A Tale told to Bru and Poeli after the Constellation had agreed they were Children of the Grace.
‘Ferentolimo stood on the ridge and gazed over the land spread out before him. It had so many greens he’d long ago given up trying to differentiate between them. But green wasn’t the only colour; among the woodlands there were burnished bronzes, orange-yellows, and even a surprisingly familiar black and gold. Looping back and forth across the plain, like a ribbon dropped by a childling, was the blue and silver of the river; and though he couldn’t see them from here, he knew there were purples and russets in the mountains which were mirrored in subtle shades on the still surface of the lake.
He’d lost count of his visits to this planet lying in a universe or dimension parallel to his own. He’d searched for it for the last thirty years, a world which could support the Myldorangi if circumstances demanded it, but which had no sentient life of its own.
Already the Elders and Senior Masters of many Guilds had been brought here to plan how they could best make use of what they now called The Refuge. Very soon buildings would begin to rise here and there, a Centre for world travellers, and carefully placed and designed villages for those who, because of some natural disaster, or threat of invasion, might have to leave Myldora for a while.
But for the moment it remained empty. For the moment it was still his world, the one he’d been led to by the power of the Grace – he touched the fingers of his right hand to his brow in reverence – the one which, more than all the others, called out to him; which drew him back again and again, no matter where in all the worlds he was.
‘Why?’ he thought. ‘It’s beautiful, but not more than Myldora. It’s peaceful, but so are many places on other worlds. Why do I keep coming back here?’ This time an unexpected sense of urgency had drawn him through the emptiness of Beyond to stand on this ridge high above the plain and the great river. As soon as he’d felt it, he’d excused himself to Trerethilimo, the Elder of his Guild, and leaving his work unfinished, had come at once.
But now he was here the urgency had dropped away, and all he felt was the familiar sense of homecoming and welcome which he’d experienced the first time he’d emerged from the blackness to be met by this view.
However, this time the sense of welcome wasn’t enough for him. He was puzzled and frustrated and wanted to understand what was going on.
‘Why? Tell me why!’ To his surprise he found he’d yelled his question across the gulf below as if there were someone there to hear him, and immediately everything became very still and silent. The wind dropped and the birds ceased their singing; indeed he couldn’t see a bird anywhere, though usually there were eagles soaring above the peaks of the Range, and songbirds fluttering from tree to tree in their search for food.
Looking and listening, he turned in a full circle. Nothing, just the unnatural stillness and silence. He could almost believe the river had stopped running. What had he done? In the silence the pounding of his heart sounded earth-shatteringly loud, and though his mouth was dry, a cold sweat trickled down his back.
What had his shout done? He’d been afraid many times in his journeyings between worlds, but never with a fear like this. He’d also seen strangeness, but not this uncanny stillness, and then in the stillness he became aware of a watchful presence. Here in this supposedly empty world, he was quite suddenly certain he was not alone.
His legs began to tremble, and he looked around, not for a hiding place – he didn’t feel threatened – but for somewhere to sit down. The end of the ridge fell to the river in a sheer cliff, as if a giant hand had cut a piece of white cheese with a knife, and at its edge was an area of smooth bare stone. Without thinking he walked over and sat down cross-legged. His hands moved over the white surface, he was comforted by its strength and stability and his fear began to change into hope. . .but he didn’t know what for.
Unexpectedly his fingers snagged on a loose stone, and picking it up he looked at it. It was dark, like slate, no, darker than that, more like the black glass from a fire-mountain; but its edges were smoothly rounded, so it couldn’t be fire-glass. It certainly didn’t belong on the top of this white cliff – perhaps a bird had dropped it. It sat in the palm of his hand, cool, flat, and circular. It was too large for a stone barter-coin such as some worlds used. It was as big as a Guild medal made to hang around someone’s neck.
He held it while he pondered it, and after a few moments he realised he was no longer afraid, his absorption in the small mystery in his hand had distracted him from the greater one around him, and the sense of welcome had returned. He listened, the birds were singing again, and yes, a bronze-eagle was soaring above the valley.
While the sun sank slowly towards the rim of the world he sat on the cliff edge, relaxed and at peace. There was no need to move, he was no longer in a hurry, he’d wait and see what it was all about. He still couldn’t explain it, but somehow he knew he was where he was meant to be, and the presence intended only his good.
When the last of the sunset had faded from the sky and the stars were gleaming above him, he lifted his head and gazed into the unknowable darkness. All his life he’d been hungry for what lay beyond his world. It was that hunger which had driven him to Turn through fearful blackness and cold in search of worlds in other dimensions. He’d found six already, but despite his successes, sitting here on his world his hunger was unappeased, his desire as strong as ever.
He sighed; thinking was useless, words were worse than useless – he’d never been good with words – they tied him down and locked him into himself. Stilling his mind, emptying it of all thought, he lifted his right hand to touch his brow, while the fingers of his other hand closed around the stone, and he set his spirit free, hoping it could soar beyond this world and find his heart’s desire.
The presence accompanied him, lifting him out beyond Myldora, beyond this world, to a place beyond all worlds where there was no darkness and the vastnesses were not empty. The bitter cold he’d always felt when Turning from world to world didn’t exist here. Instead there was warmth, and Light – a many-coloured, astonishing, inexplicable Light which surrounded and filled him – and a vast, inexhaustible love which rejoiced to welcome and enfold him. It was the love of the presences who knew and understood everything, who cared for every soul on every world, and who accepted him, Ferentolimo, delighting in the desire which had carried him to them. He, feeling this to be his true homecoming, responded to their love with all his being, resting in it, his hunger at last appeased, his desire fulfilled, his heart at peace.
When at last he returned to himself there was no one to tell him how long he’d spent with the presences – whom he now thought of as the Great Powers – in those vastnesses of space where they dwelt. It was still dark; (or was it dark again?) the stars shone above him, and he realised that now he knew them and all their circling worlds in a new way; but however much time had passed he wasn’t tired, he wasn’t hungry or thirsty. How could he be, when he had been given everything he needed? He curled up and slept where he was on the edge of the cliff, not fearing the sheer drop beside which he lay.
Awaking with the sunrise, he sat up, and then he felt something in his hand. He was still holding the stone. He opened his fingers and gasped. Scattered across its smooth blackness was a design – a glinting spiral of stars and their worlds was precisely incised into the stone and set with minute gems, each gleaming with the unnameable colours of the dwelling place of the Powers.
Shivering with excitement, he tucked it safely away in his innermost pocket. He would have it set in silver and would hang it round his neck beneath his shirt, a reminder that though there was no place in all the worlds where the Great Powers were not, yet beyond those worlds is a dwelling place of Light where those whose true home it is can share the fulness of their life, their Light and their love.
Re-Turning to Myldora he found his friends in despair. He’d been gone a whole month, and they had thought him Lost. And although, breaking the new rules, they’d searched for him on each of the worlds he’d discovered, they’d found no sign of him.
And then he understood the urgency he’d felt, for only on his world, while it was still empty, could the presences have made themselves known so clearly, and only there and now could he have safely entrusted himself to them for so long; and with a pang in his heart he realised such an opportunity would probably never come again.
He told his tale to a few trusted friends, and showed them the miraculous stone, but though the story was Received into the Guarded Memories of the Mind Libraries, it has never been openly shared among the people of Myldora. From time to time the Great Powers would let us know who should hear it, and when. But it is our hope that a time will come when every Childling will be free to know what Grand Master Ferentolimo discovered in the vastnesses beyond all worlds.
‘And that is the Tale of Grand Master Ferentolimo, and the Stone of the Powers.’
As she finished the telling, Senior Mistress Olure smiled at the two boys, and sat patiently while they thought the story through.
‘So when he didn’t re-Turn the last time, was he really Lost?’ Poeli asked.
‘To those left behind, it was as if he had been Lost. Their grief was deep, but in a corner of their hearts they knew he wasn’t in the Void, and they hoped he had found a safe place to lie hidden, when at last he gave himself back to the Powers.’ She nodded once, and added, ‘Myldora was never his true home.’
‘He came to teach us how to Turn Beyond, and to find The Refuge?’ Bru made it a question.
‘That is my belief.’