Excerpt from The Index, Book 1: Mages
New York City, present day.
The din of the New York street was something that every local knew how to ignore.
It was an ordinary Monday morning rush hour and already, the myriad of brokers, lawyers, executives of all sorts disembarked the subway and went onto their respective ways to their offices. Coffee was in hand, business deals were in mind and there was an opportunity for everything.
Including the occasional spill.
The woman’s sharp voice and furious glare was directed at the hapless young man who bumped into her made her drop her portfolio.
“I-I’m s-s-o—” the young man muttered.
She waved him off, irritated.
He walked away, muttering, “geez, lady, I tried to say sorry” as she gathered up her spilled papers in the middle of Exchange Place. Her blonde hair wavered in the wind as she got up and walked on her way, blithely unaware of the rest of the crowd and that suddenly, this crowd got a lot thicker and the characters comprising it were much stranger than usual.
She paused in front of a glass door to straighten out her hair and ducked into the café nearby for breakfast.
Had the broker turned around, she would’ve noticed that there was another reflection in the glass next to her own and it stayed there after she walked away. This reflection without a source was the face and body of another young woman who looked as unlike the stockbroker as possible. Where the broker was a short, brown-eyed blonde, the new woman was a tall, sullen-looking brunette with piercing green eyes and a cool, calculating expression. Without any regard to how strange this looked, she stepped off the glass, fully corporeal, into the sun-flooded Wall Street.
She was definitely not dressed to fit in with the rest of the suits around her, what with her relaxed, wide black cargo pants, black boots and a red cropped tank top in the middle of November. Moreover, she seemingly felt no cold whatsoever, although the morning wind chill put the temperature squarely at forty degrees Fahrenheit. Her hair was long, straight, jet-black and swept into a high ponytail down to just above her waist. She also didn’t care that the stockbrokers gave her sidelong glances as she strode out into the middle of the street looked around.
“Not half-bad,” she remarked in a language other than English. Not that she didn’t understand it, but she preferred her native tongue when thinking aloud.
She stood still, ignoring the milling workers of Wall Street around her. Slowly, her eyes grew unfocused as her senses threw out a simple request for a response.
The answer to the name came immediately, less than a thought, less than a word but a twitch of energy against her consciousness.
Her eyes re-focused once she figured out where the signal had come from. Right away, she took off running, sidestepping tourists and pedestrians with perfect grace and without pausing, reaching such a speed that to most humans, it was only a momentary blur.
Arriella kept running until she reached Midtown, where Rena was waiting for her by the 34th Street exit of the FDR Drive.
“Break time’s over?”
Rena paused as she saw several young men, notably of Shifter origin, go through several appearances as they ducked into a building nearby. A brief sensory scan of the area confirmed that everywhere, everyone who was anyone other than human was showing their true colors, whether or not they wanted to or if it was within their control.
* * * * *
He looked strange. Even for a place like this.
The Las Vegas Strip saw many odd and out-of-ordinary things in its daily turn of events and many people had their way about themselves in terms of clothing. Tourists, showgirls, people who simply thought that theirs was a style worth seeing. Despite that, hardly anyone had seen a man like this.
He was tall, well over six feet, broad-shouldered, well-built and every inch of him spoke of authority. High cheekbones, intelligent black eyes, a strong jaw and an emotionless face only added to the initial first impression that this man was not to be crossed at any cost.
While Las Vegas saw its share of high-powered executives looking for an escape, very few carried themselves quite like this when they were on the Strip.
He certainly dressed oddly. Silver-tipped boots peeked out from beneath black pants that were made of a fabric not easily named. He wore a long, flowing robe that secured with silver fastenings from shoulder to waistline on a diagonal. The robe was black, wide-sleeved and threaded lightly with silver at the edges and cuffs. His hair was long, glossy black and secured with a silver clasp at the nape of the neck.
He walked down the Strip at a steady, sedate pace, eyes roving the surroundings and senses scanning for the one person that he sought, one that he didn’t require a visual sighting to find. He ignored the humans, their gray, auraless presence barely registering, though they couldn’t ignore him.
He learned the old-fashioned way that teleportation was not a wise idea; he was spotted almost immediately the first time he tried. Doing so was more trouble than it was worth and inciting a panic was not welcome.
If the Cosmics suddenly found a planet like this devoid of life at his whim, there would be no way that he’d live to see the day that followed. He had a job to do and the one thing he couldn’t tolerate is interference. Humans, above everything else, irritated him, but if he wanted his way, he would have to be…tolerant.
So, he resolved to search in a slower, somewhat more old-fashioned manner. He already ran into several people before and whether because they genuinely didn’t know him or their unwillingness to say something, no one showed signs of recognition. He saw enough; they were – no doubt thanks to his unwelcome arrival here – able to use their abilities.
More trouble than it’s worth, I wager, he thought.
The drunken jeer came from a young man across the street, one that clearly had too much wine. Though it’s likely that what he drank wasn’t wine; humans and their liquors…
The stranger glared at the man, who shrank back against the building, then turned tail and ran.
The man didn’t run very far before a hand of steel yanked him into an alley.
The stranger with long hair lifted him by his chin without visible effort and analyzed the drunkard as though curious.
“Where’s Shourron?” he asked with an undercurrent in his soft voice that promised excruciating pain.
“W-What the hell, man?”
“I repeat…” a sharp shake and a tightening of the grip. “Where…is Shourron?”
“I-I dunno what you’re talking about!” the man choked out.
The stranger’s eyebrow twitched for a brief second as he accessed the mind of his inadvertent victim and sensed nothing but fear. Fear, too much liquor, two admittedly attractive girls from the bar…so many memories but none of the one that he sought.
With a sneer of disgust, he threw him aside into the heap of garbage nearby, turned on his heel and walked out of the alley.
The man watched as the robed stranger suddenly vanished. He would later swear, in detox and thereafter, that he heard a sound resembling a whip crack.
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