The old man’s form shimmered in my grasp, like a mountain peak glimpsed through summer haze. Another instant and I did not hold an old man at all, but rather an oni. He was perhaps a head taller than myself, with red skin, gleaming tusks and horns, and black hair as coarse and thick as a horse’s mane. He continued to struggle, and it was all I could do to hold him.
Jesper whirled. Right at his back, feet clacking on the limestone, was one of his steam-powered wolves. But instead of ambling across the gravel path and back into the forest, it went utterly mad, hoping forward and back, tail pinwheeling. It jumped forward, teeth bared; the air rent with a scream and the ugly sound of ripping fabric; the wolf danced away with a mangled petticoat in its gleaming jaws.