With the help of an Australian Aboriginal tea recipe, Andy made footfall in the dream realm less than an hour after leaving Deb’s. He had no time to address what had happened between the two of them and how that made him feel. The banshee matter was pressing. No less than Nick’s life was at stake.
In the lucid dream state assured for a time by the tea, would free him from concentrating to sustain his dream body and maximize the attention of his waking consciousness while in the dream realm. The strategy had paid dividends even before he reached the Baku Gate. He had not put his finger on it at Deb’s, but he now realized he had sensed something of a particular psychic presence accompanying the banshee he had seen in Deb’s mind. It was a presence his waking mind would not process, but one his sleeping mind knew all too well: the blue mariner — the one who called to him every night as he drowned. The fear returned. He knew the nightmare would claim him again tonight and he would be powerless to defy it. He could not remember a night when it had not consumed him. The effect of the tea would fade eventually. He would drown.
On the dream plane, reality is more vividly colourful even than it is in waking perception on the material plane, only it ranges exclusively in the blue part of the visual spectrum, if that makes any sense. It’s one of those things the Fallen (people who haven’t overcome the repression of their right hemisphere by their left) find difficult to understand. Also everything is covered in an ephemeral silver frost that presents just inside the limit of perceptual range.
The dream realm is first port of call for realmhobos of taking their initial steps into the inner realms. Its opposite in the trinity of proximal planes, the astral plane, is characterized not just by its peachy pinkish hues and warm golds, but also by the spongy give all physical material exhibits there and that gravity can be manipulated by thought.
Balancing these two realms there is the realm of the Innocent, the Fallen, the material plane, the realm of matter.
On the dream plane, mind controls matter and form. On the astral plane control energy and movement. But first, to even exist there, the mind must learn how to turn focus inward to generate a body in vibrational phase with the realm it would inhabit. Mastering the draping of either the dream form or the astral form over the matrix of consciousness we know as ego or self was the inner explorers’ first lesson.
Andy Cowley had learned by the age of 11 how to exist in the inner realms, but he was only now learning how to function in them. Their natural laws being quite alien to the apprentice esotericist.
On the other side, this close to the gate, the edges of memory encroached upon the plane of dreams. To provide the comfort of consistency to unlearned souls entering a realm comprised of matter and energy more malleable and effusive than the stuff of waking life, landmarks were erected here by the egoic impulses of the conscious mind. Each soul laid down its own reality here upon the threshold. Andy, waved to his father where he stood at the main entrance to Quinte Mall. Always there was the overcast winter sky at twilight. Always, there was the swirling, haphazard joy of a gentle Christmas snow. It was the place where, together, they had put his mother on the bus the last time he had seen her. Ruby had refused to come. Andy resisted the urge to chat with the inwardly manifested construct of his dad.
Beyond the mall, there was the old school where he had spent his elementary years. There, now, was the forest behind Jason Baker’s where they had chased orcs for days on end.
Then, in a manner unfamiliar to him the geography of the forest shifted. The wild of it assumed a degree of order. It then seemed as an orchard, though not quite as orderly and structured as any orchard he’d ever known. Every tree was different. And every tree writhed with beautiful coloured serpents. They were not snakes for they were all possessed of arms and hands. He sensed no malice in them. They tittered and conversed in a way that made him think of tea-time in the maze garden of a Victorian English estate. The serpents’ scales glittered and flashed in the trees. In the blue ambient light of the dream realm, with the memory of the snow at the mall still fresh, Andy saw the serpents as the tinsel and twinkling lights of Christmas. A magical time for him, a time that elicited good moments from when his family had still been a real family. He remembered climbing onto the massive record-player cabinet at his grandparent’s house to look out at the blue Christmas lights across the road. Don Shannon always put his lights up too soon, Pop-Pop thought. Those lights were eerie and mysterious and wonderful to Andy — just like these orchard serpents.
“Well met, Master Crowley,” The greeting did not surprise him. He half expected it. It belonged to a dwarf lounging in a Muskoka chair under a banana tree. He held an older-style, stubby necked beer bottle, still frosty. The scene was peculiar enough, but what struck Andy as most odd was the dwarf’s appearance. His hair was cropped short to his head like a U.S, Marine. Its pronounce window’s peak and clean, tidy lines made it appear as a tight-fitting cap. Except for the hint of a swashbuckler’s pencil moustache his face was exquisitely clean-shaven. He wore a rust-hued Edwardian smoking jacket and spoke in a sophisticated European accent Andy couldn’t place. Though he was most definitely a dwarf, he gave off vibe that was very un-dwarf-like, Andy thought.
The dwarf offered his hand from his chair. He did not get up. He seemed very comfortable. Andy accepted. Its strength was impressive, yet comforting.
“Please sit down.” A second chair appeared across from the dwarf. Andy sat down. When he looked up he noted they were no longer in an orchard, but in a beautiful cave. All about them the walls shimmered with veins of silver, and clear colourless, gems
My name is Guskar, and I have been dispatched, rather urgently it seems, to aid you in your training. Which title have you chosen? Magic-User? Wizard?
“Sorcerer,” is my preference. Andy said. Never having been asked that question before, he was surprised at how that answer seemed automatic, how it presented itself seemingly of its own accord. He paused moment to reflect on this. “But, that’s just me. I know enough by now to have little concern for either the meaning of words or preferences. Both being nought but scars and blemishes upon the All.”
The dwarf raised an eyebrow, seemingly impressed. Again, Andy thought, very un-dwarfy.
“An ominous word-choice, considering your destiny. But perhaps you know best. A sense of menace may play in your favour, under the circumstances.”
Andy focused on playing it cool, on not looking rattled by what he was hearing. My destiny? In an attempt not to meet Guskar’s eyes in that moment, he notice a very British egg-cup sitting on the wide left arm of the dwarf’s chair. It contained a jewel of some sort. It was red for sure, possibly cube-shaped.
“Though I certainly do not wish to convey arrogance or oppressive intention, I very much hope to effectively impart that I am not one to witlessly submit. I appreciate that you appreciate my choice, Guskar.” Andy noticed a glass of chocolate milk had appeared on the arm of his chair. Excellent!
“Well Sorcerer Crowley. I understand you seek answers regarding a reaper of the soul-trading house of Fey’s announcement to your friend of another friend’s imminent demise.”
It took Andy a moment to work through Guskar’s strange way of putting it. By reaper, he surmised he meant the banshee. Soul-trading house? What did that mean? Fey was clear enough. He knew banshee came from the plane of Feykind. At this point he had begun to surmise it somehow intersected with the realm of dreams.
“Yes, Guskar. Thank you for the chocolate milk.” He wiped his upper lip. “It is curious to me that my friend Deborah would be visited upon by a banshee.”
“You are most welcome. And you are right to be curious. It is highly unusual. Not to mention unacceptable, frankly, as a manner of cosmic law. But there is no time for that matter now.”
Andy noticed that Guskar seemed to be enjoying this meeting immensely He recalled the way his great-grandma Reed gleefully accepted visitors in her nursing home. Was Guskar always here? Was he lonely?
“Unfortunately sorcerer, I cannot aid you in the matter of the banshee’s intrusion. That is beyond my appointed task.”
Andy had learned much in his travels in the dream realm. He knew there was no point in getting ornery about things with the anyone you met there. That always seemed to make things worse. In a flash, he recalled that the drowning dream would come. He did his best to hide the cold wave of fear that ran through him.
“Certainly, Guskar. Down to business then!” He didn’t know why, but he leaned forward to offer a toast. The clinking of his glass against Guskar’s beer bottle thrilled the dwarf immensely.
“You are familiar enough with the dream realm. You understand that their are places an forms conjured by the consciousness of a single ego — imaginary, let us call them; and that there are places that are fixed, and shall we say real in that they are manifest to the All consciousness — imaginal, let us call these worlds.”
“But of course,” Andy said with aplomb. Accessible by Abu Yahya Zakariya’ ibn Muhammad al-Qazwini’s Mount Qaf-Kuh, gateway to the imaginal realm, should one possess the discipline and faculties of inner perception to discern its relative reality.
The dwarf’s mouth hung agape.
أبو یحیی زکریاء بن محمد القزویني ,, Andy couldn’t help himself. “In Hermeticism, the Ninth Sphere where above and below, in and out are one and the same; merkaba; the one place the Roc will land; most outer and most inner edge.”
“Remarkable,” the Dwarf said. “Sorcerer indeed! One of such short years so long in knowledge.”
Andy blushed. He knew he had been showing off and realized then how much he had been bursting at the seams to share all he knew with his friends. Like this dwarf he knew then, he was lonely too.
“Nothing more than enthusiasm Guskar,” He looked down, his face lost a portion of its light. “Perhaps, motivated by disappointment in my people as well. Perhaps by the boredom the pettiness of their priorities imbues.”
“Wherever it comes from, the very fact I have been sent to deepen your understanding is a sign that your enthusiasm is well placed. A gift to all the realms your enthusiasm will be in distant ends long foreseen, Sorcerer Crowley. If I could, I would know better where the sorcerer’s curiosity is born. I possessed it at one time myself!”
“I think I can answer that. Andy pondered for a moment. “But a spell is better than words in this case.”
Guskar placed his beer on the arm of his chair and leaned forward excitedly. “Before our business, this spell then, please!” He rubbed his immense stubby hands togther with glee.
“It is not my spell,” Andy said. “Not a sorcerer’s spell. More a shaman’s. You must find it yourself for I cannot cast it in its proper and most powerful form. It is a song called Subdivisions. First song on side one of Signals –.”
“Rush. Neil Peart.” The dwarf said this in a matter-of-fact tone emphasized for comic effect. Andy could sense his glee at discovering the two of them shared a common artistic passion.
It was Andy’s turn to be surprised. A grin split the sharp angles of his long face. “Guskar! Instant friend!” There was another more forceful and sloppy toast. The best kind: just shy of shattered glass.
For a moment the sat smiling and measuring one another. Knowing their time was short, disciplined enough to not be further curtailed from the business at hand, they let the celebration of kinship pass.
“If you are familiar with the imaginal realm, then you have already done that which I was dispatched to do. This cave is at the foot of Mount Qaf-Kuh. This stone belongs to you.” The red jewel floated out of the egg cup floated and hovered between them. It was a perfect cube. Andy wasn’t sure but he suspected it might be a ruby.
“This is the Earthstone. The soil from which your roots will spring. There is much more I wish I could tell you for we are very much alike, Sorcerer Crowley. But of course, only you can find your path. Our time grows short.”
Upon noting the cube-shaped jewel was precisely the size of the red six-sided die in the purple velvet whisky bag looped into the belt of his jeans, it disappeared from where it floated in the air with a popping sound.
“Plato’s forms,” Andy said. He felt the air chill suddenly. The dwarf’s face became a mask of concern, and then slowly, sadness.
“And the key that unlocks where you must now go,” Guskar smiled and got up from his chair. “The child has come to the mountain of his own accord! What need has a born sorcerer of a dwarf?”
Swiss! Andy suddenly realized. Guskar’s accent was Swiss. Of course! How had he not realized who this dwarf really was? In excitedly drawing the breath he would need to ask his next question, Andy Crowley caught a hint of salt on the air.
His feet were already wet, and his new friend was gone. Through the sadness of that realization, his mind found the excitement of realizing somehow that the red jewel, the Earthstone, was in his dice-bag. Treasure from the dream realm! If it were still there in the morning when he awakened terra firma… Well now, that would certainly be something new!
Ancient pillars and obelisks were already replacing the twinkling cave walls. The first roars of “Atlan-Kol!” were in the air. Now people were running for their lives and the water was about his knees. For the first time since the drowning dream had started, he smiled despite knowing it was upon him.
With a presence of mind he had never had in this moment before, he beckoned and the hard synth beats of the first song on side 1 of Signals flared into his being. He knew it was pointless to resist what came next. It was best to just let the terror and death come.