Loose sand showered over the deck. Arcite yelped. Only Wrest didn’t move, keeping his claws on the wheel.
Arcite blew up. “What in twin mirrors–”
“Anyone see where it came from?” Staever brushed sand from his back.
“Did you see how it landed? No fire, nothing.” Arcite gesticulated at the ruined tower. “It’s unnatural.”
For the moment, the sky was clear, except for the dust coming from a low cloud on the horizon. Staever wondered if a windstorm could throw such a large stone. “Does Kragn have weapons like that?”
“There aren’t any boulders the right size nearby,” Emaria said. “You’d have to go to–”
The words caught in her throat. The realization hit Staever a second later. Even the meanest bandits could scrape red clay together. This bomb had none.
“The Field,” Emaria finished.
Staever dug in the scuppers for a set of goggles, found some on a peg, and shoved them on. “Ev, get on the sail and tell me what you see.”
Another stone flew out of the dust cloud, then another, like the wind really was tossing them. Both tore through wooden bridges on the south slope.
“I can see more projectiles,” Eventhe called down, and Staever felt a chill. He could count on his claws how many times he’d heard urgency in her voice. “We should remain under urban cover.”
“Urban cover, great.” Arcite cowered again with his claws over his head. “We lifted a condemned prisoner out from under the army. We don’t live here anymore.”
“The cloud is closing in,” Eventhe said. “There are–thousands of lobsters kicking up the dust.”
Staever half-mounted the bowsprit and focused the magnifying goggles. Enough lobsters churned up the desert to dwarf the arena riot, more than he’d ever known lived in the Field, much less fought for its army.
It was more than an invasion. It was an exodus. And the Cuttlefish were headed straight toward it.
Wrest trimmed the sail. “Wrest,” Staever said cautiously, “why are we going faster?”
“If the wind stays good, we can get out of here before they arrive.”
“Wait,” Emaria said. “We don’t know they want to attack. They might be forming a perimeter. Preparing for a siege. They could be here for any number of reasons.”
“Not a siege.” Arcite fidgeted in the corner. “They’re announcing themselves. They’re taking the city today.”
“They wouldn’t do that.” Emaria approached the bomber, a claw raised half in comfort, half in self-defence.
Arcite swatted her away. “They want the Eye! The whole thing!”
“You’re not…” Staever trailed off. Arcite’s last outburst had given him an idea. “Wrest, can we circle the hill? Put the city between us and them?”
Wrest considered. “If Kragn retreats, we’ll run right into the Militia.”
“Will Kragn retreat?”
“The question is whether it’s more likely the Field stops marching.”
Staever looked from Arcite to Emaria. Ordinarily he would have trusted her opinion foremost, but could Arcite not be acting? How would he know?
“No more gambling,” he said. “I’m declaring us officially out of luck for today. Everybody grab a pole and get ready to bank for the high desert.”
A conch from a high parapet drowned out his last words. Others answered from spiral towers around the Eye, intermittent, uneven sounds, blown by watchmen who had run in from the desert without resting. They soon took up the dreaded alarm, the long solitary burst: evacuate.
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