The Gathering

Recorded May 8, 2012:

I find myself in front of the doors of a friend’s building. Even though I have the keys to it now, I can not think of it as my building. It will always be his. It’s late at night. The thick darkness conceals the rest of the town behind me. It should be dark behind the doors as well, but there are bright lights on inside. I check to make sure I have the keys. Sure enough, the keyring with the building’s keys, and new ones I’ve yet to identify, is tucked securely in my pouch under the raven feather cloak.

Wait. I’m wearing the cloak here? I shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose. The building is now secure in my dreamscape.

But it’s late. So late, it’s early. I can see the beginnings of fading night in the east. Well, since I’m here now, might as well check things and see why the lights are on. I test the doors, they are securely locked. Unlocking the door, I step inside to the surprise scent of warm bodies.

The lobby, which should be empty except for a few chairs, is filled with folk. In the middle of the lobby is a long table. Resting on that table, is a person, appearing not too much different than Waite’s Four of Swords. He is very familiar and I am surprised to see him here. Surrounding the table are a great number of people. All of them turn to look at me as I come in. Most of them dismiss me at once, turning away to talk amongst themselves. Many of the others judge me by my appearance, and find me lacking. Only a few are neutral about my appearance.

A few others come in behind me. There are murmurs of beginning the proceedings without the Head Bastard In Charge. Some that come in, enter through the front doors. Others come up the stairs from the basement. I make a note to myself to check the building again, from top to bottom. Finally, the HBIC comes in from one of the side rooms attached to the lobby.

He looks over the collection of people with a stern commanding face. His eyes rest on me and his eyes brighten even as his countenance dims. I feel like a kid about to be chastised.

“Thank you for coming. However, it took longer for our number to accumulate than I had expected. We will not be able to complete this tonight.” A collective sigh of groans and disappointment. “Please, leave here and return to your homes. Do what needs to be done to make sure you will be able to come here again tomorrow night. Once we begin, I will turn away any that are late to arrive.” Folks nod and joke with each other. As they begin to disperse, I note many are leaving through the front doors, but a few are leaving through the stairway to the basement.

I stick around as the HBIC is telling a few others separate instructions. I mean to question how it is that he and the others are in this building. He finishes with them and come straight to me. Before I can ask, he begins tersely and quietly. “This is not the time for questions. You are here later than I expected. I know you are going through some rough personal issues, but I need you to be clear of mind at all times.” I am surprised into silence with his words. “We’ll begin this soon. I expect, tonight. When it’s time, I will summon you. Go home.”

“Don’t worry about locking up the building. Keep a hold of the keys. Go do what you need to do during the day so you can return tonight.” There is something calming and settled about him. I find myself leaving the lobby, keys still in my pocket, without concern about who the HBIC is or what they are doing. On an instinctual level, I know what this is all about. I just don’t remember it yet.

I step out on the street. The doors to the lobby have barely closed and locked behind me when my alarm clock goes off next to my bed. I sit up, echoes of the lobby still in my ear, note down what happened and continue with my day.

~~~

Recorded May 9, 2012

As I went to bed, I recalled the previous night’s dream. Didn’t have to think much on it, as it had been on my mind all day. I made sure to have a “clear mind” by the time evening came around. I wanted to remember everything. Especially the portions that made me uncomfortable. But despite my drama-free day, the house exploded into drama as I closed my door. I worried my cautious ear would keep me from falling into a deep sleep. I fluffed the light blanket and let it fall over me.

I could feel it still settling around my physical body when I walked out of the inky darkness and stepped in front of the main doors of the building. It was full night here. The moon had barely risen but was still obscured by the other buildings in this dreamscape city. I unlocked the doors, and entered the brightly lit lobby. I made sure the doors were closed behind me, triggering the autolock. It was clear the other attendees did not need me to let them in. No need for me to leave the doors wide open to friend and foe alike.

The table was as I had left it. The person still resting on top. I knew not to touch him, though. Only a few people were here in the lobby. The HBIC was one of them. He was sitting next to the table, looking closely at the reposed man’s hand, but not touching him as well. I came over to the HBIC and greeted him.

He looked up at me. “You’re in much better condition today, Keri. Good. I have a task for you. The others will make their way in eventually. The night is still young, and some have to travel further than others.”

“Hold up a minute. Who are you? Who is this? And how did all y’all come to be in here when I have the keys?” The HBIC looks at me annoyed, as if I had asked a series of very dumb questions. I watch a realization play across his face.

As he stands, he says, “Tell me, what is ‘here’ to you?”.

“A building that appears often in my dreams. I have the keys for the door.” The HBIC’s eyebrow arched in sudden mirth.

“You are correct, and incorrect. I suppose you have a strong emotional attachment to this appearance.” I wrinkle my face, but say nothing. He places his hand on my shoulder softly. “There are many here with ‘keys’, Keri. And all of us have what is rightfully ours to have. But of all of us, you are the only one that doesn’t know what else the keys are for.”

As I consider the implications of his words, he shakes me lightly. “Hey. I’ve heard you’re good with dark, shadowy, menacing places.” My turn to raise an eyebrow. “There is something I need gathered. Returned, really. You won’t have to do any battles to retrieve it. It’s just lying out waiting to be picked up. But most of those here can not go there. You can.”

I find myself half stumbling, half walking, and completely fussing in a very dark area. The place is vast, the echos of my movements reflect that, but there are things that break up the monotony of the landscape. But I am not being menaced here. I am finding it very hard to see what’s in front of me, despite my dokkalfar night vision. I can tell the ground is sandy and gritty like the desert. But the way my sounds are reflected back to me remind me of a sparse forest. I’m comfortable, a little too warm, even. But then again, I am in my dokkalfar form. What would send my human self chattering towards the nearest fire, would have my dokkalfar self bathing in the snow.

I find the treasure, just where the HBIC said it would be. It rests between a pair of large rocks. I pick up the bundle, its exterior made dirty rags by exposure, tuck it under my leathers, and make my way back to where I had come from. In the distance, I can feel the gaze of something and some things watching me. But they are not offensive nor predatory. I know they are there. They know I can sense them. And both sides are content to let the other pass on unbothered.

I enter the lobby with the bright face of a completed task. Only to walk into tension so thick, the air is soured by it. I hear murmurings of discontent from the gathered folk. Many of them don’t even bother to register that I’m back and walking among them. I catch enough of conversation to know I wasn’t the only one that was sent on a gathering expedition. I just happen to be one of the few that came back with a prize in hand.

“We don’t need all the pieces. What we have is enough to continue.” The crowd is thickest around the table. I can’t see who is addressing HBIC. I can hear them well enough. “If pressed, yes, we could continue. But it would not be in his best interest to do so.” “Some of the pieces have fallen into dangerous areas! You’re risking losing a second to chase after the first!” “Each piece is important. If he continues on without them, he’ll be forced to recreate them as he goes on. And I think we’ve already seen up close what such a burden can do!”

The crowd shifts just as HBIC finished speaking. Just so happened, he was facing me. As his interjection echoed, he realized I was standing within earshot. “Keri. I didn’t hear you come in.” His face was stoic and emotionless. Which told me much more than his heated words did. I didn’t say anything, but raised an eyebrow in askance. Silently, I retrieve my prize from my pouch and hold it out to him. Some of those near me still viewed me with derision. A few more realized where I had been and wondered how I could have gone where they could not. He looks as the rag wrapped bundle, and nods. “Thank you. I knew you would have no problems there.” He takes it from me. I turn, still silent, and retreat away from the table and its occupant.

The crowd seals the gap I left in my wake. But I can still hear the argument with clarity. “There. That is an important piece. Surely that would be enough! Why are we stalling?” “Yes, this is an important piece, but it is not all the pieces. We still need to retrieve the others.” “Many of them will be remade anyway! Why this unnecessary drive? We can finish with what we have.” “No. That would not be finishing, that would be discarding. And I will do no such thing. We still have time, and we will use it to our advantage.” I can hear the HBIC’s mind has been set. There will be no more discussion.

“Everyone, we will not be completing tonight.” Scattered groans dance around the room. “But we still have productive time available to us. Those of you that have fetched your required pieces, help those that haven’t. It may be you have a needed or hidden skill that would be of use. Gather together in two’s and three’s and go complete your assignments.” The room erupts into excited calls and discontented grumbles. But the gathered folk do as the HBIC has asked. I look for someone to help, but find myself excluded from all the groups. Odd Man Out, my assistance is unwanted.

The space around the table now cleared, I move closer to inspect the man lying there. I see the resemblance to a friend, and a faint sob teases at my throat. But the more I study him, the less he resembles my friend, until I can find nothing in common between the two. I realize I’ve come to a settled end about him. I sigh a little mournfully, and smile a little happily, as I know I won’t forget him, nor his words to me. I feel a gaze settled on me. I look up to catch eyes with the HBIC. He studies me for a moment, then turns away, saying nothing.

The folk have already begun leaving the lobby, having started once the HBIC told us to group up to assist each other. And still, I have no one to help. As in the Waking, so in the Dreaming. ~sigh~ In my bones, I can feel the coming dawn. My alarm will be going off soon, better say my farewells now. I find the HBIC to tell him. “I know. Do you understand why it’s important to get everything together before continuing?”

“So he won’t start his next life with a broken soul.” The HBIC smiles. “Like me.” The smile freezes. He sighs. The way he looks at me, reminds me of a patient teacher dealing with a child that will never mature. The visage pisses me off, really. On the one hand, I feel the sentiment is undeserved, that I can rise above my limitations. On the other hand, I wonder if I really am handicapped, a child that will never grow up.

“I need your help, still. Will you return tonight?” I find it odd that he is asking for my help, when last night, he said I would be summoned when it was time. I reflect on this building, how it felt alive and sentient when I was here before. It doesn’t feel like they forced their way here. The building seems to have accepted them. And so will I, for now. I confirm my attendance tonight, and my assistance. I walk out the doors, and wake up.

~~~

This is Part 1 of 3 telling the story of “The Gathering”.
Read Part 2 at The Gathering: Nights 3 & 4. (3,296 words)
Read Part 3 at The Gathering – Finale. (2,101 words)

 

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