The two men entered the office and walked across the expansive marble floor. Syrus rounded the desk and flung himself into his chair with a scowl. Taurin remained standing, legs spread, arms behind his back, waiting. At least a head taller, Taurin was well aware the man’s shorter stature meant nothing. Syrus was built with a muscular strength few men could stand against--as anyone stupid enough to test him found to their peril. His face was rugged, cheekbones sharply delineated by the long salt-and-pepper hair pulled tight at his nape, the tail resting between his shoulder blades. His hazel eyes were afire with a vivid intensity as he glared at Taurin.
“Tell me what happened,” growled his boss. "I got your message yesterday, and though I agreed with your request for complete need-to-know, I've waited long enough.” Eyes piercing, he narrowed his gaze, then asked quietly, hopefully, “Any chance this is just a misunderstanding of some kind?”
“No, sir. Not a misunderstanding, mistake, or some kind of bizarre accident. Daniel Valentine somehow managed to deliberately call up, then steal, a soul book that was definitely not his own. If I hadn’t seen it for myself, felt the touch of the book under his clothing as he disappeared out of my grasp, I wouldn’t have believed it possible.” He grimaced. “Almost worse however, I then had to convince Deacon it was true.” They exchanged a long look.
“I can imagine how that went,” Syrus muttered.
“It was beyond imagining, sir,” Taurin replied wryly. “Eventually, we were able to scan the card Valentine used, and because it hadn’t been wiped, we know the identity of the woman who belongs to the book, but that’s about all we know. There’s no clue why he stole it, what he wants with it, or how, by all the gods, he managed to take the book out of the Library.”
Syrus stood and turned to look out the floor-to-ceiling window behind his desk. On most levels, thoughts became whatever reality a being wanted or needed in the Ethereal, making it fairly easy to judge the Warden Master's state of mind based on the view out the window. At the moment the outlook was vacillating between the Storm of the Century and a bucolic scene of sheep cavorting over green hills. It didn't take knowing the man for centuries for Taurin to clearly see that Syrus was struggling to find his equilibrium.
Still watching the vista, Syrus asked softly, “What do you think happened when he got back to the world? For all we know, maybe this…misadventure killed him.”
“Save me the trouble then,” Taurin said, matter-of-fact.
Smiling, Syrus returned to sit in his chair, grazing sheep and fluffy white clouds taking precedence over the dark storm. “I’ve known you for two thousand years, Taurin. You might have to slay a demon or two, wrestle one of the Toll House denizens to prove a point, but we both know you’re one of the most level-headed, empathetic wardens in the Ethereal.”
Taurin hesitated, then with a rush of words, he said, “I want to go after him, sir. Deacon was able to extract Valentine’s soul signature off the card. I can trace him, no matter where he’s hiding. I’ll get him and the book, and bring them both back in short order.”
Syrus considered him for a long, serious moment. “You haven’t been on the earth plane for centuries. You gave up that world, made a commitment to stay here, become a warden.” He shook his head, then murmured thoughtfully, “I’m not even sure it can be done.”
“Like a soul book can never be stolen?”
In the silence, Syrus leaned back in his chair, pressing his steepled fingers to his mouth as he spun to face the window. Taurin tried to stifle his laughter, but the sight of lightning bolts chasing the sheep around the hills was too comical. At the sound of his soft chuckle, Syrus swiveled back and gave the best warden he’d ever known a fierce look. “I’ll have to go up the chain of command on this,” he said, rolling his eyes upward, “and no telling what will come of that.”
“We need to get on this as fast as possible, sir. Valentine’s almost two days ahead of me, and who knows what that means to the woman and her book.”