Twelve years ago, an unexplained attack on her home killed Membra’s father and left her with devastating, life-changing injuries. Once one of the most expert thieves in the city-state of Draffe, now she scrapes a living as a researcher and information miner, thieving when she can. But she has rebuilt her life. Or so it would seem to others. In her own eyes, though, haunted by regret and guilt, she is incomplete and broken, searching for a wholeness that can never be hers again.
While on a clandestine and strangely well-paid job, Membra finds a mysterious artefact from her past, something she never thought to see again. The discovery reawakens old ghosts and a dangerous adversary, the very one responsible for tearing Membra’s life apart so long ago. Suddenly both the hunter and the hunted, Membra enters a reluctant partnership with Custos, a war-weary ex-mercenary with his own hidden connection to her predicament.
Together, the unlikely couple set out on a journey of revelation and revenge that will lead Membra to a momentous choice, one that will affect not just her but everything she knows. Should she sacrifice who she is now for the chance to regain who she once was?
To win the consummation that she yearns for, Membra must learn to trust her own unique strengths, even when they come from what she sees as flaws and imperfections. And, even then, what she wants may not be what she needs.
Sathe 'Steeltooth' Zidar
Syndic Koris Tavye
One of Membra’s surgeons, thinking to be kind, had told her once that those who had lost limbs sometimes regained them in their dreams. For Membra that had never been the case. And so, in dreams and waking, she had taught herself how best to do without them.
There were times, of course, she missed their usefulness. As, for example, now, suspended from a rope a hundred feet above street level, clear night sky above her, only empty air between her and the all too distant ground.
Membra bent and lit the lantern, surrounding her and Custos with its small pool of light. Beyond that circle the darkness stretched away, rat-haunted, menacing and full of hidden terrors. She picked the lantern up in her mouth again, fighting to stop her trembling. Both she and Custos carefully peered around the pillar, staring into the silence and the darkness.
There was a flicker of indigo and the orb's outline blurred slightly. Then it made a noise, a low subsonic moan that was felt in the bones rather then heard but which rose quickly through a range of dissonant harmonics to become an almost organic wailing pulse of sound. There was a bright snap of light from one of the small openings in its surface and the air around it filled suddenly with the sharp smell of ozone.
Brythan was actually reaching for his winnings when Membra tutted at him gently, still holding the last card she'd been dealt between her teeth, the Knight of Pentacles. Smiling, her eye still on his puzzled face, she twisted in her seat and flipped the last face-down card in the spread of cards in front of her. It was the Page of Pentacles and joined the King and Queen that were already revealed.
"That's a Full Royal House," she said and parted her teeth to drop the Knight onto the spread. "My winnings, I believe."
The room was a magpie's nest, cluttered with furniture and chests, shelves and boxes, statuettes, carvings and arcane mechanisms, the accumulated spoils of Membra's career, the worthless and the rare all tumbled together in careless proximity. And everywhere were the books, covering every surface and spilling onto the floor to fill every corner.
Membra waited for the moment when his arm was fully raised, then squirmed fiercely in his clutches, flexing her whole body with as much strength as she could. At the same time she ducked her head, stretched her mouth wide, and clamped her teeth closed on Groth's hand. Salty warmth flooded her mouth and she suppressed a gag relex, biting down harder, picturing herself a wolf, her jaws a weapon ready to tear and maul with razor fangs. Her teeth ground on gristle and cartilage. Groth wailed in surprised horror, a high-pitched shriek, and instinctively flung his hand away from the sudden pain, leaving shreds of skin and flesh in her teeth. Unsupported, Membra felt herself begin to fall.
"I don't see imperfection when I look at you,” he whispered. “Nor incompleteness when we touch. Only precious scars."
Either the lock’s reputation was over-stated or her own was justified, and in just a few minutes the shackle sprang open with a pleasing snap. Membra winced slightly at the sharp noise, braced for some some malevolent response, but the warding stone remained quiescent and the trunk stayed just a trunk. As, indeed, did she. She snorted soft laughter at her own sardonic wit.
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