Home > Cast in Silence (Chronicles of Elantra #5)

Cast in Silence (Chronicles of Elantra #5)
Michelle Sagara

CHAPTER 1

“It’s eight o’clock in the morning. Please remember to fill out your reports and hand in your paperwork.” Had the cheerful and musical voice belonged to a person who could be easily strangled, it would have stopped in midsentence.

Sadly, it was the melodious voice of the streetside window which interrupted the bustling and vastly less perky office in which the branch of Law known as the Hawks was based. That window, which had been installed complete with a magical, time-telling voice in some misguided attempt at humor, had been adjusted in the past couple of weeks by Acting Sergeant Mallory, and no one who had to work where they could hear it—and were prevented by office regulations from destroying it—considered the adjustments to be an improvement.

Sergeant Marcus Kassan, the large and currently bristling Leontine behind the central desk in the Hawks’ Office raised his fist and flexed his fingers. Long claws, gleaming in the sun’s light, appeared from beneath his golden fur. He had not yet shattered the window—and given it was installed with the guidance of Imperial Mages, that would have been damn hard—but he looked like he was on the edge of finally doing it in. The betting pool had not yet been won, but at least three people were out money, Private Kaylin Neya being one. The office had discovered, however, that the windows couldn’t be scratched, and Kaylin had argued vociferously that this should have counted as a victory condition. She’d lost.

Then again, Leontines were generally all about the clawing, biting, rending, and ripping out of throats; they weren’t as good with smashing things.

Kaylin’s personal favorite was the new end-of-day message, wherein the cheerful voice of the window told the departing staff that they were to be in the office at 7:00 a.m., and they were to be shaved, where shaving was appropriate, and otherwise clean. She was less keen on the last bit, in which the Hawks were reminded to check the duty roster for last-minute adjustments.

“Why doesn’t he just have the mages shut it down?” she asked Caitlin, as Marcus drove new furrows into his desk.

“I think he considers it a reminder of the differences between Sergeant Mallory’s temporary tenure and his more permanent record,” Caitlin replied. The reply, like the question that engendered it, was very, very quiet. This didn’t guarantee that it couldn’t be overheard, but unless Marcus had it in for you, he was capable of a bit of selective deafness. If he hadn’t been, his office would be half manned for at least an entire duty cycle, and the half that was left alive would be too busy cleaning up to cause trouble.

“Neya!” Given Marcus’s current mood, the fact that there had been no bloodshed was pushing the goodwill of whatever gods watched over underslept and underpaid police. “You’re due out on beat in five minutes. Stop bothering Caitlin and hit the street.”

Kaylin’s beat was Elani Street and its surroundings, and her partner was—as it so frequently was, these days—Corporal Severn Handred. He was already kitted out and ready to go when she careened down the hall to the locker room. He raised an eyebrow, one bisected by a slender scar, while he watched her use the wall as a brake.

“What? I’m not late yet.”

“Not yet. It’s hard to be late when the window is nagging.”

She grimaced. “Marcus took his claws to it yesterday.”

“Don’t start.”

“I think that should count.”

“Is the window still in one piece? Then it doesn’t count.” Severn was at the top of the betting pool at the moment, and looked to be secure in his position, but they’d both grown up on some pretty mean streets, and “secure” meant something different to them.

This was probably why they got along so well with the Barrani Hawks. The Barrani were noted for their love of the political. Political, in the context of their race, usually involved assassination, both literally and figuratively, and smallish wars. They understood that anything they owned had to be held against all comers. Those who held less were perfectly willing to test the definition of “secure,” often to the breaking point.

Of course, unless one of those assassination attempts was lucky, the Barrani weren’t about to expire of old age; they didn’t. Age, that is. They had long memories, and they could easily hold a grudge for longer than Kaylin’s whole life; at least two of them did. On the other hand, they made immortality look like one long gripe fest, admittedly with killer clothing, so it was hard to begrudge them their eternity of suffering. Or of making everyone else they knew suffer. Kaylin, as a human, would eventually clock out, which would in theory earn her some peace.

She dressed quickly, straightening out the cloth and under-padding that had managed to crumple in the wrong places the way it always did, and then rearranged her hair so it was pulled tight and off her face. It wasn’t immortality that she envied the Barrani; it was their damn hair. It never got in the way of anything.

She made it out of the locker room with seconds to spare; Severn caught her by the shoulder and adjusted the stick that held her hair tightly in place so that it actually did the job.

Elani Street was, of course, Charlatan Central. It was also, unfortunately, where real magic could be found if you didn’t have access to the Imperial Mages, or worse, the mages of the Arcanum, which access pretty much described ninety-nine percent of the city of Elantra. Kaylin had never understood how it was that people capable of genuine enchantments were willing to hunker down with total frauds.

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