Staever and Wrest pounded up the scaffold, eager to be out of range of the catapults. Their destination was Taiga’s apartment, where she would be hidden with or without the key. Wrest’s face was set. Staever blocked out visions of Wier and Alta trapped in Eventhe’s barracks as the ceiling crumbled.

When they reached a crossroads of two covered markets, Wrest stopped him. Rank after rank of lobsters in coarse clothing, each carrying a spindly glass spear, passed before a gap between towers, unaware they were watched. Staever dragged Wrest behind an abandoned stall, wrinkling his face at the smell of rancid meat.

Field scouts ran ahead and returned with reports of no resistance. The soldiers–not just women and men in their prime, but children and the elderly–marched toward their final confrontation with Kragn.

He understood why so many had come. The report of the general’s plans forced them to break the Eye or be broken. This was their last chance to save their commune from burial under the desert.

Wrest jerked his head toward a point across the street. The soldiers were marching right underneath the outer ring of Taiga’s apartment. As they began a silent approach, a shadow flitted across the window.

It wasn’t Taiga. It was a lobster as grizzled as a sea monster, who walked like he was missing a leg.

“Gattick,” Wrest hissed.

“Come on.” Staever bolted up the ramp, forgetting to keep his footsteps light.

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