Memories of an Alchemist - Adrienn Simon - E-Book

Memories of an Alchemist E-Book

Adrienn Simon

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LUCA DI ZANCHI is a diligent, sharp-witted but dangerously curious boy. After having his fortune read by his mysterious Aunt, he is determined to be the master of his own destiny and becomes obsessed with finding "the greatest treasure man could find."He gained an elixir through crime, and as such, the natural process of spiritual advancement is denied to him and his psychic mind opens to the lower astral world. But his memory is not lost in death and he carries his soul's memories when he is born again. As a consequence of his crime, he needs to be born again and again until he has received the appropriate retribution.

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Foreword to the Manuscript

First Book: Chaos Matter

Chapter 1: Luca di Zanchi

Chapter 2: What Could Be More Valuable Than Gold?

Chapter 3: The Alchemist

Chapter 4: The Elixir

Chapter 5: Rock Destroying Matter

Chapter 6: The Stillborn of the Lower Astral Realm

Chapter 7: Andrea Luigi

Chapter 8: The Poet and His Enemies

Second Book: The Lesser Stone

Chapter 9: Tomasso Colombo

Chapter 10: Friar Carlo

Chapter 11: The Haunted House

Chapter 12: The Shadow

Chapter 13: The Wise Old Professor

Chapter 14: The Burning Stake

Chapter 15: James Mercier

Chapter 16: Rainy Days

Chapter 17: New Beginning

Chapter 18: The Herd

Chapter 19: The Wedding

Chapter 20: Troubled Times

Third Book: The Philosoher’s Stone

Chapter 21: Adam Berger

Chapter 22: Paris

Chapter 23: The Mysterious Heart

Chapter 24: Madame D’Mois

Chapter 25: Cagliostro

Chapter 26: Casanova

Chapter 27: The Coming Danger

Chapter 28: Crushing the Serpent’s Heads

Chapter 29: The Unexpected Guest

Chapter 30: The Circle Completed


Foreword to The Manuscript

After one particularly long and frustrating day, I sat down wearily and thought how, after a decade spent in my field of social work, it had come to my observation that there are so many people living in complete misery, lacking even those things most necessary to live with some dignity and, no matter how much they want to change, they can’t if they don’t have their basic needs met. And even if they do, most people feel stuck, just as I do. Surely life is meant to be more than work, eat, sleep? There must be a hidden knowledge, a solution to breaking free.

At work I was especially drawn to one of the patients under my care. He usually sat cross-legged and, in spite of his age, his back was as straight as a young bamboo. He had high cheekbones and very yellow, parchment-like skin. His eyes were jet black. A few straggly hairs grew from his chin, and from his upper lip a dozen or so hairs of his long moustache. His hands were mottled with great age, while his veins stood out like the twigs of a tree. He usually addressed me as ‘young man.’ Some of my colleagues thought he was off in his own world, but I thought otherwise. He seemed to look right through me and know my thoughts. This man who had been everywhere, seen everything, and done everything was now paying for it with periodic bouts of mental instability and yet it was me whom he looked at with sympathy and said, ‘Too many things to do. But I sense goodness in your heart and sense you will have a great future.’

The old man had taught me a lot. He was the only patient I couldn’t keep my professional boundaries with. In his clear moments he was able to say things that truly struck home. He talked to me as an equal. He’d travelled all over the world and even spent a few years in Tibet where he found peace. However, some impulse urged him to travel here, where everyday life, after the monastic one he’d been used to, had proven too much for him. But I was certain he had some hidden abilities that he wouldn’t share with anyone.

One day on my way to work I found a note in my pocket. He must have put it there without me noticing. It read:

I sense soon all your questions will be answered. Last night I had a dream and now I know why I travelled here – to meet you. You are destined to find a manuscript and I am just a messenger to advise you to read it and make it public for those who are ready and willing to understand it. Now I am at peace again. My mission finally fulfilled, even if it is in a different way than I had first imagined.

Your good old friend,

Li Wei.

When I got to work I found out that Li Wei had died in the night. When I asked the nurses what had happened, they told me, ‘He looked like the happiest man in the world.’

On my way home I entered my favourite charity shop and at the bottom of the book shelf, to my utter astonishment, I found a very old looking book with faded, barely readable handwriting. I remembered Li Wei’s letter and purchased the book without hesitation. The moment I got home I started reading it.

Man knows his intelligence when he knows how much he doesn’t know.





Luca di Zanchi

The pen in my hand is the tongue of my mind and the ink is a river reflecting what has passed before me. My first conscious memory was when I was Luca di Zanchi, a diligent, sharp-minded, curious boy, but a boy controlled by his animal instinct, by anger and greed rather than his intellect. Filled with ambivalence, like children playing with a piece of ice, neither able to hold it nor willing to let it go, I was an empty bucket impatiently waiting to be filled with knowledge. I had my fortune told and had a dream but little did I know that finding the greatest treasure man could wish for would take many lifetimes.

As cheerful as the rising sun, I was born in April 1503, in the sign of Aries, on the outskirts of Trieste, when Trieste was one of the most important seaports of Europe; a crossroads of different cultures; a junction where East meets West. I am certain my destiny would have unfurled differently if I had been born in any other town. I was fortunate because my mother loved me as much as the waves loved the shore. This compensated somewhat for my father who was rather reserved with his feelings toward me.

He was the illegitimate fruit of a nobleman and a tailor’s daughter and that meant social exclusion. He had grown up outside of Trieste, in the smaller town of Muggia. He had no family connections and was soon made all too aware of his anomalous status. The peasant considered him an outsider and the nobility would have nothing to do with him. He realised that he had to choose one position or the other if he wished to make a place for himself in the world. Despite his non-status his mother had made an advantageous marriage and was able to give him a respectable sum of money when he came of age. Though he had made his choice – he would be a peasant – he was aware that his father’s position could bring him many privileges, and so he began a merciless fight to force his father to legitimize him. Behind most of us is an invisible bag, and, to keep our parents’ love, the part of us our parents don’t like, we put in the bag. We spend our life, until we are twenty, deciding which parts of ourselves to put into the bag, and we spend the rest of our lives trying to get them out again. My father refused to do that. His saw his own father was in a precarious position, and he threatened and blackmailed him until he acceded to the demand, but on the condition that the boy never use his name and title. To this my father agreed. He bought an inn in a nearby village and managed it well. His wealth grew steadily as he harvested the fruits of his labour. Despite my young age I already knew I wouldn’t follow in my father’s footsteps – where his choice of occupation was concerned, if not, perhaps, his temperament. I wanted more. I yearned for the highest of heights a man is capable of reaching.

My mother was the youngest daughter of a financially troubled, old noblemen of English origin. He was more than willing to allow my mother marriage to the mature, self-sufficient, capable man my father had become, giving him great relief from the all-consuming worries of the future. My mother was drawn to the tall, muscular fine-looking man like a flower to the sun. He was nearly a decade older than her and she was fragile-looking, slender like a lily, elegant and remote like a statue carved in melancholy thought. He provided stability and security for her oversensitive, whimsical, insecure nature, and she admired him and praised God for her good luck in marriage. They satisfied each other’s emotional needs as bread satisfies an empty stomach and I was the strange mixture of their elements.

I spent my childhood outside. The huge field behind the inn was a magical place to be. There was always somewhere to explore or something to do. I felt enormous calm there, but a fizzing excitement at the same time. I loved every season: the spring dressing the trees in vibrant colours, the birds singing, the cocks crowing, toms courting and dogs barking – everything was reborn after the chill of the winter; summer’s heat, jumping in the barrel full with water, the sweet cherries, raspberries and strawberries, the jewels of the hedgerow; autumn dressed the trees anew in reds and yellows and browns, then stripped them and the leaves fell happily like confetti, I collected chestnuts and made figures from them on skeletons of sticks; and winter was the soup my mother would be making as I returned from a long walk through the neighbouring fields or simply messing around in the snowy garden – it was such a pleasure to sit next to a hot stove after a joyful day of adventure.

I knew every tree and I climbed them all. My favourite was a cherry tree. Not tall enough to easily reach the first branch, I had to jump and from there swing to grip the trunk with my legs thus enabling me to climb. I luxuriated in the very top, where the branches of the tree formed a comfortable seat and where I would spend hour after hour with an endless supply of ripening fruit. The food was my ambrosia and the place was my paradise on Earth. From there the swathes of countryside all around looked like a landscape painted by a master.

Back on the ground I would chase butterflies and count spots on the ladybug’s back. I knew the names of all the living creatures in the neighbouring farm where regularly I visited. I enjoyed feeding the pigs and scratching their backs with corn cobs for which they looked thankful and snorted accordingly. I liked to touch their wet and concertinaed snouts which always made me laugh. Occasionally I helped collect eggs from the chickens, the geese and the ducks, while risking a nip from their mates, who, when particularly offended, opened their wings so wide that they would look huge and scary, and I would have no other option than to run, scattering the different coloured rabbits with their inexhaustibly twitching noses. I would seek solace in the dogs, Leo and Bobby, a short haired German shepherd and a dachshund, whose floppy ears I could scratch interminably while looking deeply into his brown eyes. They both followed me everywhere most of the time. And then there were the cats. I always liked cats. When the time drew near for the big bellied dam to give birth to her kittens I would search for the voice of the new-borns. Finding them in the attic, I would visit frequently with the added hope of finding some hidden treasures covered in dust there, but I only stumbled on a wasps’ nest and retreated with only stings for my efforts. When the kittens grew bigger and their mother finally brought them down I crushed a piece of paper into a ball and tied it to a few feet of yarn. Dangling it in front of them had the kittens as curious as me.

Occasionally I liked to lurk around the market place where rumours and news were spread among the buying and selling of goods and the odd madman roamed claiming they concealed the philosopher’s stone under their ragged vesture; claiming they could change earth into gold, and yet here they were without food and lodging! There I made friends with the neighbouring kids and as we grew older we would spend the evenings rambling about the city, inventing and executing the most impertinent, practical jokes. We were three, sometimes four, and in the middle of the night, we would sneak from our homes and hurriedly rouse an honest midwife, telling her to hasten to Madame So-and-So’s, who, not remotely pregnant, was sure to tell the nurse she was a fool when she arrived breathless at the house. We did the same with physicians, whom we often sent half-dressed to some nobleman who was enjoying excellent health. The priests fared no better: we would send them to carry out the last sacraments to married men who were peacefully slumbering near their wives. We were in the habit of cutting the wires of the bells in every house, and if we chanced to find a gate open we would go up the stairs in the dark, and frighten the sleeping inmates. Whenever we could contrive to get into a church tower we thought it great fun to frighten the entire parish by ringing the alarm bell, as if some fire had broken out; but that was not all, we always cut the bell ropes, so that in the morning the churchwardens had no means of summoning the faithful to early mass. The city was alive with complaints, and we laughed at the useless search made by the police to find out those who disturbed the peace of the inhabitants. But at last fear and the knowledge of greater things put a stop to our criminal japes. My mother started to educate me, familiarising me with the art of reading, writing and drawing. She even taught me a little Latin. Her father had put great effort into her education before his financial trouble, and this greatly benefited my own learning. He had a saying: ‘Those who do not study are cattle dressed in men’s clothing.’ It always brought a laugh and a smile to us both when my mother quoted him. While my father was kept busy running the inn, more and more we spent time freely together. He seemed jealous of me from time to time. When I confronted my mother about my father’s jealousy she simply replied, ‘Nobody can slip out of his own skin, Luca,’ smoothing away his faults as her hand smoothed my hair.

Sundays were my special days. My mother thought I was with my father and my father thought I stayed at church with my mother. You see, my father always excused himself from attending. ‘Long sausages and short sermons are good, my son,’ he told me sotto voce and on this philosophy, at least, we were in complete accord. So Sundays became the perfect day to aimlessly wander cloud-like, exploring the suburbs. And on one such morning – on a day when the sun shone and little winds played hide and seek – I recall a flock of sheep and their lambs following their shepherd. They must trust him so, I said to myself, knowing he will bring them to food and water. Then I thought of all the people simultaneously at church. Not a big difference, I mused melancholy – they just head for a bigger stable, most of them wearing hats and shoes.

That night I couldn’t sleep. From the window I looked up at the night sky with his thousand eyes. I wondered what was the source of the forces keeps all this together, what is the greatest of those forces and what is this life all about? Our family’s life seemed to be about constant repetition, guests coming and going, spring after winter, summer after spring, but all still remained the same. I cursed, I pleaded, even cried. I did not want to be a lamb; I wanted to be the master of my own destiny, just like the magus on the tarot card I had secreted under my pillow. But how? ‘How do you become one?’ I whispered as I fingered the image.

I felt connected to that icon since first I saw it in the tarot deck at my aunt’s house. His body stood straight and one of his arms pointed towards the heavens while the other pointed to the earth. Above his head there was a strange sign I didn’t understand, and on the table before him was a sword, a cup, a wand and a coin with a pentangle stamped on it – each representing one of the four Tarot suits. The magus had a youthful figure and golden hair in curls; The smile on his lips was confident, and the look in his eyes intelligent. Certainly he was someone with power. But what power, what force? When I wasn’t sleeping with the card under my pillow I kept it near to my heart, tucked inside my shirt pocket at all times. I used to stare at this image to the point of obsession. I felt ashamed, for I had stolen the card from my aunt’s house, but I convinced myself she could easily replace it. When all my strength left me and I surrendered to sleep, deep in my heart I knew I would find whatever it was I was looking for in that image. And many a night I dreamed; dreamed of untold and unearned riches, as if I were Aladdin.

After one such night and one such dream I felt I had no option but to visit my aunt. She lived in the neighbouring village but I was forbidden to visit her, the black sheep of the family. Yet after my mother, I loved her the most. She was the only one who at least sensed my obsession toward the unseen world. She was at least a decade younger than her brother, my father, and she was as rebellious and determined in her own way as he. She loved me as much as I loved her. I was the only one of the family who visited her. She lived alone, she never married and never had children, but she was never lonely. Although her education was limited, she made a living as a tailor. She lived for her occupation and her bizarre interest. For beside her work, she offered consultations and practiced this strange pursuit: she drew cards and examined palms with great success, and as a result she was, at once, both loved and feared. She never charged or accepted anything for a reading. She had learnt this dark art from one of her business clients, and soon her interest in the occult was blended with her limited education and dangerous curiosity. I told her about my dream, and she said, ‘I am happy for you, Luca, and hope you will find whatever you are looking for.’ Then after a gimlet-eyed pause she added, ‘So that’s the reason you came?’

‘Yes,’ I said with a guilty voice, looking at her feet. ‘I would love to come more often, but—’

‘I know, I know,’ she said hugging me to her bony bosom.

‘I am just not as brave as you are.’

‘Brave? I am not brave. Why do you say that?’

‘Despite all the danger you still carry on with your consultations. I have to admit, my dear aunt, it is scares me and yet I am curious at the same time. Could you tell me what my dream meant? No one understands me like you do.’

‘It is your dream, my son, it is up to you to understand it. I can only read palms and draw cards.’ She smiled. ‘Would you like to know your fortune?’

Her question came as such a surprise that I could not answer promptly.

‘I won’t be here for long,’ she said sombrely.

I nearly shouted in response, ‘Why would you say such a thing?’

‘I drew the cards for myself recently and that is what they told me.’

My heart sank at the possibility of losing her. ‘But the cards could be mistaken, couldn’t they?’

She smiled now through her own sadness and said, ‘It is better this way. I will be prepared.’ Her chair creaked as she leant forward and stared deep into my eyes. ‘What are you afraid of?’ she said softly with the voice of a cooing dove.

Her kind encouragement and my unnatural curiosity won my inner conflict. I slowly reached out both hands towards her, though they were balled tightly in fists and she gently opened the right one. She took a good look, and her face, at first showed excitement, as if my palm were a courier bearing good news, then, all of a sudden, she covered my palm with hers. She paused. Then she took her special cards and shuffled them. She asked me to cut the pack and then she shuffled some more, after which she laid out the cards one after another. After staring at the cards for a few moments that seemed like an age to my ravenous heart, she took a big deep breath and said, ‘You will soon travel, but you won’t arrive where you intended to. You might be robbed or hurt along your way. I would suggest you seek something more valuable than gold and treasure. Something that can’t be taken away, whatever it might be, I don’t know, but you are destined to find it in the end.’

I looked at her somewhat perplexed, so she elucidated. ‘Even if you found such a treasure as gold, being robbed you would be left with nothing, my son. Therefore be wise, as wise as you can, considering your age. In times of turmoil in your soul, name your feelings, and it will help you to overcome them, otherwise harmful thoughts will overgrow your restless mind like an unkempt garden. Be a diligent gardener, my son.’ She kissed my forehead and hugged me like never before.

My dream made more sense to me now. Gold and riches had no great attraction for me as, thanks to my father’s shrewdness and diligence, we already had more than enough since the inn generated a good income. Also I had seen wealthy guests come and go and wouldn’t think by their stern demeanours they were any happier than us. To have everything I need is good enough for me, I thought. ‘But what else is more valuable than gold?’

My beloved aunt stayed quiet. Her long silence made me nervous with every second that ticked by.

‘There is nothing more I dare to say.’ She said at last. But seeing my disappointment she took pity on me and added. ‘Now I understand the fear I saw in your eyes, your reticence to let me tell your fortune. Your fear was protecting you from that which you must have sensed deep in your heart. Forgive me, my son, I wish I had not encouraged you to seek to know your destiny but now the dice have been cast, and my years of practice tell me, sooner or later, it will be fulfilled. You will sink to the lowest of lows and reach the highest of highs, but at the very end you will succeed, my dear son. Have faith and courage.’

We spent the rest of the afternoon quietly and as evening came we both knew it was time for me to leave. Just as I stepped out, she grabbed my hands and looked into my eyes, as if she could see my soul there, and in a firm voice said, ‘Promise me one thing!’

‘Yes, what?’

‘Promise me you will only use your precious treasure, whatever it is, in a good way!’

‘Of course. I do promise, that,’ I said, my voice quavering with both the hope her prediction had instilled in me and the anxiety she transmitted through her entreaty.

Hearing my response, though, she seemed relieved now, embracing me and kissing me some more before sending me on my way home. As I looked back from a distance, I saw her still standing at the threshold. I was compelled to stop and gaze into my own hand, at my palm from whence my deepest, most unconscious thoughts must be reflected, printed there by unknown language. Something that couldn’t be closer to me, and yet something so far beyond my comprehension.

They call her art a dark science but my aunt was guiding me toward the light, I came to realise in the future, towards righteousness. For there is yet a nucleus of divine light in the womb of deepest darkness.

Just a few weeks later my dear aunt died at the age of forty-eight tempting me to believe that she was indeed a real fortune teller even able to predict her own death. The dangerous curiosity we shared hung over me like a shadow. I doubted and believed at the same time. Tears filled my eyes. I had loved her so much. Yet her assurance that I really would find my treasure gilded my tears with a strange excitement. Nevertheless that day was the saddest day of my young life. My mother saw the yawning sadness in my eyes and she held me and kissed my hair, saying to the top of my head, ‘I know you liked her very much. The pain you feel now, it will get better.’

I nodded doubtfully.

‘Go, take this.’ She pressed some coins into my hand. ‘Spend it on anything you like. It will cheer you up.’

Instead of dashing to the nearest shop, I walked aimlessly through the streets until a stranger touched my shoulder.

‘Oh, dear me! Oh, boy, dear boy, you should be more careful carrying such a thing with you.’ He was holding out my tarot card, the one of the magus. I patted at my chest and realised only then that it must have fallen from my unlaced shirt as I moped about the town. ‘Come, tell me what upsets you so,’ the old man said in a kind and friendly voice. But before I could say a thing he went on. ‘Only once I met with a real one and he kept saying to me, “Truth makes man free.”’ He suddenly straightened his back and became an inch taller. ‘They have real power, my son,’ he said, giving weight to his voice with his elegant gestures. ‘I believe he was truly an alchemist. You may call him a magus,’ he said signalling the card now safely back in my grasp. ‘It doesn’t really matter. I believe they are the same.’

This captured my attention and so I followed him to his lodgings. I wiped my still tearful eyes so I could focus more fully on the man now and I saw a short, thin, white-haired figure with a balding pate and a nose slightly bigger than his face might wish it to be. This somewhat comical visage had expressions to match. He would cross his eyes frequently as he spoke, or raise just one of his brows so high that one couldn’t help but laugh. He was witty, sarcastic at times and well aware of the shapes his body made. Yet I noticed a certain sorrow behind those performing eyes of his, whenever they looked, as they did frequently, over his shoulder as we went on our way. The transitory nature of our meeting emboldened us to be open with one another and when we were sitting comfortably before his fireplace with a vegetable broth, he told me his name was Jean David de Galarza, a French actor who worked for a traveling theatre performing in towns throughout Europe.

‘It was by pure accident that my talent was discovered,’ he said without a hint of modesty. ‘The theatre passed through my home town but on arrival one of the actresses, no doubt inebriated as was her wont, fell and broke her leg. Since her role of Madam de Noor was rather key to proceedings the director felt he had no alternative but to cancel the show. Overhearing his woes, and feeling myself what a tragedy it would be if the show did not have the opportunity to brighten our dreary town I helped myself to the costume of Madam de Noor and appeared before the troupe extemporised her part much to the amusement of all. That night I performed as Madam de Noor under a pseudonym, and although the director was relieved he did receive that never had such an ugly actress as the one playing Madame de Noor been seen on the stage. But with time I improved my disguises and was kept in the company ever since as an understudy in case of any unforeseen event, which, in the case of she who plays Madame de Noor, is regrettably frequent,’ he said miming the quaffing of a jug of ale and thereby once again demonstrating his amusing skills. ‘My only regret in adopting my new profession,’ he went on, ‘is that my favourite dishes are denied me.’ To my quizzical look he responded quickly, ‘I am forbidden to eat anything with cabbage or, you know… the stuff that makes you, you know…’ I made it clear that I was not sure that I did know, but Monsieur de Galarza was only too pleased to elucidate. ‘It only happened once. You would have thought he (the theatre director) would be thankful for me, wouldn’t you? He was lucky to have me, and yet he still said, whenever he caught me masticating, “Listen, Jean, you can’t eat this and you can’t eat that!” But Jean David de Galarza will eat whatever he wants and whenever he wants it,’ the actor said with wonderful pomposity while waving his spoon in the air. And then, defiantly, he shovelled more soup into his mouth before continuing. ‘It happened once that I played the queen after a big cabbage feast, and the most serious dramatic pause of the scene I’m afraid turned into a comedy. Oh, my son, what a blast it was. At first the audience was confused as I writhed with pain in an effort to contain myself, but as my next speech loomed I couldn’t hold it any longer and all that trapped gas came out at once with such an enormous explosion, the audience roared with laughter, tears flowing down their cheeks and hands slapping their knees with delight.’

When my own laughter and knee slapping had subsided, Monsieur Galarza told me how, when he wasn’t needed at the playhouse, his would make a play of his own for a wealthier audience. ‘You know, my boy, alchemy is an amusement for the rich and for princes. We, as we are, would never come close to it. But look, Luca, these are my beauties! He opened a chest full of wigs of different colours and styles and put on a show for me, changing his voice as he changed his hair, acting like an old woman who dropped her purse, a small gold coin “accidently” rolling out of it.

‘Oh, my purse?’ the old woman would say. ‘You can keep it if you like for I have the secret manuscript.’ To his carefully chosen prey, he never failed to sell one such “secret” manuscript detailing the ways of alchemy. They were fakes, of course, he confessed. And after selling enough he began to fear reprisals so now he very much depended on his earning from the theatre.

‘Did you really met a real alchemist once? Where do you find a real one?’ I asked eagerly.

‘Nowhere, my boy. You don’t see them. They submerge themselves in the crowd and dissemble, taking on the form and colour of their environment because they know the truth. You can follow them from village to village or from city to city and you will always find they have just left before you got there. An adept will perform a transmutation so that the fire of knowledge will not stop burning and, though the tormenting desire will remain in people’s hearts, he will be gone without a trace.’

‘But why do they disappear like that? They could be more powerful than kings.’

‘That’s the reason. They are more powerful. They want to avoid the rack. A king will tolerate no one but servants, and a true adept is a ruler. The magus once said to me, “You know, Jean, I will tell you a secret: truth makes man free.” And indeed he was free and independent, the ruler of his own world and his own destiny. A far cry from my life,’ Monsieur de Galarza smiled. ‘Passion, my son, it ruins a man’s life. He sighed. ‘I could have followed him and may have been his servant. But I was in love. That’s my only regret in life. For that love of mine chose a more… viable option than me, and by the time I discovered that, it was too late. I tried to find the alchemist again, but never could. That is why I think it must be fate that brought the two of us together. I am telling you, if you are lucky enough to find him, my boy, grab that gift with both hands and never lose sight of him, as once you do you would never find him again and you will live to regret it as I do. Looking back at when I fell in love – oh to fall is such an apt description for it! – my love was a disguise for my fear of the unknown. So do not fear, but trust. I know now he would not have betrayed me, yet my fear was stronger than my desire for knowledge. Oh, I know that love is a great instrument of magical power itself, but passion is forbidden to the magus. Woe to the Samson if he permit himself to be put to sleep by Delilah!’

We remained silent for a while. It was hard to accept the harsh reality that one decision in life so greatly alter one’s destiny. Then the silence was broken as the landlady, a big buxom lady, entered in the room to collect the remains of our meal and my grand, self-confident friend transformed in a split second to an obedient, everyday man.

‘Come again tomorrow night,’ he muttered. ‘It will be our last performance in town.’

And so I did, but after the performance, as the troupe carried their boxes of props and costumes to their wagons, I found Monsieur de Galarza among them, not as happy to see me as he had been the day before. Perhaps, now I recall that night, he recognised my unsteady nature and dangerous curiosity from the heated look in my eyes. It took me by surprise as he pulled me aside and hissed, ‘I wish I had not said anything to you, my son. Occult things are not for us. One must have strength, endurance and patience and we lack them all. One must have goodness and intelligence. The essence of intelligence is good judgement, and the essence of judgment is liberty and independence of mind. I have clearly failed in both.’ With tears in his eyes he begged me, ‘Forget all the things I have said to you. Already I see they have begun to poison you. The safest way is to be patient and think and do good. People probe into occult matters when they would be better off waiting, waiting until they are ready, instead of importuning a master. “The master always appears when the student is ready,” that’s what the magus said to me, boy.’ The light suddenly returned to the old man’s eyes and he nearly shouted with joy, while shaking me. ‘It is just now, as I said that you, I realised, the master must come from me and the master must come from you!’ He laughed and, as the wagons started on their way, he hauled himself into the back of one and shouted, ‘I pray one day you will understand what I have just said to you.’

But my mind was too weak to understand what he had just realized after decades of sorrows and regrets. I merely stared after the caravans until the last one vanished from my sight. Then slowly I turned away and with sadness went home. The day was duller now, clouds were forming overhead and the wind was beginning to whip up the dust. My heart was sick within me and my eyes were hot with the tears I dare not shed.


What Could Be More Valuable Than Gold?

The marketplace was where all kind of strange objects exchanged hands. Antique furniture, pawned jewellery, paintings, chairs and tables of all sorts and sizes, even knitted unworn baby clothes, all sold by both local merchants and those from other towns.

One day I found a strange looking book there. The interlocking geometric shapes on the cover caught my attention. I asked the merchant what sort of book it was.