The New South Wall

This is a reminder to vote for The Glass Thief on Top Web Fiction so we can bring in more readers. Click the link to vote, then enjoy the chapter!

Staever buckled. He’d run too much and too hard to run longer. The brown dirt between blades of grass would be his last sight this side of the sea.

He raised his head.

He was alive. The woods were quiet, for woods being firebombed into pieces.

Wrest was with him, pointing at the Great South Wall.

Kragn had not fired. Emaria and half a dozen lobsters stood in his way.

I’m a self-supported artist, and I rely on donations to keep bringing you The Glass Thief. Check out my Patreon to see the bonus content you can get if you pledge. Even $1 a month helps–and gets you a personal shout-out!

Thank you to Lynne, Pauline, David, Paul, and Thomas for their continued support.

Advertisements

Light Them Up

This is a reminder to vote for The Glass Thief on Top Web Fiction so we can bring in more readers. Click the link to vote, then enjoy the chapter!

Kragn had agreed to delay his speech until Arcite’s all-clear, but the bomber was dragging his feet, and the general disliked unnecessary delays. The crowd was murmuring. His soldiers let them talk: there was a threshold to the power of crowd control.

Exasperated, he craned his neck up the Great South Wall. He saw no sign of Arcite–then, with a sound of claw striking bone, he did.

The bomber sprawled with his head dangling off the walkway. Arcite reached for his clay pouch, but a lobster in a mask vaulted over him and snatched the bag away, hurling it over the far side of the Wall.

Kragn smiled. Inside two days, the thieves had turned on each other. A dictionary couldn’t illustrate weakness so well.

The explosive clay was ready. If Arcite wanted to waste time, he could die with his beloved Eventhe.

Kragn braced his metal weapon, and barked “Shoulder arms!” to Magnam and Shael. They both did, Magnam with gusto, Shael with his usual reluctance. For the dozenth time, Kragn wished Wrest had not picked this morning to disappear. Shael had been many years his steward, but mostly so Kragn could keep tabs on him. He had both claws clamped on Shael’s psyche, a small price to pay for the colonel;s soft streak.

Arcite clambered to his feet. Eventhe circled away from him, claws up. Why don’t they fight?

“Light the cursed thing up.”

Movement in the east caught his attention. From far away, beyond a few trees, two lobsters charged the knoll.

Wrest and Staever. Let them try. Let them see how they’ve failed.

He aimed his wand at the Wall.

I’m a self-supported artist, and I rely on donations to keep bringing you The Glass Thief. Check out my Patreon to see the bonus content you can get if you pledge. Even $1 a month helps–and gets you a personal shout-out!

Thank you to Lynne, Pauline, David, Paul, and Thomas for their continued support.

Prayer

This is a reminder to vote for The Glass Thief on Top Web Fiction so we can bring in more readers. Click the link to vote, then enjoy the chapter!

Staever and Wrest broke for the stockade. Neither of them slowed enough to check atop the wall. Ev’ll stop him, or we’ll die, and I can’t change it with prayer.

He slowed near the log wall, but nobody watched over the stockade. The inside was quiet, the gate shut.

On the other side, four guards lay unconscious in a heap. Staever raced to meet Wrest.

“I’ll boost you.” Wrest made a step with his claws. Staever clambered up to peer over the palisade.

The dirt insde was covered in footprints, except in the center, where a circle drawn in the dirt featured marks he couldn’t interpret.

“What do you see?” Wrest asked.

“Nobody. Except…”

He leapt off his friend’s back. Wrest voiced his fears. “If they’re not in there, where are they?”

They pelted as one toward the multitude, forgetting stealth, hoping to somehow distract an army.

I’m a self-supported artist, and I rely on donations to keep bringing you The Glass Thief. Check out my Patreon to see the bonus content you can get if you pledge. Even $1 a month helps–and gets you a personal shout-out!

Thank you to Lynne, Pauline, David, Paul, and Thomas for their continued support.

Burning the Mask

This is a reminder to vote for The Glass Thief on Top Web Fiction so we can bring in more readers. Click the link to vote, then enjoy the chapter!

“I can protect myself.” The words were a knife through Eventhe’s shell. “Let me do so. You will destroy us all.”

“Kragn would run right over you. Or I’d never see you again.” While she froze, he opened the satchel. “For once let me help you.”

Eventhe wanted to tear off her mask and strangle him with it. Who was this drunk to make her hold back? To take away the one thing she prized, her fighting cool?

“Who is going to help you?” she exclaimed. “Throwing yourself on Kragn’s mercy to die when he has no more use for you–you try to save me and yet you will not listen–

“The deal said I have to finish it,” Arcite mumbled. “I’m sorry.”

“I am sorry as well,” she said, through shallow breath. “I feel…strongly about you.”

Then she swung her claw at his chin. The blow lifted him off his feet.

I’m a self-supported artist, and I rely on donations to keep bringing you The Glass Thief. Check out my Patreon to see the bonus content you can get if you pledge. Even $1 a month helps–and gets you a personal shout-out!

Thank you to Lynne, Pauline, David, Paul, and Thomas for their continued support.

The Web of Clay

This is a reminder to vote for The Glass Thief on Top Web Fiction so we can bring in more readers. Click the link to vote, then enjoy the chapter!

Arcite worked out the web of clay so he’d finish above Kragn. The more people who saw him opening their path, the better. The clay would combust from a single flame, blowing a passage in the wall without buckling the upper structure. He only needed one more line.

He heard running on stone, but didn’t look. Probably another lackey of Kragn’s come to rush the job. Or more likely it was his imagination. He’d hardly slept last night.

He was imagining someone faster than military armor should have allowed. When the footsteps stopped, curiosity overcame him. Expecting to meet the interloper’s eyes, he found a mask.

He dropped his satchel. “Eventhe.”

“Arcite,” Eventhe said, “you cannot blow up the wall.”

Of course he wanted to see her again, but he wanted her to see him triumphant, with the lobsters of the Eye streaming through his opening toasting his name. “Why not?”

“There is red clay under the ground. If you bomb this wall, it will kill everybody waiting below.”

Arcite snatched up the near-empty bag, clutching it like a life preserver. “Ridiculous.”

She reached for the bag. He pulled it away. “Did Wrest send you?”

“That does not matter.”

“Has he heard Magnam saying anything to Kragn? About you?”

They danced in a circle, she snatching at the satchel, he skittering out of reach. “You did make a deal.”

“Of course I did!” Arcite exploded. “Ev, he wants to kill you on sight. I had to use my leverage. I couldn’t think about you not being here.”

I’m a self-supported artist, and I rely on donations to keep bringing you The Glass Thief. Check out my Patreon to see the bonus content you can get if you pledge. Even $1 a month helps–and gets you a personal shout-out!

Thank you to Lynne, Pauline, David, Paul, and Thomas for their continued support.

The Climb

This is a reminder to vote for The Glass Thief on Top Web Fiction so we can bring in more readers. Click the link to vote, then enjoy the chapter!

Turner had built a grate into the Wall to let the water flow past the stone. Clawholds and legholds riddled the surface above it, where the bricks had slid apart over generations. Twenty paces away, Eventhe targeted it to climb.

Register everything. Remember you missed the crack in the tunnel. It was time to climb. What wasn’t she noticing?

Something in the trees near the river grate stuck out like a shrimp in a birth pool, so obvious she could only have missed it. It was a spoked wheel, as tall as two of her, made of material she couldn’t identify, and glowing independent of the sun. Half of it was sunk in the ground. Lumps ran through the dirt, from it to the Wall.

Look past appearances. Just because something is glowing does not mean it is important. Eventhe filed it in her memory for Emaria to examine once nothing was about to explode.

She flew up the grate faster than rising mist. In less than a minute she was on the walkway.

Arcite was standing above Kragn. She had to talk him out of the task that would redeem him in the eyes of the whole city. Talking was not her skill set.

Running fast enough left no room for thought. Doubt was for after she’d defused Arcite.

I’m a self-supported artist, and I rely on donations to keep bringing you The Glass Thief. Check out my Patreon to see the bonus content you can get if you pledge. Even $1 a month helps–and gets you a personal shout-out!

Thank you to Lynne, Pauline, David, Paul, and Thomas for their continued support.

Kragn’s Colors

This is a reminder to vote for The Glass Thief on Top Web Fiction so we can bring in more readers. Click the link to vote, then enjoy the chapter!

Never pull a stealth job under a blue sky. Like all Staever’s rules, it had exceptions. With all eyes on Kragn, Staever and Wrest had the perfect diversion to sneak past an army.

“What’s the plan?” Wrest huffed.

“Find Emaria,” Staever answered. “Two beetles, one stone–she’s free, and the prison break distracts Kragn.”

“Wonderful. We’re going to die.”

“I’m the one who says that. You’re the one who survives.”

Three of Kragn’s men kept watch where the river bent away from the field. Staever slid one of his claws behind his head, indicating the water. Behind them. Underwater.

They held their breath and slipped in. The water was cold but clear, shot through with sunlight. No sooner had Staever touched the bottom than a soldier called, “Anyone there?”

He pointed downstream. Wrest pushed off the rocks, both of their tails beating to the current.

They clawed up the bank into a thick copse. Wrest signed: not safe here. Undergrowth was thicker by the water, but that was the wrong direction.

They fled between two trees to face down a lobster in Kragn’s colors. The soldier froze, as surprised as they were. Wrest drew his blade.

Their opponent dropped his own sword in the grass. He pointed frantically across the field, over the rear of the crowd–at the wooden walls of the stockade.

Wrest looked to Staever, mystified, but there were other soldiers nearby, and the Cuttlefish language lacked a sign for it wasn’t just Farid. With a swift interlock of claws–friendly–he bolted.

For once, Kragn had riveted an audience not with the threat of force but with the stark grandeur of the Great South Wall and the brash promise to break it. The stockade drew nearer, standing out against green leaves.

I’m a self-supported artist, and I rely on donations to keep bringing you The Glass Thief. Check out my Patreon to see the bonus content you can get if you pledge. Even $1 a month helps–and gets you a personal shout-out!

Thank you to Lynne, Pauline, David, Paul, and Thomas for their continued support.

The Stain

This is a reminder to vote for The Glass Thief on Top Web Fiction so we can bring in more readers. Click the link to vote, then enjoy the chapter!

The Wall itself was covered with red clay, end-to-end like a creeping vine. The blasting material wound toward the battlement, where a lobster was spreading more along the edge.

Eventhe made out Arcite’s helmet and goggles. This was where he’d gone– ahead of the column, enslaved for Kragn’s getaway.

But how? Wrest had gone to Kragn to keep his siblings safe, but what did Arcite have for the general to exploit?

Aside from me?

That couldn’t be it. Arcite never would have betrayed the Eye for protection she didn’t need. Unless…

Eventhe steeled herself. There wasn’t time to moon about anyone’s feelings. Wrest had trusted her to step in if Wier and Alta needed help. She decided they needed help now. If nobody intervened, they would ship downriver.

“Ev!”

She’d been seconds away from forcing a path to the Wall, but someone crashing over the foliage sounded ready to beat her to it. She stepped back as Wrest and Staever burst from the undergrowth.

“You have come,” she said, faster than she meant to. “I tried to meditate, but could not. I was…worried.”

“Good thing then you didn’t see the state this guy was in an hour ago,” Wrest remarked.

“It’s a wonder what water and shade can do,” Staever said. “Can’t talk long. I read what’s going on over there as well as you can.”

“Arcite is almost finished coating the Wall with clay,” Eventhe replied. “I assume this, Wrest, is the ‘something big’ you meant.”

“Damn right,” Wrest replied. Staever spread the detail of Turner’s map on the ground, so all three could read it. “It’s bigger than Kragn now. Look at the pictograph.”

“Do we have time?”

“This is important. Please look.”

She did. “Is it this stain? A warning against being careless with food around the maps doesn’t merit the delay.”

“This isn’t a great time for you to finally learn sarcasm either,” Staever shot back. “That’s not a stain.”

“See how it fills the Wall, then expands underneath the glade?” Wrest said.

Eventhe superimposed the image over the landscape: the red blob squatting beneath the entire column. “What does it represent?”

“Red clay,” Wrest said.

Eventhe understood the smell. “Turner laid a trap to catch those who would penetrate the Wall–”

Wrest cut in, “–which connects to a monstrous underground clay deposit–”

“–all of which Arcite is about to blow up,” Staever finished.

Eventhe bent down, scraping the dirt with her claw. The soil was soft enough to sink half her claw before removing a lump of red clay the size of Arcite’s head.

She wiped it on a tree. “We must move. Kragn will soon be ready for his final show.”

After two paces, she turned to find Staever and Wrest staring at her. “Come on! Everybody is in danger!”

“Ev, you’re the only one who can climb the Wall without a rope,” Staever said. “Wrest and I will stall Kragn. You…”

Eventhe blanched. “Finish!”

“You have to stop Arcite.”

He might have done it to protect her, or done it for the Clearing. He might have wanted to be helpful, or to be needed. None of these actions necessarily deserved to be stopped.

“I don’t know why he’s working for Kragn,” Staever explained, “but convince him it’s not worth it. You’ve always been able to talk to him.”

“What if it is worth it?”

“It can’t be,” Staever said. “Arcite is one of us. Whether or not he wants to blow the Wall up, I’m certain he doesn’t want to do it for Kragn.”

He met her eyes through the mask, letting understanding pass between them like he’d done since hiring her. She turned and ran.

“He’s almost done,” Wrest said. “Let’s go!”

Staever and Wrest hurried from the grove. Eventhe followed the riverbank toward the Wall, mulling Staever’s final words. I speak easily with Arcite, but after today, will he ever speak to me again?

I’m a self-supported artist, and I rely on donations to keep bringing you The Glass Thief. Check out my Patreon to see the bonus content you can get if you pledge. Even $1 a month helps–and gets you a personal shout-out!

Thank you to Lynne, Pauline, David, Paul, and Thomas for their continued support.

Savior

This is a reminder to vote for The Glass Thief on Top Web Fiction so we can bring in more readers. Click the link to vote, then enjoy the chapter!

Emaria couldn’t help being impressed as a guard marched her into the new stockade. Two hightides after seeing their first trees, the Militia had gotten dismantling and reassembling the prison down to a five-minute drill. One more and they might learn not to build around puddles.

The captives gulped down water. Afterward, there was little to do but sit around while Kragn mustered his audience. She toyed with the bit of coral she’d hidden by shuffling it around her legs whenever they searched her, glad Eventhe had freed her from having to do the same thing with the key.

She’d escape again. There was nothing stopping her. With the water, the others had the strength to join. But what could they do?

“There’s got to be a way,” she said.

“To do what?” the monk asked. Everyone was looking at her.

“To stop Kragn from stealing the Clearing. From taking over for good.”

“I agree. That’s why I’m here,” a woman said. “But there’s so few of us. Everybody out there calls him savior.”

“Why?” He hadn’t saved anybody. At the Eye, it had seemed the opposite.

“He’s the hero of the Field fight,” the woman went on. “If a lobster doesn’t think Staever called the manatees to save us, odds are they’ll say Kragn did.”

As for the fear of retaliation…

She spun to the woman. “Say that again.”

The prisoner looked taken aback. “People think Kragn and the manatees had an arrangement. You look at those metal things, they could be right.”

The words Wrest’s stolen diary combined with memories of the Eye falling, crystallized into new forms with Kragn at the center.

Emaria turned back to the sea-monk. “Find me a branch, brother. And a clear patch of dirt. I need to make some notes.”

I’m a self-supported artist, and I rely on donations to keep bringing you The Glass Thief. Check out my Patreon to see the bonus content you can get if you pledge. Even $1 a month helps–and gets you a personal shout-out!

Thank you to Lynne, Pauline, David, Paul, and Thomas for their continued support.

The Great South Wall

This is a reminder to vote for The Glass Thief on Top Web Fiction so we can bring in more readers. Click the link to vote, then enjoy the chapter!

In the south of the continent, at the tips of the last mountain ranges, a river fed by storms flowed to the sea. Another river joined it where it bent east in the woodlands, surrounding a forested plain by water on three sides. The Great South Wall stood across the tip of this inland peninsula, blocking the only route from the north.

The whole thing smelled putrid. It could have been the yellow clay holding the Wall together, but that didn’t explain such a stench.

Eventhe hid in a grove with the western river at her back, ill at ease as the crowd gathered at the Wall. Kragn’s army searched among the trees for citizens trying to slip out of their tightly-guarded clans. The sky was bright, the morning warm, the water at her tail cool.

Kragn stood in front of the Wall, holding a barbed metal wand half the length of his body. Beside him, Shael and one-clawed Magnam held a staff each.

The metal reminded her of the thing strapped under her abdomen. She touched the key to the Clearing, in a pocket by her conch, passed off by Emaria as they carted her back to the stockade. Eventhe was more than willing to keep it from Kragn.

Wrest was not retaken, but he and Staever could have shared a grisly fate. If he has not returned by now, when will he?

I’m a self-supported artist, and I rely on donations to keep bringing you The Glass Thief. Check out my Patreon to see the bonus content you can get if you pledge. Even $1 a month helps–and gets you a personal shout-out!

Thank you to Lynne, Pauline, David, Paul, and Thomas for their continued support.