Golden Bridge Chronicle
Chapter 6: Old scar and healer
Copyright ©2017-2019 Beldro Mercier & CSU Productions. All Rights Reserved.
Full disclaimer may be viewed at https://storylover.us
Be warn, there is reference to a past suicide attempt by one of the character. I know it is a hard subject and I will tread knowing it.
This chapter will get quite technical on the magic mechanic side, please don’t be rebuffed by it.
To play during reading
-During the coronation : Marche pour la cérémonie des turcs – Jean-Baptiste Lully
-During the hard tale : Let me fall – Quidam Cirque du Soleil
-Awakening related : Seikilos Epitaph – Song of Seikilos (also the oldest complete piece of written music we still can play)
I ran to the bathroom door, asking myself what just happened. I turned the doorknob while I was knocking.
“Is everything alright?” No answer. I only heard the shower still running inside. The door was locked. I repeated myself a couple of time, banging on the door. Nothing. I felt I had no time, so I took a few steps back and with all the force I could give, I slammed into the door. I wasn’t that strong, but the frame wasn’t that solid and desperation gave me the motivation I needed. The lock yielded and the frame split. I was in pain but adrenaline kept me going.
When I crashed through the door, I understood what had happened. Francis was sitting on the ceramic shower floor, deeply sobbing and crying his soul out under the shower’s rain. He had let himself drop to the floor, his pained soul no longer able to support his weight. I climbed into the shower and sat next to him. As soon as I did, he started wailing deeply on my shoulder, crossing his arms in front of him, holding himself tightly. I hugged him from the side, waiting for him to talk, just being there for him.
“What is happening to me? What happened yesterday? I can’t do this anymore. Living in a lie. What else don’t I know? What else has been hidden from me?” He wailed to the universe, clearly breaking down.
“What have I done to the universe to merit this? Couldn’t it be simpler, clearer, things in plain sight, in one box or the other, good things?” He clearly was talking about more than one thing.
Through defeated, puffy red eyes he pleaded with me “You are the only good thing that has happened to me recently and I don’t even know if you are real or if you’re just a lie. I don’t know what to think or feel for you. Please don’t leave me, I need you so that at least something makes a bit of sense.” He choked on his last words, falling in a calmer sobbing. During all this, I rubbed his arm with my hugging hand, while breathing in the smell of his damp hair. I waited for his sobbing to calm.
I kissed him on the top of the head then started. “Do you want me to talk?” He nodded yes. “I don’t know how you feel right now and I can’t answer all your questions, you will have to do that for yourself. But I assure you that I will be there for you, all the way. I am real and I want to be with you. You became, in the short time we have known each other, a really good friend and I really want to help you through whatever you have to face. I will listen and try to help wherever I can. I know the importance of social contacts in order to stay sane. I once had someone who helped me when I was at my lowest. I don’t want you to suffer as I did.” I stopped talking, seeing he had stopped crying.
He looked back at me, concern on his face. “Don’t stop talking, continue, it feels good.”
“Maybe we could finish that shower, and continue it in the bed, it’s a bit dryer there.” I said adding a bit of humour in my response.
There was a bit of concern in his face, doubting my words. “Nothing sexual with the bed, it’s just my only comfortable sitting place.” I answered.
A weak smile appeared for a second, then he extricated himself from my embrace and stood. I helped him clean, first his hair then with the body wash. He let me do it, not having much conviction and wanting to be cared for. It wasn’t at all erotic in my mind, clearly more caring for him, wanting him to be safe, not unlike one might bathe a child. When I finished him, we stepped around in the shower, and I quickly washed myself. He simply stood aside and waited. When I finished, I dried him then myself. I tied the bath towels around his waist and mine, then I led him to the bed. Once there, he simply untied the towel and crawled under the covers, sitting against the wall with a pillow at his back. Seeing his action, I did the same and sat next to him, trying to avoid any contact or perception of seeking it, even if it was the opposite that I wanted. But Francis would have none of it and nearly as soon as I settled myself, he slid to rest his head on my bare chest, clearly seeking human contact, his hand staying above the covers, clutching my right arm.
We stayed like this in silence for a moment, looking out at the morning sky, painted in weak light beams, piercing through the cloudy sky. Our breathing and heartbeats eventually fell in sync. I fully basked in the tranquillity of the moment, knowing that it was just a rest before Francis continued.
“Why do I end up always undressing or being naked around you? And why do I allow it? Before I met you, no one ever saw me in underwear, except maybe my parents when I was younger. And now I am naked with you in bed, with no complex or care about it. Nothing sexual in it, which I was afraid of, and no deeper intent.” The last phrase put a cold drop to my mind’s intention. Maybe he wasn’t feeling the same way toward me that I felt. Good thing I kept it amicable.
He continued. “The first time I came here, the Tai-Chi and meditation really helped me start to accept my body, to build some self-esteem for what I look like. I know I am not wonderful, even a bit plain, but the shame of it is slowly reducing.”
Hearing him say that was a bit of a shock. How could he think he wasn’t good looking? True, he wasn’t looking like a model, a body builder or the idea of male beauty that was projected to us, but he had a natural look, in all it’s imperfections. Those were coherent with what he was and his journey. Seeking perfection was a fool’s errand. It took me time to realize it, but it was good that he was also seeing the wisdom.
“Anyway, I feel that I see the world differently. I don’t know how or why, but I feel it, out of the corner of my sight. What happened yesterday? I remember talking to Master Fox and you. What exactly is still a bit blurry, but I know it made me angry. Then I don’t exactly know, it feels as a dream.” He really was trying to remember.
“Well yesterday, you Awoke as a mage. I don’t know what you saw for yourself, but you did something called a Mystery Play, seeing the mundane world for exactly what it was for you, depending on which of the Towers your soul was trying to link to. And anyone around could witness a part of it and become an actor in it for you. In your case, you made the spirit in the Twilight Realm appear to all, them bowing to your power. I even think Master Fox came to show his respect to you and defend your honor. Then you healed an old scar of mine on the back of my hand. Finally, you went in the river.” He gasped at that moment. I continued retelling the story. “I don’t know what you did there, but you came out after some time, without any problem with a whetstone in hand. In fact, this whetstone to be precise.” Pointing to a stone next to his wallet, still drying from the previous adventure. “Then you finalized your Mystery Play by using that stone to sign your name on a bench. Then the effect stopped and reality took back control. You were in deep hypothermia and I brought you back here to heat you back up. Everything you had on was damp, so I removed them, put you to bed to heat you back up. That’s why you woke up this morning the way you were. Sorry if it bothered you, but it was necessary. For you, what do you remember of it?”
“You did the right thing, I would have done exactly the same thing, including going naked with the person to heat them back up with body heat. They taught us that in winter survival camping.” I blushed a bit considering being naked with him, wasn’t to heat him up, but I kept that to myself. “At least your side made more sense then for me. I saw myself in a royal court, at my coronation, with the halls made of vines and trees interlaced, bathed in light. I was brought to a throne, unfinished and made of golden bricks, each one signed by someone. Different anthropomorphic animals, dressed in Renaissance courtier dress, came to me to swear fealty. There were also, pure animals, and other humanoid forms that came to swear to me. Master Fox was next to me, dressed as my loyal royal Steward. Then someone showed disrespect and he was summarily beheaded. Finally you showed up, dressed in a court outfit, with your canvas and brushes. You started painting my portrait, but I saw that you were bleeding from your hand. Seeing that, I bandaged it. You finished the painting. I am not sure of what you painted, but I remember loving it.” He stopped there, clearly remembering something, but choosing not to say it. “Then it was time for my anointing. I undressed, which seemed exactly what I needed to do and I walked into the pool that occupied a fourth of the hall, to one of the sides, just behind the throne. I fully immersed myself, fully able to breath under the water, and the water itself cleansed my body, meticulously, scrubbing me. When it was finished, I saw at the bottom of the pool a shining emerald pen. I dove to fetch it. When I came out, still dripping from the water, I declared to the assembly something, I don’t remember what. Then I signed my name on a new golden brick that was brought to me, with the emerald stylus, and I added it to the throne. Finally I sat on the throne and the dream ended, with a cold wind blowing throughout the whole hall, misting away the characters, Master Fox and you last. That’s what I remember.” He stopped for a moment, letting the moment sink in, and moving forward. “So what is that Tower you talked about earlier?” He asked.
“You remember yesterday when Master Fox spoke about the existence of the Abyss, dividing the Mundane Realms from the Supernal Realms.” He nodded his head. “Well, if the legends are to be believed, at the start of the universe, there was no Abyss, the Mundane and Supernal were quite near, and magic was freely used by Willworkers, Mages. We were brought by dragons to a place for the mages, that we now know in legends as Atlantis. One by one the dragons left and eventually, we were alone on our island. We knew that the Supernal was near and some of us, wanting to facilitate the journey there, built a Silver Ladder, directly linking the Mundane and the Supernal. That was the first clear act of hubris from us, showing our worst weakness, the quest for power. Then some mages among them, thinking that not all should be allowed to access the Supernal Realms and Magic, started a war over the Silver Ladder. It was a hard fought battle, but we lost, and in the process, the Ladder broke and with it the Abyss was created and Atlantis fell into the waves. The mages who remained fled to the rest of humanity, bringing their knowledge and magic with them. But it became harder and harder to do magic, the Abyss growing, reducing the connection with the Supernal. Also, the Mundane, no longer being kept awake forgot about it and created Paradoxes, the Lie, the Sleep and Quinessence.”
“But at the bleakest of it all, some mages, felt a beacon away in their soul. They followed it and found Towers. Not all the mages that stayed on the Supernal Realm side during the war were the Usurpers. Five enlightened kings dispersed in the five realms of the Supernal Realm : Aether, Arcadia, Pandemonium, Stygia and The Primal Wild. There they each built a Tower to allow Mages to link to the Supernal realms and keep a connection to it. Each mage must do that journey of Awakening and at the end sign the Tower with their True name, definitely linking your soul to that realm. Each realm has a particular purview of Arcana that it represents, the kind of spells you can do.”
“In my case, being linked with the Aether, I am more attuned with the Arcanum of Forces, associated with all forms of energies, and the Arcanum of Prime, associated with magic itself. Those who are like me are named Obrimos. In your case, considering your Mystery Play, I would guess you are a Thyrsus, linked with the Primal Wild, attuned with the Arcanum of Life, associated with healing and manipulating living things, yourself as well as others, and the Arcanum of Spirit, associated with everything linked with the Spirit Realms. Do you understand?” I asked after that long explanation, him looking back at me, now on his back, his head resting on my lap, listening with deep interest to what I was saying.
“I think so, it is a lot to digest. But now, what are the Twilight Realm and the Spirit Realm? What is the difference between the Mundane and the Supernal? It’s quite complicated.” He asked.
“Well, ok, here is the condensed version of the cosmology of the universe from what we know. I will describe it in geographical terms, but remember there is no notion of the third dimension in it all, or it is not that straightforward. First of all, the Supernal Realm isn’t a physical place, it’s a conceptual place, where the Arcana are experienced fully, without the mundane world giving it shape. It’s a bit in contradiction to the Golden Bridge and the Silver Ladder being physical objects to physical places, but that’s the nature of Magic. Between us and it, there is the Abyss. The Mundane World, where we live. On the same level, as another phase of matter, to explain it, there is the Twilight realm, where hidden things like spirits and ghost reside when they are trapped here. Spirits are hard to define but from what I know, they are the manifestations of concepts, similar to kami in the Shinto faith. They originate from the Spiritual Realm or Shadow World, accessible through the Gauntlet. They interact and represent things from the Mundane world, but they live under there own laws and in their own world. Ghosts are created when a soul remains behind after the death of the body. They anchor themselves to something in the Mundane world and stick here. When they are liberated, they go to the Lower Depths, where the Ghosts reside, away from us. Finally, there is the Astral Realm, where dreams and ideas reside. The Astral realm can reach anywhere in the cosmology, if you know where you are going and if you travel far enough, even the Supernal realms. But it is quite a dangerous journey and you can lose yourself in the process. So that’s it for the realms, at least that I know of.”
Francis seemed a bit lost in it all, but he would eventually understand, he didn’t need to learn it all on the first day of his Awakening.
“But don’t be afraid of it all, it will all come into place in time. And yes, you are more attuned with some kinds of spells, but it doesn’t limit you only to them. You will never be good with the Arcanum of Death, considering your strong link with life, but everything else is open to you. For example, I am myself better at the Arcanum of Space, related with the notion of distance, or the illusion of distance between things and places, than the Arcanum of Forces. I will teach you in time how to cast a spell, but it won’t be today. You have enough on your mind, and I have to find a Thyrsus to teach the specifics to you.” I finished the teaching part and realizing I was lightly massaging his hair with one of my hands. We stayed that way for some time, him closing his eyes and thinking about something, probably processing the information. I was accepting that it will not go further between us staying at the friend level, considering his comment. It was hard to lose it, but I knew from the start it was my belief and dream, not reality.
Softly, after some time, Francis spoke. “Why was your order managing my father’s estate? For how long have you been observing me?” He spoke with some bluntness in his voice, having difficulty hiding the accusatory tone.
“We managed your father’s estate primarily because he was a member of our Order and we didn’t know if anything he possessed was dangerous, specifically to the Sleepers. And since you were not a Mage yet, it was thought that you should not be told. We believe strongly that Knowledge is power and that it is not best to tell something if the receiver isn’t ready for it. For the second part, I don’t know for how long you were under our observation. I only learned of your existence the day I met you. But since your family’s Legacy has been part of our order for multiple generations, and also that you were a sleepwalker, a rarity, I wouldn’t be surprised they were observing you for quite some time. But probably they really put any effort after your father’s death, since before that, I would assume they thought your father was doing the observation. You should know that a long lineage of Mage as yours is extremely rare, even more considering it’s unbroken for many generations.” I felt him relax after my explanation.
I felt and heard his stomach growl from hunger. Looking at my clock for the first time since we got in the bed, it was nearly noon. We both snickered a little.
“Someone must be hungry, would you care for a late brunch? I had prepared some tea, but it must be cold by now. What would you like?” I asked, starting to move him off me so I could stand.
“Yes, food would be really good after all this and I am starving.” Then he shied away and, like a child asking for a favor, he asked cutely. “Could we eat some bacon and eggs, with all the trimmings if possible?”
I smiled and accepted his request. He jumped in happiness off the bed to the kitchen. “I will help you do it, what do you want me to do?” He had really grown into the naturist part of the house rules, not even caring to search for any clothing.
“I will start collecting the items. Could you fetch all the dirty or wet clothes and towels and start a wash. The washing machine is in this storage room.” Pointing to the storage room where there also were my paintings and paint supplies. I started to collect the eggs, bacon, potatoes and orange juice for the brunch. He activated himself and started to gather what I asked, around the bed, in the hamper and in the bathroom. I continued enjoying the view, now unblocked by underwear. His flaccid manhood, was impressive. Nothing ridiculous, but nothing to be ashamed of. It was surrounded by an unkempt fiery ginger bush. The white skin of his rod, framed by the bush, made for quite an interesting sight and caught my attention. And from behind, his butt was a bit bulbous, not the boring flat butt that men usually have. A good thing I was behind the counter, because, I got a bit of a rise from the show. I kept my sight off of him and back to the meal, willing my arousal away. It worked and by the time he came back to the kitchen, the first wash was started.
“How can I help you now?” He asked with enthusiasm leaning on the kitchen island.
“Help me peel the potatoes, while I start cutting then cooking them. When you are finished, I will start on the eggs and bacon. Could you prepare the plates?” I asked. He accepted and we did as I said. When I started the cooking part, I put on an apron, having learned that cooking splashes are quite painful. I was quite happy with the whole situation, considering. I unconsciously danced a little while I was cooking at the stove. I didn’t know it but I gave quite a show to Francis, sitting at the island, waiting for the meal to finish cooking. When it was done, I brought the plates and a new pot of tea to the island, undoing the apron and sat next to him. It was a good meal that we appreciated in silence, both being hungry after the previous day ordeal.
After the meal, having cleaned our plates, Francis leaned back on the stool, smiling and full. “Wow, it has been a long time since I ate a breakfast as good as this. I usually don’t do anything complicated, if I cook at all. The only time I try to eat well, is when I go camping.” He took a sip of his cup of tea then turned to look at me and I could see some concern on his face. “You spoke about having received help when you were at your lowest, would you want to talk about it?”
It was a bold and hard question. I haven’t talked about it with many people. I felt I could trust him and that he needed that story to understand me.
“Let us go back to the bed for that discussion.” I said.
“I will go manage the wash, I think the first one has finished.” Having heard the washing machine alarm during the meal it did had finish. He went to the storage room where the washer was, while I tidied the kitchen, organizing my thoughts on what we were going to talk about next.
I sat on the bed and he followed me with the teapot and our cups, after he finished starting the second wash. He directed all his attention on me.
“First of all, know that this is all behind me now. It is part of my past but now I am way better than I was then. I have always been quite hard on myself. I felt misunderstood, misaligned with the rest of my surroundings. First I thought it was my artistic side, that I tried to hide from my friends at school. My natural talent put me apart from the rest of my peers. I was often praised for it by the teachers and felt the jealousy from others. I tried not to draw, paint or create, trying to fit in with the other kids, thinking in my young mind that it was the cause. Bless my parents that kept me doing it at home. I thought it for the longest time, but eventually I couldn’t hide it anymore, I was an artist and had to live it.” I then knew where next I was going and I braced for the next reveal.
“Next, I thought it was my sexual orientation. Just so you know, I am gay.” I waited for a reaction, but nothing came, his face staying neutral, listening. “I had a hard time processing and accepting it. It was for me my second coming out. When I did, at least, my parents accepted me as I was and the few friends I had weren’t that surprised. But I still felt isolated from them, they were not living the sense of disconnect I felt. Yet again, I felt there was something else that was setting me apart from the rest. I poured myself into my work, into my studies, to drown the voice inside me telling me that I would never find the answer to my questions, why I felt so alienated. I drifted further and further away from my family and friends, isolating me from their happiness. I didn’t want to be a burden to them. Now I know I needed help, professional help, at that point, but I was so deep inside my depression that I couldn’t muster the strength to go find my help. And I had so isolated myself so no one could hear my cries for help. And so, during my bleakest moment, during a cold and dark November night, two years ago, I jumped.” Francis gasped at the action. We both had streams of tears on our cheeks. Francis propped himself up to hug me, showing he cared about that scar in my soul.
We stayed like that for a time. When the tears stopped, I put Francis back on my lap, continuing the story. “What I didn’t know at that time, was that the reason I jumped was because, during that night, I was Awakening, doing a mystery play, but I would say a bad one, tormented and tortured. And the only light I was seeing was at the bottom of that river, down from that bridge. While I was falling, I was seeing myself flying, liberated from my burden, having revealed my interior light, the only one that I had left. But it was the brightest, the strongest I had ever seen. I dropped in the water, my angel wing being torn from my body, back in the darkness. The current was taking me away. Then I felt a branch under one of my fingers and I grasped it with all my strength, my taste for life coming back to me. I was pulled from the water by a man. He was aureoled in light, probably from the water in my eyes and the street light behind his head, but he definitively felt as an angel. Then it became a bit of a blur, but he warmed me back up using spells, then paramedics arrived, but since I was now in good health, I signed papers to release myself. Then the man conducted me to his house, to nurse me back up. I had become a mage and he had witnessed it. He came to my rescue, seing it wasn’t going well. He was my first mentor and understood the last thing that was bothering me. That feeling of having unanswered questions I had been feeling, that I was being lied to by the universe and so I felt incomplete. Now by Awakening, I had the means to answer those questions and now I am at peace with myself. I know I am still fragile and prone to those kind of thoughts, but I now always know my own value and I have something to work towards. He introduced me to the Mysterium Order and helped me establish myself as an artist, pushing me to do my master’s degree.” Clearly it was a fond memory and it showed on my face.
“Well, can I meet him? He seems a good guy, clearly he cared for you.” Francis asked with a point of joy in his voice.
“Sadly, a year after I met him, so nearly a year ago, he died. He was struggling with prostate cancer.” I answered calmly.
“Oh, so sorry for you, what was his name? And wasn’t he a mage, couldn’t he, I don’t know, cure it?” Francis asked interested and concerned.
“His name was Marc Chrétien. He was about 65 year old. Mages are not immortal or invulnerable. Even as a mage, Marc wasn’t able to be cured and the mundane treatment was not effective and did not cure him. And so he chose to alleviate the pain and the symptoms, but live a shorter life. It didn’t stop him, he knew his end was coming but he chose how he would live the remaining time that was given to him. I think he saw my struggle as his last project, what he would leave behind to make a better world. He lived alone, from what I saw. He seldom spoke of a previous partner or spouse. His past was clearly a difficult subject for him. I decided never to delve into it.” I paused for a time.
“I am not bitter about his death. It was abrupt and difficult, but he was serene with his choice and I respect his decision. We worked together in my education as a mage, and at the end, he made me sole heir to his estate. He had no children or any surviving family. He worked with me through his thought process, his decision, his life philosophy of embracing the destiny and the goals which we are given. And through it, I was able to lessen the grief his death brought. I am at peace with it and I work to be worthy of his teachings. Death will come to claim us all, but we decide what to do with the time that is given to us.” I ended, pondering the words I just said. We were both lost in our thoughts looking out to the outside. What should I do with the time that was given to me?
We stayed in thought for some time, seeing the changing sky, a show of light rays coming down to earth. I committed that image to memory, of us looking out to the outside. Francis had not moved since our brunch, still resting his head on my lap, me mindlessly playing with his hair with one hand, resting the other on his side. His face was a little troubled. There was something still bothering him, but it wasn’t clear what. We stayed like that, in synch in our breathing.
Then an alarm rang. It made us both jump in surprise. It was simply the washing machine having finished its cycle. It broke the moment, we both giggled a bit about both having been startled by it. Francis stood and said he would be going to manage the laundry. I said I needed to do a bit of painting if he didn’t mind. My mind needed to be emptied of all the images I had memorized. I took out canvases and pencils and started to sketch; Francis sleeping with the light rays and us looking out to the world. I kept to the perspective I had at the moment. I became lost in the process, madly sketching and then starting the colors. Then I was brought out of my rhythm because I was missing of one of my colors. I kept some in my storage room.
Having forgotten about Francis being in my apartment, I went in the storage room and I stumbled on him. He was on the floor, looking at a painting he had taken out of my stack, the stack of stored paintings, including the erotic nude painting of us two I had hidden there, inspired by the renaissance dream. He was looking at exactly that one, in a trance.
“This is the painting you drew during my Awakening.” Francis said troubled.
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