31: The Return of the Magi

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When It Happened (Chronicle Time): October 9, 2005

Who Was There: Bruce (Matt), Yukio (Bob)

What It Was

A frightening dream, an enigmatic stone, and a mysterious key draw Bruce and Yukio into the Dreamlands, where they make a stunning discovery and set in motion a long-dormant plan.

The Full Horror

After a year of having the same dream, Bruce suddenly finds it changing one night:

"Darkness. The same pitch darkness that has haunted your dreams for months. Buried alive. Hundreds of feet of solid rock seem to press down from somewhere above you. The air has a damp musty smell, and that odd, nauseating, reptilian odor. Just like always."

"Except...wait...now theres something new. A slight breeze. It seems to catch the odor and whisk it away. The breeze is coming from somewhere ahead...."

"At last, the darkness gives way to a star-studded night sky. You stand now at a large opening in the face of a cliff, several hundred feet up in the sky. Below you, in a brilliant array, are the sparkling lights and dazzling visions of a fantastic city, such as you have never seen before, not even in your dreams."

Then a womans voice, close to you, almost standing beside you, a voice familiar--her voice--says: "There is where you will find me, Bruce. If you hope to go forward, you must first be not afraid to fall."

Bruce now realizes he is having a lucid dream, so he leaps into the air and starts flying around.

"As you fall/go downward, you sense something else. Hundreds, perhaps hundreds of thousands of translucent spheres are drifting through the sky. Their colors are muted by the night, but seem to embrace every shade of the rainbow and many more beside. Some seem to have movement within them, visions of hopes and fears and memories. But scattered among them, plunging and soaring through the skies are something else--darker than night, and faceless, and winged, voiceless save for a cold, cruel and mocking laughter."

Bruce calls out to these Nightgaunts, saying he won't bother them if they don't bother him. He realizes he's probably not outside reality, but that this may be something like what it's like to be a mad god, observing reality.

"And now one breaks away, hurtling toward you, the laughter growing, growing. Its almost on you-"

Bruce spins and flips them the bird and then wakes up just as they close in on him laughing. He tries to go back to sleep, but it's no use. He is wide awake on a cool autumn morning.

The Key & the Stone

Yukio also awakes troubled, but his problem is right in front of him. Michel Borsavin is sitting at the foot of his futon, writing the word "Stuyvesant" over and over again on the floor. In his left hand, he holds the brass caboose key, which is glowing slightly but also flickering as it shifts in size, shape and color at a speed almost too fast to be seen.

Yukio moves quickly, taking the key out of Borsavin's hand. Borsavin immediately throws up. When he recovers, Borsavin says the last thing he remembers is going out for a walk the night before, intending to have a late dinner at a Coney Island a couple blocks away. His illness, very much like a bad hangover, lingers for several days.

Once he's helped Michel back to his room, Yukio returns and uses a Cleansing invocation to clear away the emotional debris. Yukio suspects this was a sending, a spell of contact, more than a possession. He recognizes the name 'Stuyvesant' from his reading in Katsoulakis' library. It was the name of a New York Lodge that was at its height during the 1930s to the 1950s, and thereafter went into a steep decline.

The key has returned to its guise as a simple, brass, caboose key. But when Yukio looks at it with Gifted eyes, he can somehow sense that it has been drained and then filled again with even more Essence than before. But where this 'new' Essence came from, there is no way to tell.

Bruce has Yukio wake up Borsavin again, and then subjects the man to a Mocker ritual involving a pentagram of Elmer's Glue and glitter. Bruce places the key in the middle of the pentagram, and Bruce and Yukio sit opposite each other in lotus positions, while Michel sits to the side. This gives them the Power of Three, in addition to Bruce's ability as a Mocker to use the key/matrix as a divining rod, tracking back to the place from which the spell came. With a chant of "Lorem ipsum…," Bruce's spell works perfectly.

The ritual also breaks the illusion over the matrix for good. It still looks like a key, but now it's larger and made of tarnished silver covered with cryptical arabesques. Yukio immediately recognizes the symbols on it as Masonic.

Bruce and Yukio get the Honda and follow the trail of the spell. On the way to the Lodge, Bruce tells Yukio about his dream about Lilly. In return, Yukio shares what he's learned about Eastern Dream Warriors, the Periphery and Panoramas. When Yukio says Bruce's dream may mean Lilly is in Hod, Bruce pulls over and goes into a CVS for sleeping pills. Yukio also tells him that things are real in Hod, much as they are in Geburah. Looking for one more sign they're on the right track, Bruce turns on the car radio. Sure enough, it's playing, the Doors' "Break on Through."

Stuyvesant Lodge

Stuyvesant Lodge is on the street of that name. The ground floor is taken up with street-level shops, but the doors to the rest of the building are heavily locked. Bruce and Yukio can tell right away that the Lodge building has something about it. Neither an aura, nor a lack of one, but there is some Essence presence to it somehow. It only takes Bruce a few minutes to pick the locks, and the two men go inside.

The air inside is as musty as one would expect for building left untouched for over five years. A plaque on one wall says the building went up in 1923. The first floor and most of the second are completely empty, unused by anyone for years. Even the homeless kept clear of the place.

On the second floor they find an ornate door with an ornate lock which the Silver Key opens easily. The door, when looked at by the Gifted, bears the same symbol as the one on the key. Directly behind the door is an anteroom, with hat racks and coat closets for men and women. There is a station where a clerk probably took the coats and put them away. Another door leads to a comfortable sitting room. There are no books here, but there are unsigned paintings of two men and one women.

Twin doors in the sitting room lead to the main altar room of the Lodge. Not long after they begin exploring this room, Bruce and Yukio are attacked by a strange humonculus that must have been left behind to guard the place. They take it down with a Necromantic Bolt, a Tainted Touch, and a final double-tap from Bruce's Beretta.

Bruce and Yukio look around but find no signs of ghosts. There may be a genius loci (it seems like the place for one, but if so, it's in deep seclusion. There is a magic circle on the floor which is neither Rosicrucian nor Masonic. General theories of magic suggest it's best used for communication.

On top of the altar are two shallow bowls. Inside the larger one is a raised section that matches the outline of the Silver Key. Inside the smaller one, there is a raised section which matches the symbol carved into the Dreaming Stone.

Bruce runs down to the car and brings back the sleeping pills. He pops a handful in his mouth and hands Yukio his Beretta. He takes the stone and lies down in the circle. Yukio goes into a Trance, and then also falls asleep as the stone glows.

From Cavern to Abyss

The Stone takes both Yukio and Bruce directly to the Cavern of Flame. The two old men, Kaman-Thah and Nasht, are surprised to see two dreamers arrive together, and they gaze in wonder at what Bruce and Yukio have with them. "The Dreaming Stone has been lost for a very long time, even by our reckoning."

Nasht frowns at Bruce, walks up to look at him closely, and then nods--with possibly the slightest of smiles, but its hard to be certain. "This is not the first time one of your brethren has come here. You are welcome in this place, and we honor your grief."

Kaman-Thah is glowering. "But there is a calling upon you. You seek the future, a future which lies in the great city of Celephais."

Yukio asks Nasht and Kaman-Thah about the land of Khem and the sephiroth of Geburah. Kaman-Thah tells him that neither place can be reached directly from the Cavern, but that there are numerous entrances to Geburah scattered throughout the Dreamlands.

Nasht and Kaman-Thah lead Bruce and Yukio to an opening in the cavern wall and soon the two men are walking down a pitch-black tunnel. The tunnel ends abruptly at the edge of an abyss, and now Bruce can recognize the passage and the drop as being identical to his dream. The Taint here is higher than it is on Earth, but so is the level of Essence.

Bruce steps out into the abyss and begins floating slowly down to the ground far below. Yukio follows, but unlike Bruce's dream, this time the Nightgaunts close in to attack. Yukio immediately blasts one with a Necromantic Bolt, and that is enough to make the others keep their distance.


As usual, their technological items are transformed when they pass into the Dreamlands. Yukio's baseball cap becomes a blue and white turban ("Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?"), and Bruce's Beretta turns into a sword.

Once they are on the ground, Yukio tries to contact Lilly. He isn't able to do that, but he does sense that there is something to learn about her in this place. Unfortunately, it's probably going to take some serious looking to find it. The levels of ambient Essence and Taint are both even higher now than they were back in the passage.

A guard named Uruk is at the city gate, and he tells Bruce and Yukio that they stand before Celephais, the great city, home to King Kuranes, ruler of Ooth-Nargai of the Six Kingdoms. Uruk expresses surprise that they have come this far in physical form. No doubt this has something to do with the Dreaming Stone.

Unsure what else to do, Uruk guides Bruce and Yukio through the city. "The streets of Celephais are wide and paved in onyx, which never appears worn or broken. The buildings are broad and are made of clay and then whitewashed, so they resemble those of Middle Eastern cities such as Cairo or Baghdad. Many buildings have towers capped with minarets of bronze or copper, and fly gaily colored pennants from their spires. The tallest towers, the most slender spires, and the brightest pennants belong to the beautiful rose-crystal Palace of Seventy Delights. In the center of Celephais is the Turquoise Temple to Nath-Horthath, where eighty orchid-wreathed priests serve, no priest less than ten-thousand years old."

Uruk leads them into the Great Library, a great circular stone building, and after passing through many rooms and hallways, they arrive at the laboratory of the sorcerer Malenkamon. Uruk introduces the two men to the sorcerer and then takes his leave.

Malenkamon is surprised, but at the same time seems to have expected them to come. "But you are early, young sirs. True enough, not much by our reckoning, but quite a great deal by yours."

Both men gaze around the laboratory, seeing wonders in every direction. Yukio quickly writes down the titles of several books on Malenkamon's shelves in that hope that, when he wakes, he will have a clear picture of them in his memory.

Noticing the Dreaming Stone, Malenkamon nods and says, "Well, of course, you have that. Why else would you have been brought here, eh?" They have only a few moments to exchange words when the sound of an argument comes from the hallway. Two men come striding in, one slightly older and more august than the other. The older one demands to know why Malenkamon would have called for them at, "Such a damned inconvenient time."

At the sight of the visitors, however, both men look thunderstruck. "Quickly, man," the older one asks Yukio, "Has great change come upon the City of New York?" When they reply that it has, both men look visibly relieved.

"It worked then," the slightly younger man says. "But," he continues, "Were mistreating our guests."

"Indeed, yes," says the older one. "Our sincerest apologies, gentlemen. Allow me to introduce my colleague, Mr. Everett Rolston. And myself, Alistair Jameson."

The Return

Bruce asks the three men if they would arrange an audience with King Kuranes, so Bruce can ask him about Lilly. They readily agree to his request as part of their apology for drawing Bruce and Yukio into a task that really should have been handled by Lesek.

"Where is Czernin, anyway?" Lord Alistair rails. "We certainly compensated the blasted fool well enough for this. What does he think he's on about, delegating something like this to others?"

When they learn Czernin is dead, both men are shocked. They had clearly never considered the possibility that he might not have survived the upheavals that were to come. "Surely he would have kept himself out of the fray. He had such a knack for it," Rolston recalls in disbelief.

"Quickly, man," Jameson barks, suddenly afraid. "How fares my wife? Do you know Lady Margaret Jameson?"

When Yukio tells Jameson his wife is dead, the man is forced to withdraw several paces away, stricken as he is by the news. Rolston watches him, then turns back to Bruce and Yukio, shaking his head sadly. Even Malenkamon seems moved.

Yukio grills Rolston about what he and Jameson plan to do when they return to the Waking World and New York. Are they willing to accept the new reality of a City firmly in the control of Katsoulakis? Rolston is confident he and Jameson can come to some equitable arrangement with Katsoulakis. "The man has his goals and desires, but I have always found him reasonable enough if dealt with wisely. In any case, it's time Alistair and I came back and saw the lay of the land."

When Jameson steps back into the conversation, Yukio makes a point of telling him that Thomas Donnelly is responsible for the death of Lady Margaret and the rest of the Occult Underground. However, Yukio intentionally leaves out the return of the Faerie, thinking it might be well to have both mages thrown off-balance by that fact when they return.

It's clear to Yukio by the end of their conversation, that both Rolston and Jameson know about the Great Game, and that they accept its rules. They will probably fit in fine once back in New York. But that also means, they may sometimes be allies, yet cannot be entirely trusted.

Their task complete, Bruce and Yukio prepare to return to the Waking World. Rolston and Jameson shake their hands, and vow to see them both soon. Malenkamon assures Bruce and Yukio that the Dreaming Stone will see them back quickly and safely. He bids them both good health but adds to Bruce, "'May thy laugh always be close at hand,' as they say," recognizing him as a Mocker.

Start Spreading the News

Moments later, both men wake up back in the altar room at Stuyvesant Lodge. Bruce keeps the Dreaming Stone. Yukio keeps the Silver Key. Both men discover they have a perfect memory of their visit to the Dreamlands. Perhaps another property of the Stone?

Bruce borrows Yukio's cellphone and punches a number in at random. Sure enough, Saint-Germain answers the call. The Comte suggests they meet in twenty minutes at the Four Seasons, and neither Bruce nor Yukio are surprised to discover Saint-Germain waiting for them when they arrive.

Bruce opens the conversation by saying he has had further thoughts about Lilly, and that he believes she has been trying to contact him. Saint-Germain acknowledges that this might be possible.

The Comte is tremendously amused to learn that Rolston and Jameson are alive and have been taking refuge in the Dreamlands. He thanks them both for giving him advance notice of their return. Yukio, in turn, thanks Saint-Germain for the information he provided about the Marble Arch.

After that, the three share a sumptuous dinner and an evening of small talk. The Comte is every bit the conversationalist he was reputed to be.

The three men part, and Yukio goes on alone to Katsoulakis' mansion. Katsoulakis also roars with laughter at the news, and seems to approve of the mages' return. "The City has been too quiet, and Rolston and Jameson are sensible men, political men. They will understand the new realities well enough. And if not… I will help them see how things are."

Three days later, Rolston and Jameson are back. They immediately retake possession of Stuyvesant Lodge and begin a sweeping reconstruction of the entire building. The owners of the ground-level shops are informed of the 'new' management, but are assured that their leases will be honored. Soon after the call goes out for the surviving members of the Lodge that the time for their return has come.

Jameson also reclaims his estate and returns Rolston's possessions. For the moment, their alliance seems secure. Whether that continues once they are settled back into the City remains an open question.

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