Rue looked her over as she approached. “Mrs Featherstonehaugh, I presume?”



Mrs Featherstonehaugh walked around and down, the limp that required the cane one of inconvenience rather than pain. Either that or she’d learnt not to show her discomfort. The Vanara treated her courteously¸ if not with any particular reverence. Nor were they overly familiar. She was a guest and free to move around, but not considered particularly important.

Rue said, with a small curtsey, “Prudence Akeldama at your service. How do you do?”

The woman’s face showed no sign of recognition. Either she was very good at being impassive or her status as Dama’s agent did not confer with it knowledge of his family connections. Or she didn’t know who her master really was.

“How do you do, Miss Akeldama?” Mrs Featherstonehaugh stopped a few feet from her. Omission of title? Was Mrs Featherstonehaugh trying to insult her? Lady Akeldama’s name was so prevalent in the society column that it was odd the spy didn’t recognise it.

“My dear Mrs Featherstonehaugh, we thought you were in grave danger.”

The lady dismissed any concern with a twitch of her cane. Nor was she the type to be taken in by Rue’s sympathetic tone. “Very kind I’m sure, but who is we?”

Forthright indeed! Rue felt it only right to respond in kind. “Oh, you know, your standard concerned party of miscreants.”

The woman looked her up and down. Had she a monocle, she would have peered through it suspiciously. “I see. In which case, you will understand that I cannot trust you.”


Rue thought hard, frowning. Trying to remember the name spoken by that young woman, Anitra, in the Maltese Tower. Oh yes. “Goldenrod sent me.”

Mrs Featherstonehaugh paused. “You are not his normal type.”

Rue might have agreed, had she not met Anitra. “Neither are you.”

Mrs Featherstonehaugh acknowledged the hit with a slight dip of her chin.

Having no other proof to offer than that she knew Dama’s code name, Rue tried an attack. “My dear Mrs Featherstonehaugh, are you trying to start a war?”

“They do not find my presence nearly as unsettling as they do yours. You are the threat.”

“Ah, but I am not a brigadier’s wife.”

“Is he looking for me?”

“With his army. And he blames the werewolves for losing you.”

“Does he now?” Mrs Featherstonehaugh’s face was hard to read. Did this fact upset or relieve her?

Percy said, “If I ask nicely, would you explain what is going on? This place, these creatures�.�.�.�remarkable.” He sounded impossibly academic.

Mrs Featherstonehaugh noticed him for the first time. She reacted – as did most ladies, married or no – with a small verbal flutter. “Oh, how do you do, Mr––?”

Percy tried to rise, but his restraints kept him from standing. All he could do was make a sitting bow from the large square stone upon which he was chained. “Professor Percival Tunstell, at your service.”

Mrs Featherstonehaugh curtseyed. “Professor, pleased to make the acquaintance of a man of learning.”

“And as such I am eager to learn of your success in discovering these noteworthy beasts.” He was also, no doubt, eager to learn if she intended to publish her findings or if he could have first crack.

Percy’s flattery had the desired effect. Mrs Featherstonehaugh was delighted to enlighten him. “As you can see, Vanaras really do exist. Painstaking inquiry among the natives yielded only rumour. I needed to apply to the local religious observers and delve into the tea trade to uncover the truth. That’s why I needed Goldenrod’s plants. Even then, I travelled into this jungle on mere speculation.”

“Remarkably intellectually modern of you, madam,” encouraged Percy.

Mrs Featherstonehaugh blushed. “Why, thank you kindly. You’ll never guess what else?”

“My dear lady, you have the entirety of my attention.” He attempted a winning smile.

A blush resulted.

Rue had thought until that moment that Percy’s charm was largely unintentional – now she was beginning to wonder.

Mrs Featherstonehaugh glowed under his regard. “I have learnt that we British offended them with our actions. It was our fault for appearing to have chosen sides. Or, better, the East India Company’s fault for establishing a treaty with the Rakshasas.”

Percy said, compelled to add detail to any situation, “Under the standards of the Supernatural Acceptance Decree?”

“Exactly so, professor.”

Rue defended her countrymen. “That is policy. To favour and recruit the disenfranchised supernatural element to our cause. It is how we win wars.”

The blonde girl flushed. “I know policy! I am loyal to the crown.”

Rue said, “Current circumstances would seem to indicate otherwise.”

Mrs Featherstonehaugh ignored Rue in favour of Percy, appealing to his intellect, for Rue clearly had none. “It was a mistake not to research more before bargaining for Rakshasa alliance. Policy is to involve all of the native supernatural elements. By ignoring the Vanaras, we offended not only them but the local humans as well.”

Rue said, “That is not fair. No one knew there were shape-shifters in India. Who would have thought to look for weremonkeys? Goodness, it’s going to be a chore convincing home of the very idea, let alone the fact that they are many, organised, and easily offended by imperial decrees. Besides which, open hostility between supernatural races is so rare.”

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