Home > Cast in Chaos (Chronicles of Elantra #6)

Cast in Chaos (Chronicles of Elantra #6)
Michelle Sagara

CHAPTER 1

The Halls of Law occupied real estate that the merchants’ guild salivated over every time discussion about tax laws came up, and for that reason, if no other, Private Kaylin Neya was proud to work in them. The building sat in the center of the city, its bulk overshadowed by three towers, atop which—in the brisk and heavy winds of the otherwise clear day—flags could be seen at the heights. It was the only building, by Imperial decree, which was allowed this much height; the Emperor considered it a personal statement. She would probably have been slightly prouder if she’d managed to make Corporal, but she took what she could get.

What she could get, on the other hand, could be a bit disconcerting on some days. She approached the guards at the door—today Tanner and Gillas were at their posts—and stopped before she’d passed between them. They were giving her funny looks, and she was on time. She’d been on time for four days running, although one emergency with the midwives’ guild had pulled her off active duty in the middle of the day, but the looks on their faces didn’t indicate a lost betting pool.

“What’s up?” she asked Tanner. She had to look up to ask it; he was easily over six feet in height, and he didn’t slouch when on duty.

“You’ll find out,” he replied. He was almost smirking.

The problem with coming to the Hawks as an angry thirteen-year-old with a lot of attitude was that the entire force felt as if they’d watched you grow up. This meant the entire damn force took an interest in your personal business. She cursed Tanner under her breath, and left his chuckle at her back.

It was only about ten feet from her back when she ran into Corporal Severn Handred. Who just happened to be loitering in the Aerie, under the shadows of the flying Aerians, who were practicing maneuvers that no other race on the force could achieve without a hell of a lot of magic, most of which would require postmaneuver paperwork that would keep them grounded for weeks. The Emperor was not a big fan of magic that wasn’t under his personal control.

Kaylin, her wrist weighted by a few pounds of what was ostensibly gold, knew this firsthand. The bracer—studded with what were also ostensibly gemstones, and in and of itself more valuable than most of the force on a good day, which would be a day when their Sergeant wasn’t actively cursing the amount of money being wasted employing their sorry butts—was also magical. It was older than the Empire.

No one knew how it worked—or at least that’s what was claimed—but it kept random magic neutralized. Kaylin had been ordered to wear it, and on most days, she did.

Severn looked up as she approached him. “You’re on time,” he said, falling into an easy step beside her.

“And the world hasn’t ended,” she replied. “Betting? It’s four days running.” It was a betting pool she’d been excluded from joining.

He grinned, but didn’t answer, which meant yes, he was betting, and no, he hadn’t lost yet.

“If you win, you can buy me lunch.”

He raised a brow. “You’re scrounging for lunch this early in the month?”

“Don’t ask.”

He laughed.

“Instead,” she continued, “tell me why you’re here.”

“I work here.”

“Ha, ha. You don’t usually loiter in the Aerie, waiting for me to walk by.” In fact, if it was something that was a matter of life or death, or at least keeping her job, he was more proactive: he’d show up at her apartment and throw her out of bed.

“Loitering and waiting are not considered—”

“Tanner was smirking.”

Severn winced. “An official courier came by the office this morning.”

“Official courier?”

“An Imperial Courier.”

“Please tell me it had nothing to do with me,” she said, without much hope.

“You want me to lie?”

She snorted. “Is Marcus in a mood?”

“Let’s just say he didn’t seem overly surprised.” Which wasn’t much of an answer if the one you wanted was No.

Teela was in the office and at her desk, which was generally a bad sign. She was also on break, which meant she was lounging on a chair that was balanced on its back two legs, and watching the door. Tain was somewhere else, which meant Kaylin only had to deal with one of the Barrani Hawks she sometimes counted as friends. On this particular morning, she couldn’t remember why, exactly.

The fact that Teela rose—gracefully, because it was impossible for a Barrani not to be graceful—the minute she laid emerald eyes on Kaylin made it clear who she’d been watching for. The fact that she was smiling as she sauntered across the usual chaos of the office meant she was amused. This didn’t mean that the news for Kaylin was good, on the other hand.

“Good morning, Private Neya,” the window said. “It is a bright and sunny day, but rain is expected in the late afternoon. Please dress accordingly while you are on duty.”

Teela took one look at Kaylin’s raised brows and laughed out loud.

Kaylin said a few choice words in Leontine.

“Please be aware that this is a multiracial office, and the terms that you are using might give offense to some of your coworkers,” the same window chided.

Kaylin’s jaw nearly hit the floor.

“Apparently,” Teela said, as her laugh trailed off into a chuckle, “the mage that designed the window to be a cheerful, talking timepiece, was not entirely precise in his use of magic.”

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