The runaway sled lay upside-down, far from where the soldiers were building tents. Five lobsters surrounded it: two small, one large, one aged and murmuring to the sled’s crabs, one sleeping against the board.
Emaria ran toward them. Alta bounded into her arms, followed by Wier. She hugged them both close, then turned to their older brother and clasped him as well, making sure he was real. “What happened in there? How did you escape?”
“I don’t remember a lot of the last part,” Wrest admitted. “And not all of us escaped. We ran into Gattick.”
“Then who…?” Emaria knelt by the sleeping lobster. Staever was out cold, but breathing. The aged lobster must have been Taiga–but didn’t have the old thief’s face.
Emaria bowed hurriedly, but Graphus waved her off. “My scepter’s in there someplace.” He pointed to the soup of flotsam. “If I find it, then you can bow.”
“If you’re here, gov–Graphus–where’s Taiga?”
Graphus pointed silently at the new channel.
Grief for her home wormed in through the hole Taiga ripped. Little losses came first, like the cool of the library’s deep stacks, the cart that sold crayfish jerky from an Iris kelp garden. Then the great ones. The faces of her youth, her first life, annihilated. The Eye would be flowing away from her forever.
“Taiga didn’t die in vain,” Graphus said. “There’s something else…”
Wrest help up the key. Touching it restored a bit of her sensation. “You must have taken it–”
“–from Gattick’s corpse, yeah,” Wrest said.
A muffled groan came from the sled. Wrest went over to shake Staever. “You awake?”
“I was having a nice dream,” Staever mumbled. “Sailing in the sky on a boat made of glass…why’d you wake me up?”
His question died in his mouth as Emaria swept him into a long hug. “Wow,” he said when they broke apart. “Guess I should jump ship more often.”
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