Hounds of FeyMature

Ongoing urban fantasy of the imagination. I will write more should you approve.

Chapter One

He found her at the bus-stop chewing on her fingernails. They were grubby, with uneven ends; crescents blackened by dirt at the tips. Otherwise she was quite beautiful. Dark hair, the wavy kind, framed a frightened face. Her light brown eyes were as clear as whiskey, darting in the light of the solitary street-lamp. She had tan skin, a little blanched from nerves, and a petite frame. But it was her scent that made her known to him. It was the scent of honey and false promises, and it never quite left one who had walked the lands of fey.

How do false promises smell? Hard to say. A little like disappointment, but a lot more like heartbreak. A scent that draws you closer and closer as you try to figure it out – but just before you do, it dissipates, and you're not sure if it was ever there. Just the hint of it was enough for him. Another man, a less experienced man without a mission, might find himself edging toward her without knowing why, or following her a street or two before realizing he hadn't any idea where he was. But he was not that man. He was Labros, and he was the hound of a queen.

She turned quickly to him, a little faster than he had expected. His prey was not often so attuned. In her eyes was a resignation he had known a thousand times. But it held defiance, too.

“You took longer than I thought.”

“You have been elusive.”

“I'm honoured, I suppose. Quite a feat to hide from a dog like you.”

He took the slur calmly. He took it into his black eyes, that burned with an infinite patience. She could try to bait him, but he had millennia of practice beneath his collar.

“Where is she?” His voice was quiet, rasping into the edges of her nerves. She could feel it in her skull like a sandpaper tongue, wriggling and pushing against her defences. They broke them with an ease that left her breathless. She looked at him, black as night, with a fire-red coat of hair gleaming around his face. The queen liked her hounds to grow out their hair. She would play with them, stroking her nails through their shaggy strands, ruffling them in reward for a particularly messy kill. It was an indignity they suffered in stoicism. They were her things, after all.

“In the ear of the god.”

He growled at her reply, and an ebony hand whipped to her neck faster than the sound could echo in the dark. Claws cut into her throat, a mere half-centimeter deep, enough to impale her – not to kill. He lifted her then, up onto the toes of her feet, letting the weight of her body press down against the steel of those sleek blades. The pain choked her in a hot rush, flooding all thought from her head.

“You are far from the ear of the god, Celia. He will not hear your prayers now, he will not even hear you scream. Grace will not deliver you, mercy will not take your pain. Tell me where she is.”

She gazed on him as the light flickered in those whiskey-brown eyes, now clouding up in agony. A human would have submitted by now – or died. But she was not entirely human. Kissed by fey, beloved of magic, she had reserves of protection. Yet she could hurt. She hurt now, dangling on his claws, her slim body arched in a grotesquely beautiful line.

“Dog,” she whispered, hoarse in the gathering wind. “She is blood of my blood, and daughter of a king. Do you think – ” her frail hand rose to gently, almost pityingly clasp his wrist, “I would give her to that bitch?”

She lurched forward with the last reserves of her strength, ripping his claws into the vocal cords of her tiny neck. He flinched back a fraction too late, and realized his mistake as soon as his bloody hand withdrew, dripping, from her neck. She crumpled before him, red rivulets streaming to soak her breasts, her stomach. A gurgle sighed in her throat. It was the most articulate sound she would ever utter again.

Labros knotted his fingers in her hair, dragged it up to the light of the street-lamp. He cursed in the darkness. If he had used some other blade, some other device, her woulds may have been repaired. But wounds inflicted by the teeth and claws of the hounds were far harder to heal, and he had not the resources to repair the mangled mess of her neck. It had been her final gambit, and she had won.

He searched her, strictly and methodically, scouring down her broken body in his arms. In the pocket of her blood-soaked jeans he found a driver's license; in her boot, a serrated knife. He scanned the license quickly and dropped her to the street. She would bleed to death or live – it was not his concern. He had an address now. And he had a mission. If he did not hurry, his mistress would be displeased.

A leap and a blur into the bushes; time began to flow again. The wheels of the bus rolled closer in the distance, and as Celia's mutilated body, still jerking, came into sight, a woman began to scream.

 

The End

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