Swift are sahanu;
Silent like the night,
Unstoppable like the wind,
Merciful they are,
For quick death
Rides their daggers.
A woman stepped out of the woods on the other side of the river, a gauzy dark purple scarf wrapped around her head, hiding the bottom half of her face. She pulled it off slowly, and it hung from her shoulder. She was about my size and my age, dark eyes, dark hair, Latin American features. Her hair, gathered into a high pony tail on her head and secured with leather cords, cascaded to her shoulders. She wore a black coat, split in the center to allow quick movement and trimmed with deep purple, black pants, and soft black boots. A black leather gorget shielded her neck, extending into a chest plate of supple black leather that covered her left breast. The chest plate wouldn’t stop a sword thrust. It wasn’t meant to. It existed to provide her just enough protection if she miscalculated by half an inch when she avoided a cut, the graze of the opponent’s blade wouldn’t draw blood. A katana hung from her belt.
The woman looked directly at me and walked to the bridge.
Ah. I see.
Ascanio opened his mouth. Derek raised his head, silencing him.
I strode through the grass toward the bridge, Sarrat in my hand.
We stepped onto the boards at the same time.
The woman stopped. I did as well. The river ran between us.
She bowed, keeping her eyes on my face.
“The scent,” Derek said behind me.
The scent he’d smelled in Roland’s castle and then again in the backyard. She belonged to my father.
“I have no issue with you, Sharrim. I’ve come for the head,”she said, her voice tinted with accent.
I pondered her. My father wanted the head. Why? It was completely inert. I felt no magic emanating from it.
“No,” Holland said.
I glanced over my shoulder. He drew himself straight. “That head is evidence in an ongoing investigation by Milton County. It belongs to people of Milton County.”
I turned back to the woman. “You heard the deputy.”
“My orders are to secure the head,” she said.
There would be violence. The air was ripe with it.
“You’ll have to go through me,” I told her.
“So be it.”
“Walk away,” I told her.
“I obey only one,” she said.
“My father isn’t worth your life.”
“If you kill me, I’ll be slain by Sharrim in battle. If I kill you, I’ll be slain by Sharrum in his grief. My entire life culminates here. My passage to the afterlife is assured. I’m at peace.”
“How about door #3? Turn around and go to live a nice life somewhere else.”
“You do me a great honor, Sharrim. Defend yourself.”
The window rolled down and Andrea stuck her blond head out. “I’m free! Free!”
Oh boy. “Aren’t you supposed to be on bed rest?” I could’ve sworn Raphael told me Doolittle confined her to bed.
“Screw that. We’re going to lunch.”
“It’s past lunch time.”
“Then we’re going to dinch. Or lunner. Or whatever the hell early dinner late lunch stupid combo we can come up with.”
Andrea’s eyes blazed. “Kate, I’m nine months pregnant and I’m hungry. Get into the damn car.”
I got into the car and Andrea pealed out like a bat out of hell.
“We’re going to Pantheon. We’re going to have gyros.” Her stomach was out so far, she must’ve moved the seat back, because she had to stretch to reach the wheel.
“The look of grim determination on your face is scary,” I told her.
“I’ve been cooped up in Keep’s infirmary for the past two weeks,” Andrea said.
She waved her hand. “Because Doolittle is a worrywart.”
Crap. “Andrea, does Doolittle know where you are?”
“You sure about that?”
“Absolutely. I’ve let him know. Anyway, we are going to lunch!”
“To lunch!” She flashed her teeth at me.
I shut up and let her drive.