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She has found her way on the Path Unwinding

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“¿Quien es tu?” Sebastian Noceda asked the mysterious figure who approached him out of the mist and fog.

The stranger stayed taciturn, his pale face motionless as he looked at Sebastian. He was a tall man dressed in garb that could been from any time between Shakespeare and Ford.
He spoke with the same calm and measured diction of the old Reverend back in Gravesfield.

“Do you know Doctor Richard Wittebane?” Sebastian asked at last, voice trembling with curiosity.

The stranger smiled.

“No, my friend” the stranger said after much trepidation, “He could be a cousin of mine, born long after my time in Mortal Realms. Our surname is not a common one, to be quite honest. It is a very specific name for a highly particular occupation”.

“Was that…weaving or wood carving, by any chance?” Sebastian asked again, “The Reverend’s son Joseph took up wood-carving not long before the fire that took me away from my wife and child”.

“Killers” the stranger replied, his voice trembling with grief and self-directed rage, “My father, Reverend Samuel Wittebane, and my uncle, William Wittebane, and my grandfather, Edgar Wittebane…they were all Witchfinders in the Old World and the New. My brother Philip and my cousin Roger also wanted to join in on our family crusade…but they were too young to wield more than sticks and fake torches. And Uncle Edward was too much of a drunken lout to be of much use at anything, to be quite honest”.

“That’s very interesting, mi amigo” Sebastian said, “My family came from Spain. We were Jewish, and the Inquisition drove us from our homes when the Catholic Monarchs came to power over Granada. One of my ancestors was Jaime Noceda, a name cleverly disguised…”

“How so?” the stranger asked.

“Well in Hebrew” Sebastian responded as he summoned a can of Coca Cola into his hand, “Hayim means life and sounds like the Spanish name Jaime, while Noceda sounds like “No ceda”, or “Does not yield” in Spanish. So it sounded like it just meant “James of the Walnut Grove”, but it actually meant “Life does not yield”. It was a subtle reminder to the Monarchy of Spain and to the Inquisition and to the Church as well that we would never surrender our faith or our true souls to the false image of the Cross”.

“Once I thought I would be like that in what I thought was the Realm of the Devil. My father named me after one of the spies whom Moses sent into the Land of Canaan to scout the cities of the Gentiles” the stranger said whilst refreshing himself with the gift that Sebastian had given to him a few minutes ago, “and for a while, I thought it was my destiny to bring the Witches down from within”.

“So your name is Joshua, then?” Sebastian asked the stranger, “My father was a big fan of the author Sebastian Keith and all of his corny old mystery stories. So when he met Mama in college, they decided on that name because of how much they loved those silly books. It’s funny, isn’t it Josh, where parents get the names of their children?”.

“My name is actually Caleb” the stranger sighed out at last with a slight chuckle, “Think it means “Dog” in Hebrew”.

“Good solid name” Sebastian responded, “It evokes the sense of a loyal person who sticks true to their principles no matter what the squalls of common idiots say and regards those they love with the utmost affection and steadfast loyalty”.

Caleb chuckled lightly to himself.

“I think my father gave me that name to set my life’s path as that of a hunter who would not be swayed off the trail and would chase down and kill Witches like a dog kills foxes and rats and rabbits to bring to its master. And Philip was named so that he would come to love the steadfastness and dogged determination of the old workhorse that ploughed our fields back home. Our father…Oh how he loved symbolic names like that”.

(No one tell him that horses were the sacred animal of the pagan deity Poseidon, he who might very well have been Lord of the Underworld in Ye Olde Mycenaean Times).

“I’m not immune to symbolic names myself, to be quite honest. My father in law, old Arturo Marchena, was named by his father Samuel Marchena after old King Arthur of Logres, as a reminder of the heroic struggle he and his friends were fighting against Trujillo. And I think Cami’s own mother named her in honour of an old Arabic word for “Beauty” because she and her husband both regarded Cami as the most beautiful thing in their entire lives. They…were both sentimental like that”.

“What about your siblings?” Caleb asked.

“Neither of us had any siblings, to be quite honest” Sebastian responded, “We were both only children and so was our precious Luz…”

“I know of her quite well, Sebastian” Caleb said.

“Tell me, is she…okay?” Sebastian asked, “I have not seen her in a long time”.

“She has definitely won my long-dead heart” Caleb said back, “If you wish to know, she also won the heart and loyalty and saved both the life and the soul of one of my descendants, good old Edalyn, the Owl Lady of Bonesborough, Boiling Isles. I don’t know if my descendants would ever have reconciled without Luz’s help”.

“Beg your pardon?” Sebastian asked, remembering his little Luz as a fussy little thing who needed to be stopped from eating puzzle pieces, had to be read at least two fairy tales per night before she would go to sleep, and had just brought explosives and wild animals just to act out her Azura book report the last time he’d seen her.

“See, when I fell in love with Tabitha Clawthorne and carved my Familiar Flapjack to celebrate becoming a Witch, Philip declared the both of us to be abominations before God, and he tried to cut open Tabitha from head to groin in order to kill both her and our children in the womb. I couldn’t let that happen, and so I fought against my own brother and he struck me down in cold blood. The last thing I heard before I died was Philip declaring loudly that Babylon would fall before Tabby successfully fought him off”.

“Yet sadly, Philip...could not be stopped. He schemed to acquire the knowledge to exterminate the Boiling Isles like the Lord wiping a dish. And so he learned of that strangest and most ridiculous of all the Servants of the True Dark Lord…Gallitzur the Collector of Souls. And it was this Fallen Cherub who taught my brother a spell to drain the Life Force of an entire nation. To help him accomplish all this horror, Philip took my bones and mixed them with stolen pieces of magic to make Grimwalkers, enslaved clones that he alone could control. And with these mindslaves whom he nevertheless always killed, destroyed, and obliterated in the end, Philip rechristened himself Belos the Wise and broke the Children of the Isles, destroying their cities and using our father’s old rhetoric about Satan, Hellfire, Brimstone, and Damnation and the Papist Tricks nearly used against the London Parliament to get them to sell their souls to him and his…Golden Guard. He then sealed their magic into Nine Schools, with one of them just being for the purple goop substance the Witches of the Isles use to create what your folklore calls “Golems”. Then he further set everyone against one another by making his own Emperor’s Coven the only one that could use All Nine Schools. So cunning and insidious was this manipulation that Eda’s own older sister Lilith cursed her own younger sibling with being fused to a primordial Owl Beast unto the End of Time. And over time, the Owl Beast consumed more and more of Eda’s essence, till she would have become the creature permanently and in all likelihood would have been captured and petrified by Philip’s hideous government…until Luz caused Lilith to see the truth of her actions and though she could not undo the Owl Beast Curse forever…she did choose to share the curse with her sister so that it could become less bad”.

Sebastian was left a little shook by Caleb’s words, and he breathed softly in and out and out and in as he tried to control his emotions, which ranged in magnitude and intensity from wanting to punch Lilith Clawthorne in the face as soon as he met her to thanking the Lord that he himself had never been given any siblings.

“Philip was too distracted by his thoughts of destruction to pay much attention to Luz’s deeds in Bonesborough, but though she didn’t attack him directly after she saved Eda from execution, Luz changed the hearts of the people from within. When she met the school mean girl at the Hexside School of Magic and Demonics, Amity Blight, they did not get along. In fact, Amity almost had her killed. It was only later on that Luz discovered the sadness inside Amity’s heart. Did I mention that in addition to giving Amity the love and therapy she needed to overcome her lifetime of trauma and also helped her reconcile with her best friend Willow Park and did I mention they defeated an all-powerful Shadow Fear Monster with nothing but a dance and some plant magic!?”

“This is a lot to take in, to be quite honest” Sebastian said, still trying to wrap his head around finding out the objective existence of Witches and Demons and Magic, “I need to rest. Still can’t believe my daughter is accomplishing all of these things”.

“She is a beautiful thing” Caleb said to Sebastian, “A child of wonder. Strange to consider her past”.

“What do you mean?” Sebastian asked.

“A child born into a Jewish family and raised by a single mother after the loss of her father. A young person who never fit in her community of origin and decided to go on a journey that brought her to the point of descending into the Underworld and which I do believe has repeatedly involved her sacrificing herself and/or nearly dying so that others may live. And then there is the way that love for her changed the hearts of at least three or four (depending on how you count the Son of the Titan) souls who could be considered ‘Fallen’ in one way or another…and if I remember my Latin correctly and the story that you told about the name of your ancestor Jaime, I do believe her name can be translated as “Light does not yield” or “Light does not surrender” or “Light does not give in”. And then you get my brother Philip, who just threw together all that he hated whether it be Pagan or Papist or Witchy that he essentially slapped on himself the Greek form of the name of the Great God of Old Babylon (or maybe it was the French word for ‘Beautiful’. I honestly don’t care to remember) as what he thought was a way of pandering to the Witches of the Boiling Isles. Yet all he did was set himself up as a false god in a gilded sepulchre, a hideous mix of Belshazzar and Caiaphas unable to see the symbolism of his own actions”.

“Would you stop…” Sebastian called out in exasperation, “forcing your own Puritan cultural lens onto my family and culture!? You must know that is not how we generally think about the Messiah”.

“My deepest apologies, Señor Noceda” Caleb responded as he sat down upon a stump with a sad, long sigh, “Tabitha actually talked to me about the insensitivity of doing that when I tried to do the same comparison between the Lord of my people and the Titan of her people. Stars know it isn’t always a wise idea”.

“You are forgiven” Sebastian said at last, “Besides, I read a good deal of comparative mythology in my youth as a big Star Wars geek, and let’s just say the idea of a Child of Light who drives out the Darkness of Ignorance and heals people of their sins and sufferings is not a rare thing in either the Demon Realm or in our Human Realm”.

Caleb chuckled to himself and commented on the Roman deity Sol Invictus.

“Pretty sure that was just a fancy term for the Sun overcoming the Winter Solstice” Sebastian quipped, eliciting another chuckle from Caleb, “You know, another fun fact. Camila’s dad Arturo studied Ye Olde Kabbalah in his youth, and in that belief system, Ur, the Hebrew word for “Light”, is used to describe the emanations of Ha-Shem’s divine majesty, wisdom, and power. Some of those guys even call the Divine essence “Ur Ein Sof”, or “Light without end”. Guess you could interpret that as “Light that does not yield” if you wish to do so. Never thought my daughter could be seen as an emanation of the Divine Light from before the beginning of time. It’s a weird sensation for a parent to think about, to be quite honest”.

“Whether there’s a connection between Ur Ein Sof and Sol Invictus and La Luz que no ceda, I do not know for sure” Caleb said at last, “All things are coincidences in the end, a chain of extremely convenient things happening until the end of time brings all things to their conclusion. Yet I also believe that things happen for a reason…that somewhere out there, beyond the bright starlight, there is a Singular All-Parent who watches over all of us and guides us towards that which leads us to become our truest selves. Forgive me if I seem skittish, dear friend Sebastian. I don’t always know what to say that, no matter how slight, won’t be misunderstood”.

“It’s fine, Caleb” Sebastian responded, “I like to think Ha-Shem guides us to our right paths just like you do”.

Caleb laughed and then he and Sebastian hugged each other as they sat together on that stump of wood.

“Ultimately though” Sebastian continued, “We are but the sum of our choices. At any point in time, your brother Philip could have realised he was about to become as terrible as Cain and stopped himself from killing you. His heart could have chosen to throw the knife and stop the hating, but he did not do so. Yet you chose to be better, just like Luz chose to embrace love rather than hate with Amity. What would be beautiful about love and goodness if humans and Witches alike did not also have the opportunity to be selfish and hateful and cruel?”

“And that contrast between someone who chose to do good in pretty much the same circumstances as someone who chose to do absolute pitch-black evil is why I adore Luz so much. Where Philip is death, she is life. Where he is night, she is day. She is the glory to his sorrow. Where he brings grief, she creates joy. Where he is dust, she is gold. Where he is fire, she is air. Where he is a creature of rage, she calms and soothes those around her. And for all of the loss that Philip creates, Luz allows those who follow her to feel true glory awaken”.

“That’s genuinely beautiful, Cal” Sebastian said as he wiped a tear from his right eye, “She is an amazing girl and I am so glad someone else loves her the way that I and Cami both do”.

“If I ever get to meet your wife” Caleb said, “either here in the Realm of the Dearly Deceased or in the Mortal Realms, I would love to have her meet Tabitha. We would both compliment her on raising such an amazing and wonderful girl”.

Sebastian Noceda reached out to hug Caleb Wittebane once again and Caleb was extremely happy to reciprocate.

“So what happens to my girl next?” Sebastian asked, “Tell me, Caleb! Tell me!”

“That’s hard to say” Caleb sighed, “That aforementioned pest Gallitzur will probably send his mightiest magic against her and her friends and try to destroy them all, for they have been cast adrift from the Boiling Isles like Noah in his Ark. We can only hope that the Cosmic Principle will grant them salvation before all that’s left of the Boiling Isles is a skeleton crew. They will have to do their best, and even if it is not good enough, it will have to do”.

I stopped believing there was a power of good and a power of evil that were outside us. And I came to believe that good and evil are names for what people do, not for what they are.
-Philip Pullman