To narrate through a non-human perspective with no-human senses, cultural givens and sensibilities is a difficult task, and yet it pays off beautifully and sensuously here.
The Dancing Mistress, who centers this tale, is one of the People, an ancient predatory non-human race that has suppressed its magic and instincts for the sake of living among the more populous humans. This unspoken truce is shattered when a human shaman hunts some of the people for their ancient wisdom and magic. He seeks the Dancing Mistress, but kidnaps their herbalist.
The Dancing Mistress enacts a hunt for the duo by entering a mesh-mind with 3 others of her race. This allows them to think and act as one leaning into the sensory strengths of each.
The moon glowed faintly through the low clouds, but the shadows outflanked the light at every turn. Torches burned at compound gates while lamps hung at intersections and in the squares. The nighttime streets of Copper Downs were streaked with smears of heat and scent.
The hunt slid through the evening like a single animal with four bodies. Her vision was complex, edges gleaming sharp at all distances and ranges. Odors told stories she could never read on her own, about the passage of time and the sweat of fear, passion, even the flat, watery smell of ennui. The very feel of the air on her skin as she ran had been magnified fourfold. She saw every door, every hiding place, every mule or person they passed, in terms of force and danger and claws moving close to the speed of thought.
The sheer power of the hunt was frightening in its intoxication.
They slipped through the city like a killing wind …
This tale appears in Street Magicks edited by Paula Guran. I received this new anthology from Netgalley. The short story was originally published in Tor.com [29 October 2008]. I’ve previously reviewed this author’s eye-opening Love in the Time of Metal and Flesh.
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