I quietly slipped out of the Logistics office, shaking my cramped hand, leaving Dunnax and Lorelay as the last to finish signing. My name now adorned several dozen documents with contents as mysterious as the reason Ulken personally wanted to interview us. In the hallway, Garret and Sentyx stood by the window looking out at the city vista.

“Ugly and gray,” Garret said. “This whole city is unnatural, but this tower…humans weren’t meant to build this high. And Ulken at the top? Like he’s looking down on us all.”

Sentyx grunted. “Skardwarf mountains are higher.”

There’s less air up in the mountains. That explains a lot.

“Don’t you Ekoans live in trees?” I asked. “Your canopy cities are higher than this tower.”

Garret turned around and his eyes lit up. “Lightwood giants, you mean. Aye, but they’ve fought for every drop of the Brightdaughter’s sunlight, and they’ve stood for thousands of years.” He looked out the window again. “You think this tower will last a hundred years, let alone a thousand?”

“Rock lasts millions,” the Skardwarf said.

“And Archemetal?” I asked. “The Gild’s towers are taller than this one.”

“Paceeqi engineering, aye,” Garret said. He grinned as the door to Logistics opened. “What Empire doesn’t look down upon it’s subjects?”

“Let’s go,” Dunnax said, exiting Logistics. Lorelay closed the door behind him, holding the envelope given to us by Kella. Without waiting, Dunnax tromped toward the stairs that led up to the apex of the tower.

“Shouldn’t we open the command package first?” I asked. “So we know what he wants from us.”

“Didn’t you read the control agreement?” Lorelay asked.

“No,” Garret said.

“You read the whole thing?” I asked.

She nodded, lip curling in distaste. “We’re at the Head’s mercy now. I don’t think we should keep him waiting any longer.”

“We’ve got nine stories of stairs,” Dunnax said. “Plenty of time to review it on the way.” He and his sister disappeared into the stairwell.

Garret and I glanced at each other.

“They’re the ones taking their time with the snuffing paperwork,” he said.

We chased after the Paceeqi siblings. Sentyx’s heavy footsteps weren’t far behind.
Our boots—and the Skardwarf’s bare feet—pounded on seemingly endless stairs as the fragrant white smoke cascaded down from above. Dunnax charged ahead as if it were a race to the top of the tower. Half a flight ahead of us, Lorelay ripped open the envelope from Logistics.

“Coins,” she said, and tossed a purse of gold stars down to us.

Garret snatched it from the air. “Advance payment?”

“Don’t get too attached,” I said. “Some of it’s mine.”

Hands freed, Lorelay pulled a small card from the package and said, “This just says ‘First Eye Reed’ alongside an address in the Residential District.”

Reed? I remembered the slip of paper in my inner coat pocket, uselessly blank without Inac’s Archemagical aid. Was our conspirator a member of the Agency?

“And there’s a brief report,” Lorelay said. “We’re being sent to a fishing village called Leppit, on the cliffs to the south. Several villagers have gone missing, and they’ve asked the Agency to investigate. We’ve got a list here…twenty-something people, a few names. Most unknown. And listen to this: ‘Be warned, we’ve received reports of strange occurrences in the area. Keep your wits about you, Fingers.’”

“Fingers?” My toe caught the next stair, and I nearly tripped. “Are you sure you read that right?”

Lorelay leaned over the railing above me as the stairs doubled back. “Of course I did.” She looked up through the middle of the stairway toward her brother, who still kept his quick pace. “Every Paceeqi knows how to read.” She started taking the stairs two at a time to catch up.

I tried picturing myself in a green coat like Bengard’s. For so long, Ulken’s Fingers had been causing me trouble. Now, I was one of them.

“What’s so surprising?” Garret asked me.

“Not everyone at the Agency is a Finger,” I said. “None of those gray-shirts we passed in the halls are. Fingers wear green coats. I don’t know much about this place, but I know that.”

Garret flashed a grin, then gestured to his own green cloak. “Guess I’m already in uniform then.” He looked back at the trailing Skardwarf, who wore only ragged brown pants. “Hear that, Sentyx? You’re finally going to have to put on some clothes.”

Sentyx grunted. “Too hot.”

The landing to the top floor opened before us. It contained no decorations, no furniture, no people at all, save for us. Most surprisingly, there was no brazier pouring haze onto the floor. There was only a broad, glass-paned window behind us, opposite a door of solid oak with little adornment. Stark and utilitarian, like the rest of the tower.

Dunnax sat in the corner, sweat dripping down his face, bulging pack on the stone ground beside him.

Lorelay stood over him. “Did you even hear the report?”

Dunnax looked away. “Enough of it.” He pushed himself to his feet with his polearm, wiped his brow, but left his pack where it was.

I led the way across the empty room. Light from the window cast my darkening shadow on the door as I approached, until I neared enough to read a name plate nailed above the frame.

“Ulken,” I said, “Head of the Liwokin Law Agency.” I looked back at the rest of the group, then knocked on the door.

The door swung inward at the first knock, but no voice bid us enter. No light came from within, only darkness like a gaping maw, devouring the sunlight that filtered in from behind me. I entered the room, feeling suffocated by this shroud of black. Then, fingers snapped and a tiny spark of Archefire flickered into existence, illuminating a steady, controlling hand aloft in the void. A deep breath hissed, and fire crackled as a cigar was lit, then the Fire fragmented and darted in two directions faster than my eye could follow. All at once, light bloomed from an iron-framed glass lantern sitting on a desk cluttered with stacks of paper. Dense smoke began pouring over the lip of a brazier nestled among the paper, flowing down from the desk and filling the room. Behind the desk sat a man with a mane of black hair framing his angular face. He wore a padded black coat, collar trimmed with thick, white fur.

Ulken took a long drag from his cigar. He gestured to the front of his desk, but there were no chairs there. No chairs anywhere in the room, in fact, save for Ulken’s. So, we stood silently arrayed in front of the Head’s desk as he exhaled, blowing out smoke from his nostrils like a storybook dragon.

Dunnax stood at attention. “Sir, I apologize for our—”

“Don’t interrupt me.” Ulken pounded a fist on the desk.

He seems nice.

“Gentlemen,” he said, and Lorelay coughed, to draw attention to the Head’s mistake. He simply narrowed his eyes at her and continued speaking. “I’ve got a job for you. Do it well and you’ll quickly climb the ranks of the Agency. Do it poorly and, well…” Ulken shrugged, then leaned forward on his elbows, hands clasped together. “Those fit to be Fingers are hard to find and we’ve got more work than Hands to carry it out. I see you received your command package, so you know what I expect of you.”

Lorelay scoffed and muttered, “Obedience.”

“I said don’t interrupt.” Ulken sneered at Lorelay and didn’t see Dunnax staring daggers at him. “Obedience, yes. I hope that won’t be a problem. The chain of command is what binds this Agency together. Without my orders, this city would once again fall to chaos.” Ulken stood and turned, speaking with his back to us. He faced a map of Liwokin framed on the wall, dark with his shadow. Next to it were two more maps of increasing scope: the country of Lawiko, with Liwokin in the center, then the entire Bright Empire, with all seven of its conquered countries. “I won’t lie to you. The situation is bad, getting worse by the day. Normally, you’d serve as a Heel for a year. Two, if you prove incompetent. Then, a field test. But I’ve got plenty of Heels. What I need are Fingers. Strong Fingers. Survivors. I presume none of you want to die?” He paused, grinned at our silence.

Die? Looking for villagers in a fishing hamlet?

“Good,” Ulken said. “As first-rank Fingers, the five of you make up the Sixty-Fourth Hand of the Agency.” He sat back down in his chair, leaned back, folded his arms, and asked. “Any questions before I send you to carry out your first command?”

My mind went to the slip of paper in my pocket. Even without Inac’s aid, I was tempted to tell Ulken of the conspiracy. Instead, I chose to remain quiet. Better to question Reed himself first and figure out what the mysterious note was about.

“What is the command hierarchy of the Agency?” Dunnax asked.

“Nothing like the Order you used to serve in, Paladin,” Ulken barked. “As a Hand of the Agency, you execute the will of the Head. My will. Until the day I’m killed, my word is law, and you will carry it out faithfully, to the letter.”

And on the day you’re killed?

The Head continued. “In gold and white are the Nerves, my personal couriers. Treat their word as my own. Understand?” Another drag from his cigar, an exhale of smoke. “Good. Below them are the Eyes in blue, then the Fingers in green. Four ranks of Fingers. Then the Heels in gray. They’re beneath you, but don’t think that means you can order them around. Of course, the Organs; they keep this operation running. In red, there’s…”

It’s complicated. We get it.

My mind began to wander. A year of Heel work before becoming a Finger, Ulken had said. What did it take to become an Eye? What did it take to become the Head? Perhaps that’s what this First Eye Reed was after.

Ulken sighed. Dunnax’s question appeared to bore him as much as it did the rest of us. “Anything else?”

“Aye,” Garret said. “What’s the job pay?”

“What’s wrong, Garret?” I asked. “That coin purse not full enough for you?”

“That depends on my command,” Ulken said, ignoring me. “Prove yourself, and the Agency will provide. We’ve got plenty of gold for you.” His eyes flicked to me. “But the coin purse with the command package is not it. The fourteenth and fifteenth floors are the Fingers’ quarters if you need a bed for the night. Normally, we’d provide a uniform for you, but we’re all out now.” He threw his hands up, then started to rise. “Too many new recruits, but no matter. No need to waste a set of uniforms on this command. Now—”

“What about the sign outside?” I asked. “It was posted by a Nerve, wasn’t it? Twenty-four what?”

Ulken glared at me for interrupting, but then a smile crept across his face. “That’s classified,” he said. “When you’re second-rank, you’ll be cleared to know. Pray to whichever god you choose that it’s zero the next time you see it.”

“I have some questions about the command,” Lorelay said, holding up the report. “This doesn’t have many details. And what do you mean by ‘strange occur—’”

“Enough questions.” Ulken crumpled his cigar in an ashtray atop a dusty shelf. A foul, tarry smell permeated the room. “The report has everything you need to know. Go south to Leppit and figure out what happened. Find the missing, if you can, then report back to me. That purse of stars? The good people of Leppit tried to hire us. It’s their gold,” Ulken said. “Give it back to them. We don’t work for commission.”

The Head of the Agency snuffed the lantern, plunging the room into darkness once more. “You’re dismissed,” he said. “Close the door on your way out.”

The descent to the courtyard was more straightforward than the hunt for Logistics. That didn’t make it easy.

Even the Blight has elevators, rickety as they are.

I hoped Inac’s induction into the Agency was going better than mine. Otherwise, the prospect of going back to imbuing magic nails might seem rather appealing.

Stepping outside into the courtyard, I took a deep breath. The air wasn’t quite fresh, but it was a good start.

“Can’t seem to get away from this smoke,” Garret complained.

“At least out here there’s air mixed in,” I said.

“I have no idea how the two of you tolerated it for three days,” Lorelay said.

“I face into the wind,” Sentyx said.

“Does he ever say anything else?” Dunnax asked rhetorically.

Sentyx grunted.

“Picked up some Skardwarf while waiting with him,” Garret said. “That’s either yes, no, okay, I don’t know, follow me, or he’s laughing. Probably at you, knowing him.” The Ekoan spat into the cloud of haze. “Anything I missed?”

Sentyx grunted again.

Lorelay doubled over in laughter. Dunnax rolled his eyes, but his sister didn’t notice.

I caught myself smiling. If I wasn’t careful, I might find myself liking this Skardwarf. Reed’s hidden words came to me unbidden.

My old friend has caught wind of more monsters abroad.

If the monsters were abroad, it seemed unlikely the note was referring to Skardwarves. They were right here at home. What, then? Without Inac, the only way to uncover more about this conspiracy was to talk to the conspirator himself.

“We should find First Eye Reed,” I suggested. “To learn more about Leppit.”

I expected disagreement, but the details in the command package were as meager as the bounties from the City Council once the Agency stepped in. We needed information, and Reed was our only lead. So, that was the plan.

As we crossed the courtyard to leave, a familiar figure in gray-green with a huge two-headed axe stepped through the outer gate. He was speaking to a small, timid-looking boy wearing bright Archemage’s robes, newly washed and pressed. The mage flinched at the Finger’s wild gestures. Bengard waved around his bandaged arm like he was telling a heavily embellished story. He made a booming noise to go along with a pantomimed explosion, then spotted me approaching, beamed, and bounded over to greet me. The mage did a double take at the sudden end to Bengard’s story, then trailed closely behind him, like a lost kitten.

“Grim! You made up your mind so fast? I expected you’d spend another week or two playing games in the Blight.”

“You nearly died in that game last night,” I said, a bit annoyed. “Seemed pretty serious to me.”

“Dangerous games,” Bengard said, smirking, “but still just games. Now you’ve got real work.” Bengard looked us over, standing upright with arms folded behind his back. Formal, as though he was about to give us a professional evaluation. “I see you’re in a Hand already. You seem capable enough, but to be made a Finger on your first day...I didn’t think Ulken did that anymore. Remember, you represent the Agency now. Try not to make us look bad out there.” He relaxed, smiled broadly again, and clapped me on the shoulder. “So, what’s your first command?”

“Finding some missing villagers in Leppit,” I said. “Seems easy, but we’re off to see First Eye Reed, to see what he knows.”

“Oh, Reed?” Bengard raised one brow. “He’s a strange one, but trust me, he’s the best Eye we’ve got. He’s been here since the beginning.”

“From the beginning?” I asked. “He helped create the Agency?”

Bengard nodded. “The way I’ve heard it told, he and Ulken were the best of friends before the Riot. Both were obsessed with finding ways to improve Liwokin. Ulken used to sit on the City Council, even made a run for the Chair once.”

Improving Liwokin by taking control of the city himself. I rolled my eyes. The city would be better off with no one at the top.

“Reed, so I’ve been told, was close with the Gild. The annual festival of giving, that was his idea.” Bengard laughed. “Probably wasn’t easy convincing those moneylenders to part with their gold for the Blight’s benefit.”

My eyebrows raised. The festival was Reed’s doing? It had never made much difference to the average Blightdweller’s opinion of the financiers in their Archemetal towers, but I’d made it a habit to sneak in for a free meal or two each year. Until recently I had never needed the charity, but I always figured the Gild could spare the expense.

“That’s how they founded the Agency after the Riot. They used their connections to pool the city’s resources. Ulken became the Head, and Reed his First Eye. Not sure how they decided which would be on top. I don’t think I’ve heard them speak a single word to each other.” The Finger shrugged his muscular shoulders. “Some of the old Fingers spread claims that the two hate each other now. Nothing but rumors, those. I know the First Eye just prefers to work on his own, and Ulken never seems to mind. Reed’s seclusive, but in our line of work, I can’t blame him. If you find him, I’m sure he’ll have a detailed report from his investigation, tell you exactly what you’re in for.”

Seclusive, eh? Fits for someone with secrets to hide.

“What do you mean, what we’re in for?” Lorelay asked.

“What you’ll see,” he said, “which Aura, and all that.”

“Aura?” I opened my mouth to ask, but before I could get the word out, Bengard waved it aside like it wasn’t important.

“It’ll make sense when you get to Leppit,” he said. “What number is your Hand, by the way?”

“Sixty-Four,” I muttered. “But wait—”

“Sixty-Four!” Bengard whistled loud, and several Heels stopped to look. “I joined the Agency when there were only five Hands. Made me a Finger on day one as well, but we didn’t have Heels back then. By the time I made Rank Four, five doubled to ten, but that was only two measures ago. Now Ulken’s mad for new recruits. Like Muy Fuy here.”

The mage hiding behind Bengard jumped at the mention of his name, then slid meekly to the Finger’s side. “H-Hello,” he said, then stammered out something unintelligible.

“Nice to meet you, Muy Fuy.” Lorelay smiled and extended a hand in greeting.
The mageling shook it but wouldn’t look her in the eye. This one was going to be a Finger?

Seems more like Heel material.

“I’ve got to get him up to Logistics,” Bengard said. “Best of luck in Leppit. Just remember what’s real and you’ll be fine.”

He tapped a finger to his head, then left as I stood there uncomprehending, trying to make sense of what he said.

“Come on,” said Dunnax, ever impatient. “We need to be on the road south before half-dusk.”

“Who put you in charge of the schedule?” Garret muttered.

But wait, Inac had told me to meet him tonight.

“I thought we might get drinks after meeting the First Eye. I know a good tavern. We can set out in the morning. Tomorrow’s bound to be longer, Lightmother willing.”

“Ulken didn’t tell us to spend the night drinking in an inn,” Dunnax snapped. “He commanded us to investigate Leppit.” Lorelay gave a frown that Dunnax didn’t acknowledge.

“He is right,” Sentyx said. “We serve. To Reed.”

My shoulders slumped. I didn’t know much about these two, but I knew they were too stubborn to convince. “Lorelay, you have his address, right?”

The Paceeqi girl handed me the First Eye’s card. “Yeah. I don’t know where in the city it is, though. You lead.”

“Well, let’s hurry it up,” Garret grumbled. “Sooner we get out of this stinking pile you call a city, the better.”

I looked back at the Agency tower in silent apology to Inac.

Guess our plan will have to wait.

A short distance away in the Burg, a large, brass 718 was nailed to the door of a small home, indistinguishable from any other but for the number. In the measures following the Agency’s establishment, Ulken had somehow convinced the City Council that we needed “official” names for all the streets—even little back alleys and dead ends—and every building needed a number nailed to its front door. I didn’t see their purpose—any true Liwo could find their way around without them.

A shadow moved in the window to 718 as we approached the door. The door swung inward before anyone lifted a hand or knocked, and a man with a fuzzy, auburn mustache wearing a rounded, sandy-brown cap gestured for us to enter. A dark spot on the sleeve of his sky-blue Eye’s coat showed me where he recently wiped the tears from his glistening, red eyes.

A vague sense came over me that I had seen this man before, and that I knew why he was crying.

I raised an eyebrow. “Bad time?”

“Who are you?” the Eye asked with a sniffle. “What do you want with me?”

“Nervous?” I asked and feigned a good-hearted chuckle. “It’s not like there are monsters outside your door.”

The mention of monsters ought to have gotten his attention, but Reed narrowed his eyes at me and said nothing.

“First Eye Reed, right?” Lorelay said. She took the card and report out of the command package envelope. “We got your address from Logistics.”

“Logistics…you’re Fingers? Yes. Five of you, of course. But no uniforms. Hmm. New recruits, then.” He paused, then composed himself and gestured inside. “Come in, quickly. No one followed you?”

“Don’t see why they would,” Garret said. “No secret we’re here though.”

I looked at each of my companions as we entered. Surely, even without knowledge of the conspiracy they could tell Reed was acting suspiciously. As Sentyx entered Reed’s home, the First Eye spared him no more than an unconcerned look. That was telling, but still, he was on guard. It’d be impossible to get anything from him like this.

“Other than Ulken,” I said, “only Bengard knows we’re here. The Finger spoke highly of you. Said you’ve been around since the Agency’s inception, and you’re one of the best.”

“Ah, yes,” the First Eye said, lips curling. “Bengard. I wish I could say the same of him. The man can fight, but for anything more complicated…”

So, the thief was right. Reed had sent Bengard to capture him.

Reed glanced at Lorelay. “Let me see that paper.” He took the report and read it, muttering to himself. “Leppit? Ulken knows I haven’t…” He handed it back. “Of course. What else did Ulken tell you?”

“He told us we rank below the Eyes,” Dunnax said. “Other than that, sir, nothing but what was in the report.”

Reed’s face twisted in anger, and he let off a long string of curses, though I wasn’t sure what he was mad about. Going from crying to furious in so little time? The First Eye was a man fueled by strong emotions.

“Bengard did say something about…an Aura,” I added. “Said you’d have a full report for us.”

Reed calmed down, ran his fingers through his mustache. “Yes, the Aura. That’s what Eyes are sent to, well, see. So we know which rank of Hand is appropriate to send, and so the Fingers know what to expect. Except…” He threw up his hands. “I haven’t been to Leppit.”

Too busy scheming to do your job?

“So, you have no idea what we’re in for,” Lorelay said, concern coloring her voice.

“No,” Reed said.

Sentyx grunted and made for the door, but I wasn’t ready to leave just yet. I put my hand on the Skardwarf’s shoulder to stop it. Its skin was like granite to the touch.

“But he seems to have some notion,” Reed said.

I turned and flinched upon finding the Eye’s gaze fixed on me. Had he already figured out what I was doing? He was sharper than I thought.

“The rest of the Hand are from abroad,” Reed said to me, “but you’re Liwo.”

“What’s that have to do with anything?” I asked.

“You were in Liwokin for the Riot. You felt it, didn’t you?”

“What kind of question is that? We all—”

“Don’t play dumb,” Reed interrupted. “Auras, monsters…you know, don’t you?” I began to speak, but Reed stopped me. “No need to answer. Even one wrong word in front of your companions would be criminal. Article fifty-eight dash B, subsection eleven: ‘Disclosure of Agency secrets without Head-granted authorization. Punishable by five years minimum imprisonment.’”

And what is conspiracy to overthrow the Head punishable by?

Lorelay gave a long, impatient sigh. “Are you guys going to stop speaking in riddles, or should the rest of us just leave you alone?”

The First Eye turned to Lorelay, frowning. “I wish I could say more. Trust me, I do. But my hands are tied.” Then he looked back, studied me. In his gaze there was…admiration. “You know, and you joined the Agency anyway. Not many would.”

He was wrong—it was clear now he was speaking not of the conspiracy, but of something else. Still, I held my tongue. The less he knew of my intentions, the better.

Reed lifted his cap and revealed a crop of frizzy red hair. He scratched his head mindlessly while looking around, though I could tell his attention was focused inward. “The report warns of strange occurrences. The rest of you will know soon enough.”

Lorelay stomped her foot. “Know what?”

Reed shook his head. “Just try to remember what’s real.”

Sentyx grunted. “Bengard said.”

Dunnax saluted. “Sir, if there’s nothing more, then we’ll leave for Leppit right a—”

The door crashed open behind me, and Reed’s eyes went wide.

“Prost is traveling to the—” The voice cut off and when I turned to look, I found a man as surprised to see us as Reed was to see him. He wore an Archemetal-trimmed, black long-coat and carried a brushed silver rod with an iridescent, obsidian stone affixed to one end—the same type of stone that was in Inac’s pendant. In the other hand, he held a slip of paper. The man moved to hide the paper and silver rod behind his back, but a faint blue glow emanated from the paper. None of the others would have caught that little slip-up, but it instantly made clear what this man was.

Another conspirator.

And Prost. Is he a third?

Reed cleared his throat. “Fingers, this is Oltrov. He contracts for the Agency.”

“Apologies for barging in, First Eye,” Oltrov said, voice as smooth and polished as an Archemetal ingot. His chest heaved, and given the haste with which he’d entered, it was clear that he’d been running. The man’s eyes held a look of urgency. “My scouts have brought some troubling news.” Oltrov’s gaze flicked to me and the Hand, then back to Reed.

News he doesn’t want us to know.

But I was running out of time.

“Is it from abroad, by chance?” I asked. “It’s so rare I hear news from outside Lawiko.”

Reed’s attention snapped to me, and his lips tightened. “Perhaps another time.” The First Eye motioned us toward the door. “You have work to do. Be on your guard in Leppit. I’ll help if I can, but remember what I said.”

The First Eye ushered the five of us out, past the well-groomed man with the coat decorated with delicate Archemetal spirals.

Contractor for the Agency, eh? That’s a bold lie.

The door slammed behind us.

While the rest of us left, Sentyx hesitated near Reed’s home.

“Well, that was snuffing useless,” Garret said, then turned and shouted to the Skardwarf. “You coming?”

Sentyx caught up to us. “Follow,” he said.

“Are you going to tell us what that was all about?” Lorelay asked me.

“I’ll tell you,” I promised. “But not here.”

We left by the Canyon Gate on the south side of the city, following the directions in our command package toward Leppit. The Hand’s nervous silence left me with room to think.

Oltrov was clearly hiding something, not the least of which was an association with the Gild. Only Gildmembers could afford to wear Archemetal, and no one else would so dangerously flaunt their wealth.

Reed is close with the Gild, indeed.

A pattern was becoming clear. Both Oltrov and the dead thief wore Archemetal-trimmed cloaks and carried notes written in luminous blue ink. Perhaps the thief was a member of the conspiracy as well, gone rogue, and so Reed sent Bengard to capture him. Did that mean Bengard was a conspirator as well? My head spun.

I’d hoped Reed would provide answers, but we were left with more questions than ever.

From the distant church towers came half-dusk’s soft call. From beyond the city gate, at the tree line where the road started up a gentle slope into the woods, I gazed back at my home. Excitement stirred in me, but so did fear. I’d never left the city before. All my life, I’d cultivated skills to help me survive in the city. Outside those walls, I wasn’t helpless, but…well, I’d have to adapt to survive. How much will I have changed when next I laid eyes on my home? Even a simple change in perspective from the road made the city seem different. The Gild’s and Agency’s towers looked massive, hulking over the rest of the city, which shrank into the distance.

The Agency and the Gild. Secrets and lies.

Garret called my name from fifty paces up the road. Against the backdrop of trees, four shadows waited for me like phantoms in the gloom.

I looked one last time at Liwokin, took a deep breath, then ventured forth into the unknown.

Next Chapter:

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