There are other men here this night.
They are patient of something, minding together in a road without squares. They are not tall but high, not large but thick. Their coats are deep, their hoods luxurious, their masks unsettling and bottomless. They are whistling to one another, harmonizing a tune which echoes down the angles and makes a monsoon laugh through the crumbling and shallow grave of best of intentions.
They are stooped and move slowly. They step cautiously, testing the cobbles, prodding the curbs. They keep a circle between then large enough another could stand there. An empty space pregnant with implication. This is their primary sexual taboo: an unconsidered touch, a casual brush of a hand, the jostling of a crowd.
They slide their balance carefully on velvet pads, and as they do they whistle, and as they do they bobble, and as they do they go ching clink ching clink
the sound of promise. The sound of fortune. The patient animals are loaded with the flesh of choice for the Furtive Men. The hard cold eyes of dead men.
They swarm like bats round the fattest mosquito, the Furtive Men, til the waiting visitors are unseen. Knives are brandished. Knives are hidden. Hands fumble for purchase. The sound is maddening, that jangle and trickle of fortune and luxury, driving the crouching hungry stalkers to frenzy. The visitors will not go down. They won't die. A man strikes out....
There is gold in the night, pouring from darker darkness. There is fear brighter than knife, in the eyes and sweat of the Furtive Man, his hand in the heart of the patient passerby and clutched around...what?
Kavarrnus. Skin Men. Whistlers. Glassbadgers. Kin of Holding. The Shuffling Void. The Hollow People. The Empty Serfs.
Hood and veil falls from face before nothing, the Furtive Man's hand closes over and again against nothing, the jagged flesh of broken chest digs into his own. He looks around for men he knows.
Some have run. Some are dead. These new men he knows now all too well from terrorwet nights and heathfire warnings. Their bushy coats fall open and they draw from porcelein-white flesh, brighter than missing moon. There are razors. There are hammers. There are ropes and nails and stakes and oil.
The Furtive Man is no longer hungry. The Abandoned Shadows always have room.