Eventhe planted one leg and whirled in the sand, knocking the captain away long enough to get up. He struck again. She parried and jumped back.

In Eventhe’s split second of retreat, he landed a crushing blow to her face. Eventhe reeled, hitting the ground.

“You thieves are nothing.” He turned and raced toward his cargo. “I go through two ambushes every shipment.”

“You won’t mind going through me, then,” said a voice in his way.

The captain stopped. Arcite was in front of him, holding a pellet of red clay like a talisman. Behind him, the other Cuttlefish were building a pile of glass.

Enraged, the captain threw a blow at Arcite, who barely managed to block it with both claws held together. “I wouldn’t do that,” he began, before the captain’s claw broke his parry and dropped the red clay into the dust. The captain seized Arcite in both claws, ready to break his back.

He never got the chance. Eventhe’s next blow dropped him faster than he could lift Arcite. He tumbled off the road, coming to rest in a sand bank, out cold.

When Arcite came to seconds later, Eventhe was limping up behind him, panting. “You should not have helped me,” she snapped.

“I couldn’t let you die.”

“At no point was I in danger of death. Even Staever knew better than to throw himself on a master fighter.”

Even Staever?” Staever’s head appeared over the gunwale. “Thanks for the diversion, both of you. Sleds, now, or we won’t get off this road before midday.”

“Would you prefer I abandon you next time?” Arcite hissed as they approached where they’d hidden their getaway sleds. “Let you and your master fighter friend beat each other into oblivion?”

“Just because you want to solve every problem with clay, does not mean your little firecrackers make the slightest sense against a lone opponent.”

“All right, all right! Water be damned, I get it!” Together they scuttled past the confused crabs, and returned dragging a sled each.

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