Jesra tightened her grip on the hilt of her kelshar as she stared at the intricate and beautiful front of the bahlan prayer temple. On any other occasion the subtle patterns of the mosaics, mimicking but never quite becoming the swirling silver of clouds, the burning lights of sunrises, the lofty trunks of trees and the shimmering petals of flowers, would have fascinated her, but today she was here to hunt someone that she had hoped to never see again.

Why had he come here? she thought and flexed the feathered wings folded at her back. This was not a place to plan an escape from, situated as it was in a populated, fairly respectable part of a major city where troops or police could easily surround the building and numerous surveillance cameras and drones would quickly spot a fugitive.

So why had he chosen it? Why had Pejan told her to meet him here?

She stretched out her tal-senses to look for his presence and found that they reached no further than the walls of the temple. A sense of foreboding filled her. If the Tal was not present in the bahlan temple, then that would be a very good reason why Pejan had chosen to meet her there. She, and any other kelthrin, would be at a disadvantage there.

Of course, that would include Pejan himself, as even a fallen kelthrin still relied on the Tal to fight.

Perhaps he just wanted to limit the possibility of fighting. If both of them were without the Tal, then neither would feel in a position to capture the other.

For a moment she considered just walking away. If talk was all she would have opportunity for, then she would rather not bother. Talking to Pejan could only be painful.

But the elders had told her that hunting Pejan was her responsibility. Her test. If she went back without even talking, they would just send her out after him again. At best.

She readied herself, taking five times as long to check over the adjustment of her robe and shielded carbon armor as she would have at any other time. When she had tightened every strap for the third time she steeled herself to go in. Just as she was about to open the door she caught sight of herself in the giant mirror that formed the main door to the temple.

She stopped, noting that her hair was out of order, and took another moment tuck the stray brown locks back into place behind the silvery horns that swept back from her forehead. Then she looked into her own eyes and saw fear and uncertainty hovering around the blue shimmer of her irises along with a third emotion that was hard to place.

She searched for the answer in the subtle cues of her pale oval face, finding it in the faint curve of her lips, the flare of her nostrils and the pulsing blue glow of her lineage-marks.


She realized that she hadn’t just been adjusting her robes to be ready for a fight, but to look her best, as much as a kelthrin had such a thing.

The urge to leave, no, to flee, came back ten times stronger than before.

Jesra was just about to turn when the mirrored door opened into the temple and a white-furred bahlan, his horned head barely coming up to her chest, beckoned her inside.

“Master Farseeker is waiting for you, Lady Jesra. Please come in.”


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