So, after the seven-fold circle was taken down (and I hauled my mind out of my grandmother's favorite gutter) the rest of the formal introductions were made by Grand Master Grey. The one who had quizzed Auntie was Sister Victory Anne of the Sisters of Perpetual Vigilance, the exorcist we were to escort back. Then the flare I caught from Auntie when the Grand Master introduced me to Master Sorcerer Lord JohnQuetzal de Moctessuma du Mechicoe almost made me chuckle. Ooh, yes; it had been a long time since she had been home.
However, as the final ward of the circle was dismissed, there was an odd feeling, something akin to a cat rubbing against the leg, insistent that you pet them. Not threatening, particularly - except there were hundreds of them. "Hum... Auntie?"
She turned, and wore a puzzled expression at my distress, and then realization dawned. "Oh, you had better put your city wards up, dear! The members of the colleges will be curious about you, no doubt."
Sister Victory Anne nodded, "You're a bit empathic, yes? I'd suggest using your best shields before you leave the building." She held out her hand, palm up, "I can help, if you wish." I managed to keep myself from grabbing her hand as if I were drowning, it would not be polite. It was weird, her shields were like nothing I or my parents had learned, but they worked in concert with the ones I had learned from Mama, Father and Da. She gave me a little smile, and murmured, "I think I'd like to learn the styles you have been taught, if we have the time."
Good thing I had put up the battle-shields, because the next thing I knew, Grand Master Grey had tucked my other hand in the crook of his elbow, and smiled down at me. "We shall have to run the gauntlet of the curious to reach the office, and from there, a carriage to the townhouse," and he nodded for the arms-men to open the doors. "They will have a short gawk, and you might sense some nebulous fears in the lower classes, but I do not think there should be any direct attacks this early."
The crowd outside was expectant, the tone of the sonorous murmuring much like a sedate church social or a garden party. Grand Master Grey paused on on the top step, ostensibly to allow our group to assemble in order, but he covertly scanned the crowd and nodded, before we descended the steps. He did not raise his voice above a conversational level, saying as we stepped from the stoop to the flagstones of the plaza, "How wonderful that the students are all so far ahead in their studies to make a fair-weather day a midweek festival." I chuckled softly as the crowd seemed to melt away, and not just the students, but everyone who had assembled there. He had made sure we paused long enough for everyone there got a good look at me, and saw that I was flanked by himself and the Sister. The man had a good eye for crowd control and rumor management. It also made me appreciate why Auntie had made me change into my dress uniform.
Really dense of me, I know, but I thought we would be in and out in an hour or so. Now I was not so sure. I hadn't thought that we would be greeted by such curiosity, but that's what living in Steelhead had taught me. Everyone has a story, if it is fantastic or not, and you might eventually learn it if you are patient. This quiet assembly was a blessing; it showed me that yes, a gestalt of human/demon/construct/guardian spirit just might be considered just a bit odd in some places. I also realized that it was a gift to have this revelation without the torches and pitchforks, which might have occasioned an incident that would be considered a detriment to diplomatic relations. Personally, I was glad to avoid anything like that, because that would have meant I wouldn't be asked back for any New Year celebrations. I did want to be able to return, my aunt's strange attitudes towards formal cuisine aside.
By the position of the sun, I guessed the hour to be mid morning, just at the start of the business day by local custom, though Mama would have likely been at her desk hours already. As we crossed the campus, we were paced by students and professors, ostensibly on their way to classes or studies, but the curiosities pressed in on my armor. There was one sharp shove to my shields, and the Grand Master glared in the direction of the push, at the gentleman in decidedly religious robes. I murmured, "So, am I an adequate bird-dog, sir?"
We passed under a portico to the grand entrance of the building I hoped was our destination, and he chuckled. "Not my intention, but it does bring out the snakes. Ah, here we are..." and he led us into the library on the ground floor. Everyone settled, and I counted myself lucky to find a backless chair available when invited to sit. The Grand Master then addressed Auntie, "Now, Master Sorcerer Lady Kitlalmina - your reports have been exceedingly interesting, when they arrive, but that does not tell us why you need the services of an exorcist specifically from the Order. Please elucidate."
Auntie winced at the oblique chastisement concerning the frequency of her reports, but her answer to the last order was clear and firm. "Sir, I have landed in a nest of those whose curiosity is boundless. Whether they be clerics, scientists, law-keepers or practitioners from other disciplines, they are all the most inquisitive magicians in their fields." She thought a moment more, and commented, "In all honesty, they are a pride of cats,rushing to discover what that thing over there might be." Then she muttered, "And much like cats, herding them in the direction you wish them to go is nigh impossible alone."
Sister Victory Anne nodded, "This explains much. Not nearly enough, but it is a start. Please continue."
Back in the swing
7 months ago