The temple decided not to report the lama’s mysterious death to the authorities for their own reasons, which suited Cynder fine. She did not relish the idea of having to speak with someone in uniform on the subject. The excuse she gave the refugee shelter was the lama had always been a friend, but was even more helpful when she was quitting the seeds, so his death, a heart attack, she told them, was devastating. She needed some time away from work. Because she was good at her job, she was placed on leave, no further questions asked.
Scarecrow saw to it she was made comfortable at the silo. No one knew how long she would be staying, but it was made plain to her none of the hunters wanted her to be the feral’s next victim. Out of the three of them, Poison seemed the most upset, almost spoiling for a fight. From what Cynder could understand he ranged and raged far into the city searching for the killer of the lama. Prey became an afterthought to normally whimsical hunter.
Despite the danger, the first week or so was not so bad. Certainly, not being able to stray very far from the silo carried a sense of annoyance, but she understood why. It was after that she found herself starting to get edgy, wishing the feral would either appear or go away so she could resume her life again. She missed her late night walks.
Eclipse would come and play chess with her, in an attempt to assuage the growing sense of cabin fever. Cynder would indulge the hunter in playing, but her heart was not in it. She wanted action. To do something, anything. She knew she was being kept at the silo for her own safety, but now it was beginning to get to her.
That was why one night, almost a month from when the lama’s body was discovered, she slipped out. She felt she had to. In her mind, she kept projecting assurances to the hunters, especially Scarecrow, the whole time hoping that would also help them locate her if needs be.
Being on the streets again was liberating. The silo had been simultaneously a sanctuary and a prison. She let the presence’s, the thoughts and emotions of the crowds of people wash over her like warm water. The burritos she purchased were the best she had tasted since her first meal after withdrawal.
Sometime later, after being by the gaming-house, she realized she was being followed. It was a hunter, but not one of the three she knew. Cynder concentrated on Scarecrow, his mind, his presence, and kept walking. Her alleyway was not far off. Jamming her hands deep into her pockets, she picked up her pace. This new presence followed briskly. There was a sensation of savage amusement and outright cruelty. There was no mistaking that she was in danger.
She was halfway down the alley when he dropped down in front of her. The feral was taller than Poison, and almost half-starved looking in his build. She remembered when Scarecrow was trying to explain the feral, he used the term malice. Looking into his burning red eyes, she couldn’t help but think that was an apt name. Nowhere in his psyche was there any sense of compassion.
“Frightened?” He asked her, his tongue flicking out menacingly. Cynder set her jaw defiantly.
“Next week is my twenty-fourth birthday,” she said plainly, bringing her fists from her pockets. “I’m afraid to die. But of you?” She spat. “Never.”