Dust and Sand – Chapter 23 – By Sean P. Wallace
They ran on in silence, Claw of the Gods presumably leading them to Shadows Fade. Dust wished again that they hadn’t had to bring a torch; he’d be able to see what the Spirit Wolf saw if not, would know what he was after and what was after him.
It was odd that Claw of the Gods was leading them and not Shadows Fade; the Father had said there were a few harriers so perhaps Shadows Fade was fighting the others. He hoped that were the case, not that she’d come up against something stronger.
After maybe ten minutes of running, of Dust getting progressively slower and Naismith having to hold back so she didn’t get too far ahead, Claw of the Gods howled and sprinted even faster. They must be close for her to leave them behind, head round the base of a craggy and looming colossus of brown stone and out of sight.
“We’re here,” Naismith said.
Dust didn’t have the energy to respond. He kept on, concentrating on not embarrassing himself by walking the last half mile, and just about maintained a jog. Naismith still rounded the outcrop well ahead of him.
When he got there, he saw Shadows Fade idly sitting on a lithe man with a strong tint of magic. His arms and legs were bound with coarse rope and a length of cloth gagged him. He struggled against the bonds, though the knots were so strong he’d never have a chance of escaping.
Dust leaned against the outcrop and allowed himself to gasp for air. “Number three,” he whispered.
Shadows Fade stood and asked Naismith something, presumably what had made Dust so tired. The girl looked down at the ground and mumbled a reply, telling the warrior what’d happened back at Crucifix.
In hindsight, his plan had been a failure. Not that Naismith was solely to blame; Shadows Fade hadn’t thinned out the herd enough to save Dust this pain. Thoughthat might’ve just meant there were a hundred creatures originally and she’d killed as many as was possible. At least they’d managed to protect the chapel, that counted for something. The Father probably wouldn’t be troubled for the rest of the night and no one in Crucifix would have to die for the Word.
His breath slowly returned to him, like a reluctant husband guilty about a night of drinking. But capturing one of the harriers more than made up for his state as it gave them a lead.
“He said anything yet?” Dust asked.
Naismith asked. Shadows Fade shook her head.
“Let’s get that gag out then.”
The harrier moaned and wriggled against his bonds even harder; he’d likely just worked out who Dust was.
Once the order was passed on, Shadows Fade leaned down and sliced his gag away. The rough cloth fell two inches to the floor where it curled like a rattler and their captive breathed deeply, enjoyed the air.
“You know who I am?” Dust asked.
The harrier nodded slowly. He looked like he’d been a handsome sort before he’d clashed with Shadows Fade.
“What’s your name?”
The captive said nothing. Shadows Fade, knowing he’d been asked something, cut across the back of his neck to make him talk. He held back a roar of pain by gritting his teeth and breathing hard, sweat-drenched hair swaying.
“Your name,” Dust said.
“Kaspera,” he replied, deciding that information wasn’t worth protecting.
“A Mexican,” Naismith said disdainfully. “That explains it.”
The harrier couldn’t see her but cast a dirty glance in her general direction, having worked it out from his shadow in the torch light.
“You’re not a popular figure, Kaspera,” Dust said, “what with you having spent the last few days attacking the innocent people of Crucifix.”
He lolled his head over to Dust. “It was just a job.”
“Ridiculous,” Naismith barked. “How could you do something like this for money?”
“That’s easy for someone who’s always had money to ask,” their captive replied.
She frowned. “What makes you think I’m wealthy?”
Kaspera laughed. “When you work for rich people for as long as I have, you come to recognize the way they talk.”
Shadows Fade watched their back and forth with idle curiosity, knowing this was nothing she could be involved in.
“You done?” Dust asked Naismith.
She tutted. “Yes.”
“Not much of an interrogation so far,” Kaspera said.
Dust took a deep breath. “No. Not really. But you know I’m the Wanted Man so you know what I can do to you; are the cult you work for paying you enough to go through all the pains I can put you to?”
“No,” their captive said, his face hardening. “But that’s not why you’ll get nothing from me.”
Dust carefully gave no reaction.
Kaspera waited a moment, allowing the power to switch between them a little. “I know what you are. But you’re nothing compared to the… people paying me.”
“And who are they?”
He closed his eyes and rolled onto his back. Dust gave him a wry smile he’d never see; the bastard knew how to handle interrogators, was more of a professional than Dust had expected. He’d probably been the leader of their little group.
Shadows Fade looked to Dust for confirmation she should cut him again. Dust nodded. She knelt down and began slicing; Kaspera panted and growled, tears escaping him, as Shadows Fade cut him half a dozen times with her sharp, cruel knives. Surface wounds, each perfectly placed to hurt like a bitch. Blood flowed freely from his pains, soaking into the earth. But still Kaspera did not speak.
Dust held up his hand for Shadows Fade to stop. She gave him two more cuts, much deeper than any before, then halted.
“This can continue for hours, Kaspera. I’m sure you don’t want that. Just tell us about your employers.”
“Fuck you,” Kaspera said.
Dust was about to let Shadows Fade continue when he sensed a ripple of dark magic. He looked past Shadows Fade and saw a man in dark clothing step out from behind the outcrop and throw a spell at them. At Shadows Fade. A powerful, malicious spell designed to rip a person’s soul free from their body and burn it away.
“Watch out!” Dust shouted.
Shadows Fade looked back quickly then jumped away, language no barrier when panic was involved. The spell roared past where she had been… and into Kaspera, its true target. The Mexican screamed as his soul was torn from him. Then his soulless body fell silent, a state it would never recover from. There was no messing around from magic that dark.