The city was empty. Those lobsters who ignored the call to evacuate barricaded themselves in their homes, cudgels at the ready. They got front-row seats as the Field’s column made its way with grim purpose, and asked each other in hushed tones, Why don’t they loot? Why don’t they destroy?

Taiga’s wheezing worsened. Every few steps she had to stop and draw rattling breaths before continuing. Loose sand covered the ground, so deep in places she had to go around. She thrust her knife in front of her like a guiding star and checked every blind alley.

No matter how much of the Eye fell, she would not leave without the key. And Gattick would not leave without his money pit.

His wooden staircase was ahead, and beyond, the sweep of desert pockmarked with the Field’s rear train. Her insides seized up. One alley from the stairs, and there was a column marching in her way.

From her hiding spot, she made out two other forces splitting off to travel around either side of the hill. Gattick’s pit was inaccessible, but Taiga wouldn’t have been surprised if it was empty. A fence who made such a show of being frail and wizened could easily recover a cartload of unsold glass on his own. Gattick valued appearances–and, by now, had disappeared into the morass of refugees.

Taiga headed back into the empty Whites as fast as her dehydrated body would move. It was too late to slip past the Field. She would do as any good thief would: lie low, and wait out the danger.

She climbed her spiral tower, crossing the bridge past the rings. Moments later, when she eased her door open, a stout sword shot out and pierced her through the thorax.

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