Missive the Fifty-Second
Arrives at Achernar.
DATELINE: Wednesday, January 24, 2001, at 1115 hours
Conway, Arkansas, USA
By D. Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles
CornDancer & Company
PART ONE OF A SERIES
EDITOR'S NOTE: Missive the Fifty-Second is the first of a series of reports about Themis Aegle's arrival at Achernar and Ebenezer's first conversation with her. The second report shall appear here as Missive the Fifty-Fourth on January 30 or thereabouts.
The lonely Shack of the Psychic, Themis Aegle's new home, is close to the grove of elderly poplars on the left descending bank of the river. Weatherworn and stoic, the shack stands on stilts embedded deep in the grassy clay to keep seasonal floodwaters from washing o'er the cypress floors and red oak thresholds.
Miss Themis arrived by chariot at Achernar yesterday morn, Azoth the Librarian reports. She was somber and silent, he said, but . "From her green eyes sparkled a flash of life hot enough to assure me that her Spirit is sound," the bearded old man said.
She paid homage to the grandfathers and grandmothers at the Spirit Mound before choosing Melpomene's ferry from the nine moored at the harbour. The raven-haired, sad-eyed pilot honored her passenger's plea for silence on their short glide across the river to Miss Themis' new home on the edge of the Wilds.
A Way Station along a Course to the One Thing.
Achernar is our secret place, an island concealed in a bayuk at the end of the river. The island separates the Wilds from the City of Light. I cannot reveal the name of the river, the location of the city an oath prevents my doing so but I can tell you it flows along a course to the One Thing. Achernar is a way station. Few visit.
To be exiled in the Wilds for a century is a bittersweet fate for one so comely, lively, and sane as Miss Themis. I agree with Azoth that the Fifth Oracle of Arcadia shall bear her banishment with dignity and honour. We are glad to have her.
Her arrival raised a ruckus in the City of Light. The old crow Fama flew in from the cold North to tell Azoth about the circumstances of Miss Themis' exile. "She and two of her much younger sisters too ardently encouraged a favoured young man to be all too daring," the avian hag whispered from her perch on a balcony at the library. "The young man's daring led to big trouble. I hear he caused a raging fire of no small consequence, some such outrageous dilemma, outrageous enough to attract the attention of the Master. We think the Master struck down the boy with a bolt of lightening."
Fama ruffled her scraggly feathers to shake off the dew. Most of her furtive seventy eyes were directed toward Azoth. "The Master inflicted deafness and dumbness for a period of no less than thirty moons on one of the poor sisters," the bird continued. "She is such a lively sprite, loves to sing and tell tales to the hunters. Now all she can do is listen. The other sister he made instantly and forever grey."
One Consequence of the Dare
Is Her Hundred-Year Banishment.
The old crow's fifty mouths were flapping and spitting. She twisted her horrid head to open one beaked maw, then another. "To Miss Themis, the Master said, 'I am not punishing you, sweet Aegle. You know you are the favored one among the oracles here. Rather than punish, I shall banish you. I shall send you away from your beloved Arcadia for a hundred years to meditate on the consequences of the dare, your unwise counsel.' Without a fare-thee-well or portmanteaux, with only the crimson gown on her back and the amber sandals on her feet, sweet Aegle of Arcadia was whisked away to a chariot bound for Achernar."
Fama's red eyes darted heavenward. "That's all, old Azoth, all I shall report this morn. Ah ha ha, ah ha ha, callooh, callay, callay, callooh," the hag screeched as she flew away. "May the gods prevail today, today!"
Arcadia's loss, as They say, is Achernar's gain. We shall be the silver lining of her grief. We shall provide stylish gowns and capes for her, warm boots and comfortable sandals, wise and watchful hounds, a field of corn and a full larder, a subscription to the collections of Azoth's private library.
Too long, too much time has passed since the Master recalled from exile the previous psychic. O how Achernar needs a psychic to minister to the wayfarers and hermits, the troubadour and the weaver, the wounded warriors pausing on their way to Avalon, and the residents of the City of Light, who welcome them all.
Azoth Knew I Would Come to Her Straight Away.
To have the well-ordered voice of one so profound and deeply seeing as Aegle of Arcadia is a twelvefold blessing to Achernar. Of course I had to go to her. Last night we visited in the parlor of the shack. Azoth knew I would come straight away. It was my duty to welcome her.
I arrived by teleport as the last embers of dusk turned a deep azure, then the deepest charcoal grey. Lantern in hand, Azoth waited for me while I meditated on the Spirit Mound, greeted the grandfathers and grandmothers clustered there, sought their wise counsel.
"Come quickly, old friend," he said. "She is eager to break her silence."
We, too, rode on Melpomene's ferry. Azoth said it was a matter of continuity. Already the fog was gathering. We muttered small talk at the bow.
Old Azoth left me at the foot of the ladder. I think he wandered into the forest in search of Mercy Zeale, the Hoodoo Queen and Miss Themis' only neighbor. When I climbed onto the porch I saw the Fifth Oracle standing in the doorway, smiling.
The embrace of her greeting was warm but fleeting. She wasn't interested in small talk.
Crickets Arose from Dormancy
And Sang Ballads to Her.
"Let's peer, if we may, into the otherworldly transitions of your struggle toward the Light," she said before we could sit. Although winter had fallen upon the bayuk with fury, the night was strangely warm. Crickets arose from their dormancy to sing ballads of welcome. Their music drifted through open windows.
"You are loaded down with lonely, disoriented spirits from the Outer Darkness," Miss Themis said to me. Stunned, I nodded. Who am I to rebut her perceptions?
"They came to possess you, an available body, during an episode of your quest for a new name. It happened during a quite recent, late summer's moment of spiritual passion when you visited the country graveyard where your grandpa's bones rest. A covey of disembodied souls flew from one desperate loft to another tenuous perch in their foggy purgatory from a gravestone close to grandpa's simple marker to the energy plane of your blue and lavender aura."
Miss Themis brushed her unbound hair behind her ears and leaned forward. "Can I pray with you?" she asked in a tone of quiet surety.
Themis Aegle in the name of Jesus Christ called on four archangels Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Ariel to escort the spirits attached to my aura into the guiding hands of a Band of Mercy. As they fled, my internal clutter immediately dissipated.
Those dazed rascals, I thought in an inappropriate moment of levity. My sudden sense of relief, I suspect, got the best of me. Quickly I returned to the gravity of it all, the swirling sea of their denial, which she shewed to me; how they clutched to the sliver of human plane I occupy in hopes it could be theirs, too. Miss Themis can't help but love them. Now that they're drifting elsewhere in their passage to the Light, I bear them no malice. I suppose they meant me no harm. Certainly I shall learn to love them. There is no better way to survive and keep one's harmony on the spiritual battlefield than to cultivate the manna of love.
My cleansing accomplished, we leaned back in our easy chairs, the oracle and I, and began to converse. "Call me Aegle," she said, pouring tea and honey. Seven candles illuminated the cozy parlor with a pale, flickering light of the salamanders. We talked 'till the rosy cheeks of dawn appeared in the oval view through her open windows.
WATCH FOR MISSIVE THE FIFTY-THIRD
on Friday, January 26, 2001.
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