Most of the time you have to sit out all night to see the hyenas. They come under flickering starlight and waning moon, always under the pretense of illusion. In the small hours of morning, everything that murmurs on the horizon seems to be illusion. I always have to rub a few blades of grass between my fingers to make sure I am not dreaming. Surely this insomnia is unhealthy, and hyenas cannot be good companions when one cannot sleep for nights unending. In the morning I walk to the heavy paw prints in the salted mud, just to convince myself it was all real. Here they are now, circling, their burning eyes and charred pelts reeking of hunger and shadows. One of these mornings…
Moving through the silent streets of Girona at midnight, Lochlen heard few sounds besides his own footsteps. We remember, we will never forget, he thought to himself. He looked up to gaze at the ribbon of stars flowing between the tops of the tall buildings. The wind creaked against the wooden doors and shuttered windows, and Lochlen drew his cloak closer. He pulled the black woolen hood tighter over his head, whispering a prayer to ward away the chill.
He knew the inherent danger of bringing the emerald on this road, through this city, but it was the only way he could get to Rome; there was too much threat at sea from the Ancient Ones and the forces they controlled underneath the waves. He travelled by night, and scuttled through towns watched only by the moon. At times he worried when clouds passed over the moon. He knew the forces that sought him hid in shadows, and could approach in silence. Now he was worried; someone was supposed to meet him at the steps in front of the enormous church. He had looked up at the church, and silently communed with the gargoyles, high above him. Minutes passed like hours, the chill and the bats flying overhead reminding him that he was awake and not dreaming. Then, he had felt something nudge his consciousness, from below, from a deep gutter he spied in the recesses of a stairway he had not noticed before. The stairway led somewhere dark; he could see etchings in the worn stones at the top. He needed to find his way towards water, and he knew Girona had bridges over a river. Thus, he has slipped away, wary as ever of the shadows and tendrils of fear that crystalized in his mind. The intelligence he had received was that a cabal of nightwalkers dwelled here, but he was not sure that they would be concerned with the emerald he concealed.
Lochlen pushed forward cautiously down the winding staircases and through the streets, focusing his mind on the emerald nestled in his cloak. He could feel a twinge beginning in his legs, and knew that something was near. Finally, he came around a corner and could see a bridge ahead of him. At that moment, a wave of freezing fear washed over him, paralyzing him.
He looked behind him and glimpsed something enormous in the shadows. Lochlen looked to his belt for his dagger, and then felt inside his cloak for the lump inside the leather bag. When he looked back up, however, the enormous figure was gone from the shadows. It was standing over him now, with cobalt eyes and enormous fangs, inside an aura of despair-inducing silence. Lochlen felt a slight shiver go down his spine before his hand darted to the hilt of his dagger.