Chapter XXXI.

25 Jun

The centuries-old house had high gables with antique lucarne windows. It showed signs of the warping and decaying inevitable with age. There was an historical aura about the almost decrepit place.

Ranid stopped on the street cobbles and looked up at the pigeons along the slate roof. This is where Vahid Devre once lived, he said to himself. This is where that great man’s personal archive is located. What might be learned among the surviving papers and documents in the obsolete building?

With mild trepidation, he went to the heavy front door and rapped the marteau. A tall man in a servant’s formal dark suit appeared.

“I am a historical researcher and wish to see the person in charge of the Devre family archive,” explained the smiling young man just off the street. “It is important for me to receive access to certain old letters from the past. They could be of enormous value in the writing of history and biography of the time of Amphibiot formation and organization. That is why I have come here today.”

The suspicious butler looked into the face of the stranger, then examined him from head to toe.

“Step into the alcove and wait,” he indicated, retreating in order to make way. “I shall report your presence to the mistress and she will speak with you. All important decisions are in her personal hands.”

Ranid entered the nogal-paneled vestibule of the old building. He only had to wait seconds before a tall, middle-aged woman in a dark blue algodon dress appeared. Black hair had strands of gray in it. Milky blue eyes shone with lively intelligence. Although this woman was so different in looks from his own Glia, there was a spark in her eyes that reminded him of his spouse.

“Yes,” she began, “can I be of help to you?”

He addressed her in a mild, petitioning voice.

“My name is Ranid Rolius. I am a member of the Anuran convent community at Feretrum, and my purpose here today is purely one of historical scholarship. Let me explain.

“The life of Vahid Devre has been studied by many historians and biographers, using the archive in this residence. For me, the period of special interest is that immediately prior to the Great Schism. There was much correspondence between those who played roles in that drama of the past. That was an era when frequent letter-writing was the custom. Much of it survives.

“My attention focuses upon a number of those who were in touch with that great pioneer of Anuranism. I am especially concerned with the letters that may have been sent to Vahid Devre by a philosophy student named Emon Lannus. I wish to find and study the missives that man may have sent to the founder of Anuranism.”

The tall woman made an undecipherable grimace.

“I am the sole living descendant of Vahid. My name is Dera Devre, and I am the person in charge of all family records and documents. Let me tell you this: I do not recall any letters from an individual with that name. What was it again?”

“Emon Lannus,” answered Ranid, repeating the pseudonym used by Caldus so long ago as the Great Schism was approaching.

“I cannot remember such a correspondent,” remarked the woman. “If the person was someone of importance, it would surely have left a mark in my memory. Yet I have a blank gap on any such letters. Why do you believe this exchange occurred, may I ask?”

“There are existing letters from Vahid Devre to the person called Emon Lannus. That would indicate that others written by this unknown person may still survive here in what was left by the great founder. At any rate, I think it useful to make a search for that purpose. They may be or not be available to peruse and read. But that cannot be determined at this time, till the correspondence is examined and studied.”

Dera Devre gave him a searching, probing look, as if looking for some significant clue.

“I am not certain,” she suddenly told him. “Give me a day, and I shall give you an answer tomorrow,” she said with a face of stone.

Ranid frowned sadly. “I do not have much time here in the capital, for it will be necessary before too long for me to leave on other duties.”

For a time, she said nothing. Her mind rapidly considered alternative replies.

“Come in and be seated in the parlatorium while I have a look in the catalog file for that particular name. It may be that I have forgotten or overlooked it in the past. There is no way of knowing for certain till a search occurs.”

Ranid stepped out of the alcove into the reception salon of the house. It was an old-fashioned, ornate room with satin wall murals and flowery furniture. He took a plush cushion-chair and waited, gazing at the richly wainscoted ceiling and wall bolserie.

Who can today afford such expense? wondered the visitor with a sigh.

His wait turned out to be a short one. Dera entered and gave him good news.

“I found that person’s name among the listing for secondary correspondence,” she announced. “There are a number of letters, some quite long. Do you have a particular month or day in mind from what you know about the other end of the exchange?”

Suppressing his sudden joy, Ranid gave her a precise date.

“Come with me,” she ordered him. “There is an empty cubicle that you can use. I will locate the folders holding these letters and bring them up for you to see.”

Ranid wrote verbatim copies of each page on paper furnished him by Dera Devre. He was able to identify instantly the passages written by Asdike Caldus that represented the core of the future schismatic split.

“…though it saddens me greatly, I must point out the unacceptable portions of your spiritual philosophy. Silence for the sake of good manners is without value in such a situation. Complete candor is the only way to advance the search for higher truth. I must be completely candid. That is my duty.

“First of all, both of us agree that whatever it may turn out to be, the Divine is closely connected to the universe that you and I inhabit. That is a self-evident truth. Our differences surface when we attempt to describe and define the central nexus of all existence and being.

“By this time we all recognize that it is an amphibian that serves as the mundane incarnation and symbol of the Ineffable. The indefinable, indescribable Odyle, or odic being, is presented to us through what may be termed its avatar. As you know, there is growing disagreement over what particular amphibians act in this capacity in place of the Supreme Being. There are those who adhere to the frog, but there also exists solid support for choosing the salamander. This is an ominous, most serious divide that must not be allowed, at any cost, to expand or consolidate. In recent days the idea of a solution has come to me.

“Each individual must undertake a lifetime journey to reach the odyle alone. Direct contact and unity is the supreme good, the final end and destination.

“If we come to see the various amphibians as possible bridges to a mystical linkage, to ultimate bridging over, then they will take their rightful place as means, and only means, to the Highest Level, the Transfinite.

“Let me say it this way: the frog and the salamander are only hypostatizations of what each of them represents and symbolizes. They share much with the Divine, but are not themselves such. They can be defined as incarnating avatars, but no more. With all their spiritual value, they cannot rise to the odic level in any way, because of their worldly, material natures. They serve because of the invisibility of the Sublime that is reflected in them.

“In a strange way, the amphibians are reflections of the Transfinite.

“Both salamanders and frogs act as such for us. Why should either be preferred?

“It would be best to combine all the amphibian avatars into a single framework of ideas and worship each and every one of them equally and impartially.

“That is the difficult task that deserves to be worked out in the future.”

Ranid stopped writing and set down his stylo. His eyes rose and he studied the sapinwood ceiling.

The inescapable conclusion was plain and clear to him.

Alsike Caldus had been a pre-Conjoinist unifier, a Conjoiner before the third stream ever saw daylight.

He was an unknown, unidentified Conjoiner before any others existed.

But in the course of the Great Schism, a turn in another direction occurred. Why was that so? Ranid could conceive of no simple explanation. Perhaps in the debates and battles of that time, each side mobilized itself for combat, for spiritual warfare.

Caldus and Devre had become personal enemies. Opposed movements had coalesced around each of them. Militancy and fanaticism arose and strengthened. Polarization and tension resulted. Is there any surprise that Alsike was compelled by circumstances to forego the chance of advancing to a higher level of understanding? That he was forced to speak in the name of a partial viewpoint, not a universal perspective? That he gave up the highest possible understanding that he had attained, and lowered himself to the partiality of partisanship?

Conjunctive amalgamation was forgotten, set aside as a speculative venture whose time had not arrived.

Over and over the letters went Ranid, reading how two allies evolved into enemies.

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