While Abram and the Elects work out how to counter the a resurgent Meraculus Mercurius, Drago makes a discovery of a far more dangerous enemy—one that has used the MM itself.
from The Silvergrey Sea
Explanations would have to wait.
The danger posed by the intruder and (apparently) abetted by Drago, hadn’t.
The Elects and I looked down to the lawns and saw evidence that a struggle was ongoing.
“Get someone down there to stop that,” The Kokkinos said to the Albedo. “Have both of them brought to the cells. We’ll meet you there.”
That task proved more difficult than anyone anticipated though, in the end, it was done without loss of life. Our guests were much different than they appeared to be and, in the case of the intruder, much less cooperative than we had feared.
We arrived in time to help the wounded to the infirmary and after, stood in a line facing the two.
Each was in a separate space outlined by a white square on the blue stone, apparently without restraint. The closer each approached this perimeter, the more pain they would feel. It would increase until unconsciousness resulted. Both were sitting on the bare floor. Each had made several attempts to escape. Their expressions were a good indication of their feelings about their failure. If looks could kill…
“You are a Hermetist,” the White Elect said to the intruder. “What is your name?”
She remained silent, so I answered, “She is—was—Jayne Hermit.” To the surprised looks on the faces of the Elects, I responded, “I knew her in my early days in Archives.” I described what I remembered, leaving out my knowledge of her association with the Meraculus Mercurius. Though I more or less trusted the Albedo, I still had my doubts about the Kokkinos.
“What happened to you, Jayne Hermit? How did you find our Mercurius? How did you obtain the power to penetrate our defenses? How did you master flight?”
The Hermetist remained silent. It was the other, Drago, who spoke. “She is the Earth Woman now.”
“What does that mean?”
“She was taken by a spirit of Earth.”
“Where did this happen?”
Drago remained silent.
I asked, “What are you, Drago?”
“I am me. I don’t understand what you’re asking.”
“Have you been taken by a spirit?”
The idea seemed to surprise him. “I…I don’t know.”
The Kokkinos broke his silence. “That’ll be all for now, I think. Gentlemen, we must confer.”
The Kokkinos’s residence was a huge, egg-shaped pod nesting in a crook of two of the naves, supported by flying arches. The ground floor was one large room, surmounted by a dozen mezzanines, rising above. Immediately above the latter was an uninterrupted panel of coloured glass ringing the home. The floor was a shallow bowl with an open fire pit at the bottom. Its light descended through the open space and flooded the floor with cool, multi-hued light.
The furniture looked like natural changes in the landscape of the floor, combining form, function, and aesthetics in a way that always made me slightly dizzy. I mean, upon entering the place, it seemed far from clear there were any furnishings at all. Then, walking toward the fire pit, I’d pass (for example) a low mound to find a flat space nestled on its far side and in front, an extrusion—a desk and chair (the blotter and inkstand gave it away). It was like an illusionist’s trick.
We were sitting in comfortable chairs facing one another, at the edge of the fire pit. “Where shall we start?” I asked.
“With the Mercurius I think, Abram.” answered the Albedo.
The Kokkinos sighed and smiled a very tired smile. “I’ve long suspected that the Meraculus Mercurius was still active within the Order,” he began. I was relieved to hear this. There was a good chance that I could trust this Elect as well. “The event in the Silvergrey Sea elevated those fears to the borderland of terror. I determined to discuss the matter with the Mercurius. A trivial feeling counselled me to hold my peace. It was the Mercurius’s reaction to the eruption.”
“She wasn’t troubled,” I asked.
The Red Elect turned to me. “Quite the reverse. She barely kept her fear in check. I’ve known her a long time. Most of her moods are readable to me.”
“I’ve always found her quite inscrutable,” White.
“She’s very good at keeping her feelings hidden, it is true. I do know her tells quite well, however. She was much more frightened than the situation called for.”
“Why, I wonder.”
“I can only assume she had some specific knowledge that I did not.”
“Why would she be bothered by what happened? If she is M.M., wouldn’t the event have pleased her?” I asked. Even as I finished, I thought I knew.
The Red Elect confirmed. “That quake was a sign of something going badly wrong for them. Once I realized what must be happening, I made to leave, but I didn’t get a chance.”
“She is evidently good at reading me. She made all my conclusions and a few of her own.”
“What did she do?” White.
“I’m not sure what it was, but I was compelled to do as she asked of me. She told me the two of you were coming. I was supposed to bring you into her presence. I felt a blind panic at the thought of disappointing her.”
“But she was gone when you entered the room she was supposed to be in.”
“The intruder, the ‘Earth Woman,’ if I remember what that other…Drago?—” I nodded—“Drago said, must have initiated the Mercurius’s exodus when she sensed the break in.”
“Exodus to where, I wonder.” I said.
I wanted answers since I woke in that hotel room on Noir. I thought I’d have to beat them out of a Hermetist.
In a way, it looked like I’d have a chance, virtually speaking; if I counted the creature next to me as a Hermetist anymore, that was.
She had been a Hermetist named Jayne. Now, she looked to be the victim of the same kind of invocation/binding that had happened to me. She certainly didn’t act like it, though.
Currently, she was kneeling, hands on thighs, head down, staring at a spot a few feet in front of her.
“Jayne.” No response. “Help me, Jayne Hermit. Help me understand what’s happened to me.”
Slowly, she raised her head. She didn’t turn to look at me. “Jayne Hermit is dead.”
“Who are you?”
Now she looked at me. I recognized the light in her eyes. It was the one I had worn, whenever I had come through and past the psyche of Drago, the Hyborean. I thought perhaps the woman Jayne might really be gone. “You know.”
I did. “Was Jayne part of the Meraculus Mercurius?”
A chilling smile. “Yes.”
“You were unexpected.”
“As were you.”
“Why are we here? If it was not the M.M., at whose behest?”
“Do you really not know?”
“I have no memory of my exit from the Sea.”
“They must have realized their mistake and tried to return you. You would have been like me before that attempt.”
“I would have known?”
“I want to know. Tell me, please.”
“We were sent by Poseidon.”
A chill. I remembered a presence in the Silvergrey Sea, not a source of fear, for there was no fear for those entitled to rest there, but of wariness. Not a god, but a Will.
“What is it, this Poseidon?”
“The father of the Ten Kings of Atalanté.”
“That’s just a myth…isn’t it?”
“A myth, yes. Also a reality. The myth is a convenience of nomenclature.”
“So, not really a god, just a god’s name for something else. What is the reality?”
“The Templars?” I rifled through Drago’s memories. Not the myth of my youth, but a reality of this future. The Shining Empire, the Pleroma, Thirty Aions (‘universes,’ I would have called them). The wars that had ended it all. Most shocking to me was learning that there was an infinity of Œrths.
“The Templars came from the Silvergrey Sea?”
“The first of them did. Poseidon caused it.”
“Poseidon wants it to start again.”
Another nod. Another disturbing smile. “Will you help? It’s what you were made for.”
I was tempted to tell her that I’d been altered since I was ‘made’ not once, but twice. The Earth Woman would only know about the first.
“Not that long ago, you wanted to ‘end’ me. Why the change of heart?”
“If you’re willing to help, it will save the time that finding you a new vessel would take.”
“You’re on a schedule?”
Only the smile. This one told me it was worth more than my life to make another wise ass remark. Some of Mr. Tranker’s manner had evidently rubbed off on me—I smiled right back; and winked. “Do you expect me to believe you would trust me?”
“You must understand your purpose on some level. You were chosen for this.”
I wondered if that were true. Could the source of my grief be that thing in the Silvergrey Sea? Perhaps this fight was going to be tougher than I anticipated. I could find no knowledge of any of this in Drago’s psyche. Had it been there? Had the merging of our minds erased it?
I realized I needed to know what was likely no longer there. The Earth Woman knew. Only one course of action made sense. “Will I be allowed to return to my rest when this is done?”
“Your return will be effected by the climax of the rite itself.”
“I will help.” I hoped I could bluff my way through this and trick her to give me the info I needed. Then would come the reckoning. “What’s the first move?”
She responded by standing and walking out of the square. I expected something to happen along the lines of what had happened to me when I tried it—pain. She showed no sign of that, however.
She turned and walked right up to me, into my square. She held out her hand, her smile looking much less lethal on her face.
I rose and took it. Together, we walked out of my square. I felt nothing.