05 - 11 Sept, 2015

The crypt gyrated with such terrifying speed that the occupants of the circle clutched frantically at each other to save themselves from falling. The altar candles swayed and danced before their distended eyes. The Talisman of Set was swept from between the horns of the monstrous Goat, and bouncing down the steps of the chapel, came to rest on the stone flags at De Richleau's feet. Mocata staggered back. The Goat reared up on its hind legs above him. A terrible neighing sound came from its nostrils and the slanting eyes swivelled in their sockets; their baleful light flashing round the chamber. The beast seemed to grow and expand until it was towering above them all as they crouched, petrified with fear. The stench of its foetid breath poured from between the bared teeth until they were retching with nausea. Mocata's knife clattered upon the stones as he raised his arms in frantic terror to defend himself. The awful thing which he had called up out of the pit gave a final screaming neigh and struck with one of its great fore-hooves. He was thrown with frightful force to the floor, where he lay sprawled, head down on the chapel steps.
There was a thunderous crash as though the heavens were opening. The crypt ceased to rock and spin. The Satanic figure dissolved in upon itself. For a fraction of time the watchers in the circle saw the black human face of the Malagasy, distorted with pain and rage where that of the Goat had been before. Then that too disappeared behind a veil of curling smoke. The black candles on the altar flickered and went out. The chamber remained lit only by the phosphorescent glow from the Talisman. De Richleau had snatched it from the floor and held it in his open hand. By its faint light they saw Fleur sit up. She gave a little wail and slid from the low altar stone to the ground; then she stood gaping towards her mother, yet her eyes were round and sightless like those of one who walks in her sleep. Suddenly, an utter silence beyond human understanding descended like a cloak and closed in from the shadows that were all about them. Almost imperceptibly a faint unearthly music, coming from some immense distance, reached their ears. At first it sounded like the splashing of spring water in a rock-bound cave, but gradually it grew in volume, and swelled into a strange chant rendered by boys' voices of unimaginable purity. All fear had gone from them as, one by one, they fell upon their knees and listened, entranced to the wonder and beauty of that litany of praise. Yet everyone’s eyes were riveted on Fleur.
The child walked very slowly forward but, as she advanced, some extraordinary change was taking place about her. The little body, became clothed in a golden mist. Her shoulders broadened and she grew in height. Her features became partially obscured, then they lost their infant roundness and took on the bony structure of an adult. The diaphanous cloud of light gradually materialised into the graceful folds of a long, yellow, silken robe. The dark curls on the head disappeared leaving a high, beautifully proportioned skull. As the chant ceased on a great note of exultation all semblance to the child had vanished. In her place a full-grown man stood before them. From his dress he had the appearance of a Tibetan Lama, but his aesthetic face was as much Aryan as Mongolian, blending the highest characteristics of the two; and just as it seemed that he had passed the barriers of race, so he also appeared to have cast off the shackles of worldly time.
His countenance showed all the health and vigour of a man in the great years when he has come to full physical development, and yet it had the added beauty which is only seen in that of a frail, scholarly divine who has devoted a whole lifetime in search of wisdom. The grave eyes which were bent upon them held strength, knowledge, and power together with an infinite tenderness and angelic compassion unknown to the mortal man. The apparition did not speak by word of mouth. Yet, each one of the kneeling group heard the low, silver, bell-like voice with perfect clearness.

“I am the Lord of Light nearing perfection after many lives. It is wrong that you should draw me from my meditations in the Hidden Valley, yet I pardon you because your need was great. One here has imperilled the flame of Life by seeking to use hidden mysteries for an evil purpose; another also, who lies beyond the waters, has been stricken in her earthly body for that same reason. The love you bear for each other has been a barrier and protection, yet would it have availed you nothing had it not been for she who is the mother. The Preserver harkens ever to the prayer which goes forth innocent of all self-desire and so, for a moment, I am permitted to appear to you through the medium of this child whose thoughts know no impurity. The adversary has been driven back to the dark Halls of Satan and shall trouble you no more. Live out the days of your allotted span. Peace be upon you and about you. Sleep and return.”
For a moment it seemed that they had been ripped right out of the crypt and were looking down into it. The circle had become a flaming sun. Their bodies were dark shadows grouped in its centre. The peace and silence of death surged over them in great saturating waves. They were above the monastery. The great ruin became a black speck in the distance. Then everything faded.
Time ceased, and it seemed that for a 1,000 years they floated, atoms of radiant matter in an immense immeasurable void-circling, forever circling in the soundless stratosphere-beings shut off from every feeling and sensation, as though travelling with effortless impulse 500 fathoms deep, below the current levels of some uncharted sea. Then, after a passage of eons in human time they saw Cardinals Folly again infinitely far beneath them, their bodies lying in the pentacle and that darkened room. In an utter eerie silence, the dust of centuries was falling. Softly, impalpably, like infinitely tiny particles of swansdown it seemed to cover them, the room, and all that was in it, with a fine grey powder.
De Richleau raised his head. It seemed to him that he had been on a long journey and then slept for many days. He passed his hand across his eyes and saw the familiar bookshelves in the semi-darkened library. The bulbs above the cornice flickered and the lights came full on. He saw that Simon's eyes were free from that terrible maniacal glare, but that he still lay bound in the centre of the pentacle. As he bent forward and hastily began to untie Simon, they saw him. Tall, haggard, and distraught, a dark fondling her and murmuring.
“We're safe, darling, safe.”
“She, she's not dead, is she?” It was Rex's voice, and turning they saw him. Tall, haggard, and distraught, a dark silhouette against the early morning light which filtered in through the French-windows bearing Tanith's body in his arms. Marie Lou sprang up with a little wailing cry. With Richard behind her she raced across the room and through the door in the wall which concealed the staircase to the nursery. The Duke hurried over to Rex. Simon kicked his feet free and stood up, exclaiming:
“I've had a most extraordinary dream.”
“About all of us going to Paris?” asked De Richleau, as the three of them lowered Tanith's body to the floor, “and then on to a ruined monastery in northern Greece?”
“That's it but how did you know?”
“Because I had the same myself, if it was a dream!”
A hysterical laugh came from the stairway and the next moment Marie Lou was beside them, great tears streaming down her face, but Fleur clutched safely in her arms. The child, freshly woken from her sleep, gazed at them with wide, blue eyes and then she said:
“Fleur wants to go to Simon.” The Duke was examining Tanith. Simon rose from beside him. His eyes held all the love that surged in a great heart which beat between his narrow shoulders. He covered his short-sighted eyes with his hands for a second then backed away.
“No, Fleur, darling. I have been, I'm still ill you know.”
“Nonsense, that's all over,” Richard cried quickly, “go on for God's sake take her, Marie Lou's going to faint.”
“Oh, Richard! Richard!” As Simon grabbed the child, Marie Lou swayed towards her husband, and leaning on him drew her fingers softly down his face.
“I will be all right in a moment, but it was a dream, wasn't it?”
“She is alive!” exclaimed the Duke suddenly, his hand pressed below Tanith's heart. “Quick, Rex, let us have a drink.”
“Of course, dearest,” Richard was comforting Marie Lou. “We've never been out of this room – look, except Rex, we are still in pyjamas.”
“Why, yes, I thought. Oh, but look at this poor girl!” She slipped from his arms and knelt beside Tanith. Rex came crashing back with a decanter and a glass. De Richleau snatched the drink from him. Marie Lou pillowed Tanith's head upon her knees and Richard held her chin. Between them they succeeded in getting a little of the spirit down her throat; a spasm crossed her face and then her eyes opened.
“Thank God!” breathed Rex. “Thank God.” She smiled and whispered his name, as the natural colour flooded back into her face.
“Never, ever have I had such a terrible nightmare!” exclaimed Marie Lou. “We were in a crypt and that awful man was there. He...”
“So you dreamed it too!” Simon interrupted. “About you finding me at that warehouse in Asnieres and the Paris police?”
“That's it,” said Richard. “It's amazing that we should all have dreamed the same thing but there's no other explanation for it.
None of us can possibly have left this house since we settled down in the pentacle, yes, last night!”
“Then I have certainly been dreaming too.” Rex lifted his eyes for a moment from Tanith's face. “It must have started with me when I fell asleep at the inn-or earlier, for I would have sworn De Richleau and I were out all the night before careering around half of England to stop some devilry.”
“We were,” said the Duke slowly. “Tanith's presence here proves that, but she was never dead except in our dream, and that started when you arrived here with her in your arms. The Satanists at Simon's house, our visit there afterwards, and the Sabbath were all facts. It was only last night, while our bodies slept, that our subconscious selves were drawn out of them to continue the struggle with Mocata on another plane.”
“Mocata!” Simon echoed. “But, but if we've been dreaming, he is still alive.”
“No, he is dead.” The quiet, sure statement came from Tanith as she sat up, and taking Rex's hand scrambled to her feet.
“How is it that you are so certain?” he asked huskily.
“I can see him. He is not far from here, lying head downwards on some steps.”
“That is how we saw him in the dream,” said Richard, but she shook her head.
“No, I had no dream, I remember nothing after Mocata entered my room at the inn and forced me to sleep, but you will find him, somewhere quite near the out-house there.”
“The age-old law,” De Richleau murmured. “A life for a life and a soul for a soul. Yes, since you have been restored to us, I am quite certain that he will have paid the penalty.” Simon nodded.
“Then we're really free of this nightmare at last?”
“Yes. Dream or no dream, the Lord of Light who appeared to us drove back the Power of Darkness, and promised that we should all live unmolested by it to the end of our allotted span. Come, Richard,” the Duke took his host's arm, “let us find our coats and take a look round the garden, then we shall be done with this horrible business.” As they moved away, Tanith smiled at Rex.
“Did you really mean what you said last night?”
“Did I mean it?!” he cried, seizing both her hands. “Just let me show you how!”
“Simon,” said Marie Lou pointedly, “that child will catch cold in nothing but her nightie, do take her back to the nursery while I get the servants to hurry with the breakfast.” And the old familiar happy smile parted his wide mouth as Fleur took a flying leap into his arms. Tanith's face grew a little wistful as Rex drew her to him.
“My darling,” she hesitated, “you know that it will be only for a little time, about eight months and no more.”
“Nonsense!” he laughed. “You were certainly dead to all of us last night, so your prophecy's been fulfilled and the evil lifted. We are both going to live together for a 100 years.” She hid her face against his shoulder, not quite believing yet, but a new hope dawning in her heart, from his certainty that she had passed through the Valley of the Shadow and come out again upon the other side. Her happiness, and his, demanded that she accept his view and act henceforth as though the danger to her life was past.
“Then if you want them, my days are yours,” she murmured, “Whatever their number may be.” There was no trace of fog and a fair, true dawn was breaking when, outside the library windows, De Richleau and Richard found Mocata's body. It lay on the stone steps which fed up to the terrace, sprawling head downwards, in the early light of the May morning.
“The coroner will find no difficulty in bringing in a verdict,” the Duke observed after one glance at the face. They will say it is the heart, of course. It is best not to touch the body, presently we will telephone the police. None of us need to say we have ever seen him before; if you tell Malin to keep quiet about his visit yesterday afternoon you may be certain that his friends will not come forward to mention his acquaintance with Simon or the girl.” Richard nodded.
“Yes. ‘Death of a Man Unknown, from Natural Causes,’ will be the only epilogue to this strange story.” “Not quite, but this must be between us, Richard. I prefer that the others should not know. Take me to your boiler-house.”
“The boiler-house whatever for?”
“I'll tell you in a minute.”
“All right!” With a puzzled look, Richard led the Duke along the terrace, round by the kitchen quarters and into a small building where a furnace gave a subdued roar. De Richleau lifted the latch and the door swung back, disclosing the glowing coke within.
Then he extended his right fist and slowly opened it. “Good God!” exclaimed Richard, “However did you come by that?” In De Richleau's palm lay a shrunken, mummified phallus, measuring no more than the length of a little finger, hard, dry, and almost black with age. It was the Talisman of Set, just as they had seen it in their recent dream adorning the brow of the monstrous Goat.
“I found myself clutching it when I woke up,” he answered softly.
“But, but that thing must have come from somewhere!”
“Perhaps it is a concrete symbol of the evil that we have fought, which has been given over into our hands for destruction.” As the Duke finished speaking, he cast the Talisman into the glowing furnace where they watched it until it was utterly consumed.
“If we were only dreaming how can you possibly explain it?” Richard insisted.
“I cannot.” De Richleau shrugged a little wearily. “Even the greatest seekers of the Truth have done little more than lift the corner of the veil which hides the vast Unknown, but it is my belief that during the period of our dream journey we have been living in what the moderns call the fourth dimension, divorced from time.” •

to be continued...

The crypt gyrated with such terrifying speed that ......
“Your father was a man of great virtue beta, I just want .....
Most Popular on
The Urban charm
Wedding season is around the corner and it’s ....
The audience was left awestruck by the elegance...
Fall-ing in Place
As the local fashion enthusiasts gear up for the upcoming....
Whatever you consider to be the true origins of ....
KEEP IT SIMPLE - Go Pastel in the Office
After the mandatory cleansing and moisturising .....
Under the Weather
It is that time of the year when your skin is susceptible....
Get rid of plateau
Q: I am 11 years old with weight 60kg and height 5ft 2.....
Q: I am a teenager. My father and elder brother are very....
Ranveer Singh opens up about the lull in his career
The livewire that he is, Ranveer Singh did not let ....
Thought it is all about cat fights and cut-throat ....
Actress Courteney Cox is letting her daughter, ....
Zac Efron ran to lose ten pounds
Actor Zac Efron lost ten pounds in three weeks to....
“Your father was a man of great virtue beta, I just want .....
The crypt gyrated with such terrifying speed that ......
Every director wants to produce a film that has a ....
Falling into a black hole is not the end, says Stephen Hawking
Interstellar was right. Falling into a black hole is not ....