“You’re not going to a council meeting wearing that,” Anna said as she handed me a cup of coffee and two aspirin.
“What?” I say, “these are my best jeans and my newest shirt.”
“I’ve meant to talk to you about your wardrobe for a while dude; it has to go.”
I just glare at her over the rim of my coffee cup; it helped a little. I might look good after replying the glamor after a shower and a nap, but I still felt like I was hit over the head with a gold brick wrapped in a lemon.
“That shirt is, at least, a year old, and your jeans look like an extra aggressive chinchilla attacked them. One of these days you’re going to come home to a bonfire of your shit.” Anna threatened, “I called V, and she dropped off a suit for you.”
I grumble noncommittally as I grab the garment bag that was draped over the sofa, and head back into my room to change. It is a very nice suit, that fit so well I wondered where they had gotten my measurements, and why they apparently had it on hand.
It came with a cream colored shirt and a black jacket, and the whole thing was silk, even the underwear. The cufflinks were rods of Asclepius with the staff replaced with a long stemmed lily. Appropriate although about a subtle as a hammer.
“Much better,” Anna says when I emerge, “you haven’t done you tie.”
“It’s possible I’m going to need to google that, I feel like I’m going to a funeral in this thing,” I reply heading to the office.
“Of course, you look like you’re headed to a funeral it’s a suit provided by a mortuary. Don’t bother with the tie, Matilda will be here soon she’ll do it for you.” Anna says.
“You shouldn’t make promises for other people,” I say, Anna’s right, of course, Matilda has been trying to get me to dress nicer for the last year, she would be ecstatic if I begged her for help with a tie. “Aren’t you going to change?”
Anna was wearing her usual hoodie and torn jeans; the jeans were slightly worse off than they had been yesterday. Her skateboard in the entrance way also appeared more scuffed than normal.
“How are you?”
“After last night, I just shot her a couple of times, but you had to fight. You doing ok?” I ask.
“Yeah, bright as rain she wasn’t all that powerful most souls don’t know how to put up a proper fight anyways.”
We stand around awkwardly on the verge of a moment when we’re interrupted by a knock on the door. “Perfect timing,” I say as I open it, do you know how to tie a tie?” I ask Matilda.
“Who are you and what have you done with Corvid?”
“Anna’s been threatening to burn my stuff, so I borrowed the suit from a friend,” I say.
Matilda takes the tie around my neck and doing it properly. “I know a tailored suit when I see one. How did you even afford it, I’ve seen your paychecks.”
“Turns out a reclusive group of monster hunters considers gifts to a novice healer a sound investment.” I answer grinning.
“You shouldn’t go around accepting favors from people like that Corvid. I made some calls about Garden View; no one knows anything about them. The consensus is to stay the hell out of their way; that’s even the advice Triss gave me.” Matilda warned.
“I know what I’m doing,” I answer smiling.
“I’m not so sure you do, they’re known to be associated with at least two dragons. Chinese ones, not the European ones.” She said.
“So we’ll have some power in our corner if we need it, I know every member of your cult has Triss on speed dial, and she could fight several dragons if she found any willing to fight her.” Anna cut in. She hadn’t yet crossed the threshold, so Matilda noticed her. “My kind deals with Garden View all the time; they’re mostly good people.”
“Oh, great an organization I can find no human members of regularly deals with death rattles I can’t detect unless literally inside their home,” Matilda growled.
“Shouldn’t we get going,” I say. Anna crosses the threshold heading for the van parked at the curb.
“Yeah, we have to head to Seattle,” Matilda said forgetting that she had just been talking to Anna. As convenient as it was it left a bad taste in my mouth to use Anna like that. “You’ve met Clarence, right?” She asked pointing to the driver.
Clarence was wearing a black suit like me, with short hair and pierced ears. He had conspicuous diamond studs and was probably one of the best-looking men I had ever seen. He had the body of a bouncer and the face of an angel. The first time I met him I wanted to be him, that desire had never changed.
“Also the head of our cult Lacy,” she was sitting the front passenger seat wearing a black ball gown. Her long blond hair was draped glamorously over her shoulder, and she wore a sparkly and probably expensive necklace. Behind her was Natalie looking a lot like Lacy.
I had met Natalie in our freshman year, she had invited me to a party I said I had to study for a test. Now she was a professional dominatrix, and I worked the IT help desk, I only regret it a little.
“Hi, Clarence, pleasure to meet you, Lacy, hello again Natalie how’s business?” I say getting into the back row of the van, Anna joins me with her skateboard. I have no idea why she thinks she might need it.
“Raging, I believe that it’s the shitty economy.” Natalie replies as Matilda sits next to her. “You look good.”
“It’s the makeup.” I reply, “where is the meeting anyways?”
“The foxes are hosting, so they have a big Japanese restaurant expect a lot of tofu,” Lacy answered. “If sake isn’t you thing the Lamia’s will be bringing wine.”
“No beer?” I ask.
“The Foxes don’t have a beer tradition, and the Lamia’s have made wine their thing. The Prometheans don’t participate in the oneupmanship, and we’re too new to have an alcohol tradition,” Lacy answered.
“How many people are coming?”
“About a hundred or so independents, twenty Prometheans, twenty to thirty Lamias and foxes they’ll have negotiated in advance and bring the same number of people,” Lacy said before adding, “unless the foxes want to start some shit again.”
“These are remarkably complete answers.”
“I was new once too,” she said. “Matilda told me you have a familiar, is she coming?”
“She’s sitting next to me.” All eyes turned to look at Anna but slid past her, unable to get a grip on her form. “Don’t bother looking, you won’t see her.”
“I wasn’t aware anything could hide quite so well in plain sight like that.” Natalie said.
“That’s the point,” I say before adding, “an almost perfect ability to disappear isn’t very useful if people know what to look for. People see through it all the time it just requires particular circumstances.”
No one in the van asked what these conditions were as we lapsed into silence. Anna pulled out her phone playing a game; Lacy did the same. Matilda was shooting me glances as I drew geometric shapes on the windows.
It took us forty minutes to reach Seattle V could have done it in ten, she didn’t worry about little things like speed limits. It took us another forty to get to the restaurant, it took up an entire city block and was surrounded by a red was. The building itself had those peaked roofs I associated with fancy old Japanese buildings.
Despite not knowing much about Seattle I figured it was the kind of place I would have at least heard of once. “It doesn’t even show up on google maps,” Anna responded to my confusion.
“Technically the building is fox owned, but all the defensive wards are based on hospitality. Eat the bread, drink the water, and it’s as neutral a territory as you can get.” Lacy said before I could ask. “Not even the Lamias question it anymore.”
“We have to enter separately,” Matilda added when we exited the van, and Clarence handed the keys to the valet. They headed in as I stood on the curb for five minutes.
“Someone just died.” Anna said.
I reached for a gun that wasn’t at my waist. “Inside?”
“No, to the west almost at the ocean. Sorry, I don’t think it has anything to do with us. It was violent, and unexpected.”
“How does that work anyways? Knowing when someone is going to die?” I ask.
“Depends, if it’s premeditated it’s easy, predetermined like cancer is even easier, car crashes are random and a pain in the ass the best predictor is weather and stuff. The one that happened just now, there was a murderer, but the victim was random.”
“Someone was going to die, just no way to tell who?”
“Something like that,” Anna answered. “I just get a feeling; you want specifics you need to ask the big man.”
“So Alvia?” Again a stab of annoyance, or hate from Anna, “She’s going to die, but the killer is undetermined?”
“Something like that, or the killer doesn’t know they’ll be killing her yet.”
“How does that work?” I ask.
“Contract hit maybe,” Anna said, “we should head in.”
Past the gate was a courtyard, one of those rock gardens with a meandering path through it. We were forced to walk back and fourth three times before reaching the front door. Inside was a girl in a red dress holding a tray of salty crackers and cups of water.
After me, an Anna partook in both she led us wordlessly down a hall into what had to be the main dining room. I was almost worried they would announce me or something, but after being ushered in, they just closed the doors behind me.
The Prometheans were the easiest to spot of course, not one of them under six feet tall. At the center of the room, I saw a kitsune in a black suit with four tails. Everyone else with either ignoring the tails or they didn’t notice.
“We’re death Corvid, seeing through the illusions of the living is what we do.” Anna said following my gaze. “The foxes must be in a playful mood tonight to send a familiar instead of a person.”
“What am I looking for here?”
“Anyone with a cheesy fake grin is a fox, the Lamias are the ones who look pissed off, the Prometheans are tall, and the independents are wearing cheaper suits.” Anna rattled off.
She wasn’t wrong everyone fell into those four categories except Lacy’s coven and me. A man built like a bear made his way towards me, when he got close enough, I saw a fire burning in his pupils.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you at one of these shindigs before; I’m Gerudman.”
“Corvid,” I say shaking his offered hand. “This would be my first meeting; I’m afraid I’m a bit out of my depth.”
“A fire spirit possesses him, can’t use magic makes a living as an MMA fighter. Independent, but rumor has it he’s engaged to a Lamia.” Anna said.
“Well you’re cutting it close to the wire, the reps are going to be holding their meeting any minute now.” Even as Gerudman spoke a silver bell rang, people started filtering through doors in the back.
Through them was something of a colosseum setup with a circular stage at the center. There were no seats just tiered levels, so I did my best to find a position as out of sight as possible in the back. With the last of us in the lights went out, with only the stage illuminated.
First to walk onto the stage was a broad shoulder woman, by the gray hair I would say in her sixties, by the lack of lines on her face I would say vain.
“That’s the Lamia Matriarch if you didn’t guess, yes she always looks that pissed off.”
Next was an eight-foot man. “Don’t know him, but he’s a Promethean no doubt.” Jacob apparently he Dullahan representative followed him up. Then they were left waiting for several minutes until a kid no more than ten pushed his way onto the stage. “Oh, the foxes feel like stirring some shit tonight.”