Nicholas Roerich, Path to Kailas (1932)
The train pulled away from the platform and disappeared into a long, apparently endless tunnel. The Director and Jane sat facing each other in the brightly-lit carriage. She turned and looked out of the window, but there was nothing to see in the darkness save her own reflection - long black hair and jade-green eyes - staring back at her. The seats were long and designed for many more passengers, but as they were the only people on board there was plenty of space to stretch out and even, should they wish, recline.
The Director laid his orb gently down beside him on the seat's blue upholstery and Jane did the same with her circlet. She glanced up and saw that they were not in fact alone. Four men in brown uniforms were standing together by the doors further down the train. But they stood in watchful silence and paid no attention to the passengers. Then the Director spoke. 'Today,' he said, 'you will meet two kings and see and understand the wider frame in which our current struggle has its place.'
'Where are we going?' asked Jane.
'To Mount Kailas, the holiest mountain in Tibet, possibly the world. Let me tell you the story.'
Jane sat back, folded her arms, and listened attentively.
'My name is Elwin Ransom. I am, as I said before, the Pendragon. I have been chosen - I don't know why - by the High Powers who watch over our land, to guard the country's soul, nurture her spiritual potential, and prepare for the day when this inner essence breaks through and Britain is reborn as a light unto the nations. There are portraits of all the Pendragons, as you have seen, in the great hall beneath St. Anne's-on-the-Hill. Some were English sovereigns too - Alfred, Harold, Charles - but most have been - and are in my case - unknown to history.
'It is a lineage of great renown, stretching back to Joseph of Arimathea, who brought both Christianity and the Holy Grail to these shores. The Grail was removed to Sarras, the sacred city, fourteen hundred years ago, but the Powers have told me that, if God's will be done, it will come again in eighty years as a herald of Christ's return. But that, so far, has not been my main concern. My task, these past seven years, has been to watch and pray in the chapel of the stone beds we passed through earlier. That is where, until two October's ago, Arthur and his Companions slept their enchanted sleep. And I was the Pendragon called upon by Heaven to blow the Horn of Catraeth and break the spell.'
'Where are they now, Sir?'
'In a secret place, with the holy ones of this isle. They have much to remember, much to relearn, much to repent of. It will take a long time. Eighty years, as I say. That is why we are on this train today, just as my sister and I were twelve months ago. It is slow work, Mrs. Studdock. We cannot do it all at once, however much we might want to.'
The Director fell silent, and a solemn, brooding look came over his face like a cloud.
'But what has it to do with us?' probed Jane, leaning forward keenly, as if by coming closer to the Director she could understand him better.
'Nothing,' he replied, the cloud dispersing almost instantly. 'But it has everything to do with what we're bringing with us.' He pointed at the orb and the circlet. 'These are two of the four Royal Jewels of our island. The other two - the spear and the stone - are with Arthur now. I am - I was - their steward. I presented the spear to him on this very day - October the fourteenth - last year, while my sister, who has since departed this world, placed the stone beneath his feet.'
'Then why are we going to Tibet.'
'Because, before they can be handed to the deep King of Britain, they must first be blessed by the greatest king of all - God's vice-regent on Earth - the silent watcher, the still point, the secret overlord of the planet. He has many names. Some call him Melchizedeck, others the Chakravatin, others the King of the World. And you and I will receive his blessing too before we travel back to return the Jewels to Arthur. Then my work will be complete.'
'Are you the last Pendragon then?'
'No. There will be more - one or two maybe - but only until Arthur comes openly again. We will have served our purpose then. We prepared the way for his first coming, you see, from the time of Joseph onwards. Then we watched over the hidden springs of the land while he slept. Now Arthur has a second chance, and if he succeeds in raising up the Heavenly City in what will be a time of terror and woe, then he will take both the inner and the outer kingships unto himself. He will be sovereign over the visible and the invisible, and the stage will be set, as at his first advent, for the reappearance of the Grail and the return of Christ in glory.'
This was heady stuff, but what puzzled Jane most was her own role. Why had the Director brought her along? Why had he given her the circlet and not the stone? She was about to ask, but she felt suddenly weary and overwhelmed with it all and her head began to nod and soon she was fast asleep.
Ransom assured Jane afterwards that what followed was real and not a dream, but she could never be sure because what she remembered next was walking up a hill with the Director in a cold, mountainous country, not waking up on the train as she expected. She was wrapped in winter clothes - hat, scarf, coat, boots, gloves - none of which belonged to her. The Director was similarly clad. They were carrying their Jewels, and the men in brown uniforms were walking with them - two in front and two behind.
They pushed on, up the foothills of a snowy, powder-blue mountain towards an imposing edifice glowing pink in the first rays of the morning sun. They passed through the gates, continued across the courtyard and came to two gigantic doors, which swung open from the inside the moment the guards knocked. They were led along a wide, high-vaulted, stone-flagged corridor. The arched windows were aflame with stained glass images of angels, saints, and holy men and women, and the whole passage was bathed in a lavender glow cast by the dawn light streaming in through the glass.
It was a peaceful, soothing place. Jane wished the walk would go on forever. All stress and anxiety were banished from her mind. But the corridor ended at length and Jane gasped when she saw what it opened out onto - a vast cave of rock and stone, an indoor amphitheatre, with many people present and all eyes fastened on Jane and the Director.
The guards disappeared and melted into the crowd. Jane saw that the men and women gathered there were standing in the same watchful manner that she had observed in the guards on the train. Then she perceived that the men were standing on the left, and they were dressed in blue, and the women were standing on the right, and they were dressed in red. A path had been cleared between them for Jane and the Director to walk through and at the end, on a scarlet dais, was what Jane could only conceive of as a mighty presence sat on a throne of gold shot through with sapphire blue. She knew straightaway that this was the 'King of the World' Ransom had spoken of. She could not see his face, nor the outline of his body. He seemed to be made entirely of light - silver and white - yet there was warmth there too. As Jane came closer, she felt it more and more, until she was standing in front of him, the Director by her side.
Ransom bowed low, then placed the orb on the dais at the feet, as it were, of the great monarch. Jane, quivering with nerves and excitement, followed suit with the circlet. The King towered over both of them then, and in a swirl of light she saw tongues of silver fire hovering over the Jewels, then over Ransom's head, and then, most dreadfully and most wonderfully, over her own.
Jane closed her eyes and felt the light pour down. Peace and stillness rippled through her, but more than that, healing and redemption, and more than that again, knowledge of the pattern of the universe and her own part in it, her relationship with the planets - Mercury, Venus, Moon and Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn - and beyond them the dance of the fixed stars, and past even that high point, the angelic intelligences who sustain the created order, the same Heavenly Powers, Jane realised, who hold authority over Ransom as Pendragon and the island of Britain as a land chosen by God for decisive events to unfold in.
Jane bowed her head and knew that from this moment on her true life - the life she was born to live - would begin. She was part of the pattern now, a participant in the Great Dance and a servant of the Silver Fire - a vessel and conduit for transformation and grace.
'Behold the handmaid of the Lord,' she said quietly. 'Be it done unto me according to thy word.'