“You’re the Scholar girl the Martials are hunting.” Shikaat glances between the stalls, into the dark places where threats might lurk. “The one traveling with Elias Veturius. And there’s something wrong with him, otherwise you wouldn’t be here alone, so desperate for Tellis extract that you’d pay twenty times what you should for it.”

“How in the skies did you know?”

“Not many Scholars around here,” he says. “When one shows up, we notice.”

Damn it. The girl in the apothecary must have tipped him off.

“Now.” His smile is all teeth. “You’re going to lead me to your unfortunate friend, or I’ll stick a knife in your gut and drop you down a crevasse to die slowly.”

Behind us, the bounty hunters argue heatedly with Shikaat’s men.

“He knows where Elias Veturius is!” I shout at the hunters. They reach for their weapons, and other heads in the market swing up.

The Tribesman sighs, giving me an almost rueful look. The second he turns his attention from me to the bounty hunters, I kick his ankle and twist free.

I dart beneath tarps, upsetting a basket of goods and nearly knocking an old Mariner woman onto her back. For a moment, I’m out of Shikaat’s sight. A wall of rock rises ahead of me, and a row of tents sits to my right. To my left, a pyramid of crates leans precariously up against the side of a fur cart.

I rip a fur off the top of the stack and dive beneath the cart, covering myself and pulling my feet out of sight just before Shikaat bursts into the alley. Silence as he scans the area. Then footsteps coming closer … closer …

Disappear, Laia. I shrink back into the darkness, grabbing hold of my armlet for strength. You can’t see me. You see only shadows, only darkness.

Shikaat kicks aside the crates, letting in a sliver of light beneath the cart. I hear him bend, hear his breathing as he peers under it.

I’m nothing, nothing but a pile of furs, nothing important. You don’t see me. You don’t see anything.

“Jitan!” He shouts to his men. “Imir!”

The swift footsteps of two men approach, and a moment later, lamplight chases away the darkness beneath the cart. Shikaat rips the fur free, and I find myself staring into his triumphant face.

Except his triumph turns to bewilderment almost immediately. He gazes at the fur and then back at me. He holds up the lamp, illuminating me clearly.

But he doesn’t look at me. Almost as if he can’t see me. As if I’m invisible.

Which is impossible.

The second I think it, he blinks and grabs me.

“You disappeared,” he whispers. “And now you’re here. Did you magick me?” He shakes me hard, rattling my teeth in my head. “How did you do it?”

“Piss off!” I claw at him, but he holds me at arm’s distance.

“You were gone!” he hisses. “And then you reappeared before my eyes.”

“You’re insane!” I bite at his hand, and he drags me close, forcing my face toward him, glaring down into my eyes. “You’ve been smoking too much ghas!”

“Say it again,” he says.

“You’re insane. I was there the whole time.”

He shakes his head, as if he can tell I’m not lying but still doesn’t believe me. When he releases my face, I try to twist away—to no avail.

“Enough,” he says as his henchmen bind my hands in front of me. “Take me to the Mask, or you die.”

“I want a cut.” An idea blossoms in my head. “Ten thousand marks. And we go alone—I don’t want your men following us.”

“No cut,” he says. “My men stay at my side.”

“Then find him yourself! Stick a knife in me like you promised, and go.”

I hold his eyes, the way Nan used to when Tribal traders offered too low a price for her jams and she threatened to walk away. My heart thunders like the hooves of a horse.

“Five hundred marks,” the Tribesman says. As I open my mouth to protest, he holds up a hand. “And safe passage to the Tribal lands. It’s a good deal, girl. Take it.”

“Your men?”

“They stay.” He considers me. “At a distance.”

The problem with greedy people, Pop once said to me, is that they think everyone else is as greedy as they are. Shikaat is no different.

“Give me your word as a Tribesman that you won’t double-cross me.” Even I know how valuable such a vow is. “I don’t trust you otherwise.”

“You have my word.” He shoves me forward, and I stumble, just catching myself from falling. Swine! I bite my lip to keep from saying it.

Let him think he’s cowed me. Let him think he’s won. Soon, he’ll realize his mistake: He vowed to play fair.

But I didn’t.



The second that consciousness seeps into my mind, I know better than to open my eyes.

My hands and feet are bound with rope, and I lie on my side. My mouth tastes strange, like iron and herbs. Everything aches, but my mind feels more lucid than it has in days. Rain patters on rocks just a few feet away. I’m in a cave.

But the air feels wrong. I hear breathing, quick and nervous, and smell the wool robes and cured leather of Tribal traders.

“You can’t kill him!” Laia is in front of me, her knee pressing into my forehead, her voice so close that I can feel her breath on my face. “The Martials want him back alive. To—to face the Emperor.”