Sunday, October 19, 2008 (added to through Monday, November 3, 2008; edited through Friday, November 7, 2008)
I had a dream last night. Closer to this morning actually.
I believe it involved, of all things, a ward activity. But it was unlike any ward activity I had ever attended.
I was with the ******** **** Twelfth Ward, and we had all been invited to attend a banquet at the palace of an Emperor.
The road to the Emperor's palace began in the valley below. There was a quaint little town, charming, like something in the Alps. The sun shone most days, the grass was long and green or yellow-grey, and large white boulders adorned the hillsides in majestic cascades.
The road wound up from the town in the valley, into a smaller canyon toward what I believe was the north. The canyon was not very long, but it was rather steep, maybe thirty degrees from horizontal. The large, gravelly road switched back eleven times before it reached the top.
The palace itself stood near the summit of the little mountain. There were higher, grander mountains round about, and other dips and valleys all around. But this spot seemed to have suited the Emperor's family just fine as the place to build their dwelling. It was high and airy enough, and close to the town besides. And the view must have been lovely anyway. But the surrounding grandeur could not be seen just now. For it was night, and we were all inside.
The décor inside the palace was magnificent. Even the very walls were, of themselves, quite beautiful. The lower three-and-a-half feet were of a dark, stately wood, stained to perfection. This lower portion was sectioned off into raised panels, bordered on top by a thin, handsome shelf of intricate moulding, the perfect height for resting your hand. Between every few of these panels, a wooden pillar, stained and carved in like manner to the rest, rose from floor to ceiling. Segmented by the pillars, the upper portion of the wall was a light, neutral beige color, slightly textured with a very small, hatching sort of pattern. Beautiful portraits and ornaments hung in the beige spaces, interspersed with ornate candelabras bolted to the wall. The floor was of dark wood as well, though a little ruddier in color. Comely mats and rugs ran the lengths of hallways and corridors. They covered the wide centers of foyer floors or lay within alcoves wherein stood vases and carved statues. Tall, ornate lamps stood here and there, especially around and behind a lustrous sort of reception area near the entrance. The support beams were very thick there, and kind-looking maids stood at the ready. The ceiling above was dark with woodwork, mirroring the floor. Rafters gave a cozy atmosphere.
These were just the chambers and corridors near the entrance.
And our home ward had been invited to this beautiful place for a banquet.
I can't remember what the occasion was. Did our ward instigate this, or had we among many other people been externally invited by this Emperor for something unique? I honestly can't remember. All I can remember is that it was all certainly the most grandiose ward activity I had ever attended.
Dinner would be served in the main dining hall. Servants showed us in. The stewards and staff were dressed in simple, comely clothing. The men were dressed in a very dark color, the burgundy closest to black. The women were dressed in maid's clothing, likewise lacy-white-on-burgundy. The younger servants, or at least the one young servant I remember, were dressed all in white.
As we were led down the hallways I took in all the wonderful artistry and architecture. I also noticed that along most of the corridors there stood a few of what appeared to be tall, thin umbrella stands against the wall. They looked like barrels, slightly bowed and with dark-steel or iron bands ribbing them near the top and bottom. Strange-looking hooked handles stuck out of the tops of these containers.
We rounded through a large set of wooden double-doors on the right side of the corridor, and entered the room where we would spend the evening. The main dining hall was a very large room in or near the center of things in the palace. If the palace had been a stake center, this room would have been the cultural hall.
The room was rectangular. The two shorter walls had a door at each end, and were symmetrical to each other. The short walls also each had a squarish protruding bit near the middle, to allow for the alcoves in the hallways beyond. These walls were shaped and paneled like the ornate walls around the entrance, but painted mostly to a light cream with a very tame country-blue trim, instead of stained. Perpendicular to these, one of the long walls was built mostly of brick, painted white; and it did, in fact, have a stage, just like in a cultural hall. Its drawn curtain was black, and its carpet that requisite shade of speckly-blue, all above the familiar wooden edge and storage cupboards beneath. The door we entered through was closest to stage-right. Opposite the stage, the other long wall was comprised of a series of very wide, tall panels that looked like dividers, as though we were only occupying a portion of a much larger room. The dividers went from the floor all the way to a groove in the ceiling. The ceiling was high, and also lighter in color. The floor was one immense network of tatami. Tall, exotic potted plants stood here and there around the protruding parts of the short walls, and by the stage. Elegant lamps stood in many corners. They were crafted of blue-hued, ornate metalwork, with shapes like tendrils and leaves and flowers crawling up their central poles. They cast a scanty few yellowy lumens about for a very soothing effect. There were softer lights from the ceiling as well, and from the dark-wooded doorframes and rafters in the corners. Different colors, blues and reds. All the lights were low, the atmosphere reminiscent of that in a homely, familiar restaurant. Comfortable.
It was probably appropriate, given that we were going to be eating in here.
We grouped into families and circles of friends, and sat on the floor. The tatami was pleasant and gave ever so slightly. The servants brought the food. I don't remember the menu, but it was all delicious, and expensive I'm sure.
The Emperor sat upon a throne near the wall of divider panels. He was near the center of the wall, and perhaps eight feet out from it, facing the rest of us. His eyes were calm and collected, and a long fu-manchu beard and moustache fell down his chest. His attire was very noble, and very fine, so that the sweeping layers seemed almost as extensions of his own body. Kimono and hakama and all, I think, with a katana sheathed at his right side. And he wore a kingly, oriental hat. The layers of clothing closest to his skin that we could see were soft and natural-looking whites; and he wore a lot of subdued blues. Royal-looking, but not obtrusively so. Blues and greys, with trimmings of black and off-white and little bits of gold and other colors. He looked a right civilized lord of the East.
I don't remember seeing any tables near him. Did he eat? Perhaps one of his manservants stood by with the meal on hand. Something easily and gracefully eaten in public.
Brighter lights, white ones, shone down from the ceiling, lighting up where the Emperor sat, as well as a large area before him. This was where the entertainment took place.
There were musicians, and jugglers, and performers of mild acrobatics, all in fanciful oriental attire.... I remember brocaded clothing, and parasols.... It was really wonderful. The entire set-up and the whole evening were, really. We were together with family and friends, the air was relaxed, people moved freely between their circles of company to catch up with each other.... There was nothing uniform about the seating arrangement. You could sit wherever you liked. If someone came over and wanted to join you, you could just widen your circle. And the servants kept everyone fed regardless. It was all the same tatami floor. It was.... kind of fun, that way. I enjoyed it.
The palace was a very rich sight to take in; there was plenty to talk about. I conversed with my family and friends, and with servants-in-passing. This Emperor seemed to have nearly everything he needed right here at his disposal. Fine food and drink, no doubt grown and fattened here on his land, enchanting entertainment, a host of servants and stewards and maids.... this beautiful palace. Alone on top of this little mountain, it seemed almost completely self-sustaining.
And so we ate and talked, and talked and ate, and watched the performers and listened to the music. Splendid.
There was a snapping, zapping sound. I was near the corner, near the door by stage-right. I looked up. A small burst of bright blue and purple sparks erupted near the middle of the floor. A blazing, lightning-barbed ring of electricity, the diameter of a grapefruit, down on the tatami. It vanished, then erupted again a fraction of a heartbeat later, several feet closer to the performers and the Emperor.