Part Four of Four
Okay, back to when I was Guy dÁngouleme, who has just experienced all those preceding memories of his expanded self after having drawn the Soul-Mandala. He has been remembering half a million years of previous lifetimes, but only a few hours have physically passed within that whorehouse in Jerusalem. The experience ended with him falling asleep, and when he awoke, quite refreshed, he remembered absolutely nothing of those previous incarnations. He was just a dumb Guy again.
But he awoke in Irisia's bed with her lying beside him, both naked. The last thing he could clearly remember was that this strange woman had mentioned "making love" and he got excited. She held him off with one finger, saying, "Yes, we shall, but you must draw the Soul-Mandala first."
"I've tried to draw it for hours without succeeding- or wait, I might even have finished it after all, not sure. I think I finally just fell asleep, so whatever the drawing is supposed to do never happened."
"Oh it happened, you simply cannot remember after having slept. Now, draw it again."
"It's a fool's errand, a waste of time!" he protested.
Irisa sat up, allowing the blankets to fall from her nakedness, which was a spectacular sight. "Do you want to have me or not?"
Guy drew. This time it took minutes for him to come into the feeling, the Mandala suddenly drawn, and I was free again. I remembered everything, did not have to get lost in all the myriads of memories to find myself. And I recognized Irisia once again.
She smiled to Guy for the first time, "At last!" she said, "I've been waiting for you to come back." We made love again for the first time in a century.
Ah yes, erotic passion, I remember it well...I think...it has been a while. Of course, being a Ghost, I've been out of touch (so to speak) with the phenomenon for an Age and not even the most passionate memories can get any juices flowing for me. But as both Guy and Arnoldo I had lots of juices and we suffered the pangs of our vows of chastity, which aimed our lives away from pedestrian matters like love, tenderness or family. Fortunately I have experienced those emotions in other lifetimes, but that did those two guys no good. They only sex they ever got was with Irisia: Our One True Lust.
I spent three days with Irisia before leaving Jerusalem, never to see her again in that lifetime. I knew all of past history, but she knew the future and told me good-bye. That's what took three days. Each day I had to re-draw the Soul-Mandala just to know what was going on, so it became a routine for Guy as it had been when I was Arnoldo.
Between the passionate, throbbing, ejaculatory fare-thee-wells (yes, I'm having fun remembering this) we were also making plans to defeat Baphomet. It could not be destroyed, but could be isolated from Mankind once again. The major problem was that The Head knew everything going on, especially secret plans, so one could not just sneak up, put a bag over it and steal it. Which had always been my favorite plan.
We were safe from Baphomet's world-vision while in the house of Angels, those Avatar witches generated a zone of blankness so that we could make our plans, but once I left her to carry out whatever mission we had decided upon, the Head would know I was coming and everything I intended to do. Those were the rules of the Game.
However, we were not just any fools making these plans: I had memories of personally contesting The Head throughout half a million years; Irisia was not only an inhumanly wise Avatar at that time, her original incarnation had been known by the Greeks as Iris, the rainbow goddess who served as messenger for the gods; other equally pedigreed Angels also contributed. We had some experience to draw from.
The day I left Jerusalem I did not draw a copy of the Soul-Mandala, it was placed back inside the silvery envelope and handed to Irisia, so I had no idea of who I really was or any plans we had made. I remembered only spending the last three days shagging with the most unimaginably beautiful prostitute (although it might have only been a dream). She was all I could think of as I crept out of the Holy City. Irisia had literally clouded my mind.
I traveled disguised as a French Jew and took a ship to Brindisi. I made contact with a local affiliate of the Dark Templars, and was returned to la Villa della Strega within a week.
My comrades welcomed me, no other Templar had returned alive from our successful assassination assignment, so I was a hero. But then I had to endure an audience with The Head
Knowing nothing of any plans I had made against Baphomet, I faced it in utter innocence (for a Dark Templar, that is), but it was impossible not to fear a probing scrutiny by that evil thing.
"You-are-in-better-form-than-when-you-left-for-your-mission, d'Angouleme, and-younger."
"Yes, well I HAVE been feeling pretty good," I admitted. I was only 33 years old, but the life of a soldier had been hard. I'd been limping for half a year, but it seemed healed. "But younger? Well, thank you, Lord Baphomet."
"That-was-an-observation, not-a-compliment. You-have-been-in-the-presence-of-an-Avatar, I-register-residual-aura."
"An Avatar? Where, when?" So innocent and ignorant was I.
The Head studied me for very long moment with those emotionless, unnerving, all-seeing, glassy eyes. Finally it said, "You- have-been-touched, but-are-unaware-of-by-whom. You-may-go-for-now."
I understood only that The Head was discontent with me about something and that was always dangerous. I was shivering as I left the chamber.
I went up to my room on the third floor. There was a party going on, wine was being swilled, as well as mead from Viking lands up north, some exotic African leaf was being burned and inhaled, slave girls were servicing everyone. Welcome to decadence Dark Templar style. I had been shaken by my encounter with The Head and was tempted to partake just to relax, but something made me go on past all that. I wanted to be alone in my room.
But three men were in my room, searching it. My cot had been upended and stripped of blankets, the drawers of my desk were open, my few clothes spread on the floor. I was about to protest when one of them turned to face me: it was Gregory.
"The Grand Master ordered us to see what we could find" he said with no apology in his voice, "it seems he suspects you of something, Sir Guy." No friendship either, he was a devout Dark Templar now.
"Really? Find anything he can use against me?"
"Not yet, but we'll be keeping an eye on you," then jabbing a straight-arm salute and shouting "Ave Satanas!" he turned and left.
Scowling and unsatisfied, the others followed Gregory. I knew I was in trouble, but not for what.
It was dark so I lit a candle to put my room back in order: reassembled my cot, hung up my clothes, tidied up my desk, put everything back; writing implements, ink, parchments, modeling clay.
Then I only wanted to sleep. Trying to ignore the laughing and shouting going on outside my open doorway, I aimed myself at my simple cot. But my eyes fell on a silvery envelope that lay on my desk, which certainly not been there a moment before.
My room was too small for anyone to have entered without nudging me, I was perplexed. I opened it and read, surprised to see that it was a letter addressed to me... literally.
Yes, it was the same letter. Irisia had somehow delivered it to me in that very moment, how I don't know. Messenger of the Gods indeed!
I drew the Mandala immediately, my soul's history was revealed again, as well as our plan to defeat Baphomet. Which meant that The Head also learned about it simultaneously two floors below, alone in its chamber. It knew, but the Templars did not. I had to keep them from hearing any commands, so I had to work fast.
My source of arcane power was the Hellbook Itself, hidden in a wall of the Main Hall. Although I did not have the book in my hands, the proximity was enough to give me what I needed. I knew the spells verbatim; Wa:Brashanau had composed many of them. I shouted out the one I had ready.
A vast blast of psychic overload took out every man and woman in the villa, unharmed but unconscious, they dropped to the floors in heaps. The party outside my door was suddenly silent. Now the only two entities capable of mental activity in the entire place were Baphomet and myself. But the only one capable of physical motion was I.
Wa:Brashanau went downstairs, surrounded by a shield of cold blue fire that Baphomet's lightning charges could not penetrate. Into the Main Chamber, where The Head was perched upon its pedestal, helpless without servants to obey.
"Recognize me, Baphomet?"
"Only-that-Sir-Guy-is-now-expanded..." it spoke an ancient word of power, which I had once known all too well. Electricity crackled in the chamber.
For a frightening instant The Head's elemental task-demons, the three Hellmen, flickered into existence between myself and Baphomet. I tried not to flinch, for I had learned long ago that not even a Master Sorcerer could stand against them. But they sputtered away again, as I knew (hoped) they would, unable to become manifest without the presence of the power source they required.
"...but-you-are-not-an-Avatar," The Head was stymied. "So-who-are-you?"
"Your Adversary throughout time. It was, for example, I who cast you into the tar pit of Babylon."
"That boy, Sassim-Azharrz? You-were-just-lucky-that-time."
"Indeed. I was also..."
"Wa:Brashanau, yes, now-I-see. But-you-have-been-dead-too-long-to-have-any-right-to-interfere-with-this-Game."
"But here I am, old foe."
"Let-us-bargain," The Head suggested, "I-can-offer-you..."
I pushed soft clay into its mouth, burying the metallic tongue so that it could not vibrate, making its inveigling voice nothing but a buzz. "Ever the seducer, eh Baphomet? Do you really think I could fall for one of your bargains ever again?"
"Let us instead take a little journey together. I have a ship ready at Napoli to take us out to the deepest part of the ocean, where a sludgy sea bottom awaits you. But first, I have an errand here to finish."
Baphomet had, since Babylon, wisely avoided the ostentatious pomp of framing itself with draperies of gold, but Irisia and I had hidden just such a material in a secret hollow a century before and I wrapped The Head in that. The idol's dangerous electric aura was now muffled and contained, just like in the good old days.
The Head is a rather heavy clump of rock, too unhandy to be walking around with, so I put it in the wheelbarrow I had brought in from the garden and rolled it with me to the Grand Master's chambers. I was not about to let it out of sight, having learned how tricky it could be several times in several lives.
There had been an orgy going on in Malatesta's bedroom, but everyone was unconscious now. There were naked young women everywhere and somewhere under the pile, Malatesta himself. I had to apply a bit of Brother Arnoldo's chaste persona to keep Wa:Brashanau on track: naked young women had always been that dirty old sorcerer's greatest weakness. I pulled the unconscious Malatesta out onto the floor and laid him out.
That man was almost as dangerous as the Head, the human architect of the Dark Templar concept. Even without Baphomet he would carry out the Great Satanic Plan, driven by his own greed for wealth and power, sponsored by resources of the most powerful family in Rimini. He had to die. It went against every chivalric ethic I had as knight and Christian to kill a defenseless man, but it had to be done. I called up another old self: Bakhzyrr the Neanderthal. As him, I clubbed Malatesta to pulp with a handy war hammer, no ethical qualm whatsoever and without even asking why.
Then I carried out my original plan to put a bag over The Head and steal it. I dumped it into a horse carriage and drove out into the night towards Napoli. No one was conscious enough to stop me.
Napoli's harbor was dirty and busy, sleazy and very dark, it was nightfall when I arrived. Irisia had booked a small ship to wait for me and it was there with a two-man crew, ready to sail. All I had to do was carry that bag with The Head in it up on deck-- and I would have Won the Game.
You can guess what happens next. I mean, this is a Ghost telling you his story. Nor was I exactly taken by surprise, knowing The Head was tricky I had expected some kind of final attack. But I had not expected the opponents I would have to fight off: the Hellmen.
Just as I hoisted the bag of Baphomet, the Three Of Them came out of the night, silent, fast, in perfect measure all three. Not bothering to sneak up on me, they giggled with Hellish Joy as they rushed at me.
I had no time to complain about how they shouldn't have been able to exist without the local presence of an Avatar, nor that I wasn't one. It was later that I realized what had happened: The Head had been secretly charging me with its vital energy by sheer proximity so that it could summon the Hellmen. It had been turning me into an Avatar!
But not all the way, or I might have had a chance. As Wa:Brashanau I blasted the Hellmen with the most powerful spell I could manifest... without the Hellbook to draw from. They ignored the spell, crashing through it in a fine spray of psychic shards and grabbed me.
I tried to resist, drawing on every combat skill I'd ever known, but they were as strong as gods and SO fast. In an instant I was not only helplessly crippled, but also blinded by stone-hard fingers jabbed into my eyes and made dumb by ripping out my tongue. I swooned.
I could not have been unconscious long, the pain was too intense, but it was long enough to qualify as sleep, thus I forgot all my expanded memories. I was only a helpless and ruined Guy d'Angouleme.
Delirious and paralyzed with pain, I was dumped back onto the carriage. The now-unpacked Head was pressed against me to optimize the Avatar effect and the Hellmen were manifest solidly enough to drive us back to the villa.
My fellow Knights of the Dark Templars offered not an iota of mercy, especially not my old friend Gregory, who had now replaced dead Malatesta as Grand Master. Had I known that I would have unleashed Bakhzyrr the Neanderthal upon him too. But by then every man among them had become completely entranced by the Head's version of the Universe and had embraced the wonder of The Great Satanic Plan. They had all become loyal Satanists now: it was a rewarding job with great benefits.
I was put into a stone tub and treated with herbs and oils that permeated my flesh, embalming me alive. Spells were cast, arcane magic applied. My heartbeat slowed to almost nothing, my metabolism went into stasis. I was almost a mummy-although not quite dead. Then they buried me, semi-alive, under the floor of the Great Hall, where I still lie to this day.
Just before I was entombed the Head spoke to me: "You-have-been-a-minor-pestilence-to-me-for-eons, always-returning-to-vex-me-and-the-Great-Satanic-Plan, but-no-more. This-time-you-shall-not-quite-die-and-therefore-cannot-reincarnate. Your-soul-is-captured-and-cannot-be-free-until-your-cadaver-is-consumed-by fire."
And then it got nasty. "One-final-Truth-to-ponder-throughout-Eternity: you-pride-yourself-my-Adversary, but-have-proved-yourself-most-instrumental-to-my-success. Would-that-all-my-Adversaries-were-as-inept-as-you."
Then I was sealed deep underground in a vault of stone. Not quite dead, not quite unconscious, trapped for seven hundred years, so far.
Eventually I learned how to be semi-visible, although the Ghost you think you see exists only in your own mind as a figment of my imagination. It is a projection of my own self-image: eyeless because I had been blinded, unspeaking because I had been silenced. Thus I learned to manifest myself as the Ghost, my wraith sometimes seen walking the halls of la Villa della Strega. As mentioned before, I still like to have some fun.
I also watch. I have witnessed history being made in this villa: the Dark Templars have secretly ruled the world from here under instruction of The Head of Baphomet; a parade of historically infamous Dark Templars have passed through this villa: Machiavelli, Cortez, Napoleon, Hitler, Pol Pot. I have observed the line of Malatestas culminating with the breeding of Antonio and Babylonia, the Satanic and Angelic Avatars, leading to the reigns of Grottesco, Anton Artemis and the fiasco of Theron, supposedly the Antichrist Himself! Large scale drama, quite entertaining.
So here I am--well, only every now and then--there are other levels of existence and I'm free to travel around in some of them. But I do check in on my poor body regularly to see if it's about to finally die: it has become a wooden thing, browned and hardened, which like any tree endures by seeping nourishment and fluids from the soil, so my old heart keeps on beating once a month in time to the lunar cycle. I'm still stuck.
I'm not actually haunting the place, although I wouldn't mind spooking an evil Templar every now and then. But all the evil villains are gone now and none of you are afraid of me. Which is fine, verily, I rather like the four of you-as much as a Ghost can feel an affection for anyone.
I can sometimes communicate with the Ulfć when she/he is cosmic, although I DO avoid the Demon (I've had enough of Magogs). That Mariangela lady is kind of scary, though. Young Tazio seems to be a nice boy, especially after Theron. But of course, you are my favorite, Buffone. I am grateful that you have allowed me to write my story with your hand, it has been almost like being Brother Arnoldo again, transcribing all those documents.
But now the tale is told, enough is enough, you can have your hand back now. Just allow me a few last words, a proper ending to my story.
I have a friend who sees potential futures--you remember Irisia? I met her awhile ago on another level and she predicted that my poor old body would finally be cremated by a volcanic eruption before too long. If so, I will be free to reincarnate and come after Baphomet again. Even though it accused me of failing so miserably last time.
But verily, it is all working out as we had planned: Baphomet's victories have now resulted in the advent of Tazio, our good Antichrist. So perhaps I have not failed at all, we shall see.
Fare thee well for now, your friend the Ghost.
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