Mystical Realms Newsletter for September, 2013
And welcome to my newsletter for September, 2013! Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think would be interested in keeping up with me! To receive these newsletters regularly, please drop me an email or subscribe online from my website (http://www.JefMurray.com ) or at:http://groups.google.com/group/Mystical_Realms . Notices of events and items of interest are at the bottom of this email.
I've added two new painting images to my website at www.JefMurray.com . These include "Buckleberry", and "City of Kings". Both can be found in my Middle-earth->The Third Age->Lord of the Rings gallery. You can also find them by going to http://www.JefMurray.com and clicking on the "Newest Works->Paintings" link at the top, left.
In addition to the two paintings, I have added some 11 new graphite sketch images to the Middle-earth, Chronicles, and Fairy Tale sketch galleries. You can see all of the latest together by clicking on the "Newest Works -> Sketches" link at the top, left my home page, www.JefMurray.com .
My first ever 2014 Jef Murray Chronicles Calendar is now available! The calendar features original characters, scenes, and landscapes inspired by favorite childhood tales (e.g., "C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia"); simply open its pages to enter enchanted lands, encounter talking trees and animals, and embark on noble quests. Within the calendar, you'll find full colour painting and sketch images (fauns, lions, badgers, unicorns, centaurs, valiant mice) from my Chronicles galleries. Also included are moon phases, equinoxes and solstices, many major holidays, and visual cues for other dates of significance. To learn details, and to order yours, see: www.JefMurray.com
The 2014 Jef Murray AL3P Middle-earth Calendar is also now available! With half of proceeds going to support A Long Expected Party III in Kentucky in September, 2014, this calendar features original painting images inspired by the J.R.R. Tolkien's legendarium, from the First through the Third Ages. To learn details, and to order yours, see: www.JefMurray.com
"Seer: A Wizard's Journal" continues to be well received, and many very kind reviews have been posted of late. "Seer" is available in both softbound and eBook formats. For more about this collection of tales, poems, and illustrations, see my website, or go directly to: http://shop.middleearthnetwork.com/Seer-A-Wizards-Journal-by-Jef-Murray-Soft-Cover-Version-JMS01-GQB01-OLP01-1255.htm
I am honoured to have been invited as a guest to the Mythmoot II, sponsored by The Mythgard Institute (http://www.mythgard.org) This weekend of celebration and discussion will be held December 14-15th, in Baltimore Maryland. For more info, see: http://www.mythgard.org/2013/06/call-for-papers-mythgard-institutes-mythmoot-ii/
A Conference on J.R.R. Tolkien will be held in Atlanta in January, 2014, at St. Peter Chanel church. Featuring Joseph Pearce, this conference will explore many aspects of Tolkien's works. I am honoured to have been invited to speak on Tolkien's impact on the visual arts, and on themes of light and darkness in his writings, as translated into paintings, sketches, and other media. Watch this space for more details as they are announced!
The third great gathering of Tolkien fans in Kentucky is being planned for September, 2014! A Long Expected Party 3 (acronym "AL3P) is completely booked, but you can still be put on the waiting list to attend on-site. You can also still register, and offsite lodging is available. I'm delighted to announce that I will be one of three guests at the event, along with Dr. Michael Drout and Dr. Amy Sturgis. For more information, see: http://www.alep-ky.us/
(The following is a serial tale that has grown in the telling. Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4 were published in previous months and you can read each of them online here: http://mysticalrealms.mymiddleearth.com/2013/08/07/the-prophesies-of-yeshi-chapter-1/ . The tale continues with Chapter 5, below, which follows a reprise of Chapter 4).
Chapter 4; Yeshi
Charles looked past Gabriel and noticed that his studio was dark. Evening was falling, and, as if wakened from a deep sleep, both men leaned back in their chairs, blinked, and yawned.
"It appears that my tale has eaten away our daylight," Gabriel said, chuckling.
"Yes, but we can't stop now. Surely there's time to tell me about Yeshi?"
"Yes, certainly, but first, we need sustenance. Shall I treat you to supper at the Bell? It's the least I can do for so monopolizing your day."
"Yes, that would be great," said Charles. "But, can we pick up the tale again afterwards? Perhaps over dessert?"
The two men donned cloaks against the chill spring air, strolled to the Bell Inn, and there feasted on mini roast haggis, neeps, and tatties, followed by large plates of langoustines. Rather than stay at the Bell for dessert, they returned to Charles' studio for cheese, fruit, and biscuits, and to sip on Amaretto di Saronno.
"Ah, what a fine way to spend an evening!" said Charles.
"I agree. And if you don't mind, I believe I'll have a pipe before I resume my disgracefully long-winded tale."
"By all means!"
"There we are, then. Now, where was I?"
"You were with the girl, Amsale, and on the way to meet Yeshi."
"Yes, yes. And I believe I mentioned that we had one additional adventure before we made it safely into Yeshi's valley. It was a small one, but important, as you'll see.
"We were into the mountains now, and these are desolate places. Even today, along the major roadways, it is always best to keep on one's toes, as wild creatures ever haunt the heights. This was even more so then, as the ruggedness of the terrain kept all but the occasional hunter from residing in the craggy highlands.
"Amsale directed us forward along a perilous path that, I confess, I could hardly follow, though to her it appeared as plain as day. We had just ascended a particularly steep grade, one at which we both dismounted so as not to overly tax our camel, when I saw movement near the tops of the adjacent cliffs. Even as we halted so that I could get a better look, we heard the barking of baboons echoing from the peaks, and I could see scores of the creatures above us. Their chatter and barking increased, and we soon saw that a veritable tide of the creatures was descending upon us, with those at the front screaming and baring their enormous fangs.
"I told Amsale to stand near the camel, as I proposed to once more make use of the invisibility powder I possessed, but she smiled and shook her head. She seemed genuinely amused at my concern for our safety! But, there was no time to argue; the army of baboons was now nearly upon us. The surging mass of creatures leapt to the very brink of the rocks above the path, still screaming and barking. Then, Amsale lifted her hand and spoke a single word, softly.
"The effect was instantaneous. Within seconds, all of the baboons halted, and a silence so complete that it was palpable descended upon the pass. At the forefront of the troupe of baboons was an enormous male, whose fangs had, just moments before, been bared in preparation for a leap upon our camel's back. This great ape now bowed before Amsale and covered his head with his forepaws. In waves, all the rest of the creatures did likewise, and I was reminded of nothing so much as an ocean of worshippers making obeisance at the appearance of some pagan goddess.
"Amsale stepped toward the great male baboon, who reached out his right hand toward her, palm upward. She stroked his palm and spoke in his ear. At that, the spell was broken. The male lifted himself from the rock, turned, and barked a command at the thousands of other baboons. Each of these, in turn, rose up and departed, leaping from rock to rock and sailing effortlessly over the fissures and crags stacked on high above us. Soon there was no sign of that great army of watchers, and all was once again silent.
"'How is it, Amsale, that these fierce creatures yield so readily to your will? Have you some special magic, that you can tame even these thousands with but a word?' I asked her.
"'My father,' she answered, `does not the child recognize the mother and do all that she would ask, with no need of spells? So do these recognize who I am and what I am, and so they do all for the sake of the one I serve.'
"Amsale would say no more, so I was forced to be content with this explanation; nor would Yeshi satisfy my curiosity on the matter when later I queried her. Rather, she simply smiled and said that Amsale had spoken, and there was an end to it.
"But, this was nearly the last of the strange events that transpired on my travels to Yeshi, and as we continued on our way, we soon cleared the pass and started down the far side of the mountain range. But, at an outcropping along the trail, Amsale suddenly halted us. Nestled into a rift in the cliff face was an oddly-shaped juniper tree that was blackened on one side; doubtless from a lightning strike from the previous stormy summer season. Behind this tree was a fissure in the rock that would just admit us, although it was a tight squeeze for the camel. Nevertheless, we led him past the tree and into the fissure, picking our way among many fallen stones.
"The path, now close and dark, wound through the living rock, and at each turn I expected to find our way barred by debris. But, the way remained open, and far above our heads, all that I could see of the sky was the thinnest strip of ultramarine. This was untouched by clouds, and was of such a hue, due to our elevation, that it struck me why this region is called the "Roof of Africa".
"The passage continued for perhaps a mile, although it wound in such a serpentine fashion that it might well have been much more. But at length, after one last doubling back on itself, I perceived that the way forward was now, indeed, blocked, but not by debris. There stood before us a heavy pair of metal gates. They appeared to be made of solid iron, and were quite old, though I could detect no signs of rust or wear. The surface of each gate was inscribed, but in the dim light I could not decipher what was written upon them, and they stood nearly twenty feet tall. Sharpened spikes crowned them, and clearly, even with grappling hooks, it would have been quite impossible to climb over them. I examined each surface as carefully as I was able but could discover no lock or other means of opening them. I turned to ask Amsale whether she knew what was to be done, but to my dismay, she had vanished.
"As you've heard, I had already been in far worse straits, and it occurred to me for an instant that perhaps Amsale also had a way of tricking my eyes. But, I could think of no reason why she would wish to deceive me. So, I hobbled the camel at the gate and partially retraced our steps, trying to recollect when I'd last been certain that Amsale had been with us. I had led us through the rift, but I believed she had been with us through most of the journey.
"Nevertheless, I could find no trace of her, nor any alternate passage that I might have missed. So, I started back toward the gate to ponder what was to be done. As I did so, I heard a distant sound of voices echoing through the fissure. The sound was confused, and this was doubtless heightened by the rock passage itself, which stretched and distorted every sound made within it. I had noticed this when first we entered, as the echoes of our footsteps often continued eerily whenever we paused.
"But now I heard the voices of men, and the tramp of many feet, and I suddenly feared that we had been followed into the rift. By whom, I did not know, but my heart told me that I should flee.
I ran back to the massive iron gates, and just as I arrived there, a crack of light appeared in them. They began slowly to swing outward, away from me, and the brilliant light beyond them was so blinding that I could not see clearly for some time. But I turned away from the light and untied the camel, noting that the sounds from the rift behind me were now growing much louder.
"Turning back toward the light, I saw a figure in silhouette beckoning me forward. I led the camel through the gates, still blinking, and turned around once we were past them. Beside the gates I saw what appeared to be a woman swathed in white robes and a veil. She stepped before the iron doors and raised her hands to each side. Then, she slowly brought her palms together. As she did so, the massive barriers swung slowly and silently upon their hinges, finally clanging into place as they touched. No man could have moved those massive doors, as they were easily half a foot thick and must have weighed many tons.
"The woman turned to me, and I could see, despite her veil, that she was not Amsale, for she stood much taller. Regal, she appeared, but she did not speak. She bowed to me, and then swept past the camel, beckoning us to follow. As we did so, I heard, from behind us, the sound of many men. Their voices came angrily from the gap above the barrier, and soon I heard a pounding on the iron doors. But I had no fear that the gates would yield. Even explosives, it seemed to me, would be insufficient to dislodge them; and to use explosives would have meant certain death for those in the rift, as the sheer rock walls above them would almost certainly have collapsed, burying alive all that stood near the gates.
"But I quickly found that my attention was diverted, for now I saw stretched before us a beautiful green valley, with lush stands of trees, and dotted with flowers and gardens. At the center of this idyll stood a cluster of small round buildings, arranged like one of the native kraals found in southern Africa and enclosing a croft; but these structures were built of hewn stone, and their fashioning reminded me not so much of southern Africa as of Egypt. The largest of them had a parapet along the top, and its roof was flat, with unimpeded views of the heavens. I later learned that this was where Yeshi came to gaze at the stars.
"We proceeded to this kraal, and I loosed the camel inside the croft. Hay was already piled next to one of the outbuildings, and this, added to the lush grass and water from a nearby spring gave the camel all it could wish for.
"I followed our guide into the largest of the round structures. Within, the woman motioned me to a chair near one wall and disappeared behind a curtained doorway. I glanced at the interior of this space and was immediately struck by the number and quality of the icons with which it was adorned. These were brilliantly coloured, and coupled with the light that entered through high windows, they gave the space a most holy and solemn air. My immediate sense was that I had stepped into a chapel rather than a dwelling place. And, as I came to learn, I was not wrong in thinking this.
"After a few minutes, the curtain once again lifted, and a tall woman entered. Like Amsale, she was somewhat light skinned, after the manner of Ethiopians. But, she was tall, and far older than the young girl with whom I had travelled, with deepset eyes that were difficult to read.
"'I am Yeshi,' the woman said. `I bid you welcome, Brother. Amsale did well to find you and hasten you here in time.'"
"I stood and bowed. `Long have I sought you, Sister, and I am happy now to have finally found you. But, I fear yet for Amsale; she guided me until just before the iron gates were opened, but I know not what became of her, and I fear, for her sake, those that followed us through the mountain rift.'"
"'There is no need for concern. Amsale is safe. She comes not into Mekdes, and would not, even bidden.'"
"'So, is Mekdes the name of this valley?'"
"'It is. You tread upon sacred ground, Gabriel; this is where I live and study. Mekdes is my mother and my father: my sanctuary, my library, my desert hermitage. It is everything to me, saving only God Himself.'"
"'And, do you abide here alone, Sister?'"
"'Yes. You are the first in many decades to enter through the great gates, and you shall be the last; that is, until you return, decades hence, when all comes to pass that I shall show you.'"
"'How can you know when I will return?'"
"'The prophesies shall have been fulfilled; then you will come, with one other, and he shall tarry here as I have tarried, though not alone. And after him others will also come seeking refuge. For the day is approaching when those who would flee from evil will seek asylum in secluded places; and as I have said, this is sacred ground.'"
"But will you welcome all of these into Mekdes?'"
"'You do not understand, Gabriel. When that time comes, you shall find me here no more. You shall be the one who must welcome them.'"
"'But, Sister, where will you have gone that I must do this thing?'"
"'I? I shall be with my Father. Understand, Gabriel, that when next you return here, I shall be dead.'"
Chapter 5; The Well of Wisdom
"Dead?!" Charles interjected.
"Indeed, that is what she told me," said Gabriel. "And, as you'll see, I came to have little cause to doubt her, since so much else that she has shown me has, indeed, come to pass."
"Shown you? What do you mean `shown you'?"
"That, I am coming to. Yeshi's words, of course, startled me very much. Here I was, having traveled from England to simply find her, having passed through dangerous straits to come into the relative safety of her valley, pursued, as it seemed, by unknown assailants. And there, I was told that I would somehow be required to return again to make safe the way for others. It was all a bit much, and I told her so at the time. But, she simply smiled and said that I would soon come to understand better.
"But then Yeshi asked if I was hungry, and whether I might wish to rest after my journey. I was delighted to accept her hospitality, so she led me from what I came to regard as the `Chapel' into an adjacent building. Here I found a table laden with viands the likes of which I had never tasted before, and in great abundance. There was a platter with what appeared to be cold pheasant, a tureen filled with steaming soup that tasted of fresh fish and coriander, many bowls of spiced vegetables, mounds of fresh and aromatic apricots, grapes, and oranges, and chilled white wine that I could only compare to a delicious but obscure vintage I had once tasted in Sicily. There were also plates of injera, the ubiquitous flatbread of Ethiopia that serves not only as food, but also as the means of dining, since traditional Ethiopian meals are eaten with the hands.
"I was astonished to find such fare before me, since it appeared that Yeshi lived in Mekdes alone, and I could think of no way that such a feast might have been prepared without the help of many servants. Yet, when I turned to thank her for her hospitality and consideration, and to ask who had prepared such a feast, Yeshi had already vanished.
"I came to accept the peculiarities of Yeshi and of the manner of happenings in Mekdes as the days progressed, but in this first instance, I admit I was startled, or rather, puzzled. Nevertheless, I set to the meal with a hearty appetite, and afterwards I found that, adjoining what I came to regard as my `Parlor', there was a small suite of rooms including a dressing area. Here a basin and pitchers of hot and cold water were set out, and adjoining this was a bedroom with a curtained window that faced toward the east. Fresh clothes had been laid out for me: white robes not unlike those in which Yeshi clothed herself, but which fit me perfectly.
"Over the next many days, I was able to assess the size of Mekdes, and most of its features. It was hemmed in on all sides by the peaks and hair-raising passes of the Sahel. It appeared to have but one way to reach it, at least by land, and that was through the gated rift by means of which Amsale had brought me. But the valley itself was large enough not only to provide land for the cultivation of food for many souls, but also for many wild animals to thrive. There was a modest stream that was fed from many springs, and in this dwelt a species of fish that was readily caught with net or angle. There also were forests and grasslands frequented by the pheasant-like birds that I mentioned. I saw now signs of any dangerous animals; not even the baboons that we had met on the mountain pass.
"So, I was able to content myself that, indeed, many might find refuge in Mekdes, should the need for a sanctuary truly arise. But, I also knew that I would require more time with Yeshi in order to understand why she had summoned me. For, make no mistake; I could never have found Yeshi unless she had called me to her; and this alone, coupled with what I learned of her own deep studies and wisdom, was enough for me to give credence to her initial words.
"After several days had passed and I had thoroughly rested from my travels, a morning came when Yeshi joined me at breakfast. She ate sparingly, but it was clear that she felt it was time for us to speak at length. After the meal, I accompanied her back to the Chapel.
"I had not been in that place since my first arrival, and then the hour had been late. By morning light, the Chapel was even more ethereal than I had remembered, and I once again felt that this was a place of great sanctity. As I've said, brilliantly colored icons filled the walls and even the ceiling; much of the interior was gilded, and the morning light, shining in beams through the misty air, enhanced its otherworldly aspect.
"This is the Holy of Holies, Gabriel," said Yeshi. "It is here that I come to learn all that I must know for the sake of the Brotherhood and the souls with whom I am entrusted.'
"Then Yeshi motioned me past the curtain through which she had passed on my arrival. Within was a smaller room: round and also bedecked with icons. But, at the center of this space stood a golden basin and a fountain that was the source of a spring of fresh water. But, this was not like any other water.
"`King Solomon himself knew of this well,' said Yeshi. `And drinking from the fount, he came to understand God's work as few have before or since. By partaking of this water and heeding the urgings of my dreams, I have been provided me with all knowledge that is needful to me. The spring's location and its properties have been held as a close secret for thousands of years, and now, other than myself, you alone of all humankind know of its existence. Come, Gabriel; drink, and we will explore the future together'
"And so, I drank. Behind the fountain was affixed a large icon. It consisted simply of a golden frame within which stood a featureless field of ultramarine; there were no figures painted there, no landscapes: just a sea of deepest blue. I knelt before it. At first, looking at the empty blue field, I could see nothing. But then, Yeshi placed her hands upon my shoulders. She, too, gazed at the icon, and at that moment I perceived that the blue was melting away, and it seemed that forms swam in depths beneath the surface of some wild ocean. These became ever clearer, and for the next several hours I was lost in this vision, this dilation of time, that had opened up before us "
"But what, specifically, did you see?" asked Charles.
"Many, many things, some of which I only came to understand later, with Yeshi's help. I saw, first, the lands at the edges of Mekdes, and saw it littered with the bodies of dead men, their carcasses being picked clean by vultures and jackals. But then the vision broadened, and I saw towns and cities in Ethiopia and Egypt. Wars erupted; regimes rose and fell; great monstrous machines travelled in the air, loosing destruction beneath them. A great king was cast down, bringing to an end a line of royalty that stretched back to Solomon. I saw events tangled, as with some great webbing, and each moment was tied to the next in a tapestry of gossamer threads.
"But, because Yeshi was directing our gaze through the many twists and turns of possible outcomes, I came to see that there was a single broad thread that we were following. And because of its strength, it seemed that it could only be broken through some tremendous cataclysm. Yet the thread itself led to Apocalypse, a dimly-seen series of catastrophes that might only be avoided through divine intervention. Yeshi did not believe that such intervention would come; instead, the Suffering Times need be endured, and these tribulations would then lead to the end of all things."
"The end of all things?"
"Indeed. The players were set, even back then, and it is many generations since first I saw these visions. But nothing has changed the course of that thread of events. Whether you choose to rejoice or to suffer great trepidation, or both (which is likely the most prudent reaction), the end of this age is coming; it is nearly upon us. And we shall see much of it through together."
"I I don't know what to make of any of this, Gabriel," said Charles, shaking his head.
"Did I not tell you, even as you were painting my portrait, that you were a part of all of this? And that Yeshi told me about you? Well, as it happens, yours was one of the countless faces that I saw in the visions, but one that I came to see ever more clearly. I was curious about you, and Yeshi told me much that she had learned on her own; about you, and about what will be required of you and of those that will come to help you along the way."
"You make it sound like I have some great quest ahead of me."
"That you do, my boy, that you do!" Gabriel sat back in his chair. He knocked the ashes from his pipe and refilled it. "But it will not be a quest that you undertake alone."
In the brief silence that ensued, the sound of rising wind could be heard through the windowpanes, and the suggestion of thunder could be heard distantly. "And so, it begins," thought Gabriel to himself, thinking back on the vision of this night that he had had so many decades before.
"But, Gabriel, how can I take this seriously?" asked Charles. "It's a singular tale, but even without you telling me what lies ahead, how can you be sure that I am the person that Yeshi told you about? Or that you saw in the vision?"
"It is a very good point, and one that I anticipated," said the old man. "I knew you were likely to play the role of `Doubting Thomas', and who can blame you? But, tell me, how many times have we been together since first we met?"
"I'd say, perhaps a half dozen."
"And have I ever, to your knowledge, been in this flat before?"
"No. This is the first time I've had you up; for the portrait, you know."
"Good. Then, if I've never been here before, I could not know, for example, about the paintings you have stored in that room yonder " Gabriel pointed toward a closed door just outside the kitchen.
"No, I suppose not."
"And thus, I also could not know that you have been working on the portrait of a young lady for quite some time now; a young lady with whom you are in love correct?"
Charles blushed. "No, I suppose you couldn't know that. But, that said, what does this lady look like, if you somehow know about the portrait?"
"You've shown the painting to no one, I take it? And no one knows of its existence, not even the young lady in question?"
"But the lady in question is unusual, and even you don't know that much about what she looks like, since she is always veiled. Am I right?"
"Yes but this is uncanny!"
"You have rendered her seated before a blue background. She is dressed all in white, and held in her left hand is an object that looks rather like a pendulum of some sort, wrought in gold."
"Oh my God!"
"There are other details I can describe; the vision of the painting was very clear when first I saw it in my visions. And its most singular feature is that the woman is painted without her veil: with violet eyes within which there are no pupils. You saw this vision of her yourself, in a dream, and you have attempted to capture that dream in paint ever since it first came to you."
"Now you are truly scaring me, Gabriel!"
"Not as much as I should do! For we've not yet discussed what is to come! But, you required proof ."
"But but nobody knows about this! No one! And you almost seem to be making light of the fact that you've seen something that no one could possibly have seen!!" Charles was ashen white and trembling.
Gabriel leaned over to him and grasped his hand. "Charles! Take a few deep breaths. There. Be at peace. I knew this night would be difficult for you, but I hope perhaps we're nearly through the worst of it.
"For unbelief is the greatest hurdle; we live in an age of such skepticism that the minds of even those who profess to believe in `all things visible and invisible' can be put in great jeopardy. It is always a shock when we see past the veil ourselves for the first time. But this isn't even the first time for you, is it?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that you have a very special gift, Charles, whether you're yet fully conscious of it or not."
"What sort of a gift?"
"Well, to put it bluntly, you, too, are able to see things that others can't see."
"I don't know what you mean."
"Look, Charles, you've admitted that you painted this picture of Sogna "
"Yes," Gabriel said, "I said `Sogna'. You don't think I'd know about the portrait without also knowing the name of the young lady, did you? But, as I was saying, you painted the picture of Sogna from an image that came to you in your dreams. But those aren't just random dreams; they have a very special quality that you've come to know; and you've had them all your life, haven't you?"
"Yes yes, I have. They're unusually vivid. But they're really just dreams, after all ."
"No, that is precisely where you're wrong. Charles. They are not `just dreams', nor are they just your brain sorting things out, as most dreams are for the rest of us; they are premonitions of actual events."
"What are you saying?"
"I'm saying, Charles, that you can see the future; that your dreams are messages and omens of what is to come. In short, Charles, just like Yeshi, you are nothing less than a prophet of God."
[To be continued]