Teaser Tuesday 1/14/14: Wolf’s Lady pt 2
Here is the second installment of Sand and Amanda’s story. Actually, I’m starting from the beginning this time, but next week I’ll just give you the next installment. Enjoy!
Omaha, Nebraska – the new Sin City of what had once been the United States
Sand Wolfe looked at the distant wall enclosing the city of Omaha, hiding the distaste wrestling with curiosity in his belly behind a blank face. He had been here only two months ago as part of the group escorting a cousin’s mate to her uncle, but on that trip he had stayed outside the wall. He liked to run free, and living inside a dirty city was something he’d never wanted to do. Damn Snow for talking him into this.
“C’mon,” his cousin Snow muttered. “The gate is right ahead.”
They walked, leading their single horse behind them, through an area which had once been the outskirts of Omaha. Now it was empty, all buildings and trees burned away decades before he was born to prevent attackers from sneaking up on the city. Sand flicked a glance up at one of the watch towers built into the wall, his excellent eyesight finding two men there, and the long barrels of rifles aimed at him and Snow. The barrenness of the land gave the guards a clear line of fire. Sand forced his shoulders not to twitch.
The road led them directly to the gate. More guards were there, armed with rifles and questions.
“Names,” one guard barked at them.
“I’m Snow Wolfe,” Snow said in his quiet, gentle voice. “This is my cousin, Sand Wolfe.”
The two guards, beefy and well fed in their olive drab uniforms and black boots, exchanged a glance, but they said nothing about the names as one wrote them in a book. Snow was actually Snow On His Fur of the Lakota Wolf Clan, and Sand’s full name was Wolf Running In Sand. The cousins showed their Lakota heritage in their waist length black braids and dark skin.
“What’s your business in Omaha?”
“We’re visiting family.”
The man poised his pen over his book. “What’s the name of the people you’re visiting?”
The guard who wasn’t writing gave a low whistle. “Sky, huh? Lucky. Or does he make you pay full price?”
Sand scowled to hide his confusion. Pay full price for what? The guard writing paused with his pen above the paper. “Cute. Snow, sand, and sky. No sun?”
“No.” Snow’s voice was flat.
“Twenty-eight,” Sand answered.
“Twenty-seven,” said Snow.
The man wrote it down. “How long are you staying?”
Snow raised his eyebrows at Sand. “Two months maybe. We’ll head out before winter comes.”
Maybe he could stick it out that long, but Sand doubted it. He was sure they could have snuck into the city and avoided all this gab. No wolf warrior liked to be interrogated by human men who were clearly inferior. One of the guards went to their horses and searched through the saddlebags, inventorying their spare clothes and scant food stores. Sand tensed with a low growl bubbling up his throat when he pawed through the sealed letters Taye, Rose, and others from the den had sent for Sky, but the guard only noted the letters down in his book too.
“No weapons?” he barked.
“We both have a knife,” Snow said, touching the grip of the knife in his belt.
The guard wrote for a while longer, then tore the sheets out of his book to hand one to Sand and the other to Snow. “Your Visitor Permits. Keep those with you at all times. They’re good for two months, until December 1. The City Guard can ask to see them at any time and if you don’t have your visitor’s permit with you, you will be escorted out of the city.”
Sand read the words on his permit. It identified him as Sand Wolf, age twenty-eight, six feet two inches tall, 170 pounds, slender build, black hair very long, brown eyes. Nose aquiline, mouth full. All accurate enough, he supposed, folding the paper and putting it on the breast pocket of his plaid cotton shirt. He rolled his lips together, wondering what the paper meant by “full”. He hadn’t eaten anything since the rabbit his wolf had caught and eaten last night.
Once they were past the gates Sand took a deep breath and steeled himself to enter the city. “Let’s find Sky.”
Feeling like a wide-eyed boy from the country made Sand scowl. The city was said to have ten thousand residents. What were they all doing on the street at this moment? He could see only a few yards ahead of him on the sidewalk because it was so crowded with pedestrians. Some of them were women, and as far as he could tell they had no male escort.
Women, walking alone? What were their men thinking? Were they crazy? Anyone could snatch them away!
Well, maybe not. The sidewalk was full of people. If a woman screamed for help, there were plenty of men to step in. He saw more men in the olive drab uniforms and black boots standing at corners, watching the people on the sidewalk with sharp attention, noting each wagon or rider than passed on the street.
“I don’t like this place,” he muttered to Snow. “What is that noise?”
His cousin grabbed his arm. “Look! It’s the bus!”
A large wooden rectangle on wheels rolled laboriously up the street toward them, accompanied by a roar, like a fierce wind in January. A team pulling a wagon shied, half rearing, until the driver jumped down to pull them to the side of the road out of the way of the box. He soothed them with gentle hands until they stood quietly, only little shudders rolling through them. Sand felt kinship with them. He didn’t like the noise either. He didn’t see horses pulling the box, and when it passed them he saw no one pushing it. The stench it emitted made him want to gag.
“Isn’t that marvelous?” Snow said enthusiastically. “I saw it last time I was here, but I didn’t get to ride it. Let’s go!”
Ride in the belly of that thing? “What about the horse?” he said, keeping his tone mild so Snow wouldn’t know he was unsettled by the evil thing. With the noxious odor lingering behind the bus, even Snow’s keen nose wouldn’t detect his unease.
“Oh. Right.” Shoulders slumped, Snow watched a door open in the box and steps lower. A dozen people crowded around the opening, and one by one they disappeared inside. “Well, I’ll ride it later, after we stable the horse.”
Sand started walking again. “Why do you want to ride it? It stinks.”
“But it goes all over Omaha. Omaha is big! Instead of walking from the river to the outer wall you could sit and ride.”
Sand slanted a glance at his cousin. “We have feet for a reason. How hard is it to…?”
A splash of color on a pale bare arm, a hand with long fingers tipped with red paint holding a railing as a woman stepped up into the bus. Sand’s heart stuttered when he noticed her. Long brown hair, glossy with health, rippled in the breeze as the woman disappeared into the box. He’d had only the briefest glimpse of her, but the sight was seared into his brain. He watched the box roll away, almost too stunned to register his wolf’s frantic attempts to burst out, almost too stunned to be able to think. But one piece of knowledge swirled in his belly.
His mate was in Omaha. His mate was in that noisy, stinking box and she was going away from him. The hell she was going away from him! He tore at the buttons on his shirt to strip to let his wolf out, but Snow grabbed his arm hard.
“What are you doing?” his cousin hissed at him.