Her vengeance. His vision.
Ari lost everything she once loved when the Five Guilds’ resistance fell to the Dragon King. Now, she uses her unparalleled gift for clockwork machinery in tandem with notoriously unscrupulous morals to contribute to a thriving underground organ market. There isn’t a place on Loom that is secure from the engineer turned thief, and her magical talents are sold to the highest bidder as long as the job defies their Dragon oppressors.
Cvareh would do anything to see his sister usurp the Dragon King and sit on the throne. His family’s house has endured the shame of being the lowest rung in the Dragons’ society for far too long. The Alchemist Guild, down on Loom, may just hold the key to putting his kin in power, if Cvareh can get to them before the Dragon King’s assassins.
When Ari stumbles upon a wounded Cvareh, she sees an opportunity to slaughter an enemy and make a profit off his corpse. But the Dragon sees an opportunity to navigate Loom with the best person to get him where he wants to go.
He offers her the one thing Ari can’t refuse: A wish of her greatest desire, if she brings him to the Alchemists of Loom.
“Tell me about it?” Florence dreamed of someday watching Ari on one of her little missions. She had no interest in actually fighting herself. But just once, she wanted to see one of her explosions in person, not just as calculations on paper.
“The canister? Flash of white, red at the edges, and then it turned yellow when it hit the target. There was black smoke too.” Ari was awful at painting descriptions with words—she’d have had more success drawing it—but Florence hung on her every syllable all the same. “But it took a lot of energy and had a slow fire.”
“If you want explosive canisters that large, it will.” Florence picked at the white vest and silver necktie Ari had placed on the bed.
“You can do better, Flor. Make a canister like that, but designed for use with a refined gun by someone who isn’t a Chimera, and you’ll be a rich woman.”
“I know, I know.” Ari was right, as usual.
It had been two years since Florence had met Ari during her escape from the Ravens Guild and somehow convinced the woman to agree to be her teacher. In that time, Florence had been given ample opportunities to experiment with different ways to combine gunpowder, chemicals, refined metals, and even alchemical runes to create some of the best explosives Ari had ever seen. At least, that’s what Ari told her. But the woman wouldn’t lie, not even to spare her initiate’s feelings.
Their life was unconventional and mostly outside the law, but it was a life Florence had come to love. Ari was an acolyte of the old ways, unmarked on her cheeks and firm in her belief that every guild was connected. That overlap between fields of study was essential. She let Florence explore, create, question for the sake of it. It had all made the terror of escaping the guild worthwhile.
“Speaking of.” Ari adjusted the necktie, pinning it with a crossed wrench and bolt done in black iron—the symbol of a master in the Rivets’ Guild. “How many canisters do we have in stock?”
“I think I have thirteen made. Why?”
“We may need more for the journey.” Ari strapped the belt with her daggers and winch box high around her waist. “It’s a three-day train ride to Ter.5.2. Then a week-long airship ride to Keel.”
“We’re going to ride an airship?” Florence bounced to sit at the edge of the bed.
“Fastest way to get to the Alchemists’ Guild.”
“I’ll pick up materials in Mercury Town. But you better not blow up the first airship I ride on,” Florence mock-scolded.
“You never know what wrench could get thrown into the machine along the way, Flor.” Ari’s grin was playful, but her words were serious. “Use the dunca from the reagents to get what we’ll need for the trip. I trust your judgment. I’ll fill in the Dragon on the plan and the rules for travel.”
“He doesn’t seem bad.” Florence tried to smooth over the kinks she foresaw in their journey. After all the stories she’d heard of Dragons, she expected a horrible monster. While she wouldn’t call the Dragon handsome by any stretch—his colors were borderline headache-inducing—she wouldn’t call him evil incarnate, either.
Ari stilled. She crossed back to the bed and, with both hands, cradled Florence’s face delicately.
“Listen to me,” Arianna whispered. “None of them seem bad. But they are not what they seem. It’s that thinking that killed Loom, Flor. Don’t trust him. He will turn on you and kill you in a second if it suits him.”
Florence swallowed. She knew Arianna had real memories of the time before the Dragons, when the Five Guilds were free and the world was run by the Vicar tribunal; when Fenthri didn’t have to be marked—when they were free to study and learn as they wanted.
There was a terrifying lust for that time in Ari’s heart.
“Do you understand?”
“I do.” Florence nodded.