Chapter II.

10 Jun

Ranid made brief notations of salient statements he found in the personal writings of the great Alsike Caldus.

It was curious to him how little was known about the intimate life of the Institutor, thought the scholar in moments of reverie. He left behind more about his private, inner meditations than his personal life, that much was clear after long, arduous study of the primary sources. There were mysterious empty spaces in his biography.

Diary entries by the Institutor recorded deep revulsion at the state of spirituality in his own age. The concept of the odyle had become an abstract, distant force beyond human perception or understanding. Who any longer could grasp the idea of the infinite, the unbound? The odyle was now understood as unknown, invisible, and ineffable. No wonder only a small handful of believers ever thought about or considered such a difficult spiritual subject. It seemed very distant back in that age.

On the other hand, noted Alsike, popular tradition was rich in folklore that dwelt on the supernatural attributes of different amphibians in Caecilia. Unlettered sages predicted fortune and misfortune based on signs from such creatures. Amphibia occupied an important area in the minds of the mass of people, noticed the Founder. This was so in no other country anywhere, only in his own native land.

Alsike was, therefore, aware of both the spiritual and folklore factors involved in all thought. He wrestled with the task of combining the two strains, though they appeared so different. They belonged together in human thought about the supernatural, it would seem.

Ranid focused on key passages of the manuscripts written by the great man long ago.

– The odyle that moves all the universe must have central modes, from which the planes of all being originate. Our predecessors have failed to identify these within our own world. It is only in these modes that the celestial ecliptic can be found, yet all have failed to uncover them. They have remained mostly unknown and invisible.

-The task of our age is to identify a particular being as the main node.

-I am investigating amphibians with what I term my odylic instruments. The work goes on without visible end. But the point I hunt for will, in time, be pinned down. Of that I am certain.

-It has become necessary for me to leave the capital for the countryside. There may be a better chance of narrowing the hunt for nodal centrality outside the cities and towns of this land. My expedition will take me through areas where there are large populations of amphibians of all kinds. Is one of them the medial agentive of the odyle? Can one species provide the solution that I seek?

There was a silent gap of three weeks after that in the diary and notes of Caldus, discovered Ranid. Why was that so? What had caused it? Had something unmentioned occurred?

When the Founder returned home to the capital from the countryside, he wrote nothing about what he had done or seen on his trip. His mood seemed one of deep disappointment to those who saw and met him. He had made no progress in his search. His work had to start all over again, as if nothing had been found out in the countryside.

But Ranid asked himself whether Alsike had misjudged what was happening to him. Within less than a year, Salamanderism was created and wholly constructed. How did that happen so quickly? he wondered. The journey about Caecilia had long been ignored, minimized, and overlooked by scholars. But was that an error? Had this key to everything been obscured by earlier scholars?

The new investigator decided to examine the journey period in full detail. But how was he to begin? Where was he to start? There would be enormous problems involved without written sources.

All at once, a novel idea struck him. Local collections of Salamandrine documents might contain reminiscences of the persons Alsike visited and spoke with. That might be a source from which to learn about this obscure period of time. It could contain important secrets never considered before, he suspected.

Ranid consulted with the documental librarians of the Archivum.

Yes, they informed him, the regional archives were brought here decades before. Only rarely did anyone look into them. They lay on the shelves unused, gathering dust.

I must dive into them at once, the young researcher said to himself.

Ranid examined records and notes from various regions and different localities. The work was long and tedious. But one morning he grew excited. His search for new, unstudied material led him to a seaside village named Calluella and a naturalist signed Bufe Ascaphus. His eyes poured over this man’s handwritten words with growing curiosity and fascination.

-Yesterday a stranger arrived from the capital, a scholar traveling with faradaic field apparati and many notebooks. I conversed with him at length. What are you looking for? I inquired. What he told me was most interesting and enticing. He believes that there is one particular species of amphibian that holds spiritual primacy over all the others, in fact over all of nature. This being is the only true intermediary representing the odyle in this world of ours. This single variety of amphibian is the key to enlightenment and salvation. But what is its name? I demanded to know of him. He was unable to tell me, for that name remained unknown to him too. That is why he took to traveling, in order to find that out. That is what this man was after. What particular amphibian would unlock all metaphysical secrets for him?

-At first I laughed at this odd-sounding fellow. But there was something so genuine and sincere in his manner that my view of him swiftly grew favorable. He was no fool or fantasist. The man truly believed in his quest. Gradually, I started to become fond of him and decided that I would try to help him to the degree that was possible.

-One day, in his rented flat overlooking the Inland Sea, I asked him what I could do to assist. His answer astounded me. The center of his attention had become the proteus, a type of amphibian I myself was unfamiliar with. We both looked up and studied what had been written about this rare, unusual creature. It was of absorbing interest for both of us.

-Blind, water-breathing, with a tail, the proteus lives in limestone caves along the coast, most often beneath sea level. Small and resembling the eel, it possesses four tiny limbs and a narrow head. There are three toes on each of the anterior legs. The snout is oddly flat and truncated. Hidden beneath its face skin are very minute vestigial eyes. The flesh is a pale green. There are two plane-like external gills that are blood red. The proteus has always been considered uncommonly rare, a freakish inhabitant of coastal caves. Why this enraptured interest on his part? I dared ask the young scholar that question. It holds the key, was his answer. Enlightenment can come out of it, he told me in close, strict confidence. The man asked me to help him with his faradaic detectors that he was going to use on a proteus, the longest-living of all Amphibians.

-This morning the sky was clear, the weather mild and pleasant. The two of us set off early, carrying the instruments in a donkey-pulled cart. I took my friend to a deserted shore area where I was certain there were many caves. Both of us dove into the quiet waters. He was the one to locate the first proteus, probing it with a detecting rod. This took at least a quarter of an hour. He looked me in the face with despair in his eyes and said that the test had failed. The man was very disappointed. There had been no success at all for him.

-He tried out three more captured protean amphibians that day. All of them showed nothing of spiritual significance on the faradaic dials. I have never witnessed such disappointment. His heart was crushed. What he had hoped to find was not there. What had gone wrong? he asked me. In silence, the two of us returned to my cottage in Calluella.

-Though I tried mightily, it was impossible to cheer up the scholar. What way out was there for him? I suggested that he take a new, different direction from what he was already doing. His ears seemed to perk up as he listened to me. I remember how he sat at my small ironwood table where we ate our meals together. What did I mean? my friend asked me. What sort of innovation did I intend to recommend?

-It came to me in an instant flash. I proposed an answer to him. The salamander, further evolved than the proteus, became the suddenly conceived solution he was hunting for. We have a rich variety of amphibians along the coast. The one that is spiritually gifted must be somewhere there. The one being sought is probably unsuspected. He became eager to begin testing of the new creatures. With energy and enthusiasm, the man studied the simplest of salamanders, the newt and the eft, the triton and the triturus. He appeared to be inspired with a new energy and ambition.

-In the morning, I was exhausted from a sleepless night of worry. Had I done wrong in giving him a new interest and an enthusiasm for exploration? I could not go out on the water with him to hunt for salamanders. He had to take a boat out without me along. Stay in bed and rest, my friend ordered me. The time passed slowly that day. Most of that morning and afternoon I spent in sporadic slumber. I felt sick and restless. He returned very late, entering my cottage quietly, so as not to disturb or awaken me as I rested.

-I was surprised upon becoming conscious to hear him say that he intended to leave in a few days. Why was that? I asked. Had something gone wrong? But no explanation came from the spiritual searcher. Few additional words were exchanged between the two of us. My guest refused to tell me anything about what had happened that day out on the water. Only much later did I surmise that he had made a discovery of faradaic sensitivity in some species of salamander. He left without informing me what precisely it was he had found.

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