A servant led Carl out into the courtyard, lit only by a full moon. There Ivan met up with his master, telling him about having had a fine meal and then suddenly receiving orders to pack and meet him here.
“Fine, Sergeant,” Carl said. “We’re going on another mission now, a mission beyond the beyond. Are you in? I wouldn’t blame you if you’re not. This is truly a gamble. But it is, I promise you, a mission from God - to find something called The Rose That Never Fades. Then we’ll go on to redeem some wayward angel, as I understand it.”
Ivan looked at him with a serious, completely bemused expression.
“A mission from God… finding a rose… redeeming a devil...?” he responded finally. But then it only took a moment for him to decide. “Well, bless me, I’m all for that! I will serve with you, Captain. The army service aside, I’m also a Christian soldier willing to do His bidding. This is my statement before Heaven and Earth. I will come along.”
This settled, they mounted their horses. Slowly crossing the yard, a light suddenly appeared, a portal of shimmering golden light. It was the light that the angel had spoken of, the light they had to ride into. This they did, calmly but with dedicated spirits. And suddenly they were through and enveloped by a complete change of scenery: the moment before they had been in a Transylvanian courtyard in an autumn night, now they were out in a summery glade with the sun beating down and birds singing.
“What the…?” exclaimed Ivan. “A moment ago it was night, now it’s broad daylight.”
“Indeed,” Carl said, attempting to explain the nature of The Land, the astral realm they were in, a psychological landscape adapting to their inner minds.
“A dream world, eh?” Ivan said. “A fairy land, sort of? Then we’re the knight and his groom! How fitting.”
“Yes,” Carl said, “though a knight in a grey uniform with a sabre and a Nagant revolver.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, I give you - the Grey Knight,” Ivan said, half in jest.
“The Grey Knight,” Carl repeated. “Now doesn’t that sound sweet and yet sober, a fitting title for me on this quest. A soldier of the twentieth century going off in an imaginary world to seek a Rose, then on to redeem the world. It’s kind of crazy, kind of impossible. But long live the impossible freedom!”
Shouting this old mercenary motto, Carl rode away from the clearing, followed by his groom and ADC. Following his intuition, he just rode on, the landscape of The Land adapting to his mind. It was an expression of the mind, so that you never needed maps, you just let your inner light guide you. It was, Carl reasoned, a question of, ‘Si tuum psyche requiris, circumspice’: if you want to see your inner mind, look around.
They rode through a hardwood forest, the ground covered by white flowers. Ivan looked around himself in amazement.
“So where are we - and when do we eat?” He was always hungry.
Carl again explained the metaphysics of The Land, it being a realisation of their inner thoughts and visions. The Land lay apparently tangible before their eyes, with trees and grass and sky and all, and personally they still had their human needs of food and drink. But now the latter were mostly figments of the mind, hunger and thirst not essentially part of this immaterial but spiritual domain. However, it was only the fourth density, not the fifth, so thoughts of hunger and thirst still existed here. Indeed, thirst existed here now, as they approached a brook lined by birches.
They let their horses enter the shallow stream, the riders dismounting and filling their water bottles. Ivan for his part took his aluminium bottle, removing the protective grey cloth and submerging the bottle in the stream, filling it and raising it to his lips to drink. He sat on a stone by the stream as if sunbathing.
“So we’re out to find this rose, some eternal rose. Where to, then?”
“I’ll think of something,” Carl said, reminding himself that he could always ask the way if he didn’t know where to go. As if to himself, he repeated the ontology of this place. “We’ll have to realise the Rose within, somehow. Then we’ll find it. Or not!”
To be sure, Ivan didn’t get the meaning of this. He had a simple nature, content with having an adventure to experience, a good horse to carry him and a knight to serve. And these he had.
Just then an enigmatic being passed over them in the sky, a long, green creature with lazily flapping, bat-like wings and the unmistakable look of a dragon. Carl watched it pass dreamily. He even thought that he could see a rider on its back and was enchanted by the vision of a dragon ride for a dream traveller, gliding over The Land like an uncrowned king of the skies. He wondered why it made him feel uneasy, but let the thought go. Ivan also cast a glance at the pair but he wasn’t so carried away.