“Sergeant Hamnar,” Aubrey called to one of her lieutenants.
Aubrey wasn’t particularly fond of the woman. Jexi Hamnar was young, idealistic, and had an annoying eagerness to do the right thing. She was too young to have experienced battle, but had the kind of fire that made for heroic corpses. The ones the Imperial Court liked to toast at funerals and show to the foot soldiers as examples of perfect sacrifice for the Empire. Aubrey didn’t really like heroes, they tended to get the people around them killed.
“Constable?” Hamnar said.
“Have you ever dealt with the fae before?”
“Just the stories,” Hamnar replied. “And the usual children games. Chasing a will-o’-wisp through the hills, or trying to follow a spriggen back to buried treasure.”
“I thought not. This will be valuable.” She turned to Wilhelm and said, “Thank you for your time, burgher. I’ll keep you updated on the investigation.”
As they drew closer to where the naiad, Aubrey slowed her pace and Sergeant Hamnar followed suit.
“What do you know of naiads?”
“Water spirits, right?” Hamnar replied. “They lead men off with promises of pleasure?”
“Not just men,” Aubrey said. Hamnar made no reply, but a light blush crept up over her face.
“The fae aren’t like the stories,” Aubrey said. “Or rather only half like the stories. They’re practically immortal, with experience both broader and deeper than any mortal can possibly have, even an empress. We’re mere children to them. They play games with us and tease us—they like to see us embarrassed and foolish. They have a darker side as well. You don’t want to make one of them angry. It rarely ends well.”
“Like being spanked by your da?” Sergeant Hamnar laughed.
“Yes, except with teeth and claws and blood.”
“How do you keep from that?”
“Avoidance, mostly,” Aubrey said with a shrug. “Fae don’t usually seek us out, we tend to trespass without knowing. Keep out of their way. Endure them when you can’t.”