Hey everyone, Tim here, just a quick reminder I have two new books out.
Now back to the story.
Within the circle that protected Kalfar there was one city that commanded true respect and awe, the world over.
Sarsa, the seat of the Lord Executive, ruler of Kalfar. Glorious city, stern line of defense against beings from beyond. This was the richest and proudest of all cities in the near-eastern alliance.
Sarsa, city of countless exiles.
Sarsa should have drawn attention for all kinds of reasons, but there was a side of the city not often discussed on record.
Sarsa, the shadow city, where the desperate and the skillful plied their illegal trades. Darkness under street lamps. Poison in the minds of the high officials. Ice in the veins of the guilty.
That is the Sarsa to be watched.
And that is the Sarsa waiting to be seen.
Percival ran along the pier, knowing he would be too late. The korda man who had pushed Alina into the water was already gone, leaving her beneath the harbor’s dark waves. He hoped, but he did not pray. What angel or god would answer a summoner’s plea, even if they truly listened?
When he arrived, he found the surface of the water unbroken, no trace of Alina.
He stared into the water, but what hope he had mustered failed quickly. She had sunk deep. Perhaps the korda had stabbed her, though Percival saw no tell-tale blood in the water. He was no stronger a swimmer than she, so he had no hope of diving in and finding her in the dark. She had been foolish to insist on going alone. He sighed, and tears threatened him, despite what he could say he knew about life and death.
The sadness surprised him, though it probably should not have. Alina had been the one to allow him to join the crew. Now? He could not help someone who had helped him so much.
Beneath the surface of the water, Alina struggled to pull herself up the pilings of wood and stone the held up the place she had fallen. She could see nothing but groped for the support columns in the dark. She inhaled a little. Her breath would have made her lungs fill with water, and would have done so minutes ago, but she wore the korda mask, a tool for filtering out dust, and as she had hoped when she put it on, somewhat useful for breathing water. Useful, but not perfect, because it leaked and she tasted salt with every drop.
She found the piling and began to climb, slowly, laboriously, upward.
Her head broke the surface and she gasped into the night. The mask returned damp sea air, but no dripping of salt water. She sputtered, truly, halfway drowned, and then looked up at the end of the pier. She half-expected the silhouette to belong to her korda attacker from the Watertakers, but instead, Percival’s thin frame and heavy coat greeted her. Something shimmered in his eye. Was he… crying? She could not tell for sure.
He crouched down on the end of the pier. “Alina?” he said in a whisper.
“It’s me,” she said. “Help me out.”
He guided her along the pier, relief audible in the sound of his breath. He sent an imp to find Kelebek, and then to get Martin and Saint. Finally, Alina dragged herself onto the rocky shore beside the pier, just under street level.
“Sorry,” she said, sounding exhausted, as he helped her back onto the stones of the street.
He held her closer than he meant to and said, “What for?”
“I told them it was you,” she said, “said you had the mask. He had a knife. I’m sorry.”
“It’s alright,” said Percival. “I can handle them later.”
“We can. I owe you that much now.”
“I sent for the others,” he said and released her so she could stand on her own.
“Good. We’ll need their help too.”
“Kelebek isn’t going to like this,” he said.
“She certainly will not,” said Alina with a self-conscious half-smile. “But I’m glad to be alive.”
“Doesn’t that make two of us then,” said a voice from behind them.
Alina and Percival turned together. Rethe stood on the street not far away, yellow hair gleaming in the diffuse glow of a street lamp.
“You got a raw deal, girl. Perhaps I could assist you.”