There are bad cities, there are worse cities; and then there’s Haven.

By popular acclaim the vilest and most corrupt city in the Low Kingdoms, Haven in midwinter gleams purest white under falls of frozen snow, and its towers shine with frost and ice like pillars of crystal. But only from a distance. The snow on the ground is a dirty grey from the unceasing factory smoke, and grey-faced people trudge wearily through the snow-choked streets.

Seen up close, Haven is an ugly city, in more ways than one. Even in the early morning, when the killing cold grips the streets like a clenched fist, there is still no peace for the city. There are still deals to be made, conspiracies to be entered into, and blood to be spilled. Death is a way of life in Haven, and sudden violence the pulse of its narrow streets.

And only the city Guard, stretched to breaking point at the best of times, stands between the city and open, bloody chaos.

Hawk and Fisher, husband and wife and Captains in the city Guard, strode briskly down the crowded street towards Guard Headquarters, their prisoner scurrying along between them. Winter had finally come to Haven, despite everything the city weather wizards could do, and the bitter air was several degrees below freezing. The street was ankle-deep in snow and slush, and thick icicles hung from every building. Roofs groaned under the weight of a week’s accumulated snow, and the iron-grey sky promised more blizzards to come. But still people packed the street from end to end; men, women, and children jostling each other impatiently as they hurried to and from work. No one jostled Hawk and Fisher, of course. It wouldn’t have been wise.

It was eight o’clock in the morning, but so dark that street lamps still burned at every corner, their amber glare doing little to dispel the gloom. Hawk hated the winter, and not just because the recent flu epidemic had hit the Guard badly and he and Fisher were working a double shift for the third day running. Winter meant hard times in Haven, and hardest of all for the poor and destitute. In every street, in every part of the city, there were bodies lying stiff and cold, caught out in the freezing night because they had nowhere else to go. They ended up in sheltered doorways, or huddled together under tarpaulins in back alleyways, sharing their meager warmth as best they could. Every day the garbage squad made their rounds and hauled the bodies away, but there were always more. Hawk found a young girl once, curled in a tight little ball over a street grating. She couldn’t have been more than five or six years old, and her staring eyes had frozen solid in her head. Hawk hated the winter, and sometimes he hated Haven too.

Captain Hawk was tall, dark-haired, and no longer handsome. A series of old scars ran down the right side of his face, and a black silk patch covered his right eye. He told lots of stories about how he got the scars, most of them contradictory. His thick furs and official black cloak made him look impressively bulky, but underneath his winter uniform he was lean and wiry rather than muscular, and building a stomach. He wore his shoulder-length hair loose, mostly to keep his ears warm, and kept it out of his vision with a plain leather headband. He’d only just turned thirty, but already there were streaks of grey in his hair. At first glance he seemed like just another bravo, a sword-for-hire already past his prime, but few people ever stopped at a first glance. There was something about Hawk, something cold and unyielding that gave even the most belligerent hardcase pause to think twice. On his right hip, Hawk carried a short-handled axe instead of a sword. He was very good with an axe. He’d had lots of practice.

Captain Isobel Fisher walked confidently at his side, echoing her partner’s stance and pace with the naturalness of long companionship. She was tall, easily six feet in height, and her long blond hair fell to her waist in a single thick plait, weighted at the tip with a polished steel ball. She wore a battered and almost shapeless fur hat, pulled down low to protect her ears from the bitter cold. There was a rawboned harshness to her face, barely softened by her deep blue eyes and generous mouth. She was handsome rather than pretty, her gaze was cool and direct, and she didn’t smile much. Sometime, somewhere in the past, something had scoured all the human weaknesses out of her, and it showed. She wore the same furs and cloak as Hawk, though with rather more grace and style. She wore a sword on her hip, and her skill with it was legendary, in a city not easily impressed by legends.

Hawk and Fisher, feared and respected by one and all as the toughest and most honest Guards in Haven. They had a lot of enemies, both inside and outside the Guard.

Their prisoner was a short, scrawny, harmless-looking man, wrapped in a long fur coat, topped off with a pair of fluffy earmuffs. His thinning black hair was plastered to his head with rather more grease than necessary, and he had a permanent scowl. Benny the Weasel was not a happy man.

“You’re making a terrible mistake,” he repeated for the tenth time, in what he imagined was an ingratiating tone. “Let’s be reasonable about this.”

“Sorry,” said Hawk, without looking round. “I’m only reasonable at weekends. And Fisher doesn’t believe in being reasonable. Says it’s bad for her image.”

“Right,” said Fisher, glaring horribly at a nun who hadn’t got out of her way fast enough.

“This is all a misunderstanding,” said Benny doggedly. “I am a legitimate businessman.”

Hawk snorted derisively. “Benny, you are a small-time villain who makes most of his money running a nasty little protection racket, advising local shopkeepers of all the awful things that might happen to them or their premises if they don’t keep up the payments. Only this time you were dumb enough to do it in person, in front of Fisher and me. What’s the matter, both your leg-breakers down with the flu?”

Benny sniffed. “You can’t get good help these days. Look, I am an important figure in the community. I know my rights. I pay my taxes. Technically, you work for me.”

“Then you should be pleased to be getting such value for your money,” said Fisher. “We witnessed a crime and arrested the criminal on the spot. What more do you want?”

“You won’t get away with this!” said Benny desperately. “I have friends. I have influence. You won’t be able to make this charge stick. I’ll be out on the streets again before you can blink!”

Hawk looked at him. “You know, Benny, you’re starting to get on my nerves. Now, be a good fellow and shut your face or I’ll have Fisher take you into the nearest dark alley and reason with you for a while.”

Benny glanced at Fisher, and then looked quickly away when he discovered she was smiling at him. He’d heard about Fisher’s idea of reasoning with people. If she did it where they lived, it tended to play hell with the furniture. Benny had second thoughts, and they walked the rest of the way in silence.

Guard Headquarters loomed up before them, a massive squat stone building with heavy oaken doors and arrow-slit windows. It had the look of a place constantly under siege, which wasn’t far off the mark. Riots, hexes, and fire-bombings were a part of everyday life for the Headquarters, but no one had ever closed it down for more than a few hours. It had its own sorcerers, and everyone in the building went armed at all times, from the clerks to the Commanders. It took a lot to disrupt the Headquarters’ even running, though last year’s rash of possessions had come close.

The main doors were always open, but everyone knew that could change in a second if danger threatened. A long-established spell on the doors saw to that, and tough luck if anyone got in the way. A steady stream of people bustled in and out of the building as Hawk and Fisher approached with their prisoner. There was the usual mixture of Constables and the people helping them with their enquiries, along with anxious relatives searching for the recently arrested, and backstreet lawyers touting for business. And of course there were always those who’d come to the Guard for help, all with the same thinly disguised look of fear and desperation. Most people only went to the Guard when they’d tried everything else. The law was harsh and brutal, and weighted heavily in favour of the rich and powerful. There were Guards who were sympathetic, and would do what they could for those in real need, but for the most part the poor had no reason to trust the Guard. Like everything else in Haven, justice was for sale. Everyone had their price.

Everyone except Hawk and Fisher.

Benny thought fleetingly of making a run for it, then noticed that Fisher’s hand was resting casually on the pommel of her sword, and quickly thought better of it. He sighed heavily, and accompanied Hawk and Fisher through the main doors and into the crowded lobby of Guard Headquarters. The wide, low-ceilinged room was packed from wall to wall, and the noise was deafening. Mothers and grandmothers sat in little groups against the walls, chatting and gossiping and keeping a watchful eye on their children as they scampered back and forth, getting in everyone’s way. None of them had any real business at Headquarters, but the Guard let them stay. It was the only place in that area where small children could play safely. Besides which, the Guard Constables had found they could pick up a lot of useful information by casually listening in on the women’s gossip.

Over by the booking desk in the centre of the lobby, a seething mob of people screamed and shouted and pleaded, together with much shedding of tears and beating of breasts, but the three desk Sergeants took it in their stride. They’d heard it all before. They nodded more or less sympathetically to worried relatives, glared at the lawyers, and got on with booking the various criminals as the Constables brought them forward, as though the utter bedlam around them was of absolutely no interest.

Hawk and Fisher made their way through the shifting mass of bodies by sheer determination and liberal use of their elbows. Hawk hammered on the desk with his fist until he got a Sergeant’s attention, and then handed Benny over into his keeping. The Sergeant fixed him with a malicious grin.

“Well, well, what have we here? It’s not often you grace us with your loathsome company, Benny. What did you do to upset Hawk and Fisher?”

“Nothing! I was just minding my own business…”

“Your business is illegal, Benny, and if you were stupid enough to do it in front of those two, you deserve everything that happens to you.” He struck the large brass bell beside him, the sharp sound cutting cleanly through the surrounding babble, and a Constable came over to the desk and led Benny away. Hawk and Fisher watched them go, Benny the Weasel still loudly protesting his innocence.

“We won’t be able to hold him, you know,” said the desk Sergeant.

Fisher looked at him sharply. “Why the hell not? We’ll both give evidence against him.”

“It’ll never come to trial,” said the Sergeant. “Benny has friends, hard though that is to believe. The word will come down, and we’ll have to let him go.”

Fisher scowled. “Sometimes I wonder why we bother making arrests at all. These days, it seems practically every villain and thug we meet has connections with someone higher up. Or the judge gets bribed. Or the jury gets intimidated.”

“That’s Haven for you,” said the Sergeant. “Hey, don’t look at me. I just work here.”

Fisher growled something indistinct, and allowed Hawk to pull her away from the desk. They elbowed their way back through the crowd, glaring down any objections, and found a place by the huge open fireplace to warm their hands and take a seat for a moment. They nodded amiably to the half-dozen Constables already there. None of them actually had any business that required their presence at Headquarters, but none of them were that keen to give up the nice warm lobby for the freezing cold outside. Hawk turned around and lifted his cloak to warm his backside at the fire. He smiled happily and looked out over the lobby.

A small group of whores, looking bright and gaudy and not a little chilly in their working finery, were waiting patiently to be booked, fined, and released so that they could get back to work as quickly as possible. Some politician or newspaper editor must have had a sudden attack of principles, or been leaned on by some pressure group, and declared loudly that Something Should Be Done about the rising tide of vice in Our Fair City. So the Guard made a big show of arresting whoever happened to be around at the time, the pimps paid the fines out of their petty cash, and business went on as usual. Hawk shrugged. It was none of his business. He nodded to a few familiar faces, and then tensed as one of the girls was viciously backhanded by her pimp. Hawk strode quickly over to them and dropped a heavy hand on the pimp’s shoulder. The pimp spun round, knocking the hand away, and then froze as he realised who it was. He was young and muscular, with a ratty-looking moustache, dressed to the nines and proud of it. He studied Hawk warily.

“What do you want, Captain? I’m clean.”

“You wouldn’t be clean if you washed every day with sulphuric acid. You are a pimp, Sebastian, the lowest of the low, and I know you of old. I thought I warned you about maltreating your girls.”

“Me? Hurt my girls?” said Sebastian, looking around him as though to invite the world to witness his harassment. “I love my girls like sisters! Who sees they always have nice clothes to wear, and looks after all their needs? They’re like family to me, all my girls. They just need a little firm guidance from time to time, that’s all.”

“Your associate and business partner, that nasty little thug Bates, is currently awaiting trial for ‘firmly guiding’ one of your girls by slashing her face with a razor,” said Hawk. “I know you, Sebastian; I know you and all your nasty little ways. And if I discover you’ve been firmly guiding any of your girls again, I shall be annoyed with you. You do remember what happened when I got annoyed with Bates, don’t you?”

The pimp nodded reluctantly. “He’s making good progress. He should be out of hospital soon.”

“Really? I must be losing my touch. Keep your hands off the girls, Sebastian. Or I’ll tie your fingers in knots.”

Sebastian smiled and nodded as though it hurt him, and disappeared into the crowd. Hawk watched him go, nodded politely to the whores, who ignored him, and made his way back to the fire. Fisher was down on her knees, playing with a few children too young to be afraid of a Guard’s uniform. Hawk watched for a while, smiling gently. Isobel was good with kids. They’d talked about having children of their own more than once, but somehow it never seemed to be the right time.

The crowd suddenly erupted in shouts and screams, and backed quickly away as a prisoner who’d broken away from his escort lashed about him with a knife he’d somehow kept hidden. He grabbed for one of the children by Fisher, obviously intending to use the child as a hostage. Fisher glanced round and back-elbowed him viciously in the groin. She rose unhurriedly to her feet as the prisoner hunched forward over his pain, then rabbit-punched him. He collapsed and lay still. Fisher kicked the knife away from his hand and went back to playing with the children. Two Constables dragged the unconscious prisoner away.

Hawk decided regretfully that they’d killed about as much time as they could get away with, and they ought really to get back to the job. They were barely halfway through their second shift. He tried concentrating on all the overtime they were racking up, but it didn’t help. His feet were numb, his forehead still ached from the cold, and his back was killing him. Hawk hated the winter. He collected Fisher, waved goodbye to the kids and their unresponsive mothers, and strode resignedly out into the waiting cold. And the first thing he saw was Benny the Weasel shivering in a borrowed cloak as he tried unsuccessfully to hail a sedan chair. Hawk and Fisher looked at each other, and strolled casually over to join him. Benny saw them coming, and clearly thought about making a run for it, before better sense took over. He drew himself up to his full five foot six and tried to brazen it out.

“Benny,” said Hawk reproachfully, “what do you think you’re doing out here?”

“They let me go,” said Benny quickly, his eyes darting from Hawk to Fisher and back again. “All the charges have been dropped. That’s official. Told you I had friends.”

Hawk and Fisher stepped forward, took an elbow each, and carried Benny kicking and protesting into the nearest back alley. As soon as they put him down, he tried to bolt, but Hawk snagged him easily and slammed him against the wall, just hard enough to rattle his eyes and put a temporary stop to any complaints. Hawk brought his face close to Benny’s, and fixed him with his single cold eye.

“No one walks when we bring the charges, Benny. Not ever. I don’t care what kind of friends you’ve got, you are guilty as hell and you’re going to stand trial.”

“They won’t accept your evidence,” said Benny desperately. “The judge will let me off. You’ll see.”

Hawk sighed. “You’re not getting the message, Benny. If we let you walk, all the other scum will start thinking they can get away with things. And we can’t have that, can we? So you are going to walk back into Headquarters, make a full confession, and plead guilty. Because if you don’t, Fisher and I will take turns thinking up horrible things to do to you.”

“They won’t convict me on just a confession.”

“Then you’d better be sure to provide plenty of corroborative evidence. Hadn’t you?”

Benny looked at Hawk’s implacable face and then glanced at Fisher. She had a nasty-looking skinning knife in her hand, and was calmly paring her nails with it. Benny studied the knife with fascinated eyes and swallowed hard. Right then, all the awful stories he’d heard about Hawk and Fisher seemed a lot more believable than they had before. Hawk coughed politely to get his attention, and Benny almost screamed.


“I think I’d like to confess, please, Captain Hawk.”

“You do realise you don’t have to?”

“I want to.”

“Legally, you’re not bound to do so…”

“Please, let me confess! I want to! Honestly!”

“Good man,” said Hawk, standing back from him. “It’s always refreshing to meet a citizen who believes in honesty and justice. Now, get in there and start talking while we’re still in a good mood.”

Benny ran out of the alleyway and back into Guard Headquarters. Fisher smiled and put away her knife. The two Guards left the alley and made their way unhurriedly down the street, heading back to their beat in the Northside.

The Northside was the rotten heart of Haven, where all that was bad in the city came to the surface, like scum on poisoned wine. Crime and corruption and casual evil permeated the Northside, where every taste and trade was catered to. Various gangs of drug dealers fought running battles over lucrative territories, ruthlessly cutting down any innocent bystanders who got in the way. Spies plotted treason behind shuttered windows, and many doors opened only to the correct whispered password. Sweatshops and crowded slum tenements huddled together under broken street lamps, and the smoke from local factories hung permanently on the air, clawing at the throats of those who breathed it. Some said the Northside was as much a state of mind as an area, but states of mind don’t usually smell that bad.

Hawk and Fisher strolled through the narrow streets, nodding to familiar faces in the bustling crowd. Speed was a way of life in the Northside; there were deals to be made, slights to be avenged, and you never knew who might be coming up behind you. Hawk and Fisher rarely let themselves be hurried. You could miss things that way, and Hawk and Fisher always liked to know what was going on around them. They’d had the Northside as their beat for five years now, on and off, but despite their best efforts, little had changed in that time. For every villain they put away, the Northside produced two more to take his place, and the soul-grinding poverty that was at the root of most crimes never changed from one year to the next. In their most honest moments. Hawk and Fisher knew that all they’d really done was to drive the worst crimes underground, or into other areas. Things tended to be peaceful as long as they were around, but they couldn’t be everywhere at once. Occasionally one or the other would talk about quitting, but they never did. They wouldn’t give up. It wasn’t in their natures. They took each day as it came, and helped those they could. Even little victories were better than none.

The stone-and-timber buildings huddled together as though for warmth, their upper stories leaning out over the streets till their eaves almost touched. Piles of garbage thrust up through the snow and slush, and Hawk and Fisher had to be careful where they put their feet. The garbage collectors came once a month, and then only with an armed guard. The beggars who normally lived off the garbage had been driven from the streets by the cold, but there were still many who braved the bitter weather for their own reasons. Business went on in the Northside, no matter what the weather. Business, and other things.

In the light of a flickering brazier, an angel from the Street of Gods was throwing dice with half a dozen gargoyles.

A fast-talking salesman was hawking bracelets plated with something that looked like gold. A large Saint Bernard with a patchy dye job was trying to bum a light for its cigar. Two overlarge rats with human hands were stealing the boots off a dead man. And two nuns were beating up a mugger. Just another day in the Northside.

A sudden burst of pleasant flute music filled Hawk’s and Fisher’s heads as the Guard communications sorcerer made contact. They stopped to listen and find out what the bad news was. It had to be bad news. It always was. Anything else could have waited till they got back to Headquarters. The flute music broke off abruptly, and was replaced by the dry, acid voice of the communications sorcerer.

Attention all Guards in the North sector. There’s a riot in The Crossed Pikes tavern at Salt Lane. There are a large number of dead and injured, including at least two Constables. Approach the situation with extreme caution. There is evidence of chacal use by the rioters.

Hawk and Fisher ran down the street, fighting the snow and slush that dragged at their boots. Salt Lane was four streets away, and a lot could happen in the time it would take them to get there. From the sound of it, too much had happened already. Hawk scowled as he ran. Riots were bad enough without drugs complicating the issue.

Chacal was something new on the streets. Relatively cheap, and easy enough to produce by anyone with a working knowledge of alchemy and access to a bathtub, the drug brought out the animal side of man’s nature. It heightened all the senses while turning off the higher functions of the mind, leaving the user little more than a wild animal, free to wallow in the moment and indulge any whim or gratify any desire, free from reason or remorse or any stab of conscience. The drug boosted the users’ strength and speed and ferocity, making them almost unstoppable. It also burned out their nervous systems in time, leaving them paralysed or mad or dead from a dozen different causes. But life wasn’t worth much in the Northside anyway, and there were all too many who were willing to swap a hopeless future for the savage joys of the present.

Hawk and Fisher charged round the last corner into Salt Lane and then skidded to a halt. A large crowd had already gathered, packing the narrow street from side to side. The two Guards bulled their way through without bothering to be diplomatic about it, and quickly found themselves at the front of the crowd, facing The Crossed Pikes tavern from a safe distance. The tavern looked peaceful enough, apart from its shattered windows, but a Guard Constable was sitting on a nearby doorstep, pressing a bloody handkerchief to a nasty looking scalp wound. Blood covered half his face. He looked up dazedly as Hawk and Fisher approached him, and tried to get to his feet. Hawk waved for him to stay seated.

“What happened here?”

The Constable blinked and licked his dry lips. “My partner and I were the first here after the alarm went out. There was fighting and screaming inside the tavern, but we couldn’t see anything. The crowd told us there were two Constables already in there, so my partner went in to check things out while I watched the crowd. I waited and waited, but he never came back. After a while it all went quiet, so I decided I’d just take a quick look through the door. I’d barely got my foot over the doorstep when something hit me. I couldn’t see for blood in my eyes, so I got out of there quick. I’ll try again in a minute, when I’ve got my breath back. My partner’s still in there.”

Hawk clapped him on the shoulder reassuringly. “You take a rest. Fisher and I’ll have a look. If any more Guards come, keep them out here till we’ve had a chance to evaluate the situation. Are you sure it’s chacal-users in there?”

The Constable shrugged. “That’s what the crowd said. But there’s no way to be sure. As far as I can tell, anyone who was in the tavern when the trouble started is still in there.”

Hawk squeezed the Constable’s shoulder comfortingly, and then he and Fisher moved off a way to discuss the matter.

“What do you think?” said Hawk.

“I think we should be very careful how we handle this. I don’t like the sound of it at all. Three Guards missing, another injured and so spooked he can’t bear to go near the place, and an unknown number of rioters who might just be out of their minds on chacal. The odds stink. How come we never get the easy assignments?”

“There aren’t any easy assignments in Haven. We’ve got to go in, Isobel. There could be innocent people trapped in there, unable to get out.”

“It’s not very likely, Hawk.”

“No, it’s not. But we have to check.”

Fisher nodded unhappily. “All right; let’s do it, before we get a rush of brains to the head and realise what a dumb idea this is. What’s the plan?”

“Well, there’s no point in trying to sneak in. If there are chacal-users in there, they’ll be able to see, hear, and smell us coming long before we even get a glimpse of them. I say we burst in through the door, weapons at the ready, and hit anything that moves.”

“Planning never was your strong suit, was it, Hawk?”

“Have you got a better idea?”

“Unfortunately, no.”

Hawk grinned. “Then let’s do it. Don’t look so worried, lass. We’ve faced worse odds before.”

He drew his axe and Fisher drew her sword, and they moved cautiously over to the tavern’s main entrance. The door was standing ajar, with only darkness showing beyond. Bright splashes of blood marked the polished wood, below a series of gouges that looked unnervingly like claw marks. Hawk listened carefully, but everything seemed still and quiet. He put his boot against the door and pushed it wide open. The two Captains braced themselves, but nothing happened. Hawk hefted his axe thoughtfully, and glanced at Fisher. She nodded, and they darted through the doorway together. Once inside they moved quickly apart to stand on either side of the door, so they wouldn’t be silhouetted against the light, and waited silently for their eyes to adjust to the gloom.

Hawk held his axe out before him, and strained his ears against the silence. A fire was burning fitfully at the far end of the tavern, and some light fell past the shuttered windows. The tavern slowly took form out of the gloom, and Hawk was able to make out chairs and tables overturned and scattered across the floor, as though a sudden storm had swept through the long room, carrying all before it. Dark shapes lay still and silent among the broken furniture, and Hawk didn’t need to see them clearly to know they were bodies. He counted fourteen that he was sure of. There was no sign of their killers.

Hawk moved slowly forward, axe at the ready. Broken glass crunched under his boots. Fisher appeared silently out of the gloom to move at his side. He stopped by a wall lamp, and working slowly and carefully, he took out his box of matches and lit it, while Fisher stood guard. It wasn’t easy lighting the lamp with one hand, but he wouldn’t put his axe down. The sudden light pushed back the darkness, and for the first time Hawk and Fisher were able to see the full extent of the devastation. There was blood everywhere, splashed across the walls and furniture and pooled on the floor. Most of the bodies had been mutilated or disfigured. Some had been torn apart. Loops of purple intestine hung limply from a lamp bracket, and a severed hand beckoned from a barbecue grill by the fire. Most of the bodies had been gutted, ripped open from throat to groin. Whoever or whatever had done it hadn’t bothered to use a blade. Fisher swore softly, and her knuckles showed white on her sword hilt. Hawk put the lamp back in its niche, and the two of them moved slowly forward. The tavern was still and silent, full of the stench of blood and death.

They went from body to body, methodically checking for signs of life, but there were none. They found the three Guards who’d gone in to face what they thought was a simple riot. The only way to identify them was by their Constable’s scarlet cloak and tunic. Their heads were missing. There was no sign anywhere of their attackers. Hawk wondered briefly if they might have made their escape during the confusion, but he didn’t think so. Every instinct he had was screaming at him that the killers were still there, watching, and waiting for their chance. He could almost feel the weight of their gaze on his back.

The tavern’s bar had been wrecked. There wasn’t an intact bottle or glass left on the shelves, and the floor was covered with a thick carpet of broken glass. Hawk drew Fisher’s attention to the bartop. The thick slab of polished mahogany was crisscrossed with long, curving scars that made Hawk think again about claws. He looked at Fisher, who nodded slowly.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking, Hawk?”

“Could be. We’ve been working on the assumption this was the work of chacal-users, but more and more this is starting to look like something else entirely. I don’t see how anything human could have caused injuries like those, or claw marks like these. I think we’ve got a werewolf here, Isobel.”

Fisher reached down and pulled a silver dagger from inside her boot, and held it loosely in her left hand. Just in case. She moved behind the bar, and then signalled quickly for Hawk to come and join her. He did so, and the two of them stood looking down at the bartender, lying wedged half under the bar. His throat had been torn out, and there were bite marks on his arms where he’d lifted them to defend himself.

“Werewolf,” said Fisher.

“Maybe,” said Hawk. “I don’t know. The bite marks look wrong. A wolf’s muzzle would leave a larger, narrower bite….”

Something growled nearby. Hawk and Fisher moved quickly out from behind the bar to give themselves room to fight. They glared about them, but nothing moved in the shadowy, blood-spattered room. The growl came again, louder this time, and then a heavy weight hit Hawk from above and behind, throwing him to the floor. Glass crunched loudly beneath him as he rolled back and forth, trying desperately to tear himself free from the creature that clung to his back, pinning his arms to his sides with its legs and reaching for his throat with clawed hands. He tucked his head in, chin pressed to his chest, and then nearly panicked as he felt teeth gnawing at the back of his head. He got his feet underneath him, glanced quickly about to get his bearings, and then slammed himself back against the heavy wooden bar behind him. The creature’s grip loosened as the breath was knocked out of it, and Hawk pulled free. He threw himself to one side, and Fisher stepped forward in a full extended lunge, pinning the creature to the bar with her sword.

For a moment, no one moved. Hawk and Fisher stared incredulously at the blood-soaked man transfixed by Fisher’s sword. His clothing hung in rags, and he held his hands like claws. Blood soaked his hands and forearms like crimson gloves, and there was more blood spattered thickly over his livid white flesh. His eyes were wide and staring. He snarled silently at the two Guards, showing his bloody teeth, but he was still just a man. And then he lunged forward, forcing himself along the impaling blade, his bloody hands reaching for Fisher’s throat. She held her ground, watching in fascination as the jagged-nailed hands grew steadily nearer. Part of her wondered crazily what had happened to wreck his nails like that.

Hawk lurched to his feet, lifting his axe. The killer lunged forward again, blood spilling down his gut from where Fisher’s sword pierced him, snarling and growling like a wild animal. And then Fisher lifted her hand with the silver dagger in it, and cut his throat. Blood sprayed across her arm, and she watched warily as the light went out of his eyes and he slumped forward, dead at last. She pulled out her sword and he fell limply to the floor and lay still. Hawk came over to stand beside her.

“He must have been up in the rafters,” he said finally. “All this time, just watching us, and waiting.”

Fisher looked up at the ceiling. “There’s no one else up there. But I can’t believe one man did all this, drug or no drug.”

Hawk looked down at the dead user. “Maybe we shouldn’t have killed him after all. There are a lot of questions we could have asked him.”

“He didn’t exactly give us a choice,” said Fisher dryly. “Besides, he wouldn’t have been allowed to talk. We’d have had to keep him in gaol till he came down, and by then word would have reached his suppliers. They’d either have sprung him or killed him to keep his mouth shut.”

Hawk scowled. “It has to be said Headquarters’ security isn’t worth spit these days. Particularly when it comes to drug arrests. You know, it wasn’t this bad when we first joined the Guard.”

“Yes it was,” said Fisher. “We just weren’t experienced enough to recognise the signs. There’s a lot of money in drugs, and where there’s a lot of money there’s a line of Guards with their hands out.”

“This day started out depressing,” said Hawk, “and it’s not getting any better. Let’s get the hell out of here and file our report. If one chacal-user can do this much damage on a rampage, then this city is in for some interesting times.”

A low growl trembled on the air behind them. Hawk and Fisher spun round, weapons at the ready. The tavern looked just as still and quiet as before. None of the bodies had moved. The growl came again, but this time low and subdued, sounding almost more like a groan. Hawk glared in the direction of the sound, and his gaze came to rest on an overturned table leaning against a wall. It was a big table, with room for one, maybe two, people behind it. Hawk silently indicated the table to Fisher, and they moved slowly forward. There were no more growls or groans, but as he drew nearer, Hawk thought he could hear something dripping. Something… feeding.

They reached the table in a matter of moments, moving silently through the gloom. Hawk put away his axe and grabbed the rim of the table with both hands, while Fisher stood ready with her sword. They counted to three silently together, and then Hawk braced himself and pulled the heavy table away from the wall with one swift movement. Fisher moved quickly forward to stand between him and whatever was waiting, and then both she and Hawk stood very still as the table revealed its secret.

The second chacal-user was a young woman, maybe seventeen or eighteen. Her face was bone-white, with dark, staring eyes, and her hands and forearms were slick with other people’s blood. She held her hands like claws, but made no move to attack Hawk or Fisher. Someone, presumably the other user, had ripped open her stomach. It was a wide, hideous wound that should have killed her immediately, but the chacal was keeping her alive. She lay propped against the wall in a widening pool of her own blood, and as Hawk and Fisher watched she dipped a hand into the ragged wound in her gut, pulled out a bloody morsel, and ate it.

Oh, dear God, she’s been feeding on herself…

Hawk moved forward, and put a gentle restraining hand on the girl’s arm. “Don’t. Please don’t.”

“Get away from her, Hawk. She’s still dangerous. We don’t know how many people she’s killed here.”

“Get a doctor,” said Hawk, without looking round.


“Get a doctor!”

Fisher nodded, and hurried over to the main door. Hawk put the girl’s hand in her lap, and brushed her long, stringy hair from her face. The user looked at him for the first time.

“Something went wrong,” she said slowly, her voice barely rising above a murmur. Hawk had to lean close to understand her. Her breath smelled of blood and something worse. Her dead white skin was beaded with sweat. “This wasn’t supposed to happen. They said it would make us feel like Gods. I’m cold.”

“I’ve sent for a doctor,” said Hawk. “Take it easy. Save your strength.”

“They lied to us….”

“Can you tell me what happened?” said Hawk. “You said something went wrong. What went wrong?”

“It was a new drug. Supposed to be the best. Like chacal, only stronger. We were going to be like Gods. We were packing it up at the factory, ready to ship it out. Leon took some, for a lark. We tried it here, just a little. And then everything went bad.”

“Tell me about the factory,” said Hawk. “Where is it?”

The girl’s hand drifted towards her wound again. Hawk stopped it, and put it back in her lap. She looked at him. “I’m cold.”

Hawk took off his cloak and wrapped it around her. She was shivering violently, and sweat ran down her face in rivulets. There was no color left in her face. Even her lips were white. Her breathing grew increasingly shallow, and when she spoke Hawk had to concentrate hard to make out the words.

“Morgan’s place. The Blue Dolphin. In the Hook.”

“All right, lass, take it easy. That’s all I need. We’ll get the bastards. You rest now. The doctor will be here soon.”

“Would you hold my hand? Please?”

“Sure.” Hawk took off one of his gloves and held her left hand, squeezing it comfortingly. Warm blood spilled down his wrist. “All right?”

“Hold it up where I can see it. I can’t feel it.”

Hawk started to lift her hand up before her face, but she’d stopped breathing. He was still holding her hand when Fisher finally came back with the Guard doctor.

“I didn’t even find out her name,” said Hawk, pulling his cloak around his shoulders. Guard Constables and Captains summoned to the scene by the communications sorcerer spilled around Hawk and Fisher as they moved in and out of The Crossed Pikes tavern. They were carrying out the dead and lining them up in neat rows on the snow, ready for the meat wagon when it arrived. The Guard doctor hovered over them like an anxious relative, making notes on cause of death, for when the forensic sorcerer arrived. A large crowd had gathered, but were being kept back by two Constables. Hawk knelt down suddenly, and started roughly cleaning the blood from his hand with a handful of snow. Fisher put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it comfortingly.

“You did all you could, Hawk.”

“I know that.”

“She killed at least a dozen people in there. Probably more.”

“I know that too.” He got to his feet and pulled his glove back on. “Before she died, she told me where they’re making the stuff she took. It’s Robbie Morgan’s place, down in the Devil’s Hook.”

Fisher looked at him sharply. “Standard procedure would be to contact Headquarters and tell them the factory’s location. Since you haven’t done that, I assume there’s a good reason why not?”

“I want these bastards, Isobel. I want them bad. It’s a new drug, you see; they haven’t released it yet. Can you imagine what the Northside will be like once this super-chacal hits the streets? We’ve got to stop it now. While we can.”

“So let the Drug Squad handle it. That’s what they’re paid for.”

“Oh no; I’m not risking this one going wrong. You can guarantee some Guard would tip Morgan off, in return for a sweetener. The Drug Squad would get there just a little too late and find nothing but an empty warehouse. That’s happened too many times just recently. So I think we’ll do this one ourselves.”

“Us? You mean, just you and me?”

“Isobel, please; I haven’t gone completely crazy. Morgan’s probably got a small army of security people protecting the Blue Dolphin. But we’ve got a small army ourselves, right here. There’s a dozen Constables, five Captains, and even a sorceress. We’ll leave a few people here to mind the store, and take the rest.”

“On whose authority?”

“Mine. If we bring this off, no one’s going to ask any questions.”

“And if we don’t?”

Hawk looked at her steadily. “This is important to me, Isobel. She died right in front of me, scared and hurting, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to help her. Just this once, we’ve got a chance to make a difference. A real difference. Let’s do it.”

“All right. Let’s do it. But how are we going to get the others to go along on an unofficial raid?”

Hawk smiled. “Easy. We won’t tell them it’s unofficial.”

Fisher grinned back at him. “I like the way you think, Hawk.”

They finally ended up with an impromptu task force of ten Constables, two more Captains, and the sorceress Mistique; all blithely unaware that they were about to break every rule in the book. Which was probably for the best. That way, if anything did go wrong. Hawk and Fisher could take all the blame on themselves. Besides, no one with the brains they were born with would have volunteered if they’d known the truth. At which point Hawk decided very firmly that he wasn’t going to think about the situation anymore. It was depressing him too much. All that mattered was shutting down the drug factory, and Morgan as well, if possible.

Hawk had heard about Morgan. Most people in Haven had, one way or another. He’d made enough money down the years from drugs, prostitution, and murder to buy himself respectability. He was seen in all the best places, belonged to all the right clubs, and these days was officially regarded as above suspicion. In fact, he still had a dirty finger in every pie in Haven, though no one had ever been able to prove anything. But Hawk and Fisher knew, like every other Guard. They had to deal every day with the violence and suffering his businesses caused. Hawk frowned thoughtfully. It wasn’t like Morgan to get so personally involved in a scheme like this, having the super-chacal packed and distributed from one of his own warehouses. And it also wasn’t like him to get involved with such a dangerous drug. The more traditional drugs brought less publicity, were just as addictive, and therefore just as profitable. Hawk shrugged mentally. Every villain makes a mistake sooner or later, and Morgan had made a bad one.

Hawk and Fisher led their people through the Northside at a quick march, heading for the Devil’s Hook. They made an impressive spectacle, and the crowds drew back to let them pass. It was almost like a parade, but nobody cheered. The law wasn’t popular in the Northside. Hawk looked back at his people, and smiled to himself. They might just bring this off after all. The Constables were some of the toughest Guards in Haven. They had to be, or they wouldn’t have been working the Northside. And he knew both the Captains, by reputation, if not personally.

Captain Andrew Doughty was a medium-height, stocky man in his late forties; a career Guard, with all the courage, cunning, and native caution that implied. He was blond-haired, blue-eyed, and glacially handsome, and his job was his life. He had a good enough reputation with his sword that he didn’t have to keep proving it, but he liked to anyway, given the chance. He’d had a lot of partners in his time, but worked best alone. Mostly because he didn’t trust anyone but himself.

Captain Howard Burns was a tall, lean man in his late thirties, with an unruly mop of dark hair and a thick spade beard. He was an expert in personal and company security, and worked mostly in the Westside, overseeing the transfer of money or valuables from one location to another. He took his work very seriously, and had several official commendations for bravery. He had no sense of humour at all, but then, no one’s perfect. Especially not in Haven.

Hawk had worked with both of them in his time, and was glad he had someone apart from Fisher to watch his back this time. They were both good men, men he could depend on. The only real wild card in the pack was the sorceress Mistique. She was new to the Guard, and still looking for a chance to show what she could do. Mistique was a tall, slender, fluttering woman in her early thirties, dressed in sorcerer’s black, carefully cut in the latest fashion to show lots of bare flesh. If the cold bothered her at all, she didn’t show it. She had a long, horsey face, and a friendly, toothy grin that made her look ten years younger. She had a husky, upper-class accent and wouldn’t answer questions about her background. She also had a thick mass of long black curly hair she had to keep sweeping back out of her eyes. All together, she wasn’t exactly the most organized person Hawk had ever met, but she was supposed to be bloody good at what she did, and he’d settle for that. Morgan’s warehouse would undoubtedly be crawling with defensive magic and booby traps. The only real problem with Mistique was that she hardly ever seemed to stop talking. And she wore literally dozens of beads and bangles and bracelets that clattered loudly as she walked. Hawk made a mental note not to include her in any plans that involved sneaking up on the enemy.

And then they came to the Devil’s Hook, and Mistique’s chatter stumbled to a halt. Even casual conversation died away quickly as Hawk led his people into the Hook. It was a bad place to be, and they all knew it. The Devil’s Hook was the single poorest, most decayed, and most dangerous area in Haven. A square mile of slums and alleyways backing onto the main Docks, the Hook held more crime, corruption, and open misery than most people could bear to think about. The squalid tenement buildings were crammed with sweatshops that paid starvation wages for work on goods that often fetched high prices in the better parts of the city. Child labour was common, as was malnutrition and disease. No one ventured into, the stinking streets alone or unarmed. The Guard patrolled the Hook very loosely rather than risk open warfare with the gangs who ran it. The gangs weren’t as powerful as they once were, thanks to some sterling work by the sorcerer Gaunt, but after he left Haven the bad times soon returned as new gangs established themselves and fought for territory. Nobody was surprised. No one made any complaints. The Hook was where you ended up when you had nowhere else to go but a pauper’s grave.

All in all, the perfect spot for a new drug factory.

The Blue Dolphin was a squalid little lock-up warehouse, on one end of a rotting tenement. Chemicals from nearby factories had stained and pitted the stonework, and all the windows were boarded up. It was cheaper than shutters. The street was deserted, but Hawk could feel the pressure of watching eyes. He brought his people to a halt outside the warehouse, and quickly set up a defensive perimeter. The last thing they needed was a gang attack while they were occupied with the drug factory. Fisher moved in close beside him.

“Are you sure this is the right place, Hawk? If Morgan’s got a packing and distribution setup here, he’s going to need a lot more room than this pokey little warehouse.”

“This is the place,” said Hawk, hoping he sounded more convinced than he felt. When all was said and done, all he had to go on was the dying words of a girl already out of her mind on chacal. He pushed the thought to one side. He’d believed her then; he had to believe her now. Or she had died for nothing.

“There are mystic wards all over the place,” said Mistique. Hawk jumped slightly. He hadn’t heard her come up behind him. The sorceress smiled briefly, and then turned her attention back to the warehouse. “I can’t quite make out what kind of wards, though. Given the circumstances, I think we ought to tread carefully, just in case.”

Hawk nodded, and gestured to two of the Constables. They moved forward and cautiously tried the warehouse door. It was locked, which surprised no one. One Constable kicked the door. His clothes burst into flames that leapt up around him in seconds. He screamed shrilly and staggered back, beating at his blazing clothes with his hands. The other Constable quickly pulled him down and rolled him back and forth in the snow to smother the flames. Hawk scowled. He hadn’t expected to hit a magic defence this quickly. He made sure the injured Constable would be all right, and then turned to the sorceress.

“Get us in there, Mistique. I don’t care how you do it, but do it fast. They know we’re here now.”

The sorceress nodded eagerly, her earrings jangling accompaniment. She stared thoughtfully at the door, and wisps of fog began to appear around her, circling and twisting on the still air. The misty grey strands grew thicker, undulating disturbingly as they drifted away from the sorceress towards the warehouse door. The mists looked almost alive, and purposeful. They curled around the door, seeping past the edges and sinking into the wood itself. Mistique made a sudden, sharp gesture and the door exploded. Fragments and splinters of rotting wood rained down on the Guards as they shielded themselves with their cloaks. Where the door had been, there was now nothing but an impenetrable darkness.

Mistique turned to look at Hawk. Strands of fog still swirled around her, like ethereal serpents with no beginning or end. “Fast enough for you, darling?”

“Very impressive,” said Hawk courteously, trying hard not to sound too impressed. “Can you tell us anything about what’s beyond the doorway?”

“That’s the bad news, I’m afraid,” said Mistique. “The darkness is a dimensional gateway, leading to a small pocket dimension, the inside of which is a damn sight bigger than that lock-up. I’ve knocked out the protective wards so we can get in there, but I’ve absolutely no idea of what might be waiting for us. Sorry to be such a drag, but whoever designed this beastly setup was jolly good at his job.”

“All right,” said Hawk. “We’ll just have to take it as it comes. Brace yourselves, people; we’re going in. I want Morgan alive, and preferably intact so we can ask him questions. Anyone else is fair game. I’d prefer prisoners to corpses, but don’t put yourselves at risk. We don’t know what kind of odds we’ll be facing. Try not to wreck the place too much; you never know what might turn out to be useful evidence. Right. Let’s do it.”

He hefted his axe and walked forward, Fisher and Mistique on either side of him. From behind came a brief whisper of steel on leather as the Guards drew their weapons and started after him. Hawk gritted his teeth and plunged into the darkness. There was a sharp moment of intense heat, and then he burst through into Morgan’s factory. His first sight of the place was almost enough to stop him in his tracks, but he forced himself to keep going to make room for the others coming behind. Morgan’s warehouse was an insane mixture of planes and angles and inverted stairways that could not have existed in anything but a pocket universe.

There was no up or down, in any way that made any sense. People walked on one side of a surface or another, or on both, and gravity seemed merely a matter of opinion. Simple wooden stairways connected the various level planes, twisting and turning around each other like mating snakes, and walls became floors became ceilings, depending on which way you approached them. Hawk shook off his disorientation and concentrated on the force of armed men rushing towards him from a dozen different directions. He didn’t have to count them to know his own small group was vastly outnumbered.

“Mistique!” he yelled quickly. “Take out the stairways. Bring this place down around their ears!”

“I’m afraid we have a slight problem, dear,” said the sorcerer, staring off into the distance. “Morgan has his own sorceress here, and I’m rather tied up at the moment keeping him from killing us all.”

“Can you take him?”

“Probably, if you stop interrupting. And if you can keep those nasty-looking men-at-arms away from me.”

Hawk yelled instructions to his people, and the Constables moved forward to form a barrier between Mistique and the approaching men-at-arms, while Captain Doughty and Captain Burns stayed at her side as bodyguards. Fisher looked at Hawk.

“And what are we going to do?”

“Find Morgan,” said Hawk grimly. “I’m not taking any chances on his getting away. Mistique, when you’re ready, don’t wait for orders from me. Just trash the place.”

Mistique nodded, absorbed in her sorcerous battle. Thick strands of fog twisted around her like dogs straining at the leash. Hawk started down the nearest stairway, with Fisher close behind him. They hadn’t gone far when Hawk heard the first clash of steel as his people met the men-at-arms. He didn’t look back.

In what might have been the centre of the mad tangle of planes and stairways was a more-or-less open area with a lot of excited movement. It seemed as good a place as any to start looking. The stairs turned and twisted under Hawk, and he quickly learned to keep his gaze on his feet and ignore what was going on around him. A man-at-arms in full chain mail came running up the stairs, waving his sword with more confidence than style. Hawk cut him down with a single blow, and hurled his body over the side of the stairway. The dead man fell in half a dozen different directions before disappearing from sight in the maze of stairways.

More men-at-arms came charging towards Hawk, six men in the lead, with a lot more on the way. Bad odds, on a rickety wooden staircase. He looked quickly about him, and grinned as he spotted a large flat plane not too far away. It stood at right angles to him, but then, so did the two men on it, frantically packing paper parcels into two large crates on a wide table. He looked back at Fisher, and pointed at the plane. She raised an eyebrow, and then nodded sharply. They clambered up onto the narrow wooden banister, which creaked dangerously under their weight, and leapt out into space towards the right-angled plane. Gravity changed suddenly as they left the stairs, and slammed them down hard on the bare wooden plane.

Hawk and Fisher hit the floor rolling, and were quickly up on their feet again. The two men packing were already gone. Hawk hefted one of the small paper parcels, and then looked at the size of the packing case. That crate could hold an awful lot of drugs… if it was drugs. A horrible thought struck him, and he opened the packet and sniffed cautiously at the grey powder inside. He relaxed slightly and blew his nose hard. It was chacal. The sharp acidic smell was quite distinctive. Fisher yelled a warning, and he threw the packet aside and looked up. A man-at-arms leaned out from an upside-down stairway overhead and cut at Hawk with his sword. Hawk parried with his axe, but couldn’t reach high enough to attack the man. He backed away, and the swordsman moved along the stairway after him. There was a strange, dreamlike quality to the fight, with both men upside-down to the other, but Hawk knew better than to let the strangeness distract him. If he couldn’t figure out a way to get at his opponent, he was a dead man. An axe wasn’t made for defence. He bumped into the table, and an idea struck him. He grabbed the open packet and threw the chacal powder into the other man’s face. The man-at-arms screamed, and dropped his sword to claw at his eyes with both hands.


He spun round to find Fisher standing at the edge of the plane, fighting off three of the five men-at-arms who’d jumped down off the banister after the Guards. Two already lay dead at her feet. Hawk sprinted over to join her, ducked under the first man’s sword, and swung his axe in a vicious sideways arc. The heavy steel axehead punched through the man’s chain mail and buried itself in his rib cage. Bones broke and splintered, and the impact drove the man-at-arms to his knees, coughing blood. Hawk yanked the axe free and booted the man off the edge of the plane. The dying man fell upwards out of sight.

Fisher had already cut down another of her opponents, and now stood toe to toe with the last remaining adversary. Steel rang on steel and sparks flew as the blades met, hammering together and dancing apart in a lightning duel of strength and skill. Hawk started forward to help her, and then stopped as he saw more men-at-arms running down a winding stairway to join the fight. Fisher saw them too, and quickly kneed her opponent in the groin.

“Get the hell out of here, Hawk. Find Morgan. I’ll hold them off.” She cut her opponent’s throat, and sidestepped neatly to avoid the jetting blood. “Move it, Hawk!”

Hawk nodded abruptly, and turned and ran down the other stairway, heading once again for what had looked like the centre of operations. From behind him came the clash of sword on sword as Fisher met the first of the new onslaught, but he didn’t look back. He didn’t dare. He pressed on through the maze, passing from stairway to plane to stairway and cutting down anyone who tried to get in his way. All around him Morgan’s people were running back and forth, looking for orders or weapons or just heading for the exit. Morgan wouldn’t have gone, though. This was his place, his territory, and he’d trust in his men and his sorcerer to protect him. A sudden piercing scream caught Hawk’s attention, and he looked up and round in time to see a man dressed in sorcerer’s black stagger drunkenly across a plane at right angles to Hawk’s stairway. Streamers of thick milky fog burst out of his mouth and eyes and ears. His head swelled impossibly and then exploded in a spreading cloud of crimson mist. The body crumpled to the floor as the last echo of the sorcerer’s dying cry faded slowly away.

Hawk grinned. So much for Morgan’s sorcerer. He was close to the centre now; he could feel it. There were drugs and people and men-at-arms everywhere, and there, straight ahead, he saw a familiar face in an earth-brown cloak and hood. Morgan. Hawk ran forward, cutting his way through two swordsmen foolish enough to try and stop him. Their blood splashed across his face and hands, but he didn’t pause to wipe it off. He couldn’t let Morgan escape. He couldn’t.

Hold my hand. Hold it up where I can see it….

Morgan looked once at the bloodstained Guard rushing towards him, and then continued stuffing papers into a leather pouch. Three men-at-arms moved forward to stand between Hawk and Morgan. Hawk hit them at a dead run, swinging his axe double-handed. He never felt the wounds he took, and when it was all over, he stepped across their dead bodies to advance slowly on the drug baron.

Seen up close, Morgan didn’t look like much. Average height and build, with a bland face, perhaps a little too full to be handsome. A mild gaze and a civilised smile. He didn’t look like the kind of man who’d made his fortune through the death and suffering of others. But then, they never did. Hawk moved slowly forward. Blood ran thickly down from a wound in his left thigh, and squelched inside his boot. There was more blood, soaking his arms and sides, some of it his. Even so, Morgan had enough sense not to try and run. He knew he wouldn’t make it. They stood facing each other, while from all around came shouts and screams and the sounds of fighting.

“Who are you?” said Morgan finally. “Why are you doing this?”

“I’m every bad dream you ever had,” said Hawk. “I’m a Guard who can’t be bought.”

Morgan shook his head slowly, as a father chides a son who has made an understandable mistake. “Everyone has his price, Captain. If not you, then certainly someone among your superiors. I’ll never come to trial. I know too much, about too many people. And I really do have friends in high places. Quite often, I helped put them there. So I’m afraid all this blood and destruction has been for nothing. You won’t be able to make a case against me.”

Hawk grinned. “You’re the second person who’s told me that today. He was wrong, too. You’re going to hang, Morgan. I’ll come and watch.”

There was a muffled sound from behind a drapery to their right. Morgan glanced at it, and then looked quickly away. For the first time, he seemed a little uneasy. Hawk moved slowly over to the curtain, unconsciously favouring his wounded leg.

“What’s behind here, Morgan?”

“Experimental animals. We had to test the drug, to establish the correct dosage. Nothing that would interest you.”

Hawk swept the cloth to one side, and froze for a moment. Inside a crude, steel-barred cage lay a pile of dead young men and women, tangled together. Some were barely teenagers. The bodies were torn and mutilated, and it was clear most of them had died tearing at each other and themselves. One man’s hand was buried to the wrist in another’s ripped-open stomach. A young girl had torn out her own eyes. There was blood everywhere, but not enough to hide the characteristic colorless white skin of chacal use. Hawk turned back to Morgan, who hadn’t moved an inch.

“Where did you get them?” said Hawk.

Morgan shrugged. “Runaways, debtors’ prisons, even a few volunteers. There are always some ready to risk their lives for a new thrill.”

“You know what this new drug does,” said Hawk. “So why are you getting involved with it? There isn’t enough bribe money in the world to make the Guard overlook the slaughter this shit will cause. Even the other drug barons would turn against you over something like this.”

“I won’t be here when it breaks,” said Morgan. “There’s a lot of money in this. Millions of ducats. More than enough to leave Haven and set up a new and very comfortable life somewhere else. You could have a life like that. Captain. There’s enough money for everyone. Just name your price, and I guarantee you I can meet it.”

“Really?” said Hawk. He stepped forward suddenly, grabbed a handful of Morgan’s robe and dragged him over to the steel cage. “You want to know my price, Morgan? Bring them back to life. Bring those poor bastards back! Go on; give just one of them his life back and I’ll let you go, here and now.”

“You’re being ridiculous, Captain,” said Morgan evenly. “And very foolish.”

“You’re under arrest,” said Hawk. “Tell your people to lay down their weapons and surrender.”


Hawk grinned. “Believe me, Morgan, you don’t want to know.”

“I’ll have to speak to my sorcerer first.”

“Don’t bother; he’s dead.”

Morgan looked at him blankly, and then open terror rushed across his face. “We’ve got to get out of here! If he’s dead, this whole place could collapse at any moment. It’s only his magic that kept it stable!”

Hawk swore briefly. He knew real fear when he saw it. “Tell your men to surrender. Do it!”

Morgan started shouting orders, and all over the maze of planes and stairways the fighting came to a halt. Hawk yelled orders to his men. and the Guards began herding Morgan’s people towards the dimensional portal. Hawk dragged Morgan along himself, never once releasing his grip on the drug baron’s robe. The stairway began to sway and tremble under his feet. A nearby plane cracked across from end to end. Streams of dust fell from somewhere high above. There were creaks and groanings all around, and the wooden handrail turned to rot and mush under Hawk’s hand. Morgan began pleading with him to go faster. Mistique appeared out of nowhere in a clattering of beads and bracelets and ran beside them as they hurried towards the portal.

“So, you did get the little rat after all. Well done, darling.”

“I wish you wouldn’t call me that in front of the men,” said Hawk. “Can you use your magic to hold this place together long enough for us all to get out?”

“I’m doing my best, darling, but it’s not really my field. We should all make it. If we’re lucky.”

They reached the portal to find it bottlenecked by the last of Morgan’s people. The drug baron screamed at them to get out of the way. but Hawk held him back. Guards encouraged the slow movers on their way with harsh language and the occasional kick up the backside. The remaining stairways broke apart and collapsed in a roar of cracking timber. The planes spun and twisted in midair, fraying at the edges. Loose magic snapped on the air like disturbed static. The last of Morgan’s people went through, and Hawk and Morgan and Mistique followed the Guards out.

The cold of the street hit Hawk like a blow, and his vision clouded briefly as pain and fatigue caught up with him. He shook his head and pushed the tiredness back. He didn’t have time for it now. He handed Morgan over to two Constables, along with dire threats of what he’d do to them if Morgan escaped, and looked round for familiar faces. Fisher appeared out of nowhere, safe and more or less sound. They compared wounds for a moment, and then hugged each other carefully. Captain Burns came over to join them as they broke apart. He looked bloodied and battered and just a little dazed.

“How many did we lose?” said Hawk.

Burns scowled. “Five Constables, and Captain Doughty. Could have been worse, I suppose. Though I won’t tell Doughty’s widow that. Did you get Morgan?”

“Yeah,” said Fisher. “Hawk got him.”

And then there was a great crashing roar, and the whole tenement behind them collapsed amid screams of rending stone and timber, and the death cries of the hundreds of people trapped within. Flying fragments of stone and wood tore through the air like shrapnel, and then a thick cloud of smoke billowed out to fill the street from end to end.