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The Lost Labyrinthine
“Space is a swarming in the eyes.”
Alternating peals of black theatrical laughter grow
from growl to crescendo flowing from Delia to her
sister, the sun-baked and bronze tanned Bronwyn
of them sitting in the reptilian grey-green olive
grove surrounded by mirrors under a calcite marble
ruin of the Phoenician God, Baal -- their laughter,
turn, signals cascading waves of cruel harridan
from the dark Galatea, sitting facing a reflection
herself in one giant mirror.
This spiraling laughter of the trio, coupled with
lone North wind veering round and round the great
mirrors which catch on reflection fading flickers
dazzling Golden sunlight and the women's
salamander-red saffron robes. The dark emerald
greenness of the grove contrasting with the scarlet
stirs violent emotions; an evil sad as purple
vibrates through me. And in the mirror closest to
Bronwyn, I see her smiling at herself, and then,
monitoring the intrusion of my gaze, mockingly at
We are on the island of Skorpios twenty miles east
the coast where, on a clear day, one has a sound
of North Africa. The coast is exquisitely dark,
littered with great outcroppings of cobalt-grey
and it is, regrettably, unusable except for the
exploration of ancient ruins several miles inland.
The discarded rocks reminded me of the ancient
who wrote in a fragment, " ... Molars of God."
At sunset these ruins are floodlit with a winding,
burning, copper light and the whole scene is so
with melancholic beauty that ache overcomes one's
heart. Perhaps the wraiths of wind contribute. This
lost civilization is scattered with harsh grey
that have been pounded, ceaselessly, by the Antwerp
blue Mediterranean for a hundred millennia.
Now I sit here in the garden surrounded by mirrors
three young women, picking at an ambrosial salad of
tuna-roe caviar, artichoke hearts, pine nuts,
saffron, wild fennel, sprinkled in equal turn with
wine vinegar and a green-gold olive oil straight
our host Von Ruchenbach’s grove. The three sisters
the pomegranate-crimson robes are dancing round the
mirrors in the wind, drinking a Mouton Cadet wine
golden chalices looking not unlike the Three of
card of the Tarot.
Bronwyn is humming a disturbing song -- Arian?
Indo-European? -- that is wrought with minor keys.
Galatea turns from her self-reflection, smiles at
eroded Baal, then whispers to herself, eyes
in a raspy voice a passage from the Upanishads. Her
encounter with the void. I can make out something
about the divergent paths of the Road of Smoke and
Road of Flame.
The wild north wind I earlier referred to is
stain-scented with citrus from the thick and
groves of orange and lemon trees further on in the
forest. Their own rotting fruits and stagnant
kneeling at their feet, launching oversweet fumes
mutation. The Elder Council of trees is ageless as
lizard. The soft ground is also covered in miles
miles of blooming clover and azalia: mini-phoenixes
arising from the erosion of the fruits.
Part the Second: Dark Delia Revealed
Now, let me throw more light on the subject of Dark
Delia, the eldest of the three biological sisters.
Several months ago on an archaeological dig in
Devi-el-Kala in the Syrian Desert I met Von
Ruchenbach. Von, as he is known to his intimate
circle, became enamored of a shadowy but fading
British stage actress: Enter Delia, stage left.
years ago Delia was a cause celebre, supernaturally
beautiful; now, five years later, she is as glorious
a fading oil painting, no longer incandescent, but
able to inspire the goatish desires of The Monied
launch parties in London and Monaco and New York.
Delia kept Von at arms length, like all
women do -- putting off doing the deed -- enhancing
Von's priapic appetite. The dream of movie stardom, now a
haze on her increasingly bleak horizon,
casually into the dream of being The Trophy Wife.
Still, Von was amusée, as they say, and willing to
wait as long as the chase taken provided that
was worth the expenditure of energy and cash.
Now Delia's great passion aside from performing
Marlowe and Sheridan, was Persian antiquities. For,
if I have portrayed Dark Delia as a cold-blooded
vixen: Apologies; she is far too fascinating to be
reduced to the Hollywood-formulaic. Rather, it
be best to imagine Delia as an exploding star.
But on to my favor for the Von. As I was the only
expert in that field that Ruchenbach knew
the task fell on me to curry her favor with the spices
of the Near East while he attended to his
international business ventures, which he called
flock," as in "the shepherd must not tarry away
his flock for too long, lest the wolves become
It is the charm of Middle Eastern sophisticates
they frequently allude to their postmodern ventures
decidedly ancient terms. That being said, Von financed a short expedition which
in I was to play the
role of part babysitter, part pimp, and part
international adventurer: two of the three roles
were done purely out of my fondness for the Ruchenbach.
Armand Aramis des Auberges's family migrated to the
outer limits of the Rhine during the Eleventh
after a public quarrel with the Pope. Apparently
Papacy owed the House of Auberges an impossible sum
and, in return, the Pope offered a royal title in
exchange for forbearance on the debt. These terms
were unacceptable to His Serene Highness Prince Antonius Zuylen Von Auberges, who proceeded to vivisect
the Pope in front of His Council of Cardinals with
regard to the Holy See's breaches of Heraldic behavior.
A ghastly dispute ensued in which the Princes of
Europe allied their shadowy mass with the nether
astral lights naturally surrounding the Papacy.
tragicomic operetta concludes with the House of
Auberges broken, but not bereft; reconstituting
carefully, under the Watchful All-Seeing Eye of The
Knights of Malta ("Whose power grows Stronger and
Stronger/ Their reign lasting Longer and Longer!")
-- who brokered the rapprochement under studied
diplomatic agreements as well as a hundred bows and
curtsies. Bear in mind that throughout the twisting
Gothic passages of the Theater of the Eleventh
Century, the Pope was the biggest cock -- excuse the
Medieval pun -- in the pen; and when the cock
well, you know what follows.
Lurking within the higher orders of the desolate
Knights of Malta were displaced royals, defrocked
priests, and concentrated villainy eager to
friendship with a noble house on the decline,
reigniting the possibility, through the fullness of
Time, of rising again, bearing on its back during
ascent -- like a virus, like a parasite -- all of the
secrets, mysteries, and corruptions attendant to
ascent from Reptile to Neolith to Machiavel to full
grown goatish Black Magician. No Glory and no
was ever generated without the pawprints of The
of Evil affixed.
Somewhere, in Archduke A's own library, lies the
reason as to why the Knights of Malta -- heretofore
allied with exclusively with the Apostolic See--
help in the construction of Archduke's ancestral
castle on the outskirts of the Black Forest in
But that is another adventure altogether. After
liberating -- through not quite Holy Sacrosanct
means -- this sacred and neglected tome on Medieval
Daemonlogie written by an apostate Monk named Angus
Lenoid Climactus, I spirited myself to Vienna to
ruins mentioned cryptically in one of his passages.
Part the Third: Kaleidoscopes in Winter
And so, Midway through life’s journey I find myself
the Heiligenkreuz Monastery deep in the Vienna
Heiligenkreuz is a reconstructed Benedictine Abbey
founded in 1135 that reveals itself layer by layer,
slowly, to the jaded, impatient eye at a strolls
It has endured for nearly a thousand such strolls
through the golden grounds of our solar calendar.
Heiligenkreuz dominates a network of rambling pine
forest and medieval ruins. There is a feeling of
indescribable loss -- of spent fertility -- not unlike
the feeling suggested by a faded oil painting, or a
peeling fresco: the dying evening light of an Old
Master nobly fighting off the onset of darkness.
Summer’s End; dusted gold: chiaroscuro.
A point worth noting: Heiligenkreuz belongs to a
rouee name Baron Von Ruchenbach, it is his
Part the Fourth: The Castle Interior: In which the
plot picks up speed.
Reader: Stroll with me for a while among the
castle courtyard. Before we go further, though,
the striking contrasts of nature and ancient art
arranged by Ruchenbach to create just such a mood.
On a cold, snowy evening after a morning of
heli-skiing, the Baron and I walk past stone cupids
smiling mysteriously. Bronze Psyches spring from
barren landscape, iron Bacchantes cavort, and, in
distance, crouching sandstone griffins. I spot a
heralding angel made of lead, dimly, as though
a thick fog, blasting a trumpet that he holds
Kaleidoscopes hang from trees. The rhythmic arcade
appears lovely through shafts of colored light on
snow beneath us -- here, a pool of wine yellow light; there, a soft pale lilac; now, a sharp lime green;
finally, a smoky blue pearl.
It is November. The snowflakes weave choral
in space. The kaleidoscopic lights create a
mood. “Lovely, isn’t it,” says Von Ruchenbach,
serenely, like a man who has attained detachment
the bonds of worldly sense perception. He rapidly
picks up speed.
“Indeed,” I reply. Just then, a curious sound. A
single crisp note from a Viola da Gamba tuning in
other room echoes, filling the halls, then
dissipating. “D Major,” I register to myself,
up the pace.
We are inside the castle walls. Presently,
and I are inside the castle alternating an Armagnac
with a Chiroubles Paul Beaudet '83, while I gently coerce him to let slip that a lost manuscript by an
unknown medieval daemonologist -- a clue to solving
Great Work of my life -- lays secreted in the
library. I intone the name of the text
he doesn’t catch it; I slyly repeat the name a
time, he asks me once again, and – finally – on the
third go, he understands. His exact words of
“Of course that book is in my possession.”
The castle itself displays rich architectural
decorations: pillars that have splendidly ornamental
capitals, portal frames, free-standing flights of
stairs, and magnificent window arcades. The floor
walls are made of marble, pieced together in a square
pattern like a chessboard with scarlet and opaque
white stones. In that room, the chairs are
in a rich green brocade. Oil paintings framed in gold
of ancient relations in historical order, receding
into the Dark Ages, gaze inquisitively. As I walk
through the halls with Von Ruchenbach, my eyes
the various paintings that run down the wall. One
in particular seems to implore me to turn back.
The stairs end at a low tunnel, along which the
hurries on towards a distant wobbling flame.
the darkness, the flame emits a dry, low roar. I follow. A few more haphazard notes fly from a Viola da
Gamba tuning in another room, flying through the
tunnel – G, C Sharp, and a triumphant, vibrating A.
Emerging from the tunnel I find myself in a vaulted
cellar lit by the flares from two wrought-iron
bolted to the walls. The cellar smells of hickory
Armagnac. The walls are lines with casks.
Ruchenbach’s wife, Tilotny, the mistress of the
all dark smiling eyes and lithe, spiral movements,
comes down the stairs to greet me. The trains of
dress create a charming effect as they fall in
beautiful drapes across her stead. At the top of
stairs, Monsieur le Baron’s progeny observe me
quietly: twins, one boy and one girl; both of them
wearing William Kent style feathered masks.
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