The Magic Lighthouse

Craig Chalquist

An archetale of the Assembling Terrania Cycle

Gratitude to Daniel Graham, in whom the lighthouse first opened for business, for
that shining beacon and for an abundance of ideas for what it should house and promote.

When sentient beings in the Dreamvale discover who and where they are, they often go through a period of internal crisis. Firiel did. Thankfully, she had Whitebeard the wizard to guide her along the way: realizing her nature to be imaginal; understanding the relationship of the Dreamvale to the hard materialism of the Coaguum; seeing why the two realms needed to converse with one aother.

A particularly tough learning was that coagulant creators—humans in particular—often believed they thought up the imaginal beings who inhabited their stories and songs. The egotism of this appalled Firiel.

This combined with the trauma of her awakening prompted her to alchemize it. Hence the Vestibule: a softly lit blank space opened by her in the Dreamvale. Characters invited there could receive a debriefing and absorb it at their leisure. Firiel set up a buddy system to administer these debriefings.

She and six others now hovered in the Vestibule, their individual debriefings having concluded. A pearly glow surrounded them. The faint outlines of a seascape slowly materialized through the glow as Firiel gripped her staff and spoke.

“Thank you for accepting the post-debrief invitation to be here. We have an exciting project in mind, one that might resonate beneficially between the realms.”

“I take it some among the newly awakened turned down this invitation?” asked Garth, a former Starfleet captain turned post-heroic mentor.

“That is so,” she confirmed. “This is voluntary. You may stop and go off on your own at any time.” Sherlock Holmes had opted out, insisting he had retired and just wanted to keep bees and read his books in peace. Lauren Olamina had begged off to devote herself to crafting the spiritual path of Earthseed, giving not a hard no so much as a deferral.

Firiel continued:

“We are standing at the summit of a mountain facing the sea. An excellent place to build a new kind of lighthouse.”

Unlike the Coaguum, the Dreamvale possessed an inherent translational quality. Ingeniarr, a crew member of the gigantic spacecraft dubbed Rama by human explorers, spoke no human language but immediately grasped the words and concepts appearing in her/their consciousness. One of three arms looped upward in enthusiasm.

Merlin of Chaos and Amber looked around at the solidifying landscape. The sky above was nearly as blue as that of the immortal realm. He had suffered less awakening shock, perhaps because of his familiarity with the multidimensionality of Shadow. He was also accustomed to discovering himself to be different from whom he had thought.

The summit that held them leveled out into a large and roughly circular plateau. The booming of the surf and the cries of gulls echoed upward from far below.

Somebody had preceded them. He walked down from an elevated outcropping of stone and came over, nodding to Firiel.

“This is Lucas Murdock,” she introduced him to the group.

“Welcome,” he told them, smiling and raising a hand. His hazel eyes gathered in a three-legged extraterrestrial, a tall man with black hair and direct green eyes, a swarthy dark-eyed man with smoke-colored stubble on his cheeks, a heavyset Englishman with piercing gray eyes, Garth clad in a navy blue garment resembling a uniform, and Merlin, dressed in black and gray and a purple cloak flaring in the sea breeze.

“I recognize your voice,” said Mycroft Holmes. “You spoke to me out of thin air one day in the Diogenes Club.”

“Correct,” said Lucas. He scratched his short brown hair and pulled up his jeans a little. His left pinkie bore a ring with gold Phoenix emblems on the band.

“I believe,” spoke Hal Mayne, “you had a hand in extending my tale up to and beyond my final confrontation with Bleys Ahrens.”

“I did a bit of retelling on behalf of all of you,” acknowledged Lucas as the others started to speak. “I hope you were happy with the results.”

“Not entirely.” Montag rubbed a hand over his jaw. “Making me witness another incineration close up? Really?”

“All’s well that ends well.”

“Lucas is our sponsor,” added Firiel, who owed to him her ability to cross Dreamvale purlieus.

“So what are we here to build?” asked Ingeniarr, an interstellar engineer.

“The starting site,” replied Firiel, “for a forerunner of a future Dreamvale Exchange.”


In 1877, Anna Sewell published Black Beauty, a novel about a horse—that improved the lot of abused and badly paid taxi drivers in London.

In 1937, a Coaguum academic published The Hobbit, begun as a foray into telling fantasy adventures to his children. He had been prompted by Dreamvale elves whispering in his ear. He went on to publish books that not only sold well, but exerted tangible and practical effects in his world. Creative writing classes were based on them; environmental activists cited him as their inspiration for stopping their planet from being mined, blasted, and polluted into a version of Mordor.

Namina Forms, author of The Gilded Ones, had found no one in Middle-earth who looked like her. All the heroes and heroines were white; most were male. So she wrote fantasy epics featuring Black and brown women, using the folklore of troubled Sierra Leone, her homeland, as a creative resource. Her readers were transported and transformed.

Why must cities be ugly as well as wasteful? Klaus Tan Yihong toured Singapore with a camera to showcase homes, office buildings, and urban spaces powered by clean energy, inhabited by burgeoning community, and adorned with beautiful architecture.

“As a little girl growing up on the south side of Chicago in the ‘60s I always knew I was going to be in space,” said Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to go into space as a U.S. astronaut. Her inspiration had been Lieutenant Uhura, a Star Trek character.

During the Iran-Iraq War, “a revolution of joylessness” according to Ari Honavar, Iranian doctors danced in hospitals to keep up morale; in the streets, Persians chanted Rumi: “I am the sultan of love!” “Perhaps the most radical act of resistance in the face of adversity is to live joyfully.”

“I can see the impact of these creative acts on Earth,” admitted Garth. “All of them, including the books, work like little sanctuaries. But what good are such stories over here?”

The tall man spoke: “What you call the Dreamvale, I refer to as the Creative Universe. I first entered it, more or less by accident, as Donal Graeme, then intuitively as Paul Formain. Only as Hal was I able to do it consciously. As Paul I battled a symbolic dragon whose appearance paralleled the ominous takeover of machine intelligence on Earth at that time. When I reentered the Creative Universe and resolved matters with Bleys, who was one expression of that ancient regressive-conservative force roaring in the psyche of humanity, my world saw an unprecedented wave of liberation and emigration outward. So there is a reciprocal balance at work between the realms.”

Merlin stepped up. “Shortly after the Berlin Wall fell on Earth, King Swayvill of Chaos died, my brother Jurt decided to stop trying to kill me, I settled things with my brother Mandor and my mother Dara, and a new balance was struck between Chaos and Amber. As with international power politics on Earth, however, the balance proved to be a temporary one.”

“The sustainability movement on Earth helped purge the Shire of toxic factories,” Firiel added.

“So what are we here to build?” asked Ingeniarr again. Sharing the Raman’s impatience to move things along, Montag chuckled.

Lucas cleared his throat. “A kind of embassy,” he said.

“The founding idea,” said Firiel, brushing back some of her wind-ruffled blonde hair, “is to create a space for Dreamvalers to interact with coagulants called Dreamers due to their visionary capacities. Dreamers are humans who take us seriously, for what we truly are.

“We propose to build a facility in which Dreamers can converse with us not only in dreams or novels or other creative media, but directly. They will teach each other how to dream, with us advising.”

“But if this guild is located here in the Dreamvale, how are coagulants to access it?” asked Garth.

“Through reverie, fantasy, spontaneous art-making, and what the coagulant Jung referred to as ‘active imagination,’ a kind of sustained daydreaming that gives us room to speak. If we are successful, a counterpart of our magic lighthouse will rise in the Coaguum.

“Drawing on strengths we have made use of before, you and I can construct a center that will enable us to work with them on whatever inter-realm projects the times inspire in us. A war is starting over here and over there, for example, building and rearing in symbolic form? We meet at the lighthouse and address it creatively. This helps ease the tensions in both worlds and perhaps prevent the war.”

Mycroft adjusted his necktie, a mannerism his more bohemian brother made fun of. “During my debriefing, you, Firiel, had surmised my usefulness here. I should like to know what shape that might take.”

“You have served as a kind of human computer, a device invented later that processes data from a multitude of sources. A machine that emulates thought. One day coagulants will land on the Moon—”

“By Jove!”

“—and install a computer they will name after you. But you surpass any computer they will be able to construct. You possess the ability to absorb and combine information, yes, but unlike a computer, you can issue expert insights and recommendations.

“I would like you to correlate impressions and reports from Dreamvalers and Dreamers and suggest new areas of mutual development. Beyond that, it would serve if you would stay aware of large events in the Coaguum—political, economic, environmental, and religious, for example—and feed that data into your suggestions. How does that sound to you?”

“I should enjoy doing that very much, with one condition.” He bowed to the group. “I intend no disrespect to my fellows by stating that I generally prefer my own company. I am a private man accustomed to working alone until I am ready to either receive new information or present a report.”

“I see no problem with that,” said Firiel. She gestured to Lucas, who nodded.

“One more item,” he said. Like the Raman, he tended to talk with his hands, which he now held forward, palms angled up. “You’ll have guessed by now that I’m somewhat of a different animal than the rest of you. As an apprentice member of the Transdaimonic League, I represent to this party a group of Dreamers with noetic inclinations, a group that stretches throughout time. One of our responsibilities, both burden and privilege, is to talk directly to members of a third realm.”

“Another realm besides the Dreamvale and the Coaguum?” asked Montag. “Just how many realms are there?”

“Four, that we know of. Maybe there’s an infinity of plenums. Who knows? In any case, beyond the Coaguum is this ‘place,’ the Dreamvale. Beyond it is the Infrarealm, where the animate Powers of the cosmos live. They actually influence all three realms, but their home is the archetypal realm of being.

“Humans worship them as gods. Leaguers do not. Instead, we respect and converse with them as adults.”

Garth had a question: “If Leaguers are…well, visionaries—”

“Noetics.”

“—who extend across time, how do you talk to each other? How can you be in a League with someone born thousands of years ago, for example?”

“The Dreamvale is one way. Also, we study the work of our spiritual ancestors. In my case, that includes Aesara of Lucania, Zosimos of Panopolis, Enheduanna of Akkad, C. G. Jung…”

“What about James Hillman?” asked Montag, who had added depth psychology to his ever-lengthening reading list. “Shouldn’t he be a Leaguer too?”

“I would nominate him for a Daimonic League, but not for this one…”

“So when are we going to start building?” asked Ingeniarr as he shifted from one of three legs to another.

“Now,” said Firiel. “Stand in a circle with me.” As they did, she raised her hands.


High above the shore, in the center of the circular plateau, Firiel clutched at salty air and spread her sparkling hands apart as she lowered them. A gleaming foundation plain of gold-streaked marble materialized underfoot.

She turned to Montag: “Add something.”

“How?”

“Just grab the air and start weaving it.”

He thought for a moment, then pushed with his hands, ending the gesture in a typing motion of his fingers. A domed library supported by columns of green stone shimmered into existence.

They went around the circle, with Merlin next. A floating temple connected to the ground by an ethereal staircase housed a school for training magicians.

At Ingeniarr’s three-armed gesture, a tapering lighthouse of immense height came into being near the edge of the plateau. Its beams reached far out toward over the restless sea….

In the midst of earthen domes, towering obelisks, castles hanging down clouds, spires rising above them, sea-spanning bridges, viaducts hung with verdant plantings, and flying buttresses encrusted with dreamlike faces could be found a multitude of theaters, workshops for artists, artisans and alchemists, halls for music and dance and storytelling, astronomy observatories and other science centers, pools, ponds, waterfalls, meeting rooms for groups large and small, alcoves filled with stuffed chairs and loveseats, gardens and pavilions to play in and swing in and stroll through.

As the team gestured, borrowing and reshaping ideas from each other, play rooms and tree houses and bubble castles formed and mutated; an initially modest central living room sunk its center, grew coffee tables, and sprouted giant screens; temples of every sort sprang up to celebrate the living Powers; humming centers packed with amulets, scrying pools, computer monitors, personality tests, and divination tools like tarots and runes drew forth information from this realm and beyond.

“It will need to be staffed with guides,” Mycroft pointed out. Firiel nodded.

Details proliferated: reshapeable and repaintable walls and rooms of toys and puzzles and games, suits of armor and other medieval décor, a giant painted horse, makers of balloons, areas to meet exotic animals, food forests to eat one’s way through, costumed Dreamvale Elves and Klingons and others from the worlds of “fiction,” holosuites and Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, swimming rooms in which breathable blue water floated free, hallways and dormitories of fantastic technologies to warp the fabric of perception itself into any shape or color desired…

Unlike Prospero’s cloud-capp’d towers and gorgeous palaces, this magic lighthouse, though modifiable at whim, was built to last.

Firiel shook her staff, and a gong sounded. The builders reluctantly looked up from their labors.

“I think that’s a good start. We have plenty of time to keep working on it.”

“It will be interesting to see what comes of this in the Coaguum,” she told them as they quit for the day. The sun was a brilliant orange ball lighting up the watery horizon.

Her hope was that groups of creative people of all kinds, even just lovers of stories, would find a way to gather, pool efforts, and dream together. Every time they focused on a character from some story or play or film they liked, that Dreamvaler felt nourished over here as well. A network of Dreamers working with those characters could cast lasting light through both worlds, invent fantastic projects yet unimagined.

“What form will all this appear in Over There, do you think?” asked Merlin.

“I don’t know. A site for practical dreamers. A guild, perhaps.”