“Barton!” I called, banging on the door to the make-shift barracks. It was just a basement in Michael’s rented townhouse, but Barton had insisted on giving it the title. There was no response to my polite greeting, so I just slammed open the door.
The room was empty and dark. Every bunk. Half the team should be off-shift right now and grabbing what sleep they could, but there wasn’t a single guard to be found. I switched on the light and scanned around.
No sign of recent magic. Heat signatures suggested they had been gone the whole night. If this had been anyone but Barton’s team, I would have suspected they’d been paid off and run for the next city over. Not this group, though. Barton relied on his reputation for staying bought. It was why Michael paid the premium price he charged.
A whisper in my mind told me my shadow had noticed something. I saw it lingering over by the corner the team used for their cooking. I stepped over and sniffed the air. Something pungent. There was a stew-pot left there, long since cooled, still dirty from the last meal. I swiped the residue with a finger and tapped it with my tongue.
It burned and tingled. My shadow hissed and withdrew. Not magic, then, but poison. I hadn’t sensed any death here, so it probably hadn’t been lethal. Enough to take them out without a fight.
Michael had been right. Serpent City had been waiting for us.