Storm Chasers – Entry #1

by syaffolee

He’s a thunderbird with an attitude problem. She’s a soul eater with a sweet tooth. They fight supernatural crime!

(I’ve decided to do a series of short urban fantasy vignettes set in an alternate universe Vancouver to keep myself regularly writing and posting in this blog. This entry is based on this picture prompt at WriteWorld.)

* * *

Oh no.

The tips of Taj Ammit’s fingers itched, claws threatening to pop out as the sound of a motorcycle grew closer. She clenched her fists to hide her fingers in case her control snapped. It would not do to frighten Mr. Fitzwilliam, the human director of the Historical Art Museum. The white bearded suit was already nervously wiping his spectacles with a handkerchief as his gaze alternately darted between her and her boss, the coolly coiffed Dragon Queen, Vivian Long.

After another second, Fitzwilliam finally decided to keep his eyes on Vivian who appeared to be the least threatening. Vivian was very good with camouflage. Upon casual observation, the Dragon Queen was the stylish matriarch of one of the oldest and most influential families in the city in her navy pantsuit and gray-streaked hair pinned back in a bun. She had a sympathetic expression as Fitzwilliam continued babbling about the problem.

Taj, on the other hand, had a long rangy build. Pairing that with a leather jacket and boots made for stomping made her intimidating. Her refusal to wear contact lenses to disguise her not-quite-ordinary eyes didn’t help her image any. It wasn’t surprising that Fitzwilliam preferred to pretend that she wasn’t there.

“Why aren’t we going inside to look at the problem?” Taj asked, even as a sinking feeling told her the answer.

Vivian smiled serenely. “I thought having another pair of eyes would be helpful in this case.”

At her words, the motorcycle finally turned around the corner of the museum, revealing itself and its rider. The rider parked the motorcycle near the end of the loading dock and dismounted. The rider had not bothered with a protective jacket. He was a tall man in distressed jeans and worn boots. He wore a white t-shirt printed with the name of a local band. Curling abstract tattoos covered his tanned arms. And when he took off his helmet, Taj’s suspicions were confirmed as he shook out his shaggy dark hair. Damn thunderbird. Vivian knew that if Taj never saw him again, it would be too soon.

It was Vivian who introduced him as Rupert Thunder to the director who, despite a dubious look at their newest addition, quickly ushered them toward the back door of the museum that led to one of the storage rooms. It was a cool, climate controlled concrete space stacked with wooden crates of all sizes. Fitzwilliam and Vivian led the way, forcing her to walk beside him.

“I thought that last incident sent you back to Cairo,” he said lowly. “I guess you’re harder to kill than I thought.”

She glanced at him and found his lips curling into a smirk. Silently, she counted to three before saying, “Evil just makes me stronger.”

“Stronger? I thought eating all those evil souls was fattening.”

She felt the prick of claws against her skin. “It’s a pity that fire didn’t scar that pretty face. Girls prefer men with character.”

The curl of his mouth widened into a sharp-toothed grin. “Too bad for you, I’m immune to fire.”

They finally reached the end of the room. Fitzwilliam was babbling even worse than usual. It wasn’t hard to see why. At the foot of an ancient Mesopotamian statue of a bull with a man’s face was a body with its head smashed into a pulp. There was a bloody hoof trail leading away before vanishing into the nearest wall.

Vivian looked at the scene with a frown before turning back to Fitzwilliam to tell him to call the police. The Dragon Queen’s voice was quiet but infused with great power, making the hairs on the back of Taj’s neck stand up even though it wasn’t directed at her. The director’s babbling stopped and he nodded vigorously before scurrying away.

“What do you see?” Vivian asked when she turned to look at them.

Taj walked over to the body, careful not to step in any of the blood, and crouched. She reached out and saw the victim’s soul, a shivery golden wisp, gravitate toward her fingers. She snagged it and the traumatized soul, as light as a feather, pulsed against her skin. The soul transmitted a stream of images into her mind. She let out a shaky breath as she saw the victim’s last moments.

Shedu,” Ru said, breaking the silence. He wasn’t looking at her. Instead, he touched the statue and squinted at some faded cuneiform etched into the stone. “Storm demons. Several of them were released from their prison, this statue. I would guess the victim probably had the idiotic idea to break their bindings.”

She straightened from her crouch and released the soul to float out to the Great Beyond. “No. That’s not it. It’s not the victim’s fault. He was just an intern. He noticed some noises in this room and came in at the wrong time. Someone else broke the bindings before he was killed.”

Vivian narrowed her eyes as the voices and footsteps of the arriving cops interrupted their quiet contemplation. “We’ll find the individual who broke the bindings eventually. But right now, the shedu is the greatest threat to the city. Eliminating them will be the top priority, for both of you.”

Taj dared to glance at Ru. He gave her another smirk. Oh great. If she was unlucky, she’d manage to kill him before getting rid of any pesky demons.