Chapter 1 "The First Day" 9

At the back of the station, near the narrow, dark stairs that lead to some small rooms in the attic where Guardia can catch up on some sleep during double shifts or even temporarily live if down on their luck, is a door that leads to an attached building on the same plot of land as the station. The door is locked but Alma produces a key. “I wanted them to have some space when they come out. Sgt. Machado was kind enough to provide this place. It would be best if I did this by myself. They –”

“I need to evaluate them from the beginning, Sergeant,” the inspector says. “Let’s get this done.”

Alma angrily turns away to unlock the door, the key sticking and making her angrier. After a short moment of struggle she gets the door open and they step across a narrow breezeway, roofed over and dark, but open to the air at each end. Then Alma uses the same key to open another equally recalcitrant door across the breezeway.

Finally they enter the disused building, going into an open room filled with boxes and bundles of paper, some dusty, some recently arrived. Thick dust on the floor has recently been disturbed by the feet of movers and Guardia cops coming in and out.

“Hmm, unusual place to have a bar, so close to the Guardia station,” Sgt. Gwydion notes, walking up to a heavy wood tavern bar standing to one side of the room. He drags a finger through the thick dust on the bartop and goes over to look behind it. “Complete with a small kitchen, too. Interesting.”

The inspector replies, “The original station was much smaller, only six mortal officers, and it was a few blocks away. This building comes with the plot of land, though. I suppose we’ll just use it for storage or something...”

Alma ignores their prattle completely, dismissing it as background noise as they enter the building’s main floor storage room. The moment she’s been waiting for for so many years has finally arrived. She will get to meet them, now. Actually meet them, see them, touch them. Finally, they’ll be more than just faint thoughts whispered in her ear. If only she could have this all to herself... But no, there they stand, two souls as brilliant in the great map of all things as young stars in a midnight sky, intruding on something they cannot understand. There’s no need to look at them. Alma can sense them as easily as she can sense the rat in its burrow, behind the bar, convulsing and agonizing in its final moments among the living. She sighs in sheer frustration and helplessness, a subtle, barely audible sigh, little more than a deep exhalation. Well, there is no need to prolong this moment. The Bunnies are already beginning to sense her anxiety. After one quick look around, she walks over to a pile of old multicolored blankets and plucks one, shaking it to get the dust off, and lays it on the floor. She goes to get another to do the same, and Tuma-Sukai joins her, shaking out another blanket and laying it on the floor. Gwydion joins in as well, grimacing at the dust getting on his uniform, and quite soon there are six blankets covering the wooden floor.

Alma then pulls back her long pearl-white hair behind her left ear, revealing a previously hidden earring, the mark of her status as a child of Death’s harem. Shaped like a delicate lily, each petal sculpted with exquisite detail, the silver earring has the finest of chains attached to it. The work on the chain is so refined and intricate that its end seems to merge with the the goddess’ ear, slightly above the lobe, where it is mostly cartilage, instead of piercing it from side to side, fusing with its own links in a closed ring. Hanging from the lily earring, a long, thin silver rod stretches until it almost touches Alma’s neck curve. Three subtle markings near its base show her mother’s rank in her father’s harem. The rest of the rod is decorated with 6 tiny pearls, currently glowing with an unnatural light.

Alma reaches for the pearls with her right hand, gently removing them from the silvery rod. They land on the palm of her hand, which she holds out in front of her. She whispers a word of command. The pearls immediately float up, like raindrops blown away by a gentle breeze. As they align themselves with the mats on the floor, they begin their slow descent, growing to about a meter in diameter as they float down, until they are hovering gently no more than a finger’s breadth from the floor.

Then Alma walks over to the largest of the orbs, pausing for a second as she feels the life it contains throbbing within. She glances back at the two gods with a look of annoyance on her face, wishing again she could have this much-awaited moment all to herself. She closes her eyes as if that would make them go away and then touches the orb. Her hair blows in a phantom breeze, and a distant sound of songbirds fills the air as the orb fades away, revealing two nude bodies inside it. Two girls...Two young women to be exact, somewhat smaller than most humans, holding each other, one dark, spooned against the other, pale. They slowly float to the floor and settle there.

Dion whistles slowly, amazed over the advanced magic. “Impressive,” he notes.

Alma quickly moves to the next orb, leaving the two women, who are barely starting to stir, to wake up by themselves. She opens it the same way, this time the fresh air of a forest in spring permeating the room. In this orb is another young woman, of slighter build. She comes awake while she is still sinking to the floor, shifting so that she lands sitting with her legs tucked under her, straightening her upper body to look around. She does not seem at all bothered at waking up, unclothed, in a strange room. She merely looks curious and very alert, her two rabbit-like ears coming out of her straight black hair and standing erect, twitching every so often as they capture a multitude of new sounds.

Alma pauses to stroke the hair of the three freed females. She whispers to them encouragingly, welcoming them to the world of the living, ready to embrace them for the very first time, but once again she remembers the two gods watching. She glances at them and frowns, reminding the gods that they do not belong here or now, and goes to get another orb.

The two Bunnies who had been together in the same orb stand and stretch luxuriously, revealing the astonishing beauty of their forms. Short fur covers their legs from the ankles midway up to the knees at the front and just below the calves at the back. The wrists and forearms are also lined with the same kind of fur. A thin strip of it around the neck and a furry tail that matches the long, restless ears, completes the overall look, leaving the rest of their slender bodies covered with soft, almost child-like skin. The paler Bunny has long, full red hair, and freckles on her face and shoulders. Her eyes are large and emerald green. The dark one has a loose, curly afro, huge dark eyes, and full lips that break into a brilliant smile as she looks at Gwydion, who is staring at her with a half-stunned expression.

The third Bunny stands up as well. She is the tallest of the three, and though having a slighter build, she is muscled like a dancer. Her face, slender and delicate, is little more than a beautiful easel to hold her large, almond-shaped eyes. Alma is only vaguely aware of her approaching Tuma-Sukai as she focuses on opening the fourth orb.

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