Richard Gansey III had forgotten how many times he had been told he was destined for greatness.
He was bred for it; nobility and purpose coded in both sides of his pedigree. His mother’s father had been a diplomat, an architect of fortunes; his father’s father had been an architect, a diplomat of styles. His mother’s mother had tutored the children of European princesses. His father’s mother had built a girls’ school with her own inheritance. The Ganseys were courtiers and kings, and when there was no castle to invite them, they built one.
He was a king.
Once upon a time, the youngest Gansey had been stung to death by hornets. In all things, he had been given every advantage, and mortality was no different. A voice had whispered in his ear: You will live because of Glendower. Someone else on the ley line is dying when they should not, and so you will live when you should not.
He’d died, but failed to stay dead.
He was a king.
His mother, royalty herself, tossed her hat into the Virginia congressional ring, and unsurprisingly she’d ascended elegantly to the top of the polls. Onward and upward. Had there ever been any doubt? Yes, actually, always, ever, because the Ganseys did not demand favours. Often they didn’t even ask. They did unto others and silently hoped others would rise to do it unto them.
Doubt – all a Gansey did was doubt. A Gansey reached bravely into the night-blind water, fate uncertain until the hilt of a sword pressed into a hopeful palm.
Except – only a few months before, this Gansey had reached into the dark uncertainty of the future, stretching for the promise of a sword, and had instead pulled out a mirror.
Justice – in an inside-out way, it felt fair.
It was April 25, St. Mark’s Eve. Years before, Gansey had read The Grand Mystery: Ley Lines of the World by Roger Malory. In it, Malory explained ponderously that a St. Mark’s Eve vigil on the ley line would reveal the spirits of those who were to die within the next year. By this point, Gansey had seen all sorts of wonders performed near or on the ley lines – a girl who could read a book in full dark so long as she was on the line, an old woman who could lift a crate of fruit with only her mind, a trio of dusky-skinned triplets born on the line who cried tears of blood and bled salt water – but none of it had involved him. Required him. Explained him.
He didn’t know why he’d been saved.
He needed to know why he’d been saved.
So he held a nightlong vigil on the ley line that had become his maze, shivering alone in the parking lot of the Holy Redeemer. He saw nothing, heard nothing. The following morning he crouched beside his Camaro, tired to the point of nonsense, and played back the night’s audio.
On the recording, his own voice whispered, “Gansey.” A pause. “That’s all there is.”
Finally, it was happening. He was no longer merely an observer in this world; he was a participant.
Even then, a small part of Gansey suspected what hearing his own name really meant. He knew it, probably, by the time his friends came to his car’s rescue an hour later. He knew it, probably, when the psychics at 300 Fox Way read a tarot card for him. He knew it, probably, when he retold the entire story to Roger Malory in person.
Gansey knew whose voices whispered along the ley line on St. Mark’s Eve. But he had spent several years chaining his fears and wasn’t ready to unhook their leashes just yet.
It wasn’t until one of the psychics at 300 Fox Way died, until death became a real thing once more, that Gansey couldn’t deny the truth any longer.
The hounds of the Aglionby Hunt Club howled it that fall: away, away, away.
He was a king.
This was the year he was going to die.
Depending on where you began the story, it was a story about the women of 300 Fox Way.
Stories stretch in all ways. Once upon a time, there was a girl who was very good at playing with time. Step sideways: Once upon a time, there was a daughter of a girl who was very good at playing with time. Now skip back: Once upon a time, there was a king’s daughter who was very good at playing with time.
Beginnings and endings as far as the eye could see.
With the notable exception of Blue Sargent, all of the women at 300 Fox Way were psychic. This might have suggested that the house’s occupants had much in common, but practically, they had as much in common as a group of musicians, or doctors, or morticians. Psychic was not so much a personality type as a skill set. A belief system. A general agreement that time, like a story, was not a line; it was an ocean. If you couldn’t find the precise moment you were looking for, it was possible you hadn’t swum far enough. It was possible that you simply weren’t a good enough swimmer yet. It was also possible, the women grudgingly agreed, that some moments were hidden far enough in time that they really should be left to deep-sea creatures. Like those anglerfish with all the teeth bits and the lanterns hanging off their faces. Or like Persephone Poldma. She was dead now, though, so perhaps she was a poor example.
It was a Monday when the still-living women of 300 Fox Way decided to finally assess Richard Gansey’s impending doom, the disintegration of their lives as they knew them, and what those two things had to do with each other, if anything. Also, Jimi had done a chakra cleansing in exchange for a nice bottle of hot, peaty whiskey and was jonesing to finish it with company.
Calla stepped into the biting October day to turn the sign beside the letter box to read CLOSED COME BACK SOON! Inside, Jimi, a big believer in herb magick, brought out several small pillows stuffed with mugwort (to enhance the projection of the soul into other planes) and set rosemary to burn over charcoal (for memory and clairvoyance, which are the same thing in two different directions). Orla shook a smouldering bundle of sage over the tarot decks. Maura filled a black-glass scrying bowl. Gwenllian sang a gleeful, nasty little song as she lit a circle of candles and let the blinds down. Calla returned to the reading room with three statues cradled in the crook of her arm.