The larger than what was necessary store that Ami took us to for her ink not only had the supplies and human customers browsing, but a few netjeri and spirits of boredom pacing about the aisles. I was wondering why they hadn’t taken Nerull-7’s route of replicators for such things when an unusual spirit turned the corner in front of us. Ami didn’t say anything as a spirit of writing in a bird form with a pen in its beak crossed her path on the way to the register. Either she was trying hard to ignore it or the medication she said she took was in effect.
I shook my head at her, but noted the blessing as we finished in the store and boarded a bus to Franklin Street.
“I would have taken you to the art museum, but it’s a bit late for that,” Ami said as she looked at her datapad-like device. “And you’ve seen some of campus already. Best to just walk around the most touristy spot in town to get a feel for it.”
“It will certainly help me to navigate after I talk to the local air,” I said, descending the bus’ stairs to the pedestrian walkway.
Ami looked at me like I had said something off. “What do you mean?”
“I am a sylph, a Danannian made of air. I communicate with my element to know the area’s likes and dislikes, to gather glamour energy, and to cast glamours through it,” I said, surprised she hadn’t the knowledge on my kind. “It is how I can affect the mortal world without needing to be manifested.”
“Then why do you need me?” Ami snapped as we turned a corner and found ourselves in an open air older part of town that was yet to be filled to the brim with people.
“As I have said before, there is a limit to what I can do on my own when in a world. The casts of glamour take time to come into effect when bridging the veil, which is critical in many situations, like when I rescued you. Had I relied on the bridging method, you would have been dead before the tornado descended. Then I would have to both deal with your angry soul, the paperwork, and most likely a scolding by Lady Nit. Your presence, therefore, will help me navigate this area better than I can alone.”
Ami looked disturbed at the thought. “You couldn’t prepare beforehand?”
I shook my head and stepped to avoid an awning post. “I do not have the magic of clairvoyance, and cannot manipulate time. That is Chokoris’ specialty, the irritating djinn.”
She gave me a trying look as we passed through a crowd. “Is this djinn as irritating as seeing spirits when you don’t want to?”
I glared at her. “Do not disparage your gift. The protector of yours I talked to when I went to negotiate said your gift is inherited and the bloodline has it for a reason. They would not tell me more, and said to speak to you about why you dislike seeing.”
She huffed and sat down on a bench near a fountain. “If I tell you, you must tell me a bit more about yourself.”
“Very well, but you will not be getting my true name out of this,” I said, my habit of dodging that question showing.
Ami nodded. “What do you mean by true name?”
“Everything and everyone has a true name that the gods have given them. It is their essence, and while some come to learn it, like the King of Kemet and my people once they reach adulthood, many do not. In a way, it may be safer for them.” I sat upon the flowerbed wall. “A question for a question. How come you dislike your gift so much?”
“I could see spirits since I was a child, you know,” she said and looked at her lap. “I was bullied for it, and even my parents hated it. Then I was diagnosed with schizophrenia after…something horrible. I don’t want to think of that night.”
I could sense the traumatic emotions flowing off of her. “It is alright if you don’t want to go into detail.”
“The appointment I went into today was a reevaluation of my diagnosis, since it has been nearly a decade. I see my therapist in two weeks for the results.” She shifted her gaze to look at me. “So who is Chokoris?”
“He is a djinn, and one of my coworkers,” I said and crossed my arms. That hothead always tried to rile me up when we weren’t on a mission. “There are three of us at the rank I am at, and if you ever see either of them with me, you should know that all of this universe is in jeopardy. Especially if it is all three of us.”
Ami’s eyes went wide.
“Now my turn for a question. Why do you study to uphold the law?’
“I want to make the world a better place for those who are underprivileged,” she said, regaining her composure. “The best way to do that is to gain knowledge of the law, practice it for a while, then try and run for senate or another political office when I’m old enough. Who is this Lady Nit you mentioned earlier?”
“She is one of my masters, a goddess of Kemet. I think I heard the land called Egypt at one point. The other is Master Shu. I should think there is some record of who they are out there, since I have seen at least one human pass by with a sen necklace. I was not originally in their service when I became an adult, and I do not wish to talk about how I came to them.”
“All right, I won’t ask on that.”
We sat in tense silence for what felt like hours. I wondered if I should broach the subject now, instead of waiting until we arrived back at the apartment.
“If you’re not gonna ask another one, I’ll go again,” Ami said. “Why do you show up, even after my meds have kicked in?”
“I honestly do not know. I have been meaning to ask—”
“Where did you go when you left for days? Couldn’t you see what was going on and be there sooner?”
I felt as if that question wasn’t just for me. “As a Danannian, I have to do formal contract work whenever I forge a deal with a new liaison. It requires me to travel to the middle Unseen to meet your guardians and akhu so that they are aware of it and have their own say in it. I cannot see into the physical world when there, nor can I protect you when I am away from the world.”
“Why are you telling me all this? You could have left out all the details, like those folklore faerie.”
“You did ask, and I am inclined to be truthful. I do not want you to get hurt.”
“I was lucky that my ancestor pulled me into the spirit world for a moment, otherwise I would be dead.” Anguish burned in her eyes as some passersby stared at her. “How is that upholding your end of the contract?”
“If you would let me finish my earlier thought, I have been meaning to discuss that with you. It is a stipulation one of your guardians has made in regard to the contract, and I want to make sure the protection is there, even when I am not.”
Ami looked at me quizzically.
I took a cleansing breath, talking to the local air as I did so. “I have connections back home where I can have a set of protective items made for you personally and where they are manifest stable and do not require to be placed back in the near Unseen or elsewhere once you have them. A possible prayer at dawn might be required, but I will work those details out with the smith. Would you wish for these items to become reality?”
“What exactly do you have in mind?” Ami asked as she started to make her way back towards the bus stop.
“Nothing as crude as some of the arcane items I have seen, but something that would not be out of place for you. I would need measurements and an approval for them all.”
“Yeah, sure, whatever,” she said. “Will I owe you my soul for them or something?”
“I am not a crass devil! No, this is part of the contract that has already been made. My funds should be more than enough to commission the smith. He does fine magical work.”
Ami rolled her eyes.
“I am serious, his family has made many of my weapons and my bracelet.”
“…No bracelets, I dislike things on my wrist.”
I nodded. “Noted.”
We rode in silence for the rest of the way back to the apartment. The city was strange and wonderful, not at all like the megaopolises of Hattara-9 or the Earth of my last visit. It felt as if it lay in some sort of transition phase, and a choice would soon be before it. While I could discuss this with Nit and Chokoris after the mission, I needed to focus. I had gotten to talk to more of the local air while the bus moved through town and confirmed the disturbance in the ley lines from it. Hopefully Konk would be forthcoming with connecting with his friends sooner rather than later.
After a bit of rest at the apartment, I let Ami know that I was going to be out of contact for a while, and warned her to keep an eye on her surroundings. After she acknowledged it, I stepped out of the apartment and onto the nearest big green space, and made the jump to Tir to put in the commission with Grandmaster Lazarus’ grandson, Reyvel.