenant Sindbad. Andreas, Jack and Mohammad followed in a third.

Making the beach they disembarked upon the strand of an arced bay strewn with heaps of the papery spiral shells of exsanguine Argonauta argo washed-up in dead waves, and began to follow the tortuous path inward and upwards, mounting the densely vegetated volcanic slopes, leaving the boats in the care of a shore party of Nemo’s crewmen. The jungle was thick and its canopy shut out the iridescent radiance from the vaulted red sky, leaving the struggling argonauts surrounded by the moving pulsating shadows from the umbrella of branches tossed by the scirocco infernal winds, and the heart-rendering screeching out of the dark of the troops of subterranean lemurs following them from branch to branch, the furtive paddings and disappearings in the brush of the subterranean iguanas and the shrieks of the innumerable flocking chthonic vultures, albatrosses, blacks and mackaws startled into flight from each successive ridge of trees which they disturbed in their ascent. Eva leaned heavily on Sartorius’ arm as she strained upward, climbing under the weight of the child within her. She fell once, but Sartorius caught her in his arms. Then they pushed on until she sat to rest but could not get up. Sartorius put her upon his back and slowly climbed upward, bearing both of their weights. Laboriously they made their way forward into the heart of darkness.

Suddenly, about two thirds up the slope a path diverged to a small glade. A stream of the freshest and coolest water flowed along the length of the glade and the party sat down to rest and refresh themselves. They were about to start off again when upriver from them they heard a noise, something like the hoofbeats of a horse which approached them from the opposite side of the stream. Across the underbrush there appeared to be the figure of an older bearded man, naked to the waist and superbly muscled who approached them on horseback. As he cantered out of the underbrush and plashed across the streambed from the other side, however, he revealed himself to be not a rider on horseback, but, beyond belief a creature composed of the body of a horse fronted with the torso and head of a man in one unified organism! The party was shocked speechless as he smilingly approached them and then bowed, taking off a wreath of laural leaves twined upon his head.

“Welcome gentlemen, or should I rather say lady and gentlemen! It is not often we receive visitors in this precinct—-where are you heading? My name is Chiron—and if you will not be too overwhelmed with the sight of me you may see that I am commonly known as a Centaur. I have known and helped many men in my day—Hercules, Achilles, Asclepius, Jason and his band of Argounauts…….I would be happy to make friends and assist you in any way within my powers.” he said with an innate nobility of speech.

Sartorius returned his greetings and informed him of their mission to visit the Mothers, which was of the greatest importance.  He asked of Chiron but one favour: As Eva was pregnant and having difficulty negotiating the steep slope, would he be so kind as to carry her to the top? Chiron was delighted and said it was his pleasure to have such a beautiful woman ride on his back, which delight he had not enjoyed for some time. And he was especially happy to carry such a one flushed with the radiant beauty of incipient motherhood, as so often graced the faces and bodies of the beautifully pregnant.

“More likely flushed with radiant glow of exhaustion and high-blood pressure would be more accurate—–but less gracious and romantically poetic” riposted Eva in good humour as she straddled and mounted his broad equine back, clinging with her arms around the tight muscles of his chest and pressing her full breasts into the back of his torso as he cantered off, beginning to sing as he went.

The wind, which was alive, conscious, and not kindly disposed to travelers, had a habit of coming up in the middle of what would have been night on the surface. It arose without warning in a violent susurra, giving them little time to devise shelter, and to which often the only resort was to submit, pressed against the ground flat as any stalk of grass, and try not to be blown away into the ever looming abyss. Time itself could not be taken for granted. It sped up and slowed down like a variable dependent on something else, a something so far, at least, undetectable.

Hovering, so high and stationary that at first she could have been mistaken for a flaw in Sartorius’ vision, a golden eagle caught the rays and seemed to emit a light of its own. Climbing upwards upon the shear of a cliff face, he could not look at the country directly for more than a minute or two—-it was if its ruling spirit might properly demand obliquity of gaze as a condition of passage. He found himself ascending a flight of cliffs, below the fluorescent waters of the Central Sea seethed; above the air aetherial, blue, shifted in gusts, until arriving at a set of ropes stretched across an abyss, one over the other which he would need to transit, his hands on one and his feet, like a tightrope walker, on the other. The only way to cross was hand over hand using legs and feet on the cable below, with a shear and immeasurable drop into the raging sea below. The vault of the inner sky is red and violent with volcanic heat, the light refracted and complex, like the permanent core of an endless explosion as yet unimagined.

But it wasn’t only the difficult terrain, the deadly vipers and the torrential rainstorms breaking out without warning. The journey itself was a kind of Conscious Being, a living deity that does not wish to engage itself with the foolish or the weak, and hence will try to dissuade you. It insisted on exacting the furthest degree of respect.

Traveling another day and a half they reached the end of all roads and paths forward. They found themselves face to face with a deep belt of impenetrable jungle, swamp and a tangle of teeming vegetation so dense that it formed an impassable wall before them. They were nonplussed. Every attempt to penetrate further towards the center of the island led them ever further into an insolvable snarled maze, a physical entanglement in the chaos of living vegetative and zootic energy seemingly as insoluable as the Gordian Knot. The travelers fell down exhausted in a clearing, unable to go on. Cries were heard that it was hopless to try to press forward. They collapsed onto the ground in exhaustion and near despair, some napping and others unable to sleep.

Then Ogun came forward and set up an iron tripod and lit a fire beneath it. Into the potsheard of the tripod he placed spices, curative herbs and palm wine. Then he took a wild boar in a thicket and sacrificed the animal, severing the throat and directing the thick and hot stream of blood from its neck into the cauldron. He heated the cauldron and then filled his gourd. He passed the gourd to each of the comrades, who sipped in turn recovering their lost strength. Then he picked up the iron cauldron with both hands and drained its bellyful of wine into his own, falling to his knees, raising his arms and calling out towards heaven.

Ogun called out to the heavens and pleaded with the God of Heaven. He called out to the spirits. He sang. He chanted. He danced. He drank down his bloody bever for soothsay. He danced and sang and chanted like one possessed. His movements jerked in ecstatic convulsions like a marionette at the end of the strings of a drunken puppeteer. Then he lost himself in grace, like a well-tooled machine of the soul of the world. Then he called them down, the abiku, the spirit children—-the spirits of the children yet unborn into the world. He sang and intoned to them, singing into the clouds and into the horizon. The unborn spirits poured out of heaven in their billions of billions, all of the souls of the future worlds and centuries unborn. Ogun sang. He sang of their lives that would never be if the pathway failed and the missing crystal were not recovered and the world came to its radioactive and ill-omened end. He sang of their stories that would never be told and never remembered by the children of coming generations. The chorus of the abiku moaned and groaned.  They writhed and wretched. They called down their brothers and sisters from the future’s future.  The clouds rained souls and the spirit children, the abiku, came down in their myriads like the uncountable raindrops of the Indian monsoon.

A man who is born falls into a dream as a man falls into the sea. If he tries to mount again from that sea to the air and return to heaven, evaporate of himself, he drowns. No! The way to survive in that sea of dream is to let the waters bear you buoyant upon their back and by balance float between the air and the waters. Then buoyed upwards and onwards by this unbearable bouyance of being, flow ever onward with the living gulf stream, as the stream itself morphs and migrates and meanders into the bedway that becomes the road, which like all roads along which souls walk and talk and journey forewards, leads ever onwards, the road which was a river becoming a story, and the story merging into other stories endlessly, ever merging onwards, into streams, then rivers then emptying again into the sea of stories that itself returns to the ocean of life which itself, ever unmoved yet ever moving wells itself in unseen dimensions into the beautiful terror of eternity.

They gathered themselves up from the ground as they arrived and came forward into the clearing, the abiku. The Argonauts watched the chaotic movements and wild exchanges. They saw people and beings of all sizes and shapes, mountainous women with faces of iroko, midgets with faces of stone, reedy women with twins strapped to their backs, thick-set men with bulging shoulder muscles. They shut their eyes and opened them again in unbelief. They saw people who walked backwads, a dwarf who got about on two fingers, men upside-down with baskets of fish on their feet, women who had breasts on their backs, babies strapped to their chests and beautiful children with seven cerulean arms. They saw a being with myriad arms like the thousand-armed Guan Yin of China, each enacting a separate gesture of limb and finger, which undulating told a silent story in the gesture-language of Abhinaya as she danced, and a girl who had eyes at the side of her face like a tropical fish, bangles of copper round her neck, and who was more lovely than forest flowers. They saw one which had no eyes and no mouth and walked on its head on little legs which protruded from the empty sockets of the eyes. One of the men had red wings on his feet and a girl had fish-gills around her neck.

Then the abiku, the spirits of the unborn began to swarm. Ogun stretched out his massive muscled arms and turned his face upward, laughing into the rain still pouring from the heavens. The latent appetent unborn poured from the heavens seeking their future, seeking a path to their future lives, seeking, that their lives and their future might not be cut off. One lifetime flowed into the others as the droplets surged into trickles and trickles into streamlets and then into streams. In the beginning there was a river. The river became a road and branched out to the whole world. Then the road that was once a river hungered. It hungered for its future and the future lives that would travel that road, seeking their futures and their journeys. In that clearing which was the beginning of the river and the road the spirits mingled with the unborn. They assumed many forms. They shifted many shapes.  Many became birds of the jungle, nipping and cutting the tangle of vines and overgrowth with their sharp beaks. Many became snakes, slithering forward to follow the tangles then untangle the Gordian knotwork of the vines in the underbrush.  An endless myriad became the swarming ant army and leaf-cutters of the Amazon rain forest surging forward, devouring every plant, leaf, vine and obstruction before them, humming in surgent sursurras as they devoured all before them.  Above them swarmed an endless myriad of the abiku, taking the shapes of billions of hungry locusts, clearing a path in their aerial hungering, alighting above and within the surge of the army of ants below them and devouring the tangles of vineleaf that hung from the towering trees of this densest of rainforests. Swarms of termites gnawed away at the wood of the trees until branches and trunks came crashing down. Some massive abiku took the form of great herds of elephant who with their charging tusks toppled over the denuded hulks of the tree trunks along the Way.  Then a giant Masquerade burst out onto the forming road, with plumes of smoke billowing from its head. The Masquerade was terrifying and feiry  and with a funereal roar it filled the street with ancient silence. The Argonauts watched it by its shadow of a great tree burning as it danced down the widening roadway, setting collapsing tree trunks aflame. All lifeforms feasted much along the famished road, hungering for their futures, longing for the lovely terrors of eternity, clearing the path, the road, the Dao, the Way as they hungered forward.

In the beginning there were no roads on earth. But as one man walked on the face of the green breast of the earth his walking made footprints, and then other men followed these footprints, stepping along and amoung them until the footprints were patted by the soles of feet into paths, the paths into roads and the roads into turnpikes, just as the drops of rain ran in their trickles into their streamlets, their streams into rivers and the rivers to the great waterways leading back to the sea. And men told stories of where they had walked and where they had been, and these stories also became pathways, trod by the feet of men to come. And the itch for the future, the contempt, as it were, for what was overpast and what threatened to block and negate the flow of life and the onward flow of life’s story, which forms the active principle in the forward rush of life moved in each their hearts and in their onflowing and their onward journeying, each believing that what they wanted was more important than what others did not want.

Finally Ogun, Ogun the Waymaker—Ogun he drew two immense machetes slung from sheaths across his well-muscled back and he began to hack his way forward through the remains of the still dense underbrush, following the courseway of the abiku, calling and motioning for his companions to follow. Thus, more incredibly than any conceivable bulldozer might have done, The Great Waymaker hacked a straight path through the jungle and the comrades followed in single file behind him, subduing the living chaos around them as they went.  With Ogun blood was never completely absent, but never from any bloodthirstiness. It was rather his thirstiness for life itself that drove him forwards and renewed his contact with the blood again and again. Thus, The Lord of the Road opened a straight road through the snarled jungle for the wayfarers, laying waste the forests and underbrush around him. There had to be a journey across that void which had grown impassable if the wayfarers were to drink at the fount of mortality and return. Ogun took over. Armed with the first technical instruments which he had forged from the ore of the mountain-wombs he hacked forward and cleared the primordial jungle, plunged through the abyss and called on the others to follow. Smeared with the green of the foliage he had so laid waste and with the red blood of the beasts, snakes, birds and fauna he laid low on his path he finally led the band of Argonauts out of the entanglement and towards the base of the great volcanic mount at the center of the island where they rested, washed in a clear crystalline stream and finally began to make their way upwards.

At length they made the summit of the slope and entered downward into the crater of the extinct volcano, at the center of which beneath the jungle canopy lay an ornate Corynthian temple columned by nubile caryatids. The entranceway to the temple was flanked on either side by the huge guarding presence of twin bare-breasted sphinxes, fearfully sharp in eye and in claw. The leftward sphinx pronounced welcome declaring that they had arrived at the nadir of the Well of Souls and asking for their purpose in coming to these sacred precincts.

Sartorius declared that they had come at the request of the Magister Ludi to speak to the Mothers on an urgent matter of the utmost importance to the survival of the human race. He withdrew from about his kneck the Golden Aegis of the Magister Ludi in which was embedded the engraved Seed Crystal, given him as a passportout, and displayed it high in his hands before them.

“An objective of highly dubious value” sneered the leftward Sphynx, “Nonetheless as you travel hither under the aegis of the Magister Ludi I shall grant you access to the inner sanctum, and you may address the Mothers at you own discretion and, I may say, at your own peril.”

The band of argonauts made their way forward along a long corridor flanked by two facing rows of caryatids, the figure of each of which was a living Amazon warrior armed with Reflex-bow, helmet, sword and shield, each with the left breast absent to assure the deadliness of the drawn bowstring.  The leftward Sphinx guided them forward while the rightward Sphinx followed at their rear.  At each intersecting corridor an Amazon lieutenant of the guard snapped to attention as they passed, presenting her arms in a sign of salute.  At long last they attained the inner atrium and the leftward Sphinx announced their arrival.

Upon gaining the open atrium the spectacle which presented itself was so appalling and incomprehensible to the eye and the mind that none could look directly upon it, but rather sensed it from the corners of their gaze with their eyes averted in horror.  In the center of the atrium several figures surrounded a seething glowing cauldron suspended from an iron tripod, some sitting and some coming and going as it might chance:  Formation, transformation, eternal mind’s eternal re-creation; Images of all creatures and all possible creatures hover free in a boiling chaos of perpetual transformation and quantum oscillations between existence and non-existence. As the clouds of mist and vapour waft away before the cauldron the image of three hideous crones seated before it comes into view,  and behind them three more frightful sisters. The first three sat before the glowing cauldron next to a spinning wheel and a hand-loom. Their faces were ravaged with time and wear, wrinkled and gnarled at every pore, and their greyed hair came out in handfuls. Their age was incalculable and inconceivable, and amoung them they shared but one eye and one tooth, which they deftly plucked out and passed to one another as the need and whim might require. The visitors heard them speak, but they spoke as if speaking to themselves, or speaking to no one. The first of the hideous three spake forth:

Clotho—“The Spinner”—Deino—Nona—Sthenos—these are the names that I am called; In other lands Laima, Wyrd—My sisters and I have many names—-the Voluspa, the Moirae, the Norns, the Fates, Parcae, Fata, Mingyun, Yuanfen, Kismet the Gorgons, the Graiae, the Mothers—–but we are beyond all names and beyond all words and languages; We are the Daughters of Nyx, Mother Night, and of Chaos and Ananke:

I, the eldest Fate, Mother from yonder

For the while to spin am bidden.

Much to think of, much to ponder,

In life’s tender thread is hidden.

Finest flax I winnow featly

That your thread be supple, tender;

Fingers shrewd will twirl it neatly,

Make it even, smooth, and slender.

Ye who, warm with dance and pleasure,

All too wanton, snatch a token,

Think that this thread has a measure,

Have a care! It might be broken.

Then the second took the eye and tooth from the first and spoke in turn: I am Lacheisis, “The Allotter, the Weaver and the Assigner of Lots”—Decima, Enyo, and Euryale am I also called:

Unto me, alone discerning,

Was the thread’s control decreed;

For my reel, forever turning,

Never erred through too great speed.

Threads are coming, threads are reeling,

Each one in its course I guide;

None may slip from spindle wheeling,

Each must in its orbit glide.

Could I once forget in leisure,

For the world I’d fear with pain;

Hours, they count, and years, they measure,

And the Weaver takes the skein.

And then the third, Atropos, took the eye and tooth from her sister’s hand and revealing herself as Morta, Medusa and Pemphredo spoke:

Know ye that the shears were lately

Given to my care to ply;

For our Ancient’s conduct greatly

Did, in truth, none edify.

She drags on most useless spinnings

On and on in air and light,

Promise of most glorious winnings

Clips and drags to realms of night.

Yet when I was young and reigning,

I, too, erred oft in those years;

Now I yield to curb restraining,

In their case I keep the shears.

So I cut off manhood in my bridle,

And this scene with joy survey.

In these hours so gay and idle,

Revel, riot, sport, and play!

And these standing behind us are our formidable cousins, the Furies—the Erinyes, the Eumenides, the Valkyrie, who enforce our executions, as we must in turn follow and administer not our own but the Will of Heaven—thus it was they who were born out of the drops of blood that flowed when Cronus castrated his father Uranus and threw his genitalia into the sea, the Erinyes emerged from the drops of blood, while Aphrodite was born from his seed in the seafoam:

Alecto: What boots it? For to trust us ye’ll not stickle,

For each is young and fair, a coaxing kitten.

If one among you by a girl is smitten,

We shall not cease, his ears to scratch and tickle,

Until we dare to tell him, to his loathing,

That for this man and that one she is primping,

Crooked in her back, all wit doth lack, and limping,

And if betrothed to him, she’s good-for-nothing!

And the betrothed- we know the way to sting her.

Why scarce a week ago her precious lover

To such-and-such a girl spoke basely of her;

Though they be reconciled, a sting will linger.

Megaera: That’s but a jest! For when they once are married,

I go to work in every case to fritter

The fairest bliss away with fancies bitter.

The moods of men are varied, hours are varied.

None holds embraced what his desire has chosen,

But seeks a More-desired with foolish yearning

And from long-wonted, highest blessings turning,

Flees a warm love and tries to warm a frozen.

I’m skilled in managing such household troubles,

And Asmodeus, comrade true, I summon

To scatter strife betimes twixt man and woman;

Thus I destroy the human race in couples.

Tisiphone:

Poison, steel- not words malicious-

Mix I, whet I, for the traitor.

Lov’st thou others? Sooner, later,

Overwhelms thee ruin vicious.

What the sweetest moment offers,

Turns perforce to wormwood galling!

Here no haggling, pulling, hauling;

As one sins, one always suffers.

None shall sing about forgiving!

To the rocks my cause I’m crying.

Echo, hark! “Revenge!” replying.

For the unstable, death! not living!

“Enough of this chatter!” shouted out Atropos in aggravation, “Strangers—declare yourselves, what are you doing here and what do you want?  What is the meaning of this intrusion into our sacred precincts?”

Goethe whispered in Sartorius’ ear: “They will not see you, only wraiths and the shadow’s shadow of your shadow in their world will they see—but speak and they will hear.”

“Honourable Mothers! I have come from the Magister Ludi on a mission which concerns the fate and destiny of the human race. Our world is in crisis. We are threatened with World War and nuclear annihilation. We may not survive. The Magister Ludi has instructed us to travel to the Council of the Immortals in the Amphitheatre at the center of our galaxy to retrieve the Missing Seed Crystal, the Silmaril. Only if we can retrieve the crystal from the council can our civilization escape its apocalypse. My entreaty to you on behalf of the Magister Ludi and the entire human race is to allow us to pass through the wormhole through The Gateway that we may address the Council of the Immortals, which is now convening.” Sartorius spoke, in his best rhetorical manner, trying to imagine what might be a pleasing and acceptable manner in which to address them.

“The Human Race!” she repeated quizzically, “Yes, I remember them but have hardly heard from them of late these many years.—–Yes, I remember them now, but how long it has been since the last call—–‘Sharper than a dragon’s tooth….’ they do say…….But we Mothers do love all our children all the same………….” she drawled off.

“Honourable Mother, I can assure you that…….” Sartorius began.

“No!” she shouted decisively and finally, “No! Never!…..It is forbidden for any human to transit The Gateway and the Umbilical Wormhole! ……no matter for what human cause. Heaven has placed these guardians…..The Grigori…..”The Watchers” about the portal of the Gateway to prevent it and it is written in the laws of heaven that it is forbidden. For you humans it is but to observe and accept the Fate which we shall allot to you…..and when the shears sever the thread of your race that is also Ananke and it is your lot to accept it as the Will of Heaven…….We have spoken! Go!” she screamed out, irritated.

“But  Honourable Mother……” Sartorius again began.

“No!  What is so difficult to understand about that? Do you not know the meaning of No?” she blurted out at him.

With that the party of Argonauts withdrew to the side of the chamber to take council with one another.  Some felt they should wait and hope for a change of her mood. Some felt that they could return after preparing more arguments, and make a plea how important it was for the survival for the human race and the dire consequences of inaction.  Some suggested returning to the Magister Ludi and seeking his counsel and advice, or perhaps a magical talisman to make their way. At the ends of their council none had any hope that they had advanced any farther than before.  Their council broke down and each stood or sat, or paced upwards and downwards racking his brains for some possible solution to the dilemma.

In the corner Sun Wukong flung himself down on a chair and put his leg up over its armrest, leaning on his elbow and stroking the hairs of the beard on his chin quizzically. His eyes passed over the Mothers seated at their spinning wheel, loom and cutting table. He watched their cousins the Furies pace about and attend to their needs.  Then he watched as one of them, Megaera left the room on some errand on behalf of the Mothers. He tilted his head askew to the side then jumped up his arms akimbo.

If you have not read the Xi You Ji, or Journey to the West, and learnt the extent of Master Sun Wukong’s immense powers you must realize that that Master Trickster possesses an immense amount of strength, being able to lift his 13,500 jīn (8,100 kg) Ruyi Jingu Bang, his expandable and collapsable iron fighting rod with ease, which he can also collapse in size down to that of a writer’s pen to stow away behind his ear. He also has superb speed, traveling 108,000 li (54,000 kilometers) in one somersault. Sun knows 72 transformations, which allows him to transform into various animals and objects; he is, however, shown with slight problems transforming into other people, since he is unable to complete the transformation of his tail. He is a skilled fighter, capable of holding his own against the best generals of heaven. Each of his hairs possesses magical properties, and is capable of transforming into a clone of the Monkey King himself, or various weapons, animals, and other objects. He also knows various spells in order to command wind, part water, conjure protective circles against demons, freeze humans, demons, and gods alike.  The dilemma of his friends, therefore, was like gasoline added to the fire in the mischievous mind of the Monkey King. Crossdressing, female impersonation and shape shifting were certainly within his repertoire of mischief.

Just then Sun Wu Kong noticed that Clotho was agitated to ask Tisiphone to fetch some more flax for her spinning wheel and concerned that she might run short. However she could not find the girl to speak out her request without getting the one eye and tooth which the three crones shared amoungst them.  He saw her tug at the sleeve of her sister Atropos, the signal to pass them over to her.  Two seconds later he saw Atropos remove the precious eye from her hideous socket and place it in her palm reaching it across the table towards her sister Clotho.  Quick as the blink of a salamander’s eye Sun Wu Kong transformed himself into the very likeness of cousin Megaera and moved across the atrium next to Atropos.  Luckily since Atropos had removed the eye she was momentarily blind and unable to notice his monkey’s tail sticking out beneath his female skirts, and the two sphinxes, who despite his strength might have torn him to pieces if he were discovered, were on the other side of the room and their view of the obtruding appendage was blocked by the table.  With the deft hand of the practiced trickster and magician Sun Wu Kong reached out and seized the precious eye from Atropos’ hand.  A sudden shriek of horror and dismay arose spontaneously from all three as they realized the calamity of their loss and their helplessness at the hands of the cunning slyboots.

“And now my dear and honourable sisters, you will be so kind as to bring your hesitations to an end and open the Gateway. That is if you would like the privilege of ever seeing the light of day again!” he chortled out gloatingly.  The twin sphinxes moved forward to threaten him but Atropos in her fear and dismay called out to order them to stop.

“It is clear my Trickster friend that you are no gentleman to treat us ladies in such an ungenerous manner. “ she ragged him.

“Yes, I have never pretended to be a gentlman, though I have always served gentlemen such as my good friend Professor Sartorius and my former master the Tang monk Xuanzang. You may judge us all together or not at all. But you ladies have not shown the generosity of heart befitting a lady or a deity either, and thus you are served in your own manner and cannot complain. And so again, I would respectfully counsel you to open the portal to the Gateway for my friends who have a mission of life and death importance to attend to.” he chided.

“A matter of life and death—–is that all? I really wonder why you make all the fuss about it—-what is the difference after all?  But I can see that you are rather a man of action than of philosophical contemplation and I will hold my tongue. Very well, we will accede to your wishes as far as it is in our powers—but I must warn and caution you that all of this will not get you very far after all. You see The Gateway is actually two doors, one that opens from our side, and that is in our power to open, and an additional inner door which opens in the opposite direction into the farther side. We have the power to open the nearer one but not the farther other. As you have us in your power we will submit, but we cannot do that which is beyond our power.”

With that Atropos ordered the sphinxes to draw aside the immense veil of the temple behind the altar at which the Mothers sat and an immense and towering circular moongate was revealed closed by a golden double door on which were engraved the images of Ghiberti depicting on the opposite doors the Creation and the Last Judgment in basso rilievo.  Before the double doors of the portal stood the hideous, menacing and fearsome figures of the Grigori, two hundred in number, the legion of The Watchers—The Fallen Watcher Angels. Behind them were a a thousand of their descendent warriors, giants, the fierce and cannibalistic Nephilim.

The band of Argonauts walked forward, led by Sun Wu Kong, who held the precious eye firmly in his hand.  As they walked forward Atropos commanded the Grigori to make way for them and open the outer door.  Sensing Sartorius’ puzzlement as they walked forward through their ranks, Goethe whispered in his ear an explanation of the presence of the Grigori: “The Watchers (from Greek egrḗgoroi (ἐγρήγοροι)) or Grigori are a group of falle angels told of in the Biblical apocrypha who mated with mortal women, giving rise to a race of hybrids known as the Nephilim, who are also mentioned in Genesis 6:4. The Watchers appear in Biblical apocrypha, in the first and second books of Enoch and Jubilees.  According to legend they were placed on Earth by God to watch over the human race. But in the course of their duties they succumbed to temptation and had intercourse with human females. The word “Grigori” derives from the Slavonic Second Book of Enoch. According to the Book of Enoch, the Watchers numbered a total of 200 but only their leaders are named:

And they were in all two hundred; who descended in the days of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon, and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. And these are the names of their leaders: Sêmîazâz, their leader, Arâkîba, Râmêêl, Kôkabîêl, Tâmîêl, Râmîêl, Dânêl, Êzêqêêl, Barâqîjâl, Asâêl, Armârôs, Batârêl, Anânêl, Zaqîêl, Samsâpêêl, Satarêl, Tûrêl, Jômjâêl, Sariêl. These are their chiefs of tens. (Enoch 6)

A different idea of the Watchers appears in some traditions of Italian witchcraft where they are said to come from ancient stellar lore: “In the Italian system, these ancient Beings are called the Grigori. They are the Guardians of the “doorways” between the physical plane and that which is beyond. In Italian witchlore, the stars were thought to be the campfires of these legions of the Watchers…”

They soon began to lust for the human women they saw, and at the prodding of their leader Samyaza, they defected en masse to illicitly instruct and procreate among humanity. The children produced by these relationships are the Nephilim, savage giants who pillage the earth and endanger humanity. Samyaza and his associates further taught their human charges arts and technologies such as weaponry, cosmetics, mirrors, sorcery, and other techniques which were intended to be discovered gradually over time by humans, not foisted upon them all at once. The Greek mythology about Prometheus revealing fire-making to humans without Zeus’s permission is likely a variant of the same ancient legend, and it is possible also that ancient legends among many cultures about cannibalistic giants and pervasive implementation of magical powers (such as in the tale Jack and the Beanstalk) arise from the same ancient mythology that came to inspire the Books of Enoch. Eventually God sent the Great Flood to rid the earth of the Nephilim, but first sent Uriel to warn Noah so as not to eradicate the human race. Genesis says Nephilim and Grigori remained “on the earth” even after the Great Flood, but Jude says the Watchers themselves are bound “in the valleys of the Earth” until Judgment Day. (Genesis 6:4 and Jude 1:6)

The “Watchers” story in Enoch derives from the sixth chapter Genesis where it describes the “Origin of the Nephilim” and mentions the “Sons of God” who beget them:

When men began to multiply on earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw how beautiful the daughters of man were, and so they took for their wives as many of them as they chose. Then the Lord said: “My spirit shall not remain in man forever, since he is but flesh. His days shall comprise one hundred and twenty years.” At that time the Nephilim appeared on earth (as well as later), after the sons of God had intercourse with the daughters of man, who bore them sons. They were the heroes of old, the men of renown. (Genesis 6:1-4)

Then at Atropos’ command Samyaza, the leader of the Grigori unlocked the immense gateway, and latched two immense steel cables to the golden rings fastened to each of the double doors. The thousand Nephalim giants then divided into two groups of five hundred and pulling together on each cable pulled the gargantuan doors wide apart and open.  The opening of the outer doors, however, just as Atropos had indicated, revealed not the passageway of the Umbilical Wormhole, but rather another set of Inner Doors, similar to but smaller in scale than the open outer doors. Above the arch of the inner doors was inscribed a legend in massive gold lettering carved in lapis lazuli:

“Behold The Doors of Daat: No Man or Woman may Open These Doors; Once Closed behind them, None Shall Return”

A minute later the two Sphinxes trotted forward through the darkness of the Liminal Interzone, the hazy space between the two sets of doors, and took their places on the inner pedestals to the side of either door, standing guard in vigil. Upon the pedestals to either side were inscribed their names and stations: “The Grand Sphinxes—-Guardians of the Great Horizons: These Two Guardians of the Law Stand Eternal Vigil Over the Two Great Human Horizons—Birth, to the Left, and Death, to the Right—-Straddling the Great Sephirotic Hemispheres—-None Shall Pass But by the Law.”

Atropos let out a sigh and a bitter laugh: “I did warn you, didn’t I? You have us in your power but we’re all in the power of the highest power, which even we may not alter or contravene. Now, we must return to our work, eye or no eye. We wash our hands of the matter.” With that, the three fates returned to their eternal work, Clotho spinning, Lachesis measuring and alotting the fates, and Atropos cutting off the destinies of mortal men, as they had done since time immemorial, fate being blind and blinder yet in the eyeless interlude that ensued.

In the interval that thus followed every means was tried to open the inner doors. Sun Wu Kong used every power, chant and incantation in his repertoire to no avail. He tried to pry it open with his Ruyi Jingu Bang rod, without budging it a millimetre. Goethe racked his brains and memory from his immense scholarship in an attempt to recall the “open sesame” that might deliver the party from their doom; all to no avail. Ogun sacrificed his sacred dog and wielded his pulsing Phallic-willowy Staffpole topped with ore against the unyielding portal in vain. Sloughing into depression they sat in the atrium of the temple and watched the Fates spinning their work forward. The time passed and passed and Clotho announced she was spinning out the final threads for the human race, evidently implying that the impending nuclear confrontation and Armegeddon in the Middle-East was proceeding to its climax. Lachesis measured the final thread of the human race and the tension built to its catastrophe and climax as Atropos took up her shears. She placed the shears firmly in her right hand and raised their sharpend blades towards the final thread.

Suddenly Eva stood up and raced towards her in firm strides. Before Atropos could sever the final thread Eva seized the shears from her gnarled hand walked away with them, saying: “You shall not take away my son’s future!”  The two sphinxes moved to stop her but when they did so they discovered that were unable to move, and were inexplicably powerless to attack her. Then she strode forcefully to the inner doors, and beating upon them with the heel of the shears they parted, and she pushed them open with a final thrust. She then threw the shears back onto the floor at Atropos’ feet, shouting triumphantly “There, it is done!”  Since the door was opened the future was not shut. Lachesis had no choice, but had to keep weaving the thread of the destiny of the human race into the fabric of the future.

Goethe jumped up jubilantly and declared: “I never thought of it! Incredible—who could have imagined it? Saved by a single word!” he shouted at the top of his breath to Sartorius “…..Who could have imagined it? She has become a riddle to the sphinxes. You see the law of heaven written above the doorway is clear: “No Man or Woman may Open These Doors” but Eva, Eva God bless her—-what is she? She is a mother with a manchild within—–for this pregnant interval she is neither man nor woman but is both!—She is the manchild within her and the woman embracing him and for an interval she is an inseparable both—she is man and woman, woman and man and because of that and only because of that she has an infinite future open through her portal! An And and not an Or! An And for an Or, An And For an Or!  God is a clever lawyer and the destinies of man may turn on a single word in a court of law or in the laws of the universe! Don’t you see?—It is because a pregnant woman in the critical interval is transformed into a fusion of the male and female, the yin and yang in their restored wholeness—-the creative wholeness of the Life Force and semblance of God’s own infinitely creative power—-that she can bear a future within her—-though she as a woman and the father as a man will individually die, together their futures can never die, and the portal to the future can remain ever open!” he laughed and danced and capered, kissing Eva and Sartorius alike on their cheeks.

The argonaut band then took council amoung themselves before the open portal to the Umbilical Wormhole, which pulsed and iridesced with mystic convulsive energy before them.  Goethe interpreted the second half of the divine law written above the portal: “Once Closed behind them, None shall Return” to mean that the doors must be kept open until they could get to the Council of the Immortals and return with the Silmaril, the Missing Seed Crystal. If the doors were to close before their return all would be lost. Thus it was decided that Eva must remain behind and hold open the portal doors with her unique presence until the rest could return. Sun Wu Kong handed the captive eye and tooth to her to guarantee that the outer door would remain open and she sat herself under the threshhold and by her presence the closing of the doors was rendered impossible until their return.  Captain Nemo and his crew would remain to provide her security and assistance during the wait for their return.  That decided and agreed to, the remaining Argonauts set forth, setting themselves on the platform of the entrance to the Umbilical Wormhole, which whirled, glowed and convulsed with the uptake of its cosmic energy.

As the unbounded energy began to accelerate and carry them forward we may imagine them a vector, passing through the invisible, the “imaginary,” the unimaginable. And the infinite night of time and space will be dark, dark enough for whatever visions must transpire across them, no longer to be broken by light displaced from Hell. A vector through the night…….

C Copyright Robert Sheppard 2011 All Rights Reserved

This is a work of fiction:  Names, characters, places, incidents and references

herein either are solely the product of the author’s imagination or are

used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual

             persons, living or dead, or to other

               works, business establishments

                            events or locales is

entirely coincidental and unintended.

Copyright Notice: Any and all material on the pages of this entire WordPress blogsite, including each and every post and entry is the sole and exclusive  intellectual property of the copyright holder, Robert Sheppard. Hence, he has full copyright, trademark, trade name, trade dress and any and all related intellecutal property ownership and control of all of the the items. With permission from the copyright owner, the contents may be read and used for personal reference, but not otherwise copied, altered in any way or transmitted to others  without the written permission of the copyright holder. All rights are reserved solely in the copyright holder

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