Friday, October 29, 2021


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Here follows a long story about what happens when pride overtakes a powerful man, a retelling of a Hudson River valley story. (Thanks to Washington Irving for inspiration and to Professor Richard I. Melvoin of Harvard/Ratcliff for history.)

An older man under duress has to use what he has around him. In 1762, Professor Mattias Hoffmann, now dwelling in Kingston, a small town overlooking the Hudson, decided that he was going to defend himself from the religious bigots who seemed to pursue him everywhere he went. Now, it appeared, this relentless ignorance had pursued him, even into the New World. 

Mattias had once been a bright-eyed seminarian, sent to attend the forward-thinking university of Halle where he hoped to avoid the fate of so many--Divinity School! Early on, his mind was full of too full of questions to be satisfied by simply swallowing one dogma or the other and regurgitating upon demand. He would have been ashamed of himself, he thought, to have been so intellectually incurious.

Mattias had been a linguist from the start, for he grew up along the Dutch/German border. He grew up speaking Dutch, German, French in the course of a day. His grandparents, survivors of religious wars, were Lutherans in service to a Protestant Elector, but they had learned to keep their heads down when necessary. His family was not poor, but certainly not wealthy, either, so his intelligence and strong character were important assets to the young man. 

Mattias, intelligent and deserving, had entered University of Halle with an eye to medicine, however, too many new ideas captured his fancy to keep him strictly on course. His knack for languages had already sent him deep into Greek and Hebrew, academic necessities. He also found many English friends at University, and so, added yet another language.

Hebrew studies, especially the more esoteric ones, fascinated him. Soon he was drawn into some very unconventional intellectual paths, dabbling in things not quite Protestant--in fact, these things were not even Christian.  Being a fellow of an overwhelmingly curious nature, he did not close his mind and then close the book, but instead rationalized that as these teachings were from Pagan times, the subject might still be pursued as an historical interest. Mattias had a need to know secrets so deep that his desire overrode his training. He believed that in any case, he would be excused, even by the stern unbending Lutheran God in whom he believed.

He proceeded with his studies, even connecting--through a fellow student, a bright, intense Jewish youth called Solomon, Mattias at length acquired an invitation to visit a wise Hebrew scholar.   By report, Rabbi Fishbane, a deep student of the ancient sacred texts, ordinarily refused such pleas, especially ones from such a lowly member of the academia. The last Halle man known to have consulted him had, in fact, been one of Mattias's professors. 

Surprised, pleased and very, very anxious, hat in hand, Mattias entered a long narrow brick walkway down an old street, overhung by houses. The ancient gray stone structures perfectly matched the day's low sky. For a brief time, they walked beneath an arcade sheltered by from the central plaza by mature grape vines, now withered in winter. Ascending a narrow winding staircase of stone, the each step now cupped with age, they passed through a final door and into a second floor room piled to ceiling with books and papers.

The venerable Rabbi sat in high-backed chair, tiny as a cricket, fine flesh like ivory. His eyes, above the long scraggly white beard, appeared astonishingly clear and bright, although he did have spectacles perched on the end of a hawkish nose. Mattias bowed to the scholar, behaving as Solomon had previously instructed. At the same moment, his friend, at a slight gesture from the Rabbi, left to wait outside. 

Mattias, suddenly afraid, felt his heart stop his throat as he began to speak, but the Rabbi beckoned to him. 

"You must stand beside me, young man. I have foreseen you would come to visit and that is why you are here. Today, I wish show you some images within a book.  First, however, you must find it for me." He gestured toward a wide, sagging bookcase. "This knowledge has been copied and was printed in the last century, without too many mistakes, I believe. This is the book however, that will initiate your journey toward the wisdom that you seek."  

It took time, even lamp in hand, to find the book. Mattias wondered if the Rabbi was testing his Hebrew, although he had saluted the reverend Rabbi in that language. Carefully, he studied the ancient cracked spines and faded lettering. At the same time, he wished he could carve all the names of each and every one into his memory, all while searching with all the gravity of carriage he could muster.

At last he found and placed the book on the table. The Rabbi extended his long fingers and made a practiced, graceful gesture before he bowed over the cover before slowly openimg it. A warm yellow light began to glow around him as he carefully leafed through the pages. 

Mattais heard, "To even begin to understand, young man, you must first undertake deep studies in our religion. You must learn Halakha, religious law, as well as Tanakh and Midrash before you can begin to approach Raziel's Book..."

For an instant, Mattias's heart sank at the notion of so much lying before him. That feeling, as he studied the golden glow in the old scholar's hands, swiftly dissolved into the promise of ultimate discovery, the central mystery which he was so driven to seek. 

I must find and turn these keys, and open the doors, and discover revelation! Perhaps, even, I shall understand eternity! 

Or maybe, an unworthy whisper came from his soul's cellar--obtain more worldly things, for gold, too, has a shine... 


That day had happened a very long time ago. The journey he'd begun there had led to successes in the material world, and gains in the depth of his understanding, but after some years, these achievements felt empty. He was a popular professor with classes full of enthusiastic students, with influential friends in Academia. It was a success of a kind, but it would not last. The world below magical moved in its own way and was becoming uncontrollable. Within the next decade he found himself poor again, cast out of the university and now suspected by the authorities of the kind of radicalism that leads to execution. He was forced to run from beautiful Halle, carrying his books. He committed as much as he could to memory from those precious volumes he realized he'd be forced to sell along the way. 

In desperation, Mattias crossed the ocean and entered the raw New World at New York, carrying little but his last and most precious books. The collapse of his world, he thought, had been caused by his materialism. This had caused him to lose focus and forget that initial fire had been set by that great intrinsic longing to know with which he'd been born. 

"Behave like a clockwork instead of man, and this is what will ensure." A clear voice, the Rabbi's, he imagined, sounded in his head and without further question, he believed it. Now, hiding here among the overwhelming sensations and new reality of this western world, a place where Nature still ruled, he would find a way to live  monastically, purely. He would study and meditate and take up again his original search for higher ground. 

Still, naturally, this could not just happen without struggle. After all, Mattias was still young when he arrived on these shores, erudite, yes, but nothing he had learned before could have prepared him to survive in this inconceivable, barbaric place. He had everything to learn about survival on a frontier, a skill not taught in even the finest German universities.

It took all his youthful strength and energy, but he found ways to keep body and soul together without having to step too far outside the academic world he knew so well. Many younger sons of the gentry in this place, children of great landowners, those less aggressive or less capable, were sent to the Church and needed proficiency in ancient languages, such as Hebrew, in order to enter the colleges of William & Mary, or Harvard or Yale. 

And so, though the task was frequently almost more than he could bear, he found connections and ways into this new career. It was enough to keep him housed and fed, with time off for his private studies. As he was not interested in much beyond the path he was following again, it was easy to stay clear of particular entanglements, especially with the fair sex, a powerful attraction to most men of his age and physique. 

For, you see, Mattis stood quite tall, near six feet. Nature had equipped him with not only a pleasant open face, but a good spine and broad shoulders. He quickly learned how to cut wood quite handily, a necessary frontier skill. Being the kind of man he was, however, he also soon learned that splitting kindling and stacking it was a powerful form of meditation.    

With a bequest from a grateful father--and the aid of a long forsworn twist on the one of the material keys he'd used with such success in Halle--Mattias eventually was able to give this servitude up and retreat up the Hudson to the little town of Kingston. Here, he lived twenty years upon some business interests, surrounded by books both new and recently acquired in pleasant enough circumstances. 

Unfortunately -- or fortunately -- his natural curiosity and desire to explore where others did not dare, got him into trouble again.

In his time in Kingston, his work-a-day self a small trader, he met all kinds of travelers from up and down the river. He wasn't much of a tavern man, though he went early sometimes, before the supper rush, just to have a frugal meal, a pipe and the sight of other people. 

A skinny yellow dog befriended him and moved into his home, and he was quickly glad of the smiling, obliging company. He employed a woman servant to cook and clean, and kept a man servant, too, living in the house, to help him clerk for his small ventures, such as bringing books from Europe,  that he did.  The Dutch Reformed minister, a scholarly, educated man like himself, became a friend, and they enjoyed one another's intellectual company. Still, Mattias kept all his secrets. 

Twenty years is a good stretch of time, even for a man as retiring as Herr Professor Hoffmann, to dig roots into a place. Walking down along the river, he began to met Indians. the idea of learning another language seduced him, but being a sometimes a diplomat, he first asked them to teach him. 

They grumbled and resisted, naturally, saying that it would be better for them if he would teach them to speak English. Mattias, ever open-minded, agreed. He brought them presents to show his appreciation. Eventually, after learning to speak and more of their customs and ways, he would invite them to come to his house in the twilight, these old men, small remnants of now broken river tribes. And because of his insatiable curiosity about higher things, he was, after some time,  invited to visit a sachem who lived deep in the forest, some of which was still primeval. 

His own kind warned that it was not safe for him to go alone out there, but he did, riding out on his mule, a beast with many quirks and demands, a beast, who, as he often said, "taught him things,"  not the least of which was a mule's eye view of follies of humans. 

Before his first visit to the Sachem, he'd learned that the venerable man, Dreaming Snake, was a controversial figure among some of the Native people who remained. Some Indians even called Dreaming Snake a "witch," and warned Hoffmann about the dangers of visiting him. Of course, this only served to fascinate him further. 

The word "witch" had never called to him with such force, or filled him with such longing. Now, under trees that must have grown since the last burning of the Jerusalem's temple, he knew that here was another path he was destined to study.

Here, in this land, at once so old and yet so new, was--perhaps--an ancient connection to the Secret Powers of which he'd so longed! Perhaps, as he studied further, even to the keys he'd never been able to properly turn, these mysteries he'd glimpsed during his long ago study of The Book of the Angel Raziel. 

What is this thing called Magic, after all? He pondered it endlessly, as his still avid desire to know and delve into the sacred secrets burned hot. He turned over the tales that he heard from the old Shaman, a man with one eye, old, yet somehow of ageless, much like Rabbi Fishbane, who had so kindly set his feet on this path. Perhaps, Matthias thought wryly, the Shaman, being a heathen, was  more like the greatest German god, Odin. 

Magic, after all, is, in simplest terms, causing things you wish for to manifest. As time passed, and the two men grew in friendship and trust, he learned that Dreaming Snake could make it rain or not rain, could heal minds and bodies with decoctions of herbs just as he could.

 He continued his visits to Dreaming Snake--always bearing fine gifts of food and tobacco--and quickly learned that this was no "savage" but a subtle and learned man. His tribe were Munsee, but they had been nearly destroyed in the wars with Iroquois and French that had gone on ever since they and the English had arrived and begun to quarrel over trade.

 Mattias grew to love this old man and spend more and more time with him. In order to make things easier for both of them, he invited Dreaming Snake to stay with him, to bring along his followers and family. He had made a comfortable place to dwell behind the garden, a marvelous place he'd cultivated with magical herbs, Thyme and Fennel, Boneset, Fenugreek and Cinquefoil, as well as Sage, Nettle and Yarrow.

 Dreaming Snake had his own plants, and the two of them planted and learned together when the spring came. At night, sometimes, they drew strange figures in chalk on the floor, which always vanished before morning came or his cook and housekeeper, conscientious Widow Visser, stirred out of bed.

Dreaming Snake soon supplied a large piece of puzzle of why some of those long-held keys opened some doors for Matthias and not others. Once this "heathen" had seen the workings and the sigils, eventually their correspondences became meaningful to him. After a long time of pondering upon their meanings as explained to him, the solution came to him. It was quite astonishing to Mattias, for such knowledge to appear from the other side of what had once been a once-bridgeless gap of culture and education. The answer came to him in a dream, as such answers must. 

"My friend," Dreaming Snake said when he awoke in the morning after his revelatory dream, "these doors will not open for those keys of yours because you have not spoken with proper reverence to the spirits of the Earth. Here, I believe I have seen the answer to your problem..."

And, to Matthias's rapturous delight, once Dreaming Snake had taught him how to properly address the spirits of this New World Earth, the keys worked! Now all the Magic was his to exercise! 

He and Dreaming Snake made great journeys together, each seeing things neither had ever seen or known of before. 

The true name of the Hudson, Matthias learned, was "Mah-he-kun-ne-tuk" or "River Which Flows Both Ways." These men, though red and white, were long time seekers, and now they had found a way to merge their arcane knowledge, merge, as the fresh water mingled with the sea and out of this meeting produced many riches--visceral, material, and spiritual--all coming in at flood tide. 

The two men were bonded now like brothers in a way Matthias could never have imagined. They basked together like two snakes in the summer sun, delighting in those things they had seen, in the mysteries that had opened for them, the monumental revelations. At this time, however, Matthias, in an almost continual state of psychic rapture, became less careful of appearances. 

Now, his reliable servant, the pious Widow Visser was a strong, straight-backed, prudent woman who managed the girls of all work who cycled through Professor Hoffman's household every few years. She worked the maids hard, but she also supplied a wealth of household training. When her charges left, they often went to better lives in the homes of more affluent neighbors. The luckiest ones found marriages as second wives, the kind of match that speaks more of practicality than of passionate love. Older men, better supplied to take care of them, could pave their ways to fortune. After all, an older man could die, swiftly turning an industrious obedient wife into a well-supplied widow.

Now, the Widow had been with Herr Professor for nearly the entire twenty years he'd passed in Kingston. She was trusted and respected by her employer and by the town. She was a devout Dutch Lutheran, who attended Church services and read nothing her Bible. 

Unfortunately, the arrival of Dreaming Snake, and the relatives who soon gathered to help look after their revered elder, was unsettling and frightening to her. Widow Visser remembered the bloody raids of her childhood only too well. Her first husband had actually been dispatched by a party of Mohawks, men from one of the Iroquoian bands that had gone over to the French. They had had caught her husband while he was hunting on the edge of the forest one fine autumn afternoon, had relieved him of his gun, his game, and then of his life.

As a result of this and many other such tragic accidents, the Widow, like many colonists, made no distinction between hostile Iroquois, or British-allied Indians, like the Munsee, or Mohicans, some of whom were now Christian. To her and to many others, all Indians were the same, a bunch of dangerous savages. 

She fussed and complained, although the Professor was was understanding. He explained to her that it was all part of a task for which he was "destined." He used all his skill of calming and persuasion. She held her peace for a time, but then the fatal night came when she cracked open the parlor door, and, entranced, watched as the men drew strange symbols on the floor, then set little fires in bowls of herbs and sage. At last both men sat down together cross-legged, on the floor in the middle of a chalk circle. As she fled the scene, she heard a strange whispering in some unknown tongue pursuing her.

 Now the Widow had seen the Professor do water divination and always succeed. She had seen him rescue sick and injured men with his medicines and ability staunch infection and set bones. Over the years, in times of the local farmers' need, she had known him to promise rain and to actually deliver it. 

She, after such long acquaintance, understood that her good employer had some unusual "craft" about him. Nevertheless, up until recently, since he'd become so taken with the Indians, he'd attended Church, near as often as she did. For these years, too, she saw that he had been a boon companion to their scholarly minister. But when old Dominie Van Veltzen died over that winter, one which was particularly bitter, her good will toward a previously decent employer began to evaporate. 

The search for a new Dominie began at once, for, at this frigid time, sleighing down the frozen river made far quicker travel, than in spring, at the time of ice break-up, followed by the long muddy season, where roads were impassable. 

Now hot on the trail of new learning, new revelations, Professor Hoffman had, over the last year, withdrawn from church affairs. The upshot of this neglect, was that the committee charged with finding a replacement, chose man not of the same temperament nor as half as wise as his predecessor. This, and the Widow's increasing fear and anxiety about the Indians who now often desecrated her tidy kitchen with their peculiar presence, would become an open sore within which a violent intolerance began to breed. 

It did not take a year after the installation of Dominie De Vries, an unimaginative and rigid mediocrity, for Mathtias to find himself once again the center of a storm of controversy. He could protest that he was a good Christian till the cows came home, but quickly, after all the tales of strange doings at the house, spread by the Widow and the latest kitchen maid who had become her spy, Hoffmann found that he was no longer welcome in Kingston. He must leave his comfortable home and well-established garden and disappear again. 

This ruin of his reputation and security--once again--took a huge toll upon him, body and mind. At first he had not seen what was unraveling, as he had genuinely been occupied in grieving for the old Dominie, his long time supporter and a man beyond reproach, one whose opinion mattered greatly to the townspeople. 

Before he quite knew what was happening around him, he found himself once again a refugee upon the frontier to the north, beyond even the tiniest villages. The few white men were plain men, pioneer farmers interested in nothing but making ends meet and desperately fearful of savages--either Red or White--most of the time.

This land was still crossed seasonally by shattered bands of Munsee, Abenaki and Mohican, and that was the only refuge, Mattias, a branded heretic could find. Here, among Indian relatives of Dreaming Snake. He had a few trade items left from the wreck of his fortune he'd brought to the wilderness, which he hoped would allow him to erect some kind of shelter thrown up over himself and his books before winter swept in again. 

At first, the struggling farmers were willing to barter time and labor for the goods he'd brought, but eventually, as they watched the little band of Native people gathering around him, they'd abandoned him. The first winter passed in great difficulty, living in a home which was little more than a smoke-filled lean-to, often shared with not only Indians, but with the cow, her calf, and the little mule, who otherwise might have died. 

Mattias was angry and deprived now, ill in every way after his unceremonious uprooting from Kingston and the utter disruption to his physical comfort and his studies--These Great Studies--which he had pursued with such single-mindedness all his life.  Once again, the bottom had fallen out from under him.

For the first time in his life, his body had begun to fail him. That winter, he suffered from agues, from agonizing pains in his back and neck and shoulders, pains that grew ever more severe as the cold came steadily on and drove him back under his covers. Dreaming Snake helped as much as he could, but he was older than Mattias and had also become frail. It was good that the Shamen's family had come, though, for they never completely ran out of food or fire. Still the house was full and there was no way he could study again until spring and they began to go out, the women to dig and to raise corn, the men to hunt and fish again.

For Mattias, the end of his equanimity came when Dreaming Snake, in that same dreary, sleet-filled April, also passed away, quite peacefully, blessing his friend and his family as he did.  Despite the blessing, Mattias's mood soured and his thoughts grew blacker than before. 

When spring came, a shifty-eyed strong-backed drifter who claimed to be a carpenter came to stay. Though this man, actually a carpenter, but also on the run from a crime downriver, believed he had found an easy mark in this high flown out-cast, but things quickly turned out another way from that he had planned.

Not long many days into his stay at the house, his eyes emptied. Now, every day, he labored hard for Mattias. He never spoke unless spoken to and did what he was told. He never challenged or harmed any of the Indians, and gave no offence to the lovely granddaughters of Dreaming Snake, the ones who now prepared food, washed clothes, and planted Mattias a new garden. At night, this poor fool slept like the dead, only to arise before dawn, and, uncomplaining, care for the cow and the mule, before gulping his breakfast and beginning to labor on the endless task of cutting wood, sawing and shaping.

At the end of that summer, a snug house was built, but the man-in-thrall was not released from the spell Mattias had placed upon him. The man's strength was simply too useful. 

About this time, Mattias began to travel in his mind again, but now he went, instead of away to contemplate the astonishing miracle of the universe, he flew down to Kingston, to look in upon his enemies, those who had turned on him, had driven him out, and scornfully paid him next to nothing for the title to his house and land, while he had stood staring with disbelief at the guns in their hands.

Bitterness grew in his heart and created a great darkness as he spied, swelling even as he peered out at these men he despised from their mirrors from the dark corners of rooms. he began to cast spells upon them, small ones at first, like sending sudden winds down the chimney, choking all inhabitants with smoke. 

Men already well-to-do, men he had once thought of as men of honor and good will, had profited from his downfall. Among them, most poisonous of all, was the new Dominie, now enjoying Mattias's herb garden and his carefully cultivated orchard--even some of the rare books he'd been forced in his hurry, to leave behind.

In the depths of night, sometimes he could hear Dreaming Snake calling to him, telling him that he should not pursue mean revenge with the high Magic he had learned, that which, with so much struggle and sacrifice, he'd acquired. His old friend warned that such a use would cause the power to turn back on him, but somehow, Mattias no longer cared.  

Who did they think they were, these peasants, these dwellers in a single narrow reality, lesser men who dared to pass judgment upon a man who had studied long and hard, had suffered and sacrificed, in order to have the power to turn all the keys? 

He began his revenge with Dominie De Vries, that insufferable prig, the one who had dared to accuse him of heresy. Mattias began to haunt his nights. He especially enjoyed stalking him in the long dark evenings of winter, allowing a dark hand to brush his face in the gallery of his comfortable parsonage. He whispered into his dreams, dreams which now always turned to nightmares from which the Dominie awoke, gasping in terror. 

"Judge not and thou shall not be judged." "Cast the beam from thine eye before thou dare speak of the splinter in mine." "The Letter killeth the Spirit!" "Whited sepulcher, you are, hiding your soul's deep rottenness..." 

One night, driven out of doors by the accusatory voices, the Dominie found himself standing about a mile from his house with no coat or hat on a ferocious January night. The wind howled and tore at his clothes. As he twisted his head gazing around, lost in terror, he gazed up into the star-filled darkness. Feet upon hard, heavily sleeted snow, he wondered how he had come to be there.

For a time, Mattias enjoyed the spectacle of he'd created and the torment he was inflicting. Then, he remembered a tale the Indians had told him, of the Great White Panther who came in this "Moon of Sore Eyes" and prowled about their lodges, looking for a victim to take. 

And suddenly, there he was, a Hexenmeister's mind inside the body of an enormous mountain lion. Mattias appeared in this shape before the Dominie, knowing that his eyes blazed green fire and that his teeth were sharp as honed razors. There was a delicious pause, while he savored the disbelief and horror in his enemy's eyes, before he buried his teeth in that fat white throat. The next morning, the Dominie's new wife--who else but the Widow Visser, now married to this pitiful excuse for a Man of God-- was the one who found him, with all that blood from his severed jugular frozen to the ground around him.

Never waste blood, a voice had said, and as soon as it was spilled, all fresh and hot, there in the blistering wind, Mattias's saw the dark figure to whom this offering would be dedicated. Even this sight could not deter him.

There were other killings that winter by this same panther, the second of which was one of the  merchants, a man he'd thought was his friend, whose family now occupied The heretic Professor's comfortable  Kingston home. This attack was witnessed, though from a distance, by the man's eldest son, known to be a sober and unimaginative fellow.

Better, Mattias knew, if a man were to be the witness. No white man bothered much about what his women saw or thought. He'd seen enough poor creatures condemned as witches back in Germany, sent to be burned or hanged, though they'd done little more than practice some antique prayers for their herds--or their own--fertility. 

He took one after another that had betrayed him. Healthy men suffered sudden apoplexies, heated fevers, or were carried off in the jaws of the spectral panther, which had become a favorite form of execution for him, but his his lust for revenge was never assuaged, it only grew stronger. Mattias extended his reach; he sent contrary winds when the sloops of those who had not come forward to defend him as decent men should came up river. He knew knew all who had been culpable, who had connived at his ruin. He even sent spells across the ocean, sinking ships and burning homes of long-ago persecutors. 

An overwhelming fear seized Kingston that winter. Rumors of raiding parties of those Indians spread wildly through the valley, alarming all the villages and freezing the hearts within every outpost farmstead. Tales of the panther and, later, one of flying demons circulated like fire inside an overheated, hay-filled barn

One morning Mattias returned after a night of such mayhem and entered his kitchen, ready to see what variation on cornmeal mush or fried bread he would be served, but his kitchen was empty, except for a lone woman. She was an elder who had come to stay with the family that lived here. Strangely, she had come alone out of the cold, in the midst of this dreadful winter. 

Mattias had asked no questions. He was used by now to the Indian way of coming and going. She was a silent woman, never smiling, and the granddaughters of Dreaming Snake treated her with great respect. To Mattias, she became simply another useful pair of female hands to grind corn, clean, and prepare food. This morning, she appeared to be the only person there. 

He sent his mind out to peep into the sturdy bark shelters that gathered around his home and then into the barn, but no one was there. Not cows nor the mule nor even his enslaved man servant, not a single breathing thing remained. 

Refocusing himself upon the woman--Gluskab was her name--he asked, "Where has all your kinfolk gone?" He desired to send his mind wandering in search of them, but, somehow, gazing deep into her dark eyes, he understood he could not.

"Dreaming Snake has asked me to send them all away if you did not stop what you are doing. Despite his warnings to you, you have not stopped doing harm. Now it is no longer safe here for anyone, because of the darkness which your actions have called forth. You should know, Hexenmeister, Drinkers of Blood are easy to summon, but they are very difficult to send away."

As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Mattias felt a horrible weakness flow over him. He had been so strong, especially since the panther had become part of his power and he'd never, until now, felt the smallest twinge of fear. Suddenly, the world had shifted, with surprise he experienced something of the panic he'd enjoyed visiting upon others. 

He staggered, dizzy. Gluskab, so stern, seemed to be growing taller, more beautiful, too, fiercely beautiful, shining, reminding him in the oddest way of Rabbi Fishbane. His throat closed, his hands froze, and there was a deathly sensation of lost control. 

"You must be a panther now, a panther for many generations that shall haunt these mountains all around, until you atone for your violations of the Rules of the Great Power you have long sought after and then betrayed. For many years, you will come in the darkness to punish the evil-doers, the schemers, the unjust, but you will live only in darkness and as a man no more."

Mattias fell to all fours. He did not struggle or complain when the sentence was pronounced, for he knew right down to the depths of his soul that this was proper justice for misuse of the keys.  


So ends the legend of the white panther that still can be heard screaming down the winter wind in the mountains, across those Catskill Mountains. On the surface, these lands are now so cultivated, so tamed, so dishonored and paved, but beneath still lies the ancient Magic, now with the story of two sorcerers engraved in stone. One was Native, the other a High German Hexenmeister. Together, they opened the doors of Revelation, but one of them, seduced by power, lost his way and fell into darkness, somewhere along the perilous path of the sacred keys.  

~~Juliet Waldron




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