Hey everyone, Tim here. It’s been a few rough weeks for writing, but I am back with a new chapter!
Here is 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.
The small houseboat bobbed in the water, moving toward the Fog. Mist might burn off the neighborhood in sunlight, but Alina doubted it would lift at all before then. A flame on the open-air stove at the center of the main deck glowed with red heat, providing most of the available light. Rethe stood on the other side of the flame talking with Martin and Kelebek. Her lank yellow hair looked almost red.
Luckily for the korda woman’s plan, neither of the two more experienced thieves had gone far. Alina looked down at the stolen mask in her hands. Sapphires glinted along its sides. Lucky for her, the device allowed for limited breathing underwater though most were only designed for filtering out dust from the storms. She shivered under the blanket draped around her shoulders and felt the odd cut of the clothes Rethe had lent her when she had gotten on board.
Sitting on the deck beside her, Percival stared at the buildings and streets rising from the marshy islands of the Fog. Alina wondered if he was sharing his senses with the imps he had sent ahead. Demons. Ifreet. Shaitan. The church taught such entities desired only the corruption of mortals and in beyond his world only the angels could be trusted. Alina still believed, but Percival used such beings as instruments. She prayed silently they did not use him for worse in return.
“You said you had a plan.” Martin looked out at the misty islands. “What do we do once we get to shore?”
“Simple,” Rethe said, loud enough everyone on deck could hear. “If you want to fence that mask, you will need to slow down the Watertakers. Entanglements with the law can be such a great inconvenience for those accustomed to dark work.”
“Entanglements with the law?” Kelebek frowned. “That could be dangerous for us as well.”
“If we don’t do something about the Watertakers, they’ll be on Percival’s trail before dawn,” Alina cut in.
Percival glanced at her, surprised she’d spoken up. “Anything in mind?”
“The leader of the Watertakers, Ceth, is responsible for the mask. If we lure him into a meeting with the Red Guards it’s possible they’ll take him out of our path for us.” Rethe smiled. “And I think I know just the way to get them to meet up.”
“Taking down Ceth’s a start,” said Martin. “But what then?”
“And why help us?” asked Percival.
“Questions, questions.” Rethe’s smile widened. “Gentlemen, I like an underdog. And Ceth has been on my nerves for too long. Does that answer your questions?”
“Well enough,” said Percival.
Martin grunted but said nothing. He disliked the tone the korda woman took with them like they were children.
The boat approached a covered dock by a darkened building on the edge of one of the Fog’s small bordering islands.
Kelebek nodded. “Let’s get to work, then, people.” She wanted to meet up with Saint as soon as possible. They’d all be safer with the golem around.
Alina stood with Percival on the boat. Martin and Rethe went ahead onto the dock. Kelebek glanced back at the two younger members of the crew. “Coming?” she asked.
They glanced at each other, looking sheepish in the fading light from the stove top, then followed her into the shadows of the dock.
Thanks for reading!