Wrena shimmied forward on the crumbled concrete, trying to get a better view of the group beneath her. The scene wavered through the night-goggles before it solidified, but the extra few inches had done the job; she could now see what was directly beneath her in the atrium area of the old building. And it was exactly what she had expected. Her heart began to thud heavily in excitement.
Fallen Shirwa to be exact. And humans.
Wrena’s valuable, royal quarry was right in the middle.
Diminutive Princess Tewin was smiling as she stared into the dying embers of a fire. Just a simple curve of the lips, certainly not extravagant. That curve was enough to tell Wrena that the princess had been Outworld too long, and under the Soul Eater’s influence too long.
King Ma’chna had been abnormally reserved when he “requested’’ her presence three days ago. “My daughter was expected to return one cycle ago. Her companion, Minette, returned without her.” He waved a negligent hand to the woman kneeling before him. The Shirwa was beautiful, dark hair coiffed and skin elegantly rouged. A line of simple gold hoops climbed the ridge of her ear, with a jeweled ring at the top, denoting her lineage. Wrena could see the underlying brittleness, though. The woman’s eyes were almost frantic, as if all of the emotion was boiling just beneath the surface of her pale cheeks. Her clenched hands were twisted in the folds of her skirt. Perhaps she had been out too long as well.
The king waved the woman to her feet and gestured toward Wrena. With a deep quivering bow, the companion rose and faced Wrena directly.
“We were on our return trip when Her Highness was waylaid by a Fallen. I recognized him from a gathering we had gone to. Her Highness showed surprise when she saw him. Her mouth opened and she gasped out loud. She was already beginning to show signs of Falling then. The male claimed that he had succumbed to her loveliness, even though he had only seen her once that I know of.” Her words became defensive. “We tried to ignore him, but he would not leave us. One of his companions grabbed the Princess, and I tried to remove his hand. I was knocked unconscious. When I awoke, they were gone and I was within walking distance of the village.”
The woman bowed deeply to me, then turned and sank to the floor, prostrating herself before the king. “Your Majesty, I plead for mercy.”
The old king was expressionless as he glanced down at the woman. His canny gaze lifted and pinned Wrena. “The princess has been gone almost three complete cycles of the moon. If you do not find her within the next three days, do not bring her back.”
Because she will be too far Fallen to be any good to him.
He didn’t have to say the last part. Wrena knew only too well. Once the moon went dark in three night’s time, there would be nothing left of the Shirwa she once was.
Wrena glanced up at the sliver of moon above her through the shattered atrium roof. Her three days were almost up. It had taken two just to find the damn girl. The regular informants she used were running scared from something, or someone. Wading through dead ends had taken time she couldn’t spare.
Princess Tewin of the G’nk’a Sect of the Shirwa tribe was about to miss her own marriage to the rival Y’lyne Sect, ending all chances of a reconciliation between the two warring tribes.
Wrena glanced at the luminous hands of her watch. Almost three. They would be winding down soon. The drugs had been passed around earlier, and now the lethargy associated with Soul Eater was setting in. Most of the group of thugs were already drifting, faces propped on hands in sleep. A couple of them were stretched flat out on the rubble strewn ground, snoring loudly. Tewin and two others were the only ones still awake. The Fallen beside Tewin was long and lanky, with his knees folded in front of his chest, and a lean arm wrapped around the princess. That must be Brant, the lover.
Old Bernie, her only regular contact that would tell her anything, cautioned her not to discount the young man. “He’s got backing from someone,” the old man had wheezed. “He’s got all the Soul Eater he needs, and he’s hanging onto that girl. Don’t think he’s into it for the money.” When she’d pressed, he’d clammed up. The only thing he had told her worthwhile was the location of this building.
Wrena had slipped the old man some money, and left him in his alley.
The other male still awake at the fire appeared to be human. His eyes were shut, but his foot was tapping in time to the music even she could hear pounding from the white ear pieces.
Soul Eater affected humans and Shirwa differently. In humans, it tamped down regular emotions, leaving the person ambivalent and depressed, but freeing them of worry. In the ultra-conservative Shirwa, it had the exact opposite effect. Their emotions took them over, opening them up to sensory overload, and increasing the chance that they could never return to the tribe. If a Shirwa member was away from the tribe too long, all chance of emotional control was gone.
The drowsy, lanky Fallen nudged the princess. “Let’s go to bed, babe.”
Tewin smiled a little broader, and Wrena almost groaned. She definitely would not be going to bed alone, tonight. That meant Wrena was going to have to dart the male, and she preferred not to do that. It left evidence, and the human sedative did not work the same on every Shirwa. It may knock him out for five hours, or five seconds. There was no way to tell.
She watched as the couple disappeared out of her line of sight, walking slowly towards the left. Wrena was five floors above them in the abandoned warehouse, and would have to take the long way down so that she would not be heard. She secured her night-vision goggles in her pack and backed away from the edge.
Available as an ebook:
Anything goes under an Urban Moon.
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