Monday, May 12, 2014

The Hunter Prince: A Gathering of Almost Ghosts

Janiva stepped quietly around the corner and into the larger room beyond.

It had once been a hall of some sort, she decided. The floor was smooth and level, and the ceiling, though natural stone, was supported with columns and butresses. There were carvings everywhere, but she didn't stop to look at them. Her attention was drawn by the sound of voice, louder now, from the far end of the hall.

She released her spell and let the light over her head fade away. There was light at the far end of the hall, and she didn't want to call attention to herself. Here in the darkness under the ground, even the softest light became bright and glaring. At least the floor was bare; there wouldn't be anything to trip on.

Janiva started across the hall, circling towards the light. She kept her steps as soft as she could, and tried to use the pillars for cover. They were solid stone, and wide enough for two people to hide behind; but there was also a lot of open space between them. So she walked slowly and carefully, and all the while the voices grew louder.

They were definitely voices, though she didn't understand what they were saying.

She was halfway across when he heard a soft gasp, and turned to see a white, glowing face regarding her with wide, dark eyes. Janiva flinched back, and in that moment the face vanished around a pillar. It had been a child's face, she thought. At least, it was low to the floor, and had the soft roundness that would define an Imperial child's face.

Ste stepped forward, and saw a glowing shape retreating back through the pillars. It was running, but the movement was completely silent. A ghost? ...No. Despite the way it looked, it couldn't be a ghost. She would have felt it as it approached: the growing fear, the sense of profound cold, of life and magic draining away. However strange it might look, this was a living being...

...And it was running back to its friends. Janiva could see them, now; she'd come forward far enough. They were all of a kind: white skin, glowing from the inside; wide, dark eyes; soft hair of white, or pale gold, or the lightest gray. They were built along the same lines as Imperial men and women - or shimmers, or the beast-men of the great forest, for that matter: two arms, two legs, a single head with eyes and mouth and nose where she expected to find them. They were different sizes; Janiva suspected she'd found a group of children of various ages, though it might have been some sort of family group, with the largest two being the parents. She couldn't be sure.

They'd been gathered around some sort of square on the ground. They sprang up as she approached, still jabbering in their unfamiliar tongue, and three of them darted away through a nearby doorway. Their movements, like the little one's, were completely silent.

Before she could even lift a hand in greeting, the largest one scooped up the little girl and the remaining four retreated as well.

Janiva swore softly (using a word that wasn't at all fit for the lady she might become, but found a very great deal of use among the guards and soldiers with whom she'd been training), and turned back to find Cyjar and Morius.

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