It was too godsdamn dark.
The city slept as Connall hurried along a cobblestoned alleyway. He glanced over his shoulder, up toward the tiled rooflines. The buildings loomed over him, blotting out the stars and the pair of crescent moons in the sky.
The witch’s eyes shifted in the dimness, scanning the rooftops and shadowed alcoves. The street was narrow, and Connall’s long strides kept him moving quickly along it. He was close to the safe house, but of course, that was where he was in the most danger.
His steps faltered as a shadow moved. A cat, he thought hastily, shaking his head. Just a cat out chasing mice.
It may have been a lie. He certainly hoped it wasn’t.
The early spring night was quiet, but the creak of the bowstring was quieter.
The arrow struck Connall hard in the meat of his calf, piercing through his trousers and boot and into the flesh underneath. He yelled, falling and skinning one knee on the cobblestones. He reached for the arrow, his hands shaking, but his weight snapped the shaft of the arrow and pushed the arrowhead further into his leg. He fell onto his side as the arrow pierced through the front of his shin, and he scrambled to sit upright and press his back against the wall.
He tried to conjure a spell, tried to safely remove the arrow from his leg, but no magic answered his call. The arrowhead was silver, he realized, and panic flared in his chest. He grabbed the broken shaft and pulled, screaming as the silver arrowhead twisted in his flesh.
Footsteps approached. Connall looked up, and his breath caught in his throat.
The witch hunter looked down at him, a silver sword poised under his jaw.
Connall lifted a hand between them. He willed his magic forward, but it only flickered weakly between his fingers. Others in the rebellion had described the feeling of silversickness to him, but their words fell woefully short. The pure metal stifled his power, but worse than that, it made him feel… empty. Debilitated and frail.
“Please,” he whimpered up at the witch hunter. “Please.”
The man peered down at him, the sparse moonlight dancing along the dark waves of his hair and the sharp angles of his face. He wore the same black leather gear of all witch hunters, a bandolier crossing his chest and weapons dripping from his belt, all silver. A bow and quiver were strapped across his back. And on his chest, embedded into the leather, was the royal seal of Serin.
This was no ordinary witch hunter, Connall realized.
This was the Still Shadow.
“Please,” Connall muttered again. Tears blurred his vision. “I don’t know anything. Please.”
The Still Shadow did not respond. He didn’t press for information on the rebellion or anyone in it. In fact, he looked bored, his face impassive and his eyes half-lidded like a lazy cat. He merely tilted his head, like he was inspecting a curious bug, and flicked his wrist.
The sword sliced across Connall’s throat. He felt it like the brush of a finger against his skin, and then the rush of warmth down the front of his body.
Connall slumped to the ground, and he supposed there was a cat out chasing mice tonight.
The tower bells tolled midnight.