the smuggler’s bible


“I’ve been over every root and trunk. It isn’t there. I can’t even find a spot that looks right,” Rhombus says. He points east and west to twin breaks in the tree line. “I alternate trails every day. Sometimes I flip a coin and pick at random, in case that makes a difference.”

“Just those two?” Gisela says, looking south toward the overgrown footpath beside a forked beech. Shadows dapple a carpet of dried leaves poking up through the snow.

The nineclaw follows her gaze and turns away immediately. “Left or right, lost-cub.”

“Oh, nine,” Gisela whispers, “not you too.”