the smuggler’s bible

the nineclaw

He finds the paths bare of her scent, so the nineclaw abandons them. The moon is bright. His great eyes shine like lamps as he bounds through the silvery drifts piled between the trees. He mounts a hill and the stinging wind offers him a maddening hope. But underneath, something sour, polluted.

The nineclaw chases it to ground miles away in the shadow of an enormous holly tree—a small wooden table with two chairs, a teapot and delicate porcelain cups. Vortigern, muffled in fur, draws a ribbon out of his pocket, flattens it across his extended palm and smiles.