Before Elasaid can enter the dark crevices of her subconscious, she must come face to face with a fierce wild animal. But everything is not what it seems…
Elasaid took the lion’s symbol from Cameron’s hand to place it firmly at the door’s intricate mechanism – a splurge of gears, wheels and sprockets. They stood back. Nothing. No rumble, crack or strained metal on metal.
‘That angel doesn’t know what he’s talking about, no wonder they sent him down here. Shifty, he is,’ grumbled Cameron.
‘Ssh,’ commanded Elasaid. ‘I’m thinking. It’s needing something else.’
‘Mmm, well I’m not in any rush to get into an antechamber containing a lion,’ Cameron replied.
Elasaid started scouring the cavern’s rock when a thought distracted her. She envisioned both her Highland and London parents at the same time. How could that be? What magic operated on them? She’d spent too much time playing with ritual, crystals and runes.
Beneath the door dwelt a troop of mushrooms, exotically plumed with crimson stripes. Cameron raised a foot to knock the funghi aside but Elasaid caught him at the knee before the destruction.
‘Don’t mess with anything in this place,’ said Elasaid.
Elasaid refocused on the mechanism, till it jiggled, from neglected lubrication. On the other side, a mighty roar rattled the sprockets.
‘Oh my God,’ stuttered Cameron, ‘why are we even thinking of opening that door.’
Elasaid considered the question through a terror seized heart and a mind deluged with lightening doubts. Without speaking; worried her voice might betray her misgivings, she continued at the mechanism with fumbling fingers. Her left and right arm movement, applied on the mechanism accompanied to Cameron’s active panting, garnered no further sound from the other side.
Cameron reached into his pocket, robotically searching for a secure bolt hole to hide hands prone for consumption by a voracious beast. Within the pocket folds his fingers pushed against metal, pulled back sharply, then explored once more at the foreign presence till he pulled out a token emboldened with a lion’s face.
‘Here,’ said Cameron.
Elasaid collected the token, a mirror image of the one she fumbled with in the mechanism. With stealth, populated by a devilish pulse over quivering fingers, the token folded easily over the lion’s coin. A silence took the mechanism into its nurturing arms until the metal gleaned and the first gear moved with frictionless ease over its mating sprocket.
‘The door’s moving,’ said Elasaid.
‘I think I might be sick,’ said Cameron.
The door did move. At first exposure, fire braziers like the one’s in Saturn’s Chamber, cast an orange glow over an interwoven basket of tree limbs. Slowly, the door revealed more; the globes and rods of a cosmological model. Yet, so far, no lion.
With more of the devilment passing through her gut, Elasaid stepped toward the door’s threshold, underneath a lintel mirrored with stone on one side and wood on the other.
‘Oh, God,’ Cameron muttered to himself. He exhaled and started to follow.
‘It’s our only way out,’ said Elasaid, ‘the Sacred Ibis said so. We need the Green Lion’s counsel’.
‘It’s a lion,’ said Cameron, unnecessarily stated, as far as Elasaid was concerned.
Green Lion’s den burst with gnarled roots ascending the panelled walls to a knotty canopy. The Green Lion stood proud, watching Elasaid’s and Cameron’s horror of entering a space in the company of a fierce wild animal. The Green Lion didn’t recognise that within itself as the chambers’ mysteries created a difference of form.
‘Greetings,’ said the Green Lion, hoping for a calming influence, but the opposite came about.
‘What!’ said a startled Cameron as his back slammed into an oak stump.
‘What the….’ said Elasaid simultaneously.
‘Please,’ comforted the Green Lion, ‘don’t be alarmed. I’m seeking assistance.’
Time opened between them. A ticking galvanised the room. The peculiar rods, globes and gears of the bronze contraption; the perpetrator of the ticking, allayed, to some measure, the fear.
‘Soul,’ said the Green Lion.
‘What?’ questioned Elasaid.
‘Ticking, it eases the soul,’ said the Green Lion. ‘ It makes us feel like we’ve got time left. Now, considering we finally have some time, what exactly did the Ibis counsel you? I warn you, we beasts do not consider birds our equal and sometimes find their counsel suspicious.’
Elasaid helped disentangle Cameron from the stump. In the opposite corner of the lair, a door, close to the Green Lion, stood out as a peculiar architecture in the chaos of the trunks, roots and branches.
‘Are we settled?’ quizzed the Green Lion.
‘You’re talking,’ said Cameron.
‘Well,’ said the Green Lion, ‘It would be strange if I didn’t.’
‘The Ibis said you can access past lives,’ explained Elasaid, trying to overlook the bizarreness, ‘we have to collect pieces of our past.’
‘Aha,’ said the Green Lion.
‘Is it true?’ asked Cameron.
‘What is true, how do we know, what is the difference? But I need someone with fingers to fix my model. Then, I may allow passage to the Tapestry of the Firmament where all past life pieces may be found.’
The model of rods, globes, sprockets and wheels stood conspicuously, as a piece of engineering, against the twining wood and funghi troops.
‘You want us to play with this cosmos,’ asked Cameron, stepping over to it.
‘Play with the cosmos. Really? No one should play with the cosmos. If you play with fire, maybe, but no beast would ever be so foolish to try. Even as we speak, the four pillars are compromised, yet we beasts loyally conduct the business of the Planets and Alchemists. Lunacy.’
‘The four pillars?’ questioned Elasaid.
‘Chalice, coin, staff and sword. Without their balance, all worlds are skewed. You’ve descended into the chambers, as real as any other world, but this is the foundation. If this world fails, well, let’s not make us all depressed, eh? So, what did the Ibis tell you?’
Elasaid clasped the tunic; the strange fashion embodying her since the journey between the Highlands and the Green Lion’s lair. The beast lay patiently with paws crossed as if in meditation, not rushing either one of them to respond.
‘Is it a secret,’ finally asked the Green Lion, breaking the silence.
‘It said to come and see you,’ replied Cameron.
‘The birds, think they’re above the animals; trying to be all enigmatic is it?’ mumbled the Green Lion. ‘Ibis sits on the other side of Saturn’s chamber. Won’t come over here. No. If I engage, I have to plod to the other side. The Ibis says it’s excused because of Egyptian lore and doesn’t need to be part of anything except dishing out enigmatic advice. I added the enigmatic bit. The birds are pompous.’
‘You were talking about the four pillars,’ reminded Cameron.
Elasaid played with the idea that the Green Lion might be too old and a little forgetful. The broken cosmos might have lain dysfunctional for some time. Her original fear changed into a sentimental concern for the beast.
‘Think I’m past it,’ muttered the Green Lion, revealing a fierceness not before seen.
‘You read my thoughts?’ asked Elasaid.
‘Words and thoughts are much the same. Let’s see, yes, the four powers.’
The wood twisted, groaned; like pieces of kindling working to a spark. The braziers sputtered and spat little embers into the air; a reminder of the uncomfortable pairing of wood and fire.
‘It’s part of an alchemical process,’ explained the Green Lion, ‘this is the first stage. The transmutation. There exist four great powers to stabilise the process. By the time you reach the seventh chamber, if you pass the previous six, you will need to have collected all the four great powers to fulfil the transmutations required of the great work.
The Green Lion drifted into melancholy dreams that softened its fur into a sad demeanour.
‘You were saying,’ prompted Elasaid.
‘Was I,’ asked the Green Lion.
‘Yes, you were talking about the four great powers,’ replied Cameron.
‘Oh right, I was. Right. The four great powers. You’ll need to forge the coin of chance, lost in fragments across the firmament, before all else. It’s your passage. For without the energy of prosperity what gatekeeper will make way to the imperious challenges of imposters.’
The Green Lion didn’t make much sense. A fragmented coin. What coin and where? Fragments?
‘Do you need a moment to consult?’ asked the Green Lion.
‘We have no idea what you mean,’ answered Elasaid.
‘Dear me,’ mumbled the Green Lion, ‘the recruits Hermes sends me these days are stubbornly unqualified as apprentices. In ancient, of ancient times, a few aeons after the abyss, those early forces knew the world would become unstable. To offset the peril, four pillars were created as the foundation for the transmutation process.’
The model creaked. Cameron’s head shot round to check what component disturbed the Green Lion’s story. The rods struck out from a central bronze pillar to an idler wheel, where spherical wheels coloured brightly as the Planets sat. Different colours and sizes for different orbits. It gleamed more than Cameron remembered as if perpetuating itself into life.
‘Is it reviving?’ asked the Green Lion. It usually perks up at the discussion of the four great powers.
Cameron decided to maintain a very close observation.
‘You were up to the pillars,’ said Elasaid.
‘My, you are a pushy one,’ muttered the Green Lion. ‘Almost annoying as the birds. My point is, to obtain stability along the alchemical stages, you need the four pillars. I’m the guardian of the first. The coin of chance,’ said The Green Lion as it proudly raised its head.
‘So where do we find this coin?’ asked Elasaid; pugnacious and irritated.
‘In the firmament. The tapestry of the firmament. Through that door. But you can’t just go walking in there. Past life forces will tear you apart. No. The cloak of concealment must be worn so they cannot see you.’
Elasaid and Cameron stared at the door. Contemplation of entering the Green Lion’s lair was one thing, but the unknown? The dark state of something never before encountered.
‘What’s in there?’ asked Cameron.
‘Who can say,’ answered the Green Lion. ‘It changes. When you go deep into the woods, who can say if you will ever return? It’s a test.’
Branches and roots visibly grew back from the architrave.
‘Young man, to earn the cloak of concealment, you must attend to my model. Forces behind that door are agitating at your impending entry. They feel your thoughts, so they’re expecting action.’
Cameron focused on the racks and pinions. He’d fixed the kids bikes on the estate and knew something about gears. Tucked away behind a sprocket hid a tiny spherical ball, but its bright colour exposed the subterfuge. Cameron collected Mercury, placed it on the idler wheel, and like the door mechanism, the model whirred into action.
‘It’ll run until such time as you leave the chambers, or, if you fail, you’ll go round and round for an eternity in the chambers and the model stops,’ said the Green Lion.
The lair opened into a living, vibrant world, woken by the orbits whirling dance. The cosmos fed off the lair and the lair fed of cosmos; a swirl of mechanical and organic, limb and leaf, into a metronomic beat. All seasons shifted in order yet, like autumn, lasted mere minutes as its discarded leaves floated into winter over the ticking gears. The Green Lion maintained the stillness, felt the dance between heaven and earth, as fruit decomposed within the bewildering cycle.
‘Sophia,’ muttered the Green Lion.
Cameron and Elasaid exchanged quick glances.
‘She’s still upset at the pillaging of ancient woodland to fight their wars with Spain. Fodder for the cannonball.’
The lair turned hostile. An ominous air. The Green Lion started delving into the past. ‘You’ll need a pure heart and a promise to Sophia to protect her ancient woodland. Your mother is Sophia?’
‘Yes?’ responded Elasaid and Cameron, in unison.
‘She’s the protector of the world,’ added the Green Lion.
Elasaid knew the Green Lion slipped into age-related reality loss. The idea of her mother being the world’s protector made her body break with a raucous guffaw. The Green Lion determined it to be a deficiency of respect, attempted a roar, but out came a cough.
‘Mmm, do you have the discipline to take on the apprenticeship,’ mused the Green Lion, ‘this is the first stage of the transmutation. Disrespect for a master of the work is very poor.’
Cameron noticed the lair closing. Branches, roots and canopy rustling to suffocate them within elm, oak and ash.
‘We just wanna get out,’ said Cameron.
‘Well, we better pay some respect to Sophia. By that, all our mothers; the earth, root and vine; the ground that nurtures us. This is our Sophia. This is our earth mother.’
Branches screamed. Roots growled. Canopies hurled acorns, berries, and fruit at their feet.
‘You see,’ said the Green Lion, ‘she’s talking to us. Sophia comes over the abyss from the very beginning. This is not your mother. This is all our mothers from the start of time, until time comes to a halt, as all physical nature must do.’ The Green Lion sighed. ‘I’m the first part of your journey. Tiresome, don’t you think. Firing the starting gun over the heads of doubtful prospects.’
‘Doubtful,’ quizzed Cameron.
‘Well, you all start with a bit of pep, I’ll give you that, but reaching the Chamber of the Sun?’ said the Green Lion.
Branches twined and curled in resonance with the Green Lion’s timbre. A vegetative parade for the king of the first alchemical test. The Green Lion nodded; receiving counsel from the whispering lair as the elements calmed.
‘Seems you might be different. Do you feel the azoth, dear?’ asked the Green Lion.
‘The Fallen Angel said something about that…’ replied Elasaid.
‘Azoth, my dear. You have it, but whether you know how to use it, is a very different proposition,’ said the Green Lion.
If you enjoyed reading this, then download The Seven Chambers game and continue your journey.