The Sword of Paracelsus: Simon’s Tale, Part 2

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“You’ll remember that it all happened in a flash,” said Simon. “—quick as fire, quick as thought, quick as one of the lightning bolts that were falling so thick and fast.  The Morrigu disarmed me, caught me up, and threw me down, just like that.  In an instant I was hurtling through the storm with the iron sky above me, the wind and rain around me, and not a thing in the world to break my fall.  But I never hit the ground.”

“Why not?” said Morgan.

A slow smile crept across Simon’s face.  “I was caught.”  And then, almost in a whisper, he added, “By an angel.  One of those bright and terrible creatures who had been going up and down on Jacob’s Ladder all through that fearful night!”

Eny regarded him with wonder.  “Were you scared?” she asked.

“Indeed I was.  That seraph was more like a firestorm than any living thing I ever knew of.  I couldn’t see its face clearly because it shone like the sun.  It seized me in mid-air, engulfed me in a whirlwind of brilliance, and set me down on the ground so soft and gentle that I hardly felt a thing.  If you can believe it, I didn’t even strike my foot against a stone!  And just before it left me, it bent down and spoke something close in my ear.  “Deh-veev,” it said.  At least that’s what I thought it said.  Then it went spinning away in a pinwheel of red and yellow sparks.

“I don’t know how long I sat there in a daze.  I could see the silver thread of the heavenly ladder, strung like a strand of pearls against the sky between the tower and the upper atmosphere.  I could see the angel-shapes upon it, and the Danaan ships in the air, and the dark hulking shapes of the Fomorians on the ground.  After a while I got up and shook the rain from my hair.  ‘Time to get back into the fight,’ I told myself.

“I had no weapon, so I started looking around for a cast-off sword or spear.  But no sooner had I begun than the earth shuddered and shook beneath me.  The rocks crumbled and a great crack opened at my feet.  Out of the crack boiled a thick shadow like a plume of black smoke.

“This shadow swirled itself up into a tornado of darkness.  Then the darkness congealed and became a huge black snake.  Round and round my body it swirled its glossy coils.  As it squeezed the breath from my lungs I realized that I was in the clutches of one of the Fomorian shape-changers.  Caught by the enemy!  My eyes went dark, and the serpent, with me in its grasp, slid through the crack in the ground and slipped silently into the viewless paths that connect your world with the world of the Sidhe.

“I was taken to Tur Morraigu on Tory Island and ‘questioned’ by the Fomor.  I’ll spare you the details.  After that I was thrown into the dungeon and chained at the base of a rock where the walls ooze seawater and the floor is all slippery with slime and filth.  There was another man in that cell, but he never spoke to me until I’d been there for about a year.”

“Wait a minute!” cried Morgan.  “Time out!  You said a year?  I don’t get that.  The Battle for the Stone took place at the beginning of summer!  That’s just three months ago!  And another thing:  Eny says she’s been in the Sidhe for two months, when I know for a fact that it’s only been two weeks since she disappeared from her apartment in Hollywood!  What gives?”

“Don’t be silly, Morgan!” said Eny.  “Don’t you remember what my mother told us?  Time is different in the Sidhe!  Go on with your story, Simon!”

“Well,” resumed Simon, “as I say, that other prisoner was a strange bird.  Never said a word, though I tried my best to draw him out.  I couldn’t get a good look at him either.  He wasn’t chained like I was, so he moved freely about the cell and kept his distance.  Stuck to the shadows and spent most of his time chipping away at the wall with some sort of tool he’d fashioned out of a bit of metal.  He’d hide the tool and cover his work whenever the guard came in with our rations.

“This went on for a long time.  Then one day I said to him, ‘Break my bonds with that chisel of yours and I’ll help you dig.’  That’s when he came over and looked at me for the very first time.  He was wrinkled and worn and had dingy white hair and a scraggly beard.  Right away I said to myself, ‘I’ve seen this old buzzard before.’  But it wasn’t until he told me his name that I realized who he was.

“I guess my relentless questioning finally wore him down.  We must have been digging away together side by side for over a month when he finally turned to me and said, ‘I am called Dee.  John Dee.  So cease thy prating and trouble me no more.’”

(To be continued …)

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