Her search is unsuccessful; there's a couple of gay teen witch-girls, but she's not keen on sleeping with someone who could be her grandniece, and anyway they seem less than interested in her slightly dusty charms. She gets miserably drunk, sobers up miserably with a whispered invocation, and makes her miserable way home.
...She spots someone lurking, out the corner of her eye. She knows from lurking, it was a whole unit in Watcher training. That is a vampiric lurk. Recalling last night's incident, she decides to investigate. From her purse, she retrieves an unobtrusive spraycan of sanctified Mace, and she strolls very casually into the occupied alleyway.
Johanna nods, understanding absolutely nothing. "Yes."
Chris leads her up the stairs to a room with an intricately inlaid wooden floor. Nothing is quite perfectly symmetrical, but there are partial symmetries everywhere. There is also a large window opposite the door, and a long table under the window with a variety of boxes on it.
"Your interior decorating fu is strong. I bow. What do we do?"
"You come over here and pick a pawn," says Chris, opening a box which proves to be full of chess pieces. "And then sit on the floor - I'll tell you where - and I'll sit across from you and speak Anglo-Saxon for a while. Do you speak Anglo-Saxon?"
"Enough to get by," Johanna says, selecting a pawn for herself. (It's shiny.)
She digs out a matching knight, rook, bishop, and queen, then arranges them in a square on the floor, one toward each wall of the room. "Sit in the middle, facing the window," she says; this will put the bishop in front of Johanna, the rook behind her, the queen on her right, and the knight on her left.
"Anglo-Saxon specifically isn't required, but it's good to have a language you like that you didn't grow up speaking."
Johanna cooperates. "I may have mentioned that this is not, actually, my first magic lesson? I use Hebrew."
Then she sits down facing Johanna. "So, I'll talk to the pawn for a while and it'll decide what it wants to grow up to be. There'll be complicated visions about the metaphors for a while, and then they'll stop. Sound good?"
"Sure. Sounds like fun."
So Chris talks to the pawn. Her alliterative verse is uninspired but functional. She discusses metaphor and potential and resonance and understanding.
The room fades away around them, superseded by a different level of reality. Johanna is a formless, colourless void. Chris is the faintest hint of a stone tower. The four chess pieces are vague shapes with vaguer shapes hidden inside them, shadows within shadows in the starless dark.
Chris suggests that the pawn make a choice.
The bishop brightens from a shadow to a silvery silhouette, then flows into Johanna's void. A silver book takes shape in front of her; a silver arrow floats above it.
Chris thanks the pawn/bishop for its help, and the metaphor fades out and the room comes back. Nothing has actually moved. But that bishop is now a little attuned to Johanna.
She shakes her head. "Shiny. Many thanks."
"So your primary metaphors seem to be bishop-as-arrow and bishop-as-book," says Chris. "And now you know something about chess magic. It does make more sense once you've seen it, doesn't it?"
"Oh, yeah," says Johanna. "Very, eh, tidy. Metaphysically neat. You can figure out easily what you're going to get out from what you put in. High-input, though, I don't know it'd be the best for a novice."
"The flexibility's my favourite part, I think. As long as you can put the available pieces together into an appropriate story, you can probably get what you're after. And it's not too materials-heavy; the floor helps, having a variety of chess sets also helps, crystals and other mystically significant objects help, but all you actually need is a chess set or, in a pinch, a few pieces of paper with chess pieces drawn on them."
"Oh, I meant energy-wise, I wasn't thinking of- power within the pieces themselves. But that makes sense. I'm used to, you know, eye of newt and all, but there's no reason you couldn't just infuse objects in and of themselves. That's very clever. Kudos."
"Thanks. I'm interested to see what chess magic looks like from a major practitioner who isn't me; I've taught it before, but not very thoroughly, and I didn't really keep in touch."
"Ha. Sorry to disappoint, but major I am not. I have enough juice to clean my teeth and lift an end table off the ground. I've met fifteen-year-olds with more raw power."
Chris shrugs. "I didn't quite mean it in terms of power. More... fluency, if that makes sense. Although power is nice too."
"Fluency... maybe. I'd be more confident if it was a divination-based discipline. With sight, I'm so fluent I might as well be fucking Shakespeare. But I may turn out competent here. It'd be nice, certainly."
"I haven't had a ton of luck getting divination out of chess magic, but it's not exactly my personal strong point. And theoretically it fits both of your primary metaphors. So you might be able to work with that. Which would, in fact, be exactly the kind of thing I'd be interested to see."
"Ooh, I could be interesting! At any rate, it's always nice to get another angle of penetration to layer onto my glasses. Not that anything can properly hide from them anyway at this point, but I do like to cover all my bases."
Chris raises her eyebrows. "Magical glasses?"
Johanna takes them off (with some relief at no longer having to look around the sparkles) and hands them over for inspection. "They may not work so well for you, but I've got the teensiest little drop of divine blood in me that gives me a couple of powers. One of which is that I can glow very prettily-" she demonstrates the very pretty glow - "and another of which is a bit of witch-sight. I have a sixth sense dealie for magic, and the glasses focus that into properly seeing the nature and form of spells. Plus they let me see through illusions. And I can see like a hawk with them on. I've got another pair I call the 'reading glasses,' for tougher cases; those on, I can understand every magical detail of whatever I'm looking at, no matter how well hidden. But they give me migraines for fucking weeks looking at anything worth looking at. So I usually leave them in my bag."
"That is a very pretty glow! Well done." Chris inspects the glasses, peers through them, shakes her head, and hands them back. "I'm useless for any divination that isn't wrapped in chess metaphors, so it's no surprise these don't work for me."
"Huh. I'd've expected them to work decently for anybody with power, but maybe they're more personalized than that. And. Uh. Thank you."