the smuggler’s bible

the nineclaw

The nineclaw finds her after dusk. She sits alone looking out over her fire to where the trees cast their shadows on the smooth water—to where another, bigger fire still glows.

“You burned your vessel,” he says, coming out of the brush noiselessly but for the swish of his tail. “That was poorly considered.”

“There will be other boats. Now I don’t have a choice but to keep going.”

The nineclaw’s eyes reflect the firelight like two-inch mirrors. “It’s been a very long time, lost-cub.”

“It has,” Gisela says softly. “But I haven’t forgotten you owe me a favor.”