Wolf's-own: Koan

Wolf's-own: Koan by Carole Cummings

Book: Wolf's-own: Koan by Carole Cummings Read Free Book Online
Authors: Carole Cummings
the stench of guts and blood from the fishing boats in the harbor, the sweat, the hot oil from the kettles bubbling in food stalls, and here, close to the temples, the heavy perfume of incense, thick as a cloud. Nothing he hadn't smelled before. Nothing new.
    "Pardon me, sir, you'll have to move."
    Scowling, Goyo dragged his gaze outward, focusing on the patrolwoman who'd chided him. Though, now that he was looking, perhaps “chided” wasn't the right word. Taken an opportunity to speak with him, perhaps. There was recognition and a shy bit of admiration in her gaze. She was young—maijin newly turned, if his guess was right—and so many of the Patrol were vying for a place in the hunt right now, wanting to be one of those who brought Tambalon's banpair predicament under control. Goyo had never had so many trying to curry his favor before.
    He adjusted his mien to match the patrolwoman's. It wouldn't do to annoy the Patrol. Maijin though he was, he still had to work with them. And he was rather in the way, he supposed. The streets in Mitsu had never been sufficient for such a teeming mass, and those paths to the temples were always clogged. He probably could have picked a better spot for his sudden... whatever it was.
    "Please do forgive me."
    Goyo bowed with a smile, as charming as he could make it, and moved along. He'd been heading toward Snake's temple, meaning to consult the seer-priest again, because he'd grown bored with the fruitless hunt and was hoping for new direction, however vague. He veered instead toward the Ports District. No rhyme, no reason, except that whatever it was he hadn't just felt had come from that direction. Or not come from that direction. Whatever.
    Perhaps he should begin visiting the inns and taverns again. There was always interesting talk, at least. Most of it rumor, true, but sometimes, if you listened properly, you could find the seed of verity inside the anecdotal entertainment. And the recent gossip had been terribly intriguing, if completely unbelievable. At least Goyo didn't believe it. He'd seen the last moments of the last Incendiary, after all. He wouldn't believe that any god could be so cruel as to chance something like it again.
    Just the idea of it sent shocks of disquiet all up and down Goyo's spine. Incendiary were too dangerous, too much unpredictable risk in mortal form. At least, that had been the gods’ excuse for eradicating them. Goyo saw through the indefensible defense—everyone saw through it—but he accepted it, because he knew . Dropping an Incendiary into the world untethered was like dropping a newborn into a pool of sharks. Temshiel and maijin alike would sniff him out, hunt him down, and claim him for their own god, or do him in altogether to keep the others from claiming him.
    Hitsuke had only survived as long as he had because—
    Goyo cursed. He shouldn't have allowed his mind to wander there. A century wasn't long enough, he was continually surprised to realize, every time he made the mistake of letting Hitsuke enter his thoughts. Goyo still missed him. He'd been new when he'd known Hitsuke—perhaps that was why he'd never managed to shake the gloom. Young and impressionable, and Hitsuke had certainly made an impression. And Goyo had certainly not been bored.
    Maybe that was it. The not-taste on his tongue, the frisson of phantom feeling on his thumb... like when he'd wiped tears of agony from Hitsuke's cheekbone. The blood of Incendiary had a smell, a taste, but there hadn't been blood that day, only screams and tears, and Goyo had tried to wipe them away and had tasted... something on the back of his tongue, but it had hardly even registered at the time. It hit him now with a strange vertigo of not-really-remembrance, and it made him shudder. He hardly ever thought about that day. He made it a point not to. He hadn't remembered that not-taste until just this second.
    With a shake of his head, Goyo set it aside, realized he'd wandered all the way to

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