Improvise

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The dam was driving Emaria to the end of her will. Where the yellow clay should have been weakest, nothing she did could dent it. She resorted to howling, pounding with her bare claws, trying to make cracks.

Amid her cries and the storm and the sounds of Staever and Turner fighting, she heard something she shouldn’t have: under her claw was an echo.

Emaria ran to another spot and rapped again, then tried another, hearing the ringing every time. The dam was hollow. It explained the entire structure: empty, it could bend against the force of the sea, while yellow clay lent it strength to not crack under the strain of warping.

Turner couldn’t have calculated for the force of an angry lobster applied directly to the walkway. Eventhe had already rearranged Turner’s architecture once. If Emaria could find a gap, she could grab something blunt, break inside, and improvise.

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Aftershock

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Wrest had enough time to see the watercraft disappearing–shattering, like dropping an egg–and to think, this is happening too early, before the tsunami hit.

He gasped for air, scrambled for a clawhold. His blood-frenzy burned away. The sea rushed into his lungs.

Terror burned hotter. He folded himself in half trying to paddle. Water blew him into dune, then another–he hadn’t yet breathed–

–the water stopped rushing, instead draining away like a leaking canal. Waterlogged, Wrest landed at the base of a row of dunes, gulping rain-slicked air.

Where am I? Where’s anybody?

Water was flowing between the dunes, submerging some. The one he’d landed on made a higher island than most. He crawled to the top.

The water had thrown him inland, then pulled him back with its sloshing around, marooning him near the middle of the beach with ships and sea in sight. Hundreds of lobsters, mostly Militia, picked their way out of pools and channels. There was not a manatee in sight. The whole beach had become a hiding place–spheres could be anywhere.

Fearful now, he scanned the fleet, but most of the ships and their passengers were above the waterline. Then his eyes alit on the towers of the city.

He shouldn’t have been able to see them.

Didn’t the Clearing have walls before?

The watercraft’s power had escaped in the wrong place. The beach had absorbed part of the blow, and the walls had taken the rest.

The manatees wouldn’t have made that mistake. They must have lost control of their water–right after Crane had disappeared through the craft’s surface.

If the manatee pilots hadn’t killed Crane, the falling water would have. The governor who Wrest had hated his whole life must have known the odds of survival going in, or had been out of his mind–or just restored to it. Who had Crane been?

Wrest snapped back to reality. When everyone was safe, he would give Crane the time he deserved. Right now, he had a threadbare force in a swamp full of enemies. There was no dune big enough to gather his own four hundred, to say nothing of Thesal’s and Corin’s armies.

It would have to be the high ground at the fleet. They’d make a stand there. He could marshal help–most of the isles of dry land supported pods of lobsters by now, pulling others out of the water–but first, he’d have a long swim.

Before he could dive, spheres rose out of the water. Manatees swam their crafts onto the biggest sandbars and islands, isolating the lobsters there from their fellows.

The nearest dune was a flat disc of sand a pace above the water level. The soldiers stranded on it were tending the wounded and retrieving the dead. Three of them drew their weapons, but the manatees’ coral swords shattered the shell-blades in the lobsters’ claws. Wrest made up his mind to surrender when they came for him. He lacked the will to die after all.

But the manatees were taking no notice of their captives. In unison, each reached a flipper back to grasp the wand hanging in their sphere, levelling the weapons in the open air.

They can’t. Wrest had seen this before, among the Eye Militia. But it was impossible. He was not about to watch a mass execution.

He jumped from the slope and struck the water, pumping his legs and claws against the tide, striving for the island ahead of him. He would bargain, buy time. Whatever it took.

When he clambered ashore, everyone was still alive, but not even the pod of stunned Militia lobsters spared Wrest a glance. The manatees pointed the wands toward the horizon, aiming at a single target–back toward the river, where something far distant strode half-concealed by the storm.

It was too strange to name: a shape the size a mountain, alive and closing on them shuddering steps. It had only two legs, and two arms with twisted claws, like a lobster upright and climbing. It had no face Wrest could see.

From second to second, blink to blink, the creature changed. Now it was tall, now stooped. Now it had a third arm, now nine. Staring directly at it, he still saw it through the corner of his eye.

“How close is it?” he asked one of the manatees.

Flippers tightened around the metal staff. “Closer than it seems.”

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A Magic Sword

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Kragn’s limp accelerated, though a different leg looked injured with each step. It gave Arcite a little time to contemplate what death would feel like. He searched for some kind of answer on the pedestal, to explain what Kragn wanted with it, but the altar was all but featureless. There was a small hole in the top, like a torch socket, but he would have had to show himself to look inside it.

“You don’t need to do this.” He couldn’t yield the altar because of Eventhe’s weird advice. Maybe Kragn wouldn’t be able to climb. “We can take you in. We’ll give you a trial.”

Kragn roared.

“All right, no trial!” Arcite cowered lower. “Unconditional pardon. I’ll talk to Staever.”

Kragn seized the edge of the step and clambered up with the surety of a mountain beetle. He swung his claw over the altar. Arcite flung himself back down to the floor, the punch landing where he’d been.

“Sorry, shouldn’t have brought up Staever. What about…” Babbling, he’d hoped to draw him like Eventhe had done, but now Kragn didn’t want to leave the altar.

“I know what you are!” Arcite blurted out. Kragn ignored him, picking at every grain of the altar, scratching it raw.

“You’re not like the engineers. You act like them, kind of, but you’re beyond them. They might have some sort of dosage plan for the clay, I’m still working on that. But you…how much did you use?”

The ghost of a general–confident, shrewd, appraising–flashed in Kragn’s eyes, then was gone.

Eventhe burst out into the open, hollering, claws still tied, but she had paces to go before the step. Kragn swung around the altar and struck Arcite across the face.

It was harder to get up this time. His skeleton was hanging together by threads, and something under him burned with every step. A metal taste filled his mouth. He spat out blood.

Eventhe mounted the altar, baiting Kragn from its low edge, then skittering up the altar out of his reach, using his compulsion against him. Arcite propped himself against the nearest column and stripped off his cloak. He touched the spot below his thorax, and sucked in his breath.

He twisted his neck toward the pain. His landing had cramped part of his shell, which looked like it had taken a blow from the blunt end of a knife. It hadn’t been a knife, though. It had been that sea-damned key in his bag. As though dragging them across the continent to certain doom was not enough, now it had stabbed him. The glimmer of light on the metal still looked like spiteful laughter, yet…the Last King had wanted to hide it. Emaria had chosen him, Arcite, to be part of the key’s stupid legacy.

And its blade reminded him a lot of the hole in the altar.

There was one thing he could do besides talk and die. Making the dais was no sure bet with Kragn and Eventhe dancing on it, but he had something Kragn didn’t. A magic sword.

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Eventhe and Kragn

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Eventhe remembered coming out of meditation, lifting aside rubble, then encountering someone outside the ruin who hid his face. Then she awoke in the pitch dark, bound and maskless. “Do you know who I am?” the lobster carrying her asked.

She remained silent.

“I’m General Kragn. I’ve joined Turner the Architect.”

“You are trying to shock me. It will not work.”

Fear was another matter. This was not a fight she had already won.

“I’m glad to have you with me,” Kragn said. He slurred every tenth word, like a sludge-diver. “You’re important to the Cuttlefish usurpers. You made things quite difficult for me at the Wall. With you out of the way, my new task becomes a bit easier.”

“What task?”

“The engineers and I have been set to guard something the Last King left in the Clearing. The final tantrum of a defeated man. It’s proven difficult to eradicate.”

Yet he’d slung her down in a room boasting carved columns and not much else. He examined every inch of the altar, shone light on the hole in the center, but discovered nothing. The more he examined, the more frequently he slurred and stumbled, until finally, in abject frustration, he struck her with the force of a collapsing mine shaft. She rolled to the bottom of the hill, and lay, seething with agony every time she breathed.

One punch taught her they couldn’t fight him. Yet here was Arcite, fighting. He’d drawn Kragn’s aggression. The general stalked toward the altar Arcite was hiding behind.

She went to work on the ropes around her claws. He needed her. She could forget the fight remained unwinnable.

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The End of the Tunnel

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Arcite wanted to run, but remembered the cave-in. He could have tried another tunnel, but that meant solving a maze in the dark while Kragn chased him–and leaving without Eventhe.

He froze on the threshold. Kragn didn’t know he was there. The general clung to the altar, shaking, looking nothing like the other engineers. Arcite might have misread everything. Had something in the room captured Kragn and Eventhe?

Kragn reared back from the altar, landing in the sand beside Eventhe and seizing her in a choke hold. “Well. Solves that.”

“No closer.” Kragn’s voice was clenched and sickly.

Arcite disobeyed, entering the ring of pillars. Kragn looked like an invalid dryout patient, which was doing wonders for his courage. “Or what? You’ll faint at her?”

Kragn released Eventhe. Fear clenched Arcite’s heart–but there was no reason to tie her up or threaten her if she was dead. He was comforting himself this way when Kragn threw Eventhe at him.

She slammed into Arcite, crashing them into the foot of a pillar together. Something tore at his waist. His whole world went fuzzy for a second, shot through with the sound of Kragn retching. His tail smarted, pinched under Eventhe.

Her mask was off, but he’d seen her scars before–a few times now. He freed himself and knelt down to her as Kragn stirred and moaned by the step. Her eyes, surrounded by cracked and graying bone, flickered open.

“Ev, it’s me! Arcite! I came to save you!” With his claw, he sawed through the ropes binding her forelegs. They sprawled free. “How did Kragn tie these? He’s a mess.”

Eventhe was pointing with her bound claws, but no words escaped her mouth. Kragn must have beaten her badly. Once they escaped, they could come back and kill him together.

Then he realized what Eventhe was pointing at.

He felt a mighty shove, then vibrations from a resounding crash. Eventhe had pushed him aside with her tail, then rolled as Kragn, charging like a wild crayfish, had run headlong into the column. She was sprinting away from the dazed general. He set his course toward her.

“No!” Eventhe shouted, breath breaking free all at once. “Keep apart, or he will kill us both!”

Then it was true–Kragn’s bargaining for Eventhe’s life had been a fluke. Now he wanted only to maim, and who could stand in his way?

“He’s faster than me!”

“But not faster than me.” She risked a step closer. “Arcite, he is here for the altar. Turner wishes to destroy it.”

Before he could ask what she meant, she was running away.

His claw went to his waist satchel, but hit only bone. Then he remembered: he’d lost his red clay, and the key, when Kragn threw Eventhe at him.

“Sea and all three moons damn it,” he muttered. At the pillar, Kragn was shaking off his concussion. “That might well be a problem.”

“You both…you two…” Words clawed their way out of Kragn’s mouth. “DROWN!”

He leapt after Eventhe. Arcite thought of the air demon, following motion.

His satchel lay on the ground, the key bulging through the brown reed-cloth. Kragn was a quarter of the way around the room, Eventhe further away, darting behind pillars. He ran, scooped up the satchel, then doubled back to the step, hunkering down to find his shot. Kragn ran with intervals of wild grace, spliced with nauseous lumbering steps three times as slow. The slow steps offered a fine target, if only there were a pattern.

Eventhe’s tail flashed behind another column. Her head emerged around the other side. Her claws were still bound, so she signed with her legs. A cross. Unhurt, for now.

Arcite focused through his goggles, farsight to near. Kragn was several steps behind Eventhe–in range.

He drew out flint and clay, cut a ball of red, lit it, then jumped from behind the step and threw. He ducked behind cover and counted to three, then vaulted up to the dais and looked for the bloodstain.

What he saw instead made him hide again. Kragn was searching around a pillar for Eventhe, who had her back pressed against the other side. Arcite had scored a direct hit, and Kragn hadn’t noticed.

Eventhe dodged to the next column, drawing Kragn’s ire. Arcite felt like a larva. They could separate, escape through different tunnels into the city, but he might wait for days for her to come out, then hear only Kragn lurching around in the dark…

All his rescues, his schemes, ended up nowhere. The world did not care. “Why can’t I do anything?”

You can…” said Kragn. “You can DIE…”

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The Architect in Moonlight

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Rain.

Moonlight, faint.

Falling on a face. Emaria’s.

His bone burned where she touched it. His heart pounded, but he clamped his eyes shut the moment he saw her. He could not watch her dissolve in some other strange sea.

The mind of the creature had pulled her up for his benefit. She was as real as it wanted her to be. Unless…

“Em,” he said, “tell me you’re an illusion. Tell me you aren’t in here too. You haven’t used yellow clay.”

“Not since I was a girl.” She hadn’t removed her claw. “I don’t know where you were. But you’re out now. You’re free.”

The black fog was gone. So too was the skewed sense of his own weight, but Turner could have conjured a reprieve from both of those.

How badly could it hurt to trust her? I don’t have any farther to fall. I’d given in.

Her touch felt like the opposite of surrender, as he’d always imagined it would.

Something stirred farther along the dam. Emaria helped him to his feet. “We need to go–he’s distracted, but–”

Staever’s head was swimming. “Is that a crab?”

The crab was not doing much better against Turner than he had. It lay docile on its belly, awaiting orders from its master. Staever wondered how long ago it had been dosed with yellow clay.

“Run!” Emaria shouted, right as Turner cried, “Wait!”

His face and his bearing were different–neither confident, as when he talked, nor hate-filled, as he when attacked. He was stretched taut, his eyes filled with the despair of an innocent man on the chopping stage.

“Don’t you think I fought?” he said. “I’m always fighting it. Losing, tide in, tide out. But sometimes it gets distracted.” He shivered. “This must be its version of happiness. It’s ready to be whole again.”

With Emaria supporting him, Staever stepped closer.

“I tried to kill myself, but it wouldn’t let me,” Turner told them. “I set a trap. Built a big wall, filled it with red clay. I knew when it had me, I’d try to break through it, and maybe then we’d both die. Built the lever to lower it out of coral, thought it wouldn’t be able to touch it. I was right, but it–I–climbed right over.”

“You’re Turner,” Emaria said. “The real Turner.”

“You have to listen to me,” Turner pleaded. “Go far away. Take your whole city. Find somewhere else, live happy lives, for however long it gives you.”

There was a sword on the walkway by Staever’s front legs–not his. He picked it up, standing on his own. “You’re fighting it right now,” he said to Turner. “Keep fighting it. You can throw it off for good.”

“There is no ‘for good’ with this creature!” Turner’s voice stretched to breaking. “It is forever. It consumes forever. In a moment, sure as the tide, I’ll attack you again.”

Staever and Emaria shared a silent question. He had many helpful instincts telling him escape was the best option, and he’d taught them to Emaria as well.

“I would build a new city,” Turner said softly. “If I was free. I would go far from here, far from yellow clay. You have to do what I can’t.”

He’d inadvertently answered the question of whether to run. It didn’t matter if the Clearing was worth it. There was nowhere else. Staever’s people hadn’t given up, so neither would he.

“We did,” he told Turner, “and it didn’t work out. So we came here. The whole thing made us hard to kill.” He turned to Emaria. “The sea hurts it, Em. The dam keeps back the sea.”

“Staever, I scanned the whole thing.” Emaria glanced toward land; she might rather be escaping. “It’s impenetrable. There’s too much clay holding it up.“

A rasp of shell on sand whirled them both back toward Turner. The Architect had been on the verge of tears. Now his face was stone cold, and he’d taken up Staever’s old sword.

The crab galloped at him, keening. Catching the animal with one claw, holding it down with the other, he lashed its reins to the ramparts.

Staever raised his blade. “Em, run!”

“I’m not leaving!”

“I’ll buy you time. Let the sea in. Stop the awakening.”

Emaria waited an instant more, then ran.

Damn. Staever watched her go, brandishing a sword against his invincible enemy. That would have been a good time to tell her I love her.

The Architect, the creature, advanced. Fighting to grip rain-slicked hilts, they crossed blades.

Lightning struck, lighting up the horizon. Across the harbor and the gates, something stirred. It took its time, moving toward the river: a black chunk cut out of the night, formless, dreadful, moving closer.

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Don’t Leave Me

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“I will drink it. Drink the sea until no drop remains.”

The balance of the fight shifted again. Turner lifted a slack Staever from the walkway and slammed him down. He lay limp, a willing supplicant, as Turner pummeled him with one blow after another.

“Until this world is mine. Mine for a thousand thousand years.”

It was the first time Turner had spoken since he and Staever went blank. Was this winning, or a last pulse of desperation?

Emaria could run again–it had worked before, sort of–but Staever had been fighting to rise then, not taking every blow without even curling up. If she got thrown, something terrible would happen while she fumbled around picking herself off the ground…

Then it hit her. She couldn’t fight. But someone else could.

“Come!” she roared. “Come to me!”

The storm absorbed her words.

Turner lifted Staever like a sack of loose sand and hauled him toward the cauldron of yellow clay in the harbor. He twisted toward Emaria with Staever’s body half over the seawall.

Wherever he was, he heard the clops thundering down the dam. A shadow larger than Turner barreled into him. He went down, pinned under his own crab.

Staever fell from his grasp. But not far. He slumped on the dike, claws hanging over the seething clay. Emaria raced paced Turner and the crab, a thrashing, clawing mass, to get Staever back onto the dam.

He was dead weight, helpless. Every bolt of lightning treated her to the pantheon of bruises and cracks Turner had pounded into his shell. She pulled–one eye on the crab and the Architect–and at last managed to lay Staever out on his back.

“Staever, wake up.” She cupped a claw around his face, and scooped rainwater onto his shell with the other. “Come on. Wake up.”

He’s dead, said a voice she quashed. This wasn’t death. It was something different from death, too empty to die.

Before she knew what she was doing, she’d pulled back. Carefully, like handling a new dry scroll, she touched her claw to the side of his face.

“Don’t leave me.”

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Drink the Sea

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Something must have happened in the fight among bodies: Staever felt solid again, as present as he could be in the creature’s nightmare.

The white road was gone. This new memory was of stronger wind, of a sheer stone cliff surrounding a bay, its rim thickly carpeted with grass. The grey wall left only a single opening, flanked with sharp rocks. The light through the fog resembled sunrise.

Turner was admiring the view. “Leave me alone,” Staever shouted at him. “Let me go!”

“I didn’t take you here,” Turner reminded him. “You sacrificed your soul. I’ve no power to free you.”

“Yes, you do!” Staever shot back. Turner ambled around to face him, as sunbeams burst through the gap in the rocks. “For the same reason you want to save the creature, the same reason you know how to wake it up. You are the creature.”

Turner’s expression betrayed nothing, but the sunrise snuffed out like a candleflame. The sky darkened, gaps in the fog filling with strange stars.

“All the years you studied yellow clay, it was studying you,” Staever said. “It stole your voice. The Architect was dead after all.”

Turner folded inward, as though fighting within himself. Then he changed.

A heartbeat later, Staever could not look at him. Turner’s outline dissolved, his shape slipping out of Staever’s grasp, one vast shadow in a moonless night. When his voice came it came from everywhere, deep, fierce, guttural. It spoke Staever’s language until the familiar words sounded foreign. Lost.

“I will drink it.”

Rhe stars washed out, the sky painted over with black.

“Drink the sea until no drop remains.”

Fog closed over the cliffs and swallowed the grass.

“Until this world is mine.”

Staever was standing on something, but didn’t know what.

“Mine for a thousand thousand years.”

He lost his footing and sank into the darkness, into surrender to the creature, deeper still than before.

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Emaria at the End

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Each time Emaria ran at the melee, Turner threw her aside without breaking stride. But those times, she hadn’t had a sword.

The blade landed next to her as she lay with her own limbs under her in an impossible knot. Staever mutely struggled to rise, as Turner stalked toward him, sword raised. Emaria snatched at the discarded sword, tripped over her legs, stumbled into the opposite seawall–but got her claw on the hilt.

“Bastard!” she shouted at Turner, “Look at me!”

She charged, sword over her head, and cut downward.

The Architect stopped her chop with one claw and bent her arms so far across her back the sword went parallel to her. Her arms screamed to be free of their sockets. She put every bit of will into not passing out, not satisfying the abominable thing that wanted her gone.

Staever crashed into them both, landing an uppercut to Turner’s chin. Turner’s grip loosened enough for Emaria to pull free, taking Turner’s sword with her. She scooped it from the walkway and threw it to Staever, but Turner knocked it out of the way in midair–he and Staever punched each other, bare claws–again she had no way in. But she wouldn’t watch him give up a second time.

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Beyond the Sky

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“A body. Its mind.” Turner’s words were almost strange enough to make Staever forget where he was.

The ship was gone. They stood in an empty forum, floored with grass instead of bone, surrounded by boxy stone huts. Through the black sky and the damned fog above, he caught glimpses of his body on the dam drawing a sword. Turner fought back with a blade of his own. “A body and mind are unified, though the mind is easier to rule. Often the body holds more complex thought.”

Staever’s empty shell drove against Turner’s. “That’s…”

“Your resistance,” Turner confirmed. “The bond of your mind and body, fighting like an animal. Tirelessly. Unthinkingly.”

“What does this have to do with where we are?”

“Every body must have its mind,” said Turner. “All yellow clay was once part of a single mass. A living thing in the sea, far from your continent. Far from anywhere.”

Staever tried to find Emaria–but there was only his body and Turner’s, blades locked, minds distant. “What living thing?”

“Something from beyond the sky. Something that didn’t intend to land here.”

“You’re mad.” The sky and stars were another sea, the Lesser Mirror the ocean raised to guide lobsters across the surface. “There’s nothing beyond the sky. You might as well say something lived below the seafloor.”

Turner cleared the fog.

Staever screamed. He lacked the strength not to. He’d seen the open sea once or twice, thought nothing in the world could be more desolate–but this black speckled void was hundreds of degrees more empty. The night sky had stretched to cover the entire world, swallowing everything.

His scream died as he hit solid ground, his face streaked with tears he didn’t remember crying.

“That was your Mirror,” Turner said. “It is not benevolent. It is vaster than you will ever understand.”

They were on water again, the Greater Mirror, but without a ship. They stood on a white ribbon of crystal as wide as an Eye thoroughfare, cold and slick to the touch, running past the horizon in either direction.

“You’re lying,” he croaked. “What could live out there?”

“These are memories stuck in the mind. Thoughts of its birthplace.”

Staever found his footing on the slippery rock. Unless he attacked Turner, he could move freely, though what might lie at either end of the crystal road scared him too much to run.

“Ages before the Clearing, when your ancestors scratched life from the desert, this creature made itself known. Its image survives–in the clay temples, on the gates.”

It’s been there all along. This creature from above the sea, following our every step. “Why did it go to sleep?”

“Sleep?” Turner chuckled. “Fine choice of words.”

“The…creature…must be asleep, or you wouldn’t need to awaken it.”

Turner clapped his claws together. “Well done!” He gazed past Staever at the long white road. Staever shivered, though the cold was not real.

Suddenly he was back on the ground, hugging the frigid rock. The lethargy returned, more intense than ever, even in the nightmare: a plush millstone on his limbs. He couldn’t remember how to move.

He labored to shape words. “How…are you doing this…”

“You took its body into yourself,” Turner said. “If I choose, you can feel the pain it’s suffered these thousand years.”

Staever stood up shakily, panic clouding his thoughts. Out! his brain screamed. You can’t survive whatever he’ll do next!

“The sea laid it low,” the Architect went on. “There is a power in your ocean you cannot understand. The creature cannot live as it was meant to on this ocean world.”

“There’s an ocean right under us.”

“This is not your world.”

Staever was trapped so well he couldn’t see the end of the cage. He had to act, but acting against Turner would destroy him. All he could do was learn.

“All the miners, from both cities, have been digging up parts of this thing?”

“Generations of lobsters tore up its body for their ships, their towers, their shells. The more they indulged, the more power I gained. I gathered enough to grant it some of its original properties.”

Staever looked up. The fight flickered at the edge of the stars, a fainter image now. His and Turners’ shell-blades clashed without quite hitting bone. “Why did you seal off the harbor?”

“I needed a cauldron,” the Architect said. “That was the easy part. The mind.”

“Easier than the body?”

“As I said, minds are simple. They arise by accident all the time. The difficult part is preparing a body to receive them. I had to put the clay to use–rebuild form from the chaos the sea left it in.”

“The city? The Great South Wall?”

“You insist on bringing up that wall. I made something more perfect than a wall. Radial symmetry, on the vastest of scales.”

“The bridges…” And thus he’d occupied two hundred years. While Taiga taught him to throw a grappling hook, while he and Wrest collared their first street mark, while the people of the Eye watched their canals fail five hightides of ten, Turner the Architect had been over the mountains, nursing something back to life.

“Why?” he asked. “How?”

“Why did I do it? How did I know what to build?” Turner shook his head. “Little Cuttlefish, you’re running out of time for questions.”

This time they both looked into the fog.

Turner struck the sword out of Staever’s claws. It sailed away to stick in the harbor-side seawall. Staever’s body attacked bare-clawed, but Turner struck him in the face. The gap in the fog widened as he sailed back, revealing Emaria crumpled against the opposite wall.

In the mind, Staever was paralyzed. What could he do–jump out of the nightmare, beg the sea for a miracle? Throw Turner’s projection, a dream he couldn’t fight, into a sea that didn’t exist? It would be so much easier to lie down and let go, let this mind be his mind, give up on Staever the Cuttlefish, a lobster destined for an ill fate anyway…

He closed his mind-eyes, and vanished, starting at the tips of his claws.

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