Home > Cast in Honor (Chronicles of Elantra #11)(7)

Cast in Honor (Chronicles of Elantra #11)(7)
Michelle Sagara

Teela approached the gate, raised a hand, then lowered it. The frown she wore seemed etched into her otherwise perfect face. “Kitling?”

Kaylin shrugged off her resentment and came to stand by Teela’s side. She also poked the small dragon, who squawked quietly, but lifted one transparent wing. He tapped her face gently, to make a point, but kept the wing extended so it covered her eyes.

To Kaylin’s vision—with the added interference of a translucent dragon wing—the gate looked weathered. It was slightly warped. The nails that held it in place had rusted a bit, but that was it. “It’s a gate.” She turned to glance back at the road and froze. After a second, she lifted her hand to gently catch the small dragon’s wing. He expressed his appreciation of this loudly, but stopped short of biting her fingers.

“We’ve got a problem,” Kaylin said.

Chapter 3

Hawks were not generally armed for lethal combat. Severn was an exception, and the exception had been made because he was, in theory, a Wolf. Teela and Tain, on the other hand, didn’t require the usual edged implements to be deadly. Bellusdeo didn’t, either.

Everyone turned toward Kaylin and then looked beyond her to the stretch of imperfect, inclining road.

“I want one of those,” Tain said, to no one in particular. The small dragon squawked anyway. “What do you see?”

“Shadow,” Kaylin said, her voice flat.

Bellusdeo stiffened on a single, sharp inhale. Her experience with Shadows had defined—and almost destroyed—her. She spoke a sharp word. The hair on the back of Kaylin’s neck rose in protest as the Dragon moved to stand slightly ahead of her, without impeding her view.

“I can’t see it. Tell me what you see.”

“It’s a very narrow line,” Kaylin said. “Similar to what I saw as magic; it’s not solid, and it’s not—that I can see—active.”

“Active, meaning?”

“It’s not opalescent, and it’s not—quite—moving. But it’s there.”

“In the heart of the city.”

“To one side of the heart of the city, but yes.”

“And the line of shadow goes into this house.”

“Or through it, yes.”

Teela cursed in Leontine. Leontine coming from a Barrani throat was strangely musical. In this case, the phrase she’d chosen was entirely appropriate. “There’s nothing going to the house across the street where the murders took place?”

“Not that I can see.”

“Are you sure the idiots reporting this didn’t— Never mind. It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve had a transcription error,” she added darkly.

Severn hadn’t set his chain spinning, but he carried one of the attached blades in hand. “Mirror back.”

Teela nodded. She glanced at Bellusdeo again.

“I am not leaving, if that’s the suggestion you intend to make,” Bellusdeo said. “I have been given Imperial permission to accompany Private Neya on her patrols.”

“This isn’t exactly patrol material.”

“No. But it is part of her usual duties.”

“If anything goes wrong and anything happens to you, you’re likely to lose that Imperial permission instantly. And Kaylin—”

“The Emperor would not dream of harming Kaylin.” The Dragon’s eyes had descended into orange; the orange was now tinged red.

Given that his first reaction upon hearing about Kaylin’s existence almost eight years ago had been to order her execution, this wasn’t exactly accurate. But given Bellusdeo’s current mood, accuracy was irrelevant.

“No one in Elantra has more experience with Shadows than Bellusdeo does.” Kaylin folded her arms. “If you’re worried about me, don’t be. I’ve had enough worrying-about-me to last ten lifetimes. The only thing we might want is Maggaron.”

Bellusdeo opened her mouth.

Kaylin continued quickly, “He fought by your side against the Shadows that consumed your world. He knows them as well as you do—probably better. He was there for a long damn time.”

The Dragon snapped her jaws shut. Normal-sized jaws shouldn’t have made that much noise. “We should destroy this part of the road—and that house.”

“It’s not as simple as that. If the house isn’t contaminated—and you know what that looks like—we’ll be destroying someone’s home. It’s—among other things—against the law, unless the Emperor orders it done.”

“You don’t understand the risk you’re taking.”

Kaylin wanted to argue, but she understood what Bellusdeo had faced in the past. “Let’s just check out the house.”

* * *

Teela did, indeed, take point. It wasn’t always smart to have Barrani be the lead investigators when dealing with mortals. It wasn’t always smart to have any lead investigator cross racial lines. In the very, very few instances when the Halls of Law were called in to deal with the Leontine quarter, Marcus took point. It was always the best—and smartest—approach.

In some instances, though, Barrani were the most effective. Most mortals didn’t believe that a simple thing like a hawk on a tabard guaranteed good behavior from immortals. Kaylin attempted to point this out, but Teela pulled rank. Literally.

She opened the gate more or less carefully, glanced at Kaylin and waited. Kaylin nodded. “The thread goes to the door.”

“Beneath it?”

“It’s hard to say. When I looked at the road normally, it looked as if something very, very heavy and very thin had just landed. There was a V-shaped indent and a crack at the bottom of it. The path to the house isn’t made of the same stone, but it’s staved in the same way.”

“The stairs?”

There were only two steps up to the door. “Same as the road. The door doesn’t appear to be damaged, though. I’m not sure whether the line goes into the house or beneath it.”

“Is it active?” Bellusdeo asked.

“I don’t know. It’s Shadow.” She hesitated and then said, “It’s like what we might see—the Shadow part, not the staved-in stone—if a living person had been deeply cut but could still keep moving. I think it might be the equivalent of—”

“Bleeding?”

Kaylin nodded. “This is not an expert opinion,” she added, as Teela lifted the mirror. “And I’d just as soon not enter that opinion in Records if I can avoid it.”

“You’ve got far stupider opinions entered in Records.”

“I was thirteen, Teela.”

* * *

The home itself was not large; it was not one of the grand manors nestled in the heart of the wealthy district. It was modest in size, but seemed to be in good repair. The stairs were stone, and the foundation appeared to be stone as well—but in Elantra, that wasn’t entirely unusual. Kaylin had been told that it was, farther away from the city, but her only experience outside of the city had been the West March, which didn’t count.

The front door was not warded. That was also unusual, but not unheard-of; Kaylin’s previous home had been without door wards, as had almost all of the other apartments in the same building. Door wards were expensive. Even if they didn’t make her hand numb and her skin ache, she would have had a decent excuse for not having one.

Teela knocked on the door. Given Kaylin’s description of the stairs, she chose not to stand in the center of them. They would have carried her weight, regardless. Bellusdeo stood back, beside Kaylin.

“You can’t see anything?” Kaylin asked.

Bellusdeo shook her head. “We have some methods of drawing Shadow out—of forcing it out—of its inanimate hiding places. But many of those methods are complicated; they can’t be done in an instant. To do it, the Norannir would have to come, and that would probably cause panic. You might recall the war drums?”

Kaylin nodded.

“They’re very effective, but definitely not quiet. I think Imperial permission would probably be necessary; at the very least, we would want to clear the drumming with the Swords. It is likely to cause some...unrest. Besides, your marks aren’t glowing.”

“How can you tell?”

“When they glow, they’re visible, even through your sleeves.” She glanced at the small dragon. “And Hope is alert, but not yet worried.”

The small dragon crooned. It was not one of his regular noises. He then glanced at Severn and made the same sound. Severn nodded as if he understood. It was very frustrating. The familiar, in theory, was hers, and she seemed to be the only person who couldn’t understand him.

Teela ignored them and knocked again, this time with more force. Tain lifted Kaylin—literally—and set her to one side; he then joined Teela in the space he’d cleared. Bellusdeo clearly found this amusing.

“She’s not furniture,” Teela pointed out, as she waited for some sort of response from the resident of the house.

“No. She’s too bony and too loud.”

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