Poet's Corner 001

Once having cast me in this little mold,

So soon to draw me from the first hot fires

Of youth and zeal, and cooled and made me old

And hard with care for all the task requires;


Once having set my steps within this track

Whose stony sides grow sheerer either side

The farther on I go, where turning back

Is every foot less easily thought or tried;


How now, at this late date, will you demand

That I grow malleable, liquid, free; enlarged

To bolt my bounds, to quit the course, disband

The circle, slough the loves with which I’m charged?


In leaving loves, one finds the road may lead

Where other loves soon other leavings need.    



The Sword of Paracelsus: Tongues of Men and of Angels, Part 3

Sword & Stone 2 001


A mist was gathering when he left St. Halistan’s and stepped out onto the sidewalk.  October had arrived, and the offshore flow was once again driving overnight fogs and damps off the surface of the unsleeping ocean and into the dusky streets of Santa Piedra.  Already Iglesia Street was completely obscured in gray at its seaward end, and an aura of gauzy drizzle danced and shimmered within the glow of the lamp above the church’s double oak doors.

His mind fully occupied with thoughts of John Dee, Edward Kelly, and the first few letters of the Enochian alphabet, Morgan picked his way across the sidewalk to the curb, carefully avoiding the yawning cracks, gaps, and holes that remained from last May’s catastrophe.  Clean-up and repair were well underway, but George said it would be at least a year before things got back to normal around St. Halistan’s.  It could be tricky finding a path through the rubble, and the mist and darkness only made things worse.

Above the converging murk loomed the ruined stump of the tower, its misshapen bulk standing up black against the night sky like a headless stone giant.  Glancing at it over his shoulder, Morgan felt again the heart-thumping panic of his desperate flight from the relentless Fomorian, Falor son of Balor.  This awful memory quickly gave way to others, as images of the battle—that terrible, never-to-be-forgotten night of storm and earthquake—went flitting through his brain in rapid succession.  He shivered as a picture of Simon Brach, hurtling down from a great height through the slanting rain, flashed across his mind’s eye.  That’s when he heard a footstep.

Instantly he spun around.  Except for scattered rocks and debris, the sidewalk was empty.  Who could possibly be out here at this time of night? he wondered.

Tightly gripping his books under his arm, he backed slowly towards the street, narrowly scanning the thickening gloom and the dim shadows playing over the rough surface of the crumbled wall.  Wisps of white mist curled around his head, damping the night sounds and imposing an eerie silence upon the scene.  A puff of wind sent a few dead leaves skittering across the pavement.  From behind him came a tiny noise like the snapping of a dry twig.  He wheeled, banged his knee against a plastic barrier cone, got tangled in a strip of yellow caution-tape—and fell.

When he came to himself, he was lying on his back atop a pile of cold, damp earth and stones with a sharp piece of rock jabbing him painfully between the ribs.  With a groan, he rolled over onto his side, yanked the rock out from under him, and flung it aside.  Then, brushing the hair from his eyes, he raised himself on one elbow and looked up to where a fuzzy circle of light showed faintly above a wall of impenetrable blackness.

So that’s how it is, he thought.  He was at the bottom of a deep pit, and from what he could see, its top margin stood about three or four feet above his head.  Gathering his books, he struggled to his feet, raised himself on tiptoe, and stretched his right hand up towards the ledge.  It lay just beyond his reach.

“Here—take my hand,” said a voice out of the mist.

Morgan started and turned with a jerk.  Someone was looking down at him from above the ledge on the street side of the pit, nodding encouragingly and extending a hand in his direction.  The light of the church lamp shone full on the face of this beckoning individual, and even through the rapidly congealing fog Morgan could see exactly who it was.  Baxter Knowles.

“Come on, Izaak!” coaxed Baxter.  “What are you waiting for?  You want to spend the whole night down there?”

“Um—no,” Morgan stammered, scrambling awkwardly over the slag to the other side of the pit.  “Here—you’ll have to take my books first.”

“Fine.  Got ‘em.  Okay, here’s my hand.  You got it?  All right.  One—two—three—up we go!”

A moment later he was standing on the pavement, brushing sand and pebbles from his jeans and sweatshirt, stealing furtive glances at Baxter’s ruddy face out of the corner of his eye.  “Thanks,” he muttered from behind his hand as he wiped a blob of wet dirt from his nose.

“No problem,” said Baxter, bowing slightly and standing aside to let Morgan pass.  “And remember, one good turn deserves another.”

Morgan stopped and stared into his face.  “I don’t get it,” he said.

“Don’t get what?”  Baxter’s eyes opened wide with astonishment.

“What this is all about.”

“What what is all about?’

“Why are you being nice to me?”

Baxter shrugged.  “I don’t see anything nice about it.  Wouldn’t you have helped me if I was down there?”

“That’s not the point.  You’ve always despised me.  You’ve done everything you could to make my life miserable.  Up till this week.”

“Look, Izaak, that’s all in the past, okay?”

“Not really.  Not for me.  What are you up to anyway?  Why did you stop those guys from picking on me the other day?”

“I’ve changed my ways.  I’ve turned over a new leaf.”

Morgan thought of the dark-haired boy on the football field.  “I don’t believe you,” he said.

Baxter looked hurt.  “That’s an unkind thing to say.  I stood up for you.  Is that a crime?  I scratch your back, you scratch mine.  That’s how I look at it.”

“But why?  You still haven’t told me why.”

“Don’t you know?”  Baxter glanced up at the ruined church tower with a significant nod.  “I’ve seen what you can do, Izaak.  My views have changed.  I want to be on your team now.  Is that such a bad thing?”

Morgan looked away.  “That all depends.”

“Listen, I helped you out.  Maybe you can help me one of these days.  Could you deny that to a friend?”

“No,” murmured Morgan.  “Not to a friend.”

There was a silence as the fog thickened around them.  Morgan was the first to break it.

“It’s late,” he said—“really late.  I gotta go.  Thanks again.”

“Yeah, sure,” said Baxter.  “So see you later, huh?”

“I suppose so.”  Morgan hiked his books up under his arm and walked off across the street towards the duplex.

“At school,” Baxter called after him as he mounted the porch steps.  “And at dinner next week.”

Morgan winced as he reached for the door.


 Sunset 001


The Sword of Paracelsus: Tongues of Men and of Angels, Part 2

Alchemist 2 001

Liber Logaeth


Morgan stared at the strange title, then shifted his eyes to the description of the book’s content that stood immediately below:


Being A Primer of the Enochian or Angelic Abecedary and Tongue

As Revealed to Doctor John Dee and Master Edward Kelly


Enochian?” he whispered, wondering whether his tired eyes were deceiving him.  “An angelic tongue—an alphabet invented by angels?”  For a moment he could do nothing but stand there, his body tottering back and forth under the strain of this new discovery, his mind a cloud of confusion and disbelief.  But in the next instant he was leaping around the room, clapping his hands, whooping for joy and shouting at the top of his lungs.

“I knew it!” he cried, his voice rebounding off the walls and echoing like a trumpet through the empty spaces of the church basement.  “I knew it had to be here somewhere!  This is the key to the power of the sword and the gateway to the Otherworld!  Enochian—” once, twice, three times he mouthed the strange name softly to himself.  It had a pleasing sound that made him smile.  “All I’ve got to do now is learn to read it!”

He dived in at once, eagerly leafing through the pages in search of a list of the Enochian letters and their English equivalents.  He hadn’t been at it long when his attention was arrested by a striking full-page illustration in black-and-white.  Remarkably similar in style to the picture of Paracelsus and his sword, it depicted two men:  the first, a dour, bearded figure dressed in a black skullcap and a long black robe fitted with wide bell sleeves; the second, a short, thick, sour-faced individual in a short Elizabethan jerkin, wearing a curious piece of headgear that covered his ears and encircled his face down to the chin.  The Famous Alchemists Dee and Kelly, read the caption.

Famous? thought Morgan.  That’s weird.  Never heard of them.  His interest piqued, he licked a finger, turned the page, and began to read:

John Dee and the Enochian Language: 

A Brief Introduction


     John Dee (b. July 13, 1527), consultant to Queen Elizabeth I and one of the most learned men of his age, was widely noted as an expert in mathematics, astronomy, and navigation.  But his real interests lay in the field of alchemy, which he regarded as the gateway to divine power. 

     Dee’s thirst for higher knowledge was insatiable.  While still a youth, he traveled to Poland where he met and conferred with the famous physician and alchemist Theophrastus Philippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim, otherwise known as Paracelsus.  No one knows what passed between the two men at this time.      

     Above all, Dee was obsessed with a desire to communicate with angels.  From them he hoped to learn the secrets of creation and obtain the key to all knowledge.  He said that they had taught him their speech and revealed to him their system of writing.  This language, which he called “Enochian” (on the assumption that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, had been the last man to speak it), forms the subject of this short volume.  The grammar and word lists presented here are based entirely on the nineteen Enochian “Calls” Dee is supposed to have received from angelic beings while sojourning in Poland.              

     It is true that Dee’s friend and collaborator, Edward Kelly—a London scryer of questionable reputation—disputed his story.  Kelly claimed for himself the distinction of having discovered the Enochian alphabet while gazing into a crystal.         

     To this day the facts of the case remain uncertain.  But of this much we can be sure:  Dee and Kelly parted on less than friendly terms.  Kelly died trying to escape from Hnevin Castle after having been imprisoned by the Emperor Maximilian II for his failure to perform a successful alchemistic transmutation.  Dee, meanwhile, returned to his home in Mortlake, England where he spent his final days in obscurity.  We have no record of the date or manner of his death.  No gravestone exists, and none of the parish registers containing his personal information have survived.


On the facing page Morgan found what he was seeking:  a table of the Enochian letters, each with its name, its English equivalent, and a guide to its pronunciation.*  This was an unspeakable treasure.  Gazing at it, he felt every ounce of sleepiness and fatigue melt away from his body as if by magic.  Suddenly his mind grew clear, his eyes bright.  Adrenaline went pumping through his veins like liquid fire.  Filled with energy and enthusiasm, he made up his mind to commit the Enochian letters to memory on the spot.  But then he happened to glance at his watch.  It was past midnight.

“Rats!” said Morgan.  He had school in the morning, and getting up on Mondays was a trial under the best of circumstances.  He’d have to postpone his new studies until tomorrow.  Reluctantly, he picked up his books, turned out the light, and went stumping up the stairs.

(To be continued …)

* You can find a couple of similar tables on the “Sword and Stone” page of this Website.

The Sword of Paracelsus: Tongues of Men and of Angels, Part 1

Sword & Stone 2 001


Morgan slammed the heavy book shut and shoved it back into an empty space on the shelf.  It was Sunday night, eleven o’ clock.  The dungeon was damp and cold, his eyes heavy and burning, his stomach pinched and growling with hunger.  So far his weekend-long search had yielded nothing.

For two days the thought of Eny’s disappearance had weighed heavily on his mind.  Fears and worries for her safety and well-being crushed his spirit and kept him from concentrating on his work.  Unlike George, who had gone to Los Angeles to aid Moira in the search, he didn’t believe that Eny had been the victim of a mere kidnapping or a run-of-the-mill street crime.  Not for a moment.  He thought he knew exactly where she was—in the Otherworld.  He also thought he knew who had taken her.

“All the more reason to get there myself somehow,”he muttered grimly as he turned away from the shelf.

Shuffling back to his dingy little workspace, he gave the leg of the desk an angry kick and threw himself into the creaking swivel-chair.  Of the many obscure antique books he’d set himself to examine over the last two days, only one was left:  one last little book remaining between him and all his dearest hopes and dreams.  Nearly sick with exhaustion and discouragement, he picked it up and held it to the lamp.  It didn’t look promising:  a small, thin volume covered in dull black cloth.  Neither cover nor spine bore title or description of any kind.  He yawned.  Elbow on table and chin in hand, he lazily flipped it open to the title page.

“Hold the phone!” he muttered to himself, sitting up straight in the chair and brushing a strand of hair from his eyes.  Rubbing his aching temples, he got to his feet.  Then he bent down and gazed intently at the little book.  “What in the world do we have here?”

At the top of the page, in bold black ink, stood two words or names written in the same bizarre characters he had found inscribed on the crossguard of the sword:


Liber Logaeth 001


This was followed by a title in English:


Liber Logaeth


(To be continued …)


The Sword of Paracelsus: Sixth Journal Entry

Dungeon 001

Day 226


A Red-Letter day, this.  On this day, as I sat painstakingly repairing my poor tools and preparing my wretched writing materials, the thing I have so long expected and anticipated happened at last. 

The voice came through the wall.

I am not referring, of course, to the mere sound of the voice.  I mean that I came face to face with the speaker himself.  

How did this come about?  I will tell you.  First there was a scraping and a pounding.  Next a soft hiss, as of sand cascading down the face of the wall.  Then the harsh grating of stone against stone, followed by a small avalanche of mortar and rock.  I saw a storm of dust and heard a muffled cry.  And then a tall, thin figure walked into my cell.

He approached me slowly on unsteady feet, his long white beard wagging as he came, his matted hair a dirty shroud to cover his crooked back.  The remains of a high lace ruff or collar dangled from his neck like the shards of a crumbling yoke, and rusty black shreds of a ragged robe fluttered in ribbons from his emaciated limbs.  For a long time he stood over me, his head wobbling from side to side, his face a mask of profound weariness and distaste.  At last he spoke in a hollow, rasping voice.   

“Edward?” he said doubtfully.

I shook my head.

“Who then art thou?” he demanded.  “And how doth it hap that these cursed walls still hem me in?”

“I am John Izaak,” I replied.   “You’ve broken through into my cell, that’s all.  I’ve been listening to the sounds of your tunneling for a long, long time, and I’m glad you’ve come.  May I be so bold as to ask your name?”

He scowled terribly.  Stooping down, he traced a single letter in the dirt on the floor.  To my surprise, I had seen it before:

Enochian D 001




Pilgrim 2 001

     Rome did not exist for those people, nor did the man Caesar; there were no temples of pagan gods; there was only Christ, who filled the land, the sea, the heavens, and the world.

                                Henryk Sienkiewicz, Quo Vadis 

      * * * * * * * *


Distance, we have said, is one of the fundamental values of the Pilgrim life.  So is the perspective one gains when distance is successfully achieved.

To a certain extent, this is familiar ground.  It’s the old problem of the forest and the trees, the challenge of finding a place to stand.  It’s the question of vision – of acquiring and practicing a particular way of seeing.  But it’s something else as well.

We might elucidate by saying that perspective is vision turned inside out.  If vision is a supernatural gift, a bequest from beyond, then perspective is the inner landscape that takes shape behind the eye as the gift is integrated into the self and begins to weave its spell and work its peculiar magic.  It’s the full broad span of the soul’s measureless inward universe sharpened to a point and brought to bear upon the random swirl of disconnected objects that constitute the external world.  As it brings these objects into focus, perspective reflects the light of vision back into the outer darkness, gently coaxing meaning out of chaos.  The Germans call this phenomenon Weltanschauung, a word which has been rendered into English as worldview and understood as a kind of “philosophy of life.”

The Pilgrim, of course, has no “philosophy of life” in the usual sense of the term.  There is no “ism” or “ology” to which he subscribes or owes undying allegiance (“isms” and “ologies” being nothing but manifestations of the kosmos).  The Pilgrim has only a Road to travel and a Leader to take him over it.  His single task is to keep his eye fixed upon the Guide.  To the extent that he does this faithfully and consistently, the Image of his Master swells and grows until it occupies his entire field of vision.  And when in time – a year, perhaps, or an entire life-span – he is able to say in sincerity and truth that, for him, there is no other in the whole of earth and heaven, then, in that moment, he finds the Pilgrimage achieved.

In the meantime, what becomes of all those random objects on the outside?  What happens to them as Pilgrim Perspective grows and develops and unfolds?  What about nations and kingdoms, presidents and premiers, houses, lands, investments, elections, wars and rumors of wars?  What about people and possessions and the thousands of little things that make life in this world either a blessed comfort or an everlasting pain?  The simple answer is that they change in shape and significance in inverse proportion to the burgeoning of perspective’s spread and span.  As the Image of the Leader increases, they decrease and fade.  But that’s not the end of the story.

He who has ascended above the heavens must fill and, in filling, engulf and swallow up all things.  But in that process, something miraculous occurs.  Like the headlands of a strange new shoreline emerging from the mist – strange and new, yet somehow familiar, as if remembered from a dream – all those endlessly varied particulars rise up in perfect order, each one falling naturally into its pre-ordained place.  The eye refocuses and – behold! – there is a picture where before were only unconnected dots.

A “vast idea” rolling before the mind’s eye – or, rather, not an idea, but the Ideal of ideals, incarnate in a Person whose expansive presence dominates earth, sky, life, and breath – this, as Keats correctly discerned, is the one thing from which we may rightly expect to “glean our liberty.”  This is the world-altering perspective that grows out of Pilgrim vision.



Summer’s Sun

Poet's Corner 001



Summer’s sun is golden

In the cooling afternoon.

The autumn breeze in August,

Fresh and gently floating

Among the sun-green leaves,

Wakens nameless longings

And tearless hopes that burgeon

Brimming on the verge.

The garden droops to ruin

In the lightless afternoon,

And my fair sunflowers fade

And lose their yellow hair,

Bending sleepy heads

Above a sagging fence.

The wind-chimes of summer

Chinkle sadly on the breeze

Blown in from other climes

Where heat of southern shores

Never blasts the glistening trees;

Where mists shroud the peninsula

In folds of quiet gray

And the sea-spray on the rocks

Never dries; where fluted redwood

Columns with Christmas crowns

Drop fresh tears through fog

Meandering from the bay

Into the forest bed

Where seeds of giants lie.

The twining bean and pumpkin

Wither in the leaf

And mildew under morning clouds;

The fruit, past ripe, is picked.

The earth, soaked and baked

By summer suns, is cracked

And gapes, hard and dry,

As fluttering leaves fall.

The monarch of the garden,

Not long past his prime,

Yet bows towards the ground

And prepares to die.

So summer leaves drop

From greenly dancing boughs

To presage barren bones

Of naked winter trees

As friendly faces fall

Away by ones and twos,

And friendly places molt

And fade like summer’s sun.




The Sword of Paracelsus: Taken, Part 3

Sword & Stone 2 001

“All done, Morgan,” he heard his mother say.  “We had a good long talk, but she’s gone home now.  I invited them for dinner next week.”

Stunned, he turned at the sound of her voice.  “Them?

“Yes.  Irene and Baxter.”

For dinner?  Morgan felt like he’d been hit with a two-by-four.  He struggled to speak, but nothing came out except an inarticulate splutter.

Just then Mavis caught sight of Grandma.  “My goodness, Wilma!” she exclaimed.  “I’m surprised to see you up!”

She hurried into the room, the breath of her perfume wafting over Morgan as she passed.  Crossing to the rocker beside the hearth, she laid a gentle hand on Grandma’s shoulder and leaned down to get a better look at her face.  “Are you feeling better?” she asked.

“Better?”  The old lady frowned and swung around to face the wall.  “Not much!  Just wait till you’re my age.  You don’t know the first thing about aches and pains.”

Mavis smoothed Grandma’s hair and adjusted her afghan.

“Chicken broth,” Grandma said briefly.

“As soon as I can,” Mavis answered with a patient smile.  “I had an unexpected visitor this afternoon, so I’m a little late getting dinner, and—”

She was interrupted by a commotion at the front door—first a rapid pounding, then a frantic jiggling of the handle.  Morgan looked at Mavis.  Mavis stared back.

“I’ll go and see who it is?” she said, stepping out into the hallway.  “You wait here with your Grandma.”

She hurried to the door.  Fishing another cookie out of his pocket, Morgan glanced sheepishly in Grandma’s direction and took a small bite.

“I saw a woman,” he heard her faintly say.


She blew her nose and glared at him fiercely.  “A woman!”

“Morgan!”  His mother’s voice again.  She was coming rapidly back down the hallway, calling as she came.  It sounded as if someone was following close behind.  He made a move to find out who it was, but Wilma caught hold of his sleeve.

“A woman.  In purple and scarlet.  Decked with gold and gems and pearls.”

He shook his arm free.  “What woman?”

Grandma nodded.  “Scarlet and purple.  And eyes like I never seen before.  Green.  Green and glowing.  Like a cat’s.”

Green eyes?  Morgan caught his breath and stumbled back, colliding heavily with his mother who was at that moment rushing in from the hall.  She caught him in her arms.  He in turn shot her questioning glance.  By way of answer, she nodded back over her shoulder.  Behind her stood George Ariello and the Reverend Peter Alcuin.

“What’s the matter with you George?” said Morgan, trying to force a laugh.  “Now you’re the one who looks like he’s seen a ghost!”

Rev. Alcuin was solemn as an undertaker.  “I’m afraid we’ve had some very bad news,” he said, his eyes fixed on George’s face, which was pale and working with emotion.  “From Moira.”

A strange and foreboding coldness crept up Morgan’s spine as he searched the minister’s face,

“It’s Eny.  She’s disappeared.”

* * * * *

Black Crow 001

The Sword of Paracelsus: Taken, Part 2

Sword & Stone 2 001

“Mom, I’m home!” cried Morgan, the screen door banging behind him as he clattered into the duplex. “What’s for dinner?”

No answer.

Tossing down his backpack in the entry hall, he turned in at the kitchen door, hoping to find his mom and a snack. But as he was reaching for the cookie jar, he caught a glimpse of something that took him completely by surprise.

At the other end of the kitchen was another door through which he had a view of the dining room table. Mavis was there, her hands folded in her lap, her head bent slightly forward, deep lines of empathy and concern etched across her ivory forehead. Her eyes were fixed intently on the face of another person who sat beside her, elbows on the table, head in hands, pale cheek half concealed by a cascade of dark disheveled hair. Both figures stirred and glanced up at the ruckus Morgan was raising. Seeing the second woman’s face, he froze in his tracks with a cookie half-way to his mouth. Irene Knowles—Baxter Knowles’s mother—was in his house, talking with his mom, seated at his dining room table!

Mavis got up and came softly over to him. “She needed someone to talk to,” she explained, bending close to his ear. “I happened to be handy.”

Talk about what? he wanted to know. But his mother was already steering him out into the hallway and shoving a fistful of cookies into his hand.

“We won’t be much longer,” she added, putting a finger to her lips.

Morgan stuck a cookie in his mouth and headed for the living room. But as he passed the other entrance to the dining area—the one that opened on the hall—he couldn’t help overhearing a snatch of the conversation unfolding there. He could have made up his mind to keep moving. But he didn’t.

“It’s Baxter I worry about most,” he heard Mrs. Knowles say in a tearful voice as he crouched beside the door. “He’s such a sensitive child.”

“Mm hm,” was Mavis’s non-committal response. Morgan covered his mouth to smother a laugh.

“And his father has always been—well, less than supportive. In fact, he pushes him rather hard. As far as that side of the situation is concerned, I’m almost glad that … ” Her voice trailed off.

“I understand,” Mavis soothed.

“And yet a boy needs his father! Terribly! Don’t you think so?”

Mavis answered sadly. “Of course I do.”

“Believe me, Mavis, it wasn’t my idea to ship Baxter off to Needles. That was all Brevard! He insisted on it! And then, when he dropped the bombshell in Manhattan—when he told me that he was … Well, honestly, I didn’t know what to do. The only thing I could think of was to come back here.”

“You did right, Irene.”

“You think so? Because sometimes I’m not sure. Sometimes I feel as if I’m at my wit’s end. Since we’ve been back, Baxter’s been out of control. I can’t manage him on my own. He seems desperate for something. He’s out at all hours doing I don’t know what.”

“Peter Alcuin might be able to able to help,” Mavis offered.

“Possibly. He’s a big boy for his age—large-boned, you know. He acts tough, but I know he’s just a lambkin. I’m afraid for him, Mavis. Afraid of what he might do—to prove himself, if you understand what I mean. It frightens me.”

“I know,” Mavis quietly observed. “There’s no telling what a boy in search of his father might do.”

Out in the hallway, Morgan felt a sneeze coming on and made a sudden bolt for the living room. That’s when he got a second surprise.

Grandma Wilma was up, sitting in the old oak rocker beside the cold fireplace, humming faintly to herself. With her back towards the door and her shriveled hands gripping the arms of the chair, she gazed fixedly at the wallpaper just as if she were watching something in its interlacing floral patterns. A white knitted shawl covered her hunched shoulders and she had a faded blue afghan draped across her lap. It was the first time he’d seen her sitting in a chair since she’d come to live with them.

“You okay, Grandma?” he said. “What are you doing out of bed?”

She looked round. Her eyes sparkled darkly. The pinched features of her walnut-like face drew together in an expression of intense concentration. Tilting her head to one side, she regarded him with a distant but knowing look.

“It’s time we were all up and doing,” she said.

Morgan sidled uncertainly into the room. “Is there anything I can bring you? Maybe you need some help getting back into bed?”

Instead of answering, Grandma Wilma fell into a fit of coughing. After a few minutes she lifted a shaky hand and pointed at the flowers on the wall.

“I’ve seen him,” she said wheezily. “Again. He appeared to me, Morgan.”

“Seen who?”

“It was dark. Dark as the pit. Black stones and foul water. Under the earth, under the sea, under the ground. His hair and beard were long and wild, but I knew him. I’d know him anywhere.”

Morgan moved closer to her chair. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you, Grandma. I think I may have found something that will help. If you really want to get well, I mean.”

She shut her eyes and waved an impatient hand at him. “Don’t bother me with your powders and pills. I told him a long time ago what I thought of all that witch-doctoring. You listen to me.”

He bit his lip and bent towards her in a gesture of mute submission.

“He was calling for you. Your mother, too. I couldn’t hear his voice, but I knew what he was saying: ‘Come quickly. Come before winter.’”

Morgan could do nothing but stare.

“He’s speaking to you, Morgan. Speaking through me. Through the words. Through the letters. Didn’t you know?”

Utterly bewildered, Morgan nodded dumbly.

Grandma sighed and shook her head. “Perilous times. Let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house. Let him that is in the field not turn back to take up his garment.”

She’s really losing it, thought Morgan. What do I do now?

There was a pause. Then she added, “And wouldn’t you know? When he least expected it, someone came to him. Through the wall.”

“The wall?”

She grinned. “Yes, he’s waiting for you. But not alone. Not anymore. God has sent him a helper.”

I should get Mom, he fretted. He wondered if he dared interrupt Mavis’s conference with Mrs. Knowles. But even as he hesitated, there was a footstep on the carpet behind him.

(To be continued …)

The Sword of Paracelsus: Taken, Part 1

SOP Poster 001

Morgan was out the classroom door as soon as the bell rang the following afternoon.  It was Friday and he didn’t have a scrap of homework to do.  A sense of unbounded liberty swelled his head and sharpened all his senses as he burst out of the English Hall and into the open air.  The entire weekend lay ahead of him—three nights and two whole days to spend with his father’s books.  He couldn’t wait to get started.

He ran all the way to the bike racks.  As he knelt, all out of breath, and began dialing the combination on his bike lock, he couldn’t help but notice a group of five boys throwing a football around on the other side of the fence.  By the time he was yanking his bike free of the rack, the boys had dropped their ball and were sauntering slowly towards him through the gate.  The expressions on their faces weren’t encouraging.  Morgan didn’t get the impression that this was meant to be a friendly visit.  They surrounded him before he had a chance to swing into the saddle and push off.

“Look who it is, guys,” said the one who stood directly in his path—a heavy-set, boy with a ragged crew cut and a face as red as a beet.  “Mr. Wizard himself!”

“How are the experiments going, Dr. Frankenstein?” chimed in one of his cohorts, a short kid with big ears.

“Yeah, didja come up with a cure for stupidity yet?” added another.  “Oh, wait—you’re still dumb!”

They were Baxter Knowles’s cronies.  Morgan recognized them at once, even without their leader.  Most of them were new to the gang.  Baxter, it seemed, had picked up a fresh set of recruits since his return from exile.  For some reason, most of his former disciples had declined the opportunity to sign on again.

Morgan licked his lips nervously as he gazed around the circle.  A year ago he would have been trembling uncontrollably.  He might have trembled still if he were standing nose to nose with Baxter himself.  But he was also keenly aware that things were completely different this year.  This year he knew what it was like to face giants and confront enchantresses.  This year he possessed a sword that could put an army to flight.  Besides, Baxter wasn’t there.  I can handle this, he thought.

“Sorry,” he said quietly, slipping his arms through the straps of his backpack and straddling the bike.  “I don’t have time for this right now.”  And with that, he put his feet to the pedals and pushed straight ahead towards the leader.

“Hey!” cried Beet-Face, dodging to one side, “You can’t do that!  Get him, guys!”

In a flash the other four converged on Morgan, toppling the bike and knocking him to the ground.  In half a minute they had him down in the grass and were stripping him of his backpack and sweatshirt.  Big-Ears took up a strategic position on his chest.  Another boy held his legs.  Still another grabbed him by the throat and raised a fist to pummel him.  But then a voice rang out above the fray:

“What do you idiots think you’re doing?  Get off him!”

From where he lay, Morgan could see nothing but the look of wide-eyed stupor and confusion on Big-Ears’s broad freckled face.  Slowly, the raised fist was dropped.  The clenched hand released his throat.  Then, one by one, the boys got to their feet and backed away.  When he could breathe again, Morgan sat up, rubbed his neck, and shoved a few strands of yellow hair out of his eyes.  Then he looked around to see who had intervened on his behalf.

It was Baxter Knowles.

Baxter was standing directly behind Morgan, his handsome cleft chin thrust forward, his arms folded across his chest, his strawberry-blonde hair fluttering lightly around his high, smooth forehead.

“Don’t waste your time on him,” said Baxter, avoiding Morgan’s eyes and addressing his followers in what sounded like a tone of assumed nonchalance.  “He’s not worth it.  And next time, don’t try anything like this until I say so.  Got it?”

Beet-Face stuck his hands into his pockets and kicked at a clump of grass.  “Got it, Baxter,” he said, before slouching off after the rest of the gang.

Morgan got up, retrieved his pack, and picked up his bike.  Then he walked up to Baxter and looked him straight in the face.  He groped for words, but words failed him.  He didn’t know what to think, much less what to say.  So he just stood there.

As for Baxter, he went red to the ears and averted his eyes.  He rubbed his nose and mumbled something Morgan couldn’t make out.  Then, just as it had happened a few days earlier, he turned on his heel and shuffled off.

Morgan stared after him until he disappeared behind the gymnasium wall.

(To be continued …)