"From first to last of times full reign,
We shall share in difference
And I shall rise within you
As the rhythms slowly fall
As the metre draws me to you
Draws me to your mental pattern
Draws me softly on your mind
Dancing on those quiet moments
I am strongest felt."
Carolin stands facing upward, her soft responses whipped by the seething howl. The glowing tapestries of Tamerlane and Ulugh Beg dimming as she yields the secrets she has learned. She is finished here, there is more to do. The proper place for each remaining rune still needs to be found.
From those above, hung in that tormenting tree, she draws her strength; the certainty of her quest. With assured deftness Carolin takes up the threads of time, moving forward from Asia to Western Europe, from Ulugh Beg to Scaliger. A thread woven by the Tatars writing, passed with warp and weft through scholarly minds that start with east and end in west.
But now Carolin is aware of change. The thread she follows enters rooms into which she cannot go. It comes as a dream-like shock to feel the crystal turn her back upon her course. Like firming jelly the entrance to forbidden rooms presses back upon her. It is not difficult to discern the cause for these are times of Nostradamus where there are events he must not, cannot know.
She must work her way around these chambers through lives of kings and popes but then once more she is free to follow chosen threads. Carolin chants as she moves, a chant expressing import of time and place for those bound into historys weavings. A chant spurred on by the questing man that hangs beside her Baldr.
Through times of war, deceit, invention and revolution these glowing threads lay out her path until, once again, she feels her entry barred by gently compelling crystal barriers. Beyond she sees a sea of glowing tapestries but she cannot find any way to view them.
From her Baldr she hears feels a command. A command from both Baldr and Nostradamus tree hung ghost. She feels their mutual need for more.
"Leave this exhausted mind of the musician. Leave it for mine. Leave it for mine for I am willing. Know that in willing trust I yield my mind to fulfilment of our joint desire. "
Carolin asks "But how? Where is the exit? Where the entry?"
From Baldr comes "Choose from your remaining runes Gebo, Hagla, Algiz and Pertho. Correctly chosen they will lead to me."
Carolin looks upon her runes. Pertho for birth seems out of place. Gebo for joy in generosity and sexual love she can also easily reject.
But Hagla is the rune of mind and spirit and Algiz of mind and branches. It could be either one of these. Hagla protects from flame and Algiz links to intellectual healing.
"I choose Algiz", Carolin says aloud, "for it is in keeping with my need and seems to be the rune for the man whose ghost hangs beside you."
Having made her choice Carolin takes the Algiz thread and, slowly bringing both hands together, slides along the thread until a glowing end touches lightly on the crystal floor. Where it touches it strikes root, unable to be moved, and the other end takes on a stranger glow. This end no longer hangs in natural looseness but points to one place only. This rune of Branch and Limb takes on its other form and serves as magic rod for divining Carolins direction.
As Carolin turns to follow her runic path the thread thins within her grasp stretching into greater length, a guiding line that will link the place where she now stands to her final destination.
And the thread directs her downwards, deep into the dendritic crystal. Deep into the roots, the branching roots that are the base of this crystal palace, the palace of the mind.
Her descent is fast and this rapid change in level brings into focus subliminal things that match to her passing deeper, deeper down. She is aware that in the howl there is music that is known to her and composed within the mind of Richard Wagner. The bright and breezy march of the Mastersingers changes as she passes through the upper levels into other well-known tunes. Changing tunes in keeping with the history contained within the mind until, in the lowest depths, the sound becomes the solemn, pausing, double-drum-beat of Siegfrids passing funeral.
The crystal itself seems to change with the music and the depth within the mind. The translucent clarity of the upper levels becomes a blackened void glinting in darkened emerald green.
Carolin sees a hundred tunnels, a hundred more off each and hundreds more off these. She knows that it is only the Algiz rune that gives her any chance of choosing correctly. Within this ever darkening, dividing system she is forced to crouch then crawl, to finally slide and push into the narrowing tube. And here, in the depths of Wagners mind, she feels she is part of primal time when mans first speech instincts arose. A primal time when sound, music and speech were a single chord playing deep within the mind. The music changes once again to become the lonesome tune of the dying Tristans shepherd. That ancient haunting triplet tune played not upon a Cor Anglais, as heard within the opera, but a more primitive tube that exists only here within the mind of its composer.
Suddenly the music disappears, the tunnels begin to widen and Carolin ascends. The light increases and with better vision she sees it is still the crystal palace but it is not quite the same, it lacks the underlying music. Although the tapestries are much the same their glow seems duller. This is a more ascetic palace with wider space and little ornamentation. She is not as comfortable here as she felt within the mind of Wagner. And when she looks up into the tree Baldr is not there. She feels his howl and his presence but he no longer hangs upon the tree. In his place there is a glowing thread, the last remaining rune she once placed in his ascending hand.
At last she reaches the level which in the other palace she could not penetrate. Within this more modern palace she can go forward chanting out the record of her passage. The questing Nostradamus figure seems increasingly aroused as she ascends these progressive threads. But after a long period of successful advance once more she finds slight impediments and rooms she cannot enter. She feels that the tapestries within these rooms concern her life and knows that entry will not, cannot occur. But there is a curious little area of time beyond there which she is free to enter. Curious because it is followed by another barrier. A small pocket in time beyond her death that stops her path and in so doing leaves her full of dread.
Carolin then passes beyond her own times into chambers where, once more, she progresses freely. This is a most puzzling experience for in these weavings she is seeing things that have no part in her life or that of her ancestors. She feels Nostradamus growing interest in the new devices emerging out of the tapestry but many of these she cannot fully understand. Some frighten her or leave her bemused whilst others she would gladly stay to watch. His interests and hers are different and his eagerness compels her to dwell on devices she would prefer to miss and miss those she would enjoy.
There is a machine that he commands her to study well. It is a device her Baldr also seems to know; a device that computes by taking signals of electricity turned on and off and expands the mind of man. This vindicates the choosing of the Algiz rune. Algiz the branching rune of intellectual healing, affecting mind and spirit is the right symbol for this unfamiliar machine.
Carolin knows she is required to go no further; that this has been the target of the quest. Somehow the two that direct her path are to share the use of this most strange device. Here, with this machine, both are satisfied, both consumed with its pragmatic use.
The urging commands sounding deep within her set another task. She must ascend the tree to the spot where that ninth rune lies. She must use it at once to begin the completion of her quest.
The entrance to the tree lies past the Norns who although displaying concern at her entry offer no resistance. They continue their busy weaving; there is too much at hand to interfere with fate.
Within the tree progress is not easy. This path was not intended for common use and so Carolin has to clamber upwards on slippery jutting remnant crystals that cause her knees to bleed. This comes as a surprise to Carolin for up to now nothing has caused her harm. But now the number of charms around her is small. Only Halga offers protection and this against fire, not injured knees.
Looking downwards Carolin can see the diminished Norns, weaving away but casting anxious eyes to the tree. She can see the crystal chambers stretching to the edges of the universe and feel the presence of the howling ghosts of those who hung upon this tree. One of these Carolin senses was Snorri, another Ulugh Beg but she does not stop, for she feels the intimacy of her destiny lies with her chosen pair, Baldr and Nostradamus.
At last she nears the glowing rune. She sees at once that its name is Naudir, the rune of Norns, a powerful magic rune. Unlike the others it is not a thread but a silken ribbon. It lies twisted where it was left, turning gently upon itself under the branch-softened force of the howling gale. Upon one face flow the images of Nostradamus in sixteenth century France, upon the other the life of the man she knew as Baldr but to others known as Thomas or Tomas.
A flood of understanding possesses Carolin. This rune is crucial to her life, her death, her continuation. This rune must hold back the Norns whilst she fulfils her final task. This rune must link the times of all three, Carolin, Baldr and Nostradamus and in so doing thwart the Norns. Carolin must take it down to the spot of dread, the small spot in time beyond the realm of her life. Carolin takes up the ribbon and, using great care to avoid touching its ends, winds it around her waist where once three other runes had been.
The descent of the tree is even more difficult than was its ascent. Now the howling wind funnels up inside the trunk as though the Norns saw through her purpose, sought to thwart it even in defiance of the fate they read in amongst their woven threads.
Carolin dares not to look at them as she hurries past. She hastens to the chosen spot, breathless, bleeding, vulnerable.
The ribbon is now carefully unwound. She notes within the Baldr side the strange computing machine with Baldr at its keys. She reads the words of Nostradamus upon its glassy screen under analysis by Baldr. She senses the drawing of conclusions and answers. She sees the union begin to form.
The reverse side of the ribbon shows Nostradamus in a computerless age, with no power to drive this marvellous device in sixteenth century France. She feels and senses his need for calculating power, increasingly aware of his need for random access, his desire to use this future poweful tool. She knows he needs to access the device in the age where the technology is right. By linking minds he can use the device but its programming proves far more demanding. Through chosen words in coded writing and foreseen knowledge someone else will run his programs.
Carolin takes the ends of the ribbon within each of her hands. Before her is the life of Baldr; by turning her hands the life of Nostradamus can be clearly seen . Within the left hand she now turns the ribbon so that one twist lies across its length. The left and right she joins together, so the ribbon touched becomes a single strand. There are no sides just a single continuity. The life of Nostradamus and Baldr flow from one into the other, into the other, into the other. They are by this act of union bound into a warp of time, a Mobius strip where the designs of each feed upon themselves.
The union sets in motion the event that Baldr and Nostradamus have both striven for. Their plan to cherish the vitality of their love stands upon the brink of completion and they, like Carolin, do not know to what fate they send her.
The act of union sends a shudder of dissenting shock throughout the crystal palace. The universe remains intact for the union violates no law, but it is not part of its usual flow. This disruption is not enough to loosen all the barriers of entry to her life but it is enough for Carolin to enter the small spot of dread that lies immediately before her. Its entry shimmers in weakened state as, with eyes closed, into unseeing blackness, Carolin steps forward.