The skinny man walked through the halls of the Shadows’ citadel with catlike tread: toe-balanced, silent. His features were lean and angular and his eyes were focused straight ahead with predatory intensity, unblinking. The scents of the forest clung to his skin and trailed in his wake down the hallway: pine trees, musk, and decay. They seemed to be natural scents, rather than something acquired.
A person who crossed his path at that moment might have jumped back in fright, sensing the animal essence in him before the human essence was apparent. Such a reaction would not be wholly inappropriate, or unwise.
By the man’s side walked a wolf. It was taller by half than the normal specimen of its species, and as long-legged and lean as he was. I didn’t look at all pleased to be in such an enclosed space, and now and then it would growl softly in the back of its throat, but when that happened the man would reached out his hand and stroke its hackles, causing it to subside into a sullen but wary silence.
A casual observe might have said that the two of them walked in lockstep. A more savvy observer might have realized that there was no way to man and a wolf really could do that, but the impression of it was strong.
At last they reached their destination. A man was waiting for them there, dressed in the livery of an umbra mina. The skinny man nodded his head slightly to him in respect. The wolf, out of respect, did not eat him.
“He’s waiting for you,” the Shadow said. He opened a pair of heavy wooden doors with the symbols of a thousand worlds emblazoned on them and ushered them inside.
The chamber beyond the doors was immense in size, with a vast open space in its center. The audience chambers of the umbrae majae were always like that. Visitors wanted to keep space between them and the scent of death.