I HAD JUST STAGGERED out of the Quill when I heard the scream. I’d had a rough day and had capped it off with a rough night, and at that moment I wasn’t prepared to deal with anything more demanding than finding my way to my place above the Barrelrider. But that noise drove a spike through my plans.
On most nights, I’d have just ignored the scream. Dragon City’s a big, nasty place, and if I chased after every sound of distress, I’d never stop running. And that’s only if I could override the natural sense of self-preservation that kept me from stabbing my wand into places it didn’t belong. Besides, that wasn’t my job. That’s what the Imperial Dragon paid the Guard for, right?
But this scream—more of a wail—came from nearby enough to make me flinch. I yanked my wand out of its shoulder holster and stiff-armed it at the alley I’d been stumbling past.
All I could see was inky darkness. The moon rode low in the night sky and cast long shadows throughout the city, and the glowglobes near the Quill had been shot out so many times the Empire had given up on replacing them years back.
Someone in the alley whimpered, a sound as pathetic as the scream had been piercing. I lowered my wand a bit and peered into the darkness, every sense on high alert, the hair on my arms standing up.
Nothing happened. No banshee came screaming out at me. No bullet slammed into my chest.
I considered just turning around, heading home, and ignoring whatever was going. After all, it had nothing to do with me, and I didn’t need more grief in my life.
But who was I kidding? My curiosity was up now. If I walked away, I’d never know what was going on in that darkness, and I’d wonder about it for the rest of my life.
Of course, I stood a good chance of my life lasting longer if I learned to leave well enough alone, so there was that to consider. But that had never stopped me before.
I muttered the words of an easy little spell, and a beam of light speared from my wand into the darkness of the alley. The light caught a gangly orc kneeling over a woman, both of them covered in blood. From the paleness of the woman’s skin, I guessed that the red splattered about the place had come from her.