Books 001

Pondered Doremus: Blessed be they who are not Patriots and Idealists, and who do not feel they must dash right in and Do Something About It, something so immediately important that all doubters must be liquidated – tortured – slaughtered!

“Is it just possible,” he sighed, “that the most vigorous and boldest idealists have been the worst enemies of human progress instead of its greatest creators? Possible that plain men with the humble trait of minding their own business will rank higher in the heavenly hierarchy than all the plumed souls who have shoved their way in among the masses and insisted on saving them?”

                          — Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here

The Sword of Paracelsus: The Labyrinth, Part 4

Sword & Stone 2 001

The circular walls of the arcade were pierced by five arches opening into five passageways. They radiated outward from the dome-roofed space like the spokes of a wheel. Except for the one that stood opposite their own, these five corridors were identical. All were wide and lofty. All were perfectly straight. All were paved with shiny black flagstones. All came to a dead stop at a stone wall about fifty feet from the circle center. All of them, that is, but the one directly in front of Eny and her companions.

That passage had door at its further end.

It was a curious-looking door. More like the door of a country cottage than the portal of a prison. It was a narrow green wooden door with a brass doorknob and a square window. There were red curtains on the window, and through the frosted glass a beam of yellow light slanted down gently to the floor.

“A way out!” cried Eny.

As she spoke, a great clash of arms echoed in the corridor behind them.   The Fomorian guards were on their heels! The instant they saw Eny and her companions they cast their weapons aside, dropped on all fours, and took on the form of four snarling wolves. On they came, their red tongues lolling from their dripping jaws. Eny spun around and charged for the door, dragging Baxter by the hand.

“Right behind you!” cried John Izaak, who was still carrying the aged Dee on his back. “Don’t slow down on my account!”

Eny sprang forward. In one great bound she reached the door, grasped the brass knob, twisted it, and gave a slight push. The door yielded easily, swinging open without a sound.

Immediately a blast of heat and light, like the glare of a raging furnace, poured in through the opening. She flinched and shaded her eyes. Looking up, she became aware of a tall, dark woman standing on the threshold at the heart of the blinding glow.

“Here at last!” said the Morrigu, her voice sweet and mellow as a ripe summer fruit. “I’m so glad you could make it. We need to talk.”

Sunset 001

The Sword of Paracelsus: The Labyrinth, Part 3

SOP Poster 001

At length they came to a place where the passage divided into three branches.

“Which way now?” said Baxter, tightening his grip on Eny’s wrist.

“Straight ahead—we’ll stick to the middle road,” she answered. John Izaak nodded in confirmation.

“And let go of me, would you?” said Eny, slapping Baxter’s hand. “I never gave you permission to touch me!”

As they followed the climbing middle path, they became aware that narrow side-passages were beginning to enter the main corridor at odd, random angles. Some breathed icy air from their murky depths. Some reeked of smoke and sulfur. Some were black as midnight. Others were faintly illuminated with the warm glow of flickering torches.

In time they came to a wider side-avenue. As they approached, Eny could see its walls pulsing with light. Signaling a halt, she glanced quickly around the corner.

“Fomorians!” she hissed, pulling back sharply. “A guard station or something!” She inched her eye past the edge of the wall a second time.

What she was looking at was not a passage at all but a large arching alcove. In the left wall burned a brilliant fire on a wide stone hearth. Over the flames hung a seething black cauldron. At the further end of the recess stood a rickety wooden table. And around the table, on creaking wooden crates, sat four grizzled, bald-headed giants in shirts of clinking chain-mail and heavy black boots. They were slurping rank-smelling stew from deep wooden bowls, laughing and belching loudly as they ate. Against the nearer wall stood a disarrayed heap of spears, swords, and brass-riveted shields.

Eny looked back at Izaak and Baxter. “We may be able to slip past if we’re quick and quiet,” she whispered. “Can you manage?”

“I’ll try,” Izaak replied.

A peal of loud laughter burst from the feasting Fomorians. Eny seized Baxter’s hand and dashed out into the open. In the same instant a rat darted across her path.

“Aaaack!” screamed Baxter, flinging himself against the wall with a heavy thud.

“Alarum! Alarum!” bellowed one of the guards, jumping to his feet.

He lunged for his spear and shield, but tripped and fell over one of his comrades. A clamor and a ruckus followed as each of the four guards strove to be the first out of the arched recess.

“This way!” shouted Eny, shoving Baxter down the gallery.

Just beyond the guard station they reached a place where three different intersecting tunnels converged upon the main passage. One veered slightly to the right. Another came in from the left. The last seemed to bend back sharply in the direction from which they’d come. Eny took the third path.

“Are you still with me?” she called back over her shoulder.

“Yes!” answered John Izaak. “I think they took a different route!”

“Good! Keep moving!”

The passage grew steeper as they pressed on, becoming at length a narrow winding stairway. There were no torches here, so Eny and her companions had to navigate the twists and turns of the rising shaft by the sense of touch alone.

Reaching the top of the stair, they stepped out into a wide, brightly illuminated stone gallery. It sloped upwards to the left.

“Now what?” gasped Baxter.

“Up!” answered Eny. “Always up!”

They followed the sloping grade until it opened out into a wide circular arcade with a smooth, tiled floor and a high vaulted ceiling. Near the top of the dome six narrow slits shone bright with daylight.

“Ground level at last!” exclaimed Eny.

“Yes!” said Izaak. “And that’s not all. Look there!”

Following his finger, Eny gazed across the beehive-shaped chamber and saw something that caused her heart to jump.

(To be continued …)

The Sword of Paracelsus: The Labyrinth, Part 2

Sword & Stone 2 001

“You!” exclaimed Eny. “What are you doing here?”

He brought me,” Baxter said sulkily, pointing at the indisposed guard. “They were going to make me room with you. They said you deserved it. I’m not sure what they meant by that.”

“Where’s Morgan?”

“I don’t know. Somewhere else.”

There was a soft rattle of falling stones and gravel as Dee and Izaak re-emerged from the tunnel. Eny turned in time to see John Dee stumble and stagger against the wall. John Izaak hurried over and took her by the hand.

“Who is this?” he said, gazing wide-eyed at Baxter; and then, catching sight of the bulky shape on the floor—“Is he dead?”

“Unconscious, I think,” she answered. “Come on!”

Yanking Baxter to his feet, she rushed out into the passage.

“Follow me, Dee!” cried John Izaak. “As I expected, our escape has come about in an entirely unexpected fashion!”

Without looking back to see if the others were behind her, Eny took off running down the narrow torch-lit corridor. It appeared to have been hewn from living rock. Thick oaken doors like the door to her own cell were set into its dripping walls on either side every twenty feet or so, and in between the doors red torches flared and guttered in heavy iron sconces. Big black spiders hung from the ceiling in dirty ragged webs. The air was stale and damp, and the whole place smelled like a sewer.

The passage ran on in a straight line for about a hundred feet before curving slightly to the right. Rounding this bend, Eny threw a glance back over her shoulder. Neither Baxter, Izaak, nor Dee were within sight, but she could hear their splashing footsteps, for the floor was covered with half an inch of stagnant water.

“Hurry!” she called out, pausing to let them catch up.

Baxter was panting heavily by the time he came around the curvature in the wall, but that was the least of Eny’s concerns. For when the two older men came into view she could see at once that they would never be able to keep up the pace. Thin, haggard, and worn as he was, Morgan’s father was lurching along with the lanky Dee perched precariously on his back. The bony arms of the ancient alchemist were wrapped around John Izaak’s neck, and his tangled beard was flowing down over his chest.

“He says he can’t walk,” gasped Izaak.

“Are you sure?” said Eny, drawing near and looking up into Dee’s watery eyes.

Dee glared back and said nothing.

I’m sure,” said Izaak, with a weary shake of his head. “Maybe you’ll know how he feels someday. If you live to be four hundred years old.”

“Four hundred!” spluttered Baxter, backing away from the two bearded men with an expression of pure terror in his pale gray eyes.

“Let’s keep moving,” said Eny. “We’ll go slower from now on.”

They forged ahead, then, Baxter sticking as close to Eny as possible, Izaak sloshing along in the rear with his burden. The corridor continued to curve, first to the right, then to the left, then to the right again. After a while they began to get the distinct impression that it was spiraling upwards. There were fewer doors in the walls now, and fewer torches between them. The light grew dimmer and smokier as they plodded forward.

The only window they ever came across was a sort of large round porthole glazed with thick wavy glass. Through it they could see a shimmering, swaying world of coral and kelp and darting schools of silver fish. As Eny peered out, a big black fish with a gaping mouth, three rows of sharp teeth, and two glowing green eyes swam up and glared at her through the glass.

“Look!” she exclaimed. “This part of the tower is actually under water!”

“As one might have guessed,” Dee mumbled ironically, glancing down at the floor.

“Thank God,” breathed Izaak, “that we never succeeded in breaking through an exterior wall!”

Every so often dark shapes scrambled out of holes and splashed across the passage in front of them. Feverish-looking eyes glittered in the shadows of several larger openings in the rock. Often, as they passed the door of a cell, they could hear the faint echoes of moans and cries within. Once there was a blood-curdling screech that made Baxter yelp and grab Eny by the arm.

(To be continued …)

The Sword of Paracelsus: The Labyrinth, Part 1

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The big key clanked heavily in the lock. Slowly the iron-studded, brass-bound, triple-ply oaken door began to move, squealing on its rusty hinges.

“Back to your own cell!” whispered Eny, shoving John Izaak towards the opening in the wall. “Him too!” she added, indicating Dee, who was standing in the middle of the floor like a great awkward bird.

“But what will you do?” protested Izaak, ducking into the hole and dragging Dee after him.

“You’ll see. Just wait for me on the other side.”

Bracing herself for what was to come, Eny took her sling and sack of stones and crouched in the shadow of the tunnel. Fitting a stone into the sling’s pouch, she held her breath and watched the creaking door.

That’s when she noticed that her hand was trembling. The thought of striking anybody—even a brutish Fomorian—was repulsive to her. It went against the grain of her temperament. It contradicted all of her most deeply cherished convictions. She didn’t want to do it. And yet it had to be done. Closing her eyes, she groped for courage in the darkness.

In that instant a vision rose before her. She saw herself standing beside a shallow ford in the middle of a wide green plain, taking aim at the pursuing Fomorians while the Fir Bolg made a feckless attempt at self-defense. She saw the sling whirl above her head. She saw the stone flash forth like lightning. Then the image faded.

It won’t be the first time, she told herself, taking a firm grip of the sling and stepping out into the cell.

The creaking door swiveled inward.

But what was this? Not one but two guards! Two dark shapes silhouetted in black against the ruddy light of the corridor. The first was huge, hulking, and apish. The one behind it was smaller and shorter, but still too big for Eny to tackle single-handed.

She hadn’t planned on this. She could only hit one mark at a time. For a split-second she hesitated, wondering what might happen if the second of the two guards were to raise an alarm while she tried to re-load. But it was too late to change her mind. In one swift motion she whipped the sling over her head, snapped her arm forward, and released the cord. The stone shot across the chamber like a bullet.

Thwack! Without so much as a whimper, the big round-headed Fomorian pitched forward and crashed to the floor like a load of bricks.

“Mr. Izaak! Help me!” shouted Eny, reaching for another sling-stone. “There are two of them out here!”

But even as her voice rang out, the second figure dropped to its knees and raised its arms above its head.

“Don’t hurt me!” it pleaded. I’ll do anything you say!”

Eny let the sling fall to her side and took two steps towards the doorway. She looked at the person kneeling there, then rubbed her eyes and looked again.

It was Baxter Knowles.

(To be continued …)

Resist Not Evil

Books 001

                                                Let a vast assembly be,

                                                And with great solemnity

                                                Declare with measured words that ye

                                                Are, as God made ye, free –


                                                Be your strong and simple words

                                                Keen to wound as sharpened swords,

                                                And wide as targes let them be,

                                                With their shade to cover ye.


                                                And if then the tyrants dare,

                                                Let them ride among you there,

                                                Slash and stab and maim and hew, –

                                              What they like, that let them do.


                                                With folded arms and steady eyes,

                                                And little fear and less surprise,

                                                Look upon them as they slay,

                                                Till their rage has died away.


                                                And that slaughter to the Nation

                                                Shall steam up like inspiration,

                                                Eloquent, oracular;

                                                A volcano heard afar.


              — Percy Bysshe Shelley, “The Mask of Anarchy”

(Quoted in George MacDonald’s Donal Grant)

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The Sword of Paracelsus: The Vision on the Stair, Part 3

Sword & Stone 2 001

“Yes,” responded John Izaak. “The stairs of the tower at St. Halistan’s Church. I had been to see my friend Peter Alcuin. Among other things, we talked about Lia Fail. For reasons I won’t go into now, I felt compelled to climb the tower stairs when I left his office. I wanted to have a look at the stained-glass window above the first landing.”

“Jacob’s Ladder,” Eny interposed

He eyed her curiously. “Yes. I was standing there on the last stone step—”

“The step just below the landing!”

“—when all at once I felt very strange. Everything started spinning. The step itself began to vibrate and glow. The walls of the tower shook and cracked and expanded, and the golden ladder in the picture trembled and stretched. Up and up it soared, crashing through the roof and out into the sky. Down rolled its sparkling rungs until its feet touched the stairs.”

“And there were creatures going up and down the ladder—right?”

“There were. But not like those in the stained glass. Oh, no! They were the oddest, most terrifying, most awe-inspiring creatures I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“More like fire than living flesh.”

“With terrible wings, wings full of eyes. And their faces were the faces of men, women, eagles, oxen, lions, lambs.”

Dee fell to his knees, grasping Izaak by the remains of his coat-lapel. “The angels!” he cried. “Then thou hast seen them too!”

“Perhaps,” responded Izaak. “Though I had never pictured them looking quite like that!”

“Angels they were in sooth!” insisted the old alchemist. “I know, for they taught me the Enochian tongue!”

“Well, they didn’t speak Enochian on this occasion. I would have recognized that, because I’d been studying your Primer. No—they spoke good, plain English. And the first thing they said was, ‘Take off your shoes! You are standing upon Jacob’s Pillow-stone!’”

“So that’s how you knew!” said Eny.

“Yes. And I was pleased, for I saw that my theories had been leading me in the right direction.”

“What else did they say?”

“They said, ‘Protect the talisman that has fallen into your hands. This Stone is its Sister and its Spouse.’”

Dee nodded sagely. “Thus saith my inscription.”

One of your inscriptions,” corrected Izaak.

“What inscriptions?” said Eny. “I don’t understand.”

“Never mind now. The last thing they told me was the most important of all: ‘Expect a small man bearing a message.’”

“A small man!”

“That’s right. And once they had said that, the vision went out like a snuffed candle. The next thing I knew, I was sitting on the front steps of my house with the sun coming up over the eastern hills. My wife wept when she saw me because she thought I’d been drinking again. But it wasn’t so.”

There was a long silence. At last Izaak continued:

“I believed I knew the small man to whom the vision referred. I had seen just such a person many times before, standing at her elbow when she came to confer with me in my study late at night. I had no idea what sort of message he might bring. I feared it with all my being. But when it came—and came it did—everything fell into place.”

Eny was breathless. “Are you going to tell us what it was?”

Izaak removed his spectacles and wiped them on his sleeve. “He met me one afternoon on the steps of the Linguistics Institute. I recognized him at once. His face and form were unforgettable—long nose, bald head, short legs, arms and hands that seemed much too large for him. He was dressed all in black and had an odd little leather bag dangling from his belt. When he saw me, he spoke no word, but grasped my sleeve, opened his bag, pulled out a bit of folded yellow paper, and pressed it into my hand. Then he was gone.”

He paused, then glanced over at Dee. “Can you guess what was at the top of the page? It was the other inscription—the one I have never been able to decipher. Perhaps you can decipher it for me now?”

Dee bowed his head and said nothing.

“You know the one I mean,” Izaak went on. “It looked like this—”

Leaning forward, he scrawled seven strange characters in the white dust on the floor:




“I’m familiar with the first word—zir, ‘I am.’ But the second—D-V-I-V—remains unknown to me. I’ve never been able to find it in any of the vocabulary lists extracted from the nineteen Enochian Calls. I don’t even know how to pronounce it. What I did know at the time was that the writing on the paper was intended as a cipher or a clue. It represented the inscription on the ‘talisman’ in my possession. That much was clear.”

“But was that all the note said?” asked Eny, drawing closer to him.

“No. It was followed by four short lines of verse:


  This is the promised clue.

   You know what to do.

   Lira, east wing, second floor.

   Keep them separate, mark the door.


“What did you do then?”

“Exactly what I believed the note was telling me to do. I took the thing of which we have been speaking—the talisman, the Spouse of Lia Fail—and hid it in the old hotel out on the Point.”

“I’ve been in that place lots of times!”

“I imagine every kid in Santa Piedra has. That’s where I left it. The Lira. Second floor. Room 247 to be exact. That was the last I ever saw of it. And unless one of you can be compelled to repeat my story, she will never find it.”

As he spoke, there came a rumble and a clatter and a jangling of keys outside the door of Eny’s cell.

“The guard!” hissed Izaak. “Quick, Dee! Back through the hole! Once we’re gone, Eny, you replace the stones and—”

Eny gripped him by the hand and looked up into his face. “No,” she said.

John Izaak screwed up his eyes. “What do you mean no?”

“I mean I’ve got another plan. I think I know how we can get out of here!”

 Sunset 001


The Sword of Paracelsus: The Vision on the Stairs, Part 2

Sword of Paracelsus 001

Eny turned from the scarecrow figure to Morgan’s father. “Did you call him Dee?”

“Dr. John Dee. My companion and cell-mate for many days.”

She squinted at the old man in the black skull-cap. “I’ve heard of you!”

Dee seemed mildly pleased. “Verily? And wherefore?”

“You know Simon Brach, don’t you?”

The old man drew back with a look of disdain.

“How about Ollamh Folla? Do you know him?”

Dee said nothing, but raised an eyebrow and shot Izaak a sidewise glance. “The ‘other’ I told thee of,” he muttered.

John Izaak laid a hand on her shoulder. “Eny, you’ve said more than enough to convince me. I recognize the ring of truth when I hear it. I believe you.”

Eny felt a wave of relief sweep over her. She smiled back at him.

“Which leaves me with just one question,” he continued. “Why are you here?”

Her heart leapt within her. “She has the Stone!”

John Izaak sighed. “It was only a matter of time, I suppose.”

“You were expecting it?”

“Not exactly. I had hoped it would never come to this. But I’m also aware of the extent of her power. I don’t say this to excuse myself. It was almost entirely my fault. Still, she led me on. She leveraged my lust for power. She promised me everything. At that point I didn’t really know where the Stone of Destiny was—that came later. But I was getting close, and she knew it. By the time I realized what was happening, it was too late. I could no longer wrest myself free. But this much I will say in my own behalf: though she did her worst, I never gave her what she wanted. That’s why she brought me here.”

Eny shook her head sadly. “I know. And it wasn’t you, Mr. Izaak. It was your son who betrayed Lia Fail to her.”

“My son? Morgan found the Stone?”

“It’s a long story.”

“I can imagine.” He removed his spectacles, rubbed the bridge of his nose, and was silent for a few minutes before resuming his narrative.

“Well,” he said huskily, “she took me away, as I told you, and threw me into this dungeon. But I was not entirely without consolation. Two important considerations have always given me great comfort.”

“Go on.”

“In the first place, I knew that the Stone by itself was not enough. I knew that she couldn’t access its power without … certain other ingredients.”

“Like me, for instance?”

He stared. “What do you mean?”

She pointed to her one blue eye. “See?”

“I’m afraid not.”

“The eyes of Eithne?”

Izaak shook his head.

“The Maiden of Perfect Purity and Chastity?”

“Ah, yes. That! So then you—”

She thinks so. I don’t know what to think. She’s already put me through some kind of ceremony. I saw and touched Lia Fail, but nothing happened. That made her really mad. So here I am.”

“You were in greater danger than you suspected. I haven’t heard of Eithne. But as I understand it, almost any girl your age can play the part of the Maiden of Perfect Purity. For all practical purposes, you are that girl. Did she hurt you?”

She showed him her finger. “Not much.”

Izaak frowned. “It could have been worse. It may get worse before this is all over. With you in her power she lacks only one element. And the most frightening part is that she knows this now.”

“There’s another element?”

“Yes. And that was my other consoling thought. For, you see, I possessed that other element! And because I possessed it, I was able to keep it from her!”

“What are you talking about?”

Izaak seated himself at the base of the wall. “Dee and I have spoken of it more than once.” Here he shot his fellow prisoner a quick glance. “It came to me purely by accident. It was a mere artifact, a curiosity. I bought it because of my obsession with alchemy. The man who sold it to me knew next to nothing about it. In the beginning I had no clue as to its connection with Lia Fail. But then came the vision on the tower stairs.”

“Tower stairs!”

(To be continued …)

The Sword of Paracelsus: The Vision on the Stair, Part 1

Sword & Stone 2 001

“Izaak? Did you say John Izaak?”

Eny stood back and took a good, long look at the man who was pushing his way through the dust and debris of the crumbling wall. He reminded her of a chick just breaking through the shell of its egg: weak, wobbly, bedraggled.

The bald crown of his head, which was the first detail of his anatomy to present itself as he emerged from the rubble, was surrounded by a long, lank crop of thin and graying yellow hair. His sufferings were evident in the painful lines of his gaunt face. The high cheekbones were sharp and prominent, the cheeks dark and hollow, the nose narrow and pointed. An abundant growth of matted gray beard covered the long chin, and the forehead was deeply lined and furrowed. His wire-rimmed spectacles were bent and cracked, and the skin around his eyes was as yellow and wrinkled as an ancient parchment. But the eyes themselves were almost terrifyingly brilliant—blue and piercing as the eyes of Simon Brach himself.

He straightened himself and shuffled into the cell, brushing the dirt and dust from the ragged remains of an old tweed suit. His wrists and ankles, which stuck out below the shredded sleeves and cuffs, were mere skin and bone. With a tentative bow, he stepped forward and stuck out a shaky hand.

“Yes, Izaak,” he said. “Does the name mean anything to you?”

Eny covered her mouth with her hand and took a step backwards. “It really is you!” she whispered.

He tilted his head and smiled vaguely.

“Those eyes! And the nose, too! They’re just like Morgan’s. You’re almost unrecognizable, but I think I’d recognize you anywhere!”

The smile faded from John Izaak’s lips. “Morgan?”

“Your son!”

“You know my son?”

“He’s my best friend! He’s in the Sidhe, too—trying to find you. I’m Eny Ariello.”

“Ariello? As in George and Moira Ariello?”

“My mom and dad! Morgan and I grew up next door to each other.”

“Grew up? But he can’t be more than a year-and-a-half old! He was born only a few weeks before she brought me to this horrid place.”

“He’s twelve.”

John Izaak turned pale and fell back against the wall.

At that very moment another figure stuck its head through the hole in the wall. If Eny had been shocked at Izaak’s appearance, she found the aspect of this emaciated, scarecrow-like creature positively alarming. The top of its head, which wobbled unsteadily as it broke through into the half-light, was covered by a tight-fitting black skull-cap. Its scraggly beard, white as snow and at least a yard long, reminded her of wizards she’d seen in books of fairy tales. Its frayed and tattered garments were black. When it stood up, it looked like a skeleton veiled in a death-shroud or a ship’s mast wrapped in the remains of a torn sail. The dirty scraps of an old lace collar hung about its neck. Its face was drawn and withered, its eyes pale and luminous.

“Music of the angels!” it muttered as it staggered forward, looking as if it might collapse at any moment. “Is this the gateway to the kingdom of heaven? Have I attained to the New Birth?”

John Izaak laughed. “Sorry, Dee. There are no angels. It’s just another cell. After all that work!”

“Humph!” snorted the scarecrow, eyeing Eny up and down. “Thou’rt naught but a maid!”

(To be continued) .

The Sword of Paracelsus: Breakthrough, Part 3

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Once more Eny was reminded of Simon Brach and John Dee. Again she pictured them side by side, chipping away at the mortar and the stones. She put her ear to the wall and held her breath.

Tick, tick … chink, chink … tap, tap, TAP!

The sound was still there! On and on it went. And the longer it lasted, the louder it got. Soon her heart was pounding in time with its steady rhythm. She thought she could feel the stones vibrating. From time to time she imagined she could hear faint voices from droning behind the persistent patter. She felt certain that something wonderful was about to happen. And then, just as abruptly as it had begun, the noise stopped.

Minutes passed while Eny stood with her ear to the wall in the deepening gloom and silence. Drip, drip, drip went the trickle of water in the corner. Scribble, scrabble went the tiny feet scampering across over the floor.

When at last she felt sure that the sound had gone for good, she turned away from the wall. But she didn’t allow her heart to despair. Instead, she lifted her head and closed her eyes. In her mind’s eye, she pictured herself standing in the cool and dripping silence of the Cave of the Hands. With her inner ear she listened for the boom and hiss of the waves outside the cavern door. Then she raised the fiddle to her chin and began to play.

She began with an island air called “The Boatman.” Next came “The Wing of the Black Crow.” After that she launched into a set of reels, beginning with “Soldier’s Joy,” “Christmas Eve,” and “Last Night’s Fun.” Remembering the simple pleasures of long summer days in Santa Piedra, she played “The Dawning of the Day,” “The Lark in the Morning,” “Out on the Ocean,” and “The Ships Are Sailing.”

By now she was dancing and fiddling at the same time. From “The Flowing Tide” she went into “The Cliffs of Moher,” “The Butterfly,” and “The Kid on the Mountain.” She skipped across the cell as she played “The Joy of My Life” and “The Man Who Died and Rose Again.” She made the horsehair fly with “The Banks of the Allen” and “The Kesh Jig.” But just as she was about to shift into “Contentment is Wealth,” she heard something that made her drop her bow.

The noise had come back. And this time it was accompanied by another sound—the unmistakable skitter of a shower of sand and gravel.

Eny turned and peered at the wall. Had she imagined it? She rubbed her eyes and looked again. There could be no mistake about it now. One of the stone blocks was actually moving—shifting, sliding forward, protruding from the face of the wall. There was a loud tap! tap! followed by a bang! and a crack! And then, with a terrible crash! the stone dropped out of the wall and broke into a couple of pieces at her feet.

The instant it fell, several other stones around it broke loose and tumbled after it. Down they all came in an avalanche of such sudden force that Eny barely had time to jump out of the way. Dust and dirt flew everywhere, thickening the gloom in the shadowy chamber. She coughed, covered her mouth, closed her eyes, and turned her head away.

When at last she was able to look again, she was astonished to see a hand thrusting its way through the hole in the wall. Slowly and deliberately, the hand pushed several more stones aside, widening the aperture.

A moment later a face with blinking blue eyes and a thin mouth surrounded by a tangle of gray beard emerged through the opening. Then the mouth opened and a voice spoke.

“Hello,” it said. “My name is Izaak. John Izaak.”

  Sunset 001