Julen opens the door, letting in a wash of fresh air, and enters.
Julen has arrived.
The restoration process has begun, but Dusty's anti-Zelda apparatus still dominates the room; the tarps have been unpinned and rolled back in one spot so as to allow easier access. Some of the shelves have been extracted from the compact structure and set back in their former places, and Fred or friends of the Book have begun the arduous task of reassembling the collection.
Kelsey is sitting, uncharacteristically, on the floor, with a large stack of to-be-shelved at one knee and a yellowed paperback book open in her lap. She can't have much light in that position, since her long hair falls down in front of both shoulders and partly in her face.
Julen, it would appear, has become something of a friend of said book, as she's currently engaged in putting a pile of books back on the shelves. And, obviously, reading several of them as they come to hand.
Higami emerges from the basement, carrying a stack of books. Placing them on the desk, he grabs the worn fountain pen and jots a few quick notes down on the legal pad. The youth takes a seat at the desk, beginning some filing task having to do with the books from downstairs. "I am glad to see you all weathered the storm," he says amiably, eyes still on the pad. "Is it the lingering Wyld energies which are contributing to our growing readership? More people wishing to break through the bonds of reinforced thought with new ideas, exposure to literature?"
Kelsey flinches at the sound and jostles the pile of books next to her; she makes a belated grab to catch them all and nearly succeeds. She loses the battle with a few including the one she was holding. "Oy." She glances irritably over at the young man but recovers her smile before replying a bit tightly, "actually, the storm put rather a damper on my research. Gotta get everything back in order before I go crazy here." She sets the one she was reading aside and gathers up her pile.
Julen murmurs, to her book, "I should think it primarily that this place is no longer dead, though Wyld can never hurt, in deflecting old habits."
Higami leaves the chair, appearing at Kelsey's side. "Please. Leave the reshelving to us volunteer librarians," he suggests with a smile to Kelsey, reaching down to pick up a fallen book. "My own experience with the storm was somewhat different from yours, I am willing to bet, Julen. The windfall messages relayed to me in my underground hiding place do not compare to what I am sure you all saw under an opened sky."
Kelsey shrugs diffidently, but there's something distracted in her manner--more than usual, anyway, enough to betray the nervousness behind her congenial smile. "I -am- a volunteer here. I'm the one with the little square handwriting with the old-fashioned e's." she gestures towards the checkin ledger. "I've had a lot of catching up to do since I arrived here, so I thought I might as well help out while I was boning up on recent history."
Julen says "I would suspect that all of our experiences during that time were different. That being the nature of such storms. Tell me, Higami-san, what were yours like?"
Higami nods. "Aha. Forgive me. I hope you have been using the audio equipment... you alone can appreciate the cultural context under which the music recordings held on data were made, Kelsey. Perhaps if you become nostalgic..." He turns to Julen. "Being far from the light, I experienced nothing with my eyes, but I heard... voices. I heard Argent, telling me something I had yet to hear, and I heard a Japanese voice I did not know, addressing me in a familiar way. I heard far-off music of a kind I had never known, and the sound of a flat stone skipping across a wide, placid lake forever and into the distance. Among other things. But perhaps it was merely my own vivid imagination, or my own inherent abilities turned against myself."
Kelsey was quiet, but suddenly there's a rather more studied effort involved in staying so. She turns away and squints at the back of a spine and crosses over towards Julen's side of the room with a muttered "'Scuse me," to the elder before slipping the book onto a lower shelf. There's a certain precision of care to her movements in handling the books, in spite of the recent upset.
The Sentinel pauses with her hands on a book's cover. "That sounds like an entirely fascinating experience, and far more interesting than mine, for I stayed to keep watch over the Caern, and the only thing that I encountered was a brief and extraordinarily bright light."
Kelsey murmurs, "I've been concentrating on more recent history, Master Higami, but yeah, it's-- it's good to hear Patrick Stewart's voice after so long." There's an edge of sadness in her voice that hurts, but Julen's comment brings her head up with a snap. "Didn't you -see-?" she asks, shocked. "Gods. I don't know whether I'm sorry or glad I didn't make it down to you before the rain hit."
Julen tilts a questioning glance at the younger woman, a clear question in her eyes.
Higami's gaze shifts in that direction as well. "Please elaborate."
"Well, I haven't banged it into shape yet," she says, turning red up to her hairline and dropping her eyes. "So pardon the overdone bits. But here:
"Thunder! Will the wind take you?
Thunder! Mountain breaking.
Thunder! Sky shaking. The clouds like mountains racing, laced with lightning every color white.
Blind and broken, battered by wind and rain
Hail halts. Rain rustles back to drizzle from downpour.
Screaming winds fade to yelping voices, and shadow-shapes run in the cloudtops.
White bodies, red ears, red eyes, howls of heaven."
It's not a chant, and it's not singing, it's just words that come out clipped and focussed in a way that suggests flakes on a stonemason's table.
"What are you, running on the cloud-tops? Hounds of the storm?
Yes! One comes down, stepping on wind-beams, at my puny howl.
But he is no creature of the earth, to speak with one.
I believe in you, I told him.
We need no belief, he answered.
But I do, said I. And he was gone, back to the yelping winds."
Julen listens, thoughtfully, eyebrow raised.
Higami rubs his barren chin lightly with his left index finger, leaning
on the bookcase.
Kelsey says, "And now the lightning writes Gaia's dreams across the open Eye.
A spiral of spirals, twinkling lights ascending towards a point.
The Eye comes, fifty miles wide, halts over the mountain's crest.
What is that spinning over the blue?
An island--an island of rock in the sky.
The storm spins on itself, suspended by the mountain's spire--
Light blazes up like the World Tree pinning it there."
Kelsey exhales. "Then-- darkness sudden and piercing.
A black tree blinds eyes where the white light blossomed.
The storm moves on. Rivers resume rushing.
Rain makes lakes of rivers, rivers of lakes,
and the wild waters fill all the valleys with voices of the storm.
Rocks take flight and roar and crash with the mountains
heaving down to meet the waters below. Trees faint and fall.
I fell with them. That's all I saw."
Parts of this, Julen appears to have heard, but she murmurs, as if to herself, "A tree?"
Higami nods. "Thank you," he says simply and seriously to Kelsey.
Julen goes back to shelving.
Kelsey sags a bit and nods, a little of the wonder and the terror of that night lingering in the flush of her cheeks. "I think so. It was all spikey and hand branches -up-, not down, not at all the same as lighnting."
Higami asks, "Do you know if any of the others saw the same phenomenon as you?"
Kelsey shakes her head. "I've heard some scattered rumors here around town: old Mr. Collins said something about the spiralling lights, and 'funny goings on' up on the mountaintop."
Higami chuckles. "Interesting. As for myself, I truly have no way of knowing whether what I heard actually had anything to do with the storm, or was simply an outward manifestation of my own thoughts. My reality is liquid enough to allow for such things to happen, particularly if I am nervous. But now, I regret not having been able to see it for myself, although your generous description surely communicates the soul of it. Thank you again."
Kelsey smiles and cracks her knuckles. "Welcome. It's my job. That and...." She turns back towards him suddenly. "Have you ever heard of the Great Hunt? I think I may have figured out those Hounds I was seeing." Out of poetry mode, her voice is perfectly normal, if a bit richer and deeper than before she lapsed into declaming. "Depending on how accurate that book was."
Higami nods. "If the Wild Hunt is truly a thing of spirit, it probably transforms /itself/ through time and the changing eyes of those who see it. Perhaps that is what it was. But if so, what were they hunting, I wonder?"
Kelsey purses her lip. "Can there be a hunt with no quarry beyond the joy of the run?" she wonders, and wanders back towards the yellowed book she was reading: _The Dark Is Rising_, a very dog-eared copy indeed. "Or are they just the embodiment of the storm itself? Or... hang it all, you can't have a Great Hunt without a Hunter, can you? Or hunters. Behind the dogs, I mean; in this story they belong to someone."
Higami nods. "Usually, the hunt has a Master. There is a master behind /your/ hunt, the hunt of your people through the ages."
Kelsey looks sheepish. "Spirit shit isn't really up my alley, although I can turn a tale or three," she confesses, breaking out of the somber turn of speech. Then she frowns. "A master of our hunt? Gaia, you mean? Or...." she cuts off a thought with a sharp snap of teeth, before it can fully form.
Higami shoots a quick glance in Julen's direction as Kelsey mentions 'spirit shit', but keeps his eyes on Kelsey. "Who truly controls where the hunt goes: the driver in the back, or the fox in the front?"
Kelsey's hands tighten. "That's only when the hunter starts getting to be like the fox, and the fox like the hunter," she observes obliquely.
Higami nods. "Yes. I wonder why sometimes... why my people were chosen to represent intellectual destruction. Poetic justice, of a kind, I am sure. But then, you Gaians know the meaning of that well enough." He pushes a book that was brashly sticking out of the bookcase a few inches back into line: the collected poems of Edgar Allen Poe. "Bad Poe," he comments. "Well, enough riddles and half-statements for now, I think. Here is a simple truth for you, on the subject of destruction... I would like to take your recent experience of being Bound. When I take it from your mind, I can merely take a copy of it away, or I can actually take some of its essence with me, easing the pain of the memory. Which would you prefer?"
Julen, it would appear, is fixed on one of the books she's theoretically shelving, although there's an occasional pause that might indicate she's listening as well as shelving. Or, maybe she's just integrating words into her reality.
Kelsey's jaw opens slightly. "You've got to be kidding," she says, eyebrows forming a defiant wall.
Higami says evenly. "You know very well that I am /not/ kidding. You have been through an experience which I have never had. I want it." He pushes another book back into place... something by Joseph Conrad, although the side binding is too worn to make out the title. "That's the simple side of it. The more difficult side of it is that, in running simple mental sensory-deprivation simulations of the kind I /imagined/ you experienced, the pain was almost unbearable. This fascinates me, as causing me /pain/ is no small feat. I wish to feel the full effect, however, to learn from the pain, the darkness, as you have."
Something catches behind Kelsey's eyes, reluctant understanding not lessened by belligerence. "It's mine," she says sharply. "I don't want it, but I sure as hell don't feel like handing out my memoirs and letting -you- buy the rights. You might at least say 'please' before telling me you want to fuck my head."
Julen has, at some point in here, raised her head to watch Higami in fascination.
Higami answers, "My /please/ came in the form of my telling you I /want/ to do that. I could have done it without ever announcing my intent, or without you ever having known I was there. Better, or worse, yet, I could have done so and left a mark on the memory, distorting it in your memory forever, and again you would never have known what you had lost. But I thought I would ask you before I did such a thing. I have enough respect for you and your people that if you /really/ and /truly/ do not want anyone else to learn from your own experiences... and I cannot imagine why anyone would want to deny that to someone, especially considering that you would not even have known, but for safety's sake, I decided to ask you first. That is why I said that I would /like/ to do this. Now it seems that you are not open to the experience. I will respect your wishes this time." He turns back to the bookcase.
Kelsey's hands stay tightened. "Ask Sashenka for a few clues on the human heart," she says wryly. "I think maybe you need a brush-up."
Higami nods. "Perhaps," he remarks casually. He picks up a book from the cart and drops it halfway to the shelf. He bends down and picks it up with incredible alacrity, and misshelves it in entirely the wrong section before returning to the desk to make some more notes on the legal pad.
Julen considers Higami for a moment, and then considers Kelsey. "Kelsey, may I ask you a question?"
Kelsey goes a little too still for such a mild query, but turns a polished smile on her elder. "Yes, Julen-rhya?"
Julen taps a finger on the book she's failing to read. "This skill of his. I realize it differs considerably from mere conversation, but I take it that you object to his sharing it with you primarily because you do not know him well?"
Higami scribbles away at the desk steadily. Once in a few moments, he refills the fountain pen.
Kelsey makes an effort not to bare her teeth. "Do I have to have a reason? It just bothers me, okay?" She takes another breath. "Yeah, maybe I don't want some strange fellow poking around in my head. Would you let someone poke around in your most painful and private memories, Rhya?"
Higami's jaw tightens, but otherwise his movements continue along their vein easily.
Julen considers this question. "Has Rowan not done similar? Do you not do similar, with those who you consider friends? Is that not partially what a Galliard does?"
Kelsey's eyebrows squint against Rowan's name. "I honor deeds. I tell news. I tell tales that teach or soothe or warn. Those are things people need to have. Friends get other things. So unless you can explain to me why sharing what I went through /inside/ would help the world at large, I'd rather go take a walk now and forget this whole conversation ever took place." Her chin lifts slightly, but instincts kick back in almost immediately. "Rhya."
Julen glances at Higami. "Well. /I/ cannot explain that..." She trails off.
Higami intejects, "Not even Julen can tell you why I need your pain. I /must/ destroy myself, and to know your oblivion would help me do that. But rather than explain to you why that is, I would have you forget this whole conversation ever took place, as you say. If you can. You are correct... I have much to learn about you all. And I desire to know your heart... your hearts." Higami looks up. "I wonder if you are at all interested in knowing /my/ heart?"
Kelsey smiles weakly. "I'm afraid I'm beginning to have an idea, Master Higami. A rather unsettling one. Which reminds me far too much of Argent, and I am leaving now." She gets this out almost levelly, and turns to stride for the door.
Higami keeps his eyes on Kelsey. "The second time you have run away from me," he murmurs. "Am I so hideous?" that last question is addressed to the legal pad, softly.
Julen murmurs, "If it helps, he is not of the Corruptor," but, for reasons of her own, doesn't add further.
Kelsey steps out of the library and into the street, leaving damp footprints
for a yard or so.