Varra Selandin stared out the window of her new room, staring into the courtyard below. The sense that she was being watched was constant now, but there was nothing to be done. It was all in her head. A burden those of her rank must bear. Still, perhaps the meeting with the other Hands would do some good on her conscience. So long as her inability to sleep didn’t have severe consequences.
Three quick knocks on the door. “Are you awake, ma’am?”
“I am,” she replied. “Enter.”
The door opened and warm light spilled into the room, which was otherwise lit only by a small candle. The tall, slim form of a Tenshari stepped in, dressed in simple leather armor. His right arm was completely concealed, hand resting on the pommel of the sword he kept on that side. He flinched at the sight of his superior wearing only a shift, but it didn’t deter him long. “There is word of commotion outside the city, ma’am. In the Meadows.”
Varra’s brow furrowed. “What sort of commotion?”
“It seems as though one of the constructors is hunting something.”
“What’s odd about that? Infrequent as it might be, it does happen.”
The Tenshari made an expression she could only guess was uncertain. “Well, you ordered us to report anything unusual to you, even if it might seem trivial. The strange thing is that it has been hunting for quite some time now. Maybe over an hour. Eathe said I should come tell you in case it doesn’t stop.”
That was strange. Often a target wouldn’t last more than five minutes. “Understood. Return to your post. I will investigate.”
“Yes, ma’am. It’s traveled a fair distance at this point. Right now it is just south of the West Gate.”
“Thank you. Dismissed.” She glanced back out through the window and into the night. Behind her, she heard the door close as the Tenshari left her alone once more.
It wasn’t strange enough to be troublesome, but a constructor behaved very predictably. Perhaps she would learn something that could gain her leverage in the meeting. Anything to help her get through to them.
She pulled the curtains over the window and stripped, changing into more suitable clothes. A simple long tunic over breeches followed by some leather armor of her own. After tying her hair back and pulling boots on, she blew out the candle, grabbed her umbrella, and left the room.
After a brief walk through the palace, she stepped out into the open air, opening the umbrella and resting it on her shoulder. A Hand of Aenias was protected from the night, just as the Tenshari were, but the child in her still preferred having more shelter, especially these days when her indescribable sense of unease was growing stronger.
The streets of Upper Terrace were quiet, as everywhere in Tebrein was at night. Since so many of the nobles here could afford Night Seals, however, there were still a number of people milling about even in the darkness. Since they were primarily used for the day’s Shadow rather than a full night, she was the only one with an umbrella. It made her feel all the more childish and it earned her a few looks, but she shrugged it off. A few more eyes watching her made no real difference.
The majority of the people Varra passed as she made her way to the wall were still the ashen-skinned Tenshari, but a few of the more informed folk gave a nod of “Exalted One” to her as they crossed paths. She gave little more than solemn nods in reply.
As she reached the West Gate of the city, she saw the Captain of the Guard, Eathe staring out into the Meadows from atop the wall. The young man wore plate over a muscled build, and even the way he stood did some measure to validate his title. At the moment, he stared opposite her over the other side of the wall, and was too focused to notice her presence. She made a sharp whistle, and he turned to face her, the pensive frown he wore lighting up into a warm grin.
“Honored to serve, Exalted One,” he bowed, which was an odd gesture since he stood several feet above her.
“Spare me the formalities, Eathe,” she chided as she ascended the stone stairwell to join him. “I got word of what was happening. Any changes?”
Eathe’s frown returned, his expression darkening a bit. “No. But that’s no comfort. Look.”
He gestured out into the Meadows below. Having just walked through torchlit streets, Varra’s eyes were unadjusted to the blackness before her. Still, she could just barely make out a discernable gap in the forest, as if a river parted the trees, or else something large felled them.
“The constructor has made a beeline west towards Lower Terrace,” Eathe explained. “You can’t quite hear it anymore, but it’s still in the area. What do you make of it? I’ve never heard of a constructor going crazy or breaking, but you’d know better than me if that’s a possibility.”
Varra shook her head. “If it’s behaving abnormally of its own accord it would be a first. My guess is that some outside force has done something. It’s either chasing something it can’t kill or its senses have been tampered with somehow.”
“I heard somebody managed to blind one a few decades ago. You mean something like that?”
“Yeah. It’s bad news for us, regardless of what it is. I should go take care of it.”
“What?” Eathe said. “You’re going to go down there while it’s rampaging?”
Varra glanced at him. “I’m the Hand of Defense, Eathe. That’s one of the most important duties of my rank.”
“But can’t you calm it down from here?” Eathe’s face held genuine worry on it, which was flattering in its own right.
“My mother could,” she replied. “But I’m not experienced enough for that sort of thing. You stay here. I’ll be back before too long. If something does happen to me, You may send a small search party in the morning.”
Eathe sighed, his lip tightening. After a moment his face became that of a respectable Captain of the Guard once more. “Very well, ma’am. Good luck.”
Varra nodded and descended the stairs. Behind her, Eathe called out orders for the portcullis to be raised, and she stepped through it as it did so. The drawbridge that made a long ramp between the Meadows floor and the ground level of Upper Terrace was already down, as it always was, so she didn’t have to wait for it.
With nothing barring her way, she set off into the night. “Well,” she said to herself. “I suppose it beats spending another sleepless night staring out a window.”