The Hermit Arc
The First Tragedy:
England 1805. I wished for death, but it never came. Those years that passed by agonizingly, without the two I held dearest, were like being dead. A blade of sorrow penetrated my heart that day, and has remained lodged in it ever since. During the ritual to summon the spirit guardian I had been engulfed in blue flame, and it burnt me. Yes, the fire burnt me as an ordinary fire would. The pain was intense and I felt it eat through me completely. Not just my body, my innards, organs and my very nerves. After it had totally burnt through me, the fire receded and I saw that I was still whole. But that was when the true anguish began. Kane and Genevre lay lifeless on the floor, in the middle of the magic circle, as though they were rag dolls, cast away. Although my sadness was deep and the tears seemed endless…I knew what I had to do. They had died no ordinary deaths, therefore I had to try everything within my power to bring them back. I buried their corpses together, beneath the tree both of them had loved so much. Burying them felt like burying myself, and oh, how I wished to join them. But I kept the important things. Their sacred objects. Kane’s staff and Genevre’s music box. Somehow in my despair, I had found a new resolve.
I returned to the old order Kane and I were members of, the Order of Caduceus, only to find that we were marked for death for having performed the summoning ritual. So I sought out other orders, other mystery sects. Eventually I came upon one. And within that order, the Order of the Hermetic Cloud, did I hear of one man who could assist me. His name was Austin. It was rumored that he could travel far into the netherworld and could even assist spirits in the afterlife. But he no longer lived in Paris. He had journeyed across the channel to spread the order’s teachings throughout England.
Thus, my path finally led me to London. In all those years I had not aged a day. It was as if death shied away from me. Though at nights when I lay alone how I wished he’d take me. Finally, the night I had worked seven years for came. I had met with Austin when I’d first arrived in England and given him my request. He told me he needed objects that were precious to the souls I was searching for. So, I gave him Kane’s staff and Genevre’s music box. He mentioned the consequences of performing such a spell and I accepted them gladly. I would have a binding placed upon me and would not be able to enter the spirit realm again. I felt it was a meager price to pay. So one night, many months later, I waited in the rain, outside of our regular meeting place, to hear the results of his search.
The rain beat hard upon the cobblestones and I watched as the water gathered together, seeking out comfort in puddles, only to separate inevitably. Looking up I saw the familiar hooded figure before me. For some reason, he resembled a hermit. A lone traveler in between realms. He trod towards me and we both entered the tavern. Upon entering many eyes peered up from their drinks and merriment to stare at us. To look at two men who’d walked in the darkness and the light. Austin removed the hood from his head to reveal his brown, bearded face and well-trimmed hair. The drinkers went back to their ale and we to find our usual quiet corner. The owner of the tavern didn’t approach us, he knew we were not there for business, and had long since received his payment.
“What news have you Austin?” I enquired urgently.
Austin’s blue eyes stared at me piercingly for a moment, before he said, “I have indeed located the man…Kane. It seems that he has not crossed too far and I was still able to reach him. He is in a limbo of sorts…neither here nor there. The girl, however, was unreachable…” he seemed to want to say more, but stopped himself.
“And so?” I pressed, “Did you make the contract?”
“Indeed I did,” he gazed intently at me once again and passed me Kane’s staff and Genevre’s box. I placed them carefully in the sack I carried. “And it will bind you for a very long time. No matter, the being I have asked for assistance will attempt to bring Kane to the intermediate realm where contact through a medium will be possible. But of course a new life for his soul will be out of the question…” he spoke his last sentence very seriously as if making sure of something.
“Have no fear Austin,” I said with my head down, “I have already experienced the anguish of using the dark arts…”
“As long as we are clear of that, then I shall take my leave. In a few days, make for the home of the medium I introduced you to. If the spirit I commissioned was successful, then contact will be possible.”
With that he stood up and threw his hood over his head. Nodding slightly in my direction, he left the tavern before me. Shortly after, I stepped out into the night. The rain had stopped, so I began to make my way back to the inn I was lodging at. I was so engrossed in my thoughts that I didn’t hear the sound. Two men stepped out from an alleyway, clad in dark clothes, their faces hidden by masks. Before I knew what was happening I had been pulled into the alley.
I heard the voice of one man say, “This is what comes to those who break the code of the order.” I began mumbling a protective chant, but before I could complete it the feeling of cold steel entering my gut stoppered my mouth.
A wet sensation began to spread across my shirt and down my pants. I could feel each nerve, tissue and organ the sword cut on its way through my stomach. The pain reached a crescendo as the blade punctured a hole through my back and then was quickly withdrawn.
My assailants were already walking hastily away as I fell to the cold stony ground of the alleyway. In a way I felt relief. Perhaps now, I could go and join them, my two beloved friends. I could be at their sides again. The world spun around as my vision grew dimmer. Eventually the darkness took me and a faint smile broke on my face.
Sunshine rudely poked into my eyes as a dog with long shaggy hair slid its tongue across my face. I began to pull myself up and with a start, remembered the events of the night before. I’d been stabbed, and was bleeding profusely and had passed out! I touched the place where the gaping wound should have been…but nothing was there. I pulled off my bloodstained shirt to expose the area that had been stabbed but only a small scar was there. Falling back down to the alley floor I began to laugh. My laughter was empty, without mirth. It soon turned into sobs and I wept bitterly. The tears wouldn’t stop as I realized the full extent of the curse I’d been granted. I wouldn’t age and I also couldn’t be killed. I thought it ironic how some may have mocked me, saying it was a blessing. However, the thought of facing another day without them, made my heart die again with each fresh sunrise.
Only one thing ran in my mind. Austin’s words, “In a few days, make for the home of the medium I introduced you to.”
Clinging to this solitary hope I arose and walked, facing the glaring sun once more. A hermit on an impossible solitary journey.
The present. Jake awoke in another unfamiliar part of town. He turned himself over to look at where he’d landed up. He was in an alleyway that was adorned with newspapers drifting past like paper butterflies and the definite smell of piss. Jake wondered if it was his own. Above him, he could see a long metal stairway that led up the side of a tall apartment block. He squinted as he saw the sun pierce through the gap left open between buildings. Someone was approaching him from behind; he could hear heavy footfalls before the person arrived.
“Hey, what ya doin’ here wino?” Jake looked up at the tall round figure of the man who’d just spoken. Before he could even answer, the man’s shoe crashed into his face, slamming his head back down onto the hard paving. A trickle of blood escaped Jake’s nose but he didn’t even try to wipe it away.
“Fires! Fires in the art of muscle joints! Is it in your eye? My spindle of fire? Here and there, I have pondered algorithms and formulas for mind athletes and competent poodles. Hoist the flag! Move asunder! Do you understand the fright of seeing a hooded crustacean under dim lights, without a warning?” Jake mumbled. It was one of his favorite tactics. He’d always talk nonsense to anyone hostile to get them off his back.
“Get outta here ya crazy freak!” The man removed his foot and stalked off, “Godamn winos, I hate all you guys.”
Jake felt the direction of the wind change suddenly, moving east down the opposite end of the alley. Jake knew where he would be going today. He’d been told to follow the direction the wind. Yes…he’d been told in his dreams. He stood up quickly and followed the flow of the air, listening to its messages and remembering. That’s right, today was the day we was going to change the world.
Audas noticed it too. Standing on the balcony outside his house, he noted its direction, its speed and most importantly, its feeling. It was laden with change. This wind would definitely bring changes with it. He turned to see Esha, Shari and Kalem sitting behind him in his living room. Shari was flirting with Kalem, playing with his hair and sliding up really close to him on the old pink cushioned couch.
Esha sat next to them, keeping her distance from the two whilst staring down at a book that Audas had given her to read. She’d asked him for more information on ‘demigods’ after their incident with Alec and his family. Audas had given her a pretty old looking book that described demigods from the perspectives of quite a few different cultures. She saw how they were called the ‘Titans’ and ‘Asuras’ in India. She couldn’t believe that Alec was now actually in that realm, the realm of the Asuras. The book described it as a place of war, and that although Asuras were demigods, they still had the characteristics of anger, hatred and jealousy.
Her gaze fell on Shari. She remembered the old Shari had been so different, and she also recalled the incredible strength and lightness she’d shown the other day.
“I guess they’re side effects of being possessed by a fairy,” she thought. The Shari she knew was still within her, she’d just taken on new characteristics. “Pretty frivolous characteristics,” she thought again, watching how she was hitting on Kalem, who was starting to look like he was enjoying himself as well. “Ahhh, will I ever get a boyfriend?” she thought to herself as the wind blew in through the open balcony sliding door. Esha shuddered from the cold the wind brought. It wasn’t an earthly chill. It was a chill she knew well. There were spirits on the wind. The pages of her book flipped.
Jake followed the incessant words of the wind, as it blew him out onto the streets. He felt its pull, it was tugging him towards a nearby park. So he walked across the streets. He never stopped for cars, he just figured if he got hit, then that would be it. Yet it still hadn’t happened to this day. Passersby stared at his unkempt, dreggy long brown hair and threadbare blue coat that he wore over his bare legs and feet. He never paid any attention to stares though. He had a purpose. A mission given to him by an…angel. That was the best way to describe her. Though perhaps, a goddess may have been a good word as well.
Trudging into the park he stared at the strange harmony of waste and nature that took place before him. He gazed at lush grass that grew up, nearly covering tin cans, spilling flowers from their spouts. Close by, discarded computers, whose entrails spewed out of their sides lay, and flies danced over the rotting leftovers of food thrown sporadically across this imprisoned meadow. The wind stopped and Jake looked around to see who he’d been called to meet. Sure enough, a figure sat on one of the benches nearby the swings. Jake walked towards the person and soon saw it was a man. The man was dressed in office clothes, and lay back on the bench with his eyes on the sky above. Jake walked over and sat down next to him. He knew he wouldn’t need to say anything. The man wore a bright red tie that contrasted strongly against his starch white shirt and black suit pants. He had short, neatly combed blonde hair and green eyes. He stopped looking at the sky above and glanced at Jake. After perusing Jake up and down a few times he gazed into his eyes…
Shari was snuggling up to Kalem and he was blushing a bit and starting to feel weird. He thought of excusing himself by saying he wanted to put the kettle on. He even thought of pretending Kane had taken over and getting all serious faced and talking like he’d stepped out of an old vampire movie. But he knew his acting abilities weren’t good enough. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Shari, it was that her forwardness was bugging him. She’d never been so openly affectionate and he knew about the fairy incident so it was making him even more wary. He was also trying not to show her how much pain he was in as she held his hand in what she probably thought of as a romantic grip but he found it excruciatingly painful.
Out of curiosity Esha looked at which random page her book had turned to. She saw that it talked about bliss. She read on a bit and discovered how many mystical practitioners in the past had attempted to find ‘bliss’ through many different spiritual methods. It was supposed to be the ultimate achievement. Esha wondered what it would be like to experience bliss. Sure, she’d felt really happy before, but it sounded like they were speaking about something totally different here. She started to read on, but was interrupted by the door bursting open.
Bhadra barged through the door. He searched the room, noticing Esha and Shari, not recognizing Kalem. “Namaste, my good friends! Audas!” he exclaimed. “I need to see Audas…quickly!” Esha motioned towards the balcony and Audas emerged, a concerned expression on his face. Seeing Bhadra, Audas’s face changed again.
Bhadra ran up to Audas and grasped both his shoulders. Bhadra’s eyes were shimmering, tears welling up.
“They know each other?” Esha thought. “Guess it’s not surprising…”
“Audas!” Bhadra nearly cried out in joy, “I think I’ve finally found my guru!”
Jake skipped lightly as he stepped on sidewalks that had once seemed to reflect the hopelessness of his existence. Now they sang a new song! The song of Utopia! It reflected in each shop window, flickered in every traffic light and resonated in the voices of the people walking behind him.
Jake looked back over his shoulder to see the crowd following him. They were his new family, following him, the piper of Euphoria. When they’d looked into his eyes they’d seen a glimpse of paradise. That glimpse had changed them forever.
There were probably twenty in total now. He’d met them in parks, lost in thought on street corners and mindlessly going about their daily routines on the roads. Men and women, young and old alike. All of them had seen it. It was something that no worldly wonder could compare with. Money couldn’t buy it, and all the desires of the world couldn’t hold a candle to it. When a person experienced it once, they would forever want to know it again, to remain in that space forever and never leave.
Bhadra was passing by and gaped at the crowd of joyful people who followed their shaman, who looked more like a hobo. He watched them for a while from a distance, marveling at this phenomenon, when the leader at the front suddenly turned around and addressed all of them.
“Friends! Brothers and sisters! When I looked into my mind, I saw that it was the cause of all my problems! Yes, every negative emotion arises because we have a mind that experiences it! But we, my family! We have found something within us that goes beyond the mind. It is a sacred place within that is forever free of those emotions! Come, and I will take you to the one who revealed it to me!” A cheer rose up from the crowd and Bhadra felt compelled to follow, but a nagging thought that he had to share this with his good friend Audas stopped him and he quickly made his way to Audas’s home.
Jake was content. He wasn’t like the rest of the hive that buzzed around their nest of money and materialism. He wasn’t producing royal jelly to feed the minds of future generations with dogma and meaningless conditioning. Oh no! He was a hermit with a mission! He was going to enlighten the world!