Stepping through the threshold, Hazel finds herself in a massive field that fills the stretches across the four-fold horizons. Above and around her, the air is humid, saturated with heat and dampness that cause her still naked skin to prickle and bead with sweat. Clouds the color of dark smoke march across the sky like cumulonimbus regiments, their thunder booming like lock-step boots and atmospheric artillery.
Below her, the seemingly infinite field is cold and dry, as fallow as a parched bone. Its expanse has been flattened and raked by some colossal force or supernal machine. Gazing forward, Hazel notices several looming shapes that connect the storm-trod sky and barren earth. Their sheer size causes Hazel to pause before correctly identifying the shapes: gigantic irons. Excruciating hot, dry heat radiates from the metal plates that face Hazel, hiding their the massive, plastic-shod reservoirs of water.
Near one of the monstrously huge machines, Hazel perceives the hazy silhouette of a distant figure, its back turned to her as it walks between two of the upturned irons.
Was… she naked this whole time? She honestly didn’t notice. This place is funny like that. Her nudity would normally greatly distress her, but this a dream. Or something like
a dream. And there are more important matters weighing upon her mind.
Her bare feet pad against the barren soil as she strides towards the figure. She could invoke a minor protective spell against the simultaneous cold and heat, too. But she doesn’t. She has a snaking sense of who the indistinct figure might be as she draws closer.
Invigorated by her meditative reflections within the Chamber, Hazel endures the tempering elements, even as they become part of her. Soil grinds into her heels, air she sucks into her lungs. Her skin becomes flush with heat and sweat from her exertions, but she presses forward.
As she passes between the first pair of monolithic irons, Hazel’s enlightened eyes notice two details. First is a line of words etched onto the outer rim of the nearest iron’s plate. procul hinc, procul ite profani
, it reads, which Hazel, as a learned student of Latin, deciphers as, keep away, you who are profane
She straightens her back and raises her head high. Another part of her again contemplates invoking a ward against those elements. She dismisses it. She’s come this far without help, and she’s stubborn enough to see her journey on through to the end.
Head held high, Hazel’s attention however is brought down when she hears a pitiful cry. Looking to the ground, directly before the colossal iron, she beholds the gruesomely crushed and burnt-black body of a man, his habit and flesh charred into an ironed paste. Horrifically, the man raises his uncrushed head and pleads with his scorched tongue and charred lips: " Th…ir…st…"
Ahead, the distant figure continues to walk towards another far away row of monstrous irons.
It is within her power to provide succor to this man and to catch up with the retreating figure. Perhaps not on her own. But with her magic—her True Will
, as described by Crowley—all is possible. The moisture in the air is all-too abundant. " מים," she repeats. Commanded by her will, the spread-out hydrogen particles condense into a tangible liquid stream that runs from her outstretched palm to the horrifically crushed man’s lips.
The half–crushed and fully–burned figure sips gratefully. He smiles in gratitude as he opens his uncrushed hand, then dies. Inside the man’s charred hand is an inviolate token of gold. The token bears two letters.C.S.
Above, a single titanic bolt of lightning courses from the sky, down into the adjacent giant iron–an iron which seems to come alive and slowly rise and turn.
Hazel picks up the token. She couldn’t save him, but she did what she could in the little time that remained. Now she can only move onwards. And faster. Hazel raises her gaze to the sky, throws her arms wide and exclaims,“רוחות באוויר, להרים אותי ביניכם!”A strong breeze abruptly sends her long hair blowing back. Winds lap around her bare knees like eager hounds ready to obey their master’s will—and so they do.
In echo, another bolt of lightning surges toward and awakens a titanic iron. This one too rises and turns, so its soon red-searing metal faces down towards the ground–and most alarmingly above Hazel.
Those damn things are going to crush her. And they’ve appeared every time she’s exercised her True Will. Perhaps she needs to be more subtle.
Hazel releases the almost-complete invocation and lets the gathering winds die—but enough of them linger, just soft enough and quiet enough, to help propel her body out of the way as she naturally
ducks and rolls to avoid the fast-falling irons.
The god-sized irons plummet down like a pair of pistons whose impact halts precisely at the surface of the field. The half-crushed corpse is flattened and burnt away into ash that is smoothly ironed into the fallow field. Hazel barely survives a similar fate as her last will-enhanced leap hurls herself clear of the two irons.
Those irons, blind to the outcome of their efforts, slowly return to their original upright positions. Once again, they become dormant figures, though their shadows loom large. Ahead, Hazel sees the dark figure has regained the ground she had made in her pursuit. Its back remains once again to her as it passes between another pair of giant irons.
Hazel: No action without consequence. No power without price.
She thinks back to Bubbles and the steaming coffee mug pulled out of his pocket. And what happened to him. She’ll need to be more subtle outside of the Chamber. There are no grand invocations this time. Hazel merely stares at the figure, impresses its visage upon her mind—with her right next to it—and starts walking. But she’s still faster than last time.
Her stride twice-quickened by will, Hazel nearly halves the distance between her and her quarry–which she can now tell is wearing a dark robe that trails to the ground, creating small, swirling patterns in the ironed earth.
Her attention, however, is once again diverted from the slowly trodding figure by another inscription etched into the side rim of an iron:date et dabitur vobis
, she reads, then translates, give and it shall be given unto you
. This time, no human tongue beseeches her. Instead, there is a pitiful roar by a lethally crushed and charred lion. Its once noble mane has been burnt away, and its visage is grim as it opens its mouth and begs. “S…a..lt…”
She remembers talking about lions to her dad not too long ago. The king of beasts deserves greater dignity. “I think there’s some around here. Let me look,” Hazel answers, bending over the barren earth. She digs with and dirties her hands, looking for rocks. Sodium is a major component in most types of them. It may be a coincidence when the willworker who could extract that sodium turns back to the lion with a handful of salt in her browned palms and kneels by its side. “Will this suffice?”
The dying lion gratefully licks the rock-salt, then expires in a great shudder that overturns its clawed paw, revealing another, similarly sized and shaped golden token. Its inscription, however, is unique: S.M.
She did all that she could there too. She now clutches two coins in the palm of her hand as she steadily makes her way after the less-distant figure. That’s twice the irons haven’t tried to crush her. There is much to be said for the value of subtlety. Her next act of will is similarly low-key.
No flashy motions. No chants in esoteric tongues. She just walks faster, harder, the “trooper” her dad never quite described her as on family hikes. There’s just the figure, there in her mind, and soon there in her sights.
Meanwhile, the massive irons soon fade from sight and Hazel detects minor variations in the soil, ever so slight rises and depressions, like unto earthen wrinkles. As the terrain changes, Hazel all but catches up to her quarry when the figure crosses through a magnificent gate, whose wall is made of impenetrable, velvet shadow.
From the metalline gate, two guards emerge, blocking Hazel’s passage. The first figure, a male, beams at Hazel, notwithstanding the terrible fever which burns his brow. “Congratulor!” he shouts, even as the other figure, a female, shivers with a dreadful chill as she weeps, “Condoleo.”
Hazel looks between them. “You would seem of a divided mind.”
Notwithstanding their contrarian salutations, each raises a hand, as if expecting something from the would–be–entrant.
Hazel holds up the tokens. “Do you require these to allow my passage?”
They figures stand still as columns, save for the fevered shuddering of the former and the equally suffering shivering of the latter.
Seeing their extended palms, Hazel regards the sole material possessions in her own palms. Materia. A long-time scholar of occult, Hazel recognizes the symbolic nature of the coins as pass-tokens that functions as esoteric as well as exoteric keys. Yet, Hazel is particularly trained in Hermetic lore, and so she also intuits the symbolic nature of each token. Namely, each coin represents the element for which they were exchanged, water and earth.
While the former element contains the alchemical property of wetness and the latter element contains the alchemical property of dryness, both also contain the property of coldness. Together, they form the Celestial Salt, the principle of base, passive matter. Moreover, the two elements demonstrate both the First and Second Laws of Hermetics. All is from One. Polarity.
The two tokens, though divided, create the oneness of the fixed elements of the Celestial Salt, while also symbolizes the alchemical polarity of dryness and wetness. Yet, as Hazel also knows, As Above, So Below
, and thus, the Celestial Salt is only half of the Prime Materia, whose polar opposite is the Celestial Niter.
From the oneness of the Niter, the polarity of the volatile elements manifests as air and fire, which both contain the alchemical properties of heat, yet are divided again in their wetness and dryness, respectively. Thus, to transcend from the base matter of the Celestial Salt to the more refined spiritual state of the Celestial Niter, Hazel must return the correct tokens in the correct order–not as they are, but as they can become, thus symbolizing the dyadic monism of the first two great laws of Hermetics.
Hazel looks between the figures, approaches the weeping female, and holds up the water token. Some of the dirt on her hands has smudged onto it and distinctively taken the shape of an upwards-pointing triangle with a line bisecting its upper third from the lower two thirds; the alchemical symbol for air. To the feverish male figure, she presents the salt or earth token, with its own dirt-inscribed upwards-pointing but line-less triangle; the alchemical symbol for fire.
“Condoleo,” weeps the woman as her tears and then entire body begin to evaporate. Similarly, the male shouts “Congratulor!” as his fever intensifies into a literal smoldering, then burning inferno. As one, the disincorporating figures flip over the symbolically transmuted tokens in their hands. As Hazel watches, she sees the inscribed initials on both tokens have changed. M.N.
reads the evaporating coin, while the melting coin reads J.M.
As one, the figures and the tokens complete their metamorphosis, and thereby reveal the now-open gate. A single coin sits across the threshold, smaller in size of fashioned of purified gold. A chimera is inscribed on its face, above three letters: S.P.N.
She stoops to retrieve it.
The coin is far heavier than the others, nearly requiring Hazel to use both hands to heft the mysterious token. As Hazel contemplates the object and its occult significance, her mind conjures a seventeenth \century quote from Maier’s Atalanta Fugiens
: “The Stone that is Mercury, is cast upon the Earth, exalted on Mountains, resides in the Air, and is nourished in the Waters.”’
As Hazel grasps the token, the square token stretches into a cube, just like German alchemist’s engraving. The Prima Materia. Hazel is well aware that the prima materia, otherwise known as the materia prima or first matter, is the ubiquitous starting material required for the alchemical magnum opus and the creation of the philosopher’s stone. It is the primitive formless base of all matter similar to chaos, the quintessence, or aether. The singularity from which is drawn the polarity of the Celestial Salt and Celestial Niter. All from One.
Similarly, Hazel perceives the significance of the Chimera. Beyond its intimate connections, the chimera is an alchemical symbol, denoting the union of the three grand alchemical essences–sulphur, salt, and mercury. Hazel’s enlightened psyche also grasps how it relates to union of the Metaphysic Trinity–the supernal resonances of entropy, stasis, and dynamism.
There’s no telling how such a symbolic object may come in useful within this dream-realm. Hazel hefts the distinctly heavy coin and strides past the gate after the retreating figure.
The figure continues to retreating–or is it guide?
Yes. The latter may be far more accurate.
Either way, Hazel’s determined strides swiftly overtake the robed figure. As Hazel’s reaches out to grasp the figure’s shoulder and force it to face her, the robe falls away. She hears three hard thuds.
She frowns, pulls the robe fully away, and casts it aside to see what may lie beneath.
Three irregular, egg-shaped stones, each the size of a baby’s head, sit on the ground. Across the near middle of each of the stones is a closed-fast zipper. All three rocks shift of their own volition as indistinct sounds spring from the zippers. “Mmmhmmmm…”
Hazel’s frown is more puzzled than anything else as she unzips one of the stones.
"Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh, " gasps the stone, from the unzipped ‘mouth’, the inside of which bears a full row of pearly teeth.
“Greetings,” Hazel offers.
“Mhmhmmm,” mumble the other two stones, clearly excited or irritated at their peer’s release.
“Salutations,” says the first stone, then adds, “A minor word of advice. Jogging.”
It’s not unusual for the young woman with autism to make such mistakes. She unzips the other two.
So liberated, the other two gasp, then stretch their zipper lips.
“Greetings to you both as well.”
“What a sight for sore eyes,” exclaims the middle rock.
“You don’t have eyes, you dolt. You can’t see anything!” says another.
“Lies!” replies the middle one. “Scandalous lies. Why, my vision is so keen I can see Plato’s Ideas.”
“Here we go again,” says another in a voice that would clearly roll eyes–if it had any.
“You are clearly better joggers than I am to maintain locomotion without legs. Perhaps you are similarly without need for physical eyes.”
“Did you hear that?” asks one of the rocks. “The chymist complimented me!”
“I head just fine,” says another. “Why, me ears are so fine I can hear the rustling of the heavens themselves. Besides, she was complimenting me, not you. I did most of the work, after all.”
“Bah!” shouts the third. “You two would have gone around in circles if I hadn’t counted off for you.”
“Counting? More like blathering.”
“It sounds as if the effort was a cooperative one. My compliments are addressed to you all,” Hazel replies levelly. “May I inquire as to your names?”
“Our names aren’t important,” one of the stones says.
“Well maybe yours isn’t,” another replies.
definitely is,” replies the third. “Whose turn is it to ask?”
“Definitely not, you asked last time.”
“That was the time before.”
“No, it most certainly wasn’t.”
“You both can’t count.”
“Why I’ll have you know I can number Democritus’ atoms!”
“I shall inquire as to the identifying aspects of your personal identities that each of you finds most significant,” Hazel offers diplomatically.
“I like this one,” says one of the stones.
“That’s only because she unzipped you first.”
“Which is why I should ask.”
“It’s my turn!” protests another. “Why don’t we leave it up to the chymist to pick?”
“I might propose a chance-based deciding mechanism to resolve the question of turns, or to simply rotate orders,” Hazel again offers. It’s a solution she knows all-too well from dealing with her bitterly divorced parents.
“See?” a rock says to its peers.
“You can’t see anything, you blockhead.”
“I told you I can see Plato’s Ideas!”
“Hear we go again.”
“Hear? Why I can hear the rustling of the very heavens.”
“Perhaps it may also prove efficacious if I spoke to you in turns,” Hazel suggests.
“I’ll keep count,” replies the third cheerfully.
“I believe it would be most satisfactory to the largest number of parties if I were to do so.” Hazel closes her eyes, waves her finger in a random pattern, then addresses the rock she sees herself pointing at. “You remarked as to the significance of my name. I am Hazel Bauman. Please identify yourselves, through your names or other defining traits.”
“Is she pointing at me?” says one.
“No, she’s clearly pointing at me.”
“You’re both hopelessly blind,” chides the third. “At least I’m not deaf. We were asked a question.”
“We’re stones of course,” answers one of the rocks to Hazel. “Oh dear, now she’ll think we’re just ordinary stones.”
“Is it a she? I can’t tell.”
“I am female,” Hazel clarifies levelly. This was already a dream, or at least a mental state approximating one. And these are stones rather than people, or at least sentient stones, so it wasn’t as if her nudity was greatly bothering to her. Still, it’s good to hear that it’s clearly lost on her audience.
Enough so, as well, that she’s willing to touch the rock who she means. They aren’t… exactly people, so the touching isn’t quite so bad. “This is whom. I shall address my next query to the next stone on your right or left, which I shall determine through the flipping of a coin.”
“I got picked! Hahaha!” exults the selected stone.
“Please expound, as you are clearly not ordinary stones.”
The others grumble a bit, likely at not being chosen, but the touched stone obliges her query.
“Why, isn’t it obvious? We’re Philosophists’ Stones.”
“Heads, right. Tails, left.” Hazel flips the heavy coin in her palm, gets heads, and turns to address the right-most stone. “You are distinct, I presume, from philosopher’s stones. What is your purpose?”
All three rocks groan at the mention of ‘philosophers’ stones’.
“Not the other
ones. Definitely not.”
“As I have stated, I believe you to be distinct from philosophers’ stones.”
“Wonders! Wonders! Wonders!” exclaims a stone. “She is a true believer!”
“Oh zip it, Gustavus,” chides another. “No one is interested in your styangraphy, palenchics, and caprimantic arts.”
“Oh, you’re lucky I don’t have my solar microscope, Eduard, or I’d melt your lips shut!”
“Be civil, commoners,” says the third, then seems to direct its attention back to Hazel. “Forgive my lessers, but at least one of us are made of more noble materials.” The rock bobs a bit as if bowing. “Count Cagliostro, at your service.”
“Count? I thought you were a prince,” snickers the stone identified as Gustavus.
“It is my pleasure to make your acquaintance, my lord,” Hazel replies with an inclination of her head. She addresses the right-most stone again. “Please expound on your purpose as philosophists’ stones.”
“Why, good chymist, we are as we always have been, advisors, counselors, and solicitors.”
“Some have called us seer stones, or see-er stones,” chimes in another, “as we help illuminate the secrets of secrets.”
She turns all the way to the left-most stone. “That is a most commendable function, as well as highly distinct from the function of philosopher’s stones. What guidance and counsel would you presently offer me?”
“Bah, no one’s ever called us that except for him,” says the rock who self-identified as Count Cagliostro. “Eduard is a charlatan through and through. Best be careful or he’ll soon fleece you of your wife’s Secreta Secretorum
“That’s Sir Talbot
to you, Prince of Quackery! And I’ll have you know that cross-matching is a sacred act decreed by the angels!”
“Perhaps it would be of assistance if I posited specific topics and present dilemmas,” Hazel offers.
The remaining stone, the one referred to as Gustavus coughs, as if to clear his throat. “Insects.”
“I wish to consume the full fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. This is obviously a considerable undertaking. How would you advise me to begin?”
‘Sir Talbot’ or Eduard speaks up first. “Why you must consult with the angels of course and apperceive your own Holy Guardian Angel.”
“Always angels with him. Far better to focus on healing your base matter before seeking psychic refinement,” says the Count. “I might be able to assist with both, though, as I am a talented psychic physician.”
The third chimes in, “I find it best to to first answer a question with a question.”
Gustavus continues, “Why?”
“Always ask oneself why before planning a sojourn, as the self-reflection grants oneself the proper perspective, much like riding a hot air balloon can help one not only survey one’s destination, but the proper course. Which is why I invented the hot air balloon, naturally–and the Montgolfier brothers are nothing better but second best, I assure you.”
“However, seeing as you lack a hot air balloon, I might recommend getting a cat,” Gustavus adds.
Holy Guardian Angel. That
is a term familiar to Hazel from her readings. “There is merit to all three courses of action—or contemplation, in the case of the third. The question, then, is which to pursue first. What is your diagnosis of and prognosis for my present base matter?” she asks the Count.
“It is a delicate question, yet fortunately most of the subject is in full view. It has been some time since I treated the congenitally frigid. I would need to consult my personal copy of The Most Holy Trinosophia
, but I would advocate plenty of sleep, perhaps under the supervision of a quasi-maternal figure as a grounding medium. Have you a step-aunt by chance?”
“I do not. I do, however, possess an aunt,” Hazel corrects.
“Well, perhaps that will suffice. Regardless, I recommend a dosage of calisthenics. The mind is naught the only thing that atrophies without proper exertion. Would you care for me to write you a prescription?”
“He means forge
you one,” interrupts Gustavus.
“I would feel at infinitely greater ease knowing that Aunt Winnie was watching over me than Mackenzie Snakewater,” Hazel states. She refrains from stating more. “I presume by ‘exertion’ you mean sleepwalking.”
“Somnambulism has a certain greater gravitas, wouldn’t you agree?” says the Count.
“Physical exercise would not seem inadvisable. I am, however, presently in the hospital and potentially in custody as a murder suspect. Might I achieve such exercise without leaving my room?”
“And honestly, Gus,” says the stone to its peer, “I’m surprised by the medium, though not target of your dispersion, what with you are learned practitioner of stynagraphy.”
Gustavus harrumphs, then comments to the group, “I still recommend a cat.”
“Just as I still suggest she seek her Holy Guardian Angel. Are you familiar with the Abramelin procedure?”
“We will address the matter of the cat when we are finished with my present line of inquiry,” Hazel states to the stone. “As well as that of the angel. All three subjects are of great value to me. That is why I must complete them one at a time.”
“Our good chymist lacks the time and resources to perform the Abramelin procedure,” Cagliostro says, almost preening as Hazel returns to his ‘line’.
“That matter shall be addressed,” Hazel repeats before turning back to the Count. “How may I—or you—secure Aunt Winnie as my nurse?” She then adds, “This is very
important to me. She may do much to ease my parents’ distress.”
Her voice starts to grow raw as that subject is addressed. They must be worried absolutely sick…
“Have you any mistresses or large diamonds?” asks the Count, as if such is a naturally reasonable line of inquiry given the topic of discussion.
“As a master of the caprimantic arts,” interrupts Gustavus again, “I might be able to intervene, if you can provide me with a goat.”
Hazel’s brow furrows. “Would a symbolic goat, diamonds, or mistresses suffice?”
Eduard likewise chimes in, “I believe Vaclav the Duke of Opava had an invocation that might be of use, something I picked up during my tenure at the Faust House.”
Physically, the closest she has in the real world are a pair of diamond earrings, along with some transparent clips to make up for how she never had her ears pierced. The former were a 22nd birthday present. Her mom wanted her to have some jewelry for nice occasions. Hazel remembers asking about that gift. Her mother had never been too concerned over what clothes or accessories she wore in the past, so long as it was clean and hole-less. And she almost never wore earrings. Lydia said that these were things she’d need to think about, now that she was graduated from college, and had even added that she was proud of how far Hazel had come as a dresser since her sweatpants-wearing middle school days.
Hazel had felt a bit embarrassed at that reminder. But she was happier, too, to have her mother’s approval.
Just hold on, Mom… I’ll be back, and I’ll be better, better able to protect us…
“Tell me of this invocation, please,” Hazel requests. Kill a goat to assuage some of her parents’ pain? Easily done.
The Philosophists’ Stones, not privy to Hazel’s thoughts, argue amongst themselves a bit before Eduard answers: “I am the daughter of Fortitude, and ravished every hour, from my youth. For behold, I am Understanding, and Science dwelleth in me; and the heavens oppress me. They covet and desire me with infinite appetite; few or none that are earthly have embraced me, for I am shadowed with the Circle of the Stone, and covered with the morning Clouds. My feet are swifter than the winds, and my hands are sweeter than the morning dew. My garments are from the beginning, and my dwelling place is in my self. The Lion knoweth not where I walk, neither do the beasts of the field understand me. I am deflowered, and yet a virgin; I sanctify, and am not sanctified. Happy is he that embraceth me: for in the night season I am sweet, and in the day full of pleasure. My company is a harmony of many Cymbals, and my lips sweeter than health itself. I am a harlot for such as ravish me, and a virgin with such as know me not: For Lo, I am loved of many, and I am a lover to many; and as many as come unto me as they should do, have entertainment. Purge your streets, O ye sons of men, and wash your houses clean; make yourselves holy, and put on righteousness. Cast out your old strumpets, and burn their clothes; abstain from the company of other women that are defiled, that are sluttish, and not so handsome and beautiful as I, and then will I come and dwell amongst you: and behold, I will bring forth children unto you, and they shall be the sons of Comfort. I will open my garments, and stand naked before you, that your love may be more enflamed toward me. As yet, I walk in the clouds; as yet, I am carried with the winds, and cannot descend unto you for the multitude of your abominations, and the filthy loathsomeness of your dwelling places.”
“Oh my, my apologies, that clearly isn’t the right one,” it says in apology after a moment.
“The first portion actually felt somewhat personally applicable,” Hazel offers. “But do go on,” she motions to Eduard.
“Looks like someone’s zipper is a bit rusty, eh?” Gustavus chuckles.
“Blockheads…” the Count groans and bobbles as if rolling non-existent eyes.
“Wait, wait, I’ve got it,” Eduard says, clearly embarrassed. “For God has stamped and sealed all creatde things with this character of Trinity, as a king of hieroglyphical writing, whereby his own nature might be known. For the number 3 and the magic number 4 make up the perfect number 7, the seat of many mysteries. And seeing that the Quaternary rests in the Ternary, it is a number which stands on the horizon of eternity, and doth exhibit everything bound with God in us, thus including God, men, and all created things, with all their mysterious powers. Adding three, you get ten, which marks the return to unity. In this Arcanum is included all knowledge of hidden things which God, by His word, has made known to the men of His good pleasure, so that they might have a true conception of him.”
“Such numbers are indeed significant for the reasons so elaborated. I must confess, however, that I do not see the subject’s immediate relevance to my aunt.”
“Ah, well, sometimes the angels send us the answers we need, rather than want,” the stone answers.
“They aren’t angels but microscopic insects, Eduard, which is why insanity increases as the infestation spreads,” Gustavus remarks.
“Let us remain on-focus, please. What must I do to assist you in obtaining Aunt Winnie as my nurse?”
“If I might be so presumptuous, my lady, it is we who are assisting you,” the Count says in self-congratulation. “We but live to serve.”
“I recommend a cat–specifically a black one, from Morocco if possible,” chimes Gustavus, then adds, “A devil disguised as a cat might also do, in a pinch. Otherwise, I suggest you employ the ancient art of legerdemain, only slightly less in esteem than the caprimantic arts, and one not requiring so many goats.”
“To wit,” the Count expounds, “Doctor Katterfelto is suggesting you perform a certain dextral ritual whereby a valued possession vanishes from your personage and through obscure, inscrutable means manifests again upon the personage of a nurse other than this aunt.”
“A black kitten or imp would also do,” Gustavus adds with a rocking gesture.
“Charlatans!” exclaims Eduard, then seems to turn to Hazel. “Do not listen to these Princes of Puff and Quackery! Trust in terrestrial astronomy. I and I alone will be your shewstone.”
“You clearly aren’t listening–perhaps because your ears were cropped off, you fraud!” exclaims the Count. “She has clearly chosen me as her advisor!”
“Wonder! Wonder! Wonder!” Gustavus exclaims. “This one is a true believer and lover of cats. The chymist may entertain you buffoons, but in the end, it will be I that will be chosen, I swear upon my solar microscope!”
“I choose all of you. I am in need of good counsel, and I believe that can be found among you equally,” Hazel answers frankly. The words aren’t new. She’s said some variation of them to her parents countless times. Just usually with a ‘two’ instead of ‘three’. “We shall address the topics of cats and angels once this present matter is concluded.”
She turns to the Count. “You are correct, the three of you are the ones assisting me. I would be helpless to effect such desired ends without your aid.” She considers for a moment. “The only possession still upon my person are my glasses. They are valued indeed, however, for the deficits they correct in my sight.”
“A nurse who stole my glasses could get into trouble, especially from my parents. There is little reason for any nurse to perform so petty a theft—with the exception of Mackenzie Snakewater.” Hazel smiles at that. “Very well. She seemingly steals my glasses out of spite, and the matter comes to the attentions of others. She is replaced as my nurse by Aunt Winnie. What must be done to effect this plan?”
Hazel’s long-practiced politesse smooths over the bickering stones–at least for the present moment. Count Cagliostro clears his ‘throat’, then recites, “My dear Philochatus, you are about to penetrate into the sanctuary of the sublime sciences; my hand is about to raise for you the impenetrable veil which hides from the eyes of common men the tabernacle, the sanctuary wherein the Eternal has lodged the secrets of nature, kept for a few that are privileged, the few Elect whom His omnipotence created that they may SEE
, and seeing, may soar after Him in the vast expanse of His Glory and deflect upon mankind one of the Rays that shine round about His golden Throne.” The Count adds, “There is an accompanying diagram, but I seem to have misplaced it.”
“I am privileged to receive your knowledge all the same,” Hazel replies.
Sir Talbot then chimes in, “Why good chymist, with some of my red tincture, which I obtained alongside the Book of Saint Dustain by virtue of the spirit creature of Northwick Hill, you could very well transmute the glass of your glasses into another more rarefied crystalline matter or shape befitting the proper temptation you wish to conjure.”
He then adds his own recitation, “Nature rejoices in nature, nature rules over nature, and nature is the triumph of nature. A human begets a human, the lion begets the lions, the dogs beget the dogs, grain begets grain. What is begotten against nature is a monster incapable of life. The Adepts teach this: only gold brings forth gold again at the harvest. This is the revealed mystery.”
“Our base natures define us all,” Hazel concurs. “Would this transmutation of my glasses’ matter be permanent? My relatives would find it suspicious were they to suddenly be made of gold.”
“Quartz to diamond?” the Count muses, as if almost complimenting Eduard’s recommendation.
“I can draw forth gold from a cat’s viscera,” Gustavus opines.
“I do not doubt your capabilities, merely whether it is within my current best interests to employ them to their full extent.”
The Count bobs its ‘head’ again, and in hearty agreement recites another passage, which Hazel recalls being from the Trinosophia: “Two stumbling blocks equally dangerous will constantly present themselves to you. One of them would outrage the sacred rights of every individual. It is Misuse of the power which God will have entrusted to you; the other, which would bring ruin upon you, is Indiscretion. . . Both are born of the same mother, both owe their existence to pride. Human frailty nourishes them; they are blind; their mother leads them. With her aid these two Monsters carry their foul breath even into the hearts of the Lord’s Elect. Woe unto him who misuses the gifts of heaven in order to serve his passions. The Almighty Hand that made the elements subject to him, would break him like a fragile reed. An eternity of torments could hardly expiate his crime. The Infernal Spirits would smile with contempt at the tears of the one whose menacing voice had so often made them tremble in the bosom of their fiery depths.”
“It is not for you, Philochatus, that I sketch this dreadful picture. The friend of humanity will never become its persecutor . . . The precipice, my son, which I fear for you, is Indiscretion, the imperious craving to inspire astonishment and admiration. God leaves to men the task of punishing the imprudent minister who permits the eye of the profane to look into the mysterious sanctuary.”
Eduard mumbles something which seems like agreement.
Gustavus, however, makes a snide comment under his breath about “being too familiar with two stumbling blocks, but ones with different names.”
“I shall endeavor to heed this counsel, for I have seen evidence of its truth already. Indiscretion and the misuse of power are any willworker’s downfall.”
“Yes, best to take the guineas and keep moving,” Gustavus chimes in again, this time in ingratiating agreement. “To avoid… stagnation,” he adds. “Yes, stagnation, that’s it.”
“Movement is preferable to stasis,” Hazel concurs. “And with my aunt replacing Snakewater as my nurse, I have little doubt that I shall be in a better position to move forward upon my awakening. How might this state of affairs be arranged?”
All three begin to offer myriad recommendations, but the only coherent one Hazel hears is, “French prostitutes are capable of many a tricks.”
“There are no French prostitutes available,” Hazel replies levelly. She feels like her mom addressing her five-year-old self.
“A pity,” coughs one, or perhaps two, of the stones. “Perhaps the Count can assist.”
“Why of course, always happy to oblige and aid the most noblest of spirits,” answers Cagliostro with a proud ‘puff’.
“No, the other
Count,” says Gustavus.
“I believe Graf or Margrave would be the more accurate title,” says Eduard.
” inquires Cagliostro, clearly peeved as well as a bit… frightened. “Why, you know he will only lead to her ruination. You cannot trust him, you of all should know that.”
“I am willing to consider all potential sources of counsel,” Hazel offers. She can’t imagine what her parents are going through. Winnie could help. The philosophists have posited a number of promising ideas, but actually following through on them is proving… arduous.
“Well…” begins the Count, unable to refuse a request for counsel, “did I ever tell you I was a close acquaintance of Giacomo Casanova? He was most marveled when I mystically translated a text in his hand.”
“And by translated, he means forged,” chimes in Eduard.
“You’re just jealous,” bickers back the Count. “You’re the worst profligate amongst us.”
“Counsel me as to this other count. Who is he and how might I gain his counsel?” Hazel inquires directly. Perhaps a firmer conversational hand is needed.
“Get on with your story, Cagliostro,” Gustavus urges. “There are cats to consider.”
“Very well, my lady,” the Count says. “So Casanova, he related to that he had a chance to meet this personage. He recalled that this ‘extraordinary man, intended by nature to be the king of impostors and quacks, would say in an easy, assured manner that he was three hundred years old, that he knew the secret of the Universal Medicine, that he possessed a mastery over nature, that he could melt diamonds, professing himself capable of forming, out of ten or twelve small diamonds, one large one of the finest water without any loss of weight. All this, he said, was a mere trifle to him’.” The Count’s zippered lips curl inward as if attempting to swallow his next words, but they come out all the same.
As Hazel listens, she looks at the robe lying on the ground, then pulls it on to provide some semblance of modesty. That idea was long in the coming.
“Further more, he told me, ‘Further more, Casanova summed his feelings for him as such, ’Notwithstanding his boastings, his bare-faced lies, and his manifold eccentricities, I cannot say I thought him offensive. In spite of my knowledge of what he was and in spite of my own feelings, I thought him an astonishing man as he was always astonishing me.’”
“It hurts you to praise another, doesn’t it, Oh Prince,” Gustavus teases with a chuckle.
“Oh how I wish my ears have been burned shut rather than cropped,” laments Eduard. “Silence from the angels would be a worthwhile trade to no longer to you two and your ceaseless pantomime of sense and sound.” He adds, “He’s over by the tree, waiting for you.”
“What a crime against the sacred art of the prestige!” Gustavus scoffs.
“Yes, clearly the good chymist wanted me to reveal his location,” grouses the Count.
Hazel scans her surroundings for trees.
Off in the distance, Hazel sees a solitary tree–or perhaps a lonely set of conjoined trees. Looking up for the first time since passing through the gate, the robed Hazel sees the sky is longer filled with rigid, uniformly marching clouds, but lighter, more chaotic cloud formations akin to wet watercolor paint or an old VCR
mid-buffer. The color of the clouds, though, is still the same threatening smoke gray. The ground too, though aren and deeply raked, rolls. Like a velvet sheet undulating beneath her feet.
And off on the horizon looms a single tree or arboreal duality. At the distance, she cannot tell if there is anyone or anything beneath its bowers, but it looks as if a tree is growing out of the brand of another tree, such that the arbor leans as is blown by a perpetual wind.
“Thank you for the direct and concise answer,” she replies, turning back to the stones. It feels like it’s getting to be time to leave. “I still desire your collective counsel. If I were to carry you, would you be willing to accompany me further on my sojourn?”
The three stones quite literally and proverbially fall over themselves in acquiescence.
“We live but to serve our most noble of patron!” exclaims the Count.
“Why, I am your shewstone!” shouts Eduard.
“Of course!” echoes Gustavus, then most quietly adds, “But as for my counsel, might I suggest you leave behind the other two. That way, if you happen upon a cat, you will have a free hand.”
“Excellent,” Hazel replies with a smile. Getting straight answers from them has proven difficult, but they have provided some answers. All knowledge is useful. Besides, she has to admit that she kind of likes them too, bickering and all. “And there remains no need to choose. I may take all of you.”
There is a mixture of grumbling and jubilation at Hazel’s decree.
Hazel looks down at her present vestments. This robe is big on her. Most clothes are big on her. When she was younger, she was sore about how she would literally always be looking up to her taller parents, but right now it means more cloth to work with. Hazel tears off the ends of the baggy sleeves and overlong hem. The tears are notably quick and clean. She lays down the three strips of cloth and ties them together, but there don’t seem to be any gaps in the fabric either as she places the three stones and heavy coin into the half-open sack she slings over her shoulder. She proceeds onwards to the tree.
The trio of stones grumble and bicker a bit at their close proximity, but their arguments soon turn into bragging contests again, as each seeks to woo or impress Hazel. “…you should have seen the Emperor’s face when I transmuted quicksilver to gold! Poor Rudolph almost fainted!…”
“…imagine their surprise when I transmuted the tail from long to short and back again–and they dared compare my black Morocco to the infinitely poorer specimen that the flea-bitten Whittington traipsed around with…
“…and that is when I escaped from the apothecary’s covenant, a mere lad less than fifteen summers…”
She replies with some variation of, “Most impressive feats,” or “Extraordinary indeed,” to each boast, favoring them equally. This is a piece of cake next to dealing with her parents. And like when dealing with her parents, she doesn’t lose sight of her larger goal. Her determined strides carry her towards the distant figure.
The tree, which initially seemed so minuscule against the world-expansive field, soon overtakes and becomes the world, rising out to fill the sky and stretching out roots to encompass the earth.
Yet, for all its majesty, the tree feels more familiar than foreign, and Hazel feels akin to a child returning to a tree she climbed in childhood. The figure standing beneath its bower is similarly familiar. As are his words:
“The epistemological snake simultaneously devours and begets its own ontological tail. Truth is Ouroboros.”
“Hello, Uncle Leo,” Hazel smiles. It’s not quite a happy expression. Or a sad one.
Just an older one. It’s been less than a week since they last saw one another. It feels like a lifetime. It feels like she’s lived all the hardships and travails of that lifetime with none if its joys. But she isn’t worse for it. He’d know all about that, she supposes.
“I am gladdened to see a familiar face.”
Whether cowed by the tree or man beneath it, the philosphists’ stones become uncharacteristically quiet.
Leopold regards Hazel with his iron-ocean eyes, then turns to the tree. He places a loving hand on its bark. “I was raised by trees. Thüringer Wald,” he intones in his heavy Germanic accent. “The Thuringian Forest,” he repeats, translating.
None, however, was needed. Hazel speaks fluent German.
“It is a beautiful place, much like the wooded mountains surrounding Witiko Falls.”
“I am certain. The forests of the Old World are not so expansive as the ones in the New. But there is a sense of history to them that is not present here.”
“Yes, history…” the man says, still staring at the tree–and once again Hazel is struck at how much smaller he seems when his mesmerically intense gaze is not upon her. “As a young boy, I would wander the Rennweg. The elderly grandmothers and old men would warn me, though, to beware and not stray from the path. For they said that in their days, the woods were filled with tatzelwurms. The way they spoke, the way they believed
, there was naught a tree in all of the Wald that lacked a tatzelwurm wrapped around its boughs or trunk.”
Leopold then turns to regard Hazel with an intensity and weight equal to the massive irons. “Can you imagine such a thing?”
“‘Stay on the path’ is a warning older than any of those grandmothers,” Hazel replies.
“The history within that forest extended beyond its physical boundaries.”
Leo’s magnetic-gray gaze does not waver, but holds fast and strong as he awaits an answer to a question that increasingly seems so painfully far from trivial.
“I can imagine, all-too well, what it is to walk into a forest believed to have as many dangers as trees.” There’s another old
smile. “I have walked such a forest. And I do not believe I have yet left its boundaries. Perhaps I will not ever. And perhaps neither have you. A man I respect once told me that there is no safety in true science.”
Her answers seem to invoke a sliver of sadness in Leo’s expression. “Una salus victis nullam sperare salutem,” he says like an oath breathed before a headsman’s axe. (“The only safety for the conquered is to hope for no safety.
“I have lost my first battle against my foe,” Hazel answers. There’s that same old smile. “But this war is far from over, and I have not yet been conquered.”
He takes his hand off the tree and steps toward Hazel, his grey eyes unblinking. “The war is not over, but reality has been all but conquered.”
“When I see the enemy’s flag planted upon my keep’s turret, I shall contemplate alternatives to existence among the conquered. Until then, it is only logical to persist in fighting, no matter the odds.” Her own gray eyes start to harden too as the smile dies. “And I have fought and sacrificed too much to arrive at this present moment only to give up now. Nor do I believe that you
would supply the pills that facilitated my Awakening, nor appear now within the depths of my psyche, only to counsel that all is lost.”
“The war is not over, but reality has been all but conquered,” Leopold says with another step, such that his eyes loom like achromatic moons. “And your answer evinces substantive proof of that reality. I inquire as to whether you can imagine a forest full of tatzelwurms, a wood full of real, living, breathing stollenwurms, springwurms, arassas, praatzelwurms and bergstutzens–_dragons_, and your mind marches lock-step with the consensus, perceiving only danger which must be vanquished.”
“You are numbered among the great, old souls, but you have been raised too much by the shackles of this present generation. You speak of your foe–but after all you have seen, after all you have sacrificed, cannot your psyche perceive the true oppressor?”
“Then it is a literal answer to your question you so desire? I find such a change refreshing. I have frequently been told that literal answers to questions are improper ones. Perhaps I have,” Hazel contemplates.
“Within a mere span of days, I have encountered direct empirical evidence—not merely within the depths of my psyche, but the waking world—that vampires and spirits of the dead are all-too real. Yes, I can imagine
a forest full of such mythical creatures, all-too readily. Its only difference from my prior experiences is a matter of degree.”
“I am Awake. I have beheld the Tree of Knowledge in all its glory, and I have supped upon its fruits. I know what I am. Or are we to speak of morality rather than epistemology? I do not know all
of what I am there—but I know enough to realize my path forward.”
“Or perhaps it is not we
who should speak, but I who should listen. I am still but a novice on the path of True Will. There is a great deal I do not yet see nor understand. To maintain an open mind is paramount in science—and if you have counsel on how I may yet defeat or simply realize my oppressors, I shall hear it gladly.”
“Yes,” Hazel then remarks slowly, “I would hear such counsel. You are referring to a far vaster reality than my own, are you not? ROSEWATER’s agents claim that ‘Reality Deviants’ are everywhere and that my government needs me. These are not the statements of a group convinced of its imminent victory. I do not think that reality has been all but conquered at all.”
Hazel watches as Leo’s mind latches on to three of her declarations like a black iron bear-trap. He takes another step towards her, piercing a never-before-breached barrier that has hitherto existed between them. “You posit that you are Erwachen,
that you have known dem Baume der Erkenntnis,” (“the Tree of Knowledge”
), “and that you know what you
are. Non diligere Deum, qui mandata eius participando cum perfidis non custodit.” Hazel’s mind well understands the Papess ultimatum: God does not love those who allow perfidy.
Leo takes another step closer. Time seems to slow, as if distilling in some rarefied, crystal whose shape is an aurelian tesseract. “Then I must demand proof of your positivism. Answer me thrice veridically, and I shall do likewise–this I swear upon the Rosy Cross. If you are _Erwachen, then name me.”
“Very well. You have brought me much knowledge and rendered me great aid. I shall answer your queries fully and honestly—this I swear upon my commitment to my own brand of truth. You are Leopold Schoening, also Erwachen
, a disciple of the Rosicrucians.”
,” Leo declares with all the solemnity of a dirge bell. Hazel knows the word keenly. It is one the vice principal often uses with his students. A traditional translation renders it as incomplete
, although in its present usage, its more literal rendition seems more accurate: a lack of understanding
Leo presses onward with his proctored prüfung. “Her Name contains five and fifty, and yet has only eight letters; the third is the third part of the fifth, which added to the sixth will produce a number whose root shall exceed the third itself by just the first, and it is the half of the fourth. Now the fifth and the seventh are equal, the last and the fifth are also equal, and make with the second as much as the sixth, which contains just four more than the third tripled. If you are Erwachen
, then name Her.”
Hazel has ever been more a scholar of the humanities, occult and otherwise, than the natural sciences and their underlying field of mathematics. Nevertheless, she learned more from the likes of Dorothy Vosburg than self-defense. Consequently, she recognizes the riddle as ultimately a mathematical, or more specifically algebraic, puzzle. However, that knowledge also reveals to her the insolvability of the puzzle without knowing at least one of the initial values.
Fortunately, Hazel’s more specialized education presents a pathway, as she recognizes the riddle’s origin as one of the three foundational manifestos of Rosicrucianism, specifically the Chymische Hochzeit Christiani Rosencreutz anno 1459
. Rendered in modern times as The Chymical Wedding
the obfuscated, symbolic treatise, which first manifested publicly in the early seventeenth century yet claims to have been first written two centuries earlier, contains a passage wherein the author and several other invitees are posed the same riddle by the Virgo Lucifera. The author, as if realizing the insolvability of the riddle replies:
The answer was intricate enough to me, yet I left not off so, but said, “Noble and virtuous Lady, may I not obtain one only Letter?”
“Yea (said she) that may well be done.”
“What then (replied I again) may the seventh contain?”
“It contains (said she) as many as there are Lords here.”
Yet, the riddle posed to her now, diverges ever so slightly from the one she first read–another present left for her by the Sisyphus Manor: a 1885 first edition of Waite’s Real History of the Rosicrucians
. Namely, Waite’s translation into English diverged as so:
My name contains six and fifty, and yet hath only eight letters; the third is the third part of the fifth, which added to the sixth will produce a number, whose root shall exceed the third itself by just the first, and it is the half of the fourth. Now the fifth and seventh are equal, the last and first also equal, and make with the second as much as the sixth hath, which contains four more than the third tripled.
In contrast, Waite’s original translation, as well as the book’s first English translation in 1690, all read contains five and fifty
Hazel’s study demonstrated that this change had nothing to do with the line in Liber Al vel Legis
, and everything to do with the solution to the riddle presented by Waite in his 1924 Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross
which presents a solution by taking the number of each letter as its ordinal position in the English or German alphabet. Like any cogent mathematical solution, Waite’s reasoning depended on the Virgo Lucifera’s response to the narrator, that the seventh–and thus also the fifth–letter contains . . . as many as there are lords here
The recollection triggers Hazel’s nigh-eidetic memory to run through Waite’s computational logic:
Call the letters of her name a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h. These sum to 56.
Since “the fifth and seventh are equal, the last and first also equal”
2a + b + c + d + 2e+ f = 56
“the third is the third part of the fifth,” to 3c = e, so
2a + b + 7c + d + f = 56
“the third . . . added to the sixth, will produce a number whose root shall exceed the third itself by just the first”, so,
sqrt(c + f) = c + a
“. . . and it [the root of c+f, or c+a] is half the fourth” so d = 2(c + a), so
4a + b + 9c + f = 56
“the sixth . . . containeth four more than the third tripled” so f = 3c + 4, so
4a + b + 12c + 4 = 56, and
sqrt(4c + 4) = c + a, which latter can be rewritten as
sqrt 4(c + 1) = c + a, or
2 sqrt (c + 1) = c + a
“the last and the first are also equal, and make with the second, as much as the sixth have.”
Slightly ambiguous, could mean a (or h) + b = f, or a + h + b (= 2a+b) = f.
If the former (call this case 1) then a + b = 3c + 4, so 3a + 15c + 8 = 56, so 3a + 15c = 48, a + 5c = 16.
If the latter (call this case 2), 2a + b = 3c + 4, so 2a + 15c + 8 = 56, 2a + 15c = 48.
The reference of numbers to letters strongly suggests that a positive integer solution for all the variables is expected. At this point, c + 1 has to be a perfect square; which could make c 3, 8, 15, &c. However if c is more than 3 and a third, a will be negative.
So c = 3. In case 1, a + 15 = 16, so a = 1. In case 2, 2a + 45 = 48, so a = 1.5, suggesting that the case 1 reading of the constraint was correct.
So h = 1, e = 9, g = 9, f = 3 × 3 + 4 = 13, b = 12, f = 2(1+3) = 8, giving
1, 12, 3, 8, 9, 13, 9. 1
By ordinal position in the English alphabet, ALCHIMIA
._Or, as rendered in the modern vernacular, ALCHEMY
Yet, Hazel is not merely a scholar of paper and vellum, but of also of bash line coding–and the computer programmer detects several errors in Waite’s coding. Like unto Hazel’s own otherworldly sojourn, the narrator of the Chymical Wedding
receives printed and engraved messages. These messages are inevitably written in Latin. It is therefore reasonable, Hazel concludes, to assume that the solution to the puzzle will be a Latin construct, rather than one based on the Germanic, much less English, alphabet.
Due to the numeric nature of the clues, Hazel also assumes the solution will consist of Roman numerals that are used concurrently as letters to spell out words. The puzzle specifies eight letters, and it is reasonable to assume that each letter-space should contain a single alphanumeric character. This limits the number of letter positions to eight, and the potential choices of single character Roman numerals–that must also function as letters–from which to choose. Once again, her fluency in the lately far from dead tongue indicates that the single character Roman numerals that function as both numbers and letters are as follows: I which equals 1, V which equals 5, X which equals 10, L which equals 50, C which equals 100, D which equals 500, and M which equals 1000. As all this information funnels through Hazel’s psyche, she blinks–and finds that Leopold has not. He awaits her answer.
Providing the prolix riddle’s answer, however, proves all the more difficult as her mind distractedly re-contemplates the first riddle.
And a great deal more besides. The references by the philosophists’ stones to the ‘other count’. So Casanova, he related to that he had a chance to meet this personage. He recalled that this ’extraordinary man, intended by nature to be the king of impostors and quacks…
She’s heard of that figure. He’s famous among theosophical circles as one of the ‘Ascended Masters’. All manner of incredible deeds, tales, and past identities are ascribed to him, from brewing an elixir of immortality to being the Merlin of King Arthur’s court. Including appearing before and guiding occultists for centuries after his reported death. No. That’s simply too incredible. He’s a figure out of stories and fables.But the time periods given by the stones match. So do the names. The will of Francis II Rákóczi mentions his eldest son, Leopold George, who was believed to have died at the age of four. The speculation is that his identity was safeguarded as a protective measure from the persecutions against the Habsburg dynasty.
Some historic accounts say that St. Germain was a Jew.Those could be wrong. The most plausible accounts say he was the natural son of an Italian princess and tax collector. But those accounts could be wrong too. Throughout his adult life he deliberately span a confusing web to conceal his actual name and origins, using different pseudonyms in the different places of Europe that he visited.And whatever else may be true, Hazel can’t imagine Leo lying about surviving the Holocaust. He could be telling the truth, if he
was really an Alastian Jew, like some of the accounts say.
She thinks back to the philosophists’ stones. Their references couldn’t have been more explicit. On the other hand, they’ve also proved themselves amply deserving of their names. For all their preening and boasting, little of their counsel has actually been actionable. There are ways she could test that. Ask for counsel on some question or dilemma she has already answered, like how to deal with-
Leo’s riddle isn’t completely new to her. She’s well-read. She’s come across it before…