Time, sweet Time! The Fool basked in it as if it were golden sunshine. He lay on the beach thrilling to the touch of sand between his toes, the smell of seaweed, the warmth of the day. All these things had become precious in the light of his reprieve from a watery grave.
Many minutes had passed before he became aware that his clothes had dried, the fog had lifted, and he was sitting at the foot of the cliff from whose caves he had travelled to the Island. The Chariot was just as he had left it, outside the Hermit's cave, and the horses were standing nearby. The mud which had locked the chariot's wheels had dried and turned to dust; the path up the hill was clear.
The horses were eager and fresh, having grazed well on the grassy slopes of the valley. He harnessed them to the Chariot and in no time they were heading up the steep and winding mountain path.
At the top they were greeted by a vast panorama. Numerous paths wound in all directions, playing a game of hide and seek among the hills and valleys. A river sparkled below in the next valley. Although it lay between them and their destination, the Fool was pleased, for this meant fresh water to drink.
In the highest of spirits they descended to the water's edge, where the Fool unleashed the horses to refresh themselves. Wild apple and pear trees provided succulent fruit, but no sooner had he filled his stomach than his heart became heavy with the knowledge that to make further progress they must take the path which beckoned from across the river.
One possibility was to swim across and make the remainder of the journey on foot. But the river ran fast and deep, and following his recent experience he was still somewhat in awe of water. Suddenly recalling the map, he pulled it from beneath his shirt and spread it before him on the ground. Although in some places the detail was smeared, it clearly showed the river, and, just a few miles upstream, where the river curved sharply as if twisted by a powerful hand, a bridge was marked! His heart lifted, the way seemed smooth again, and the sun beckoned them on.
Scarcely an hour had passed before they had reached the indicated spot. Here, the light was blocked by a great thicket of willow trees, and although the river narrowed, it flowed with increased vigour. Across the turbulent water, hidden within the dark and eerie shadow, spanned a wooden structure that may once have passed for a bridge. Its timber frame creaked in the wind, as if it held within its rotten wood an army of restless spirits moaning for release.
The Fool's immediate inclination was to pass through the trees, follow the bend and continue his way in the sunlight. Reluctantly however, he stopped the Chariot, for according to the map this was the only crossing that led to the Tower. He swivelled his complete entourage through a ninety degree turn but once facing the water the horses refused to budge. The black pranced and stamped, suddenly wrenching the reins from the Fool's rather shaky grasp.
Seeing that he must lead them single file across, he climbed down, tethered the pair with the white in the lead, and placed a tentative foot upon the wood. With the reins in his right hand and the bridge-rail in his left, he trod carefully, all the while speaking in a calm and reassuring tone to the horses. After a few steps, with the reins completely taut, the white horse placed one foot and then the other gracefully upon the bridge. The black followed obediently and within seconds the wheels of the Chariot clattered on board completing the cavalcade.
The river roared beneath them, the wind heightened, and the howling above seemed to rise in pitch and intensity. The Fool moved swiftly, and the horses readily quickened their step eager to be on firm ground once again. As they reached the middle the Fool was running, the horses trotting, and the structure giving way beneath as with an a mighty groan the bridge began to break into two. For the second time in so many days the Fool felt the presence of Death, striding just one step behind upon the narrow walkway. A tremendous crash ripped the air as the bridge snapped in two, and everything started to fall towards the turbulent waters below.
Yet, so suddenly that there was no time to reflect on its strangeness, the bridge, the chariot, the horses and the stream had frozen into complete stillness as there appeared above them the vision of a birdlike creature. She wore a gown of deepest blue and in her right hand was a crescent shaped moon of silver. In her left hand she held a golden vessel with the shape of a lion. Lifting the moon she began to transfer a shimmering liquid from it into the wide mouth of the lion. The words he heard seemed to come from deep within himself.
"I am Temperance, the bearer of Time. See how it flows like a stream from this moment towards the unimaginable future. Whatever befalls the shell that is your temporal home, is but a tiny fragment of the bigger story of your voyage through the streams of Time.
As a ship harnesses the power of the elements which carry it along so you have learned to work with others, yet steer your true course. You know that without forward movement, your rudder will not work and your ship will be carried by the tides of circumstance while you wait helpless and forever for some wind of fortune to carry you magically to the land of your dreams."
The Vision smiled, and the warmth of this smile was like the sun, as the liquid moved glistening like golden syrup, from cup to cup.
"Yet there is more. Look carefully within this stream and you may glimpse something which is hidden where you cannot see it now, though you are destined to travel there in due course. This secret lies locked in the fourth dimension, to which only Time holds the key. It is the secret of the once and future you."
She paused, and the water flowed, straight as a ruler, solid as steel.
"You are free to choose your path through Life, but be aware that a small movement in any direction will, if unchecked, eventually take you many miles from the destination toward which you are presently headed. Thus do the intemperate pay for their blindness. For they cannot see that every moment is pregnant with implications for the future.
How then, when you cannot see your destination, are you to become captain of your ship and master of your destiny? You must learn to keep and use the tools of navigation. Only be being aware of the lessons of the past, may you project them into a likely future. How can you tell where you are headed, unless you have measured where you have come from, and how fast you are travelling?
Your progress will not depend upon you alone, for events will affect your course in unpredictable ways. Notice the effects of these winds of circumstance, and, like a helmsman, continually adjust your rudder as you navigate your way through life.
To help you on your way until sunset you shall enjoy the gift of clairvoyance, which is the art of seeing through the illusion of the moment to its consequences in far reaching Time."
There was a great clatter as the horses dashed past and the bridge collapsed behind them into the river. Entangled by their tackle, the Fool was pulled bodily towards the river bank where he fell only inches behind the rear wheels of the carriage. The momentum of the horses dragged it to shore in their wake and as it crashed to safety the sun burst through the trees, bathing the scene in light.
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