Manfred Rupp ~ 0-082677

Episode 14: Table Talk

part of: The Shadowed Ones

by Jeff Beardwood

Related by Daegle, Member of the Shadowed Elite in the Fourth Generation of the Wanderers

When you walk into a room full of people who were talking about you before you came in, an unnatural silence settles. A wave of self-consciousness hits you. People show signs of guilty nervousness. Entering the kitchen from the garden at the clan house was an instance like this. It was Windsong…quiet, compassionate Windsong who stepped forward to fill the gap.

“Well of course we’ve been talking about you,” he laughed. “What else could you expect?”

Now that was refreshing! The pure honesty of the statement washed over me.

“And what have you decided?” I asked with the same frank honesty.

It was Mallen who answered first. “You are a warm, good-hearted man. I can see that. You thrive on the clan feeling here, which has been fun to observe. Not everyone does.”

“The verdict is in…you’re a human being,” Windsong laughed once more.

“A very impressive one at that,” K’oja added. “Though there is still much we don’t understand about you and my curiousity is eroding my patience. I do hope you are a talkative dinner companion.”

“A dinner which is now re-warmed to within an inch of its life…” D’hlea smiled placing a casserole dish on the table, ”...a dinner which is now served.”

Katia uttered an apology, unnecessary though it may have been, for keeping everyone waiting as we moved toward the table.

“A good long talk was certainly expected,” K’oja reassured her. My immediate thought was there was much less talking than he might imagine.

“I was doing my best to explain what it means to be a Wanderer,” Katia told them.

“I’m sure the meal will be delicious. I’ll do my best to answer questions between bites,” I said as we all sat down to the table.

“And what do you think of Wanderers after Katia has explained all?” Dyre wanted to know. His gaze upon me had a way of making me feel transparent. I told him so.

“You are most sensitive, master Shadow,” was Dyre’s response as he took his serving of pasta.

“Some Deznahdorean training would refine that skill greatly,” Mallen added.

“Wanderers are full of new wonders to me,” I went on to explain. “Mere weeks ago those wonders bordered on seeming magical…I am reminded of something Katia once called ‘Wanderer parlor tricks’.

There was soft chuckling around the huge table as the clan absorbed this amidst the soft tinkling of cutlery on plates.

“All explainable by training, of course,” Felice chimed in after a few moments of chewing.

“Sensitive perceptions…observations both conscious and subconscious,” Dhona added, twirling pasta around her fork in punctuated summation.

“That explains most, if not all of my encounters with Katia,” I told them.

Mallen decided a demonstration was in order. He set his fork down on his plate, folding his hands under his chin as he looked deeply at me. “You’ve been feeling a bit ill,” Mallen stated casually.

I was a little taken aback. I remembered thinking earlier this was the best I’d felt in a few days. The idea that these people were mind readers surfaced again, making me more than a little uncomfortable. “And how did you arrive at that?” I finally asked.

To my great surprise, Mallen stopped to think about my question.

“You don’t know how you arrived at that?” I asked him.

“A culmination of many observations I don’t usually process enough to explain to someone else,” he told me. “To me, you have an orange tint to your aura. My mind tends to take common place information and processes it in this visual way for me. Others might simply have a ‘gut feeling’ about it. An aura has a bad wrap of being something mystic, going back generations. What will matter to you is what caused my brain to interpret things in that way.”

There was a long pause as Mallen gathered his thoughts.

Finally he started to explain. “Your appetite betrays much. Clearly you like the meal, but your hunger isn’t as strong as you thought judging by your eating pattern. Likewise earlier you talked about not being hungry when you got here, though the smell of the food was appealing. I’d guess you probably have a fever. You’re also slightly pale. You’ve rubbed your temple a few times…I’m thinking headache there. Your body language…every once in a while you lose some of your high energy presence. Hm…Raell is a small bundle for a strong young man like you, but when you swept him up earlier, you made a small sound as if an ache was aggravated slightly. What else? There’s what I know about your life, of course. You’ve been stressed by the events of the last few weeks. I know this must be true from what Katia has told us, as well as from some signs of sleeplessness as I observe in you.”

Mallen paused to think if he could capture any more reasons for his observation. I stared in wonder for a moment. He seemed to recognize he’d made his point.

“I hope you continue to feel better,” he told me with a smile, picking up his fork again to continue his meal.

“Thank you,” I laughed slightly, shaking my head from side to side in appreciation.

“It is good for you to see behind the mirrors,” he said. “It is good for me to examine what lays beneath my nightwandering side once in a while. A helpful exercise all around.”

We all enjoyed the rest of the main course in relative silence. My respect for these people seemed to grow with every encounter. Finally, having finished all I could on my plate, I spoke. “You’ve all been most patient answering my questions. I’ll try to tone down my curiousity for a while, if you want to ask anything of me.”

To my great surprise it was the eldest boy, Arcono, who spoke up first.

“I’ve been wondering Daegle, how did you come to follow the Shadowed Ones?”

K’oja reached over and ran his hand tenderly through Arcono’s hair, silently praising him for speaking up.

“I think that’s what we’ve all been wondering,” Katia added. “I remember talking about how you believed in this cause passionately enough to kill. I’d like to understand that better.”

I felt vulnerable at that moment, to be reminded of such a harsh reality in front of fragile new friends. I didn’t sense judgment though.

“How my family got involved in this cause is a story that goes back generations,” I began. “It is a story not uncommon among North American members of the Shadowed Elite.”

Felice said in the softest whisper imaginable, “I’d like to know that story.”

“I’ll do my best to explain,” I promised.