Morgan breathed a sigh of relief. But in the next instant his ears were assailed by another sound, this one even more dreadful than the whirlpool’s mournful wail. For over his head, on the tail of the shrieking wind, came a chorus of shrill and desperate cries—the voices of Sengann, Slanga, and Crimthann. Looking back towards the Morslogh, he saw their currach spinning like a leaf on the cusp of the abyss. A moment later it was sliding down the sheer glassy slope of the Maelstrom’s inner side, disappearing into the lightless depths without a trace.
“Horrible!” groaned Baxter, covering his eyes.
But Morgan couldn’t help recalling the conclusion of Eny’s story. “Maybe not,” he said, thinking back to that night—it seemed so long ago!—when he had found her dripping with seawater on the front porch of the duplex in Santa Piedra. “Remember, we’re in the Sidhe. Strange things happen here.”
His father eyed him curiously. “I believe you’re right. In any case, they’re beyond our help now. We have to keep on following the Stone, come what may. Look! Simon, Eny, and Eochy are still up ahead, right behind Lia Fail!”
Morgan peered at the curving shoreline. It was bending towards another narrow inlet, and at the head of this inlet appeared something like a small black spot in the face of the white cliff. The closer they came, the larger it grew. Eyeing it intently through the spray and the mist, he soon realized that the spot was in fact the mouth of a cave. A minute more and Lia Fail was plunging straight into this gaping hole in the rock, drawing the two remaining currachs after it.
And now came darkness—a darkness deeper, denser, more impenetrable than anything he had ever known. Down through the opening in the cliff hurtled the two little boats, in under the shadow of the overhanging rock, along an underground torrent, and into the jaws of a sunless chasm …
Dark essentiality. Black bile in dry earth. Absence of all, negation of none. Tangible tincture, trembling turba, anguish of anxious Mercury. Before the beginning, before all time, before the spoken Word—world without end, world without light.
Where there is stillness, he thinks, is neither joy nor motion. For all life, external and internal, consists in poison and light. Kingdoms in conflict. Out of the Iliaster and up through the fiery hungry desire. The seed of the woman and the serpent’s head. The astrum and the sulphur. Calcination, Dissolution, and Separation. Conjunction, Fermentation, Distillation, Coagulation.
Time, times, and half a time. And then a sudden something. The Flagrat. A displaying flash, brief as a heartbeat, small as a pinprick. In the distance, a spark like a heavenly jewel. The Broken Sword. The Noble Stone. The Bridegroom and the Bride. The Sister and the Spouse. For the one is the cause of the other, and the love-lubet rules them all.
Faith, he says, is incessant desire; satisfaction the never-ending ache. And as he speaks—or is it the voice of another he hears?—the stars blaze overhead. He lifts his face; they drip with strands of gold. They rain down beads bright as evening dew. They swoop and swell in luminous festoons. Upward heaves the vaulted ceiling. Downward bend the gleaming spears. Outward shoot the smooth-bright crystal walls. And nearer now, just where the stream flows on to the end of the gallery, he sees a light at the end of the long, black tunnel.
(To be continued …)