The Great Donaldo
Dressed in a coat, bowler hat, vest, and carrying his doctor bag and cane, The Great Donaldo appears ready to get to business – his original business of communing with the spirits of loved ones lost.
Today, however, Donaldo is his original self as much as his notebook of poetry reads like a coherent story:
At some time in his 16 years roaming the Underdark, the binding broke, and his mental pages were shuffled.
He now carries with him the souls of others who roamed, a mystic who not only communicates with those of past lives, but embodies their personalities as well.
“If you’ll allow me just a moment,” Donaldo said, rolling his sleeves to his elbows. “I need absolute silence to commune with the spirits.”
He thought this seance had been set up particularly well. He made quite the show of setting up candles and stones at varying heights around the room, scratching notes in a book about their ‘power’ and ‘aura locations’. The furniture was pushed back against the walls and in front of drapes drawn tight over windows, leaving room in the center for a wide circular table and five chairs – “To focus the energies on solely us, and them,” he assured. “We wouldn’t want any spirits getting turned around at the chaise lounge.”
Once he waited long enough, Donaldo risked a peek at his audience. William and Elinor Costigan, his title-bearing hosts, sat directly across from him. Their heads bowed and holding onto one another’s hands tightly, Donaldo saw Elinor lean as if to whisper something to William, then think better of breaking the group silence, and closed her already red eyes tighter. To Donaldo’s immediate left and right sat two of their friends: Mary Von Trotha and Rufus Yarwood, two other prominent names floating about the City of Mists.
On the table laid open a few notebooks. Mostly full of pictures of concentric circles, gypsy symbols he had seen on circus caravans, and sketches of darkened human forms, Donaldo used them for props in his act: to ‘commune’ with the dead, something he simply could not do. Although wealthy families would approach him in droves, sign onto waiting lists months in advance and reserve his ‘services’ the moment a loved one passed, Donaldo’s truest gifts sat in a small leather bound notebook on his lap: his book of poetry.
He had learned over the years that his words carried power, and such words (when strung together in different fashions) changed how people felt, and how people acted. A well placed rhyme might bring a man a certain chip in his step. A quietly uttered jab might bring a woman to tears, especially when she couldn’t find the source. A whispered word of encouragement to the sick may bring them back from the brink. ‘If this isn’t the purest form of real Magic,’ he thought to himself on a dark night. ‘I should write this down, and create a name for myself.’
Donaldo understood now to be the time to act, the mood and tone of the room had thinned to a delicate tension, he had set up his host and hostess like pins ready to be bowled down by the ‘contact’ with their lost William Junior. He flipped through his poems for the finisher – when a new rhyme came to mind. A smile crept across his lips in the candlelight, and he tried to contain himself before any of the others opened their eyes. ‘Yes, tonight I’ll try something new.’
“A summer’s moon, on a winter’s night,
come now to us boy, delay not in fright.
Your mother and father do wait for you here,
to tell you of sweet things, they hold you so dear.
The power of five, we points of the star,
thy forces of nature, from near and from far.
We summon you, spirits, now rise and hear me!
Arise from your slumber, let William be free!"
Donaldo shook his head and shouted as usual, the theatrics rising with each line of his verse, but just as he finished his final line and prepared to mutter his usual sound effect poems, a gust blew about the room and doused all the candles: Donaldo was unexpectedly plunged into darkness.
His heart began to race as he realized the jig was up. ‘Someone in the room must have figured out my game,’ he thought to himself. He looked around and tried to remember every session he had hosted before. Had he not properly vetted the attendees this time? Was this a repeat from long ago, and they noticed his patterns?
“You dare commune with one such as I?” replied a deep voice within the darkness. Donaldo tried to focus on who was saying it. Was it Sir Costigan? Lady Costigan couldn’t produce such a deep voice, could she? He heard no other sound but the hushed breaths of others at the table, yet he needed determine who had found him out.
“It is I, the Great Donaldo,” he said confidently. “It is I who summoned you here, spirit, and it is I who shall ask the questions.”
A low rumble of a laugh came from the darkness. “You speak of power, human,” the voice said. “Yet do you not see it is I who seems to have found you?”
The candle directly in Donaldo’s front lit again, and he saw the others still sitting about him with their hands linked, their eyes closed. He stared at each of them intently, none making telling motions for turning this seance on its head.
“It’s most entertaining watching you struggle,” the voice said again, the candle extinguishing once more. “However, I grow bored of small audiences with small minds.”
“Enough! I will not accept this disrespect!” Donaldo shouted, standing from his seat. He crossed the room and threw open the drapes, allowing a cold moonlight to illuminate the room behind him. “You’ll not be getting a refund for this session, if that is what you are after. And so far as per my name, Sir Costigan, I will not allow you to smear one such as myself, who offers as unique a service such as I offer-”
“Now this is interesting,” the voice interrupted. “He thinks one of the others have figured out his gift. Tell me, ‘great’ Donaldo, to whom do you think you speak?”
Donaldo turned to face the table once more, yet he could not believe the scene laid in front of him. The room, still cloaked in darkness as if the drapes hadn’t been opened, danced in candlelight once more. Five people sat around the table, holding hands with heads bowed, and yet at the head of it all he saw himself: The Great Donaldo remained in his chair, book of poetry in his lap, head lolled back and eyes opened to the sky.
“This, this cannot be,” he stammered, taking a step back from the table. His hand fell upon what he thought to be a chair, but he felt the cool touch of wet stone. He turned around once more to see a large, glowing, crystalline city. The deep voice once again boomed, this time within his head.
“It is you who communed with me,
but I who summon you.
and give audience to Amandagalla.”
Donaldo awoke to a hand on his shoulder.
“I do say, my dear boy, I do say. I see why they call you the Great!” Sir William Costigan proclaimed, easing Donaldo back into his seat as he attempted to rise with a start. “I can’t possibly pay you enough for the experience of speaking with our boy one final time.”
“Your boy?” Donaldo asked, rubbing his forehead. “But what of that deep voice? What of Amandagalla?”
The others looked back at him with confusion. Lady Costigan dabbed at her eyes with a kerchief, crying over a smile while Mary Von Trotha hugged her shoulders. Rufus Yarwood offered him a small glass with a cigar in his hand.
“Perhaps you simply need a drink, young man,” he said. “Communication that deep must truly take it out of you.”
“No, you don’t understand,” Donaldo insisted, snatching his leather book of poetry, hat, and coat. He snapped his doctor bag closed, and made for the door.
“Hold on, dear boy!” Sir Costigan called. “You haven’t been compensated yet! Allow me to pay you!”
“I believe I’m needed, yes, I’m needed. You didn’t hear Him, the voice,” Donaldo said, leaving the door open behind him. “I’m needed in the Crystal City.”