The Sword of Paracelsus: Simon’s Tale, Part 3

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Dee!  Morgan had to grip the bench with both hands to keep from falling over.

“That’s when it all came back to me,” Simon went on.  “Dr. John Dee.  English mathematician, inventor, scholar, alchemist.  Lived a long while ago, as you people reckon it.  I had never known him personally, but I was quite familiar with his work.  In fact, there was a time when I used to keep pretty close tabs on him.  He was considered a ‘person of interest’ in the circles I moved in.  So I said to him, ‘You don’t mean the same John Dee who inherited the famous sword of Paracelsus, do you?’”

Morgan gulped and swallowed.  He could feel the blood draining away from his face.  But he kept his mouth closed.

“Well, that seemed to get his goat,” said Simon.  “He straightened up to his full six feet—the man was as tall and thin as a beanpole—and said, ‘What dost thou know of a sword, knave?’  To which I answered, ‘Not much.  What can you tell me?’”

“And what did he say?” blurted Morgan.

Simon eyed the boy closely.  “That’s the odd thing, Mr. Izaak.  Odd as far as I was concerned.  Because he seemed to be saying that the sword had been lost.  In his words, ‘It passed beyond my ken long years before I came to be imprisoned in this pit.’  After he said that, I couldn’t get him to say another word about it.

“Did the two of you ever make it through the wall?” Eny wanted to know.  “Is that how you got out of the dungeon?”

Simon shook his head.  “No, missy.  To the best of my knowledge, Dee is still there.  As for me, I got out in another way altogether.  Do you want to hear about it?”

“Yes, please!”

“Well, then.  Day after day we chopped and hacked away at the mortar and the blocks, but our progress was tedious and slow.  The wall was many courses thick, and we could only move forward one brick at a time.  After a while we started hearing sounds of tapping and chipping on the other side. That gave us hope for a while.  But nothing came of it.  Then one night, when we were both of us about as low as we could get, I had a dream.  Out of that dream I conceived a desperate plan.

“In my dream, I saw the stones of our prison wall dissolve like ice before a flame.  They melted away, leaving a hole the size of a church door.  On the other side I saw the solitary figure of a man.  There was a bright light behind him, so I couldn’t see his face.  He was nothing but a black silhouette against the glare.  He cried out in a loud voice, begging us to come over and help him.  But though he called again and again, I never moved an inch in his direction.  Dee, on the other hand, responded at once.  As I watched, he got up, walked through the hole, and stood beside the man.  Then I awoke.

“Now I remembered that John Dee was a great believer in visions and that sort of thing.  So I knew he’d listen to what I had to say about this dream.

“‘You will break through the wall,’ I told him.  ‘And when you do, someone will be waiting for you on the other side.  I don’t know who he is, but he needs you and you need him.  So you’ve got to finish what we’ve begun, and you’ve got do it alone, because I won’t be with you.  As I understand it, I’m not supposed to be with you.  I’m going away and you’re staying behind—that’s what the dream means.  But I can’t manage it without your help.  So here’s what I think we should do.’  He heard me out and agreed to do as I asked.

“That evening when the guard came with our food I wasn’t sitting by the wall pretending to be shackled as was my usual practice.  I was hiding behind the door with a length of broken chain in my hands.  Dee, meanwhile, was lurking in the shadows on the other side of the cell with his sharpened chisel.  We overcame the brute without much trouble—Fomorians, as Eochy can tell you, are none too smart.

“In the guard’s clothes and with his ring of keys I managed to make my escape.  That’s another long story.  At first Dee insisted on coming with me, but I reminded him of the message of the dream.  Then I promised that if I got safely away I’d come back and set him free.  We had a pretty stiff argument, but eventually I gained my point.

“Just as I was leaving a thought struck me.  I turned to him and said, ‘I seem to recall that the famous Dr. John Dee understood the speech of angels.’

“He said nothing, but merely gave me a sly look.  So I asked, ‘Can you tell me what deh-veev means?’

“At that a bitter smile—the only one I ever saw cross his features—raised the corners of his thin, dry mouth.  ‘Mayhap,’ he said.  ‘But since, as thou sayest, we are like to meet again, I will withhold my answer until thy return.’

“‘Fair enough,’ I replied.  And with that, I stepped into the passage, locked the door behind me, and slipped away.”

Simon fell silent.

“But why didn’t you just knock the guard over the head in the first place?” asked Morgan.

“Two reasons,” Simon answered.  “First, as I’ve already said, I knew the plan was desperate.  I was taking a big risk.  Getting out of the cell was pretty easy.  Getting out of the Morrigu’s Tower—well, that’s another matter.

“The other reason,” he went on, “is harder to explain, but far more important.  What it boils down to is this:  I’ve learned not to make a move until I get a word.  I’m always listening for it, but on this occasion I didn’t hear it until the dream came.  That’s when I knew what I had to do.”

As Simon concluded, Morgan saw Baxter approaching from the other end of the hall, a big wooden cup in his hand and a dazed expression on his pudgy round face.

“What’s going on?” he said, slurping his drink and gaping at the Fir Bolg.  “Who are the munchkins?”

“They’re not munchkins,” said Eny.  “They’re Bag People.  You’d better get used to them if you’re going to spend any time in this world.”

Bag People?  Like ‘Bag Ladies?’”  Baxter laughed.  “Look, I just came over to tell you that the kitchen help”—he hooked a thumb over his shoulder—“are making a big dinner.  They’re taking their sweet time about it, but the food looks good.  They said you guys should get ready.”

Eochy glared at him.  “A ‘dinner’ says he!  A grand Danaan banquet, say I!  A feast, by the beard of Erc!  To celebrate the return of Ollamh Folla!”

“Hush, man,” said Simon.  “The feast will be to honor another.”

“Whatever,” said Baxter.  “I think they’re going to start serving in about half an hour.  At least I hope so.”  He took another long pull at the cup and sauntered off again.

Morgan watched him go with a frown.

“If we’re here on your say-so,” he said to Simon, “how do you explain him?”

“I thought he was your guest!” Simon answered with a twinkle in his eye.

“Him?” said Morgan.  “No way!”

“In that case I can’t help you.  Haven’t had a word on that yet!”

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