The final rays of sunlight fade from the windows of the attic. The mass of paintings, antiques and rugs that filled this room previously have been extracted; leaving behind a rather large office. Sinon pushes a pair of reading glasses up to the bridge of his nose as he looks down at a morass of papers atop his ornate renaissance-era desk. Also on the desk is a large bronze box, adorned with levers and wheels reminiscent of a ship’s helm.
We cut to Elithora rising up the narrow staircase and our view pans up to reveal the rearranged seating area. Where there were formerly a set of four chairs and small side tables, now is an arrangement of candles and symbols. Five in total, the pictographs, sigils, and designs appear to have roots in multiple cultures and myths around the globe. A small pillow rests on a chaise lounge in the center of the pentagram—atop the pillow is the Antikythera Mask.
Elithora flows into the room and pauses, her weight forward on her feet as she takes in the arrangement. She nods to Sinon as her eyes fix on the mask.
Sinon looks up from the mess upon his desk and motions to a chair across from him. “I am glad you could make it.”
She settles into the seat. Her posture and words are balanced and poised. “Of course. You have an eclectic spread set here.”
“Yes.” Sinon pauses for a moment. “Please forgive the mess, Uncle Llewelyn left me a fortune, apparently and I can’t make much sense of it.”
“Arguably a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless. It would almost seem strange for a life to end with everything set too well in order.” She studies the bronze box. “I’m glad you have the mask back. I don’t think I really understand what has happened between it and you.”
“His life ended a long time ago. It only seemed to increase the disorder. Anyway, I wanted to thank you for helping with my personal matter as well as for your help at the Rave.” The Guardian straightens some of the papers into a pile. “Finding an appropriate gesture for the others was a bit easier. But then I thought about who each of us was in the cabal.”
Eli looks back up to Sinon.
“Blackjack is the protector.”
“Aurelia is the child prodigy.”
“I am the older, distant one who everyone respects, but no one knows.”
“And you are the heart. The one who truly cares for the rest. The one everyone in the group truly trusts.”
Eli looks surprised at this. “Oh. I …”
“You weave our strands of fate together. It’s a dangerous part to play.” Sinon tilts his head a bit.
Eli folds her hands in her lap. “I guess I wouldn’t have seen myself that way. I think … Any group needs tending. No garden plants itself.”
“True. But, it can be dangerous.” Sinon stares off in the distance for a second. “When I was told the cabal was going to be formed, i worked through the possible difficulties as far as I could. And while Aurelia and I argue all too often, I wonder whether or not the deeper rift might form between her and yourself.”
Elithora raises an eyebrow at this. “Strands have certainly become re-knotted since the Free Council’s little … evening, but … I don’t expect anything so disruptive. To be honest I’m surprised you aren’t expecting a rift between my own tendencies and the Guardians’ need for ever-more-tightly compressed veils upon veils.”
“Inter-order friction is something I have managed before. I would like to think that we can work through that as relatively rational adults.” Sinon waves that off. “When the issue is one of… intense… feeling… well that is different and potentially tragic.” The Guardian pauses again. “I apologize. I truly don’t intend to pry. Or tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. I am likely letting the end of my first cabal color this discussion more than I should.”
Sinon looks very tired and seems much older than he physically appears.
Eli slinks back slightly feline in her seat. “An overabundance of ardor in your last cabal? I’ve worked with different field teams in the Mysterium over the years but never really been properly embedded in an independent cabal.”
“To be fair, I married into the cabal before I Awakened.” Sinon takes off the reading glasses, folds them and sets them on the desk.
“You … oh. That is unusual.”
“Yes. So I’ve been told.” Sinon sighs. “Suffice it to say that had I not been so… full of ardor, I might have found the Seer infiltrator in our midst.”
Elithora leans forward in her seat. Her voice is quiet and suddenly less perfected: “No.”
“The Project and the Diamond Consillium both lost members to the Seer. The ones I will always remember are my cabal: Wheeler, Strix and Fleming.”
Eli frowns deeply and says nothing.
“Jones and I eventually found the infiltrator. Had to chase the Seer down in Marseilles.” Sinon stretches his fingers for a second. “I’d like to say that that helped. I’d also like to say that I knew of any of those intra-cabal arrangements that had worked particularly well. I heard of one where one half of the couple lost their eyes.” He muses for a second. “I think Minerva and Gerard are the healthiest example I can think of.”
“I’m sorry. I did not invite you here for the depressing life stories of a middle-aged Guardian.” Sinon stands.
Eli laughs nervously. “Middle-aged? You hardly look so old, young man.”
“Judicious management of my own pattern, Eli. It helps with field work.” Sinon chuckles. “I would guess I am nearly 10 years older than you.”
Eli blinks. “I didn’t realize.”
“As I was saying. I invited you to show a token of my thanks.” Sinon steps toward the ritual circle. “I’ll have to ask you not to discuss this with anyone, but I thought a professor of semiotics would appreciate a glimpse into Gurdian symbology,”
Eli rises and shakes off a host of questions. “Discretion is my watchword. What is all this?”
Sinon motions to each of the five symbols. “Five candles, five symbols to represent the Watchtowers.” He points to a carving of a figure wielding a sword and wearing a triangular hat. “The Aether and the Obrimos are here represented by a symbolic predecessor to Song Jiang, Righteous Thief of the Dao. Other glyphs, for Ha-Satan, Erebus or Nyx could also be used.”
Eli nods thoughtfully.
“Normally in a ritual, such as receiving a vision from the Mask, a supplicant would undergo contrary acts of purity to represent the Guardian’s divine act of taking on of sin in pursuit of duty. Cleansing grime, basically.”
Sinon points to a glyph of some kind of cat. “Arcadia. Here represented by Irusan, Celtic lord of cats. Although any trickster figure would suffice.”
He turns to a stack of stones and twigs formed into a roughly human shape. “Pandemonium. Represented by a Tibetan Tulpa. What you take there is reflected back to you in our conception.”
He moves next to a green candle atop some kind of snake and fox totem. “The Primal Wild. Sometimes also symbolically drawn forth by shugendo exercises or listening to the dreams of stones, trees and rivers in the style of Australian-natives.”
“Calls to the Wild often require ritualized ingestion of poisons.” He pauses for bit. “You won’t have to do that part.”
Elithora: “My fussy stomach thanks you.”
Finally the Guardian arrives at a disc engraved with a wheel of fire surrounding a geometric pattern that seems to bear relation to both Indian and Celtic designs. “Stygia. Contemplation of the geometry brings us understanding of our ultimate fate. I think the fire is a proto-Ixion reference.”
Elithora: “An interesting balance altogether.”
“Yes, I suppose it is. But this was simply an appetizer.” Sinon moves toward the Mask. “Is there a five minute period of your life that you would be willing to forget?”
Elithora: “Any five minute period of my life whatsoever?”
She shrugs. “Sure. How about the first five minutes after I woke up from getting my wisdom teeth out.”
“Good. Then I will not have wasted our time.” Sinon picks up the Mask. “The Antikythera Mask is an Atlantean relic. Given the proper combination is set on the machine on my desk, one can trade memories with those donated by a former wearer.”
Eli nods a little uncertainly. “I see.”
“I would like to show you why I’m here.” Sinon pauses for a beat. “Do you want to see Saguenay?”
She answers without hesitation: “Yes.”
Sinon motions to the chaise. “Have a seat. The experience can be disorienting at first.”
Eli sits, taking a deep breath and exhaling.
Sinon stands behind the end of lounge and slowly lowers the mask down upon Elithora’s face.
He walks over to the mechanism on his desk and begins moving the levers and dials—channeling Life, Mind, Space into the device as he does so.
Elithora feels a pressure on her chest – unaccustomed weight. Looking down, she sees herself in the body of an older, heavier woman, kneeling in front of an altar.
The altar is made from something that resembles polished marble and criscrossed with lines of gold metal in patterns that resemble at one moment handwriting and another moment circuitry.
Atop it is a dull bronze bowl filled with a smoldering heap of slowly burning leaves. The smell is thick and has a sweet tang to it.
The woman stands and removes the Antikythera Mask, putting it on the altar, then turns away and leaves the small room she’s in, passing through a heavy curtain woven in colorful fractal patterns. Outside, the sun is blindingly bright.
Eli’s face tenses around her eyes, squinting reflexively even with her physical eyes closed.
As the woman’s eyes adjust, Elithora sees the courtyard of some kind of immense temple, easily the size of a modern stadium. Attendants in robes perform various tasks – some mundane, others clearly magical. One passes the viewer and bows low.
A note sounds on the wind and everyone stops what they’re doing as a gate at the end of the courtyard rumbles open. At her distant remove, the viewer sees tiny attendants and Mages alike flock to line the path from the gate, genuflecting deeply as a golden throne bearing a dark-skinned man in immense, baroque regalia.
The viewer races to take her place, breath whistling through her lungs, as the vision fades.
Eli’s eyes dart back and forth under her eyelids for a few final moments before she sits up, eyes opening wide. “It doesn’t feel like an illusion. It doesn’t feel real. It doesn’t feel like a dream or gamma waves. It feels like its own thing. Completely separate. When was that? It … it …”
Sinon helps Eli remove the mask.
Sinon nods. “The mask contains experiences from across the world. Across time..” He looks at Eli. “But this one was different. Like the memories or souls of all the mages who have used it wanted… no. needed it to be seen.”
Eli reaches forward and touches the mask impulsively. “If you keep forgetting does it keep happening?”
“You don’t want to go down that road, Eli.” Sinon holds the mask firmly. “It is what caused my condition when I arrived here.”
She pulls her hand back quickly and nods.
“The collective will of these mages brought the mask to Shaw, to Vancouver and I followed. And now we’re going to find the Lost City Saguenay.”
Elithora: “I suppose you’re going to hide that mask in a box no one will ever know about, right?”
Sinon jokes: “In a giant government storehouse with the Ark of the Covenant.”
“Maybe it’s better to keep the temptation out of reach. I suppose …” Her voice trails off and she keeps her thoughts to herself. She rises on slightly shaky legs. “I am glad we found this for you. And thank you for showing me. It was valuable to see that.”
“No. Thank you.” Sinon helps Elithora steady herself. “You and the others… have made things better for me here. I only hope that my presence proves as fortuitous.”