“Not exactly what you’d expect from a kid like that, is it?” said a voice from over Morgan’s shoulder.
He looked up. This time it was his father.
“Can’t say I’m surprised,” said John Izaak. “People can change in amazing ways when they get into tight, hot spots.”
Morgan tried to smile back. “The crucible. Right?”
His dad nodded. “True transmutation. Why, anybody would suppose you’d been reading Jacob Boehme!”
Morgan got up, put his arms around his father’s waist, and leaned his head against his chest. As he did, the tears began to flow again. Hard as he tried, he could not hold them back this time.
“I can tell you a lot about the Philosopher’s Stone,” said John Izaak, speaking very softly. “I’m also well versed in the lore of the Gral and the Sword. I know a good deal about Lia Fail, too—at least the part of its history that has to do with Jacob’s Pillow Stone. But I don’t understand what’s happened to Eny and Simon.”
Morgan looked up through his tears. “Why can’t anything ever go right without something else going wrong?” he said bitterly.
“What do you mean?”
Morgan felt hot anger welling up in the midst of his grief. “Mom got better, but then we lost the Stone. After that I started trying to find you. I wanted to find you more than anything in the world, and I did! And now that I’ve found you, I’ve lost Eny!” And the tears flowed afresh.
“I see,” John Izaak said gently, stroking his son’s hair. “And yet I don’t. Exactly where did Eny go?”
Morgan sniffed and wiped his eyes. “I should have realized! How many times did they try to tell me? All of them! The very first time I ever heard of Lia Fail, Mrs. A was explaining that the Stone could never rest until it came to the land of the sun’s going. Simon Brach agreed: ‘The Stone seeks its own destiny.’ The bard said the same thing in his song. But I think Eny knew it better than anyone else. She’s the one who told me, ‘Lia Fail travels the path foretold, no matter what we say or do: the Stone takes the road of its own choosing. We don’t control it. It decides.’”
“Apparently she was right.”
“Eny’s like that, Dad. She knows things. She sees what other people can’t see. And now I understand why. It’s because her destiny is tied to the Stone’s! It always has been! She is the Maiden of Perfect Purity, and she belongs in Inisfail! That’s where she’s gone! I should have been able to figure it out on my own! She tried to tell me—just last night! But I was too stupid to listen.”
Again he buried his face in his father’s ragged coat. But this time there were no tears.
“Dad,” he said after a while, “now that I’ve told you what you wanted to know—”
“Well … there’s something I want you to tell me.”
His father stood back and held him at arm’s length. “Name it.”
“When we were in the Morrigu’s tower,” Morgan proceeded slowly, “you asked me how I got hold of the Sword of Paracelsus.”
“So I did.”
“And now I’m going to ask you the same thing.”
John Izaak rubbed his chin and chuckled softly. “A puzzle, isn’t it? Four hundred years is a long, long time.”
“Four hundred years?”
“That’s how long the sword was lost. Before I bought it.”
“Mm hm. At an exhibition and auction of alchemical artifacts in St. Louis.”
“But—who lost it?”
At this point old John Dee stepped up and interposed himself.
“Zooks, man!” he protested. “I never lost it! I told thee—I cast it away! At Paracelsus’ bidding!”
Morgan’s father laughed. “So you’ve told me many times. But that doesn’t explain how thing ended up at that exhibit. And just in time for me to find it!”
Dee frowned and wrinkled his brow.
“I know naught of a certainty,” he said, pulling at his scraggly beard. “Yet mayhap that which the lad hath spoken of the Stone is true of the Sword as well. Thou didst not find it. It found thee. It came to thee of itself—at the proper time and for the right purpose. Perchance there is no more we can say.”
John Izaak glanced over at Morgan. “You know what, old friend?” he said, turning to Dee and taking a firm grip of the ancient alchemist’s withered hand. “I believe you’re right! And isn’t that always the way of it? ‘In the fullness of time. A time for every purpose under heaven.’ That’s how it seems to me when I look back over the events of my life.”
For the first time since Morgan had laid eyes on the man, a smile played around the corners of John Dee’s wry mouth.
“Ha!” he laughed. “Marry, it rejoiceth me to hear the words of Scripture in thy mouth! But now methinks the time of our parting is at hand. For mine own appointed hour draweth nigh, and it cometh strong into my mind that somewhere beyond this cavern door, whether near or far, lieth that sceptered isle men call England, and Mortlake, the place I call home. I will not conceal that am heartsick with longing to see them. So I bid thee farewell, my friend, and au revoir, for I cannot but hope that we shall meet again.”
With that he raised John Izaak’s hand to his lips and kissed it. Then he turned and stood for a moment, gazing at the restless waves and the gathering mists and the shining pebbles on the beach. At last, as Morgan and his father watched, he sighed deeply, gathered up the ragged skirts of his robe, and stepped out into the fitful sunlight.
Instantly his body was reduced to a pile of dust and ashes on the threshold of the Cave of the Hands.
(To be continued …)