The sled jumped the broken bridge, went airborne, splintered as it hit the ground. The children shouted. The impact jarred Staever’s skeleton, the scorch of air whistling through cracks in his bones. His graft was working its way loose.

Curtains of water obliterated the Iris, spraying the passengers. Graphus no longer steered, just hung from the reins for support. The waterfall paces behind them, they careened onto the battlefield.

The Field was drowning in mud. A woman, armor torn, rose from a pile of sand and bodies and swiped her spear at them. Wrest dove forward, sheltering his brother and sister. Staever struck with his blade, wrapping his other claw around the crab’s neck.

The children were screaming about a river, but a spear blow came at him before he could look. Another two rebels emerged from the right and Wrest attacked them with all the strength he had left. Graphus jerked a rein, sliced the crabs away from them. Water licking the back of the sled swallowed the rebels.

Wrest lifted Alta onto his back, and Wier clambered up behind, escaping the river. The crabs dug their legs into a sandbar, heaved the sled onto dry ground, and dropped where they stood.

Staever rolled off, too disoriented to move, sword limp by his side. The cool waters of a lake lapped at his tail.

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