eaving the Grail Hermit's lovely magical woods, I pass through another gate and back into the cold and snowy northlands. As much as I would like to chase after the sun in the south, there is still much for me to explore here. I travel seemingly endlessly northwards, to the edge of the known world. Finally, I see a castle in the distance and head towards it. Upon my arrival, servants lead me to where the Queen sits looking out the window. A freezing rain has begun to fall, and I'm grateful to have shelter. I tell her so, thanking her. "Mach nöd," she says. [Oh great, she speaks Swiss. I'll translate.] "Hasch Kaffee wella?" [Do you want coffee?] "Ja, gerne." She signals to a servant, who brings a coffee service on a small tray table. She gracefully serves the coffee, asks me about my travels, and we chat a bit. I learn that her name is Maria. She invites me to play a game, explaining that there are no rules and no winning or losing--only playing. Sounds great.
She hands me 12 game pieces--six each of two tower-like designs--and tells me to place them wherever I like on the board. As I am considering this task, she takes a handful of birdseed from a pocket in her skirt, makes a clucking noise, and feeds a black bird who responds to her call. After I've placed the pieces, she proceeds to tell me about my life, as though she were reading Tarot cards!1
"You mistake the shell for the creature, the house for the home. You hold back strong energy because you fear its destructive power. But destruction and creation, like fear and excitement, are twins. The tearing down of the tower frees the princess imprisoned there. When the house tumbles down, it allows us to live in our true home--the World.
-Know in your mind that victory is yours if you stay in the
race. It seems distant, but it is already yours. You need only endure
until the end to claim your prize.
-Believe in your soul that the Grail belongs to you as well as to any other.
-Clothe your body with the sky. Move through the world with confidence and strength. You envy the hawk as he soars. Do you think him superior? Is he wicked or righteous when he hunts and kills? He is true to his nature.
-Prepare your heart for all emotions--hate as well as love, war as well as peace. Sometimes one must kill to survive, wound to heal. The Lance both wounds and heals, but it must be kept sharp to serve its purpose.
"Siehst du?" [You see?] she asks. Then she holds up her mirror. I gaze at my reflection, realizing that 'plain old me' has the power of the whole universe behind her, as does everyone else. She offers me a ring with this reflection, but I tell her to keep it for a better use. I don't need it, because I know that wherever I go, there I will be.
"Ja, genau," [Yes, exactly] she replies. "And you are welcome to stay here, but I think you are ready for the next part of your journey. A little bird told me that other travelers will converge at the stones this evening. I think it would behoove you to meet with them. Come. I'll show you the way."
Out of the castle and across twilit fields we go, until we arrive at a circle of standing stones. By now night has fallen and a fire blazes in the center. The Stone Knight appears and after greetings all around, he puts the Queen on his horse to take her back to the castle.
1 I laid five cards--one middle and four corners.