"Please, go inside and find yourself a comfortable place in the circle. He will be in shortly to begin the ceremony", Petrov said as he motioned Malfus and the rest of the attendees through the hanging curtains over the doorway.
After hiding Luna on the other side of a nearby range of low-lying foothills, Malfus had made the walk to the small encampment being used by the White Lighters for the evening's ceremony. On arrival, he had met Petrov, a slender man with a pleasant demeanor and ever so slightly effeminate nature. Petrov had shown him to a waiting room at first, furnished with plush chairs and roaring, hot fire by which a cluster of people were jostling for position to gain the most amount of warmth and yet still allow others the welcome respite of the glowing hearth. It was terribly cold on this moon and Malfus was incredibly grateful for the knit skull cap and warm boots he had thought to wear; to hell with dress codes and white stuff. He had spent the last hour engaging in small talk with the fifty or so other attendees which had arrived for the night. Malfus was rather intrigued with the diversity of people present. A variety of age groups, social backgrounds and genetic heritages were all represented. It seemed the only thing in common among them all, was the desire for introspection and the interest in Mumavinsky. There was another commonality Malfus observed when it came to the specific members who had obviously been in attendance many times before. It seemed they all shared a common sense of servitude and continually referred to the Mumavinsky as "Her". Their servile nature put Malfus on guard as he flashed back to 4:30am wake-up calls for morning meditation and memories of endless days standing amongst a sea of orange clad seekers. The anthropomorphic nature of their statements, simply made him more curious.
"... and there's a black hole at the center of everything, ya know?", continued Jelf, a young and stocky male with dark, curly hair.
"I've heard that theory before", replied Malfus as they continued their discussion in front of the fireplace.
"I mean everything!", continued Jelf a bit more emphatically. "At the center of every atom, at the center of every galaxy and even at the center of our hearts, there is a black hole. A raw and untamed singularity lies within each of us." The glimmer in Jelf's eyes brightened as he delved deeper into the content of his meaning.
"Yeh, OK. So, we're all surrounded by and filled with trillions upon trillions of black holes?", asked Malfus as he motioned broadly around him.
"Yes.", answered Jelf.
"Right.", Malfus arched an eyebrow.
"I'm going through one," Jelf started before getting a far-away look in his eye and drifting from the conversation. Malfus waited for him to return and continue. "What I really want to do", Jelf started again with a grin, "is to go through the black hole at the center of my heart. I want to see what's on the other side."
"So you want to worm-hole through yourself", Malfus stated, giving this thought some consideration. The black hole idea wasn't finding any real purchase with him, but the idea of going within and turning himself inside out was quite intriguing.
"Yes!", replied Jelf as his wild-eyed grin grew even larger.
"And Mumavinsky is going to allow you to do this?", asked Malfus.
"I don't know, but I'm about to find out.", Jelf finished as he took the first steps towards the room where the ceremony would be held.
Stepping through the curtained doorway, Malfus entered a large, circular room with hard wood floors and white walls. In the center of the room stood a low, glass table surrounded by soft cushions and on which was a collection of ritual implements, some candles, a metal gong, a collection of incense, a handful of crystals, a few assorted feathers, a white handled knife and what appeared to be a Metaplier. The Metaplier was a device used for harnessing and amplifying the psychic energies in a specific area. It emitted a low noise, not completely akin to the sound of a white-noise, wave generator and was covered in small lights flashing in near hypnotic patterns. Malfus had only seen one of these devices before; they were expensive and quite difficult to obtain. These White Lighters were not only running a lucrative operation, but they obviously had some pull to be able to acquire a device such as this one. Also on the table was a vase filled with fresh cut Petunias, their bright white petals offset by a deep red center; their pungent perfume mixing with the sage incense, adding a lighter, floral component to the air. Off to one side of the room was a sizeable floor rug, on which rested a series of luxurious pillows and a collection of musical instruments. This, obviously, was were the evening's musicians would be seated and on par with expectation, was located directly under the only heating vent to be found in the room. There were certain benefits to be had when one was the organizer of such an event.
Malfus casually wandered about the room and looked for a good place to settle in for the experience. He realized quickly that the space would be cramped as all fifty-something people shuffled in and began making arrangements of their pillows, cushions, chairs, blankets and assorted personal comfort items. Malfus pulled the small pillow from beneath his arm and made an observation that he was rather ill-prepared in comparison to the others. This one, small pillow was all that he had brought with him for comfort and in hindsight, he could have done significantly more. Finding a spot against the wall, Malfus squeezed himself between two men who appeared to have visited these circles before, on a number of occasions. To his left was an older male with salt and pepper hair and a stocky frame. For reasons which occurred later in the evening, Malfus would come to call him, the Mumbler. On the opposing right side, was a younger male with long, wild hair and a face mostly obscured by an full and unkempt beard. Malfus nicknamed this one, Shaggy.
"I've had more room on local, economy, shuttle flights", Malfus thought to himself as he wedged himself tightly between Shaggy and the Mumbler. He adjusted the small pillow beneath his backside and tried to find a comfortable position where he could use the wall for proper back support. On one side, Shaggy sat cross-legged and laid out an altar cloth on the floor. He pulled a bag from over his shoulder and from the same, he extracted a number of items which he carefully arranged on the cloth. A series of cards emblazoned with metaphysical artwork styles of the day, a small bell, three crystals and a small bowl, each seemed to have, in Shaggy's practice, their own particular import and location on the cloth. He appeared very intent and focused on getting his altar cloth arranged, just so. To Malfus's left, the Mumbler had just finished organizing his more bed-like arrangement. With a full length camp bed, blankets and soft pillows, the Mumbler was preparing for a night of blissful cocooning.
The collection of White Lighters and other assorted attendees were getting close to finalizing their arrangements when the White Lizard entered the room. Tall and narrow shouldered, he was dressed in old world, white robes that flowed behind him as he made his entrance. A white head scarf tied securely above his brow and rolled up on the sides, acted as a covering for a head which was otherwise bald. The White Lizard was known as the defacto leader of the White Lighters, but other than this vague fact, little else was known. There was much to be said, if one asked in the appropriate places, but Malfus considered this information to be little more than partisan slant or outright slander. By first accounts, Malfus took in the White Lizard as an unassuming and mild mannered sort. What Malfus didn't see and wouldn't discover until later, was another reason beyond simple finances which motivated the White Lizard in his endeavors. What Malfus could see, was where the name "White Lizard" had potentially come from. Besides the obvious nature of the flock and the penchant for all white garb, the man that had entered the room was of a specific shade of pale that stopped just short of translucent. Also, the odd ticks and expressions which rolled across his face, did little to stop one from jumping to the association of lizard-man.
The White Lizard's eyes bulged from their sockets and then receded again. His tongue darted out across his lips and his head cocked at peculiar angles as he strode around the room. Malfus wasn't keen to make his individual presence known just yet and that was easy enough to do with so many others fighting to gain the White Lizard's attention. There were smiles, warm yet slightly off setting, to those he recognized and more than one hearty hug. The more steadfast and eager of the White Lighters showed an obvious swooning as the White Lizard drew nearer to them. Some jumped to his side and reached to take his hands as if some mere contact with the man was enough to steady their restless souls. As the White Lizard drew near, Shaggy jumped to his feet and hugged him in such a way as to appear to wrap not only his arms, but his legs and even beard around the White Lizard and into a full embrace. The White Lizard's eyes bulged prominently as he worked his way loose from the over exuberant hug and continued around the room. Still others prostrated themselves before him as he reached down to touch them on their heads. This set off a small warning bell in Malfus's mind, but he shrugged it off and continued to chuckle to himself about the menagerie occurring before him. There were many hugs and Malfus began to see the lingering nature of those hugs when they involved any one of the more attractive young women who were in attendance. This set off a second warning bell in Malfus's mind. The third one wouldn't ring for some time yet.
The three musicians that would be playing that night, entered the room and took up their positions on the mountain of luxurious pillows piled beneath the heating vent. The White Lizard moved to the center of the room and knelt before the round, glass table. He made small arrangements to the ritualistic items there and spent some time in lighting more incense. His hand flicked across the Metaplier and made some adjustments to its settings. In response, the hypnotic patterns of lights appeared to speed up and the sounds coming from the device began to develop a rather discernible warble. He hummed mildly to himself as he did this. The musicians tuned and fussed over their instruments. The surrounding group of fifty-plus attendees went back to making adjustments to their cushions and personal ritual items. Malfus sat back against the wall, already beginning to feel the discomfort in his lower back. He scanned the room, this time not so intent on observing the people which filled it, but rather searching for any signs of the Mumavinsky. Malfus still had every intention of procuring some its secrets beyond just the act of drinking it.
It wasn't long before Malfus saw what he was looking for. A small door opened from the side of the room and two very attractive, young women entered carrying jugs of a viscous, dark brown liquid. They seemed to float across the room, with reverence in every step, as they approached the White Lizard. He motioned them to a high top table near the musicians' corner where they set the jugs down. Again, lingering hugs were given to each of the two women and Malfus could swear he saw the Lizard's hand stray briefly below their waist lines. Once released from their embraces, both of the women then took up positions within the seated circle around the room. The White Lizard turned his attention to the newly delivered vessels of liquid. He reached within his robes and pulled out a pre-rolled cigarette of some variety. Holding the cigarette in his right hand, he lit it from a candle on the table and inhaled deeply, rolled his head back and expelled the smoke through his nostrils. Again this did little to stave off the lizard-like references. He drew deeply on the cigarette again and this time leaned forward over the table, exhaled the smoke through pursed lips, blowing across the surface of the dark liquid that stood in the clear, glass jugs. At the last moment, Malfus saw the White Lizard tuck a small object from his left hand, back into the folds of his robe. It was a very quick glimpse, but Malfus recognized the outline and shape of a MystiBox.
The MystiBox had been created as a means to store enchantments, sorcery, summonings and such other mystical endeavors. A spell could be cast and rather than engaged immediately, it could be captured within the MystiBox for later activation. The uses were many, from protections and wards required at short notice, to the timely summoning of an appropriate date for the evening's festivities, the MystiBox was becoming a widely used device. Their arrival on the market had been fairly recent and like the Metaplier, were among a steadily growing list of products and devices offered by the upstart company, MystiSoft.
"Damn it!", Malfus screamed inside his head. There was no way that the White Lizard was going to risk performing the enchantment in front of an audience. Malfus knew that the chance of learning the secret behind the enchantment used on the Mumavinsky was next to impossible for now. He would just have to settle for acquiring a sample and doing a later study of its ingredients. Malfus rearranged plans in his head and prioritized the need to discover the secrets of the Mumavinsky somewhere just behind the desire to actually experience its effects.
"Brothers and Sisters," whispered the White Lizard, "welcome again to the Ceremony of Mumavinsky."
Malfus had the odd sensation that even though the White Lizard's words were uttered at barely a tone above a whisper, they had reached every corner of the room and the ear of every listener with the same clear and lyric qualities.
"We live tonight as a collective heart.", continued the White Lizard. "And sit united within the crucible. Together, we journey to meet Her and in so doing, we meet ourselves. Tonight we set sail on the oceans of the Ether, with myself as your captain, the musicians our helmsmen and each of you a valued member of the crew."
A wave of pleasured agreement swept through the room. Malfus felt a rush of excitement rise up from the base of his spine as he knew the time was drawing near that he too would know the effects of the Mumavinsky and perhaps even meet "Her".