Hey readers! As you may know, my other web serial, The Clockwork Raven, is nearing its conclusion. I’m only a few chapters from the end, and in order to focus on concluding it how I want to, this story will go down to one update a week, every Saturday, until the other story ends, likely sometime in December. I apologize for the delays posting these, and promise to keep to the schedule from now on–and go up to twice-weekly again when I can focus on this story more.
On with the chapter!
Next morning, as they struggled along yet another bridge, Staever admitted they were beginning to grate. They all seemed to travel uphill. There was always another after they finished one. The sand surfaces were smooth enough to make footing difficult, and several times Staever or Eventhe or both had to leap for Arcite’s claws lest he slide into a crag. Their one consolation was the bridges getting wider.
“It’s like that first one was an outpost,” Staever said as they caught their breath on a ledge in the side of a cliff face. “And now we’re approaching some sort of nexus.”
“There is the aerie I saw on the horizon,” Eventhe said. “Xander may have followed it. There are few other landmarks.”
“Liar,” Arcite wheezed, rubbing the leg he’d stubbed on a hairline crack three bridges ago. “I saw first.”
They’d seen the tower at full light: a slightly asymmetrical three-story shrine clinging to a misshapen foundation, hanging off a mountainside in the distance. It looked impossible, but all Eye architecture did, without knowledge of sand compression or yellow clay.
“Do you have a trail?” Staever asked Eventhe.
“The sand on the bridges is packed too tightly, and the yellow clay has waterproofed it,” she replied. “A thousand lobsters could leave no sign.”
“If that was Turner’s base when he built these, he might’ve kept supplies there. Food and water.”
“Xander may have thought the same.”
“I hope there’s some clay.” Arcite glowered. “I want to blow one of these bridges up. They’re annoying me.”
The three thieves dashed onward, skirting potholes and flying over canyons at dizzying heights, seeking the nexus aerie. By midday, it stood in stark relief against the solid blue sky.
When they reached the causeway leading to it from the southeast, Staever saw two others spaced equidistant around the mountain, one running southwest, the other north. He held up a claw.
“I hear voices.”
Arcite and Eventhe listened. Then, excited, they began to move.
“Get down!” Staever dragged them both behind a boulder. The clan ahead, barely visible, hadn’t been chattering happily. Their shouts were full of fear.
Before anyone could speak, a shadow swooped across the sun.
Had the manatee watercraft had returned to pick them off? No. He remembered his long nights with the scrolls full of lore.
The shadow beat its wings with a piercing scream.
“An air demon,” he said.
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