Spirit of the Row/By the Pricking of My Thumbs
From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
This story takes place shortly before the second Rikti invasion.
In a place that is not exactly a place, a young man named Harlem Foreman by birth and Fatal Harmonic by choice stands barefoot on cracked pavement, facing the incarnation of the great spirit to which he has linked his heart and soul.
"Whaddya want, kid?"
In their brief association, Harm has never seen the Row act so nervous. The big man (who is not really a man) is constantly twisting his head this way and that, as if distracted by things at the edge of his perception... or perhaps plagued by phantoms.
"Something's going on, isn't it? I can feel it too. What is it?"
"Kid, as soon as I figure it out myself..." The Row sighs. "I got rats pourin' out of my nethers like the Pied Piper started playin' in Connecticut. I got a chill on the back of my neck. And I can't find the Lost. Not a one."
Harm almost laughs in spite of himself. It's an old joke - "how do I find the Lost?" - but the Row clearly isn't joking. And now that he thinks about it, he can't remember the last time he saw one of the ragged street people with improvised junk armor and weird disfigurements. Last week, maybe?
"What does it all mean?"
"Kid, I told ya--" the Row snaps, then catches himself. "I dunno," he finally says. "But somethin' big. Real big." The Row puts a hand the size of a dinner plate on the wiry youth's shoulder. "When I find out, I'll let ya know. Until then... keep yourself safe. And your family, and 93rd Street. Do that for me, okay?"
Harm nods. The Row doesn't have to ask that as a favor; it's what he'd do anyway.
"Good. Now, I gotta go see somebody else... so g'wan, get outta here."
As the sourceless ghost-light of the spirit world fades, leaving only the dull realm of surfaces and shadows that most people call reality, Harm senses that the Row is smiling at him, a small but proud smile.
It will be the last he sees of the spirit of the Row for some time.