The Keeper of the Key IV”>Previously …
The sound of our footsteps echoed with a hollowness in the flickering darkness of the cave. At the bottom of the stairs was a stone paved quay, stretching beyond was the subterranean river I heard. It appeared vast and I could not see across its dark waters. Whilst contemplating its mysteries, I became aware of a presence. Emerging from the gloom I could see a boat occupied by a dark hooded figure – the ferryman. The boat looked like a Viking ship with its voluted aplustre and with shields slung over the sides.
One by one the aspirants took their seats next to a shield. I followed and glanced at the ferryman. I tried to recall the tales I have heard about the ferryman as I took my seat. I remembered hearing somewhere that the ferryman was the off-spring of Nyx and Erebus.
The ferryman touched the water with his staff and the boat started to glide into the darkness of the tunnel. The silence covered us like a warm soft mist as we drifted towards our destination. Words from Hermann Hesse’s Siddartha floated into my awareness.
I am only a ferryman
and it is my task to take people across and to all of them my river has been nothing but a hindrance on their journey.
They have traveled for money and business, to weddings and on pilgrimages; the river has been in their way and the ferryman was there to take them quickly across the obstacle.
However, amongst the thousands
there have been four or five,
to whom the river was not an obstacle.
They heard its voice and listened to it, and the river has become holy to them, as it has to me.
The river has taught me to listen;
you will learn from it too.
The river knows everything;
one can learn everything from it.
I listened to the echoing cavernous water flowing from some unknown source; lulling me into calm drifting. I sighed with the intent just to surrender to the flow and inhaled deeply the moist scent of water slowly eroding the rock of ages. The scent of an ancient emergence swirling me through horizons of being. Thoughts whirling, and then sinking, gliding into the dark realm of unbecoming and becoming, drowning the rising questions. My last breath filled with the waters of surging memories.
I listened to the echoes of the cascading images rushing by my inertness. Out of the river of memories emerged an image; a sparkling tinkling Christmas tree fully adorned. Happy little lights twinkled from its fragrant branches. Underneath the tree were gaily wrapped gifts pilled in happy anticipation. Ice cold drops of sorrow filled me.
Slowly it dawned on me that I was watching the scene of Christmas when I lost both my parents. It was as if the room where my family and I spend so many Christmas celebrations was locked on that day and left untouched for all the years that had passed. Tears welled up inside me as I realized that it was on that day that I became homeless. I have been searching ever since for my home.
In the silence, I wiped away my tears, thankful for the cover of darkness. In the distance I could see a flickering light. As we glided closer I could see the light was cast by flames burning in two huge braziers cupped between the claws of two stone dragons that flanked the steps rising up from the river. Between them stood a giant of a man with thick black hair tied back. His muscular arms were folded over his leather apron. I was drawn to his intense, almost pitch black eyes. I could sense a man of great humour behind his unsmiling face and stern appearance. Something in me felt as if I knew him from somewhere, although, if I did encounter him before I surely would have remembered from where. This must be the great blacksmith we have come to see.
The boat came to a halt in front of the steps. My fellow passengers each took one of the shields hanging from the boat’s sides and followed the sage warrior up the steps. Not sure what to do, I remained in the boat. The ferryman turned to me with his blazing eyes and said;
“ You know that you cannot turn back once you embarked on the journey?”
“I am here by accident”
“Ignoratio legis neminem excusat – ignorance of the law excuses nobody. You are still bound by the law, or do you prefer to drift in between like a hungry ghost?”
I stood up uncertainly and followed the others. The blacksmith saluted us, and uttered;
“Ephphatha – be thou opened”
They raised their shields and cried in answer “Deus vult!”
“Ascend and gather in the great Hall.”
I recalled from somewhere that ”Deus vult – God wills it” was the cry of the Crusaders. I started to follow the rest up the stairs but the blacksmith stopped me.
“Where is your shield?”
“ I am no warrior, I am lost. I am just looking for my way home.”
“ What is a home but a shield from the elements? A shelter that shields and protects, conceals your weaknesses from the outside world. Was not the first weapon made to protect the home? If you are searching for your home then you are searching for your shield. The shield represents the warrior’s personal vision and inherent power or special qualities and quest in life. If you are looking for your home are you not looking for exactly that? Before the warrior can gain his weapon, he must know himself. To know himself he must open himself, ephphatha. You have the key to your door. Those who carry the key carries the power of the keys.”
“What is the power of the keys?”
“A key either locks or unlocks a door. The power of the keys is the power to bind or to liberate. The power of a weapon has exactly the same quality. The warrior can either liberate or bind. Go fetch your shield and follow me.”
The ferryman was still waiting in the boat. There was only one shield remaining. It was made of wood and strengthened with iron bands. Circling around the center spike were anguine shapes of olive green and bronze that slithered to form interlocking patterns. I wondered from which tree the wood came from, but I saw the blacksmith disappearing into the shadows beyond the flickering flames. I gave a parting glance at the ferryman and hurried up the stairs into the shadows.
Dark flowing immortal river
Where is your source?
Cavern of fire
Torch of spirit
Sought through five
Drinking strength from immortal fire
The darkest prison sheds the light
Churning beneath a swirl of salt
Burning within a throne of rock
Floating among the eyes of the ages,
Unmired in the stream of the sky
From; Ronin Warriors
To be continued …