See the city far below, its streets darkened by the night.
See the streets, murky with grime, lit by spluttering street lamps and dim washes of warmth spilling through the windows of taverns, open late to patrons swilling drinks of their choice.
See a glimpse of motion from the corner of your eye… a young gang member slips silently from the shadows and slinks along the street as though they are perfectly within their rights to be here, nought wrong here officer.
From street to street the youth steadily travels, and certainty dawns that they are heading for something important. Momentarily you catch sight of their skin, bright colours glisten, inked onto their body. They have newly gained their gang markings, the bright colours of the Harlequins. Perhaps they lead the hunt tonight?
And see, here they slip between the houses and through a boarded window. This must be the place they were seeking.
Follow between the boards.
Behind the window is a corridor, the youth disappears around the corner to where faint light can be seen.
The light flows from a room of gorgeously garmented gang members, all with more colours than you ever realised could exist covering their skin in splashes and spirals and shapes. The walls are draped in cloths of dark red and green and gold, cloths which move gently in an unfelt breeze that causes the candles shedding their light to flicker.
You see the youth approach the room’s centre with some uncertainty, before bowing to one who appears no different from the rest, until they rise, revealing an elderly face but moving with more grace than any dancer, more certainty than any monarch.
The elder tips the youth’s face towards their own, and the young harlequin straightens up and meets their gaze. It feels as though a challenge is being issued, but what this challenge is you cannot be sure.
The youth nods. A challenge issued, a challenge accepted. The elder glides backwards and all present raise their arms, hands joined, in a circle surrounding the youth.
You sense a presence behind you and turn to look, but all you see are shadows in the corners, you turn back, and movement catches the edges of your vision, but when you focus, nothing is there.
In the centre of the circle the youth waits, their eyes closed, face raised to the ceiling, a slight smile plays at the corner of their mouth.
The presence behind you grows stronger, the sensation of something, or some-things, passing you at speed increases. But still you cannot see anything but the ripples of the phantom breeze in the cloths, the flickering of candles.
A subtle sound begins, a humming arising from the throats of those gathered here, and you realise that in the circle shapes are forming, creatures are surrounding the figure in the centre, you can see them take shape, but not quite what shape they take.
The shapes begin to buffet the youth, who stumbles sharply, the smile fading rapidly as their feet leave the ground and they tumble earthwards and are caught, suddenly, inches from the ground. Eyes open in panic, they catch the elder’s gaze, and seem reassured.
The youth holds out their hands, palm up in offering to the shapes that hold them. And the shapes place something in each palm, and the unease that has been steadily growing is replaced by joy, the unsettling humming by faint music that touches your heart and the youth is lowered gently to the ground, clutching something to their chest. The presence recedes and you feel pulled to return to the place you came from. For a moment you see the new gang member helped to their feet and welcomed by the other gang members, more colours and patterns will grace their skin after tonight, one for every choice made and challenge met.
And then… you see no more.