(excerpted from Weird Luck, book one in the City of the Watcher trilogy)
…Aleck ran towards the kitchen. The Nymph’s robe lay folded beside the steps. Beneath it, Aleck found his sneakers, jeans, and t-shirt. He grabbed them and ducked inside.
A mob of Corpsewater cooks cheered him. Soaking wet, clutching his clothes to him, without a word Aleck pushed on the right side of the door and stumbled dizzily down the back steps of the Sign of the God-Dog.
The waxing crescent moon hung fat on the horizon, haloed by mist, casting eerie dream-light into the clearing behind the God-Dog. A cacophony froze Aleck’s blood. Scores of wolves howled up at the night. Innumerable crows hopped in the dark trees of the Spiral Mounds, cawing. He saw naked, painted Wilders everywhere: drumming, smoking pipes, play-fighting with the wolves. He watched Wilders change into wolves, crows, bears, deer; animals changed into Wilders or other animals. Everyone roamed freely back and forth across the Spiral Ride. Aleck feel electric excitement filling the depth and breadth of the clearing.
None of Aleck’s Earth-clothes fit his new body except for loosely-tied sneakers worn as slippers. He threw on the Nymph’s robe. Putting the hood up, he walked among the Wilders and wolves. Some sniffed at him as he passed, some eyed him warily, but most seemed not to notice him. He searched for Akaz and the Cook but spotted neither. Anticipation grew in Aleck’s gut and tingled his extremities. Distant howls came on the night-breeze, and around the edges of the crowd more wolves and Wilders arrived, while others departed. The broad crescent moon glowed hazily.
At the far edge of the clearing, Aleck saw Wilders gathering up bows and sheafs of arrows from haphazard piles. Once armed, they disappeared into the trees. Aleck followed, but immediately lost sight of any shapeshifting wild folk. Cutting across the Spiral Mounds, he climbed over wooded ridges dappled in moonlight. Occasionally he glimpsed Wilders moving in the shadows.
Beyond the third ridge he descended to a neighborhood of crumbling stone buildings and twisting dirt streets, partly overgrown with vines and shrubs. He walked past many houses with well-tended vegetable gardens, but he saw no one, neither Wilders nor townsfolk. What the hell happened? How long was I out for? Smashed doors hung askew on their hinges. Shutters lay broken in the street beneath gaping, empty windows. Now and then he heard voices wailing in lamentation. He saw bloodstains everywhere — pooled on the street, splashed on walls — but no bodies. Crossing a small plaza, he passed an ornate fountain, filled in with dirt and planted in concentric rows; beyond, another fountain, intact but plain, featured a statue of Goromath spouting water from both hands. A large wolf lay in red water at the statue’s feet, bristling with Herax javelins. So they don’t change back to normal form when they die, like a werewolf, he thought. Or… what’s normal? Aleck nervously watched the sky.
Behind the Goromath statue stood a wall of fitted rubble ten feet high. It stretched to either side as far as Aleck could see, and atop it ran a catwalk between heavy wooden railings. He smelled smoke. Through a wide arch in the wall he thought he saw firelight dancing on the paving-stones of a courtyard. He passed through and found himself in the New Market. The booths looked abandoned, as did the aisles threading among them. The only sound came from the crackling embers of a crashed Herax ship and a dozen burned booths around it. He thought he saw charred bodies and looked away. Aleck saw numerous columns of smoke elsewhere in the Market rising from other wrecks. Behind the Senate, he noticed the glow of living fire pulsing in the sky.
He made his way through the Market, cowering into his hood and keeping to the shadows. A faraway voice shouted, “Where are you? Where are you?” Aleck stepped in a cold puddle and cursed, then recognized it for a pool of blood. Cringing, he looked around for a body, but found none. He saw many more pools and trails of blood before he reached the Senate building, but no corpses.
Aleck reached the entrance he and Akaz used before. Thick tendrils of smoke curled around the lintel to climb the wall like ivy; through the gaping archway he saw the air inside was chokingly thick with smoke. He backed out and wandered around the side of the building, nervously crossing the river on a stone bridge hugging the Senate wall: the water below churned furiously.
The sky glowed over the Circus of Burnt Skulls. Aleck snuck down the abandoned street. This time, with no crowd pressing around him, he took proper notice of the neighborhood; these buildings were larger and in much better shape than those in the slum he’d just passed through. Many extravagant mansions overlooked the street, heavily weathered, each unique, richly ornamented with a technique that made them seem carved from a single huge stone. Smaller buildings clustered between them in a sort of monotonous imitation, each sprouting the same clutter of inelegant fixtures and finials. More splashes and trails of blood decorated this part of the city, but still no bodies….