As you may have read in previous posts this week, I’ve completed my first NaNoWriMo projet (Oil and Boiling Water) and have now moved on to the yet-to-be-titled, would-be-first-book of the Dianaes series. If you missed it the first chapter is here.
A little context before the excerpt.
Sa’athy is a Dianae, huntress of criminals and guardian of justice. She has one conscience simultaneously living in two bodies: one huge white tiger and one human working as an esteemed apothecary and physician. For years, her true identity – and all her people’s – have been kept secret, but Tuomas, a human with an uncanny sense of observation, figured her out.
Now, she can’t let him out of her sight.
The afternoon before this scene Sa’athy’s human self and Tuomas saved the Craig Donahue’s life.
* * *
Sitting on my hind legs, I waited for the sheriff to meet me under the blue flame of the ceremonial summoning torch. In the meantime, I held my snout up in the air, catching the smells on the wind and tasting the tensions and worries of the villagers who walked across the public square within the last hour. It was surprising how often that initial sweep revealed a villager suspiciously carrying a smell related to the crime I investigated.
Not tonight though. The air didn’t have the acrid smell of guilt.
Sheriff Porter kneeled in front of me, leveling our eyes, and bowed his head. I lay a paw on his shoulder, sign I allowed him to look at me and speak.
“There has been an incident on the Donahue land,” he said, raising his head. He then went on to relate what he knew of the events which, of course, I was already familiar with.
I pulled my concentration away from my Animae long enough to put the horses back in their stall. I still paid attention to the Sheriff in case he mentioned a detail that had escaped Craig but that didn’t require much of my brain power.
“Are you okay?” Tuomas asked. Maybe I should have warned him. I was so unused to sharing my secrets with a human it would take some getting used to.
“I have to concentrate on my animal part for a while.”
“What does that mean exactly?”
I cocked an eyebrow. He had done good but I still didn’t trust him. “This part of me will be able to perform simple tasks.” That was fairly close to the truth. “Just don’t ask me to solve a complex equation.”
“How can you act in two independent bodies at once?”
“Millenniums of practice.”
A crowd was beginning to gather on the public place. They would expect me to smell them. Most of the time, only innocents submitted to the test but I had encountered a criminal or two who thought they’d escape their sentence by showing up at the opening of the investigation.
“Will it help if I cook diner?” Tuomas asked, distracting me from the study of the bystanders’ reactions to the Sheriff’s story. “That was my job for Lord Kirlhan.”
“Sure,” I replied and guided him to the kitchen. The action was simple enough; my Animae caught a couple of people shifting their weight as the Sheriff stated his suspicions about the case. I sat at the kitchen table and focused on my animal incarnation.
“It is my belief that this situation is, at best, unlawful hunting coupled with flight from the scene of the accident. At worst, murder attempt,” the Sheriff said.
So the Sheriff and I shared our conclusions.
I nodded in approval and pushed myself off the ground. As soon as I did, the bystanders formed a neat line. The first one put both hands forward for me to sniff. I knew him to be a sweet gentleman who couldn’t hurt a fly but I followed the ritual nonetheless: I looked him up and down, and then took a good whiff of his hands. I pushed him with the side of my head and the next one moved forward.
I went through the line half hoping the criminal was a smart-ass who thought I wouldn’t smell gunpowder on his hands because he washed them thoroughly; I was honour-bound to solve this crime before leaving the village which could considerably delay my reaction to Tuomas’ news. Unfortunately, the criminal didn’t make it easy for me.
Once I cleared everyone present, I saluted the Sheriff with a nod and broke into a sprint toward the forest. It didn’t take me long to find the residual blood where Craig had been shot. The bushes were broken and the leaves smashed to the ground where he had fallen after the impact. In the downing light of the evening, I found the other half of the buckshot embedded in an old oak which helped me determine the origin of the shot.
I followed the line until the smell of black powder hit me.
“Diner’s ready,” Tuomas said.
My focus snapped back to my Personae, the smell of diner completely obscuring the subtleties of the wood. Both bodies’ stomach growled.
That boy could cook.