Emaria got as close to Arcite as she dared. “What are you saying?”

Arcite indicated one of the lobsters in sand-stained armor. “The one in front is Morgan. I knew her. She’s asking me if we have any glass.”

“Liar,” Morgan said in common language. “I’m asking about the reports you failed to submit. The others returned to us once a month.”

“The other whats?” Eventhe asked.

“Spies, if you must know.” A yellowed lobster, unnervingly gaunt, joined Morgan. Emaria had seen this one before: in a snit after Staever blocked the council chamber staircase–then leaving after Kragn received approval to burn the Field to the ground.

“But they let you in to see the council…” she said.

“They almost let one of us on the council,” the jaundiced lobster replied. “As brutal as the Eye is, you’re startlingly naïve.”

Then he melted back into the army, leaving the thieves alone with Morgan and her squad.

“Listen, commander–Morgan–everybody–” Arcite floundered for words, “there’s been a misunderstanding–”

“You were excited enough when we chose you.” Morgan planted her spear in the sand. “Are you going to tell me, after five years, you haven’t won anyone’s confidence?”

“Yes!” Mocking as her suggestion was, Arcite seized on it. “I was about to come back for a report. It would have been really good, too. If you’d told me you were going to invade, I could have rushed it.”

Morgan snorted. “You need me to tell you why we didn’t? You had a duty to the Field, and you abandoned it. And now you’re making us miss our battle. Walk!” She jabbed Arcite with the tip of her spear, drawing blood.

Morgan’s men forced the three Cuttlefish to march in the middle of the column. When Arcite tried to meet Emaria’s eye, she couldn’t look back at him. Eventhe faced away, and nothing Arcite could say got her to look around. He’d never once mentioned he was from the Field. If pretending to be a spy was a gambit to get them out of danger, he’d set it up far in advance.

If you liked this chapter, check out the rewards available on my Patreon! I’m a self-supported writer, and even $1 a month helps.

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