Stage Eight

The Hermit
Stage Nine

The Wheel
Stage Ten

Stage Eleven

The Hanged Man
Stage Twelve

Stage Thirteen

Stage Fourteen
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Previous Part


Alone in the small boat, the Fool floated in a strange eery darkness as the Hermit's voice died away inside his head. Far away he could see a bright white light and glowing all around, yet illuminating nothing, were tiny beacons of every colour imaginable; deepest violet, gold, silver, red, green, yellow, pink and the clearest blue - a firework display without sound.

With no way of guiding the craft and no possibility of stopping its course there seemed little for it but to enjoy the journey and trust that the beckoning gleam would yield a means of rising again to the stormy world he had left with such eagerness some hours ago. He drifted through the tunnel as if suspended in this strange world of colour set in darkness. This was not sleep, nor was it waking.

As his eyes grew accustomed to the weird half-light he found he was now floating at the foot of a massive column of stone. To look upward was awesome, yet still the bright light beckoned, now far above him. The Fool caught his breath in excitement - here at last was the Tower and climb it he must, at once.

Too excited to think, he stood uneasily and reached for the adjacent pillar. He was surprised to find how still the water was as he stepped with ease from the boat onto the shore and began to walk up the gently sloping ledge which surrounded the Tower and apparently lead all the way to the top. The path was not difficult at first but gradually the incline increased and he was glad of the handrail above the ledge, to which he clung while looking only upwards.

The steep ascent continued for several hours and throughout this time the Fool resisted a strong temptation to look down. His legs ached and his left arm and hand shook with the effort of grasping the rail, yet still the top seemed as far away as it had when he began. Overcome with weariness, he lowered his body carefully to the ground, horrified at the distance he had come. For even in the darkness the water gleamed far, far away.

He closed his eyes and recalled the words of all the people he had met on his travels, yet nothing could inspire him. Immobilised by fear, his body became as stone, cemented to the side of the Tower.

He had no idea how long he remained thus, but gradually his attention was drawn once more toward the glow above, and with rekindled desire to reach the top he found himself rising to his feet and once more moving along the ledge, looking only upward. For some reason the way now seemed strangely effortless - his feet glided beneath him, his hand rested on the rail with ease and the light above grew closer and closer.

The light became so bright that the ledge itself sparkled, as if paved with diamonds, and the void above the Tower appeared as a white, apparently endless, expanse of cloud. Through this nether world he glided, fascinated by the world beyond - now so near it was almost within reach - when suddenly a torrent of water, released from some heavenly reservoir, covered his path. He was swept off his feet and within seconds submerged in the waters which, rising turbulently in the confined space, carried him onward and upward still. He lost consciousness as his head hit the wall of the Tower and when he opened his eyes he was floating in warm shallow water. He could not believe it when he realized he was actually beside the boat he had left behind so many hours before.

Wet, but unharmed, he grasped the side of the boat and clambered in. At once the little vessel began to move, slowly at first, but with gathering speed, as if caught in the grip of a steady undercurrent.

His eyes straining to penetrate the darkness, the Fool leaned sideways as his attention was caught by the sight of a doorway to his left. The door had a handle, almost within reach, and bore a sign which he was unable to decipher in the gloom. He craned his head but the vision blurred and his attention turned to the next bend. This too revealed a door, somewhat similar to the last, but again the boat carried him past it before he was able to decipher the sign or make out any more details.

So he travelled with the tide past glowing lights and many doorways, some within easy reach, others barely visible; some grand and imposing, others small and crudely fashioned. The maddening thing was that the most attractive doors seemed to fade into the gleaming, directly he focussed his attention upon them. He felt lost and confused until, recognizing first one unsigned door, then another with a broken handle and slightly crooked sign, he realised he was travelling in a circle.

Encouraged by this discovery, he resolved that he would break out of his repetitive route. As soon as one of the handles came within his reach he would open the door and discover what lay beyond. He stretched toward the next handle which came close, and as he steadied the boat by the door he noticed it was engraved with many words whose meaning he could not decipher. He paused for a moment. Should he try this door, or another? What did all the labels signify? What if he were not meant to try any at all? His head spun in circles, but before he could make up his mind, the handle responded to his touch, the door swung open with surprising ease, and the boat was dragged by a powerful tide through the opening.

As he entered the new tunnel, there emerged from the water, for a split second only, a spinning wheel of dazzling golden light. It was gone in the wink of an eye and illuminated no objects, yet after this the atmosphere changed. As if on cue clouds of light appeared, lifting the overall darkness to a hazy, purple glow. The surroundings gradually emerged from the mist and the Fool felt as though his eyes were being opened for the first time. Looking ahead he saw, in the far distance, a circular door set in gleaming rock and, leading to it, water of the clearest blue reflecting tiny coloured lights of startling intensity and clarity.

Carried relentlessly by the quickening tide, the small boat soon neared the door, whose surface was covered in engravings so small they were scarcely visible to the naked eye and certainly impossible to decipher.
The door slowly opened to reveal the whole shifting ocean. Hovering there was the figure of a woman holding a circular wreath, her eyes bound with a blindfold. At her feet could be seen the figure of a man struggling to keep afloat in the swelling waves.

This vision was so vivid and terrifying that the Fool stood up in the tiny boat, and pulled the door shut. But water still gushed through the crack, and the boat rocked wildly as he clung to the door, trying to hold it shut against the whole weight of the ocean outside..

A voice rose above the sound of rushing water.
"Behold the wheel of Life! Let life in. You will not be drowned. Come, ride the sea," urged the voice.

The little boat rose upwards as the water filled the narrow tunnel. Soon the Fool's head hit the roof, and there was precious little air left to breathe. His heart pumped and drops of sweat ran cold in his armpits and down his back as the full depth of the trouble he was in revealed itself. Still, the calming voice persisted.

"Align yourself with the forces which surround you. Let the waves carry you. Your adventure cannot begin until you let it."

He finally could hold the door shut no longer. With a sigh of blessed relief he let go, and like a cork he was sucked into a dark and turbulent ocean.

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Copyright © 2000 by Jenny and Chris Gilders,
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