The Fell Gard Codices


Ulric led them to the library, and then beyond; “for,” as Hochelaga observed, “the explorers won’t necessarily return again through the library. The smaller garden, though, is almost certainly on their path back to the forest chambers.” Therefore they went to the garden, he and she and Diccon and Atrahasis; but when they arrived, they found it was occupied by demons.

As Ulric led them through the southernmost entrance, six tiny shapes emerged from under leaf and branch. Naked women, each only a few inches tall, with horns and cats’ eyes and hissing forked tongues. The prophet and both wizards knew them at once: minikins. They did not attack, only grinned mockingly, and crawled out along the limbs of the larger trees, and climbed among the cracks of the walls. Ulric paused, the others behind him; then, across the thick growth of the chamber, he saw the tall shape sprawled upon a northern path.

“Go back,” said Ulric. “All of you. I will face them.”

“Back?” repeated Diccon.

“To the library,” Ulric said. “I must struggle against demons. I see it. Hochelaga, you others, you cannot help me. You have no magic, have you? No. Go to the library. That is your place. This is mine.”

“Don’t be foolish,” said Atrahasis. “The others won’t try to pass through this room, with these … these … there is another chamber, at the crossroads, where we all can wait.”

“No,” said Ulric. “See.” He pointed to the far side of the garden, where lay the forest lord, fallen, wounded. Closer by, the demons skulked about like grave-robbers, like the human carrion creatures that come forth after battle to steal from the fallen. Ulric heard a low groan from the stag-headed creature, and saw him reach out feebly toward a stand of low purple flowers. “Someone must go to him,” Ulric told Atrahasis. “I cannot leave a living thing among demons.”

Atrahasis took his arm. “Temptation is their nature,” he said.

Ulric nodded. “I understand,” he said. “Now, to the library with all of you.”

“Ulric,” said Diccon, “you’re the only one who can heal us. That’s why Ulixa sent you.”

“True,” said Ulric, “but I have no more power in me this day. I will have to dream, and let my spirit wander in the realms of the imagination.”

“If you have no power, how can you stand against demons?” asked Hochelaga.

Ulric freed his arm from Atrahasis’ grip. “All of you,” he said, “your concern is well-meant. But this is what must be. You cannot help, only hinder me if the demons think to seize upon you. Therefore go, and I will come to you at the library when I can.”

The demons turned to them. Ulric walked forward, his iron mace uplifted. The demons quailed; he looked back; Diccon took Atrahasis and Hochelaga, and led them away.

Ulric began to make his way along the path through the room; amid the hissing of the demon women, with his mace and kite-shaped shield. He must circle much of the room to reach the fallen cervidwen, near one of the northern arches. The demons ran before him. It was known that prophets had power to command the dismissal of demons and such spirits; these creatures, though, would not set themselves against him, and only fled. Or did they flee? They raced ahead, to that same spot where he had been speaking with the sorine when the terrible pain had come on him, and he had been struck down, his skull cracked. He tried to remember being struck by the morlock. He could not; it had been too quick. The blindness the priest of Urizen had inflicted on him — that, he remembered; and the humiliation of being unable to put the curse from him.

There on the path where he had been struck down, the demons paused, and one of them reached to the stain upon the bricks that was his own blood. It, she, drew up the blood as though it had been fresh-shed, and made it larger. Ulric watched a round globe of his blood grow, trembling upon the path, upon the road that lay before him. He felt a moment of dread. He knew what was happening; he had read of it in the holy books.

This was what Ulric understood: before time and space had been made, there was the fourfold eternal man named Albion, who turned his back on the Divine Vision that was named Jesus. Therefore his reasoning faculty, Urizen, had plotted to usurp control of the infinite; but Luvah, the emotions, betrayed Urizen first. Tharmas, the sensations, and Urthona, the inspiration, were caught up in the great fall. Urizen wrote terrible dark secrets in books of metal, false laws; and, wicked architect, he made the physical world. Urthona, fallen into the guise of Los, made a body for Urizen, and laws of space and time to bind him. But in doing this, Los himself was divided, and from his blood came his emanation, Enitharmon, his female self; for all these forms, spoken of as men, were in truth both male and female. The divided emanation by nature was hostile to the male remnant.

Ulric saw the globe of life blood branch out roots, fibres of blood, milk, and tears, until a female form pale as a cloud of snow was left trembling on the path before him. He knew her; he knew the red-brown hair, whose strands he had numbered with his fingers once, as they had lain together and laughed. He knew her white skin, the narrowness of her fingers, the curves of her thighs. The delicate lines about her eyes, the set of her lips. She glared at him and tried to cover herself with her hands. He took his Robe of Vision from his shoulders and draped it about her, weeping, as he knelt before her.

“Betryse,” he said. “Oh, Betryse. How are you alive again?”

She stood, pulling free from him. The demons hissed and laughed. He remained on his knees. She was just as he remembered her. “Death is a moving from one room to another,” she spat at him.

“You have come back to me,” he said.

He knew that Los and his emanation, the weaver-goddess Enitharmon, had had many sons and daughters together. But their firstborn had been Orc, who was the entrance into this world of Luvah, and was a creature only of rage and hate. And their lastborn had been Satan, who was a manifestation of Urizen, destined to war against Orc and be his contrary.

“Betryse,” he said. “I love you.”

“And what has that brought me?” she asked. Ulric groaned. He stood. “You lied to me,” she said. “From the very first.”

“But not at the end,” said Ulric. He moved on along his path. His mind was a whirl. He loved her; but he must see to the forest lord. That seemed so important, now. Where had the demons gone?

“You said you were a priest,” she said, following him.

“And now I am a prophet,” he said.

“You are a liar.”

He could not answer. He went on along the path, his limp slowing him. Ahead, the demons watched and laughed.

“When they caught up to you,” said Betryse, “you hid. You know what they did to me, then. You did not come forward. But now look at what you dare for some creature that is not even of our kind.”

“I have learned,” he said, as he made his faltering way. To his left was an arching trellis hung with pale flowers like those drawn by the holy William of the Name Blake. Beneath the trellis a short passage led west to an ivy-wreathed statue. He could see it: a woman with a lyre, in a loose robe, her head tilted back, looking off to who could say what? All of her was sculpted with great detail, but for her eyes, that were left untouched, milk-white stone. The demons retreated step by step down the hall toward the statue. Should he press an attack against them, and pen them in against the far wall; or go on to the cervidwen? He could not think. She was too close.

“Betryse,” he said, “after you … after that, after your brothers found me, they broke my leg … after all of it … there was a wonder that came to me, a man with books … such books … and he gave me an iron mace …” He was babbling, he knew it. To see her again. To hear her voice. It was sweet, and what matter if she berated him? He knew he deserved it, and worse, for all the things he’d done in all the years before he’d met her. And then after, what he had done, and not done.

How could he tell her? How could he explain? He had been despondent, and then the visitation …

After thousands of years of fallen history had passed, Jesus, the last of the Eyes of God, had been born in mortal guise. He had been crucified, and had become one with the invisible god Jehovah. Somehow, in this lay salvation. Ulric had not puzzled out all the meanings of the inspired poetry. So much more remained.

But at the crucifixion of Jesus, Enitharmon had fallen into a sleep that lasted eighteen hundred years, until the time of William of the Name Blake, and the descent of the spirit of Milton.

The demons ran from the nearby hall, bursting onto the path before him. They raced about his feet, catching at his grey robes, and then were away, fleeing back toward the statue. Ulric turned, and took a step after them, into the hall.

“Do you not remember how I trusted you?” asked Betryse. “Do you not remember what you promised?”

He remembered those promises; he remembered the tales he had told her, the same tales he told wherever he went, that he was a wandering priest, fully ordained into the mysteries of Oak and Holly. Of course it was not so. But he could mime the part, he could sermonise. He could pass from town to town, manor to manor, and preach for coin. Oh, he had known the words, and he had spoken them with good feeling. But he had never been sworn to any order. He had lived the life of the road, the life of a wanderer, a rogue. He remembered one of the few times he had been caught out, by a true priest at a baron’s hall, and how some marriage was thereby called into question. He could not now remember what he had thought, when he had officiated at the ceremony. He remembered fleeing.

He remembered these things; how small they seemed now, how sordid. He remembered the face of Betryse. How many times together with her did he remember? How many looks and laughs and stolen embraces? He remembered how he had told her the truth; how she had promised to be with him still. He remembered what he had seen, when the baron’s warriors had taken her. He remembered her brothers, afterward, how they had beaten him. He remembered, as he could never now forget, the pain in his leg.

He remembered the man that had come to him, bearing the iron mace and the illuminated books of the holy William of the Name Blake.

He remembered the shattered statue he had seen on a spring day, long before, that had been a sign of death.

He was lost in a chaos of memories; and turned from the demons and the blind statue before him. It was not right that he should be lost in self-absorption; he must go to the forest lord. He stumbled, and set his hand on the wall before the statue. The demons were on him at once, writhing as they climbed the ivy to clutch at his hand, hissing and whispering. He drew his hand back; but now something gripped it. It seemed to be the stone of the wall itself. Still he thought he could pull away, and so he strained to step back to the path toward the cervidwen. He regained the path; but as he went, something emerged from the stone of the wall, a rocky web pulled by his own hand, and as it came the demons clambered upon it, grinning and hissing. And the web formed itself into a manlike shape.

“I know you,” said Ulric.

The shape was his height, but dark like a shadow. It had bat-wings, and a face very like his own. It was rocky, made of the dark stone of Fell Gard; opaque and darkening it drew back from his hand and glared as though about to leap upon him, its eyes shining. Its legs were scaled with iron, a girdle of coloured fire was about its waist, a club was in its hand, and instead of hair iron spikes were set in its skull. “What am I, then?” it challenged him.

“You are my spectre,” said Ulric, “my negation and selfhood, my reasoning power.”

The spectre laughed. “I am your righteousness,” it said. “I am the power you might take.”

“You have no power,” said Ulric, “and if you impede me in any way I will make you serve me, just as Los drove his spectre to work the furnaces of his art.”

The spectre laughed again, an unbelieving scoff: “Art? This is art.” It swung its left hand against the stone of the hall. “I am art. The dungeon is art, a made thing. Do you know what you have given up? You might have become a warden in this place of punishment. I know, for it is in the magic of this place. Nor is it too late for you. You might yet become what you behold.”

A line from the holy books came to him: “Although I know not this,” said Ulric, “I know worse than this.” The thought was not only frightening; it was attractive. Of course it was, for the spectre was himself, his own desire to justify his selfishness.

“You could be the right hand of Scaeva,” said the spectre. “This is not temptation. This is reason.”

Ulric raised his mace. “Your reason is but self-justification,” he said. He turned away. Toward the cervidwen.

“That is the nature of reason,” agreed the spectre. “Do you not know this? Your attachment to the precepts of William Blake is out of place in this material dungeon. Will you still go on to destruction? Listen, I will tell you what is done in moments to you unknown. Scaeva wanders in the folds of his heart, weaving webs of war. The spectres of the High Crypt prepare to reign over you and all your kind. You will be bound by the laws that shall be forced upon these deadly deeps, and cast into the furnaces. Unless you give over, and accept the system of Fell Gard, and find your place within it.”

Ulric laughed. “Then it is as it is said in the book of Jerusalem: ‘I must create a system, or be enslav’d by another Man’s.’”

It seemed clear to him, though not through logic. Ulric knew that Orc, bound for thousands of years, burst free at last as the sleep of Enitharmon neared its end; and the spirit of rebellion raged in the unreal lands that were phantasies of the holy William of the Name Blake. America; England; Canada, that was twenty-fifth of the thirty-two nations that would guard the gate of liberty and rule all the nations, peoples, and tongues throughout all the earth. There was war, when Orc burst free, and plague, and the dragon that was Albion’s guardian made ready for a great battle with Orc; but then dread Urizen arose, and set his winters loose upon the ocean called Atlantic, and for twelve years Orc was frozen.

How much of all this Ulric might have said, or how he would have answered his spectre, he did not know. The spectre cried: “Loveliest delight of Men!” And Ulric saw that Betryse had come to them along the path. The spectre strode toward her. “Lovely vision!” it cried. “Listen, and I will tell you what you have forgot!”

Ulric gave a cry, turned away from the cervidwen, and swung his mace.

Betryse laughed as the spectre recoiled from Ulric, the tiny demons dropping from it. It swung its own club, but he raised his shield. Then he leapt again to the attack, and drove it back along the path. He swung it around, and forced it toward the cervidwen, who lay beside purple flowers in the bright ætheric light.

Ulric, afraid and enraged, recalled how, when Urizen’s winters still gripped the world in rolling volumes of grey mist, and Enitharmon yet slept, the trump of the last doom was sounded, and the myriads of Angelic hosts fell through the wintry skies seeking their graves; and then Enitharmon woke. She called her sons and daughters to her, and they spent a night in mad revelry — but came the morning, and terrible Orc broke free, and war burst forth in the lands called Europe; the spider-kings of Asia were startled by the thick-flaming, thought-creating fires of Orc, and Urizen’s metal books melted, and the rattling bones of the dead arose!

Knowing these things, thinking to see before him the apocalypse of triumphant rebellion, he drove his spectre back, back, and further back into the bright moonlike light. Then the demons ran forth again, and set tiny hooks into his shadow, that was dark in proportion to the light all about him. The spectre fell at a blow from his mace. But Ulric screamed as his shadow was torn from him, and rose as a form of its own.

Almost, he fell into a swoon, and he thought again of the holy book called Jerusalem: “I see the Four-fold Man: The Humanity in deadly sleep and its fallen Emanation, The Spectre & its cruel Shadow.” There they all were before him, the fourfold man there in the garden, and the sixfold demons laughing and hissing at them.

“I know you,” said Ulric to the shadow. “You are my restrained desires, that become dark and cruel. But I have mastered you, though you have been given form.”

“These petty demons should not have the power to draw out emanation and spectre and shadow,” whispered the fallen spectre.

The shadow said: “You think you know where these demons came from. You think they came from the temple of Urizen that you could not purify. You think the fallen forest lord is your responsibility. That these are evils that you could not banish.”

The spectre said: “All these things are true, and there is worse. It is also a sacrifice, meant to draw you, to shape you, to fit you for taking a seed. You are being harrowed.”

Ulric shook his head, staggering toward the cervidwen. “No,” he said.

It was true, of course. It was arrogance. That he should be responsible for the demons; that all demons were his own. But were his wrongdoings not legion?

Was that him that asked; or was it his shadow?

“How have you hurt your lovely emanation? What have you hidden from her?” whispered the shadow.

No, thought Ulric. For the first time in many years the memory of Hamon came to him; of the stream. He had forgotten these things. How? He had made himself forget.

“You will not tell,” whispered the shadow, “how you killed her son.”

Betryse screamed.

“There was cause,” said the spectre.

Ulric knelt by the cervidwen. He saw that the purple flowers the forest lord had reached for were wild thyme.

The death of Hamon, at his hands. Staring at the youth’s head under the water, his hands about Hamon’s throat. The boy’s hands beating at him.

Did he not deserve his demons? There in the garden, six gathered around him, to kill him, or perhaps to kill the forest lord, or to take up their souls.

He threw back his head, feeling shame and guilt. “Listen!” he cried. “Listen to me!” His throat was choked, tight. But to speak — his flesh knew how to speak, it had been his gift all his life. And these words, that he spoke now, he knew to be true.

“Hear this truth!” he cried. “As the sleep of Enitharmon neared its end, a spirit in Eternity heard a bard’s prophetic song, and was moved! This spirit, Milton, had been in fetters! A great and true poet, that had been of a devil’s party, not knowing it; a hundred years he wandered in the mazes of Providence! The song of the bard inspired him to go forth, to journey through the realms of Beulah and the Mundane Shell and Eternal Death, yes, even into his own shadow, all for the redemption of his Sixfold Emanation! He descended into the world as a star, that joined with the holy William of the Name Blake.” He raised his shield, that displayed the scene of the star falling toward the poet, his arms outstretched; Ulric crashed his iron mace upon it. “This you see here!” he cried. “The union of poet and Los! The giving of the prophetic mission to the holy William! The emanation of Milton came forth, there in the garden of Felpham’s vale; and there Milton’s human form faced his shadow, and also his spectre, that is named Satan!

“And Milton said: Obey thou the words of the Inspired man! All that can be annihilated must be annihilated, that the children of Jerusalem may be saved from slavery! There is a negation, and there is a contrary; the negation must be destroyed to redeem the contraries! The negation is the spectre; the reasoning power in man — this is a false body: an incrustation over my immortal spirit; a selfhood, which must be put off and annihilated alway, to cleanse the face of my spirit by self-examination!”

He hardly knew what he was saying. The holy words were talismanic. They spoke of the point of union, or re-union. The demons were screaming. They were dissolving.

“To bathe in the waters of life, to wash off the not-human!” he cried. “I come in self-annihilation and the grandeur of inspiration!” He threw out his hand to emanation, spectre, shadow: “I go to eternal death and all must go with me!

They came to him, then, one by one. And their corporeal forms faded as they did; he felt them again inside himself, he felt himself grow, as he had promised, close to annihilation.

But as the shadow came to join him, it whispered to Ulric: “The true spirit of Betryse is held in Fell Gard. You must find the poet who will guide you to her.”

How could he let himself go, after that promise?

Yet in taking them into himself he had made a kind of sacrifice. He understood now what Milton in Eternity had given up to unite with his emanation. He knew the terrible truth, just as Milton had: “I in my selfhood am that Satan,” he whispered. “I am that evil one! To claim the hells, my furnaces, I go to eternal death.”

Ulric fell, wrapped in his robe, and the garden swam before his eyes.

Shall I go, now? he wondered. Now that I have reason to stay? Oh, I must go forth, as Milton did, to find my true emanation. Yet if I must face self-annihilation now, even as Milton, then let it be so.

Still he knew that he, he, was not Milton.

His eternal death was not marked, as had been the great poet’s, by the cities of Albion arising upon their thrones to judge the earth. The Fourfold Immortal Man did not rise, nor (so far as he could tell), did Jesus weep and walk forth clothed in clouds of blood. There was only him, and his fallen body, still upon the brick path of the garden, and near him the scent of wild thyme, and the forest lord he could not save.

For a moment, staring directly upward, he could see only the ætheric light, as a film before his eyes. Then tall and dark forms gathered around him. There were four of them. He gasped.

They looked down at him; then they went on. No, not all. One remained.

It was a cervidwen, a female. She watched him.

He took a breath. “Oh,” he said, and rose.

The other three cervidwen were gathered around the fallen male. They looked at him. He could not say why, but he dropped to one knee and proferred his shield to them. He felt as though he had been emptied. As though, even as his shadow had said, he had been harrowed. And also, now, he felt something more, seeing the cervidwen. As though he had brought his tale, the words of the holy William of the Name Blake, into some other, older tale; as though the story in which he thought he lived was enfolded in other stories whose beginning and ending he could not grip, and whose patterns were to him invisible.

For a moment Ulric felt as though he was on the brink of an understanding of sacrifice, and of the rounds of time.

Then the three queens of the forest took his shield and set their fallen lord upon it as though it were a litter, and raised it up, and, silent, noble, set out, the three of them each to a corner of the shield, walking in step as though they were together motionless upon a ship on a lake. And Ulric had the thought then that the male was of the forest its lord that had been and would be again.

The fourth queen held out a hand to Ulric. He took it. He laughed, for in him was joy and eternal death, was his sin and unearned forgiveness of sin, was that which was incarnated and that which was immortal. And he knew all these things, but could hardly articulate them.

The forest queen led him away, with the others, and he went forth as though to a great harvest and vintage of the nations.


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One Response to “Part 3, Chapter 11: The Revelations of the Holy William of the Name Blake”

  1. Perfidius the Rogue

    Wow. You really made the words sing!

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