Nica turned down the proper street and found the door she’d been informed of. It looked plain and simple, no different than any other door on the street. But, that was the point. With a moment’s thought, she tapped the lintel stones in the pattern she’d been told.
As the door closed behind her, Nica found herself not in a building, but on a wide pedestrian street.
Looking as she walked, she decided the Four Corners was quaint. It had a certain Old World feel, reminiscent of the nicer parts of 18th century London, she thought. But rather cleaner. Better sanitation. The whole place couldn’t have been more than two centuries old, though.
Nica consulted her mental map, as she took in the cacophony of sounds and scents while weaving along the crowded street. The place could give the City of London a run for its money in terms of foot traffic.
After a short distance, she spotted the street. First right. Twycross.
Nica scanned storefronts as she walked the less congested avenue. Most appeared to be printers and writers, professional researchers and private tutors.
But, there, nestled between an antique dealer and a scryer, was the place she sought.
House Ross’s office.
The House was younger than her, but it paid to follow the niceties and rituals. Kept shtriga from killing each other. Mostly.
She opened the royal blue door set in a whitewashed frame.
Inside, a young man sat behind a heavy mahogany desk.
He smiled brightly when she walked in.
“Welcome to House Ross. I am Lucien del Rio. How may we help you?”
“Nica Radcliffe. I’ll be visiting for a good week. Just paying my respects to . . . Harrison Ross.”
“Excellent! There is, of course, no need to see Lord Ross directly. Just sign this book here, with your expected purpose of visit and anticipated length of stay.”
As Nica wrote, he continued.
“House Ross has no feuds, and is completely neutral, politically speaking. As such, violence against shtriga and non-shtriga alike is forbidden, except in clear cases of self-defense. Have you seen the brochure?”
He handed Nica a tri-fold pamphlet.
“Panel two has all the places where shtriga are allowed to feed. Do you have lodging? No? No matter. Panel three lists some places that are shtriga friendly. The back lists the office’s open hours as well as business and after-hours contact information, should you have any trouble or questions.”
Nica simply stared in silence.
In nearly five centuries of life on two continents, traveling to hundreds of House territories, she had never been through an introduction so . . . business-like. It felt like a chamber of commerce greeting, not that of a House of blood drinking immortals.
The Lucien’s suit and the décor hit her.
Blend in and set the mortals at ease.
“Any questions? Or anything we ca do to help?”
Nica shook her head, both clearing cobwebs and answering.
“No. I think that will do. Thank you, Lucien. Oh. Does Lord Ross meet visitors anywhere? A little old fashioned, I know, but . . .” she shrugged depreciatingly.
“Not at all, Lady Radcliffe . . . Nica. He does spend time at the first restaurant on the list on Tuesdays, usually one to four in the afternoon.”
“Thank you,” Nica said, before turning to escape.