Season 3 oneshot. Related to The Poet (chapter 11 in the Shorts) and The Hero's Villain.
The Skulk and Lurk was quiet tonight, quieter than normal. Friday nights were usually reserved for gothic poetry but very few aspiring poets were volunteering their works tonight. Paradoxally, the bookstore was full of people. Quiet goths sipping coffee or scratching in sketchbooks, flashy punks attempting to look badass, neo-victorian fetishists lurking in the back, the one balding guy in dark blue robes mumbling about the Marsh Legacy...
The bookstore was full. But the stage was empty. Everyone knew why but no one voiced it.
It was the last friday of the month. And yet The Raven wasn't here yet.
Nobody knew who The Raven really was or where he came from. He always wore a satin waistcoat over a lace shirt. A long tailcoat over it all. He favored dark colors with light pastel accents. "Shadows and dust" he always described it as. Usually a cravat or a scarf or something much more interesting than a simple tie. A top hat with a velvet band that always matched his waistcoat. And a mask.
No one knew his name. He answered to The Raven, always had since the very first time he came in with a black feathered mask. Over time that mask grew more ornate, more literal. Now he was expected in a raven's mask with a long black beak, shining sequins around the eyes, and luxurious black feathers all over his face. Single black feathers were even expected in the band of his top hat.
And he wasn't here yet. He was late. The Raven was never late.
"Kinda quiet tonight," Danny said.
"Shush," Sam scolded.
Danny rolled his eyes and looked around the Skulk and Lurk. Sam had conned him into a poetry reading. Or blackmailed, depending on how he thought of it. Maybe bribed; this bookstore did have good coffee. Really good coffee. And Sam promised to buy so here he was, sipping some huge whipped cream and swirled coffee-hot chocolate monstrosity through a straw. It even had sprinkles, black and purple ones shaped like cute little bats.
The place was packed. He'd never seen it so full of people before. Yet the stage was empty. It didn't feel like any other poetry reading he'd ever been to, no, this felt like a performance. A stage play. A concert.
A murmur circled the bookstore, a murmur that began before Danny even got his coffee. The Raven was late. The Raven was never late. What gives? He might not even show up. Where is he? Where's The Raven?
And then the murmurs stopped. In the doorway stood a man in a top hat.
Danny was honestly surprised that his ghost sense wasn't going off. The man wore a mask over most of his face. Only his mouth, his chin, and a finely shaped goatee were uncovered by the big black mask with a long sharp beak. Tiny iridescent feathers graced the eyes of the mask. Those eyes seemed to stare directly into Danny's own. He swallowed nervously before taking another gulp of his drink.
"There he is," Sam whispered. "The Raven. Oh, he's so good. He's been coming here in a mask for at least a year. Nobody knows who he is."
"Shhh," hissed a nearby voice.
The Raven stalked up to the stage like he knew it was for him. The impossibly dark green satin waistcoat shone in the lights. His black tailcoat drifted behind him like the feathers of a bird's tail. The light green lace cravat at his throat bobbed as he swallowed heavily. He seemed almost nervous today, a strange turn of events. Even more strange, those blank eye holes seemed focused on one point rather than scanning the room in quiet contemplation. Something was different about tonight. Something that made Danny's skin crawl as he realized The Raven was looking right at him.
Finally The Raven took a deep breath and bowed his masked head. The beak pointed down at the stage before rising again as he began to speak.
"The light sees," said The Raven.
"The light sees nothing.
Hide in the light
hide among the awake
they don't see
they never see
not in the light
But I see you."
Goosebumps raised all over Danny's arms. It felt like The Raven was talking directly to him.
"The darkness sees," said The Raven.
"The darkness sees all.
Fly in the night
fly through the sky
they see all
they see nothing
they see the night
But I see you."
Danny's mouth hung open. Nobody else in the room seemed anywhere near as affected as he was. But then The Raven didn't seem to notice anyone else at all as he spoke directly to Danny.
"The shadows between," said The Raven.
"The shadows see.
Play in the shadows
play among the dead
play here, child
they know you
they are you
and you are them
But I still see you."
The Raven bowed his head. Even so Danny could still feel his eyes, still staring, still accusing. Still... knowing...
The goths around them all bowed their heads in respect for the poet onstage.
Danny fled the bookstore. This 'Raven'... He was talking directly to him. He was never going to another poetry reading with Sam ever again. That was just too creepy.