That is not dead which can eternal lie,
"To be honest, he is impossible to describe."
That was my immediate answer. "But you were very close to him, surely you can impart something about him! You were his servant!" was the reply. True, servant I was (I still have the engraving calluses on my hands as proof of that). However, mere words will never capture the essence of ye Mage.
From screening the shirts to preparing the "antique" programs, from typesetting the books to designing the layouts for the magazine, I have many fond memories of serving ye Mage. He taught me much, and never failed to reward me with a warm smile and heartfelt thanks. Throughout our time together, he was a mentor and my dearest friend.
I could speak of his wit. A wit so sharp and fast as to make the sword of Zorro wilt.
I could speak of his vast knowledge, born of practical experience and honed with an ever inquisitive mind. He mastered many genres and even revolutionized a few.
I could speak of his impeccable timing. The look on the face of Master Bernstein as the dozens and dozens of knives appeared from nowhere will always be treasured. And the memory of Roger's expression as his fifty-two pasteboards floated around the pool always brings a smile to my face. Or the time that he shot the errant card trickster who attempted to insult us with his presence upon our stage. It is a pity that the bullet only grazed the simpleton. But I digress.
I could speak of his patience and talent. But that is evidenced in his hand-wrought tomes, be they gloriously precise blueprints or nether-worldly grimoires.
I could speak of his peerless Invocationals. However, the contracts that I signed in blood prevent me from uttering a word about them to the uninitiated.
I could speak of the loyalty of his coterie. Without effort on his part, people gathered around him and supported his causes without hesitation.
I could fill an encyclopedia with such things. You would still have no grasp of ye Mage. He is quite simply, indefinable.
How to describe him, indeed.
Perhaps I will speak of his generosity.
There are three tangible items that ye Mage most graciously bequeathed to me.
One was the largest hand-wrought grimoire he had ever made. Several hundred pages in length, bound by hand with loving illustrations gracing the pages.
One was of a very precious hat pin. One that he used in sacred rituals when his own life's blood was one of the ingredients.
And the final one was of a stone. A cold, smooth, obsidian stone.
It was an eerily calm night. Dark, slightly cold and damp. A night worthy of Lovecraft's pen. It was a quiet time, as the seventh (and final) Invocational was etching its way into our long term memories.
Recently, I had heard ye Mage frequently mumbling about his tasks having been finished. Since he had passed on his quill and parchment, our nights were often tranquil.
Ye Mage had a serene look about him that night. I started off to get him his nightly repast, and he grabbed my arm. "Not tonight, my faithful one," he uttered. "Please, sit down." He gestured toward the floor.
As I sat down, ye Mage lowered himself as gracefully as the years would allow. He brought forth a small box with esoteric sigils etched into its surface. Upon unlocking it, I noticed a bundle of blood red cloth resting inside. With great care, ye Mage unfolded the cloth revealing a smooth obsidian stone.
My mind raced! Was this some keystone from a temple to the Great Old Ones? Perhaps the auspice from Cthulhu's altar? Or maybe the dreaded heartstone of Nyarlathotep? With wide eyes, I asked, "What relic of Eldritch lore is this?"
"Relic?!?" chuckled ye Mage. "It is just a simple stone, a lifeless rock. See for yourself."
As he placed the stone into my hand, it felt cool to the touch. It was oblong and perfectly smooth. It was of the deepest black.
"Hold it firmly and tell me what you feel."
As I closed my hand around it, I awaited some miraculous occurrence. None came. "I don't understand. I feel nothing."
"Of course not! It's just a rock, as I told you!" ye Mage smiled grimly as he spread the cloth wrapping on the floor.
"Just hold it a while, and focus on its dead weight in your hand. Let your conscious thoughts flow from your head through your heart, and then, into the stone. Identify with the stone, become the stone, be the stone for a while."
He placed two red candles on the floor, a short one on the left and tall one on the right. As he lit them, he looked up. "What I am about to show you must never be taught to anyone else. There are some things that are meant to remain great mysteries. This is one of them."
I nodded solemnly. The hard stone had warmed in my palm and felt comfortable nestled in my grasp.
"Place the stone in the center of the cloth." With great care, I did so.
"Focus on the stone. Look deeply at its heart. Envision your essence flowing through it. Breathe slowly."
Slowly, ever so slowly, I noticed that the stone moved. No it didn't move at all. Was it changing color? Wait! It was pulsing, beating, growing stronger with each passing second! Yes! It was growing larger and then shrinking, with a pulse as strong as my own racing heartbeat! Yet this was the exact same stone that I held so firmly just a moment ago! This solid rock was actively defying the very laws of physics! I couldn't believe my eyes!
"Remember to breathe!" cautioned ye Mage.
As I watched, the stone slowed its repeated expansion until it returned to its original size. The pulsing had stopped. I felt relaxed, as if a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
"What manner of mind game is this?" I asked. "You said that the stone was lifeless, yet it throbs like a beating heart!"
"It is but a simple stone," he replied.
With raised eyebrows, I looked quizzically at the now still stone, trying to understand.
Ye Mage looked up at me, and after a solitary pause, said, "Perhaps it isn't the stone at all. Perhaps it is the universe around it that pulses with life."
He blew out the candles, and wrapped the stone in the red cloth. He handed the bundle to me. I stared in shock at the gift, and of the experience. I tried to conjure up the words to express my undying thanks. When I looked up, he was gone.
I never saw him again.
It has been a lonely existence without his guidance, camaraderie and friendship. Once in a great while, when I sit alone and ponder my dreary reality, I take out the bundle and unwrap the stone. Sometimes it takes hours, and sometimes only a brief momentbut without fail, it begins to pulse. With a sense that is unlike the common six, I feel a presence looking over my shoulder. Somehow, I know that there is a smile on that unseen face. The pulsing slows, and the stone (or is it the universe?) solidifies again. I wrap it up and return it to its locked resting place. My spirit glows a bit brighter, a bit stronger, a smile forms on my face and I feel capable of lengthening my stay on this corporeal plane a little while longer.
And that, my dear reader, is the best manner of description that I can dream of.
So mote it be!
With a fondness beyond words,
I remain, most sincerely, his humble servant and faithful friend,
The Ubiquitous Cobb
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