“Your lordship, Charles,” said Kevin Galwynn as he ended his account of the Ante Tempus Aetatis, “I sincerely believe you are mistaken in thinking that you are going mad.”

“You think me wrong?” said Charles pitifully. “How can you say I am not mad, when my actions are mad? I am helplessly of two minds, and the meaning of that terrifies me beyond measure.”

“From everything I have learned during this mission,” Galwynn said kindly, but firmly, “this is what I think happened when you first saw the star, Alta Vystra, on that warm summer’s night not too long ago:

“You sat in your rooftop observatory and peered at the heavens through your new gazing crystal array. You were eager to try your version of a device so many of your colleagues had described in their correspondence. You were thrilled by how well it worked. A sense of peace, wonder, and I daresay awe, came over you as you contemplated the beauty of the heavens. The stars were so bright and crystal clear. And yet, one star seemed more brilliant and fair than all the rest. It was Alta Vystra. Seeing the star-child made a profound change in your heart. You felt verus amor, true love.

“But the sudden intensity of your true love drew the attention a curious denizen of the Unseen Domain who embodies an emotion akin to, but different from, true love. Without realizing it, you even spoke that denizen’s name and aspect when you described your falsum amorem, your false love. That denizen’s name is, Obsession.

“Obsession looked through your eyes, through your gazing crystal, and at the same celestial beauty who enchanted you, the star-maiden, Alta Vystra. In an unexpected way, your gazing crystal enabled both of you to see the star more closely, more intimately, than either of you could have ever done before. It was in that moment, when you fell in true love, and Obsession fell in false love, that your and Obsession’s heart’s desires became hopelessly entangled.

“That is how I reason that you are notgoing insane,” said Kevin Galwynn. “Instead, you are by turns, being possessed by Obsession. Does that make sense, Charles? Do you understand?”

Charles Lewis was gobsmacked. He fell back against his side of the weirding wall, staring at his inner thoughts, and looking utterly astounded. 

“What you say does make sense, Master Galwynn,” agreed Charles, still staring in disbelief at nothingness. Though still haggard and worn, Charles shakily struggled to lift his head. For the first time in a very, very long time, Lord Lewis thought introspectively about his tragic predicament, and analytically about a solution. 

But then, Charles abruptly planted his forehead in the palm of his hand, making his black forelocks tangle messily amidst his fingers. “I am a learned man like you, so why did I not reason this out for myself? If I am not mad, then the only explanation for my slow-wittedness is that I am a fool!

Kevin chuckled, then said, “You may be many things, Lord Lewis, but a fool is not one of them. No, I believe your faculties were incapacitated by the one foe who relentlessly challenges all of us, sage and fool alike, every day of our lives. I believe your reason was paralyzed by…fear.

“You told me that you lost your mother at a young age; that you felt abandoned and desperately alone; and that books, study, and experimentation were your sole salvation. I have children myself, and it grieves me to think that any child should have to endure such wretched early years. But I think that because you did, reason is more precious to you, and more diligently guarded, than it is for most people. When you thought you were going mad, you were terrified that your reason, the thing that was your lifeline since childhood, might be lost as well. Emotion will most surely, and subtly, confound clarity of mind.”

Charles grunted contritely, feeling like a fool even if he wasn’t one, then said, “And fear, fear as cold as the grave, Master Galwynn, is surely the most all-consuming emotion of all.”

Galwynn concluded, “Without your reason, you had no hope of asking yourself this one, crucial question: If instead of having one mind shattered into halves that are in conflict with each other; might you not have one mind that is the battlefield for two spirits, yours and Obsession’s, who are in conflict with each other?”

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