“The overman has organized the chaos of his passions, given style to his character, and become creative. Aware of life’s terrors, he affirms life without resentment.”
~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Kipling Kilroy allowed his horse to plod casually up the winding path that ascended the bluff to the entrance to the Hall of Memories.
Negotiations he had undertaken earlier in the day with various merchants in Hypnos Somnos had helped restore the keen wit he was sure had been dulled somewhat by his night on Punta Epsilon. The wind that now blew to him from off the Styx was helping as well.
He presumed he would find Jasco meditating in the Hall of Memories, unless she had decided to go elsewhere to project her astral form into the quiet realm. Kip had not seen her in her quarters on the Lady Anuket this morning but knew that wherever she was she would be working to get Ancaster Crowely to meet with him.
He counted himself fortunate to have such a dedicated associate, and friend, on this mission. That was his nature. He counted himself fortunate for a lot of things.
Indeed, save for one major event in his life – the murder of Anuket, his beloved and betrothed – Kipling Kilroy typically thought of himself as the luckiest man in the multiverse. This, despite what many would say was a life defined by tragedy and loss.
He remembered almost nothing of his life before the moment he had woken up in the medical apartment of the imperial pyramid of Memphis Nova I. Though his head had ached terribly, he had been awestruck by his alien surroundings. Never would he forget how – though he could not even remember his own name – he had thought of the word Egypt. Later, when he would look back on that time, he would reason that he had recognized the Egyptian themes in the architecture and in the fashion of dress of those who had cared for him.
How could he have known then, that the Egyptian culture he knew of from his early life on Earth was in fact derived from the Martian culture of his new home, which in turn, was of course, derived from the culture of Heliopolis?
He had chosen the name Kipling Kilroy for himself after his adoptive father, Pharaoh Garuk Motankhamun IV, had insisted he choose an Earth name to replace the one he had forgotten. He was never sure why he had chosen that name. Even though he did discover later that he enjoyed the literary work of the British writer Joseph Rudyard Kipling and guessed he had read one or more of his books in his previous life. Kilroy, he had remembered as well and had just liked the sound of it.
When he had awakened from his trauma, he had not even known he was from Sanctuary. He remembered basic things in the manner of most amnesiacs, like how to talk, fragments of general information, and matters of social conduct, but he remembered almost nothing of his life before he had been rescued from the shipwreck. From his perspective, the moment his drowned body had been pulled along with four others from the icy Atlantic by a Martian merchant saucer had been the moment of his birth.
Upon hearing the others had not survived he had fallen into a deep sadness. But even worse than that had been the guilt. How could he grieve parents, siblings, he knew nothing about? Did he even have parents and siblings? As the sole survivor of a shipwreck he could not recall – he had also possibly lost a family he remembered nothing about on a world he could not recollect.
But both the sadness and the guilt were not to last, for almost from the instant he awoke on Memphis Nova I, he felt he had been living a dream – a young man’s fairy tale life of action, adventure and discovery. He remembered enough general information from his former life to know that, in a lot of ways, he was perhaps the most fortunate young man alive. This sentiment never left him. And his happy, grateful, enthusiastic nature would come to precede him everywhere he went.
Almost immediately, the Martian warpriests had spoken of the prophecies; and almost immediately after that, the Pharaoh had agreed with them. Kip was to be trained secretly and intensively for his unique place in the cosmos; and in accordance with the prophecies – even beyond the typical Martian distaste for the practice of the arts of the deeper mind – any training whatsoever involving the practice of sorcery was strictly forbidden.
He was also forbidden from ever returning to Sanctuary, with one exception: the single trip it was foretold he must make to Atlantis. It was a moment he now felt was fast approaching: the moment when he would finally stand face-to-face with Ancaster Crowley – and therefore face-to-face with his destiny.
His training in military strategy and combat on the Jupiter stations, his formal education in cosmic history, mathematics, literature, philosophy, trade, the arts, and the sciences in the Martian court and on field trips through the Martian gatestreams, his dreamship training at the Martian naval academy on the Titan outpost, and his years of service – not just to Mars, but to Olympus and Heliopolis as well, had lead him to this moment.
As the unique product of the enhanced Earther capacity for reason that developed in the absence of sorcery combined with the more mystical perspective embraced by the cultures beyond The Rim, he had matured into a being unique in all of reality: one with a unique part to play in the machinations of the history of the cosmos.
Kipling Kilroy, son of both Earth and Mars, would be the one who would introduce his fellow Earther, Ancaster Crowley, the one who would be Abraxas, to a larger world than he would ever have known; and more than that, he would be the one who would watch him, guide him and would endeavour to prevent him from fulfilling his monstrous destiny.
He would be the first of those who would come to be known as The Sentinels of Sentience.
And so, although his true mission was highly secret (even he did not know that the Pentarchy had initiated his training) Kipling Kilroy was respected – even loved – by most who knew him. Not just because he was a novelty and a celebrity – an Earther raised in the court of Mars – but also because of his gregarious nature, his lustful approach to life, his virtuous and generous character, and his contagious courage and enthusiasm.
Despite having deeply loved and truly lost, and despite having no recollection of his childhood or his true family, Kipling Kilroy had come to, not merely love his life – but to love life in general.
He leaned back in his saddle, closed his eyes, and swayed with the cadence of his horse’s ascent of the winding path. Inhaling the clear sea air deeply, he opened his eyes and saw the enormous ornately carved arch of the Stygian entrance to the Hall of Memories carved into the rock of the bluff. The blazing pink of the astral realm rose up behind it from the west.
He remembered Jasco, whom he expected to find in the hall. He was close enough now that, if she were there, the telepathic signal they had prepared upon would work.
Kip concentrated on his nickname for his adoptive father, King Gary. The name had always made Jasco laugh, for as a reaper she had travelled to Sanctuary and was familiar with the irony of such a typical, humble name being applied to such an atypical, man of such significance.
And just as he suspected he would, Kip felt a wordless, warm sensation in his third eye. An unconscious response from Jasco to that told him she was indeed physically in the hall and that she was at work in the quiet realm.
He would approach quietly so as not to arouse her from her deep meditative state and he would take some time to indulge himself in the powers of the Hall of Memories.
He was at a turning point in his life. Indeed, it was a turning point for all of the lives in all of reality.
For the burden he bore now and would bear for the rest of his days, he felt he deserved the indulgence.
“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”
~ Friedrich Nietzsche
The Banjoman’s Enclave
Somewhere between mind and manifestation
Here on the edge of Limbo, where his personal probability fields interplayed with the magical ley lines of reality, was a place dear to The Banjoman. Blossoming from a cocktail of forces at the intersection of the deepest, truest nature of his being and the shifting zephyrs of probability that underlie energy, matter and form, this handsome white farmhouse in this peaceful field was a constant for him.
He walked up the wooden steps shaking loose some of the peeling white paint and sat on the swaying porch-swing. Looking down, he noticed a cool glass of lemonade had appeared on the arm of the swing: another manifestation of his whims made real in this place both obscure and indefinable. He picked up the lemonade, took a sip, wiped his moustache on the sleeve of his grey hooded sweatshirt, and soaked in the quiet beauty of the closest thing he had to a home.
He always came here when he needed to think.
His banjo murmured its contentment to him. Putting it in his lap, he plucked a repetitive bum-ditty mantra that always put him in a good mental place to contemplate his next move.
Even though it was possibly the oldest mind in the multiverse, The Banjoman’s banjo had no name. Forged from a block of sentient metal assumed to be over 40 billion years old by Sanctuary Reckoning. It was far older even than this and most other universes. Taken from the collapsing heart of the first star to form in the first big bang that was the first universe, the metal was self-aware and intelligent in the same way that many of the earliest stars in many universes tend to be.
Of simple, elegant design and pleasing proportions, it had been forged for The Banjoman by the esteemed dwarf smiths of Huran-Tor. Its only decorations were a stripe of inlaid white marble running the entire length of its neck, and an Ouroboros that was carved into the metal rim of the drum. Its skin was the hide of the Nemean Lion slain by the Olympian, Heracles. Its strings were crafted from the Achilles tendon of a dragon from the realm of Fey. And while it was nigh indestructible, harder than the hardest diamond, and heavier than an Earth automobile, it had an enchantment upon it that made it as light as balsa wood in the hands of The Banjoman.
It had liberated countless souls and scattered the aether of innumerable beings – and its reputation preceded it wherever The Banjoman went. Any who had witnessed the mastery of its use – either as an instrument of war, or as an instrument of grace – took heed to temper their conduct in their dealings with The Banjoman.
Finishing his lemonade, he looked up and saw an eagle light atop a tall tree in the field near the end of the laneway. He thought he saw a young man sitting beneath the tree but he knew that was not possible. No being other than he could exist here. He wondered if this was a sign of something: a manifestation of events occurring out in the world, picked up by his mind and projected onto the canvas of this malleable pocket of reality. The image clicked in his consciousness and became a feeling that Jasco had succeeded in meeting with Andy. Good.
Now, The Banjoman’s thoughts bore down on the part he must play in Kilroy’s plan. He smiled at the thought of the night on Punta Epsilon and slapped his hand down on his knee.
Then he focused.
Lucifer owed him fifteen souls, fair-trade, no-strings, and interest free. But Lucifer had surmised that The Banjoman owed him at least fifteen souls as reparation because he had helped turn the Olympian and Asgardian courts against the interests of Hades and Helheim in the War of Hells complicating his annexation immensely. Most immortals would look the other way on a matter such as this, but unlike most, Lucifer was not inclined to see The Banjoman as a god, or a cosmic force. He held him beneath a station that should be afforded such courtesy, rather regarding him as an aimless vagrant, and a purposeless meddler.
As the Lord of Limbo saw it Lucifer had creatively rationalized away his debt.
This was not acceptable to him and he was going to collect.
His eyes lit up and his cheeks burned.
He lifted his bowler hat, pushed a shock of red hair back off his forehead and replaced it. Then he pulled the hood of his grey sweatshirt up over his bowler hat and reached for his banjo. When he took his first step, a nervous shiver, definable by no means either scientific or sorcerous, rippled through the multiverse and ran up all the spines of all the beings in all the times of all the worlds.
Shouldering the ancient banjo, he stepped off the porch into the too-tall grass, shifted to his peripheral vision, opened his third eye, and stepped into Limbo proper. Here, the immortal winds would help erode the anger he felt. The quest he had just decided to undertake would require the better judgment of a more even temper.
He looked to his left and there he saw the family of four warmoles that stood by outside his enclave. The elders, Phibore and Nexusa were contentedly grooming one another while the youngsters, Frinjala and Psidril tunnelled playfully to somewhere else in spacetime and back again – likely grabbing giant insects from some realm or another on the other end of the wormholes they created with their powerful reality-rending fore-claws.
Larger than an Earth draft horse, with an appearance more like a badger than a mole, the dark purple and white striped, velvet-furred creatures that came to be known as the warmoles of Limbo were created in the earliest days of the multiverse by the gentle demiurge Gaia.
Over millennia uncountable, the ancestors of these creatures had dug the strings upon strings of tunnels through spacetime that formed the framework upon which the reality most beings now know had formed.
Eventually, hunted to the brink of extinction for their precious claws, the last of the warmoles were collected together and trained to serve as the loyal steeds of the warriors who served the realm between realms.
These four resided here, at-the-ready to serve The Banjoman should the need arise. He had no need of their services today for this was a diplomatic mission.
He smirked to think of what he was about to do to Lucifer as diplomacy.
After taking some pleasure in watching the young warmoles play for a moment, The Banjoman turned and started walking. Closing his eyes, he finally lost his thinking mind to the fire of meditation, which burned all the more fiercely now in the roaring winds of Limbo. He entertained one last thought about how he would confront Lucifer openly and publicly: about how he would demand his souls in the court of Hell – and in so doing, would harm the honour of the so-called Prince of Light.
Then, where just seconds ago there was fury – there was grace. The Banjoman succumbed to the star-specked, amethyst fire most of us think is just the back of our eyelids. And then, automatically, as he had done innumerable times before, he recited the Limbo Key.
Take in the roaring wind of Limbo
That it may fan the mystic flame
That incinerates all you have been led to believe you believe
Then exhale the ashes
And do it again
‘Til you still e’en a breeze to that wind
’Til you snuff out e’en a spark to that flame
‘Til no distinction remains
Between I and all
Or all and I
‘Til there is nought but awareness
Where once there was only the delusion of self
Only then will you truly be one
That goes wherever one wilt
And then Limbo – the realm between realms – took him; and would take him, to almost anywhere he could ever want to – or not want to – go.
For he was The Banjoman, Lord of Limbo and mystical traverser of both spacetime and the discordant affairs of men – neutrality and balance incarnate – only ever melancholic or exuberant in equal parts – never anything in-between.
In this moment Lucifer was his prey but he had one stop to make before he would address the Emperor of Hades Prime.
Picturing an ankh in his third eye and whistling rather than incanting the ancient, secret frequency that broke down the barrier to the sacred realm he now sought to enter, he stepped from the purple haze of Limbo onto a street of solid gold.
Before him now, against a field of stars and nebulae, lay perhaps the most majestic cityscape in all of reality. Ziggurats, obelisks and pyramids of all shapes and sizes, in all the precious metals and minerals imaginable, shone before him. It was quite possible, he had often thought, that the architecture of every high culture in the multiverse was represented here.
He would find the one he was looking for in the very heart of the incredible city that stood before him; and he would deliver the letter Kilroy had given him when they had parted ways on Punta Epsilon.
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