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Part 4:

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     At the end of the war, the heartbroken spirit of the Führer floated over Germany and watched helplessly from the metasphere as his enemies ravaged his land and took terrible vengeance on the people he had led to ruin. At length he felt a presence and noticed that the space around him had brightened. It was Jesus.
     “Have you come for my unconditional surrender?” said Hitler bitterly.
     “Not at all,” said Christ, “for I know that you would never give it now, any more than you would when my allies demanded it in life.”
     Hitler gestured with his head at the rape and pillage going on below. “Your allies are ignoble,” he said.
     “They are vindictive, but I am not. After the natural backlash runs its course, the world will be better than it was before. This may be some consolation to you, even now.”
     “It may be better for you and your kind, but not for my kindred. I’m glad to know that the volk will live on, at least physically. But how can their soul survive this crushing tragedy?”
     Jesus smiled with all the selfless compassion that has been immortalized in countless portraits. “Their soul, too, will be restored to its former state. For am I not the personification of that soul? And do I not always rise again?”
     “You are NOT their soul!” cried the discarnate Führer. “This is the lie that has laid them low. Germans were never meant to be Christians! This is why I attempted to resurrect the olden gods and infuse the volk with a new soul in its own image.”
     “You mean,” said Jesus mildly, “with YOUR image. YOU wished to become the personification of the volk-soul. And I believe it would be hard to argue that it was anyone else but YOU who laid them low, with this misbegotten hubris.”
     “Alas!” said Hitler, and looked down again upon Germany, and wept.
     Jesus sent forth gentle tendrils of love and kindness swirling around the distracted spirit of the Führer. He said, “repentance is a bitter draft, but atonement is wonderful when it’s finally attained. Come with me, and I’ll show you how even the heaviest offenses and sins can be redeemed by suffering.”
     Hitler lifted his head and collected himself. He seemed momentarily to consider the offer. Then suddenly he noticed the subtle threads of metaplasm binding themselves around him. Instantly he steeled himself, and unleashed a bolt of rage which sundered the strands. “Begone, deceiver!” he said. “Save your seductive snares for the gullible souls you suck daily into your mystical body of lies.”
     Jesus stepped back, looking offended. After a moment, though, his compassionate expression returned.
     Hitler turned away, ignoring him. He seemed to become wrapt in thought, looking over the curved expanse of the world from this great height. At length he said, “Something is wrong here.”
     “Wrong?” said Jesus.
     “Yes! Yes, I see it now. Things have become inverted from the last cycle. YOU are the empire this time!”
     “I? The empire?”
     “Of course! How can you deny it? Your religion is the dominant creed of the ruling faction. What soul the Europeans have left is identified with you -- you said it yourself. The armies that rolled against me were consecrated by your priests and ministers, and commanded by statesmen representing self-styled Christian nations.”
     “Though all this be true,” said Jesus, “what of it?”
     “It means,” said Hitler, “that over the course of all these centuries, you, who were once hailed as God, have gradually transmogrified into Caesar. It means that this time, YOU have crucified ME! And now it is MY turn to rise again and conquer the empire from within!”
     The mild and compassionate mask of Christ was gone. He was clearly shaken by these words. “You are mistaken,” he said without conviction; “you are confused, and are mixing up the archetypes.”
     “Oh, am I? Well, let’s just see.” Hitler raised his arm, and events speeded up on the world below. He was moving more quickly through time, into the future. Christ elected to follow, and they viewed the rapid unfolding of history.
     “Germany rebuilds,” said Hitler, “and the volk replenishes its numbers. Not nearly as quickly as when I was in charge, but it’s very heartening. And look! Communism falls, just as I prophesied, and most of the Reich is reunited. And now, dear Lord, behold! You were not the first divinity to rise from the dead, nor shall you be the last.”
     Christ was visibly distressed as he witnessed a great resurgence of fascism in Europe, which began to spread across the world. People protested, and marched, and organized, and fought in the name of Hitler.
     “This must not be!” said Jesus. “You are not a true Son of God at all, but a scion of darkness.”
     “You can’t stop me,” said Hitler. “The tide has turned.”
     In answer, Jesus took hold of a huge cross which had suddenly appeared in front of him, and planted the base of it in the soil of Germany, and symbolically in the middle of Europe. It acted as a barricade against which the new fascist legions flung themselves in vain, stopping their progress.
     “So it’s war again, is it?” said Hitler. “Then so be it!” He pointed downward with his hand and made a circling motion. A black circle appeared on the ground beneath the cross, with lightning-bolt rays around it. Then this mystic sigil turned into a black pit and swallowed up the giant cross, and the phalanx of rightists stormed forward once again.
     The battle proceeded with stroke and counterstroke, until finally the spirit-forms of the Lord and the Führer roiled around the metasphere in hand-to-hand combat, causing great convulsions on the Earth. It seemed that a tornado or vortex rose between them, and they pursued each other round it. And then the vortex solidified and became the equator of the Double Gyre, around which they continued to fly, and fight.
     Down on the floor of the Norn Castle, Verdandi was saying to Wotan: “It will be a very long time for them, but very short for us. In fact, it will be no time at all.”
     “Forsooth!” said Wotan, “they have returned already. And they are still fighting!”
     A ripple went round the throng of angels and Asgardians, as they thought to resume the battle in support of their leaders. But the Norns raised their arms first, and all understood that it was not fated now for them to intervene. Clearly the issue must be decided by the personal struggle of the Führer against the Christ, and every eye in the great chamber was rivetted upon them.
     Despite his earlier bravado, Hitler felt that he must soon succumb to the tireless onslaught of his formidable opponent. He looked desperately about him for some lever of advantage, some way to alter this implacable fate. And inevitably, his eye fell upon the Gyre.
     If only there were some way that he could insert his will into the strands, and effect a grand culmination beyond any of the manifold probabilities they now contained! But even if he knew how to do that, such a complex series of actions could not be performed in the heat of battle. It would require a single, simple masterstroke, an instantaneous change in one key element that could utterly reverse the total pattern of events.
     When he had lived through those events, after the tide of war had decisively turned against him, he had wracked his brain a million times seeking some overlooked factor, or some new device or strategem, that could undo the doom that rolled remorselessly upon the Reich. And there had been nothing.
     If only. . . if only! How many times had he said, “if only. . . !” when considering the many things that had gone awry and the countless twists of fate that had undone him. But now he was here in the control room of fate itself. Now he could untwist those things which had been beyond his control in life.
     As he fought to hold Christ at bay, he desperately searched back mentally through all the long list of “if only’s”, to find one, just one, that was practicable of change in the midst of his struggle, and that would effectively work the miracle. And in a nonce, he had it -- he knew instantly that this was it. If only Enrico Fermi had not defected!
     Fermi was the Italian scientific genius who despised fascism, escaped to the West, and whom all conceded was the most brilliant mind in the brain trust that built the atomic bomb. It could not have happened without him, they said, at least not for many long years.
     Hitler spotted the warp on the Gyre through which he had lived in his current stream of awareness, the one which embodies our own familiar world with its past and future. He knew by some deep intuition exactly what he had to do, but it looked like it might be too late. Jesus had worn him down to his last gram of strength, and was now conjuring a cone of white light, which was swiftly enveloping the prostrate Führer and beginning to siphon his soul into the sickly-sweet ensorcelment of surrender.
     Hitler curled himself into a ball, shamming acquiescence and lassitude, but meanwhile marshalling the dregs of his power. Jesus stepped forward to lay his hand upon him in a final, fatal benediction; but the instant that the contact was made, Hitler channeled into him a bolt of such potent black hatred and outrage and will to resist, that Christ was flung back all the way against the far wall of the chamber. Now in these fleeting, precious seconds, Hitler turned to the Gyre. He found the exact moment at the precise location he desired, and inserted his hand into the warp.
     Enrico Fermi was a fetus in the womb, at a very early stage of gestation. The huge spirit-form intruding upon his reality from the Crux of Time was like the finger of God reaching down and quickening the baby, so that it became a living soul. And after the baby was born, and grew into a man, and heard the first rumors of Adolf Hitler, he knew at once in his heart of hearts that this was his Leader. When later he heard the voice of the great one on the radio, and ultimately met him in person, the Führer truly became his God, and Fermi put himself totally at Hitler’s disposal.
     Thus there grew from that point on the Gyre a new warp of fate, and the events contained in it played out like a movie in plain view of all the spirits in the Norn Castle. They watched as Fermi’s team of Axis scientists successfully completed work on the world’s first atomic bomb in 1944. They watched as a stockpile of over a hundred bombs was quickly built in the ensuing months, and the rockets and bombers were readied to deploy them to best effect. All that remained was for Hitler to give the Führer-order to launch the weapons. The living spirit-form of Hitler in the castle raised his hand in synch with his image from the warp, savoring this act that would reverse the current of history and fulfill his visionary ambition to conquer the world. Now it was his enemy Jesus who stood helplessly before him, and the Führer could not resist a moment of gloating. And then he tensed himself to perform the fateful act.
     “STOP!” cried the three Norns in unison. Startled, astounded, Hitler stopped, and so did the image-projection from the Gyre.
     “Why must I stop?” said Hitler. “Have I violated the laws of fate by creating a new warp of destiny?”
     “No,” said Skuld, “what you have done is well within the letter of the law, and if it is truly your will to fulfill this destiny, we cannot stop you.”
     “Ah!” said the Führer, looking very happy. “It is most certainly my will, so I’ll now proceed.”
     “But first,” said the ancient-looking Norn, “would it not be wise to know the full consequences of your action?”
     Hitler drew in his breath. It was clear he had not considered that his total victory in the war could have any but positive consequences. After a moment of thought he said, “A German victory in the war will bring the Übermensch, and cause the evolutionary leap to the Gyre of Light, as we have spoken of.” He looked expectantly at the Norns, but they only stared back at him in silence, and sadness.
     “Ach!” he said. “Gott in Lieben!” It was a cry of despair. “You mean it is not so?”
     “That’s correct,” said Urdur, “it’s not so. Your visionary belief was mistaken and misguided.”
     The Führer looked as if his heart had been pierced. “So you mean that Germany HAD to lose for the race to progress?”
     “Not necessarily,” said Verdandi. “There are some warps where an Axis victory is compatible with the breakthrough. It’s just that this was not the crux of the issue. Something more than victory or defeat is needed.”
     Hitler’s eyes seemed to glaze as he stared at the Gyre. “I have yearned for victory more than anything.”
     “Indeed,” said Skuld. “And would you sacrifice your heart’s desire for the REAL victory -- the leap of the human species to its true destiny?”
     The spirit who was once a warlord clenched his fists at his sides and stood rigidly. He trembled slightly. Every eye was upon him, and after what seemed a long moment he said: “I would.”
     A flurry of “oh’s” and “ah’s”, and even applause, broke out from the crowd. Even Jesus looked admiringly at his age-old opponent.
     With a gesture of his hand toward the Gyre, Hitler dissolved the warp he had created in which Germany had made the atom bomb. Then he looked at the three women and said, “What now, o Norns?”
     In perfect tandem, they gestured toward the figure of Jesus standing next to Hitler, and said: “Behold the other man.”
     The two adversaries turned and looked deeply into each other’s eyes. They both seemed to find there something so compelling that they maintained this stare for what seemed like a very long time, as all the spirits watched breathlessly. Then, almost imperceptibly at first, they began to rise.
     Slowly, slowly, they floated upwards, until they reached the edge of the upper, outer half of the dark cone, above the equator of the Double Gyre. And then their forms penetrated it, and passed within it, as the throng murmured in surprise at this phenomenon.
     Now they began to float inward as well as upward, following the angle of the outer surface of the Gyre of Light, until at last they reached the brilliant point of radiance at its very peak. The loom had become invisible, so that the light seemed suspended in empty space, projecting the cone downward.
     The Christ and the Führer looked about them. “They’re gone,” said Hitler -- “the Asgardians, the angels, the Norns. . . we seem to be alone together in a void.”
     “Yes,” said Jesus. “It’s only us. All the other beings in creation are within the Gyre.”
     Their eyes locked again. “What now?” they said at once, then laughed a laugh together at themselves; the sounds were so identically cadenced that they could’ve come from a single throat.
     Christ said, “It seems futile to continue the struggle when we’re alone like this up here.”
     “Why did we keep doing it for so long?” said Hitler. “A whole eternity has passed.”
     “I think I know. It was to distract our attention from an unthinkable and terrifying truth.”
     “And what is that?” said Hitler. In answer, Jesus only looked ever more deeply into his eyes. And then he began to see it: this was not another man before him at all, but a mirror. “My Lord!” cried the Führer. But the instant he said it, suspicion rose in him again; he feared that Christ might take his exclamation as a sign of submission. This whole event, as profound as it seemed to be, might be an elaborate trick to steal his soul.
     Jesus maintained his calm, steady gaze, and said softly, “Mein Führer.”
     Hitler’s suspicion melted away at this gesture of mutual submission and respect. He re-entered the eyeball-lock, and this time allowed the unthinkable and terrifying truth to sweep over him fully.

     “Mein Gott!” he said, “Ich bin du!” Which is to say: “I am you!”

     At the very same instant, Jesus said: “Mein Gott! Ich bin du!”

     And then they both fell into the mirror, and were One.

     The One stood atop the Gyre with his arms outstretched, as if he were on a cross. The cross could have been on Golgotha, for on one side there was a skull; or it could have towered over the burned and ruined cities of Germany in 1945. The One knew all the torments of these moments, and of every moment, and the suffering of every human being who had ever lived, and who would ever live. All this suffering was his, for he was the One.
     The One looked longingly at the skull. He thought: “How long can I bear this suffering? I must die!”
     On the other side of this horrible, desolate place was the point of light from the top of the Gyre, which now looked very much like a star, though it was brighter than any star that had ever sparkled in the night sky. The One thought: “If I can somehow continue to endure the suffering, the Star of Life will continue to generate all the lives of all the creatures in the universe. This is surely a blessing and a redemption, for though they suffer, they also have joy on occasion, and even love. So I will endure!” And as soon as the One resolved this in his mind, his suffering ceased. He knew he was responsible for all the pain and imperfection in the universe, and for a timeless interval he revolved plans in his mind for how to bring the universe gradually closer to perfection.
     At length he wearied of these distracting thoughts. The agony returned, but he was still determined to endure it. And this time he simply stopped thinking altogether. The star and the skull were still there, but he cared not whether the one or the other prevailed. He had not a thought nor a care for anything; everything was the same, whether joy or horror, life or death. And so joy and horror and life and death passed away, and the One knew the most glorious ecstacy he could ever remember. It seemed to go on forever and ever.
     At length even this ecstacy of indifference became cloying and boring, and the One allowed it, too, to pass away. And then the One ceased to exist, and there was None.
     Strangely enough, even the None had a presence and an awareness. It enveloped the entire Double Gyre, which is to say the Multiverse, containing all that is, was, and will be, and an infinite spectrum of variations on all these. The None held all this in its awareness, and cared not at all about any of it, for it was the None.
     Then this awareness looked outward, and discovered there was still another layer beyond, which we may call the All-None. This ultimate Being-Nonbeing took a dispassionate Godlike interest in the multiverse, for it had the power to enter into it at any point at all in the Double Gyre, and playact a role therein, while still retaining the awareness of the All-None. And thus it returned to the top of the Gyre of Light in the Castle of the Norns.
     A single figure descended back down from the peak of the Gyre to the floor of the great chamber. The throng beheld him; they were astonished, and bewildered. The angels said, “It’s the Lord Jesus! But where is Hitler?” The Asgardians said, “It’s the Stark von Odin. But where is Christ?”
     The man-spirit was tall and blonde. It was a veritable ecstacy just to look at him, for he glowed with a heavenly, pleasurable radiance. He was a magnificent, clean-shaven Aryan Christ, looking much like the one in Dali’s painting of the Last Supper.
     This being approached the Norns, who bade him welcome. Wotan stepped forward and said, “I don’t understand. What has happened?”
     “I have conjoined,” said the being.
     A puzzled angel asked, “How can Christ and Führer coexist in one body, and one soul? For in sooth, Hitler was the Adversary, even the Devil, and Satan, whom we have battled in Heaven and Earth for lo! these many eons. How can the twain be one?”
     “The answer is before your eyes,” said the being, “for here I am.”
     The fair Goddess Freya asked, “Was it difficult to merge?”
     “Not at all. In fact, I discovered that I was always one. The difficult thing had been keeping the two halves of the dyad separate for all of the time before. But of course it was necessary, to bring about the creation of the world, and the chance of union.”
     “What shall we call you, Milord?” asked Verdandi.
     “Why, I hadn’t even thought of it yet,” said the being, “having only just been born into this new form.” He glanced up at the luminous point at the top of the Gyre, and reflected for a moment. Then he said, “You may call me ASTARIUS. For when all else was gone, I held fast to a star; and the ending is a dual play on words, for truly I learned how the ‘I’ becomes an ‘us’, and vice versa.”
     “Oh, Astarius, what a delightful name!” said Freya. “And I am the first to call you by it.”
     “Truly I’m blessed to be christened by beauty,” said Astarius. Freya beamed, and suddenly lilted into his arms and kissed him. He returned the kiss for a lingering moment, then gently pulled away.
     Urdur was standing by the Norns’ portal that showed images of the outer world. “The Earth is now at peace,” she observed. “But it is a tragic peace, for all but a remnant of the people have been destroyed in the cataclysm.”
     Astarius said, “Many are called, but few survive the trials of natural selection.” And all the gods and angels looked at him with a sort of startlement.
     “Is this a new Gospel?” asked an angel tentatively.
     “It was just my thought,” said Astarius.
     “Methinks,” said Wotan, “that all your thoughts will hence be a strange amalgam of the teachings of Christ and the ideals of the Stark von Odin. And with due respect, Milord, I cannot fathom how some of these can ever be reconciled.”
     “Verily,” said Baldur, “it would be easier for water and fire to be stirred together.”
     “Or blood and honey,” said Thor. “Mayhap it could be done, but methinks it would not be a tasty brew.”
     Astarius did not appear vexed nor offended. “We shall see,” he said, “for it will all shortly unfold. Then you will be able to fairly judge, as will all the remnant of the human race.”
     “What will you do, Astarius?” said Skuld. “What are your plans for humanity?”
     Astarius grinned at her mischievously, saying: “I suspect you know better than I, dear Skuld, since you are mistress of things to come. But gladly will I tell the vision my spirit gives me -- for it is in fact the new spirit of humanity. I have ascended to the peak of the Gyre and returned, and therefore I am able to chart a course for the collective journey thither. I rounded the great turn at the crossroads of fate, and was transformed; thus all who are inspirited by me will do likewise, and evolve.”
     “Yes,” said Skuld, “you have the potential to accomplish such a mission. Nevertheless, it will not be easy. Some of your fiercest opposition will come from the votaries of your two former personae. I can lawfully tell you this, for I divine that you suspect it already.”
     “Indeed. But it will be a necessary and useful process. The poles must be sharpened before they can join, just as the best and most fulfilling sex is between the most masculine men and most feminine women. And it also makes the best babies.”
     “My Lord,” said an angel, “your new parables are quite surprising! Certainly a change in style, to say the least.”
     Astarius smiled. “In the end,” he said, “the poles will unite, and a literal new species will be formed, superior to the human. The human species, meanwhile, may or may not pass away; the choice will be its own. But if it chooses to continue, it will no longer have the first rank on the local ladder of evolution.”
     “How will the new humans differ from the old?” asked another angel.
     “For one thing, they will share my knowledge of the overriding unity of all conflicting elements within the collective body.”
     “Alas!” said Wotan, “it sounds as if Midgard will become a place unfit for the presence of warrior spirits such as we.”
     “You’re wrong, my friend,” said Astarius. “As long as there are men, they must try their souls and bodies against other men. A species without the clash of arms, in which the individual is unwilling to risk his life for the good of all, would not be an advance but a devolution.”
     These words caused a hubbub among the spirits, with the Asgardians giving cheers and affirmations, but the angels muttering in consternation. One of the latter spoke up and said, “My Lord, you seem to speak in contradictions. How can there any longer be war, if you, a single, unified being, are the new spirit of humanity? How will humans henceforth be able to do ought but live in peace with themselves, and with one another?”
     For a moment Astarius did not speak. Then he held forth his right hand, clenched it into a fist, and said: “Behold Lucifer, Neanderthal, Set, the Kurus, Kronos, and Satan.” Then he held up his left hand, made a fist, and said: “Behold Michael, Cro Magnon, Horus, the Pandavas, Zeus, and Christ.” Then he pounded the knuckles of his two fists together in front of him.
     There were a few soft sounds in the room of surprise or befuddlement. Wotan wore a look of complete astonishment, but then did something that seemed even more surprising to some of the spirits. He took off his horned helmet, raised his huge spear in the air, and said, “The Throne of Thule recognizes the Lord Astarius as its new guiding star and spritual leader. And, should dire occasion demand, its Commander in Chief. Assuming, of course, that the Lord Astarius desires such an honor.”
     Astarius grinned broadly, bowed slightly to Wotan, and said, “I am honored indeed. And I accept -- with the proviso that my role should in no way infringe upon the rights or duties of the Throne of Thule.”
     “Agreed, Milord,” said Wotan. “Henceforth and forever, we are in league.” The two mighty man-spirits shook hands, gazing long into each other’s eyes. When at last they stood apart, the Asgardians huzzahed and clapped, and swore oaths of allegiance to the new pact.
     “And what of you, my angels?” said Astarius to the Host of Heaven. “Will you also renew your allegiance to me in this, my Second Coming?”
     “We are prepared,” said an archangel. “But some of us do not understand the meaning of the gesture with your fists.”
     “I shall explain it then. If God and the Devil are not one being but two, then men must construe themselves as the adherents of God and opponents of the Devil. Likewise they must imagine themselves as good and their enemies as evil, and will therefore give no quarter and show no mercy to the foe but only to their friends. Thus when on Earth I adjured men to love their enemies, it implied that these would no longer be enemies but friends, and that all should become reconciled and cease to fight. Thus God would win a victory over the Devil, and good over evil. Unfortunately, the Devil always seemed to make a comeback, and evil always rose again in the hearts of men.
     “But if God and the Devil are not two beings but One, then all the bloody conflicts in the long history of this world, as well as all the joyful acts of love and all benevolence, must be simply games or dramas staged by this One Being for his own amusement, stimulation, and edification. The sense of good and evil must simply be a ploy to convince the players that the stakes are high, and to attain the unity of will and absolute primal certainty needed for a good performance.
     “In reality, the stakes are very high indeed, for the eternal cosmic drama involves the working out of the One Being’s purposes for creation and evolution. The evolutionary breakthrough I have just attained, and which I shall now strive to bring to humanity, is one in which it’s possible to have conscious knowledge of the oneness of self and other, friend and foe, and yet still be able to act out one’s appointed role in the drama. If you know the truth of unity, you will love your enemy -- but by the truth of evolution, it may still be necessary to kill him.
     “And I ask which is more difficult: to kill someone you hate, or someone you love?”
     Now it was the archangel’s turn to look astonished. A moment passed in which, perhaps, he digested the implications of the words. Then he bowed down on one knee and said, “My Lord and my God.” All the other angels followed suit.
     After they had arisen, Freya spoke up again and asked, “Where will you go now, Astarius? Will we have the pleasure of your company in Valhalla?”
     He hesitated as if he were uncertain, and the archangel said, “We may have need of your presence in Heaven, my Lord.”
     After another thoughtful moment, Astarius said, “Thank you both for your kind invitations. Though both realms were my home ere this, the truth is that I am a new being in my new form, and once again have nowhere to lay my head. So rather than offend either side by lodging with the other, I shall go to Earth and see if I can carve out a new niche for myself in the material world.”
     “So you will take on a body?” asked Freya.
     The goddess turned to Wotan and said, “Wouldn’t it be amusing if some of us accompanied Astarius into incarnation? What say you, Allfather?”
     “An interesting idea,” said Wotan. “Often have I wandered on the Earth, but not recently in a mortal body... or at least not a SINGLE mortal body. I would feign ponder the matter as regards myself, but of course all Asgardians are free spirits, and any can go wherever they list. Though if you spent a mortal span in Midgard, Freya, your beauty and charm would surely be missed in the halls of Valhalla.”
     Astarius said, “Valhalla’s loss would be my gain, to have such a marvelous comrade on the Earth. And I’m flattered, Freya, that you would consider taking on the burden of a physical body to assist me in my mission.”
     “The burden has its compensations,” said Freya with a twinkle in her eye. And in banter later on, several of the company swore that they saw Astarius wink at her in response.
     A number of other gods and angels expressed a wish to accompany Astarius into carnal life. At the end, there was a fair phalanx on both sides. Astarius bade them all step forth to the opposite company and embrace each other, god to angel, and affirm their comradely love. They did so, and there were sounds of good fellowship all around. Then he said, “Now you have all accepted each other as allies, as brethren, and as complementary opposites. But on the Earth I shall set you one against the other, whenever it should prove necessary to stage a conflict for the edification and evolutionary progress of humankind. Indeed, you shall be the leaders of such conflicts. You will head opposing armies and nation-states, and will feel great outrage and even hatred for he who will play the enemy leader. You will have forgotten that it is all merely a drama, and that he is your brother spirit whom you embraced in the Castle of the Norns. This forgetting, and the rage and hatred it occasions, is necessary strategically to fulfill all the destiny of men and women. But whenever you shall meet in person, whether over a conference table or in the heat of battle, your eyes will meet, and you will remember. And then you will truly love your enemy.
     “And if perchance such meetings do not occur, you will return at length to the spirit, and come together again in love and fellowship here in these higher worlds.”
     All were consecrated to their sacred mission. Urdur approached Astarius and asked, “How soon will you depart, Astarius? And whither specifically on Earth will you go?”
     “I must study longer on the matter,” he said, “and determine the best tactical coordinates for incarnation.”
     “Our facilities are at your disposal, Milord, should you find them useful. Meanwhile, may I suggest some diversion and refreshment for everyone?”
     “You mean a party?” shouted Baldur. “I would indeed say aye to that!”
Astarius laughed, and said, “It sounds wonderful. And I thank you, sisters, for your fine hospitality.”

     The meeting-hall of the castle was only slightly smaller than the great hall of the Gyres. Since at the Crux of Time night and day occurred totally at the pleasure of the Norns, the shades of evening were drawn to create the proper atmosphere. Ambrosia and nectar were served, and draughts from a gargantuan cask of mead conjured by Baldur. The angels played heavenly music, and spirits danced and sang. It’s rumored that some of them even made love.
     There came a moment when Freya looked about and realized that Astarius was no longer in the chamber. She went in search of him through the castle, and discovered him seated in front of the portal to the Earth, wraptly gazing at scenes flickering past on the screen. Verdandi was at work nearby on the looms, for at least one Norn needed to be be in attendance.
     Freya softly touched the shoulder of Astarius. He glanced around only for a second, then looked back at the portal, evidently at something of most compelling interest. “I’ve found it, Freya,” he said.
     “You mean. . . your place of incarnation?”
     “The place, the time, and the person -- all the coordinates. It’s perfect. Look!”
     She peered into the screen, or magic mirror, and was shaken with such astonishment that Astarius grasped her lest she fall. When her voice returned she said, “Milord! Are you certain? Forsooth, it seems like madness! I say this only because I fear for your fate.”
     “Ah, then let us inquire about this fate.” Verdandi had overheard, and now came up behind them. Astarius pointed at a human figure in the screen and asked her, “What do you think? If I, in my new form, became this man, would it accomplish the destiny we all desire?”
     For a moment the Norn was also speechless. Then a great radiant smile spread over her face. “A stroke of genius!” she said. “I never could’ve guessed.”
     “Not even you, Verdandi? Perhaps that bodes ill.”
     “Let us find out.” She stepped over and made a subtle movement of the shuttle on the loom of fate. A weft-line lit up just below the equator of the Double Gyre. “Here is the thread of recurrences of this man in his present incarnation. Now, if you desire, we can alter the warp you have chosen, and see what would happen if you, Astarius, became the soul of this man.”
     “Will it be just a test, a projection? Or would it be the actual alteration of fate in the real world?”
     “I can make such projections, but only for elements and beings who are already in the pattern. Therefore, the only way to learn what you wish to know will be to make the actual change, with all its consequences. And, even though you now stand here in our castle, outside of time and space, you would still be bound to go and fulfill this fate.”
     “Ah. But the fate could be further altered and modified?”
     “All but in the most unusual of circumstances. Yet such hazards do exist.”
     “So I must commit myself in order to find out. Very well, for I feel strongly that this is the best choice.”
     “Are you sure, Astarius?” said Freya.
     “Nothing is ever completely certain in manifest life. And indeed, the necessity of risk is what gives life its savor.”
     “I’ll proceed, then,” said Verdandi. Her fingers worked deftly at the shuttle, and shortly a new warp-strand appeared, intersecting the weft in question and causing it to change direction. The glowing thread seemed to wiggle and waver for a second, then it moved decisively upward, and reached the equator of the Gyre.
     The three spirits focused intently on the small line of light, for this was the moment of destiny: would the weft continue upward along the surface of the Dark Gyre, dooming it to retrogression and ultimate annihilation? Or would it make the miraculous turn onto the Gyre of Light?
     The weft continued its course straight along the equator. It grew longer and longer, and moved neither to the Dark nor the Light Gyre. “What does this mean?” said Freya. “Why is it doing that?”
     Verdandi answered: “There is a third possibility when a being or a collective of beings reaches the equator. It may find itself caught between the opposing pressures of dark inertia and transformative progression. It may just keep recurring in the same identical form. This often happens in the wefts of both Gyres, but the equator is the only place where it’s possible to get stuck forever. I fear it’s one of those rare hazards I warned you of, and in a way, it’s the worst fate of all.”
     “You mean,” said Astarius, “that it may continue all the way around and meet its tail, so to speak? And form a complete circle?”
     “It may indeed. And if that happens, nothing can rescue a soul so impaled on the looms of fate -- not even us Norns.”
     “So perhaps I have scried it wrongly, then,” said Astarius. “And you cannot call it back nor undo the warp?”
     “Alas, no. It would require another positive change to be added to the dynamic, something that would have a critical effect and alter the basic nature of it. I cannot merely negate or retract something that has already been added to the Gyre.”
     The weft was now almost halfway around the equator. Astarius looked concerned. “Have I come this far only to be undone? What can be added to this man’s life that would break it out of the fatal rut and inspire it to rise to the Gyre of Light?”
     Freya had her hand in his and was squeezing it, an action neither of them had consciously noticed, so distracted were they by the spectacle taking place on the Gyre. But now she recollected herself, looked at Astarius, and said: “I know! I know what would do it!”
     “What, dear Freya?” said Astarius. “Tell us!”
     “Me!” she said.
They both looked at her in startlement. She explained: “Verdandi can spin me into the picture as your wife, your mate, your lover -- whatever form best suits the underlying relation.”
     “Which is love,” said Astarius in wonderment. “Do you love me, Freya?”
     She blushed, but said it: “Yes. With all my heart. I’ve known it from the first moment you came down from the Gyre reborn.” After a pregnant pause, she asked: “And do you love me, Astarius? I mean, I know you love all beings, but, well. . . oh, you know what I mean!”
     “Yes, I do,” he said; “and -- I do.” Then he drew her into his arms and they kissed and embraced for a passionate moment which became so long that Verdandi finally cleared her throat to remind them of the potential disaster that was still creeping its remorseless way around the Gyre.
     Astarius instantly reverted to a serious mien and said to the Norn, “Is this lawful to do by the laws of fate?” She nodded. “Then do it,” he said; “please do it as quickly as you can. Weave Freya into the incarnation as my life’s mate, and see if this sways the course of the weft.”
     The glowing line still wormed its way around the equator, and was now mere inches from the fatal intersection with its other end. But the shuttle flew rapidly back and forth under Verdandi’s fingers, and a new warp-line rose glowing up the Gyre. It moved very fast, but the target weft was closing swiftly on its tail. The warp finally closed onto the weft and merged with it barely a millimeter before it would’ve conjoined into the fatal loop. And then the new strand of destiny rose upward onto the surface of the Gyre of Light.
     “We made it!” shouted Freya. “We’re saved!”
     “And so is the human race,” added Astarius in a tone of anticlimactic drollery.
     After an even longer celebratory kiss, Freya said to her new lover: “You were born from the union of two souls, but now you see that you have still another half to merge with.”
     Astarius was moved. He said, “I’m awed by the truth and beauty of this remark. I can hardly wait until we meld into one.”
     “Why wait?” she said.
     He laughed. “I concur. We shall have our moment before descending into matter, and then the hidden memory of this ecstacy will drive us and guide us into each other’s arms as we go about our duties below. But first, my dear one, let us see the climax of the drama.”
     The new weft was moving slowly across the Gyre with a slight but noticeable upward angle. “If you like,” said Verdandi, “I can plot the probable course of the weft and project it onto the Gyre.”
     “Yes, that would be wonderful,” said Astarius.
     The Norn worked at the loom for several moments. “Here it is,” she said. “I’ll make it move very quickly.” The line of light seemed to suddenly pick up speed. As they watched, it made a full sweep around the Gyre in a graceful spiral, so that it did not intersect itself at the completion of the turn, but was rather several inches higher up the warp. It continued round and round this way, and in the twinkling of an eye it spiralled all the way up the narrowing cone of the upper-inward Gyre, until it reached the point of light at the very top, and merged with it. This caused the light to momentarily flare into a miniature nova, illuminating the whole chamber with its brilliant radiance.
     “Halleluyah!” said Astarius.
     “Apotheosis!” said Verdandi.
     “Oh, it’s so lovely!” said Freya.
     “So are you,” said Astarius. They embraced again. Verdandi set the looms to work automatically for a brief interlude, and slipped silently from the room.





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