The approaching figure crossed into the moonlight. It was no dog, rather a nude, emaciated man skittering over the ground on four spindly, spider-like limbs. Heider’s lips curled back in disgust. He had never before seen one of the waithawa, those people that had sold their very bodies and minds into service to the Red Sultan. They were even more repulsive than he had heard.
The waithawa crept deeper into the courtyard, just out of the boy’s range of vision. It dropped lower and bellied over the ground, skirting the edge of the fountain to close in on its prey.
Heider drew his kukri and moved to climb down the face of the building.
“Do not move,” Adta said. “This is the last time I will warn you.”
Heider gripped the handle of his weapon until the gilded edges bit into his hand. Before joining the Order, he had been a lone man fighting a private war, relying on the payments of rich merchants that were little better than the men they paid him to hunt. With the Order of Szuth, he might have a positive impact on the world. But at what price?
The waithawa rounded the fountain and stopped. It kept very still, like a cat ready to pounce. Several seconds passed, and then it sprang onto the boy’s back, tackling him to the ground and biting his neck. Instantly the boy went slack. The attacker slung the limp body over its shoulder.
“He is not dead,” Adta said, as though knowing Heider was only a moment from acting. “He is only sleeping.”
The waithawa climbed inside the fountain with its bounty in hand. It passed behind the column with the broken feet. Heider waited for it to appear on the other side. It never did.
“Damn it,” he said, slinging over the side of the building and climbing down to the street.
He drew his kukri and bounded across the courtyard. Rounding the sand pile, he saw neither the waithawa nor the boy.
The warrior knelt and felt along the sandy ground. His fingers found a crack between two slabs of limestone. Pulling one plate aside, he exposed a tunnel leading underground. The opening was narrow, and he had to crawl on his stomach to get inside. Once underground, the space widened into a columnar passageway leading steeply downward.
The air was delicate with silence, as though a single whisper would shatter it to pieces and bring the weight of the whole city crashing down on his head. He moved forward quickly, but cautiously, knowing that even stepping too loudly might alert his quarry. He heard Adta enter behind him, but did not care if she followed or not. His only thought was of rescuing the boy.
As he moved deeper underground, a faint red light came to illuminate the tunnel. There were no candles or torches. Instead, the brick walls themselves seemed to emanate a subtle illumination.
Part 5 is here.