"We have been called witches, wizards, warlocks, charlatans, fakers and worse! We have been ridiculed, pigeon-holed, arrested, even tortured and murdered over the many, many years!" He was an ugly little lump of a man who no one would have given a second glance to in most arenas, but he possessed a charisma that couldn't be denied. His clothes were ill fitting, his head balding with brown hair combed over to give the illusion that he had more hair than he really possessed. His nose was big, he was clean shaven and at five foot four, he was at least forty pounds overweight. His eyes were brown, but they blazed with a passion that was unmistakable.
He was speaking from a podium on a small, raised stage in a small auditorium in the basement of an old, abandoned building in the heart of New York City. The room itself was almost painfully clean and the light was just perfect. If you had walked out of the auditorium, you would have immediately noticed that it was the cleanest room in the building and the only room that apparently had electricity.
He was speaking to a group of nearly fifty people, most of them with bored looks on their faces. They were dressed in various manners, from filthy, dirty clothes of people who apparently lived on the street to those dressed in high fashion. They were intermingled, with no class distinction, for there was none.
They were all equals, the man on the podium first among equals.
There was no fear that someone who didn't belong there would accidentally intrude. A zone of compulsion had been set around the entire basement, a zone that would intrude upon the consciousness of any who didn't possess the power to negate it and send them away not knowing why. They would walk off believing they had a dentist appointment or that their spouse was cheating on them or just a bad, bad feeling that the building was finally going to collapse, taking them with it.
A man dressed in rags with a shock of gold hair on his head and a three day beard scattered across his chin called out. "Why'd you call us here, Larry?"
The speaker rubbed a large hand across his face in agitation. "I wish you wouldn't call me that, my name is Lawrence!"
"Lawrence, Larry, what's the difference? Why did you call us here? We hate speeches and we know yours to a tee! You know it, we know it, so what?"
"He's right, Lawrence," a heavy, impeccably dressed older woman of indeterminate age spoke up. Her heavy coat just barely concealed her enormous bulk and her voice carried an authority that made several men, including Lawrence, wince at the sound of it. Her hair spoke of decades of training by old fashioned curlers and not one speck of gray dared to intrude into those manufactured locks. "We know your speeches and I had plans for tonight. The Circle is closed, get on with it!" Her voice held a tone of absolute command.
A seemingly ancient man with a long, hooked nose and bright blue eyes stood up at the front of the room and turned to face the people.