Baffs pulled the door all the way open, and her soft blue dress swayed across the opening. The hardwood floor shone with light from the fireplace, and the torches on the walls. Her house smelled of cinnamon and incense.
Baffs' welcoming smile was etched with worry. She pointed a willowy arm at the empty child's bed at the far end of the cabin, and spoke with a lilting accent, "Young master Seldom de Semolina has been kidnapped this past night. A woman in a black cloak came and snatched him up."
Charcoal footprints of black dust went back and forth from the child's bed to a broken window.
"We saw a man in black," Rachel told her.
"Yes, Sister," Jillian added, "Though he wore leather boots."
Baffs was curious, "Who wears shoes with charcoal soles?"
Mother Donmari turned to her priestesses. Her brow furrowed into hills, and her lips twisted like dunes before a desert storm. She broke the silence, "The search must begin. This cannot be a coincidence."
The stable of Protagopolis was quiet. Every beast was still and every hand was quietly at work. A young girl was sitting on the edge of a barricade, beside a stall. In it, Snowbeast was pacing with impatience.
"It'll be okay," the girl assured the horse. "Nick will come for you soon."
Snowbeast stopped, and stared her down. Clearly, recognizing its master's name.
She pulled something out of a pocket of her muddied dress, "I have an apple, Snowbeast. Auntie said I can't ride you, but she didn't say I can't feed you."
Snowbeast snorted, and then approached. Reluctantly, he took the apple from the girl's hand. And as she patted his mane, he chewed it, dropping bits of pale flesh to the cleanly swept floor.
"Lulu, I need you!" A woman's voice called from the far end of the stable.
The girl dropped to the floor, patting the white stallion one last time, and then ran off down the hall of the stable, "Coming, Auntie Tasha."