Few have seen the inside of Town Hall. Just beyond the front doors leading to the inner chamber is a larger oak door that is covered in carvings of ancient heroes and verses from scripture in the Old Tongue. Beyond these doors is the council chamber, unseen by most. The council itself consists of the Elder, who serves as the mouthpiece for the group, and six others whose identities are unknown. This arrangement isn’t questioned by anyone in the village because, by consensus of popular opinion, the council is never wrong. Also, the town has remained prosperous for as long as anyone can recall. The only murmurings against the Council occurred many years ago when some spoke out saying the council wasn’t real. In response, every year on the Spring equinox, six cloaked and hooded figures appear on the roof of Town Hall. It has become quite a festival.
“Igdryll, leave the drink,” the Elder said.
“The mug I leave but the drink, I take.”
Downing the remaining cider, he set the mug down on a nearby table. The Elder rolled his eyes.
“Now listen, Igdryll. Be truthful with the council. They will see into your heart,” the Elder paused. “And, they know of your doubt.”
“If they see my heart, why they need to talk to me, eh?”
“It’s complicated. But they need to see that your words and your heart match.”
The Elder knocked on the door with his gnarled staff and the doors shuddered slightly before slowly swinging open. Stairs led down into darkness. The Elder took a torch from a basket, whispered something and blew on it. The pitch smoldered briefly then ignited.
“Come now,” the Elder said. “You may not believe but you must respect.”
Igdryll followed the Elder down. As they descended, the steps went from being carefully hewn treads to careworn stones and then pure, living rock. Igdryll stumbled. ‘Cider’s takin’ hold,’ he thought.
They descended several hundred feet before they reached another door, this one carved from rock. It matched the scale of the doors at the top of the stairs but lacked the adornment. Still, they possessed a simple beauty.
The Elder walked up to the door and turned back to Igdryll. “It’s important that you understand that beyond these doors is not a place in the usual sense of the word. Time and space do not, well, work in quite the same way. It will be a bit disorienting.”
Igdryll nodded. “All right, then.”
The Elder turned back to the door and spoke, softly at first, then the speech became chanting. The timbre drilled into Igdryll’s head. He tried to shut it out but it seemed to pervade his entire being. Igdryll remembered something. When he was twelve summers old, he had a strange dream. He felt asleep but awake at the same time somehow. His body felt as if some energy was sliding through it. As much as he tried, he could not move and it felt like he was being watched by some entity. As the Elder continued the chant, Igdryll’s sense of horror grew and he felt exactly the same now as he did those many summers ago during that dream, or whatever it was.
“Nay. Stop,” Igdryll said. The Elder did not respond. Everything went black.
“Igdryll,” the Elder said. To Igdryll, he sounded very far away. “Igg, come on now. Wake.”
“What the hork happened?” Igdryll sat up staring absently at the stone entryway to the council chambers.
“You did fine,” the Elder said.
“Did what fine?” Igdryll stood, swayed but regained his balance. “What you talkin’ about now?”
“The Council found your truth. We must prepare now.” The Elder ascended the pathway, his torch fading as he rounded a large boulder. Igdryll stood in place, still dazed. “Come now.”
“Prepare? For what?”