Home > Cast in Ruin (Chronicles of Elantra #7)

Cast in Ruin (Chronicles of Elantra #7)
Michelle Sagara

CHAPTER 1

The worst thing about near-world-ending disasters according to Sergeant Marcus Kassan—at least the ones that had miraculously done very little damage—was the paperwork they generated. Two departments over, the Hawks required to man desks visible—and accessible—to the public would probably have disagreed. Vehemently. In Leontine.

In the day and a half since four very large Dragons, a small army, and every Sword on the roster had converged on Elani street, there’d been a steady stream of people coming to the office that bordered Missing Persons to make complaints, demand redress, or simply ask for some assurance that the world had not, in fact, ended. The numbers of civilian complaints had, in theory, peaked.

Theory, as usual, was invented by some bureaucrat in a high tower who didn’t have to actually deal with said complaints. Private Neya, however, wasn’t even Corporal, let alone lofty bureaucrat. She was part of the emergency shift of Hawks who’d been crammed into a workspace—already tight to begin with—in order to deal with the civilians. The Hawks who regularly manned these desks were generally older and certainly better suited to the task.

They appeared to appreciate the help about as much as the help appreciated being there.

“You’re beat Hawks,” her Sergeant had growled. For some of the officers who worked in the Halls of Law, growl would be figurative. In the case of Kaylin Neya, it was literal: her Sergeant was a Leontine. “You deal with the public every day.”

“Right. We deal with the public accused of stealing, mugging, and murder.” All in all, it didn’t give the brightest window into the human condition. When Sergeant Kassan failed to even blink, she added, “You know them—they’re the people I don’t have to worry about offending?”

Marcus, however, had failed to be moved. Kaylin had not, which is why she currently occupied half a stranger’s desk.

“You were assigned to Elani,” he pointed out. “At the moment, Elani is still—”

“Under quarantine. Yes. I realize that.”

“Since you can’t do your job there for the next few days, you can make yourself useful in the front rooms, since we are still paying you.”

Not surprisingly, many of the reports delivered by timid, angry, or deranged civilians involved descriptions of a giant Dragon roaming the streets. His color varied from report to report, as did his activities; he reportedly breathed fire, ate people—or at least large, stray dogs—and leveled buildings. He was alternately the usual Dragon size—which, to be fair, was not small—or giant; he was also deafening.

This last part was accurate. The rest, not so much. Kaylin, of course, knew the Dragon being described. Dragons were forbidden, by law, from assuming their native forms within the City of Elantra without express permission from the Eternal Emperor. Lord Tiamaris, however, had received that dispensation. He was, the last time she’d seen him, a shade that approached copper. He did have an impressive wingspan, but none of the eyewitnesses had claimed to see him fly.

Most of the witnesses, however, claimed that Tiamaris led a small army. The descriptions of this army varied almost as widely as descriptions of Tiamaris himself. The word Barbarian came up almost as often as Savage, but both ran a distant second and third to Giant. She particularly liked the two people—who had come in together and were shoving each other in between sentences—who claimed that they were an army of the shambling undead. Their size was, according to these civilian reports, all over the map; their numbers ranged from “lots” to “fifty thousand.” Most accounts agreed, however, that the strangers were armed.

This last had the benefit of being accurate. The strangers—or refugees—themselves were, as far as anyone knew, newcomers to the world—the idea that this was a world, rather than the only world being almost as new to most of the authorities as the refugees themselves. According to the Palace, and more important, to Lord Sanabalis, the refugees numbered roughly three thousand strong. As their destination was the fief of Tiamaris, no formal census had been taken or even considered. They wouldn’t technically be citizens of Elantra.

They weren’t giants, a race that Kaylin privately thought entirely in the realm of children’s stories, but they were about eight feet in height at the upper end; the children were taller than Kaylin. They didn’t speak Elantran, which was Kaylin’s mother tongue; they didn’t speak Barrani, either, Barrani being the language in which the laws were written. But the Imperial linguists, with the aid of Ybelline Rabon’alani, had gone with Tiamaris. They’d been the only people who’d looked truly excited at the prospect of three thousand armed, hungry, and exhausted eight-foot-tall strangers. They were also, however, absent from the civilian reports, and therefore not her problem.

Kaylin had received some training in speaking with civilians, because some of her job did involve talking to possible witnesses in a way that didn’t terrify them so much they denied seeing anything; putting it to use in the crowded office full of strangers was almost more than she could stomach. She did not, however, point out that they were blind or out of their minds; she transcribed most of what they said with unfailing attention.

This was, in part, because in the end Marcus would have to read most of these, or at least sign them. He loathed paperwork.

On the bright side? The unusual births, the rains of blood—and, in one area, frogs—and the unfortunate and inexplicable change in the City’s geography, had ceased. Elani, however, now had a stream running along one side of the street, and the blood-red flowers that had popped up in the wake of the refugees were proving more hardy than tangleknot grass.

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