| "So, Mr. Soldag, can I call you Erik? My name's David. Welcome, and please make yourself comfortable. If you'd like," David comments, moving slightly towards the open office door, "I can take steps to ensure more privacy for our conversation."
Erik has put his jacket over one arm when he entered the reception area. He offers his free hand to Dr. Glasser as he responds: "Thank you. I doubt it'll be necessary."
Judging Erik's indifference as casual assent, David closes the door, then smoothly makes rote gestures of Ruling and Space. "There. Now we won't have to worry about anyone listening in."
As they get inside, he continues, "Thank you, it is best to be careful." Inside the door, he faces the doctor fully. "I'm Keating. Epikoros, I assume?"
Epikoros says, "Much better." He smiles. "Epikoros, in these circles. Welcome to Edinburgh."
Keating says, "Thank you. It's good to be here. May I?" He gestures to a chair.
Epikoros says, "Of course, make yourself comfortable. Pleasure to meet you, Keating. The local community is friendly and welcoming, but it's nice to meet someone else who approaches their Art with the perspective of an academic. What brings you to the city, if I may ask?"
Keating says, "Of course. For an Acanthus, it is a bit of a cliché, but... Destiny."
With a bit of a shrug, Epikoros has a seat in a facing chair. "Not a concept I have much experience with. Not long ago, I would have told you it doesn't exist. Of course, that was before I knew the extent of my own ignorance. Not that my case is special. Of course, we all have much to learn."
Keating nods while smiling, "I know the feeling. It's been a few years since I awakened, but still, it often feels like I've been thrown in at the deep end and I'm desperately trying to avoid drowning."
Epikoros says, "I can imagine that feeling the weight of a Destiny only makes it more overwhelming."
Keating nods, then grows a bit more serious, "Though that may more a function of Diagoras' teaching style than any quality inherent to the experience. Have you met him, my mentor?" His voice is carefully neutral, as he asks.
Epikoros's brows furrow. "I don't think I have. He's not from London, is he?"
Keating should relax a bit, releasing nigh-invisible tension. "No, he's from Bergen, like me. Since he suggested I seek you out here, I thought that maybe you'd met." He smiles broadly, "There's also a certain thematic similarity between your names."
Epikoros says, "I suppose philosophers must be a common theme. Perhaps there's a little bit of pretension behind it," he admits directly, adjusting his spectacles. "Ironic that as we embark into a new world full of new truths, we turn for our inspiration to the truths we held as valuable in our old lives."
Keating tilts his head a bit, "and yet many of the philosophers thought of themselves as Truth-Seekers, first and foremost, an occupation where you must eschew arrogance to have hope of success." He shrugs lightly. "Diagoras and Epikoros shared a derisive view of religion, which was what I referred to. ‘Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?’"
Epikoros smiles in fond remembrance. "I thank them for the first shock of truth that opened my eyes. I suppose it must be different causes for each of us, but who knows whether I would have Awakened without the words of such philosophers to shock me from sleep." He pauses, considering, then continues on. "Awakening has caused me to revisit many of these conclusions. I've found an absence of religion charges me with a higher purpose, especially now, with the touch of the Supernal. With no god to uplift us, we humans must be our own higher power, and must uplift ourselves. It's given me a lot to think about."
Keating nods, "I share much of the same sentiment. Suddenly finding myself in a Gnostic reality, where there's no indication that a Godshead stands in opposition to the Demiurge, has been a shock. The thought that the fate of souls and minds lie in our, essentially human, hands, is both uplifting and terrifying."
Epikoros says, "It's a sobering challenge to almost any world-view, at the very least." He pauses in conversation, shifts his posture slightly. "I wouldn't presume to ask you about business pertaining to your Order, or about any other topic that might be sensitive or secret, but-- forgive me-- perhaps at some time we should compare notes on our observations of the supernal. I feel we must have a great deal to teach each other."
Keating nods, "That would be a pleasure, however..." He leans forward a bit, and says: "If I may be direct," Without waiting for permission, he continues: "I have three goals in coming here. The first is obvious, to meet a fellow mage and possible contact, ally or friend. The second is related to my aforementioned destiny. The third is part of the first, in that I need to know where you stand in relation to the Royal Society. The Londinium Consilium has a history of opposition to the Royals, I cannot openly get too close to you if you intend to be an enemy of the powers that be. The local ones, anyway. I intend to become a fellow of the Royal Society. To work in concert with them."
Epikoros sighs. "Ah, politics. I appreciate your directness; let me be direct in return. Edinburgh must make its own decisions. I would not see the Royal Society become a puppet of Londinium, or any other power. I may speculate that the two Consilii would make worthwhile allies and partners, but it must be a true partnership, a healthy partnership based on mutual esteem. Some in London speak in terms of takeovers and control-- that's not the best outcome for anyone involved.
"Most of my life, I've been a therapist, not a mage. My experience is in helping people settle their chaos, so they can make clear-headed decisions-- their own decisions-- about their future behavior. In this office, it's not my place to tell people how to think or what to do, but to help them acquire the understanding and perspective to choose for themselves, without unhealthy influences. Perhaps it's naive to address a city like a patient, or an arcane matter like a mundane one, but it's the tool I'm most comfortable with. It seems Edinburgh is at a decision point. My role here is to help settle the city's chaos so that our local community can make clear choices, not to push those choices toward one direction or the other.
"Truth be told, I am just as glad to leave London behind. There are some unpleasant memories, and I am finding a clean start therapeutic. If you're worried that I've come to wrap the city in Londinium's chains, that's not my aim. At present I have no desire to return to that city. I gather your relationship with your teacher was not completely amicable?" He smiles thinly. "I do believe, on that front, that I can relate."
Keating as Epikoros speaks, Keating listens attentively to his words, not trying to interrupt. When Epikoros finishes, Keating has leaned back in his chair and nods in confirmation to his question. "It sounds like we have that in common. I do not consider Diagoras my enemy, indeed he is my ally, but... I am glad to be out from under his thumb." He mulls over his next words for about 10 seconds. "I feel much the same way. The one role in life that has felt right, and still does, is that of a counselor and teacher. To help others find their place, to help others give their life meaning... It is a bit like a drug. One that I'm happily addicted to. My... Lotus." He gives a wry smile. "I think you've answered my unspoken question: politics will not stand between us."
Epikoros listens quietly as Keating speaks, nodding with understanding at the rush of guiding others in life. His response is a simple: "I am glad to hear it."
Keating adds, "As for my second goal... I am looking for something called the "Hand of the Norns". It might be a person, an object or even a place. Have you heard of it? And no, simply collecting the hands of every Moros in town would not do. Not in the least because Cairn would cut me in half."
Epikoros laughs lightly. "Ah, she would indeed." Pausing to consider: "Hmm, Hand of the Norns.... I haven't heard of anything like that. All I know of the Norns is from perfectly mundane mythology. Might this have something to do with prophecy?"
Keating nods. "It likely has, yeah. All I know is that this "Hand" is going to be important to the fate of Edinburgh and perhaps other Consilii. Apparently I am to be a shepherd of some kind, or a finder, but clearly not a wielder. A Merlin to someone's Arthur I suppose. In fact, do you mind if I examine if our fates are intertwined in any way?"
Epikoros says, "Go right ahead. In fact, let's both have a look."
Keating says, "Alright, do you want me to expand the perceptions to you or can you manage?"
Epikoros says, "I'm new at this and would appreciate your insight on interpreting the results, but I am fairly confident I can manage the spell itself."
Keating remains in his chair as he starts chanting in Atlantean, wetting his fingers with spit and touching his eyelids. Then he opens his eyes again. Meanwhile, Epikoros performs the motions of a rote of Fate.
Epikoros assesses Keating with a clinician's interest. "Is that... I've never seen a destiny before. How interesting."
Keating affirms. "Yeah, I believe you see clearly. I see no connections between us, other than the one we are currently building. To truly be certain, we would have to do a greater ritual, but I'd rather leave that for another time, if you please."
Epikoros says, "We may of course revisit this later, in more detail.
Keating clearly hesitates, the speaks again, his tone a little uncertain. "You did this intentionally? I now know your name...” Gesturing to the psychologist’s license on the office wall and its clear connection to Epikoros: “Why would you do that!?"
“The name? It's the same one I used at our initial introduction, and the one I practice under. I suppose you can tell its significance? Multiple reasons, I suppose.
“First, I've spent two decades building a professional reputation, accumulating licenses and degrees... to throw all that away, I'd have to stop practicing therapy. I'm not willing to do that. But perhaps more importantly, I intend to offer treatment to mages, a task I consider extremely important due to the traumas we witness and the power we hold. That entails persuading a notoriously secretive and paranoid group of people to be open and honest with me about the things that bother them, and that requires a level of trust. So this display is, in part, simply the trappings of my profession, but in greater part it is an opening display of trust. By trusting you with a secret that is valuable to me, I hope to show I can be trusted with what is valuable to you, and not to misuse that position."
Keating scrutinizes Epikoros very intently for a few moments, the he gets up a bit suddenly and stands in front of him, waiting for him to rise.
Not quite understanding, Epikoros still follows his guest's cues, standing in turn.
Keating clearly doing something serious, Keating grasps his hand in his, putting his left one on top of it as he shakes it. "My name is Johann Thorvald. I hate Diagoras because he made me kill a good man. I name you my friend, as Odin's Eye is my witness."
He lets go of his hand and shrugs, a bit abashedly, "Please keep that to yourself, by the way."
Taken aback by the solemnity of this, David returns Johann’s handshake. "Your secrets are safe, my friend." Taking in the seriousness of this confession, he adds: "I'm sorry you had to go through that. I can only imagine the distress.... If you ever need to talk about any of this, I'm a good listener."
Johann nods and smiles, "I might take you up on that." He takes a deep breath. "That must wait for later though, for now I have a different purpose in mind." He walks over and picks up his jacket where he hung it. "Come, David, let us share mead, and whiskey, and whatever else you Brits drink with friends. I am of a mind to celebrate."
Breaking into a grin, David picks up his own coat as well. "That sounds great, Johann." Chatter turns to favorite watering holes as the two head out into the night.