There was silence between Moon and Mercury as they ruminated over the consequences of a new age.
“You must be mistaken, Moon!” Mercury said, suddenly losing his usual repose. “No prophecy has ever predicted that the discovery of a drowned woman could bring about a new age. We have always known well in advance about the turning of a new cycle, so why has everything suddenly changed? To happen so unpredictably, and at such an alarming pace is simply madness!”
“Not madness, my friend, but perhaps revolution! Neptune is just the catalyst for a new beginning. Her arrival sets the foundations for the Aquarian age. Think about it! We have always been in control until just now. We have always been in charge of all of the cards. For the first time in our eternal existence we are now faced with the possibility that our authority is simply as tangible as our subjects! Soon we will no longer be the leaders, Mercury. And neither will those in the material plane. Perhaps we will finally see the true birth of democracy!”
Mercury noticed the glazed over look in Moon’s eyes and felt truly troubled by his fanaticism. He feared that with the Aquarian age would come many similar faces – old, weathered professors with no appreciation for orderliness and control.
“What do you suppose will happen then?” Mercury said. “You said that you see death coming. For whom? For the council?”
“I don’t know,” Moon sighed, suddenly reticent. His excitement fell away as he pondered over the options. “I am only a messenger for the psyche, much like you in our realm. I do not know how all of this is going to play out. In fact, I don’t think anyone...or anything truly knows. We have always been told that our free-will and sense of responsibility will determine the fate of our legacies...and there has never been more truth in this than today! The Aquarian age promises new twists and powers for the material that will lead to plenty of revolutionary changes. With time, they may even mimic our own intellects!”
“Spare a moment to imagine it, Mercury,” Moon said, his enthusiasm gathering momentum and going into full swing. “Technology is a new phenomenon in the material but this will grow and develop into something that will change the way people communicate and interact. With time, they will be able to go from the physical to the virtual in a matter of seconds. Their imagination will exceed their own limited capabilities. These massive changes will bring about a chance for renewal, a time for a reconnection with their spirituality and this realisation will bring about awareness of us in the astral!”
“You are too rose-tinted about this!” Mercury said with sudden impatience. He had completely lost his calm and couldn’t stand to hear anymore. How could Moon be so careless, so irresponsible? “Do you not realise the implications? If what you say is true, then we are in deep trouble. It is our duty to stop this age from happening in its tracks. Yes – we should nurture our subjects with loving paternalism. We should be grateful for their slow evolution. But how far do you want to go? We have always feared the Aquarian age. Think revolution! Machinery! Compassion has never been victorious on the Earth plane. Their weakness has always shown through. They will either destroy themselves in the process or worse – destroy us!”
Moon listened intently and looked thoughtfully into the night. He hadn’t expected Mercury to be so passionate on the subject. Clearly this issue posed much concern for the council. And if the rest thought like his friend what would that mean for humanity? Surely Jupiter and the others were obliged to support the evolution of mankind? It wasn’t their right to change the rules of fate. After all, they were the caretakers of this realm and theirs – not dictators. Suddenly, as Moon fell into a deep silence, he suddenly became aware of the next stage in the prophecy.
“Pisces!” Moon said suddenly. Mercury looked up in surprise, open-eyed. “The final sign of the Zodiac. The sign of universality. The most spiritual and egoless of them all...the two fishes, Mercury! He has finally been discovered,” Mercury stared at Moon disbelievingly. “He is weak, Mercury. He does not know anything of courage. In fact, he is nothing but a baby in arms! Even so...he has been chosen for greatness. Our council will agree to send him to the material as a lesson. In any event, Pisces is the messenger for the Age of Aquarius. He is the destined peacemaker!”
Moon suddenly started convulsing and slipped into a reticent state, leaving Mercury at a loss. He rushed over and held him by the shoulders, looking deeply into his eyes to see if he was still conscious, and was relieved when Moon finally regained his senses. He was still visibly shook by the change, however, and when he next spoke his voice sounded strained.
“It’s all happening now. They are meeting with Pisces right away, to discuss the future of the realms. We are already too late to make a difference.”
“I will not let it!” Mercury said hoarsely. “I will head back and make them see sense. We must make sure that the council firmly votes against any impulsiveness! Pisces must not be sent to the material. We must not lend our trust to the woman. Moon, you are coming…aren’t you?”
“I will stay,” Moon sighed. “This news has excited me more than I care to admit. But I will not go back on my word. When I resigned I swore I would never return. I stand by my decision. Go, Mercury! You have your own free will and truth to speak as well as mine. You know how I feel on the matter. Tell the council I abstain from any decision. I will watch from a distance and see how the evolution unfolds.”
Mercury thought on this and made to dissuade his friend but then reconsidered his options. Moon would no doubt be swayed if he asked to give his opinion. As much as he valued his guidance he didn’t need his eccentricities to get in the way of such an important issue. Knowing there was nothing else to discuss, Mercury moved to embrace his friend and then headed towards the balcony.
“Safe journey, my friend. I hope our next meeting won’t take so long...” Moon said. In his eyes however there was another story. There was no rational proof for his feelings except he knew that fate would not allow them to meet again.
Moon knew his lifespan was now running on borrowed time. Death was coming for them all. It was only by cruel fate he would be the first one to go.
Neptune looked into the endless stream of blue that formed the sky around her like a painted canvas. She’d been drowning underwater for so long that she had
forgotten what it was like to be on land. In fact, she’d forgotten almost everything. It seemed easier to concentrate on the paradise above than her current circumstances, which were less than favourable.
She’d lost track of how long they had been walking, but it was enough to send waves of anxiety through her overactive mind. Neptune hadn’t seen Mars since their last meeting, preferring to let his minions do the rest.
Neptune had no doubt in her mind that Mars enjoyed the idea of playing with her vulnerabilities. She had only heard about the planetary rulers in legends and Mars had always struck her as the most ruthless. He was supposedly the warlike guardian of them all – but such a title sounded too noble for the impatient, impish little man that she had come across. If anything he was akin to a savage beast.
Despite her circumstances Neptune couldn’t help but feel relieved after finally becoming conscious again. Even the company hadn’t dampened her mood as she walked past ancient relics and sandy beaches that brought with them relaxing sounds from the sea that splashed gently against the ground.
Slowly she descended further into her memories and embraced the escapist urges that enveloped her senses. Her early childhood was an idealistic time that had no resemblance to the unpleasantness that followed. In the material world she could understand the atheists and the disenchanted. They only had the guidance of the priests and philosophers; the worldly and the wise; as well as the ancient texts to take comfort from. It was unsettling to know that the astral realm was still wrought with imperfections.
She remembered the laughter and the storytellers the most. Learning how to fish was one of her most treasured memories. Singing, dancing and sharing good food with her brothers and sisters, while the rest of her family lay restful or entertained their guests were some of her fondest moments.
This seemed like another life to Neptune, though it brought a smile to her lips as she reflected on better times. Perhaps, after all, that had only been a dream and this was her only reality. She didn’t wrestle with that idea for long, knowing that such an existence was simply too painful.
Instantly she snapped back to the present after one of the guards trailing behind shoved her forwards. They had stopped walking along the pebbled ground and reached the outside of a tall building that was majestic in its appearance, featuring marbled steps at its entrance.
“You have entered the capital of the planetary kings, maggot,” the helmeted man to her left said. “This is where all public trials are held. Here you will be judged by the council and answer to them. There is nothing that can spare you from justice here, maggot.”
There was no need for any reply. As she moved to speak the man to her right pushed her firmly against the steps and towards the gigantic gate that loomed largely ahead.
Excited voices then followed while the gold plated doors slowly drew inwards and allowed for their passing. She craned her neck around the vast and intimidating mass of the royal building while wishing she was invisible to the many eyes following her every move.
There was much chatter while the company surrounding Neptune guided her across the straight and narrow pathway that led to the innermost chamber. Neptune absorbed the atmosphere and scanned the supporting structures that hosted hundreds of different spectators among rows of seats. Others were pitched further away in the higher tiers of the great hall, which offered more of a birds-eye view of the upcoming spectacle.
She had never been used to the spotlight and had never guessed that she would end up in such an important place. She hadn’t even remembered killing Pluto, but she was now being branded for his execution. Neptune didn’t know the courts well, but human nature, no matter how evolved it may be, often saw what they wanted to see.
Then her eyes fixed on the five rulers perched on their thrones, towering over the crowds to mark their titles. It was Jupiter who she saw first. He lived up to expectation and was as magnificent as she had always believed. He was both tall in stature and more muscular than anyone she had ever met. It was likely that he weighed more than three formidable gladiators.
His face, however, was far more gentle and warm than his intimidating mass. There was wisdom in his eyes that almost put her mind at ease. Neptune felt strangely comforted by his presence. After a period of prolonged interest she finally turned her attention towards the man on Jupiter’s left.
Neptune was stunned by the man’s severe burns. His face was ballooned and barely human, resembling nothing of the rulers Neptune had seen in the paintings. The rest of his body was protected by a long thin robe. For the most part there was very little to take from his appearance except for his emerald green eyes that looked back directly into hers.
He seemed to guess her thoughts because within moments a telepathic message came to her with the name: ‘Saturn’. There was something disturbing about his gaze that studied her with great infatuation. Then, after a few moments, Saturn reeled his eyes away from hers as if nothing had ever taken place. During that brief encounter Neptune had sworn she had felt a small twinge in her ear. It had come across as almost like a warning signal.
She was quick to move onto the final figure on the left. Immediately Neptune recognised the woman dressed in dark red as Venus. As a small child she had read many storybooks about the council and had always admired the lady in red. She was commonly known as the ‘lover’ and there was no escaping her immaculate beauty. Her skin was tanned while her enchanting hair fell down to her shoulders. Neptune tried to meet her eyes but they simply moved noncommittally around the chamber. Venus didn’t seem too interested by current affairs. In fact, she almost seemed bored, as if she had been called in for another day in the office. According to legend, though, Venus wasn’t just easy on the eyes. She was also a keen strategist and an effective pragmatist.
Finally she backtracked to Jupiter and briefly spared a moment for Mars, who looked to have a big shark grin on his face. His usual business-as-usual demeanour had been replaced by something even more menacing and uncouth. Neptune had no doubt in her mind that he was enjoying every second of her suffering. For now, however, she could do nothing but simply grit her teeth and block out his boastful taunts.
Next to Mars was one of the twins. By the colourful clothes he wore she guessed the larger-than-life figure to be Sun, the closest guardian to the material realm. He was stockier than Neptune had imagined and redder in the face. She reminded him a little of her Uncle Herbert who would wait behind in the tent for the hunters to bring in their fish. Strangely, he would always manage to grab the biggest share. Sun didn’t meet her eyes and was too drawn into animated conversation to be interested in the rest of the chamber.
There were still two other members of the council who were absent. For a moment Neptune feared that this may weigh against her chances. After a minute of reflection, however, she wondered if their missing presence could serve as an opportunity.
Upon reaching the very top of the staircase Neptune was taken aback by how close she was to her superiors. After placing both of her feet on the marbled floor Jupiter rose with immediate effect. Suddenly all of the ambience and background noise in the room died down and an uncomfortable silence followed, as the most dominant being cleared his throat to speak.
“We apologise for the wait,” Jupiter said, his eyes twinkling mysteriously. “There is not a single soul in the entire hall who does not know about Pluto’s passing and I am truly saddened by his loss. However, I must warn you all now that we are not here to take revenge upon the prisoner, Neptune…” he paused, scanning the room of perturbed faces with vague amusement. “May I first suggest that Saturn first opens in prayer. Tonight – my friends – we will be making history. The decision we make will literally change the course of our very future. One way or another we are heading for a new special relationship with the material. You must all have a hand in what is to happen next.”
He stepped back from the podium and returned to his seat without another word. Moments later the crowds erupted with excited chatter. Neptune soaked it all in and looked across the great hall while feeling increasingly anxious about what was going to happen next. The ceremonious and almost pantomime atmosphere filled her with dread because she knew it was all leading towards something more sinister. She didn’t know much about the way the council operated but public events on this scale were extremely rare – there were certain expectations needed to satisfy the imagination of the crowds.
After a period of background madness the room finally fell into a quiet reflection. This time the rest of the rulers rose from their chairs while Jupiter remained seated. Neptune could have sworn he had dozed off but thought it would be too unseemly for such a big player to take a nap. Later on throughout the ceremony she would be proven wrong – it seemed that for Jupiter even the rarest of occasions was an interruption to his sleeping schedule.
Mars and Sun moved to the farthest right-hand side of the podium while Saturn and Venus took their place on the left. They all looked somewhat sedated and unexcited by events. Neptune had a feeling that they were using their best poker faces for what was to come next. Her old tribe had been exactly the same during difficult times. As a general thing they had been diplomats who were more interested in maintaining the status quo than taking a more daring approach. Occasionally, though, there would have to be disagreements among the councillors and none of them were keen to give anything away. After years of experience in politics it was always important to keep aces under your sleeve.
Saturn swallowed audibly and then began to speak. Despite his appearance, his voice was firm and Neptune guessed it resonated across the entire chamber – commanding a sense of authority and awe. “It has been ten years since we have all come together in this chamber. Before we begin I would ask you all to read from your prayer books and plead for divine guidance. Remember that we are not your gods but simply instruments to the unseen. I ask each and every one of you to put your views aside and open yourselves up to a higher wisdom. If your hearts are true, we will find the path best for us all.”
His words had an effect as they echoed across the chamber and left everyone with a feeling of peaceful contentment. During the silence he sifted through his prayer book and started to sing the first verse, which encouraged the other gods to sing in unison. Soon after their contribution worked as a ricochet over the rest of the room as thousands joined together to sing away their sins.
Opening in such a dignified and spiritual manner left Neptune feeling ill at ease. She knew they were gathered to more or less condemn her to imprisonment – perhaps even execution – and yet here they were acting as if she was about to be knighted. It was incredibly unsettling to have such a wide view of the event and to see the people singing their hymns with impassioned faith.
Some time passed for all of their consciences to be cleared and Neptune saw how they were left feeling more energised from their saintliness. Now they well and truly had their rose-tinted glasses on and were more than happy to soak up everything the council had to say like freshly unwrapped sponges. Saturn appeared to read her mind because as their eyes met a slight, good-humoured smile lit up his otherwise decaying face and left Neptune feeling oddly comforted. Once again she received another alien thought which seemed to say: “Keep your cool. I have a few hands to play yet.”
She had made an ally – but for what purpose? Did Saturn’s plan have an ulterior motive which differed from the status quo? She didn’t know if she liked that better than being at the mercy of the majority verdict. At this moment she was safely within the corrupt realms of official procedure which at least guaranteed her to some degree of protection. She was beginning to have her doubts over the unity of the council, however. It was impossible for five powerful figures to agree on everything no matter how democratic they seemed. And she had a feeling that they all had their own agendas which explained their reservedness. Finally, Saturn made a ceremonial gesture to the crowd and started the proceedings.
“Now the time has come to bring our situation to light. If prisoner Neptune could kindly come towards the podium that would be most appreciated,” Neptune made the dreaded walk without encouragement and stepped onto the podium with Saturn. She could sense his energy vibrations more clearly than ever and could almost feel herself slipping out of consciousness again. It was a different sensation to the raw energy Mars had emitted. It was more like she was swimming underwater again in some otherworld. There was nothing painful about his presence but Neptune never mistook it for weakness. His infinite energy source made her fully aware that he was holding back for the sake of the public.
“Neptune. You have been charged with the murder of planetary ruler Pluto and have been branded as a threat to our equilibrium. You have also been accused of having an acquaintanceship with another prisoner of ours which suggests an inside connection. Do you deny these charges?” She said no in a timid voice and quickly regretted it. Then, just as she was about to retract her statement, she was forced into a stupefied silence by her most unexpected of allies.
“I wish to defend the prisoner,” Mars said. He showed no emotion on his face as he moved onto the podium. “She was in a delirious state of mind when first discovered which suggests that she was mentally unsound when Pluto was struck down. I am also keenly aware of her relationship with one of our prisoners but I do not see this as a threat. Neptune identified the prisoner to be the final key to the Zodiac – Pisces – and was even referred to as ‘mother.’ I do not need to tell anyone here what this means for the council.”
It worked. Mars didn’t need to elaborate and silently watched with satisfaction as the crowds erupted into a chain reaction of animal emotion. Saturn didn’t try to diffuse the situation nor show any surprise at his news. It had likely been staged. So far, it seemed, the council were working together to facilitate the outcome they needed.
“We have spent the last few nights having much discussion over this change in events,” Saturn said after eventually calming down the hysteria in the room. There was a showmanship about him which Jupiter, despite his amazing presence, had been missing.
“Very little has changed on the Earth plane since our last meeting. We have been almost stuck in the mud, so to speak,” Neptune noticed the sudden lapse into informality and it was then that she felt an admiration for Saturn, who could probably swear blindly and still command their attention. “We have been missing a key ingredient of the cycle for a very long time. Pisces – the mythical glyph of the two fishes – is something we have never quite been able to pin down. After thousands of years we have finally discovered an earthbound spirit who we believe is a descendant of this mysterious sign.”
“His natural habitat is to live in his own dreamy existence in the safety of our loving presence. We cannot abide by this any longer. The material is in need of evolvement. We are responsible for their progress and must send Pisces to earth to speak our truth. It is Pisces – the most gentle and universal of them all – who must be given the opportunity to expand humanity’s consciousness.”
There was a long silence. The other rulers had moved away from reticence and were fully engaged in the moment. Neptune couldn’t tell if they were surprised by Saturn’s words and gathered from their expressions that they each had differing opinions. Her own reaction may have seemed comical to an outsider. She could hardly believe that her own son was such an important entity. The name Pisces had only arisen because of their love for fishing and his infatuation with the lakes around their campsite. She had never even heard of the legend and had little knowledge of the Zodiac.
Sun had looked the most concerned by the news and didn’t seem to agree with Saturn’s heartfelt prophecy. He rose from his chair and was anxious to make an impression when the entire hall was suddenly shaken by a new arrival. Neptune watched closely and feared some revolution was about to occur when the ‘flying messenger of the gods’ came into full sight. It was Mercury. She was taken aback by his unceremonious appearance.
It was Jupiter who rose for the occasion as if to acknowledge his co-rulers obvious annoyance. He spoke loudly and with gentle humility which changed Mercury’s thunderous expression. Neptune was not fooled that he had been truly appeased, however.
“I have news!” Mercury said. He landed on top of the podium near Saturn and looked across from Jupiter to the audience in a sideways gesture. He didn’t speak out against the council for starting proceedings without him and suavely negotiated his way into the debate with exclusive information. “There is more to this Pisces boy than simple human progress. There is no denying that he is the final key to the Zodiac. But I have learned from another source that Pisces poses a potential threat to our own equilibrium.”
Saturn looked to be measuring up Mercury with his eyes as a new and unexpected target. He had likely not expected an unpredictable threat to his agenda and was taken aback by his background research. At this stage he couldn’t tell if Mercury was bluffing or not but was confident there was at least some truth in it – no one could weave fairytales together before the council without a shred of proof.
“Pisces is not a harmonising figure as has been supposed in the past,” Mercury continued after a few moments of silence. “We have reached a fatal part in the cycle and will soon be leaving the Age of Pisces – a time of peace and self-discovery in our world – for a new Aquarian age. Saturn will no doubt be aware that time has thinned. We are moving at a much faster pace than ever imagined, and it has been taking place under our noses. The material realm is set to advance at a dangerous speed and without our guidance. We will no longer be able to lovingly nurture their progress like in the past. It is a time of revolution for the material and an age of awakening!”
Neptune knew little about the different ages but there was no escaping the changed atmosphere in the room, which was bubbling with tension. Finally, Sun plucked up enough courage to break the silence.
“I think I speak on behalf of us all when I ask what all of this means, Mercury? We are obliged by law to send Pisces into Earth to complete the cycle. It could be costly for us all if we neglected our responsibilities,” Sun said with trepidation. Neptune felt it might’ve sounded far nobler if he had left it at that. “On the other hand, we have to think of our own self-preservation. If this Pisces really is a threat to our well-being it would not be wise to send him anywhere. Surely the material has progressed enough!”
“Sit, Sun!” Jupiter said with sudden coldness. “You will embarrass the council with your ignorance! I will not have it spoken again that we abandon our obligations. Our primary goal is to serve both realms and assist them with their evolution. I will make it clear that the boy Pisces will be sent to the material. We cannot go against Universal laws.”
“Of course, Jupiter,” Mercury said agreeably. His eyes told another story. “I must state quite clearly the challenges that we face from this venture, however. If Pisces must go to Earth then we have to recruit a protector of our own realm. Once the material discovers our existence we will need strong gatekeepers to block their passage. We simply cannot trust them to enter our realm!”
There was much debate between the rulers as Neptune tried to make sense of events. She took some comfort from the looks of puzzled faces in the audience and was keenly aware that the council were talking as if they were burrowed away in their own private room. She guessed that there were legends about the astrological ages and had once stated that Aquarius was the sign of ’all things that are newly invented.” It seemed that the material realm would soon be manufacturing their own freedom which would completely transform their attitudes and the dominance of the astral. The council would literally be forced to change its foundations.
Neptune struggled to make sense of it all but had an idea of how the gods felt about the situation. Mercury feared rebellion. Sun seemed to care little except for his own interests. Jupiter was reluctant but did not want to shun his responsibilities. Venus said little the whole time and looked to be in a state of shock. Mars kept silent the whole time but wasn’t disturbed by the news. In fact, he seemed delighted, which left Neptune feeling even more worried.
It was Saturn she didn’t understand. Throughout their disagreements he was the most in favour of humanity and even welcomed the idea of a new age. She could tell that his views were strongly abhorred by the rest of the public. Neptune knew little about the planetary rulers but had once been told that Saturn ruled the land of karma. Was it possible that he felt the astral was in debt to the material in some way – or did he have some other agenda?
Eventually the court was forced to take a mid-afternoon break. The co-rulers were simply running around in circles arguing their cases without any sign of agreement. This wouldn’t be able to last forever.
If anything, Neptune didn’t think it mattered about the outcome of the trial. No official policy would be able to control what was going to happen next between the two realms. For the first time in the council’s eternal life they were faced with the sobering realisation that they did not have any control over future events.