Invisibles 9

Hey everyone, Tim here, just a quick reminder I have two new books out.

The Mangrove Suite

Soul Art

Now back to the story.

Invisibles

Within the circle that protected Kalfar there was one city that commanded true respect and awe, the world over.

Sarsa, the seat of the Lord Executive, ruler of Kalfar. Glorious city, stern line of defense against beings from beyond. This was the richest and proudest of all cities in the near-eastern alliance.

Sarsa, city of countless exiles.

Sarsa should have drawn attention for all kinds of reasons, but there was a side of the city not often discussed on record.

Sarsa, the shadow city, where the desperate and the skillful plied their illegal trades. Darkness under street lamps. Poison in the minds of the high officials. Ice in the veins of the guilty.

That is the Sarsa to be watched.

And that is the Sarsa waiting to be seen.

 

9

Alina made her way down the street toward the mainland, out of the Fog. The streets were still damp when she found the small chapel of the angels near the docks to the south. At least four hours remained before dawn. She looked up as she passed into clearer air and saw Percival’s imp darting over the rooftops.

She could see it clearly, despite the darkness. For some reason, he never seemed to want her to go alone while working. She looked up at the imp, squinted to make sure, while clutching the bag with the mask in it to her chest, and then waved the imp down. The little demon descended.

The creature looked like an airborne rat, sans hair, perched on the street sign. The wings were leathery, but shaped like neither bird nor bat. Alina disliked the creature at once. The imp’s large eyes looked at her, glassy, but clear. “Percival,” she said. “Stop following me.”

“What if there’s trouble?” the imp croaked with a hint of Percival’s tone. “Allie.”

“Don’t call me that, Percival. Go away.”

The imp hopped forward on the street sign. “What makes you think I’m right behind you?”

“This imp—this demon is disgusting. Leave me alone.”

“The Watertakers are moving.”

“They won’t leave the Fog.”

“You’re not far enough away to be sure of that.”

“If you’re so concerned why did you agree with me before?”

“We needed to do something. But don’t be stupid and act like you have to do this alone.”

She turned her back on the imp. “Fine. But keep your distance.” She started walking away, then looked over her shoulder at the imp. “And don’t call me stupid.”

The imp did not say another word, but caught the wind from the harbor and glided up to the roof of the chapel ahead of Alina. She walked across the stony walkway beside the docks. She knocked on the chapel door.

The keeper, an old woman with tired eyes, opened the door. “Alina,” she said, “What are you doing out so late?”

“I had an errand to run in the Fog, but I got lost after the sun went down.”

The Fog is a dangerous place after dark, girl. Come in, quickly.”

Alina stepped through the doorway. She lowered the bag with the jeweled breathing mask in it to her side. She gazed across the chapel to the hanging mobile of the heavens over the altar at the far end of the narrow sanctuary. The keeper yawned, one hand to her mouth. “I’m afraid I can’t offer you much of the bed in the bell tower this time. We had a man come in, beaten, attacked by bandits earlier in the evening.”

“How terrible,” said Alina with a frown.

“Indeed. But I suppose around here, the poor ground korda suffer the worst of the violence.”

“Wait,” said Alina. “Is the man staying behind the bells… a korda.” She could not help but recall that the Watertakers were an all-korda gang.

“Of course he was, girl. Didn’t you hear me?”

Alina nodded. “Sorry, I’m just distracted.”

“You don’t have to tell me. You can rest here in the sanctuary. You should stay until sunrise.”

Alina stifled a yawn of her own. The mask felt heavy in her hand. “Thank you, keeper.”

“It is no trouble. I was just finished cleaning.”

“You work late.”

“Of course. There is much to do. But now—” she yawned again, “—I’m going to sleep.”

“Thanks again. Good night.”

The keeper smiled, then left the sanctuary for the rectory behind the sanctuary. Alina lay down in one of the pews, on her side, using the mask and its double-wrapped bag for a pillow. She did not sleep, though. She waited.

When the sounds of the keeper preparing for bed subsided completely, she opened her eyes. Alina stretched an arm, then rolled onto her back. A shadow fell across her in the light of the mobile’s glimmering stars. She started, and the shape resolved itself into the form of a man in dark clothes, with a black breathing mask.

“You are one of them,” said the man, “I thought I recognized your voice.” He reached for her with a mottled, muscular, hand.

Alina’s eyes widened. She slithered out of reach, keeping her grip on the bag with the mask. He followed her into the gap between pews. His hand wrapped around her ankle. She kicked and thrashed. He pulled and she fell onto the floor between pews.

He snarled and stalked toward her. She rolled to one side, ending up under the pew she had been laying on before. She looked the way she had rolled from, and found the korda’s shadowy face there to greet her. His arm snaked out and grabbed her shoulder. She tried to push away, but her back hit the lower part of the pew, which completely blocked her path. The korda dragged her, painfully, from her hiding place.

“We’re going for a walk,” he said, one hand at the base of her neck, brushing her skin just below her hair. She heard a rasp of metal and felt the tip of a blade poke slightly into the small of her back.

She shuddered, but managed a glare at the korda.

“Walk,” he repeated, and then pushed her ahead of him. She walked out through the chapel doors with him right behind her.

He drove her out onto a long, rickety, wooden pier, then made her walk all the way to the end.

The water was dark between her and the Fog, buildings visible in the shadowy distance.

“Where’s the mask?” asked the Watertaker.

“I don’t know,” said Alina. “One of my gang took it.”

“Which one?” he asked.

“I don’t know his name.”

“A him. Describe him to me.”

She pictured Percival, tears of frustration building in her eyes. “He’s tall, skinny, and has light skin.”

“Light skin? Like yours, westerner?

“Yes, like mine.” She felt for the heaviest part of the mask in the bag clutched to her chest in both hands. “Let me go and you’ll have time to catch him, still.”

“You think I’d fall for that?” he poked her back again with the knife, nearly piercing her cloak and the tunic beneath. He snarled. “You go in the drink, missy.”

She spun as he shoved her, swinging the mask. It caught him full in the face. His knife flew from his hand and plopped into the water. Then he hands shoved out and Alina went over the edge of the pier. Her clothes dragged her down into the dark water of the harbor.

 

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Invisibles 4

Hey everyone, Tim here.

I’m taking my yearly summer trip back to the family home land soon, so that’s exciting. Hope all you who share seasons with me are staying cool.

You can find my new book, Soul Art, wherever fine ebooks are sold.

Or you can download my samples at instafreebie.com.

Now, onto to the story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Invisibles

Within the circle that protected Kalfar there was one city that commanded true respect and awe, the world over.

Sarsa, the seat of the Lord Executive, ruler of Kalfar. Glorious city, stern line of defense against beings from beyond. This was the richest and proudest of all cities in the near-eastern alliance.

Sarsa, city of countless exiles.

Sarsa should have drawn attention for all kinds of reasons, but there was a side of the city not often discussed on record.

Sarsa, the shadow city, where the desperate and the skillful plied their illegal trades. Darkness under street lamps. Poison in the minds of the high officials. Ice in the veins of the guilty.

That is the Sarsa to be watched.

And that is the Sarsa waiting to be seen.

 

4

Percival climbed the steps to the second floor of the Rogue Hound’s estate in silence. Already past a handful of guards, he had split from the others back in the entryway. If he was caught out, this would be down to a foot race, hardly good odds against the Rogue Hound’s legionnaires. Still, he was their best chance at grabbing the letter if it came down to reflexes.

On the other side of the building, Alina crept down the richly carpeted hallway. Though most of the building was lit up with lamps this hallway was dimmer than the others thanks to the subtle mists Kelebek had given Alina to release midway down. It wasn’t smoke exactly, but a kind of dust that hung like fog. Alina stayed low, held her breath, and slipped past the armored guard who clanked down the passage in the opposite direction.

Kelebek found Martin on the ground floor. He was leaning against the wall in his heavy brownstone-covered armor. As most geomancers in the legions, he covered lighter metal armor in a layer of rock. He did not wear a helmet, and his east-Asian heritage made him unmistakable. She recognized him and stepped into the light just before where he stood. Martin did not startle easily. He looked up at Kelebek with a small smile.

“Dark work? What’s the plan this time?” he asked in a low voice, with a mild European accent.

She raised a hand slightly in greeting. “A letter from the Rogue Hound.”

“You want to steal it?” he whispered. “A good idea. One that needs a good plan.”

“Alina and Percival are going ahead. We’re to get them to the courtyard where Saint is waiting.”

“Sounds simple enough. Should we divert the guards?”

“I think so.” She smiled slightly.

He nodded to her. They left the ground floor’s side hall, and began to walk toward the front of the building. Kelebek indicated the flares she had brought with her from her shop. Those would burn bright and loud, and serve as ideal distractions once one of the others had the letter. Best be ready because whichever got the letter, Alina or Percival would be in a hurry on their way out.

Percival reached the end of the second-floor hallway leading to the passage outside the Rogue Hound’s study. He flattened himself against the wall and peeked around the corner. Three people stood before the doorway. Two of them were armored hound legionnaires, the other was Alina in her dusty clothes.

At first, he thought the hounds had caught her. Then he realized her hands were still free, though she held a small bottle out to the guard. The hound without a helmet wore a secured case for a letter on his hip. He had the hound’s message, Percival felt certain.

Alina said, “The Rogue Hound asked for this potion to treat his letter.”

“What kind of potion is it?” asked one legionnaire, a big man with sandy-colored hair.

“A potion of suggestiveness, effective on skin contact.”

“Intriguing,” said the blond legionnaire. “Should we see if it works?”

The other legionnaire, who wore a slitted helmet, rolled his plated shoulders. “You have an idea?”

“Girl, open the bottle.” The sandy-haired legionnaire leered at her. “We’ll test your potion.”

Alina frowned at them. She hoped they would not recognize the scent of sedatives. She spotted Percival at the corner. She caught his eye and then nodded to the guards, but so he could see. She held her breath as she lifted the lid of the bottle and then waved it between herself and them.

The scent of soporifics floated in the hallway. The helmeted guard immediately staggered to one side. The sandy-haired one’s eyes widened. He clamped his lips tight and slammed one hand on the letter case at his hip. His other hand reached for Alina. She stepped back, but his fingers closed on her wrist. She dropped the soporific and the small bottle shattered on the floor, releasing the rest of its contents. Alina could not hold her breath anymore.

Percival gulped in air, then charged past the fallen guard and went for the would-be messenger who held Alina’s wrist. He hit the big legionnaire from behind and made the man stumble forward. Already drugged, the man stumbled forward, then fell to his knees. Alina swayed on her feet, staring at Percival.

“Run,” he said, as he freed the letter case from the blond legionnaire’s belt.

She nodded, and they took off back the way Percival had come.

Alina’s head swam as they reached the top of the stairs. The soporific was having its effect. She threw an arm across Percival’s shoulder and leaned on him as they descended the grand staircase. A trio of other legionnaires emerged from the hallway she had gone down initially. They pursued her and Percival as she started to drag her feet.

They hit the front door as an explosion sounded outside into the courtyard, off to Percival’s left. He threw the door open and helped Alina with him as they stumbled outside. She left his side. A few steps later, she sank to the ground.

“Alina?” he turned toward her, but not as fast as Saint scooped her up on one of his stone arms. The dome of the golem’s casket bobbed in a nod.

“Time to go. Right,” said Percival. He sprinted for the gateway.

Saint slammed the door to the mansion with a thunderous force. Then, he bounded away on piston-like legs. Saint sensed that Kelebek and Martin had left the estate, and Percival was ahead of him. He sprang over the wall before the legionnaires had time to open the door behind him.

Saint hit the street outside with a thud that did him and Alina no harm. Percival ran over to the golem and the girl, waving the letter case in one hand. “Got it. Let’s go!”

Saint bowed his head to Percival. Kelebek and Martin emerged from an alleyway where they had hidden after placing the flares. The group started toward Hajur’s to deliver their prize.

And like that, the Rogue Hound’s letter passed out of his hands. But to what end? None of the thieves` yet knew.

 

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Thanks for reading! This job is not quite done… see you next week!

Invisibles 3

Hello, everyone. Tim here.

 

Working on podcasts and fiction at the same time is going to drive me insane. I’m fairly sure of this, but like a goblin with his hand stuck in the pickle jar I’m not willing to let go of anything. Oh well, I have made my own fate.

 

Check out the series page for Invisibles.

 

Check out my giveaways on instafreebie.com

 

Finally, don’t forget to check out all my books at amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and wherever fine ebooks are sold. Especially look for the sequel to Hunter and Seed. Soul Art is out now!

 

Now, back to the story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Invisibles

Within the circle that protected Kalfar there was one city that commanded true respect and awe, the world over.

Sarsa, the seat of the Lord Executive, ruler of Kalfar. Glorious city, stern line of defense against beings from beyond. This was the richest and proudest of all cities in the near-eastern alliance.

Sarsa, city of countless exiles.

Sarsa should have drawn attention for all kinds of reasons, but there was a side of the city not often discussed on record.

Sarsa, the shadow city, where the desperate and the skillful plied their illegal trades. Darkness under street lamps. Poison in the minds of the high officials. Ice in the veins of the guilty.

That is the Sarsa to be watched.

And that is the Sarsa waiting to be seen.

 

3

Through the eyes of an impish demon, fluttering over the barracks near the Vancaldor estate, Percy watched the changing of the guards. Heavily armored Hound legionnaires exchanged their positions with others who could have been the same but for the different carvings in the stone finish of their armor. Percy had left his physical form sitting in the stone carriage across from Alina and Kelebek. He turned the imp’s gaze toward the street where the carriage rumbled closer.

The imp’s sarcastic voice piped up in the back of his mind. “Some view, human.”

“It’s what I offered.” When Percy conjured a demon he shared senses with the creature while it served him. Usually, the idea of experiencing the physical reality was enough to please lesser spirits. Evidently, this one thought itself above that.

“You are a poor sorcerer to give me so little.”

“This deal will be our only one,” he grumbled mentally. Part of him hoped the disagreeable imp would agree, but such creatures were often contrary by nature.

“We will see, mortal. At least your body is healthy. I have had many hosts who did not mind their flesh…”

Philip ignored the imp’s rambling. He used the spirit creature’s eyes to trace the route of the golem carriage to the place where it stopped by the barracks. He willed the creature to descend to get a better view. The imp circled the broad, tiled roof of the barracks, then alighted on the peak of its gentle arch.

“Down below,” said Percival to the imp. “Look down at the courtyard.”

“There’s nothing to see there,” said the imp, sounding annoyed. “Were you even listening to me?”

“About what?”

“You are a very rude host.”

“Take it or leave it,” said Percy.

“The courtyard is dull. There is a stone-clad golem down there, but nothing else.”

“Does the golem have a face?”

“No, just a domed reliquary on its front.”

Percy recognized Saint’s description. He smiled inside but knew it would only appear as a twitch of the lips on his physical form.

“Thank you,” Percy said. “I’ll contact you again soon.” He broke the sense link and returned to full control over his own body.

Alina was frowning at him. She thought about how eerie it was to know a demon perceived the world through Percival when he summoned them. Worse, even a skilled summoner could lose control to a full possession if they did not take care. The more powerful the demon, the more difficult to retain dominance. She knew this only from what he had told her. She would never consort with such creatures herself.

Kelebek raised her eyebrows at Percival. “So,” she said. “What did you see?”

“A golem in the courtyard. It’s Saint.”

“Perfect,” said Kelebek. “We are in luck.”

“I hope Saint will be on our side,” said Alina.

“He’d better be,” said Percival. “If he doesn’t, this job is gonna be short.”

Naturally, Saint was not thinking about any of these three at that moment. When one’s spirit was imprinted on a relic and then sealed within in the control chamber of a golem-body, one has priorities not easily understood by the living, especially after ten years of ‘life’ as an animated clay statue.

Saint stood, apparently stock still, in the courtyard, listening with his golem sensorium to the sounds of the city in the distance. His senses—and he was definitely still a man in his own mind—were focused to a precision point. He picked out the nesting bats as they began to move around. He heard a cutpurse running with his prize blocks away.

And when he stopped focusing so hard on the distance, he heard his sometimes-companions discussing his disposition on the street as the carriage that had brought them slipped away.

“We’ll have to go in and find out if he’s with us,” said Percival.

“That’s risky,” said Kelebek. “There must be a better way.”

“There is,” said Alina. She set a hand against the dusty wall of the building closest to the gate Saint watched over. “I’ll go first. Percival, you can watch with your imp, and then follow when you’re sure.”

“But what about you?” asked Percival.

“I’ll be fine. Saint likes me.”

It was true, Saint thought. She reminded him of his own daughter, now fully-grown. She lived as a steward for the Great Hound on the other side of the city, employment guaranteed in part by Saint’s mortal sacrifice. He only hoped Alina would not ask him to betray the Great Hound.

Though Saint served the Rogue Hound directly, he had little respect in his stony heart for a man who bent his considerable influence to personal profit over the good of the people. Alina slipped through the gate and into the courtyard. Her footsteps were all-but silent, but Saint heard them clearly.

Alina crossed the courtyard quickly and quietly. She wished she felt as confident as she had sounded when she volunteered. She liked Saint, but the golem could be unpredictable without Martin around, and according to Percival there was no sign of the Rogue Hound’s even more rogue legionnaire nearby.

The bulky, hunched shape of Saint loomed over her, easily ten feet tall. She looked up at his faceless reliquary. Gilded steel circlets reinforced the domed, barrel-like, metal casket on the front of the golem’s body. He had no eyes, but she knew he saw her.

“Evening, Saint,” she said. “Fancy seeing you, standing guard.”

He nodded, moving his soul casket up and down in the absence of a real head. His spirit reached out, ghostly hands pulled a pen from where he kept it tucked under an armor plate. He lowered the pen to the dust of the courtyard below and started to write in the dirt without its point extended.

Alina leaned forward and read quietly.

“I heard you earlier,” Saint wrote. “Tell me the job.” The pen settled to one side of the words. As soon as Alina finished reading it, Saint’s ghost hand wiped them away like a breeze.

“We’re to intercept the Rogue Hound’s letter,” Alina whispered. “He must be writing it right now.”

Saint bobbed his casket up and down. He wrote, “I know of the letter. Find Martin. I will protect your way out.”

Alina nodded. “Thank you, Saint.”

He erased the words he had written, then tucked the pen back in its holding place.

Alina turned as Percival and Kelebek made their way through the gate just as quietly as she had.

Kelebek tipped her hand to Alina and Saint, a grateful Kalfaran gesture.

Percival brushed dust from his hair. Now, the real job began.

 

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The job begins… next week. Thanks for reading.

 

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Invisibles 2

Hello, everyone. Tim here.

 

Before we get to the serial for the week, I want to mention that my new novel, “Soul Art” the sequel to “Hunter and Seed” is now available for preorder through all sorts of outlets here. The book launches officially on July 11th, less than a week away!

 

Check out the series page for Invisibles.

 

Check out my giveaways on instafreebie.com

 

Finally, don’t forget to check out all my books at amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and wherever fine ebooks are sold.

 

Now, back to the story.

 

 

Invisibles

Within the circle that protected Kalfar there was one city that commanded true respect and awe, the world over.

Sarsa, the seat of the Lord Executive, ruler of Kalfar. Glorious city, stern line of defense against beings from beyond. This was the richest and proudest of all cities in the near-eastern alliance.

Sarsa, city of countless exiles.

Sarsa should have drawn attention for all kinds of reasons, but there was a side of the city not often discussed on record.

Sarsa, the shadow city, where the desperate and the skillful plied their illegal trades. Darkness under street lamps. Poison in the minds of the high officials. Ice in the veins of the guilty.

That is the Sarsa to be watched.

And that is the Sarsa waiting to be seen.

 

2

The Church of the Angels towered over the streets, all white stone and gilding, a western cathedral dropped into the center of Sarsa. The sounds of vesper songs had been replaced by dismissal bells when Percival approached. Dust swirled around the towers, wearing at the western-style gargoyles and sculpted feathers of stone, angel wings at the peak of each arched support.

He waited in the shadows as people emerged from the light of the front doors and proceeded down the steps, casting long strands of shadow before them. Nose covered by his collar, Percival watched for Alina’s silhouette to resolve from the interspersed light and darkness.

Alina Weir made her way down the church steps.

She wore a white sand coat with a hood that covered her dark hair. The shadows it left on her face also made her light skin less noticeable in the night. Alina spotted Percival at once, despite his skulking, and she knew immediately that meant there was work to do.

Dark work was the source of her money, but Alina felt no need to embrace the worst aspects of the trade. For one, she did not understand why Percival never seemed to slow down, let alone sleep. She supposed when one consorted with demons like he did, priorities were very different from hers. She stepped into the dusty street, shielding her face from the dust with the side of her hood.

“Percival,” she said in the slight Greek accent he recognized as much as her face, as they neared each other. “Why are you here?”

“Straight down to business, yes.” He pulled down his collar from his nose and mouth. “We have a job tonight. From Hajur.”

“What is it?”

“We are to intercept a letter from the Rogue Hound.”

“The Rogue Hound? We’ll need Martin for this.”

“I agree. How long before you’re ready?”

Alina wrinkled her nose at that. He ought to know better after sixteen months of dark work in Sarsa. “I’m always ready.”

“Good.” He nodded to her as evening parishioners streamed past them on either side. “Let’s get the others.”

“Tell me what we know on the way.” Alina preferred not to be caught out of place, and she knew Percival often got in over his head. If he didn’t, he might never have ended up in Sarsa. “Don’t make this personal,” she said. “I know you don’t like the Rogue Hound.”

“It’s just work. The Rogue Hound is an ass, but that’s all he is. Besides a good mark.”

“A dangerous mark,” said Alina.

“But a good one,” Percival smirked. If there wasn’t work to do he could have argued with Alina all night. Or, at least until she got annoyed and told him to go away. “Kelebek lives around here. We should get her next.”

 

 

Alina folded her arms as they approached the darkened block of stucco buildings where Kelebek lived over her shop. “Is that all we know?” she asked Percival.

“Hajur didn’t tell me much,” he admitted. “She didn’t think it was relevant.”

“The contents of this letter weren’t relevant to her?”

“She must have a spy close to the Rogue Hound who has her informed. But no spy can say what hasn’t been written yet.”

They stopped in front of the shop with a sign in the Kalfar’s native language and in English that read “Ayaz Golem Sculpting” in white letters. Alina frowned at the sign, but Percy had an idea the expression was meant for him.

Alina sighed. “I don’t like it. The Rogue Hound is not a kind leader, but he helps protect the city.”

“Hajur lives in the city too. If stealing the letter would threaten Sarsa she wouldn’t be asking us to do it.”

“But she doesn’t know what it will contain—Or she won’t tell us.”

A window slat opened on the first floor of the golem sculpting shop. Percy swore internally. A lock unlatched somewhere inside. He and Alina turned to the door of the shop as the door opened.

The late-thirties Kalfaran woman who stood in the doorway, haloed in yellow lamplight, glared out at them. She wore a sculptor’s smock, but without a trace of clay on the white material. Her hair was pulled back.

“Come inside,” Kelebek said. “Or do you two want the whole block to know what you’re talking about.”

“We weren’t that loud,” said Percival.

“Indeed, not,” said Alina.

Kelebek shook her head. She held the door open with one hand. “Well, you weren’t quiet. Come in.”

The two of them made their way sheepishly inside. She closed the door and turned to them.

“We have a job,” she said. “For Hajur, right?”

“I swear, we weren’t that loud,” said Percival.

Kelebek rolled her eyes. These foreigners had not respect for the ears of the city. “With what your oaths are for, that does not inspire confidence.” She turned to Alina.

Alina pursed her lips. “Hajur wants us to steal a letter. From the Rogue Hound.”

“Interesting.” Kelebek carefully removed her smock, leaving the dark brown trousers and tunic beneath. “Good timing. My latest mask needs to wait before I fire it.”

Percy chuckled. “Speaking of golems. I think we should bring Saint in on this.”

“Saint? But why?”

“The Rogue Hound’s people tend to be heavily armed. Saint is insurance.”

“We need Martin, anyway,” said Alina. “Saint could be useful.”

“Why couldn’t you two agree quietly when you were outside?” said Kelebek with a small smile. “Saint is a rough beast compared to any I’d make, but the idea is good.”

“I suppose the next stop is the barracks. Martin is a hound, at least on the surface, and Saint works for them too.”

“This should be interesting.” Kelebek set the smock on the small table near the front of the shop.

The three of them left her sculpting shop for the dusty night outside.

 

 

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The crew assembles… next week. Thanks for reading.

 

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