Glaivas and I stop to rest in a clearing, and he mentions that Forest-Sprites have been here before us. Glaivas informs me that they owe him a debt, and then five seconds later seems surprised as to why they are avoiding us.
Dude? If someone owes you something, its industry standard for them to avoid you. Get used to it.
In other news, I dream that night and see something horrifying being created in a gigantic bubbling cauldron. The Spirit Tiger then appears to me and reassures me that if I am being threatened by evil I should seek her (the Tiger) in the spirit planes.
We awake and enjoy (!) a breakfast of nuts and roots before continuing my journey. No word yet on my leopard fan club, or if more are lurking in the trees.
As we travel, I mention my dreams to Glaivas, who gives me a mandrake root, which he claims will ‘prepare my mind’ for any necessary spiritual journey. I’m sure Cheech and Chong said something similiar to some of their first customers.
Night approaches once more, and I dream a vision of the Supreme God of Evil, Nemesis. I know that he is out to get me, and I watch as a Fiend is created in this ethereal cauldron and is sent to find little old me. He seems to take me murdering his servant (Manse the Deathmage) awfully personally. I wake and ‘know’ that something is wrong. Leaves are whipped up by the wind into a small whirlpool in front of me. I can kick the whirlpool (!), wait to see what happens, or eat the mandrake root and try to call the Spirit Tiger on the astral plane.
Never one to miss out on a chemically-induced spiritual experience, I eat the root and try to set my mind free of the shackles of my body through meditation.
My spirit rises from my body, but the dark beast manages to ‘follow’ me.
Never mind back when I was twelve, this is seriously trippy stuff for my current 40-year-old self.
As my spirit self is carried by the astral wind, I am faced with a choice between a path towards Heaven, or alternatively the Elysian fields. Now that is a signpost that I would pay good money to paint. Leaving aside the serious philosophical questions raised by such a dilemma, I elect to travel towards Heaven, as this was where I last saw the Spirit Tiger.
Aside : I’ve said once before, that there was no other book series where, after chewing a mandrake root and entering the spiritual plane, you had an evil fiend on your tail and had to make a choice between Heaven and the Elysian Fields, in an attempt to find a holy Spirit Tiger.
I walk (get carried by the wind? I don’t know) down the right-hand path, and reach the gates of Heaven, which are guarded (naturally) by a guardian angel, who states that “You may not pass”.
I know that God helps those who helps themselves, but this is surely taking things to ridiculous extremes.
I can tell the Guardian Angel that I seek the Spirit Tiger, try to slip past (using Acrobatics) or call the Spirit Tiger as loud as I can.
Aside : My spiritual self apparently retains the skill of Acrobatics!! I have mental images of nebulous spectres doing cartwheels and somersaults.
I mention to the Angel that I need to speak the Spirit Tiger, and (although no specific mention is made of it) presumably slip him a few gold pieces to grease the wheels.
My gratuity makes no real difference, as he simply mentions that the Tiger comes but I still may not pass. My choices are to cast myself on the ‘ethereal wind’ or to turn to face the Fiend. Resignedly, I turn to face the fiend, hoping that the Guardian Angel might help me.
The book calmly informs me that the Guardian Angel is a lawful creature, and will not disobey his orders to do nothing other than to guard the gate. Thanks, mate. In cold comfort, I see the ‘regret in its face as it takes the hard decision to leave you in the lap of Fate’.
The practical effect of this is that the Fiend captures my spiritual self, and takes me to the ‘Iron-City of the Underworld’ where I will suffer ‘eternal torment’.
That was unsatisfying.
Awesome names : Dis, The Iron City of the Underworld is very much not a place I want to visit again.