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TS55: Shadow Start

“Your dad?”

Jove was getting sick of that response. Thankfully Aden would be the last for a while. “They weren’t sure.” They walked into the ARC meeting with Jove’s roommates.

The rabbit responded, “He would have told you. Especially when you burst.”

Tan objected, “My parents wouldn’t.” He shrugged, “Of course, I couldn’t imagine my parents writing at all.”

Jove thought about the last letter he got from home. “He’s having trouble at work. Maybe that’s why Aeon hasn’t been updated this week.”

“We’re not sure.” Edward interrupted. He was seated at the table where Jove intended to run his game tonight. “Azarias found the server the webpage was hosted on at Timothy’s factory.”

Jove asked, “Edward?”

“Tonight, I’m just Ed.” He coughed a moment and Jove watched the elephant’s magic shake again. “I’m not here on the Council’s time.”

Jove raised an eyebrow. “Why are you here?”

“I’m testing a hunch.” He paused and when it was clear Jove and the others wanted more, he added, “If you’re father writes Aeon, it’s possible this game might sooth my magic as well.” He blushed, “Maybe I can play a familiar or hireling or something.”

Tan asked, “You play role-playing games?”

“I looked sixteen. It was easier to learn the lingo then to keep explaining I’m ten times older than I appear.” Edward shrugged. “I haven’t actually played since white box. It upset me when they added halflings. I always preferred the original name.”

Chris mumbled, “This isn’t Dungeons and Dragons. We’re going to be playing Lucid. I’ll help you get your bearings.”

There was a long pause. Jove sighed, “Okay, I suppose that works.” He sat down and pulled out Aether. Everyone settled around the table. Jove smirked, he would be able to use Aether to keep track of his books. He pulled out his gaming books. “Since this is Ed’s first time, let me explain the basics. Magic as you know it does not exist. Instead certain dreamers are able to cross over into each others dreams as well as the real world. In the version I’m using, it is next to impossible to affect the real world while dreaming except, well, you’ll find that out. The dreamers are plagued by nightmares and shadows. The ones I’ll be using are subtly different. They still abduct dreamers and usually no trace is left behind but it’s not complete and a lot more little clues slip by. They can affect the real world, but even that is rare.” Jove thumbed through the list of character sheets that had been messaged to him. “Let’s see, Lucas has a dream companion.”

Chris swallowed, “I’m not sure Edward would want to play that.”

Edward rolled his eyes. “I’ve played a familiar before.” He pulled out his notepad, “Send him over.” There was a chime as it arrived. There was a long pause. “Charles Tubbington Esquire the Third? A floating dream mimic octopus? Are you serious?”

The wolf winced, “He’s the echo of a dead pet. Lucas, my character, loved that pet and refused to let him go.”

Edward sighed. “I’m going by CT, okay?”

Jove thumbed through the rest of the characters. “Okay, on another note, Aden, I said you couldn’t have clowns as your greatest fear.”

The rabbit huffed. “Fine, Lamont is afraid of being eaten by clowns.”

“Eaten…” Jove nodded, “I guess I can work with that.”

The hair on Jove’s neck stood up as a familiar magic presence entered the room. Julius was jogging up to the table. “I hope you’re not starting without me.”

Jove swallowed, “I wasn’t sure you’d want to talk to me.”

“Me neither,” Julius said, “But it’s Lucid. Did you get my character sheet, he’s called Vincent?”

“Yeah.” Jove nodded. “I like your greatest fear.” He looked at the character sheets again. “Wait, who’s playing Mr. Johnson?”

Tan shook his head, “I went with Remus for a character name. It’s not me.”

I’m still not sure where I found the character sheet. At that time, I certainly wasn’t aware enough to have read through the rulebook. Perhaps I drew it from Jove’s subconscious. Still, I chimed on Aether with a note asking if I could play by message.

Jove read the message. “Uh, wow. I guess uh, we have someone who wants to play by post.” He avoided Edward’s questioning gaze. He hoped the elephant couldn’t tell the message came from Aether. “I assume that each of you have already had your first lucid dream in game. This night, let’s put it at a week after school starts. Most of you are in high school, so that makes it relatively simple. Unless you’ve worked something out in advance, you have not met each other yet.” He shrugged, “I’m not going to roll for this first scene. As you fall asleep, you’ll find a very specific dream waiting for you. Senior prom.”

Chris asked, “That’s a school dance, right?”

“Yeah, sort of a formal scene. You bring your date, get dressed up in black tie and a suit. It’s simultaneously the largest social event of high school and the most awkward moment for everyone who’s not ultra-popular. Still, most of the people there are faceless dreamshades, any of you can tell that most of those at the dance are part of the background and not people. So, who wants to arrive first? Don’t forget to describe yourself.”

Chris spoke up, “Lucas probably has an early day tomorrow so is likely in bed first. He appears as a wolf monk. Shaved head in the traditional Shaolin style wearing. Since this is prom he’s wearing formal robes, likely a complicated silk print of the traditional five elements. Earth, Fire, Metal, Water and Wood. He is accompanied by a floating octopus.”

Edward blinks. “I think that’s the most I’ve ever heard you say at once.” He blushes, “Yes, CT will be floating among the party decorations, shifting to match the balloons, then the streamers and back again.” He looked at Jove’s rulebook, “Who made this game? This is a silly premise.”

Tan went next. “Remus the bear is at home here. He’s a star player on the football team and appears in a team jacket. He’ll waste a little time hitting on the background characters before looking for his date. I guess he’ll end up near the punch.”

Julius took a look in his grimoire and smiled. “Well, Vincent stands out. He’s a raccoon, but he’s dyed the hair on his head black so he looks like he’s wearing more of a hood than a mask. He’s got a sketchpad and paper. I think he’ll start looking up at the moving decorations. Maybe try to draw CT.”

“Can I affect his drawing with… uh… Surreal Physiology?” Edward asked.

“Since it’s a drawing of you, yes.” Jove explained. “Do you want it to shift with what you’re doing? If so, you don’t need a roll.”

“That’ll work.”

Aden spoke next, “That leaves me. Lamont was probably up programming and didn’t get to bed at a normal time. He’s a rat and in the dream is sporting a cyber-style computer deck with one of those HUD headsets that covers one eye with an electronic readout. Otherwise, he’s in a suit. Oh, well, his tie would have lights, something really gaudy.”

Aether chimed and Jove read the message. “Mr. Johnson is dressed as a corporate executive, black shades and walks out on the stage next to where the band is playing. He silently observes the room and then heads over to the punchbowl.”

Jove looked over his group. This was not what he had expected when he offered to run a game. Nothing to do now, but enjoy it. “Which leaves the reason you’re all there. A little girl in a yellow dress walks onto the dance floor and everyone parts to let her speak. She greets you. ‘Thank you all for coming. I hope you can help me find my sister. She vanished at prom a few months ago.’”

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