Ander steps out off the curb, a heavy boot landing in the dusty street, pillowing clouds of dirt take form then dissipate around his feet in a surreal stretching of time. His hooded duster settles as he stands in the warm rays of the sun, all six foot three of him. He shakes off the duster then looks down the empty street one way before slowly turning to look down the other.
He looks skyward as the bright sun has immediately begun to turn dark. It’s an odd dark, he notes. The street scene still illuminated but shaded. And it’s eerily cold. He pulls the hood down to listen to the sounds of the strange environment around him, revealing a full head of brunet hair. Spreading hints of silver run throughout, playing catch up with the gray and silver in his beard. There is nothing but silence. A full and deafening silence. Worry washes over his features. He recognizes where he is, but it is also an alien landscape that he can’t quite place at the same time.
The buildings take on a slightly tilted appearance, often at odd angles, and never perpendicular to each other; like having been drawn out of proportion and exaggerated for surreal effect.
Even the light is an odd, unidentifiable hue, caught somewhere between gray and lilac, as best he can tell. But there’s also blue in there, he thinks to himself.
A lone bird, large and also drawn of the same unsettling dimensions and odd color of black but not black and not any other directly recognizable color, sits atop the high pitched roof of the inn directly across the street from where he stands. It’s gaze focused and intent on Ander.
The bird flaps its wings and wrenches its head up higher to the sky appearing to squawk but neither act creates any sound. Ander is alone in this complete silence.
He kicks the ground with his dusty boot and that sound he can definitely hear. To further test this audible oddity, he claps his hands hard enough to bring a sting to his palms and while they create a loud and emphatic crack, there is no echo of sound off of any of the surrounding buildings. As soon as the sound erupts, it’s gone. Back in the silence. The large, strange bird still rests upon its lonely roost high above Ander; still looking down on him, as if in judgment.
He runs a hand through his beard, contemplating what he is witnessing. And then…
Ander regains consciousness, face down in the dirt. Pain and heat radiate from his face. Slowly and carefully he lifts himself up to a settled position on his knees as he wipes a hand across his face. He raises his hand and looks upon a muddy mix of dust and blood. Looking around, the gray gloom that once shadowed the street is gone, replaced with the faint glow of the lamps from the street at the mouth of the alley he finds himself in.
And there’s people. And the sounds of the night, vibrantly echoing in every direction, a cacophony of sound.
Where the hell am I? How long have I been here? What… happened?!?
Thoughts race through his mind, pushing and pulling at each other, bringing on an acute headache. Or is it the head wound? He clumsily stands to his feet and leans back against a brick wall to his left.
Keeping an occasional eye on the alley entrance, he brushes himself off as best he can, his duster filthy with alley grime. He runs a hand through his hair, catching twigs and causing puffs of dust to circle and fall around his face. He can’t feel anything in the air. Nothing riding the waves, as he likes to say, either.
Once Ander feels solid enough to take leave of the minimal protection of the alley, he slowly walks back out onto the street and makes his way back to the apothecary.
The large solid oak doors of the apothecary shut with a hearty thud as Ander pushes them closed behind him. The main room with its arched roof beams and dark, thick support columns is illuminated by candles placed all around the expanse in various stages of depletion.
Wax drips from every candelabra and wall sconce like ancient stalactites. The light shudders and dances around the room as Ander makes a straight line for a back corner, passing through a seating area with a large round table and high-backed chairs in the open circular center of the room. Spread around the room along the outer walls are bookshelves with their dusty and sometimes cobwebbed biographies, discoveries, archival footnotes, ancient manuscripts, grimoires, maps and rolls of unidentified subjects stuffed in amongst the tomes; books on flora and fauna, herbs and poisons, the latter of which occasionally are the same thing; books of poetry, prose, ancient languages, myths, legends, history, archeology, and the like.
Along the back wall, straight back from the large oak doors and between two very large bookcases is one of the three work tables in the room, this one being the widest and most cluttered. Ander bumps up against the table, swaying slightly before putting his hands down on top of a stack of books and papers to hold himself up. Candles, beakers, dried herbs, potions, and various alchemical implements litter its surface. A couple of books that had been stacked precariously lost the last bits of their grip and slid off the table, thudding heavily on the floor.
Tacked to the wall behind and above this table are many sketches and hand written notes on recipes, talismans, effects and outcomes of experiments, lunar cycles, and seasons. The other two, smaller tables at opposite sides of the apothecary, are those of his two adepts, Phileas and Sophera.
After a few moments of silence, he jerks his head around, looking for his adepts who are nowhere to be seen. He turns back around, head down, his hair hanging and mumbles something under his breath.
As he pushes himself back up with a dramatic sigh, he brushes his hair back out of his face, pulling out a few more small twigs in the process which he briefly considers in his hands before absentmindedly dropping them on the floor. As he slowly, and unsteadily, turns away from the table to step back out towards the middle of the room, his two young adepts burst through the door. Their joyous ruckus quickly halting as they see the disheveled Ander make his way out of the shadows.
Near the center of the room, where the adepts stand slack jawed and agape, are arranged three high-back wing chairs of plush crushed velvet in a mossy green, dark burgundy, and deep royal blue around a large circular oak table. At the center of the table are two tall candles. One white, one black.
Carved into the table is the Wheel of Life. Each season’s original Celtic name carved out in a calligraphic script: Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine, and Lughnasadh.
Ander cautiously heads for the burgundy chair and once close enough to it to descend, he drops his body into its comfortable embrace, letting his head fall back and to the left against one of the wings.