Only this year—gods, this year!—he had to deal with it all from chroveback.
Only this year—gods, this year!—was that really the only thing that had changed?
Flies buzzed around the dark, lumbering beast whose rugged gait the Sergeant had gotten used to and sweat rolled down between his shoulder blades beneath the thick green layers of his uniform, four snaps sparkling in the sun, buttons and saddle polished to a mirror shine as a proper officer of the Anaxi Law. Everything on the outside looked as it should for Patrol Sergeant Valentin—and why shouldn't it? He still had his career. He still had his lovely wife. He still had his quaint little house—
In the Painted Ladies. With Charity having crawled back into her addiction instead of into his arms. With Captain Damen D'Arthe watching his every fucking move.
If you were a damn masochist.
Instead, Rhys felt like the weather, felt like he had when he'd been left broken on the cobblestones: bled dry. He was too stubborn to give up, too determined to stop fighting, but to say that he'd begun to question whether or not he had any hope of even a mediocre victory would have been stabbing a little too close to the heart. Not that anyone knew, of course, for the not-galdor wore it all so fucking well. Hid it behind an easy smile and sarcasm. Buried it deep in the hot, molten furnace of his chest, keeping it as fuel in the quiet darkness while Charity whispered in restless sleep in their bed.
No. Everything was just as well-shined as his shoes and as fucking falling apart as the quarter of the Dives he was quickly leaving behind.
Everything was just clocking great—
Rushing through the sweltering streets, gripping tightly to his musky, muscular mount as it scrambled over cobblestones, for a brief moment that fantastic life he'd sweetly been promised on Clock's Eve on his dilapidated little rooftop garden while the Mugrobi Worshipful Company of Pipefitters' Auxiliary Band playing a favorite tune on the gramophone from the deliciouslips of the petite blonde he loved enough to wear the scars of the price of their relationship forever on his face could be forgotten, could be gladly shoved roughly aside by the needful thrum of adrenaline, by the crushing weight of authority, and by the urgent need to catch the erseholes responsible for such a fucking welcome distraction. He hated the uniform, knowing all that he did, but he didn't hate the job.
Someone needed to take responsibility for the mess that was Anaxas.
That someone certainly wasn't Rhys Valentin—thank the clocking Circle, right? Exactly.
"Constable, take Apothecary Street! Cut 'em off. I'm going to circle 'round!" The tall blond shouted, risking the toss of an arm outward as an indication as he signaled to Navinia Greymoore.
"Got it! Oh—quick thinking, Val." She smirked at him appreciatively, his Investigative nickname easy on her lips apparently, even though she was panting and just as ready for a fight as he was. He could feel the sudden surge in the thick cloud of Static mona that made up her field before she shifted in her saddle. The woman didn't have time to balk at him, to question his judgment, and she didn't have the authority to argue despite having just released him from training as her recruit just a little over a season ago. Instead, the dark-haired galdor grunted and dug in her heels, twisting the reigns of her chrove and sending both of them skittering over cobblestones, claws and a low rumbling growl from her beast parting the already-cowering crowd further.
There'd been a disturbance, but it wasn't between a handful of tribal wicks and it wasn't started by the Resistance. Not this time. Either of those would have been favorable, honestly, because at least the Seventen would have some clear enemy to pin their shit on. This time, perhaps this time someone like his fucking joke of a Captain would call it all a disappointment: it just a few textile factory workers who'd set a fire and stolen one of the water carts from the Southeastern Volunteer Fire Department to take it on a godsbedamned joy ride.
What a joy everyone was having, too: they'd crashed through a handful of vendors in a little tsat-run marketplace in a cross street; they'd smashed a Seventen blockade, and here they were nearly to Uptown, tossing buckets and a few bottles of beer into shop windows, whooping and hollering.
They'd not had any chance of casting—too many damn bystanders out in this heat, too much motion—and the pair were desperate to get the advantage. The four men had stolen the fastest kensers in all of Anaxas and this was just bordering on the fucking ridiculous.
Backup would arrive eventually, right?
Fuck. As if they needed it.
He knew these streets. All of them. In the daylight. In the moonslight. He'd burned them into his memory and as he shoved a knee into his chrove and yanked to the left, his mount begrudgingly shifted its hulking weight toward a side alley. Rhys began to gather his field—no, his glamour—the not-galdor quite confident that this little narrow cut-through that was barely wide enough for the officer and his swiftly moving dangerous ride, shoulder scraping against a windowsill with a hiss, would dump him out alongside the water wagon with its pair of kenser who were already foaming at the mouth from the exertion, who were already overheated.
A brief respite of shadows, though the alley smelled of sewage and the Sergeant had to quickly duck to avoid a hanging by clothesline, cursing through grit teeth even as Perceptive mona crawled closer to him, obeying his will as if they didn't know the truth of things at all.
Sunlight burst into his vision as he exploded back onto the wider thoroughfare, and Rhys began to cast, Monite rolling off his tongue like it belonged there, like he had every right to say the words with such unbridled power. He didn't see his Constable yet, but the cart wooshed by, kensers squealing as his chrove's jaws immediately and instinctually snapped at them. One of the men on the cart was laughing, bucket held above his head in both hands and Rhys sat up in his saddle, narrowing his sharp blue eyes at the man and catching just a glimpse of returned attention.
It was all he needed, that slip of contact, the Perceptive sorcerer quickly directing the mona with confident authority, drifting into the human's unprotected, wildly open mind. He asked for a tug here, a twist there, suggesting that it would be far more exciting to toss that bucket at the hunched-over driver than it would be to throw at the Seventen's face. No, it wasn't quite part of his oath to encourage such harm done to citizens, but, well, there was only so much change in intention he was capable of at this breakneck pace in the middle of a chase. If he was going to put a stop to things, taking out the driver was an acceptable use of force.
The human hesitated, his mind working against his intentions, fingers curling into hot metal before he felt the whispers of monic suggestion fill him with the curiosity, playing a picture for his mind. Rhys was reaching the end of his spell, ears ringing with the concentration required while on a lumbering, salivating chrove, that familiar stomach-wrenching sensation of vertigo threatening him.
Gods, no—not now. Shit—no—
The man turned and shoved the large water bucket emblazoned with the Southeastern Volunteer Fire Department's seal on it right against the skull of the driver with a loud crack!
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his Constable emerge from the far end of Apothecary Street, and for a moment his vision blurred, Rhys forced to slump into his saddle and grip it for dear life as dizziness nearly knocked him over.
The driver fell over, pulling the reins, and the kensers reeled wildly, sending the water cart crashing toward a little flower stand parked next to some almost Uptown cafe, sending toward bystanders. Only a wheel crumpled, Navinia's quick spellwork shattering it into pieces and forcing what was left of the cart to grind against cobblestones, the wrenching fall snapping chains. The kensers continued their rampage in one direction while the cart growled to a stop in the middle of the road.
Across the bridge of the little canal over there?
Well. That was Uptown.
He hated dry season!
Rhys groaned, pushing through the runoff and shifting his knees to bring his chrove to a threatening stop over whoever was left conscious from the factory,
"Cease and desist!"