It felt like a long splinter pushed into her soft flesh. The pain sharp, yet insignificant to her well-being. She considered it for a moment, pondering whether to ignore it. No, this presented a problem. This shard felt tainted, poisoned. As though it could destroy everything if allowed to fester.
Manhattan scanned her entire being, searching for the point of discomfort. There it was, in a corner of the place she sometimes forgot was still a part of her, on the other side of the Dead Walls. For a moment she wished for a body to pour a piece of herself into. She could pluck this thing from her, destroy it, annihilate it. Even without a body, the possibility existed. But the will to exert such forceful and direct action had left her long ago.
“This will not do,” Manhattan said only to herself.
A tool always existed to eradicate any temporary discomforts.
“Lonthalian, where shall I find you?” Manhattan peered into the place of knowing, searching for the one who could remove the source of her discomfort. The Lonthalian was not making it easy. He too was past the Dead Walls.
If Manhattan could sigh, she would have. Instead, she allowed herself one moment to brace before pushing a fragment of her consciousness through the Dead Walls. The sounds and sensations of New York City on a humid summer night slammed into her being.
Chaos. These humans live in chaos.
Her arrival was like a beacon shining into the black sky, bright enough to dim event the boldest lights of the city, though the beacon shone for only a pitiful few. She felt the Lonthalian spring to attention and found him gazing out his apartment window, waiting. He missed the Living City, but had grown fond of this shadow city.
“He’s here,” Manhattan said. “He’s committed a murder at the airport to the north.”
Manhattan’s laugh was unkind. “And ensure he will know? You would have me alert him?”
“Of course not,” the Lonthalian said, the gravel of silence still touching his deep voice. “But you could delay him and give me time to move her.”
“What I do easily in the Living City takes effort beyond your comprehension in this place. You must deal with him,” Manhattan said. “Then, bring her through the Dead Walls to me.”
He stiffened. “With a fraction of effort from you, I can be on him before he knows I’m near. With his death she can stay with the family she has.”
“Then you are a fool, Lonthalian,” Manhattan said, her voice soothing despite the harshness of her words. “She has been living with these humans long enough. It is time for her to know who she is.”
“Forgive me, Manhattan, but why do you care beyond the nuisance of having the dark one who hunts her so close to you?”
Nuisance, she thought, was a good word to describe what she was feeling. The Lonthalian was perceptive. He understood some of her concern at least — more than she had expected. She resolved to tread carefully with him.
“I oppose all who would harm any of the children of the Light,” Manhattan said. “The Me’Fos are under my protection, even those who live outside my borders.”
He nodded, and wondered for a moment if she could see his signal of understanding. Arguing with Manhattan over her motives would not address the immediate problem, he knew. Manhattan’s interest in the girl would have to wait for another day.
“I am glad we can agree to postpone any debates,” Manhattan’s voice was firm and clear — like a bell ringing with authority. “You must finish him. Tonight.”
He turned away from his window and moved to a large ebony cabinet looming against the wall of his living room. He opened the doors, revealing a cache of knives, swords, bows and other weapons — none of them guns.
He began concealing knives artfully under his t-shirt and jeans, finally strapping a short sword across his back, before slipping on a black jacket to hide its presence. He had known it was only a matter of time before the hunt for the girl would begin. Her parents had done well concealing her, but this dark one was too crafty, knew too much, had betrayed so many. Anticipation prickled his skin like tiny sparks of electricity. Watching and waiting ended with this dark one’s arrival. So many years of training for moments like these made him ready and more than a little willing.
He reached for his front door and felt Manhattan probing his entire body. It was invasive, yet gentle, like water bubbling through his brain and his core. He had a moment to wish she had asked before it was over.
“I see a spark of anger in you, Lonthalian,” she said. “Get rid of it, or you will start down the same road he did. When you end him, it must be with love.”
“I understand,” he said.
“You must, or I will end you. You would be too dangerous if you became one of them.”
His eyebrows raised in shock, yet he realized she was right. Idle threats did not exist for Manhattan. Snuffing out his life would take Manhattan a mere moment. He was only one of her tools and he knew his purpose. He nodded again and moved quietly out his door.
Manhattan followed his movements until he descended to the subway. She slipped back through the Dead Walls to the place she preferred. The Lonthalian must do this on his own.
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