Chapter Twenty-Three

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The conjurer is expecting them, apparently. No sooner than they reach the wrought iron gates to the house do they swing open, seemingly on their own, baring a long, winding pathway up to the front door.

According to Grey, it is of no clairvoyance that their arrival is anticipated, but the fact that he'd sent word ahead in the days Eva had been unconscious. 

As encouraging as the conjurer's evident inclination to pander to their request is, Eva worries how discreet their arrival has been. How many Sidhe are aware of their presence in Amaranth. 

She tries to push her fears away, forcing her mind to shift to the more comforting thought. Beyond those ornate doors is her ticket out of here. They're almost there. So close. 

The residence is even more ostentatious up close. Its obsidian façade is interrupted by large arching windows revealing glimpses of the home within. The sharp corners of the house are quoined with lighter stone - a darkly ribboned and flecked marble, glossy and well-polished. 

A thin layer of snow cloaks the ground, unmarred by footsteps in the areas either side of the cobblestone path - a decoration in itself. Potted plants rim the walls, delicate blue flowers peeking through the blanket. Eva's surprised anything can grow here, though the harsh winds are broken by the city skyline and the cold less bone-rattling in the hustle and bustle of the streets.

At the entrance, set under the cover of a large slab of stone supported by two chiseled pillars, is a woman with a face that holds little beauty save for her deep silver eyes, so intense in colour it's like staring into a pool of liquid steel. Although she is untouched by age, her hair is of a similar colour, though less lustrous than her eyes and straight as a pin.

She smiles, a short flash of teeth that conveys little more than the pleasance that is required for guests and ushers them to the door.

"I am Ketra," she says, her voice as steely as her eyes. "He is waiting for you."

Ketra pushes the heavy oak door open and guides them into a lavish entranceway, still heavily accented with the obsidian the city seems to favour so fervently. 

The place breathes opulence into every crevice. A large split staircase commands the hall, carpeted in a deep royal blue and stretching at least three floors upwards. It's hard to tell how big the house truly is, as Ketra leads them through a smaller - but no less luxurious - reception room and into a tastefully decorated living room. 

It makes the Bolthole look like a hovel. 

Long silk curtains dress the windows, swaying lightly in a phantom breeze. A glittering chandelier hangs from the high ceiling, pointed crystal prisms aimed downwards, like sharp daggers poised to attack. 

Every inch of the room is dripping in grandeur -- almost in excess. Plush sofas and armchairs decorate the vast room in no discernible pattern, each one unique but tonally similar. Despite the selection, the man at the window has not taken any of them, his lean figure silhouetted in the mottled light of the setting sun. 

He hasn't noticed them arrive, and Ketra makes a pointed cough, her hard features making no effort to disguise her irritation. 

The man turns, an expression of exaggerated surprise crossing his handsome features.

"Thank you, Ketra," he says in a voice as smooth as silk. "Now, I'm sure you have other business to see to." 

He dismisses her with a sharp flick of his hand, and the iron-faced woman promptly exits, closing the door softly behind her. 

The room falls silent with the smooth click of the door settling into its frame, and Eva turns her attention back to the man, a wide grin spread across his face. 

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