A City of living bone towers crumbles to the ground and danger abounds. Kirit Densira has lost everything she loved the most—her mother, her home, and the skies above. Nat Brokenwings—once Kirit’s brother long before the rebellion tore them apart—is still trying to save his family in the face of catastrophe. They will need to band together once more to ensure not just their own survival, but that of their entire community.
Chapter 1: Macal, Above
“As bridges burned, Mondarath fought above the cloud . . .
Each night, our city dreamed of danger, crying out for help I could not give.
Wind rippled between towers, flowing along tense borders. Since Allmoons, fighting had spread: Tower versus tower. Quadrant against quadrant. Blackwings versus blackwings. Blackwings against towers, and against quadrants. Even the trade gusts grew dangerous, between northwest and southeast, near the cracked Spire, and around the city’s edges.
This night, I joined Mondarath’s guard. I flew the city’s disturbed winds, looking for danger.
As tower leader, it was my duty to keep Mondarath safe. But I was more than a leader. In the dark, I clicked my tongue fast against the roof of my mouth, echoing. The hard-won Singer skill, learned when I was a fledge, revealed more fliers riding the gusts than usual.
I whistled my windsigns: “Magister,” “councilor.” Nearby, Lari, one of Mondarath’s best guards, whistled back “all clear.”
“On your wings, Macal,” she whispered.
“Silence,” I whistled in reply. Stick to windsigns.
We didn’t know where or when the blackwings from the southwest would try to attack next, but I was positive they were out there flying the darkness too.
Evidence of their visits accumulated along our borders—mysterious fires, cut bridges—as if they wanted us isolated and afraid.
Now, on the shortest night before Allsuns, my guards and I flew the darkness, echoing, trying to keep the bridges safe and the city whole. We kept alert for skymouths too, for bone eaters that had been seen near the Spire, and for our friends who had disappeared into the clouds—my brother Wik, Nat and Kirit, Ciel and Moc, Elna, Beliak, Ceetcee, Doran. Even Dix. So many lost. So much to guard against. So much to protect.
Especially this night. Tomorrow was a market day.
Mondarath and the surrounding towers desperately needed supplies. We needed to connect and trade. We needed a market badly.
Last Allmoons, after the council fell from the sky, battles roiled the south and blackwings chased my brother, Wik, and his companions below the clouds. They’d fought Dix to save our city, then disappeared far beneath it. There’d been few markets since.
One night, the clouds had pulsed blue in almost-patterns, and goose bumps had risen on my arms. But there’d been no sign of them even moons later. And once the blackwings took the south, there had been fewer markets still. Too risky.
Now we had to face the risk.
When I echoed again, I sensed the northwest’s towers rising around me—Mondarath’s broad tiers just below, then Densira’s slim, graceful form to the east. Viit was a sturdy monolith south of us, and Wirra a wisp in the distance.
My echoing, required for night flying, and the sharp hearing that came with training as a Singer Nightwing long ago, brought the city’s unrest to my ears all the time. Nights like these were the worst. Nightmares twisted the wind around distant towers rising pale and tall in the darkness. Dreams and hunger teased whimpers from children sleeping close together, even at Mondarath. Fear gave a hitch and a stutter to Sidra, my partner’s, breathing.
I tipped my left pinion and turned back towards Mondarath, completing my circuit of the upper tiers. Time to venture lower, then return to my own bed before Sidra discovered I was gone once again.
The moonset began to silver the cloudtop below our tower.
I sensed wings approaching fast and low. A flier was trying to circle Mondarath unseen, heading for the tower’s far side.
“There,” I whispered. “Got you.” Whistling windsigns in rapid order—“defend,” “lowtower,” “attacker”—I rallied the guards who flew with me. We dove in a knife formation, chasing the blackwing from the shadows.
“I’m friendly!” a young voice said—high-pitched and very frightened. “I’m alone.”
“A lie,” I said. My guards dropped their net, thick with the smell of muzz, over the flier’s dark wings. “Blackwings are never alone. Bind this one tight.”
As the stars faded in the sky, the flier ceased struggling. Mondarath no longer left anything to chance. My guards drew the muzz-laden ropes closed around the blackwing.
Wary and searching the horizon for more attackers, I circled near a lowtower balcony, echoing. I found no more wings in the sky.
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