Ghosts and Shadows: Changeling teaser

“You have been given your first job, Brother.”

A silhouette split from the shadows clouding the walls. The darkness seemed to reach out with murky hands, trying to pull him back into their depths, to bring him home. Hissing emanated from the floorboards, as if rising from hell itself.

Brynmor blinked and swallowed heavily, trying to focus on the man who had stepped from the corridor. He hadn’t been part of the walls. It was just his eyes playing tricks on him. “Have I?” he asked, voice shaking.

The man smiled, but the gesture didn’t reach his eyes. “You have. The buyer wished for someone with as much discretion as possible; you seemed suiting.”

Bubbles of hysteria rose beneath his breast, but he stamped them down. His vision was swimming; the voices in the floorboards were getting louder, calling his name in his native tongue, summoning him to the shadows. Why hadn’t he thought to bring a torch?

“Suiting. Yes. Of course. What is it?”

A folded sheet of parchment appeared from nowhere, and he reached out for it. “Seems simple enough. You need to get rid of someone; the buyer doesn’t care if it’s assassination or kidnapping and slavery, but they want that someone gone. Think you can handle it?”

The voices buzzed in his head. They sounded like his brother, and the impossibly long fingers clawing at his feet from the shadows were the talons of the beasts of the north. It had been so long…

He mumbled a response, but barely heard his own voice. Was it supposed to last this long? By the Echelon, somebody should have warned him.

But he might not have joined if they had. That was the stipulation. Join without any knowledge of the initiation, or demand answers and leave. And they would not have let him leave. They needed him. They had told him that much.

The paper was in his hands, and he was being led back through the corridors from the initiation chambers to the main dormitory. It was the largest safe house of its kind, and housed several dozen members. No wonder people avoided this house. Even in a lawless city like Augustine, this was a place that was feared beyond others.

Hands touched his back in congratulations, and his knees buckled under the weight. Barely feeling the pain, he crashed to the floorboards and lay there, seeing nothing but shadows in the shape of his brother.

A mouth smiled. Big eyes blinked. “I am happy for you, Bryn,” said the spectre of his brother.

Feeling comforted by Gwynn’s presence, he shut his eyes and let oblivion take him.

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