There was a night, however, in which I was woken by a horrible nightmare: finding myself face to face with a friend who had become a demon, whose eyes and face were disfigured, and whose teeth gnashed at me and spoke in evil tongues I was grateful not to be able to interpret. I was shaken, of course, at such a horrible, vivid vision. But then I was grateful I was awakened from it, and that I realized the dream, horrendous as it was, was a tremendous gift. The dream itself, I could recognize, did not come from a dark place--it was a warning from the light. It was given me to show that even in the safety of my sacred garden I was not completely free of evil, and that I must remain ever vigilant. Such are the times we live in. I will not forget this dream.
Very soon after, I was given a wonderful dream. My cousin Sirius, the Dog Star (as some call it), spoke to me and showed me the light of a beautiful new candle in the night sky. I was made to see the candle close up, and I was mesmerized by its warm flame--and by the subtle scent of soft juniper it breathed. My cousin Sirius then spoke gently in my ear--almost a whisper--and told me of a new friend I would soon have in my Xanadu Forest. The new friend was to be called Caesar Emeritus, and would arrive at my sacred garden's gate adorned in a shimmery, very pale golden robe--there was a subtle glow to it even, I was made to understand. Caesar Emeritus was to be an eternal resident of the Xanadu Forest, it was explained, but that he was not to enter my sacred garden. Sirius whispered further that I was entrusted with finding Caesar Emeritus the most pleasant of accommodations, and that we were all certainly blessed should I do so.
I could sleep no longer after that dream, though the dream itself didn't wake me. No, it was the can of beer Cousin Eddie the Raven tossed onto my belly that woke me--and he was particularly cheery and motivated this morning. As it turns out, Grandma Raven's famous recipe for pumpernickel had been delivered to our lovely gatekeeper's AOL Instant Messenger, and it was time to start making bread. If you have read Chapter 9, you will remember that Samuel Otterman and his empire would soon be coming to clear the scum from Freddie's Pond of Fanciness, and that we were given a quote of 400 pumpernickel--more or less. [Keep in mind, one pumpernickel is a slice--not a loaf] Cousin Eddie had worked out his careful calculations, and decided that we'd need to make 10 loaves of pumpernickel in order to pay the bill--not such a tall order when you think about it! I suggested to Cousin Eddie that we make 11 loaves...just in case it was the more rather than the less. He agreed. I stood and stretched upon the Persian rug, and watched Cousin Eddie zoom off in the remote control patrol jeep, then I made my way toward the garden gate.
My lovely gatekeeper Raven seemed chipper, but slightly distracted, as I approached her post and she typed away on her laptop. We exchanged pleasantries, and she informed me that a Caesar Emeritus would be arriving very soon at our garden gate. I confirmed that I had received the dream from my cousin Sirius, and she was happy for that. I considered for a moment whether my cousins the moon and the stars use AOL Instant Messenger--and whether I should ask Raven that--then decided not to dwell on it. How my lovely gatekeeper Raven receives so much information has always been a mystery to me, and I decided it was best to keep it that way.
I wished a good morning to Edwin the Bee, of course, too, but He only moaned, adjusted his little bee glasses, and drifted back into meditation upon His little lotus flower. Such is life with Edwin.
Almost before I realized it, Cousin Eddie and I were hard at work in front of his garage built out of empty beer cans, mixing batches of dough (in mammoth bowls also constructed out of empty beer cans, of course!) that would soon by very valuable loaves of pumpernickel. I caught my lovely gatekeeper looking on pleasantly a couple of times as Cousin Eddie and I worked, but I didn't let on.
Cousin Eddie had just turned on the oven (also constructed from empty beer cans) when Caesar Emeritus arrived at our garden gate. I saw Raven's head turn first to greet him, and she did so, of course in her most lovely of Raven ways. And then I saw Caesar himself--and a stunning sight he was! My cousin Sirius had certainly underestimated the glow and shimmer of Caesar's pale golden robe. And Sirius had made no mention at all of Caesar Emeritus' gorgeous and wise Baloo eyes in my dream! I rushed to greet our new friend, extended my hand, then realized (as Caesar politely refused to grasp it with his massive paw) that it was covered in sticky pumpernickel dough. We all got a comforting chuckle out of that moment--one I believe I'll never forget. Even Edwin snickered a bit, though He quickly reverted to His meditative grumble and shut His eyes when He caught me looking.
I excused myself for just a moment, so that I could confirm Cousin Eddie was okay with me washing up and taking Caesar Emeritus on a walk through the Xanadu Forest. Ever the savvy soulmate, Cousin Eddie winked, and told me he'd see to it the loaves of pumpernickel would be ready for Samuel Otterman and his empire, and assured me that I should feel no guilt at all. Such a soulmate Cousin Eddie is, and I'm so very grateful. Always.
Without blowing kisses or bidding farewells to my lovely gatekeeper and Edwin, Caesar Emeritus and I were off into the Xanadu Forest on our first adventure together. It was a very short adventure, since I took him straight to the county clerk's office where I was supposed to be at work with my boss, Madeleine the albino peacock. Madeleine was pleased to see me for less than a second, since she saw I had brought a Baloo-eyed Akita to work with me--and realized, of course, that would mean I'm not actually going to be working today.
I felt it would be best if I got out in front of the situation, instead of wasting time with excuses, and said to Madeleine, "Hi, beautiful Madeliene! I need the key to the library tree in the heart of the Xanadu Forest."
I felt at least a dozen other things Madeleine wanted to say to me (some most certainly couldn't be repeated in the presence of children), but she simply said, "I don't have it. You'll have to see Reginald III. He keeps the keys to all the abandoned properties." Then she adjusted her glasses and pretended to be working on something important on her computer, as if Caesar Emeritus and I didn't exist.
I considered spinning the chair around backwards in front of her desk, sitting down, and charming her in my most imbecile of ways, but then I realized there wouldn't be a chair for Caesar Emeritus to sit in, and that it might feel awkward to him. Instead, I squared my shoulders, flipped my hair, and said. "Okay, Madeleine, fine. No problem. No problem at all." I had Madeleine's attention now. I continued, "If you could please just let Reginald III know that if I don't have the key to the library tree in my hand by sundown, Douglas and Justin the dragon life partners will be there to open the library tree for me. And never again will a key be needed. Thank you." And I turned and put my hand upon Caesar Emeritus' shoulder, so as to guide him out of the office.
Madeleine seemed to almost jump out of her chair...and OH--if looks could kill! Madeleine breathed heavily--in and out--many times, as she opened a drawer behind her and presented a key. Then she sort of halfway threw the key at me, saying, "Fine. Here it is. Take it. When Reginald III finds out about this, I will be doing absolutely nothing to protect your job here. Know that, and remember that."
In my most KeV of ways, I winked at Madeleine and said "Thank you. I'll remember that." Then I took the key, blew Madeleine the most sarcastic kiss I could, and Caesar Emeritus and I were off to the very heart of the Xanadu Forest.
Caesar and I spoke just a bit during our trek to the library tree. Though his presence was warm and comforting, he seemed to have little concern for trivial words. When he did speak to me, his voice was low, deep, gentle, and had the most wise tone to it. He never spoke more than a sentence or two at a time--and mostly less. It was clear to me he was fascinated with the magic of the Xanadu Forest, and was observing its subtleties most subtly--but we never discussed it on our way to the library tree, the heart of the Xanadu Forest. Caesar Emeritus even seemed indifferent as I winked and nodded with enthusiasm while I inserted the key into the tumblers of the lock that would momentarily open the mysteries of the universe. A powerful friend and ally he will be. I was grateful he was to remain with us forever.
Thank you, Karen, for sharing your gift with us.
Thank you, O loveliest of lovely gatekeepers, for always understanding.
Thank you, my cousins--the moon and the stars--that trust in me and share great secrets with me in my dreams.
Thank you my sister, the River Zoe, who washes me clean when I need it most.
Thank you, Cousin Eddie for always picking up my slack, and keeping me working even on the days I would do nothing.
Thank you dearest Edwin for loving me just as I am, even though you're almost always rude to me. I love you, and know that You love me. Always.
And thank you all lovelies for being out there.
Lovely of lovelies. Forever.