You can’t lose your shit. You can’t lose your shit. Andy Crowly’s Northstar high-tops slid across the mall’s tile floor with a squeak that belied the severity of his immediate circumstances. His mind, which had ben forced to process its fair share of peculiarities of late was not ready for this.
At the far end of the entrance to the Tudor Arms, there stood a robot. It was about seven-feet tall and had a tall cylinder of a head tapered subtly down to its chin. Its movements were disarmingly un-robotic: fluid and gracefully athletic. And its manner of dress was unlike anything Andy had ever imagined fe might see on a robot. Leather breaches tucked into high boots, a blousy pirate’s shirt. A broad-brimmed hat with a massive black plume trailing from the band perfectly complemented the pencil-thin, swashbuckler moustache painted over its mouth. There were silver-buckled pouches around a broad belt, upon which hung a disturbingly large two-handed broadsword.
Andy followed the robot’s glowing amber slits for eyes to the object of their intense attention. Surprises upon surprises!
“No, not now, Banjoman.” Andy heard the robot’s voice in his head. What a strange accent — right propa British, yet at the same time, American-southern-somethin’ er’ other.
A powerfully built man in a grey hooded sweatshirt glared at the robot. His worn blue jeans were tucked into knee-high cuffed boots amethyst in hue. He wore a bowler had and had a spectacular crimson gunslinger moustache. Purple eldritch fire blazed from his eyes. Across his back on a strap of orange demon-wing leather, there was a banjo.
Andy heard Deb scream his name. Not a scream of terror, but an expression of glee.
Where the robot had stood, now stood Scott St. Pierre.
The Banjoman, likewise, was instantly gone. O’Finnegan, a bewildered expression on his freckled face stood in his place.
And not a soul in the Tudor Arms seemed disturbed in the least. Saturday afternoon as usual. It was as though none of the what Andy had by now surmised were most certainly extra-planar entities had been there at all.
Andy saw Deb coming for him waving papers. Over her shoulder toward the back of the bar. His eyes met Nick’s.
Three Hours Ago
Andy’s eidetic memory allowed him to remember, in their entirety, simply by glancing at their table of contents, all the books he’d ever read about astral projection The Eiditic Vault Trigger had been the first spell his servant, Asmodeous, had taught him.
He had dipped his toe in the astral realm before, but he had never explored it. Now, however, trepidation was slipping away by the moment. He would go beyond his boundaries today. He had read enough of the astral projection greats to confirm his suspicions about Guskar’s Earthsotone. They would help him unlock the secrets of the astral plane.
In the basement recroom, Andy pulled back the worn, chorded, oval area rug that hid a protective magic circle he had etched there with a pocket knife and settled into the full lotus position with a hand on each knee. His fingers were contorted into neuro-trigger formations adopted by medieval ninja from primeval Japanese animism. As he breached the inner barrier to the null-point, standard gravitation collapsed around his body. It was the telltale sign he had accessed the probability vortices where he could re-define reality itself.
The elaborate incantations, finger contortions and circles and mandalas weren’t the means by which the sorcerer altered probability. Rather, these were merely sensory stimuli, which in various combinations had been tested and proven through history to incite the generation and interaction of specific electrical patterns of impulses in the nervous system and vibrations in the aetheric field surrounding the body. These phenomenon and their associated quantum field variations opened access by the consciousness to the deepest inner mind where the conceived world and the perceived world became one and the same: where probability could be altered by the dictates of one’s will.
As above. So below.
When Andy could no longer feel his body, as though he had levitated upward from the centre of the magic circle, he opened his eyes.
He was nestled in between roots that felt as though they had been tailored specifically for the purpose of helping him relax. With his back against his tree, he looked out upon a golden field of tall grass ‘neath a glowing peach-coloured sky. Mountains, inverted, floated like islands in the sky.
The tree at his back felt as though it was a part of him. My “splinter of Yggdrasil” he liked to think. He had often imagined that every mind had a tree at its center; and that in-turn, every one of those trees was but a branch of a single tree – the Asgardian life-tree – winding through all the minds of all the realms in the multiverse.
He did not see it, but he knew his silver chord was there, connecting him to the tree, which in turn connected him to his physical form back in his bedroom. Perhaps an extension of his Kundalini, he had hypothesized.
Every being has a silver cord that connects to a touchstone on the astral plane – part base of operations on the quiet realm – part gateway back to the physical body. It was impossible to truly come to harm on the astral plane. One’s silver cord would always pull them back to their body in their native realm should the astral body be sufficiently shocked or wounded. Andy’s touchstone was this tree, with its branches, mostly unseen, stretching out across the planes and throughout the cosmos.
Finally it was time. He struggled to maintain the calm he had generated with He reached into his purple velvet dice bag. He felt nothing like a gem in there and his heart sank. But wait!
The six-sided, the red cube was heavy! And the moment he grasped it, it spoke on his mind.
“I am life. I am Gaea. Daughter of The All. You are less than, but also, me.” The voice was the voice of one’s mother — or, if not a mother one cared for, then instead, the voice of the mother one desired to have.
Andy felt strong. Not football linebacker strong but tank battalion strong — grounded and solid. But at the same time limber and full of energy and vitality.
“Thank-you,” he said to Gaia. And his voice then was as gravel and a gale.
“This will protect you.” Gaia’s matronly, melodic voice whispered in his head. “Sorcerers call it brainmail. It is made from the aether of a demiurge and the confidence of its wearer. It is my gift to you. Though you will also serve many others, and bear many titles, Andy Crowley, you are to me the Green Knight of Gaea!”
He noticed then the thin emerald aura surrounding his body. Brainmail. He felt Gaia’s etheric energy mingling with his.
“It is time for you to venture deeper into the astral plane: to undertake your quest to summit Mount Qaf. But first, you have much to learn in Alexandria.”
Andy looked at the six-sided die in his hand. It appeared to be the same, old, worn plastic cube but now it was heavy and he felt its charge in his hand. He knew it was in essence Guskar’s Earthstone.
And, boldly, donning his new brainmail, with the Earthstone clutched in his fist, he stood and walked to the edge of the ridge by his tree. He always enjoyed the springy surface of the astral realm. It was a hallmark of this particular plane that all the surfaces had a kind of spongy give to them. The grass was pale gold. The earth was the colour of wine. In all his travels so far, this was his favorite place beyond the threshold of the everyday plane of waking, material existence.
Then, more certain of his abilities than he’d ever felt before, he pushed his feet away from the edge of the ridge the way one pushes from the side of a swimming pool, — Andy Crowley floated toward the island in the astral sky he somehow already knew was Akashic Library of Alexandria.
Cerberus should not have been in the astral realm. But, in the closing hours of the Siege of Hades Prime, he had been sent to hide there by the Admiral of Sygia. Cerberus had been told that one day an Earther would seek to enter Akashic Alexandria, and that when that happened, he was to tear the Earther to shreds. The order to the admiral had come from Hades himself. Hades knew the fiend Lucifer desired the Earth wizard’s soul. The lord of the Olympian underworld about to fall would see Lucifer denied his prize.
Cerberus reared on his haunches. His three heads lathered and foamed as he spoke.
“A pretentious child seeks the wisdom of the Library then.”
“Library?, I see nought but a misshapen whelp with shrill words that make me long for a return to what I once knew as a quiet realm.”
Indeed, where Andy now stood there was was nought but a flat rolling plain atop the massive inverted mountain he had landed upon. As he approached he had seen all manner of architecture from all manner of cultures veining the roots of the island like precious metals in the wall of a cave. Greek, Egyptian, Gothic, Renaissance, Persian, North American First Nations, African, Asian — some of the styles he did not know at all and had completely alien alien (an hence, beguiling) flavour.
The left head of the Cerberus, puzzled, looked up and to the side. The centre head stared hard and smart into Andy’s eyes — and into his soul. The left head was mad and wild with ravenous hunger. Foam sprayed from its fetid, flailing maw.
The Cerberus, reared on its glistening black haunches to strike. Each head was the size of an African elephant. Andy knew his silver chord was assurance he could not die here — but Cerberus could certainly prevent him from entering the library. His knowledge of th nuances of Greek Mythology was prodigal. Also, he had already noted that, while the fiends middle head gave off no scent at all, the head on the left smelled of his mother’s perfume, and the head on the right smelled like grape-flavoured bubble-gum — Deb’s favourite.
“I know you, lost son of Cronos, though you know not yourself that this is your lineage. The left head drooled stupidly, The right head still hungered. But the centre head had sadness and surprise in its eyes.
“Past,” Andy said it as he looked into the eyes of the head on the left. Then, walking past the jaws of the middle head as though they were not there, he reached ups with an assuredness that surprise even himself, and seized the foaming mandible of the head on the right. He pulled its eyes onto his. “And you are Future.” Where once there had been fury there was now pondering and bewilderment — but also recognition and satisfaction.
“But you, Present, are wisest,” he walked to the line of sight of the middle head clasped his hands behind his back and looked directly into Present’s eyes. More domesticated and hound-like, less wild and wolf-like than the other two — had lowered his enormous head to the ground. Andy placed his glowing green hand upon the dog’s velvety snout, “And you have long suspected that what I now tell you is true.”
“You are indeed the lost sons of Cronos, above even your masters in Olympus you are. And each of you knowing this can now go your separate ways.”
“We were sent here to destroy you.” Past said. His dull-witted forgetfullness now replaced with the mind of the historian.
“No problem,” Andy said. “Really. One lives a role until one’s true path — or the absence of one — is revealed.”
“Why have you done this for us,” the hunger of the head on the right, Future, had become insatiable curiosity.
“Mutual benefit my new friends, Each of you deserve to know the truth and I needed to not be torn asunder and scattered hither and yon!”
“Well we are thankful, Earther. Future glanced sideways at Present as he said it. “What is your name?”
“I am Sir Andy Crowley, Green Knight of Gaia! Very recently anointed such and quite minty fresh!”
“We take your leave now. I imagine our parting into three may not be something you wish to bear witness to.”
“Fair enough. A thoughtful gesture. All my hopes go with each of you in your travels.”
Andy watched Past, Present, and Future — who had once been the fiend Cerberus Sentinal of the Olympian underworld — depart.
Surprising Andy, Future turned his head and said over his shoulder, “Before we leave you friend Andy, you should know that your presence on this plane has not gone unnoticed. It is a rare thing for an Earther to venture this far into the astral realm. Two, I sense, have become aware you are here. Powerful they are, and not friends to one another. This is all I know and can share.”
“Many thanks,” Andy said. “I will tread lightly.”
“Make haste to Alexandria then.” Future said. “One of your wisdom will find fast companionship there. Something, I fear friend, you will very much require on the path you have chosen for yourself.”
“Again, many thanks,” Andy said. He saw the walls of Alexandria now rising into his view as though a fog was lifting. Excitement ran through him. But there was fatigue there as well. Much had been accomplished. The silver chord had began to tug subtly at his naval: a sign that perhaps one has had enough astral venturing for one day.
When he turned again to see his new friends, they were gone.
“Alexandria is for tomorrow, now that I have won the way,” he said it aloud, despite now being alone.
He wondered at how he had surmised that the Cerberus was akin to time — and so a descendant of the demiurge Cronos. He wondered if he had surmised this himself, or if Gaea, who surely knew Cronos personally, had planted that seed in his awareness.
Where had Gaia’s voice gone?
A good day nonetheless. Andy Crowley felt immense satisfaction.
Two, I sense, have become aware you are here. Powerful they are, and not friends to one another, the words echoed in his mind. The Earthstone pulsed in his hand.
I want to be with my friends. The urge was powerful — and tinged with fear and peculiar urgency.
Even if it means going to the mall.
To be continued in Chapter 14