I dreamt of rehabilitators moving into an area in the wake of settlers who had managed to make the decimated landscape inhabitable again. As the settlers moved in and through, they had to make decisions about keeping restorable buildings intact but unusable, or make the necessary changes to obtain shelter but in the process, destroy art and or informational markings that would never be recovered.
The building that was going to become my home was still being rehabilitated. My future workroom had the walls taken down to the frame where it was discovered a cache of hidden gold coins and some plumbing. The gold tokens were plain without any markings or indication of which government had struck them. The hot water pipe had deteriorated a long time ago, but the cold water pipe was still intact.
To everyone’s surprise, when the revealed faucet knob for the cold water pipe was turned, water gushed out. The rehabilitator said the original source for the water was the underground aquifer in the nearby mountain ranges. “Once you flush out the accumulated gunk, you’ll have potable water.”
This discovery left the rehabilitators with a quandary. If the room is converted as was the original plan, the pipe would be walled up again. They looked to me for askance as this was going to become my home.
“Leave the water available to me. I can always turn it off when I’m done. If walled up, I won’t even have the option to let it run.” They nodded, handed me the cache of gold, and left the unfinished room to work on the next project.
I start to run the water into a bucket to flush out the gunk. As the water runs clear and cold, the dream ends.
I did not oversleep this time. Again I marveled at how my perception of sounds becomes softly muffled when I don the amulet. I laid out the gear as usual, and noted that the amber piece felt smaller in my hands despite verifying the piece was unchanged. The prayers and incantations were said without pause, I closed my eyes, and called for [Patient Caller] to appear before me. With my mind’s eye, I saw the candle light with a small flame.
An emergency at work yesterday evening meant I did not have the time to get the tools for smoothing the amber side. I noted this to the spirit without apology. It is as it is.
«Not all work will be completed in a day, much less in the small timeframe you have given yourself.» I felt my attention drawn down to my hands. «But how would you do it?»
I did not answer with words, but reached across my lap to the table to pick up the amber piece. Wordlessly, I started steadily rubbing the amber piece over a block of micromesh occupying the otherwise empty table. Across the table from me, a silent figure observed with the patience of a teacher.
It took me a moment to realize that I do not have any micromesh and that I was physically alone in the room. I left the piece on the table and drew my hand back.
“I’m sleep. Dammit.”
«No, you are not asleep. However, you are not awake as what you would consider being awake. I am surprised you do not recognize where you are.»
The voice was heard between my ears again, but it had a definite source. I looked up and a man of medium build was seated across from me. He reached out with his right hand and picked up the amber. As he played with it just over the table, the smoke from the returning candle wound around his little finger. He placed the amber on the table with the “working” side up. The smoke tightened and became a plain ring adorned with a small swirling stone.
He placed his hands on the table, which had now changed into a representation of the gray cover of the Book of Oberon. Clasping his hands together a few inches behind the amber and the now visible rutile quartz, I saw a multitude of rings covering all his fingers and even his thumbs.
He said nothing as I studied him. I did not have to look up to know he was smiling in soft mirth. I followed the line of his wrists as they disappeared under the thick layered cuff of the sleeves. Loose cloth covered his arms and disappeared under something that appeared like a vest, appeared like a coat, appeared like a scarf, and appeared like nothing I could make sense of all at once.
I followed the confusing clothing up to see a shaved neck and chin. Dark brown hair clung to his head in a short cut to frame a time and experience aged face. The expected thin smile was present. His eyes were open but I could not see them.
Though color was completely absent from my perception, his clothes smelled like the color green. I did not trust this sense as during the Mass I had attended the day before, the priest wore vestments of rich and vivid green. There was another quality about his clothes that I am not comfortable revealing without further investigation but had soaked into every wisp of thought I had.
«I’m sorry. Am I manifesting ahead of your schedule?»
“As a matter of fact, yes.”
[Patient Caller] laughed.
«Here. Show me how you intend to polish the amber. That will keep you busy so you won’t talk back too much while I explain the issue with your cord.»
The table felt real. The micromesh felt real. The dish of water and the cotton cloth felt real. The amber felt like plastic and chalk at the same time. I went through the motions anyway, even though I had managed to restore contact with my physical body and knew I was still seated with my hands in my lap.
As I went through the motions, working out how to grip the amber and what rhythm would not overwork my shoulder once I do this “for real”, the spirit talked. He called out the polyester in the hybrid cord I was using to mark my circle and why using it required an exact and unforgiving placement to be effective.
«Natural fibers, prepared hides and sinews, wood, bones, and metals. These are the materials best suited for this work. Some may be interchangeable between themselves, but consider the function first as that will dictate the form.»
As he spoke more about the encircling cords, I kept glancing at the rings and noting how they sparkle as he gestured. He finished his lecture and drew my attention to the smoke ring on his right little finger.
«As yes, the ring. Should you wish to continue after your [thirty-day] commitment, you will have to obtain one for yourself. There is a use for it other than to brag to others about being a true magician, but that function is a discussion for another time. However, should you wish to skip ahead, the technicalities of the answer is in the Book of Oberon. The practicalities of the matter may be obtained from your peers, or from your antagonists, or from those who have made the matter plain, few as those may be.»
I wanted to continue the conversation. I had many questions to ask of him, and several more raised by his unexpected appearance. But I suddenly became hyper-aware of the ticking of the clock on my desk. My time was short.
I thanked him for his appearance and spoke the Apophenia Invitation. After I gave the License to Depart, he clasped his hands and bowed. The candle extinguished, the vision ended, and I realized my eyes had been open for some time as I sat perfectly still staring at nothing.
Once again, removing the Solomon’s Seal amulet felt like popping a soft bubble that had been encasing me.
I disbelieved the clarity of the vision immediately and considered that I had fallen into a deep sleep sitting up. (Would not be the first time.) But as the day went on, certain details would not leave me no matter how often I challenged the memory or tried to alter the scene.
Total ritual time: 47 minutes.