Moon held the rope limply in his hands and was amazed that they were still alive. He was even beginning to feel his physical senses drawing back into his energy field as the memories of unpleasantness rushed back. He was almost certain that it had been a ploy to lead him from outside the tower. The rope had been an enchanted object that served as a link between the worlds and by pulling it he thought his physical body would dissolve into the ether. That had been fifteen minutes ago.
Soon after Moon discovered that something very subtle had happened when he yanked the rope. He’d not passed through into the physical at all and was instead in the lowest realm imaginable. It wasn’t the material plane but a darker and denser area of existence and Moon could feel his life force being drained by contaminations within the air.
He didn’t know who was behind it all but he guessed that they wanted to subject his being to abject poverty by trapping him in a doorway between worlds and absorbing all of his memories. Throughout his long life he had heard stories about what they had aptly named the lower realm because it eventually sapped the purer beings of their will to live.
He sat at the ridge of the boat quite calmly as he reflected over his current situation. The rope had been corrupted in such a way that there was no way of using it to get back to the astral realm. It would’ve been a better alternative if he had manifested into the material dimension as there were ways to return home from there. There were no such rules in this place. Moon smiled. He hadn’t known that someone hated his guts so much.
The other men on the boat were terrified and didn’t have the slightest idea about what was happening. They were aware of a hostile presence which played on their fears and regrets. They had never felt so small. Moon could tell on their faces that they were afraid and if they were given the choice between this and the floods, he knew which one they would choose. What they didn’t know was that it was much, much worse than they even knew.
There had been a small island within rowing distance so they had managed to bring the boat towards more shallow waters. Moon stayed on the boat for some time while the mariners climbed onto the edge of the island in exhaustion. It was there that they had collapsed, exhausted.
Moon bit away at his thumbnail in concentration and ignored the strong feelings within his energy that entertained all sorts of thoughts that only a psychopath would ever act out. His sensitivity was capable of picking up energies in their most pure forms but that didn’t stop him from having an iron will that blocked out suggestions from others. This stubbornness was the sole reason he had been granted his role as the keeper of memories.
He couldn’t for the life of him figure out what was behind the floods and who had lured him into this purgatory world. He hadn’t made that many enemies over the years although that didn’t mean there weren’t some who would welcome his disappearance. He was a member of the council and had been snooping into top secret files which would have grabbed the attention of an involved party. On top of this he couldn’t help but feel a grudging respect for the man who had put him in this predicament – they had after all succeeded in putting him out of the picture and by imprisoning him within the lower realms it was only a matter of time before his memories were stolen from the jealous spirits which inhabited the place. It was the perfect way to get rid of a gifted psychic figure.
There was light conversation between the mariners as they tried to comfort one another with memories of better times. This was likely the best approach to the type of mental torture they were being subjected to and Moon silently praised their integrity.
He didn’t have the heart to tell them that they wouldn’t be leaving this place. As he remained seated inside the boat Moon had been thinking of every possible method of escape but eventually forced himself to accept the reality that there was simply no way out.
He snapped his fingers in the air after hours of mulling over their situation and woke the mariners from their sleep. They had drifted off for a while – tempted into their dreams by the enticing energies preying upon their minds. Moon resisted the feeling as his mind ticked feverously over their options. There was no way of getting back but that didn’t mean he didn’t have a card up his sleeve.
Moon was for the most part a modest man but he was not averse to the odd moments of cockiness when it was well deserved. The mariners looked at him in their numbed state of consciousness and asked him why he was looking so happy.
He had been elected as the keeper of memories because under no circumstances was that person allowed to influence or change the threads of time with their foresight. Those who had the audacity to break the law were not only sentenced to death but drawn out from the astral realm and absorbed into a completely different consciousness. There was no telling what happened to those who dared challenge the laws of nature but in any event Moon guessed there would be vast amounts of suffering.
He dwelled upon his options and decided there was little choice. Eventually the dense atmosphere would overwhelm and break his spirit. That didn’t stop him from communicating with those in the material realm through his own mind, however. His body would still be in the present and vulnerable to outside influences, but he might just have enough time to play God and change the future. It was an idea out of all proportion and was worse than suicide but there was a reason behind his scheming.
It was the only way he was going to get back a fraction of control and leave a mark on the man who had put him in this situation. Moon knew that his memories were being drawn from him one by one and that the process had already begun. In time a new successor would be named and take over his responsibilities. He hadn’t ruled out that the person who had planted him in this place was in some way going to benefit from this transition. They wouldn’t be so pleased after finding out Moon had acted against their interests.
Moon gave a content smile and finally moved to acknowledge the mariners. He told them that they were going to have to sit tight for a while longer…
Neptune had felt at a loss ever since Pisces was summoned to the material with his memories taken away. Her initial reaction had left her completely at the mercy of her emotions and vulnerabilities; leaving Saturn to diffuse the situation. He had taken her to one side and told her calmly that she had some options but almost all of them would likely make the situation worse. She remembered looking into his emerald eyes and, feeling drawn to them and the secrets they held, was finally convinced that it was wise to follow his advice.
Months had passed since her inauguration and there had been very little contact with the others. There had been an introduction into laws and leadership but she had not seen them again under official terms. She’d been given her new home and a number of different advisors who were supposed to tend to her needs and carry out her policies – though she used them as little as possible.
She had kept her head down and attended to her studies for the most part and mused over the mental game she had unwittingly entered. Every night she wrote notes about the others on the council and tried to make sense of them in her mind. Her research was critical and unapologetic in every bit of its detail. Neptune was quite adamant that she didn’t trust any of them.
During this time she had been trying to deduce who had betrayed her son or if they were all in on it together. In the end she thought this was unlikely because of the internal conflict she had sensed between them. She was obviously against Mars and detested him with every ounce of her being so took delight in making him a high suspect on her list. Sun had also roused her suspicions because of his cowardice and she knew that regardless of his involvement he didn’t seem to have a slither of decency. There was very little she could tell from the woman Venus and made a mental note in her head to study her more closely at the coming meeting.
These were the thoughts that muddied her thinking while she sat and ruminated over the possibilities. She still couldn’t believe that she had some power and control over the realm although it was likely that she was being used as a piece of propaganda as opposed to having any real influence. Neptune didn’t know much but she did know that she was completely in the dark about everything and wanted answers. In the meantime she had no choice but to wait it out and take stock of everything that was happening around her – starting with what was going on under her nose.
At that moment she heard a knock on the door followed by a nervous voice that told her they needed to leave for the meeting.
“Come inside, Triton. I would like to speak with you,” Neptune said. It had taken her some time to get used to being an authoritative figure. She couldn’t help but find the young servant amusing as he came into sight.
He was a portly man with a moustache and a hat that was too large for his head. For all his eccentricities Neptune couldn’t help but find Triton oddly loveable and was one of the few advisors she trusted. He didn’t give her the soundest of judgements and they were often coloured by his own opinions – though that was partly why Neptune had warmed to him.
“There’s so much for you to discuss,” Triton said with exaggerated enthusiasm. He was red in the face and excited by the coming event. “I’m not allowed to know the ins and outs but rumour has it you will be talking about the future of the material realm and your involvement! You won’t just be going over boring council matters…” he moved his hand over his mouth in sudden shock. “I am sorry, miss Neptune! I always speak out of turn.”
“Nonsense!” Neptune said. She hadn’t laughed properly in ages but Triton always managed to cheer her up. “You will talk as you see fit and you will stop calling me miss. You’ve spoken with the others about my plans, then?”
Triton’s eyes darted across the room and looked in any direction except Neptune’s. It didn’t take long for him to crack. “I was just curious and I heard the others talking so I eavesdropped in on their conversation! Please forgive me!”
“There is no one who knows these waters better than you Triton. As the messenger of the sea I would expect no less,” he fiddled awkwardly with his hat at the praise and said nothing. Neptune smiled again and moved towards the door. “I’m still getting to know this place. Will you show me the way to the meeting?”
“Ab-so-lutely!” Triton sang after opening the door and taking her arm in his. “I do hope you don’t mind a long journey in my company, madam!”
“I am very much looking forward to hearing about your escapades,” Neptune said.
It turned out that Triton knew the mass space of the astral realm like the back of his hand and navigated them towards the great hall in good speed. They had started from their place in the underground waters and arrived at the meeting within just over an hour. Neptune’s new home had been nicknamed the ‘golden palace’ but in her opinion it had been grossly exaggerated. It was spacious enough and catered to her needs but it certainly wasn’t royalty.
They stopped outside the walls that Neptune saw for the second time in her life after her earlier visit. This time she was going inside under largely different circumstances although she still felt like a prisoner. She didn’t need chains to feel like she was being kept in a position against her will. Triton gave her a quizzical look but Neptune chose to keep her thoughts to herself. Then he took her hand and kissed it for the longest time.
“I’m so sorry madam, I just couldn’t resist!” Triton said, waving his hands into the air for dramatic effect. Neptune let out an awkward laugh and then quickly reverted back to seriousness.
“You have been most helpful. Now I must attend to business and get some answers from the council. Are you sure you don’t mind waiting?”
“Pay me no mind, now!” Triton cried. “I am a grown man and I’ve not been in this part of the woods in such a long time. I’ll keep myself busy,” he moved towards Neptune and suddenly his eyes turned serious. “You will keep your wits about you, won’t you, my dear? This place is not what it once was. There are…some changes that aren’t always for the better.”
“I understand,” Neptune said, not forgetting his troubled expression. “I am slow to trust and not at all a fan of my colleagues, Triton. I’ll keep myself to myself.”
It had been the first time that he had shown an awareness of the world around him not being quite right and it left a lasting impression on Neptune as she walked ahead. Triton had always been a jolly, if trivial part of her team who didn’t usually talk with such candidness. She didn’t know any of them that well but because of her lack of friends she had warmed to the man quite quickly – his good nature and humour had been welcome company. Now she was under the impression that she had some loyalty from his corner.
Neptune had a feeling that she’d need more friends in the future. There were plenty of enemies to deal with.
After a few minutes Neptune made her way through the great wall and towards one of the conference rooms that was used as a meeting place. There had been some changes since the big public event and she was stunned by how empty it was this time around. Her footsteps echoed and sang across the chamber, emphasising the loneliness of the place. Eventually she came across the narrow corridors where she had passed through with Saturn and saw her colleagues seated at a long table.
The moment she entered the room Neptune could feel all eyes on her. There was a long silence as she took in the scene around her and moved towards the empty chair next to Venus. She had an acute feeling that Saturn’s eyes were still glowering at her from across the room.
“Welcome Neptune. I trust you were able to get here without problems?” Jupiter asked, his voice booming throughout the room. Neptune gave a polite reply and studied the giant with interest. He had rings around his eyes and looked drained. She had caught him napping in the ceremony and had gotten the impression that it was through boredom, but as she looked at his troubled face she suddenly thought differently. “We are here to discuss some very important matters which we touched on before. This is your opportunity to voice your opinions.”
She nodded and continued to remain silent. This came as a surprise to the others and it took a while for their meeting to begin. Eventually Mercury piped up and cut to the chase.
“Well you know my feelings all too well on this subject, Jupiter. I am not happy about any of this and I think it’s madness to trust the material with knowledge when they are still incapable of managing their own affairs!” Mercury said. Neptune turned her attention to him and looked at the man with a number of impressions forming in her mind. She remembered him from the conference and had noted that he was strongly against the material realm. She wasn’t sure if that was unreasonable or not, but Neptune couldn’t blame him for his caution.
“Madness is something which has prevailed for as long as I can remember, Mercury, and I can tell you that this is not the case,” Jupiter said evenly. In spite of his lethargy Neptune could tell that his mind was still sharp and not at all weathered by time. “I will not say that I don’t have doubts about the new age. I have seen a vast amount of changes in the material realm and not all of it has been for the better. Even so, we cannot deny that they are expanding their consciousness and we are tied by our responsibilities.”
“I have the greatest respect for your wisdom, my friend,” Mercury said patiently. Neptune noticed that he tended to use his hands a lot whenever he spoke which reminded her of a politician. “I have watched humanity for many years and I am well aware of their qualities. I simply don’t think it is wise to interfere on this scale. We are using Pisces as a messenger and I cannot see a positive outcome to any of this.”
Neptune’s face fell at the mention of her son. At this moment she was going to say something and then quickly decided against it.
“Personally, I don’t think we can be held responsible for the way humanity reacts to the truth,” Venus said. It had been the first time Neptune had seen her talk and noticed that she was wearing the same dark red dress as before. Her legs were crossed and her eyes were fixed intelligently onto Mercury. “We have a paternal need to look after their welfare and it was always written that they would eventually find out about our existence. They have speculated over the astral realm for centuries. This is their natural home and they deserve the truth.”
“There are more worlds than these, Venus,” Saturn said. His voice was serene and floated gently across the room. “It is premature to call this realm their home. They are most likely passing through this place as they do in the physical.”
“Touché’” Venus said with an attitude that Neptune took to immediately. She was more feisty than expected. “Those matters we leave with Jupiter and Moon.”
“Speaking of the devil, I thought you were trying to get him back?” Sun said to Mercury. He had put more weight on since Neptune had last seen him and his bright pink shirt was as inappropriate as his other clothes.
“He won’t change his mind,” Mercury said. There was a fleeting look of sadness in his eyes. “I am saying that we have already given the material too many clues to our existence.”
“We have been heading in this direction for a long time. Our hand has been swayed earlier than expected because of recent events, but the principle remains the same,” Jupiter said. His eyes were unfocused and Neptune could tell that he had a lot more on his mind than this meeting. “Years ago the Zodiac movement was formed and their descendants spoke about another world. Pisces was always the last piece to their puzzle. We are simply polishing our original invention, Mercury.”
“I don’t see the point of this discussion,” Mars interrupted icily. He’d been watching the whole conversation without a word and couldn’t sit back any longer. “Fate will use the pieces it needs to keep time running along without our blessing. You may talk of your democracy and your hopes for the future but the simple truth remains that the strongest will always rule.”
“I have seen other leaders like you and they have always failed,” Mercury said. Neptune detected the venom in his voice and could feel her sympathies being drawn to him – Mars was nothing but a heartless warlord. There was no place for him within modern society and she couldn’t understand why he still had a place on the council. “Moon has told me the truth about Pisces and I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all. He could completely destroy us.”
“Even I cannot see all ends,” Jupiter said. “There is no one who escapes the wheel of fate. All things must eventually fade into the passage of time. I have agreed to increase the security around the astral realm which will protect us from any unlikely revolution.”
“Everyone in this room has a debt to pay,” Saturn said. His voice had a chilling effect and left them all anxious. “Karma will not stop until the cycle is finished. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. This is the reason why Neptune was appointed in the first place.” All eyes fell on Neptune at that moment which made her feel incredible discomfort. At last she decided it was time to give her input.
“I don’t understand what my son has to do with the progress of humanity. I’ve read about the history of the Zodiac and its scientific link between the realms. My son Pisces is the last sign and has supposedly lived through every other sign. I still don’t know what else this is supposed to mean.”
“That’s the problem,” Jupiter sighed. He looked towards Neptune with longing eyes. “There is no one who knows for sure what will happen with Pisces. This has come about much sooner than time predicted. What we do know is the Zodiac is the truth behind our existence. The material needs them if they are to work out their own evolution. Pisces, in his wisdom, will help them to find their answers.”
“Pisces is just a boy,” Neptune said. “He knows nothing about fate and evolution.”
Venus shook her head. There was something Neptune had said which stirred her to life. “In his current incarnation you might think so, but there is more going on in him than any of us realise. Very few ever choose to incarnate as a Pisces. We are told it is the most difficult path for a soul to take. If they choose this sign of their own free will then they have agreed to live a life of service. Your son will have more memories in him than he knows.”
“That was before they were snatched away,” Neptune said sharply. She regretted it instantly and could feel their eyes burning into her forehead. It had been the first time it had been brought up in the council and now they were left in an uncomfortable silence. For a moment she feared that they would simply ignore her but eventually Jupiter acknowledged what she had said.
“That was most unplanned. We are still working on what went wrong, but I guarantee that we will not let that rest. I can only think that Pisces struggled to manifest after being away from the material for so long. It is quite natural for souls to forget themselves during the process.” Neptune watched Jupiter with alert eyes and could tell that he wasn’t telling her the whole truth. He was keeping something back for the sake of the council. She was confident that he was innocent, however.
There was still plenty to discuss but the hours passed quickly during the meeting and Neptune could sense the talk was coming to an end. Little had changed since the ceremony and they all still kept their own views on the matter. She had taken stock of their opinions and actions during the meeting and would spend the rest of her next few weeks trying to guess who was responsible for Pisces losing his memories. They had given little away which didn’t surprise her and it would take more time before their plans would come into effect.
For now Neptune had no choice but to wait a little longer and return to her duties. She didn’t know how much time there was before it would be too late to make a difference.
As they wrapped up the meeting they touched on Jupiter’s communication with the higher realms and had spoken about Moon’s disappearance. She hadn’t met the final member but they had mentioned a flooding which sparked concern from within the table. Jupiter listened to their concerns and added that there were indeed changes happening all around them and that this was the impact of the world getting smaller. She didn’t understand what he had meant by this but had a feeling it was something to do with why he had aged so much in the past few months.
One by one they left the room and said little to each other after their meeting ended. Mars had exited quickly and showed obvious disdain for his colleagues while the others lingered around for a short amount of time.
They agreed to meet again in the near future to start putting some plans into action for the protection of the astral realm while they agreed to watch Pisces with marked interest. Until that time there was a strong feeling of unfinished business among them which Neptune hadn’t failed to notice. She looked over at Mercury and could tell that he was clearly dissatisfied by their choices. Neptune didn’t know whose views she agreed with and decided to wait before making a decision.
Once the others had left she took the chance to talk with Jupiter personally about what had happened with Pisces. He was stood next to the table and had the look of an old scholar as he studied Neptune closely.
“I cannot tell you what happened to your son on that night,” Jupiter said softly. He saw that she was disappointed and placed his enormous hand onto her shoulder with lingering affection. Finally he added: “The world is not the same as it was once, my dear. I have been in this game for too long. There are many unanswered questions – some which I’ve been battling with through the ages – and others which I’ve never known until recently. We are entering into a time that is no longer ours. There are many goings on that I don’t yet understand.”
“So what do you think I should do in the meantime?” Neptune said with almost pleading intensity.
“Keep your head on and above all never give up on faith,” Jupiter said, sighing. “Sometimes that’s all we have left to guide us.”