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Chapter 5

Azzie was determined now to find out whether or not the golden candlesticks actually existed. He had a plan either way: if they did exist, he would use them in the play he was going to stage for the edification of man and spirits; if not, he would find some craftsman who could make facsimiles.

But he was hoping they did exist.

Everyone in Hell knows that if you need an answer fast, you just go to The Man — Cornelius Agrippa, a figure of singular importance in recent centuries and still much discussed in the Renaissance. He lived in an ideal sphere that was neither spiritual nor material but had some odd makeup of its own that had not been defined yet. Agrippa himself had been surprised when it sprang into being, and he hadn't had time yet to assimilate it to his system.

The system was based on a statement so self-evident as to appear obvious, yet it gave curious difficulties when he tried to prove or apply it: the cosmos and everything in it existed as a unity; as above, so below, and all parts of everything were interdependent. From this it followed that any one part could influence any other part, and that the sign or symbol of anything could influence the actuality of the anything that it stood for, since they were equivalent in the unity that linked all things. So far, so good. The trouble lay in trying to prove it. Although Agrippa could influence many things with many other things, he hadn't succeeded yet in influencing all things whenever he wished. Furthermore, he hadn't yet accounted for the presence of chance, which occasionally seemed to throw all his calculations astray in a manner that seemed random, therefore illicit in a plan-built universe, therefore actually something else. It was that and similar problems that Agrippa attended to in his high-roofed old house in that space that existed neither in the material sphere nor in the spiritual.

"Is that really necessary?" Azzie asked, holding the retort that Agrippa handed him.

"It is, if you want to convert it back again."

"If that's what you want, why do it in the first place?" Azzie asked. The retort was starting to bubble in his hands, and the liquid inside had turned from transparent to ocher yellow shot through with green. "What is this?"

"A sovereign throat remedy," Agrippa said. He was somewhat smaller than middle height, with a full philosopher's beard and mustaches, and he even wore payes like the Hasidic rabbis he sometimes talked to at the tavern in Limbo where they met for refreshments and learned conversation. He wore a long cloak and a tall peaked hat with a pewter buckle on it.

"Why is an intellect like yours bothering to concoct throat medicine?" Azzie asked.

"I try to remain practical," said Agrippa. "As for the operation with the gold, I seek to reverse the process of melting it down to a black vapor and sludge, and so be able to convert any black vapor to gold."

"That would make for a lot of gold," said Azzie, thinking of all the sludge he had seen in his lifetime.

"So it would. But plenty of gold is what men want. And hermetism is above all a humanistic philosophy.

Now then, what can I do for you?"

"Did you ever hear," Azzie asked him, "of the seven golden candlesticks that Satan gave to Adam to help him find his way back to the Garden of Eden?"

"It sounds familiar. Where's my owl?"

Upon hearing himself called, a large snowy white owl with speckled wings flew down silently from his perch up near the ceiling where the walls angled in sharply.

"Go fetch my scroll," Agrippa said. The owl circled the room once and flew out the window. Agrippa looked around puzzled, then his eye lighted on the retort in Azzie's hands.

"Ah, give it here!" He bent over it and sniffed. "Yes, that ought to do nicely. If it's not throat medicine, it'll do for the mange. I am very close to a universal panacea that will cure all diseases. Now, let's see that sludge."

He looked into his little furnace, where the gold had been bubbling. He frowned. "Even the sludge is now quite burned away. I could try to resurrect it from memory only, because the doctrine of universal correspondences posits no impossible conditions, and what the tongue can say the mind can conceive of and the hand can capture. But it's easier to start with fresh gold. Hello, here's my owl again."

The owl flew to his shoulder. In his beak tie carried a large rolled parchment. Agrippa took it, and the owl returned to his overhead perch. Agrippa unrolled the scroll and read through it rapidly. "Aha!" he cried. "Here it is! The seven golden candlesticks do indeed exist. They are stored with all the other lost myths the world has known in the Cathar castle of Krak Herrenium."

"Where's that?" Azzie asked.

"In Limbo, due south from the zero meridian of Purgatory. Do you know how to get there?"

"No problem," said Azzie. "Thank you very much!" And he was off.



Chapter 4 | A Farce To Be Reckoned With | Chapter 6







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