We were both surprised.
When the doors came down, I stepped through the smoke and embers and into a long hallway. As I walked forward, the smoke dissipated, swept back by an unseen force. The walls around me were carved out of the same material the doors had been set into, and lanterns burned brightly in their sockets. At the far end of the hall was another door, this one in far better shape than those I had destroyed.
I double-checked the coach gun’s load, took hold of the brass doorknob and gave it a gentle turn.
The door swung in.
Soft light and the smell of furs greeted me.
As did the sight of a woman who was not expecting me to walk through the door.
In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting a woman to be there either.
She was in a small shop stocked with linens, furs, and a variety of sundries. On the counter in front of her was a ledger, a pencil in one hand, while she held the edge of the ledger in the other.
I opened my mouth to speak, and the hand with the pencil dipped beneath the countertop.
Her expression never changed as her hand came back up, a long skinning knife in it. With a flick of her wrist, she sent it tumbling end over end at me, and I batted it out of the air with the coach gun, tossing the weapon aside as I leapt toward her.
She scrambled over the counter, fury in her eyes as she drew a smaller knife from her belt.
She was quick, and she was skilled, but it wasn’t enough.
I caught her knife hand, locked onto her wrist and twisted it hard and sharp, driving her own blade up under her sternum.
She spat at me, cursed in a language I’d never heard, and tried to claw my eyes with her free hand.
I slammed my head into her nose, shattering it and driving her back against the counter as I twisted the blade.
She kicked and tried to free her wrist, but I bent her far enough so that her back cracked and the life drained out of her.
I let her body sink to the floor, and then I knelt there for a moment. She grinned with bloody teeth and whispered a curse.
She fought ‘til the end, and that’s more than I can say about most.
If all of them here are like her, it’s going to be one hell of a fight.