Talisman Ch. 2: Dr. Forman's Discoveriebyjon.hayworth©
LadyPhoenix and Wildsweetone
The author wishes to make it clear that all errors, grammatical and historical are solely his responsibility. The professionalism, and good grammar used in this story are thanks to the sterling work of the editors.
Doctor Simon Forman and many of the other characters existed as did many of the events that I have recounted, it is up to you the reader, to work out where fact ends and the fiction begins.
Although the sun had risen, laying a shimmering path along the broad river, the morning air retained its night chill, and over the river Thames gossamer tendrils of dawn mist still clung to the water. In the town of Deptford, just down the Thames from London, the streets were already packed with throngs of people. Christopher Marlowe, who was more often called Kit, sat at his desk, trying to think.
There was a vicious pounding in his head from the copious amounts of wine he had imbibed over the previous day and night. He had been drinking to forget the troubles that seemed to plague him. Despite the previous night's alcohol, a presentiment had awoken him unusually early. As his eyes opened the dream had ceased, but he was able to recall every detail with startling clarity.
Despite his success as a playwright, other aspects of his life were troublesome. He was certain that his former employer, the Master Intelligencer, who operated Queen Elizabeth's security services, Francis Walsingham was the source of these troubles. Looking back he wished that he had not accepted the purse of gold, and that he had remained an impoverished scholar and playwright.
Just as his hero, the eponymous Doctor Faustus had concluded a compact for his soul with the devil, he had sold himself and his conscience to Walsingham. Marlowe shivered. He knew he had been unwise in threatening to unmask his patron. Walsingham and the Cecil family had their hands firmly planted on the levers of power, and the means both lawful and unlawful to ensure they retained their position. He had little doubt that at this very moment, Walsingham would be devising a plan to silence him before he answered the Council's summons.
Marlowe took a sheet of paper and wrote a letter. After drying the ink with sand, he folded it, then sealed it with wax. On top of the letter he placed an old box.
"Pyke!" He shouted. "Pyke! Come here!"
"Thou called upon me, Master Kit?" Despite his young age Pyke addressed the playwright with only a trace of deference. Two years of playing female leads and knowing his worth, had given to the boy a degree of self-assurance beyond his years.
"Pyke, I want thee to take this letter and box to my friend Doctor Simon Forman. Thou wilt find him at his lodgings, the Stone House by Saint Botolphs. Dost thou remember being there when thy leg wast sore?"
"Yes master Kit. He was a kindly doctor and he never bled me."
He handed the boy some silver coins. "Now take these three bords and get a waterman to take thee up the river to the bridge. Make all haste, Pyke. Let caution be thy guide. And let no man detect thy true purpose, nor that 'tis I thou represent."
A child actor, Pyke was already wise in the ways of the world. He had been raised near the playhouse, where prostitutes, pimps and cutpurses lived cheek by jowl with the players and their law-abiding patrons. Before leaving the house he tightened his belt and secreted the box and letter inside the folds of his jerkin. He decided to act the part of an urchin on an irksome errand, so scuffling his feet he shuffled into the street. Obeying Marlowe's instructions the boy took a circuitous route heading east then west, and east again, steadily north toward the river.
It was about the same time as Pyke made his way along Thames Street, that Kit Marlowe entered the drinking house of Widow Eleanor Bull. Marlowe spent the remainder of the day there, drinking with three companions.
Despite being unlicensed Doctor Simon Forman's practice was a busy one. During the plague outbreak of the previous year Simon had been one of the few doctors who had not fled to the safety of the countryside. Indeed as a result of treating plague patients he had contracted the disease, by his own treatments he had survived. As a result many people trusted him more than the licensed doctors and he was prospering.
That day he had seen a number of patients in his rooms, before making a call upon a widow woman. She wanted him to draw up an astrological chart for her and a potential suitor. Ever the gallant, he had stayed for some time paying the woman compliments in the hopes that she might favor him. Unsuccessful, from the woman's home he made his way to a somewhat meaner dwelling, where another woman had relieved his lust. Exhausted from his exertions the doctor had repaired to the nearby Blue Boar Tavern.
It was in this ordinary that Pyke found the doctor. He had been told by the doctor's servant, Stephen, that this was the place where Simon often spent his time. Entering the dimly lit bar, Pyke's eyes were immediately drawn to the affluent looking man who wore a velvet gown trimmed with fur.
"Doctor Forman, I come on an errand of both urgency and secrecy." Pyke whispered so that those nearby would be unable to overhear.
"Speak up boy. Do ye have to mumble like some blushing maiden?"
"Sire, thou will not recognize me by my appearance. My motley is that of a queen, a lady or a maid. My name is Pyke, a humble player in Master Henslow's company. Thou mayest remember last Michalmas, I had a sorly abscess on my leg, thou cured me. Our good friend, the playwright Kit Marlowe esquire, has given to me instructions that this is a matter that requires some delicacy."
"Damned players and writers of plays, ye all think the world is naught but some foolish revel," Simon muttered as he raised his pewter tankard to his lips. "What has the impetuous fool done? Got some pretty maid in trouble? No not Kit. Tis not his inclination. Is it thee boy? Tell me the symptoms. Is it a fever? Pain? Dost thou have some rash or pox marks?"
"No, Sire, this has naught to do with me. I am but the messenger." Pyke tugged at Simon's sleeve, "I pray thee, good doctor, accompany me to a place more private where we will not be over-looked."
Still grumbling, Simon drained his tankard before rising from his seat. When they were in the street the boy pressed the box and letter into Simon's hand. "Master Marlowe wishes thou only to examine the contents when no one is privy to thy actions."
"Has Kit taken to being one of Walsingham's damnable intelligencers yet again?"
Just as Pyke spoke, an altercation erupted inside Eleanor Bull's alehouse between Ingram Frizer and Kit Marlowe. The witnesses, Marlowe and Frizer's drinking companions, who were also employed as intelligencers by Walsingham, later testified that the argument had been over the bill. Tempers fired by drink flared and both men drew their knives. Moments later, Marlowe lay on the floor, his life flowing away.
Simon Forman put the box and letter into his purse before he returned to the Blue Boar. Later, when he was leaving, one of Henslow's jobbing actors entered the establishment, clearly in shock. His face chalk white and his eyes red, he lurched to the bar, demanding draught of strong ale from the serving wench. When he had the tankard in his hand, he held it up. His loud stage voice commanded respect and caused the chatter to die down.
"Gentleman! Wilt thee one and all join with me in drinking to the spirit of our greatest playwright whose mortal coil was cut short this day? Let us drink to the memory of Kit Marlowe, may his atheistic soul rest in peace."
On hearing those words, Simon felt a cold shiver run down his spine. Unconsciously he touched his purse, where he carried the box and letter. He drained his tankard, called for the reckoning and when he had paid it, hurried from the tavern. News was confirmed later, when the boy Pyke hammered on his door. "Doctor! Doctor Forman! It is me Pyke the boy player, open the door, I have news of great import!"
'Damned players. Do they always have to bawl so loudly?' Simon thought as he drew back the bolts and turned the key of the door. No sooner had Pyke entered the room than he related the news of Marlow's death. Simon gave the boy a groat to pay the waterman before ushering him out.
He locked and bolted the door. The rude tallow dip that lit the room did not give enough illumination for him to read. Finding one of his precious wax candles, Simon lit it, placing it on his table. From his purse he took the box and letter, he set the box to one side. Carefully breaking the seal, he unfolded the paper, smoothing it on the table.
Greetings my dear friend Simon,
Prey bear with my presumptuousness, in sending thee this without prior warning. My messenger will have passed to thee this letter and a small box. I send this because I have awoken from a sorely disturbing dream that appears to be an omen that some violent harm may be visited upon my person. Please keep the contents of the box in a place of security. So long as I am alive I ask that thou keepest my confidence and tell no person, however high their estate, that thou hast possession of this box nor do thou gaze upon its contents.
If some misfortune comes to pass and I meet an untimely end, the contents of the box I bequeath to thou…
'Poor Kit! He has certainly met an untimely end,' mused Simon.
… If naught of ill consequence befalls me, I shall be asking thou to return to me the box once my business with the council has reached a satisfactory conclusion.
If however my fate be governed by an ill star and adversity should befall me the contents of the box I bequeath to thou, with no instructions as to the purpose or use thereof. A man with thy fabled knowledge of the secret arts should be able to discern the means to employ this Talisman to thy most profitable advantage.
As thou wilt see, this Occidental medallion, so richly carved of ivory is not without monetary value. However dear friend, that apparent value is of no account when it is compared with the value of the power that appears is secretly embodied within its very fabric.
I will cease now, thy good friend, KIT
Simon reread the letter. Marlowe was dead; of that he had no doubt. The box and its mysterious contents had been bequeathed to him.
He lifted the lid, even in the flickering candle light the carved ivory disc seemed to glow. To examine it more thoroughly he took the medallion from its nest laying it in the palm of his hand. He could see that Marlowe had not been mistaken, the design was undoubtedly not a symbol from Christendom. 'Occidental', Marlowe had said. For no clear reason Simon suddenly knew it originated from the Spice Islands. 'And this gold chain must be worth a pretty penny – I have never seen the likes of it.'
Then he became aware of the heat. Like a crystal the ivory disc was alive, gently vibrating with energy and generating warmth. Simon sensed the ivory Talisman was trying to communicate with him. The figure carved on it intrigued him; at first glance it appeared to be of a woman, an occidental Venus or some unknown fertility goddess he had surmised. Then when he viewed the figure from a slightly different angle its gender appeared to change, and the figure had distinct masculine characteristics.
He was confused. What was the meaning of these phenomena? What did this object mean to him? Would it bring him good fortune or ill?
Deciding to take the prudent course of action he returned the Talisman to its box and closed the lid. From the shelf that housed his precious books, he took down his Ephemeris and Almanac.
Taking a sheet of paper he swiftly jotted down the information he already knew: the angles and altitudes of the planets and major constellations at the time of his nativity. Then he opened the Ephemeris and Almanac and computed a nativity chart for Kit Marlowe. From these two charts he was able to draw up a third symbolizing the relationship between himself, the dead playwright and the Talisman.
Dawn was breaking when Simon wearily rubbed his tired eyes, rising to put his books away. Covering the table were the three charts Simon had drawn up. At last he was satisfied that the Talisman Marlowe had given him was not inherently malevolent. Confident that the Talisman would cause him no harm, Simon went to his bed, closing his eyes and falling into a deep sleep almost immediately.
It was not unusual for Simon to rise at noon as his study and practice of the occult often filled the hours of darkness. Having risen he followed his usual routine, visiting a number of his patients. As he made his way along the teeming streets and crooked alleys, he encountered many friends and acquaintances going about their business, and at every opportunity he sought more information about Marlowe.
Of course, it was not necessary to ask many questions, as news of Marlowe's death was on everyone's lips. All Simon had to do was listen. Some said Marlowe had been involved in a drunken brawl. Others, those who lowered their voices and looked around furtively before speaking, said Walsingham and the Cecil family had some hand in Marlowe's death. Simon listened to both opinions without comment. Speculating about the Queen's Master Intelligencer and advisors could lead to the Tower or a worse fate.
That night as darkness fell, Simon checked and rechecked that the lock and bolts on the door were secure, and that the shutters on the windows were shut fast. Dragging a trunk from under the bed, he took several items from it.
Holding a sword in his left hand, Simon incised a circle on the floor. On the northern point of the circle he placed a small pot containing earth, at the west a pot of water, to the east an empty pot and at the southern extremity a lamp. Next he picked up a small mirror, holding it over the lamp just above the flame then lifting it away to examine it, and returning it to the spot over the lamp. He repeated this process a number of times until the lamp-black evenly coated the glass. When he was satisfied, he placed the mirror near the empty pot, so it faced towards the middle of the circle. Finally in the center of the circle, he erected a small wooden tripod.
Placing a stool in the western sector of the circle, he sat down facing the black mirror. In his open left hand he held the ivory Talisman. Taking several slow, deep breaths, he cleared his mind. He rose to his feet, and walked around the perimeter of the circle in a counter-clockwise direction whilst chanting an invocation. The words could at best be described as Dog Latin mutated with Hebrew, anyone who was not an initiate would understand very little of what he said, and nothing of the meaning.
Having completed three circuits of the circle, Simon again seated himself on the stool. Ignoring the object of his enquiry, the Talisman, he gazed with a fixed stare at the mirror. At first he saw the mirror in the context of the room, with the tripod between himself and the mirror, with the empty pot behind it, in the shadows he could see the wall.
Sitting motionless, his gaze did not waver. Soon time became suspended and he no longer heard the call of the passing watchman. The mirror loomed larger in his vision as it seemed to grow in size. Eventually there was nothing but the mirror, a matte black mass of nothing. His mind was a blank except for the blackness and the warmth of the Talisman in his hand.
He was no longer in the room. Both time and space had lost their meaning. Before his eyes he saw a figure, the same figure that was carved on the Talisman dancing a jig before his eyes. From somewhere far away he could hear the pipes playing a discordant form of music that was foreign to his ears.
When the first thin gray streaks of dawn intruded through gaps in the shutters, Simon rose. Walking three times clockwise round the circle, in the doggerel language he mumbled a closing prayer. Taking up his sword, he cut symbolically through the circle at the east point. Then he went to the table and wrote a wealth of notes about what he had experienced before packing his things away and retiring to his bed.
Night after night Simon cast his circle, but until the tenth night he learnt no more about the Talisman than he knew from Marlowe's letter and the first night. The alien music and the dance confirmed his view that the object's origins lay in the fabled Spice Islands of the Indies, but beyond that fact he had learned nothing.
On the tenth night he saw the figure from the Talisman come to life before his eyes. It had transformed into a dancing girl who became a butterfly that grew and grew until it filled the room, consuming Simon. The dancing girl was Simon, and Simon was the dancing girl. Simon was the girl who danced for the priests, whoring herself chastely for the temple, in innocence enjoying sex that was free of guilt, for the innocent cannot be guilty. Giving enjoyment in return for enjoyment. Simon was aware of a feeling of warmth in his abdomen when she enjoyed an orgasm. When the delicate pink flower between the dancing girl's legs opened, it revealed to him a glowing bud.
In a flash Simon achieved a level of understanding that surpassed the goals his imagination had set him. When with the arrival of dawn he had ritually broken the circle, Simon then wrote his cryptic notes in his usual semi-educated mishmash of Dog Latin and French.
Noxt est dies et dies est noxt. Lume est niger et niger est lume. Et vice verca ad infinitum. Homme est femme. Femme est homme. Femme cum as homme but with difference. Noxt I was a femme and homme. Did pleasure my femme. Femme pedagoge a homme.
Translated he had written, "Night is day and day is night. Light is black and black is light. And the opposite into infinity. Man is woman. Woman is man. Woman orgasms as a man does but there is a difference. This night I was both a woman and a man. I did pleasure the female. Female instructed the male."
Simon reread his notes. To anyone else they read like a bad riddle, but for him they would serve as an aide-memoir, without betraying the great secret of duality to anyone else. He doubted if there was another man in London who possessed the knowledge he had of female sexuality. For in becoming female he had discovered the secret source of female sexual enjoyment. Now all he needed and wanted, was an opportunity to put that knowledge to use.
Never before had the forty year old doctor even considered it to be possible that a woman might take some enjoyment from sex. This was not because he was inexperienced in sexual matters, even though he had been a virgin until his thirtieth year. Since then, after having made love to Anne Young, he had taken his own enjoyment with many women, however he had never considered whether they got any enjoyment from the act. Now he knew they had such dazzling potential, he was anxious to put the theory into practice.
Circumstances favored Simon that very day. Just before noon a servant girl knocked at his door. Simon was in his bed when he called out, "Who is it?" His voice sharp, he was irritable from lack of sleep.
"Doctor Forman sir I bring a note from my mistress. Mistress Alice Blague," the girl answered through the still locked door. She stood shivering on the doorstep while the mysterious doctor, (who some said dabbled in witchcraft), pulled back the bolts.
At last the door swung open, an unforgettable man greeted her once handsome, his looks had faded with age. His face heavily freckled and from beneath his heavy brows twinkled bright eyes. His hair, despite his forty years, was still red.
"Well my pretty one, is thy mistress as sweet a portrait as thy art." As he spoke, Simon was eyeing the girl speculatively, sure that he would succeed in tumbling the doxy if he wished. She had the fresh innocent looks of the country about her and a generous mouth, and in Simon's experience these qualities in a woman equated with a willingness to indulge in dalliances.