The events of the last few days had left me mentally drained. Dealing with the consequences of Ankou’s activities weighed heavily and I needed to think, so I grabbed my coat and decided to wander, take in some fresh air and stretch my legs.
I walked without any real destination, all the while thinking about my next steps. I chuckled and thought that the first step should involve coffee. Finding a coffee shop nearby, I ordered and went to pay, reaching into my pocket. I drew out a handful of coins and a familiar looking business card. Damn, I’d completely forgotten about that.
Handing over the money, I took my hot drink and left still looking at the card. It could not have been coincidence; fate is often not subtle at all. The next steps became clearer in my mind. I recalled some advice that Sean often quoted when instructing his team: “Don’t let your past mistakes distract you. Acknowledge you fucked up, move on to the next objective.”
I felt it was time to speak to her again.
Setting off in the direction of the address listed on the card, I remembered the conversation I had with the mysterious woman. I turned the card over and was surprised to see a date and time neatly printed on the back which I had not noticed before. It was today’s date, and twenty minutes from now. I took that as proof of my readiness to seek her out.
A short time later, I arrived at a building in the vicinity of Waterloo Train Station, a small pub called the Hole in the Wall. Trusting my instincts, I went inside and sat at the bar, asking the barman for a pint.
I didn’t have to wait long. Halfway through my drink and precisely on time, she walked in and took the unoccupied stool next to mine.
I spoke first. “Can I get you a drink?”
“Certainly. White wine, please.” I flagged the barman and requested a moderately pricey chardonnay which he then placed before her. She took a sip. “Good choice,” she said.
She then took several moments to collect her thoughts, just like she did during our last meeting as if she were listening to a tune outside of normal human hearing.
“What do you know about the House?” she asked, breaking out of her revery.
“Not much,” I answered. “Mostly hearsay that the House seems to be omniscient when it comes to matters of the city.”
She nodded and said, “We are geomancers of kind, and at our core we follow a thing called Ariadne’s thread. Since the beginning of the House it has been believed that people, both sleepers and awakened, have congregated around hubs of power, no matter the type. This in turn creates what a city is: a living, breathing entity with a conscience that only the most attuned can fathom.”
I listened attentively, drinking in her words. She went on.
“By following the threads, we can begin to see how the city was shaped, where the foci of power lay, why certain events unfolded as they did. This helps us interpret the will of the city and guide it’s future. It also aids us when we wish to uncover the secrets of the city, whether that be an item, or agenda or person wishing to remain hidden. The city tells no lies.”
She flashed me a smile. “The threads the city wishes to show us may not be the easiest or the swiftest, but they are the surest, for those who can see them. You seem to have been following them subconsciously. Your recent navigation of London has indicated some proficiency.”
I nodded in agreement. “Sometimes it has been a gut feeling, other times it was sheer luck or good timing.”
“The important thing,” she interrupted, “Is that you found what you were seeking. The House would have you, should you wish to join and if you pass the first of many tests.”
I was expecting something of the sort. “You have a trial?”
“Yes. For any mage to be accepted into the House, they must first demonstrate that they can see the threads within the city and follow them for a lengthy period of time, usually several hours.” She looked at me inquisitively. “Do you feel you are up to such a task?”
“Only one way to find out,” I answered, a wry smile on my face.
“Very well.” She finished her wine and stood up. “Follow me please.”
I got up and followed her outside and up the street towards York Road. We turned right and came to a very large roundabout with a theater in the center and Waterloo Road intersecting.
“You shall begin here. You shall travel her threads, wherever they may take you. You shall take as much time as you feel you need to. Good luck.” She stepped back and waited patiently.
I made a small bow to her, and then began focusing my attention outwards. Activating my time and fate sights, I felt the familiar heat scale of time wash over my eyes, while ever changing glimmerings of golden fate sparkled before me. Studying my surroundings carefully, I just barely noticed a thin, translucent gold line meandering like a tiny stream beneath my feet. I began to follow it. She gave no signs as to whether she had noticed what I saw or not, but she followed and remained silent.
It undulated like a snake through the city and I followed it doggedly, visiting famous landmarks as well as nondescript places with no immediate significance. However, with each place visited, I felt a slight thickening of the thread and saw it becoming more solid and less sinuous. I stopped at each occurrence and observed the city around me, noticing finer details.
I followed the thread for what seemed like an eternity, becoming so focused on my task that I failed to notice the setting of the sun.
Without warning, the thread abruptly ended a what looked like a loose ball of yarn in the middle of a small grassed area. I’d found a knot. I sat down before it and gazed intently at it’s convoluted windings. The ball pulsed strongly and I did not move for a time. Instead, I felt with my sense of time and was awed by the immense age and weight of the city and its numerous happenings.
When I thought I had seen all I could see, I released my mage sight, regained my feet, and turned. She stood two steps away, grinning like a Cheshire cat. I had completely forgotten that she was there.
She stepped forward to embrace me in a hug, and then kissed both of my cheeks. “Welcome to the House of Ariadne. My name is Silverbow, and I will be your guide. You did exceptionally well. Very few see as clearly as you have on their first attempt.”
I began to ask a question, but she put a finger to my lips and hushed. “Shhhh. All will be revealed in due time. For now, keep that card close. It will alter itself with the details of our next meeting.”