(excerpted from Weird Luck, book one in the City of the Watcher trilogy)
…Fresh Herax corpses tumbled slowly through the air, trailing streamers of blood. Blood Eagle leapt wildly around the zone of the Gravity Switch, launching himself off of wall, wreck, or body to fly at Herax after Herax, rending with his hands, biting out chunks of flesh and bone, and snatching weapons to use them savagely upon their owners. Now and then the wounded Cook would spring forth from the shadows, swipe open a Herax throat, and fling himself back into darkness. The Herax soldiers threw themselves after the Giver and the Wilder, always a step behind, their numbers dwindling one by one until Blood Eagle dispatched the last of them.
The burning ship slowly turned in place, orbited by torn and broken bodies. Akaz jumped out of Blood Eagle’s mouth and floated across the Well, eyes flashing with flame, smoke billowing from his jaws. Blood Eagle convulsed, then grew still. He lay unmoving in the air, covered with cauterized wounds, his eyes rolled back and mouth hanging open.
Akaz looked at Aleck. “Let’s go,” he rumbled. “Grab him. We need to get him to the Corpsewater Nymph.”
“I as well,” said the Cook, returning to Crow form. He paddled towards Aleck with his one good wing.
Aleck climbed onto the battered raft, swept up his companions, and flew away from the drifting carnage. Akaz sniffed the air. “You’re going the wrong way,” he said.
“Which way is that?” asked Aleck, seated beside the sprawling body of Blood Eagle.
“We’re going in,” said Akaz. “That’s no good.”
Aleck begrudgingly halted the raft and dropped it, he hoped for the last time, through the scattered bodies. As he turned the raft over at the Gravity Switch, his face and chest passed through a floating ribbon of blood, splashing him with a stripe of grue. “Great,” said Aleck. “Great.” They sped upward in the dark, Akaz’s eyes shedding just enough light for Aleck to avoid the walls. Blood Eagle moaned and muttered. The Cook perched on the corner of the raft, staring up.
They raced upward, wind drying Aleck’s squinting eyes.
In time, a speck of paler black appeared overhead and expanded into a patch of starry sky. “Almost there,” said Aleck. He hastened their ascent. “What next?” he asked Akaz. “Corpsewater by way of the God-Dog?”
“This timing is bad,” said Akaz, almost to himself. “Bad. Bad timing.”
“What do you mean?” asked Aleck.
“I hadn’t planned on a goddamn side trip to Corpsewater right before the battle,” said Akaz.
“Battle?” asked Aleck.
“Never mind, we’ll make it work.” He looked up. “Uh-oh,” he said.
Aleck looked towards the mouth of the Well. Moving black shapes blotted out the stars. A faint murmur came from above. “What the hell is up there?” he asked.
“Fuck. Get us up into Billycutter’s Tunnel,” said Akaz. “Fast.”
The black shapes resolved into silhouettes of Herax longboats. Four descended in formation towards them; behind came four more, and another four behind that, each formation offset from the others and rotating slowly, alternating clockwise and counterclockwise. Behind them came a many-masted ship. The murmur grew until Aleck could distinguish the words echoing down the Well. Hundreds of voices chanted in unison: We come as one! We come as one!
“Is this the battle?” asked Aleck, frantic.
“Keep going!” snapped Akaz.
Lanterns blazed to life on the front of each longboat, illuminating the forlorn raft. A victorious shout rained down from the Herax. Aleck saw them, dozens upon dozens, hanging in the rigging, waving their spears and knives.
Aleck pointed towards a patch of darkness on the wall. “Is that the Tunnel?” he asked.
“Yeah,” said Akaz. “Go!”
Aleck sped the raft towards the entrance to Billycutter’s Tunnel. The Herax boats dropped faster. For a moment, Aleck thought he would out-race them; but when they saw his goal, they veered to block his way. Aleck stopped the raft, a formation of four longboats silently hovering by the mouth of Billycutter’s tunnel. Each moment, more longboats and warships obscured the stars above.
“Now what,” said Aleck, in disbelief.
“Not sure,” muttered Akaz.
“You gotta be kidding me.” Aleck looked up at the growing crowd of Herax boats, out of ideas.
“We could ram them,” said Akaz. “Kamikaze style. Take a few of them with us.”
“That’s it!” whispered Aleck. He clutched his amulet.
“Just kidding!” shouted Akaz.
“Hang on,” said Aleck, and sped the raft upward, hugging the wall.
“Aleck!” barked Akaz. “Stop! Fortune favors the bold, not the suicidal—!”
Aleck flew the seven other rafts out of Billycutter’s Tunnel, ramming them into the masts and sails of the boats blocking the way. The boats listed wildly, tumbling Herax soldiers down the Well. Aleck spun the empty rafts in place like paddleboat wheels, snapping spars and rigging, tearing away sails, knocking more Herax down the Well. Their magic sails destroyed, the four boats fell end over end past them and down into darkness. Aleck slipped into Billycutter’s Tunnel.
“Wow, kid,” said Akaz. “Outfuckinstanding.”
“Will they be able to follow us?” asked Aleck.
“I think those boats are too big,” said Akaz. “Leave a couple rafts behind, in case.”
“What, for them to follow us in?” asked Aleck.
“No, leave ‘em spinning!” said Akaz. “Traps! And just a couple. I want to get as many of these as possible to the Cannibal-King.”
Aleck furrowed his brow in concentration. Though he couldn’t see most of the rafts, he could sense their location and movement. He stopped the hindmost one, started it spinning in place, then set another orbiting it like a giant flyswatter. He felt a strange internal sensation of ‘letting them go,’ and the rafts kept moving without his concentration.
“Even if they can’t follow us,” asked Aleck, “won’t they be waiting for us when we come out?”
“Billycutter’s Tunnel is magically hidden,” said Akaz. “I’m sure they never knew about it until now.” He paused. “I guess we’ll see if they figured out where the other end is.”
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