Stars Turn Black - Uncharted

Stars Turn Black

By Brianna Fenty

Chapter One: Protection

Mother always said you could gauge a man’s character by the way he drinks his tea. A cup of Kizbegi black—a rich amber number infused with essence of rosehip, barberry, and wild thyme; the pleasant bite of dried citrus peel tempered by a cube of vanilla sugar and a splash of brandy—languished at the corner of the priest’s desk, cold and full to the brim. One ill-measured stab of quill to ink would send the cup clattering to the marble in shards. Even then, Yaca supposed the priest would continue his letter-penning without a flinch, comfortable in the expectation that a servant would rush to tidy, re-brew, and return a fresh mug to his desk unacknowledged.  

Like most mothers, Yaca’s was a wise woman.

“When is your father planning to grace me with his presence this morning, boy?” The staccato cadence of the priest’s Lilithyan accent was further clipped by the tongue of a man used to getting what he wanted and getting it now. He didn’t look up from his papers. “Had I known the man of the manor would be out galivanting with horses and hounds in the mangroves ’til midday, I’d have brought a bow and joined him, if only to pin his jerkin to a tree and make him sign these blighted contracts.”

“We don’t keep hounds, your Holiness. Nor wear jerkins.”

“Perhaps if he did, this half-naked hunt wouldn’t take so bloody long.”

Yaca found a great many things boring, but none so much as rudeness. Fiddling with the strap of his eyepatch, he gazed through the arches of the open-air study and imagined wandering through the courtyard’s garden of ferns, periwinkles, and trees bursting with sea grapes and pigeon plums. He was as much inclined to strolls through manicured spaces as he was to entertaining haughty guests in Father’s stead, but the former was far preferable. “The matron of the house would be more than happy to officiate the documents in my father’s stead, Lord Priesthead—”

The priest’s attention snapped up from the page, pinning Yaca to his seat with a barbed-arrow stare the color of carnelian. Gemstone eyes were an indication of inner power, of magic, but their glow was weak. Stuttering like a candle flame on its last legs. A stiff breeze might blow it out. Yaca’s single azurite eye shined brighter, even while dormant.

There’d be a new Priesthead soon.

“I’ll admit my ignorance to the farcical etiquette you Bazagrans employ in the conduct of business, but nor do I care to correct that ignorance.” The priest returned to his papers. “No creature without a cock and balls will ever lay eyes on a Lilithyan trade agreement, boy. I advise you brush up on your studies of manner and bearing with mother dearest before butting into the affairs of men.”

“But you just said you were ignorant to our etiquette.” Yaca lounged, freeing a curtain of black hair from between his back and the velvet chair. “By your own logic, I suppose you should open a book or two and broaden your own horizons. It’s a big, beautiful world out there, Master Virgin. Tell me, did you take the Vow of Immaculate Void because no woman would come within a half-mile of your minuscule nethers? Credit where credit’s due. That’s a genius way to evade political shame.”

“Pardon my hearing?” That look again, but this one blazing. His sister always said he had a singular talent for underestimating the elderly. “How dare you address me in such a tone! A tardy father sires a brazen brat; what an absolute shock to the expectations. Truly, it leaves one to wonder what sort of lame, mange-ridden mule-mare must your mother be to pop out such an insolent worm. However…” He leaned in, studying Yaca close enough to count his eyelashes. “That mug of yours is one that positively screams infidelity. What sort of bastard are you, my boy? Was it your father who dove between the luscious legs of some lowly Lilithyan harlot, offering ever so graciously to spirit away the babe that’d take food from its mother’s mouth and cry her clients away? Or was it your mother…oh, dear.” He tutted: naughty, naughty. “Perhaps she met a rather handsome Tsahìki sailor on one of her adorable humanitarian expeditions to the Isles of Iris I hear so much about. The tales say their exotic physiques are fit to tempt the loins of even your impostor gods, so how might a woman of such abrasive northern stock resist the lingering gazes of men with carnal appetites and endowments fit to make even satyrs green with envy?”

Assaulting a high priest, especially one with diplomatic immunity, was frowned upon in most circles. Lucky enough for Yaca’s knuckles—and the structural integrity of the priest’s face—Mother’s impeccable timing intervened.

She swept through the double doors adjoining the breezeway to the manor proper. A vision in trailing nagua skirts and a crisscross halter practically mandated by royal fashion, she put more stomach and shoulder on display than the priest would see for the rest of his days. Both garments were ultra-black, but when the sun peered between the pillars as she glided down the hall, a blue-green iridescence reminiscent of macaw wings shone on the silk.

The priest rose in greeting as she came to stand beside Yaca. She laced heavily ringed hands before her, bracelets jangling, and refused the curtsey and apology that Lilithyan customs demanded—for this was Bazagra, and the priest far from home. And while her smile may have oozed hospitality to the untrained eye, the set of her teeth cried outrage. They sought blood as dark and thick as the red dreadlocks piled atop her head and tumbling down her back. “I do hope my son has been adequate company, your Lordship.” Her lyrical brogue was an import from Dorchamoor—a city-state far to the north from which she was carted to marry Yaca’s father—and remained unchanged even today, well into their twenty-seventh year of marriage. “He’s a bright and learned young man, it’s true, but prone to flights more becoming of an untamed horse. My most obnoxious stallion—but with spirit, comes strength. Wouldn’t you agree?”

The Priesthead bowed stiffly. “He’s been most accommodating, your Grace. Though I must express some consternation over the wait for your husband’s return. With respect, I am a busy man, with several appointments slated in the city’s uptown this very same day.”

When she removed her warded alligator skin gloves, mother and son alike enjoyed the beet-red of impropriety darkening the priest’s cheeks. Oh, no, not the fingers! Anything but the fingers of a foreign sorceress harlot!

“Well.” She strode to the desk, retrieved the tepid tea, and downed its contents in two gulps. “I’m sure your other clients will understand, given the nature of this appointment, your Lordship, and considering with whom you’re meeting. I assure you the Cacique will be home post haste. To you, I give my word. In the meantime, Chef would be happy to serve lunch. Tell me, have you ever sampled the local blushing spoonbill, caught fresh from the Jazai? An exclusive diet of the lake’s delicate rose shrimps gives the meat a most unique color, and the cherry smoke tempers the gaminess enough to suit even the most sensitive of palates. But I’ve leapt ahead of myself, of course. Perhaps you’d care for another tea, to start?”

With the sweetest of smiles, she placed the cup back in its saucer.

“I…” The priest ogled the empty cup. “I’d be most grateful, your Grace.”

“Excellent. Come, Yacaha. Let the good priest take refreshment away from your heckling.”

Walking backward so his mother couldn’t see, Yaca shot an exaggerated wink and salute.

She smacked him upside the head with the hand fan around her wrist once they were out in the hall. “Twenty-six years you’ve been around the sun, yet your character seems to have stalled at twelve.”

“At least I age well.”

Mother snapped the fan open too late to hide her grin. They bumped elbows: once for greeting, twice for happiness, three for I’ve missed you.

A white woman this far south, Yaca’s mother had acclimated to the heat and dress with surprising grace, suffering months of agonizing sunburns before finally developing a tan. Even before, she’d managed to curry near-instant favor with shaman bohiques, noble itainos, and working-class naborios alike the moment she stepped from her marriage shift into the Jazai’s snake-ridden waters. Having visited some of Bazagra’s most talented tattooists and scarifiers on the ride to meet her new husband, she’d been a living tapestry of ancient art rendered in green and black.

Moonsmoke had rolled in to clothe her in silver mist, a rare blessing of protection bestowed by Red-Tailed Hawk. She’d sustained only one bite on the long trek to where Raigon waited, waist-deep, and this from the deadly maledicta mamba. After he sealed the ritual by eating the snake raw, the pair had weathered the storm of the venom together without nightshade syrup or tincture of moonflower; without so much as a puff of opium. They were still holding hands when they collapsed on the shore.

Minor details changed every time Father told the story, but the spark in his eye never faded. Marjorie—a Houseless, godless foreigner from the frozen taigas—became one of the people in a single night: loved by them, and by her husband, more.

The same, Yaca supposed, could not be said of her children.

Commandress Juraka, younger sister and eldest after him, had glided across the Jazai’s waves and into the twilit kelp jungle beside their father this morning rather than assist their mother in hosting the Priesthead. Seated atop Sotomayor, a Lilithya-bred gelding with as rapacious a nature and tawny a mane as his rider, Jura was every bit the warrior her station demanded. Yaca had been breakfasting on the terrace when the hunting party took off for Baguada Green: a jungle of antigravity kelp stands, leagues tall, sprouting from the water. They belly danced on the horizon to welcome the sun. Sotomayor had let loose a wild whinny, echoing from way out there, where he and the other hunters’ striders galloped atop the water. To dash across the lakes and oceans, the rivers and streams without a care in the world, tasting nothing but freedom and salt… Yaca wasn’t a fan of steaks carved from the massive blue dugongs hauled in post-hunt, nor did he enjoy the kebabs of barranha fish sloughed off warriors’ spears by the tens, but even his distaste didn’t override the jealousy of riding with the wind.

He was no rider. The waves rejected him.

As for brother, Taiburon… well. Family and servants alike often pretended not to know where the middle child was. Mother played ping-pong pretense with the maids every afternoon, volleying questions like Have you seen my son?, answered always by Not a glimpse, ma’am, because which son had gone galivanting never needed clarification. It was usually Yaca’s job to follow the stink of fermented guava and shamelessness to whichever trainees’ temple he’d charmed his way into after the matrons left for lunch.

Somewhere in the sandstone sprawl of Port Xacabal, the Commander of the Macaw clan was hard at work—if one considered profaning a sanctum of unsullied shamanesses work, anyway. Most of the girls would turn up their noses to his advances, but there were always a curious few.

That was the thing about chastity. It begged so hard to be broken.

“Your father wishes to tug your ear before you fly off to find your brother.” Yaca popped an eyebrow. Mother scoffed. “Come, now. The hunting party returned an hour ago. You’d think he was Jaguar, the way he toys with his food.”

“Or a circus master, the way he toys with his son,” Yaca grumbled, earning another swat. “Where is he?”

“The terrace.”

It was on the north side of the manor, farthest from the entrance. Yacaha passed through a maze of cathedral halls. Tan stone dripped with climbing ivies and jungle vines, glowing so green in the sun streaming through open-air windows that the air itself was tinted amber and emerald. Flowering plants, potted or otherwise—draping from the ceiling or bursting through natural cracks in the marble—lent mixed perfumes to the otherwise crisp breeze rolling in off Lake Jazai.

There was no other way to reach the terrace than to cross the Mausoleum. Yaca always found the name unsavory. He also found it appropriate.

It was the manor’s largest hall, its ceiling sweeping overhead. They needed to be to accommodate its tenant: the skeleton of a horned macaw as tall as the Jazai was deep, wings as long as Baguada’s kelp stands were high. Its massive beak was not open in a horrid screech, its talons not curled in threat. Instead, its head was craned downward as if to draw eye-to-eye with those looking upon it: the abyss gazing back at its watcher. As much as it disturbed him every time he passed through the Mausoleum, Yaca stopped not to admire, not to gawk, but maybe to pay respect.

Macaw, the Old Prince—a deity, a god—had died before. He’d returned as all things do, as forests do after a fire, but he’d died. He’d been killed. And while Yacaha didn’t know why Macaw had chosen him to be his avatar on the earthly plane, his Imperator, he’d never know. But he damn well wouldn’t be the Imperator under whose watch Macaw died again.

A small feather tattooed on his wrist vibrated, like a chest rumbling with amusement—maybe even a chuckle.

You should be so lucky, child.

Yaca couldn’t help but smirk on his way out. Go back to sleep, old man.

He hopped out onto the terrace with an exaggerated flourish. “You rang, m’lord?”

His littlest siblings, twins Guey and Karaya, mispronounced his name in that adorable way toddlers do before wobbling over as fast as their pudgy legs permitted. Scooping one on each hip, Yaca ambled to the table where mauby-steeped cacao fruit and pineapple sat atop a clay bowl of ice. A barely-touched rump of roast dugong—presumably fresh—steamed on the lunch tray.

Yaca’s father, dark and regal even in his sodden hunting suit, was more interested in the schooners racing on the water, the kayucos paddling by with their fishing nets. That was to say disinterested in the world around him completely, lost in thought.

“Father?” He set the twins down. After a curt nod, a nearby servant ushered the toddlers down the breezeway to play or nap or do whatever it is young children do. “You’ve left the priest to wallow in the study while you neglect your lunch and don’t talk to the son you summoned? Are we feeling ill?”

Father’s smile was wide, but no warmth touched his golden eyes. Yaca took a seat, shoving apprehension aside. His father was a smiling man, a kind man, a boisterous and energetic and funny man despite his royal station, so to see him rendered speechless by an unspoken worry made Yaca wish he’d never speak it.

“Y’know,” Yaca ventured, “as much as it warms my heart that you share my distaste for the divine Prickhead, I’m left wondering why he’s here in the first place.”

“What do you see out there?”

He followed his father’s line of sight across the lake, taking in the boats and reeds. “Well, there’s the obvious,” he said. “But I’ve got a nagging feeling you’re not talking about the waves. What do you expect me to see?”

The Cacique put a hand to his mouth, rubbing his knuckles across his lips. Not always a bad sign, but never a good one, either. “Something I cannot.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I.”

“With respect, might we do away with the cryptic talk and speak plainly?” Yaca popped a slice of mango in his mouth to rid it of sour spit. “I used to find suspense exciting, but in merely makes me anxious, now.” It was true. The fruit danced in his gullet—and it was a bad dancer. “Does this have something to do with the Priesthead?”

A sidelong glance said yes. Father thumbed his golden lip ring. “There are strange machinations at work in Lilithya,” he said. “Machinations neither of us understands.”

“There are always strange machinations in Lilithya, and if the priest doesn’t get them, he’s lying.”

He shook his head. “Not this time.”

“And you know this because he’s a dignified, noble, and honest man of the people—”

“Have you ever seen a priest cry?” Father cut in. He looked Yaca dead in the face. The idea and the look, together, tied Yaca’s stomach to an anchor: down, down, down it went into a sea of dread. “I hadn’t,” Father said. “Not until yesterday, when the Priesthead arrived at the manor unannounced, unprotected, and disguised in a hermit’s cloak.”

The Priesthead of Tevivea, of the supposed One God Between the Stars; Lord of the Spire of Parallax; second, and some might say first, most powerful man in all Lilithya, swallowing all his pride and then some to crawl to Macaw clan, to any Bazagran house naked of his shining vestments without so much as a welcome parade?

“I…” Yaca couldn’t finish the sentence. There were no sufficient words.

“Strange machinations,” Father repeated.

“The agreement.” The papers. A quill, an untouched teacup, an inkwell more than half-empty. “What is it for?”

Father paused. The word that followed nearly made Yaca puke.


“Protection?” Yaca whispered. “From what?”

“We do not know. Not yet. So tell me, Yacaha,” Father said. “What do you see?”

He saw boats and reeds. Saw the Jazai and its waves, the cranes and clouds in the sky. From behind his eyepatch, he saw black—not the black of blindness, but the black of something looming. Something with dark intent, but he couldn’t make out the silhouette inside. “I can’t see it.”

“Can he?”

“Macaw is sleeping,” Yaca muttered, idly stroking the feather mark on his wrist. “We’re on our own for now.”

Father grunted. Nodded. Turned back to the lake. Water dripped from his dark brown locs, pulled back in a braid that’d done nothing to protect it from sand and seaweed. “Be wary, son. Of the Lilithyan missionaries. The colonies. Gods, the other clans, even. We don’t know what this threat is, and we don’t know from which way it’s coming, whether they be one or many. Be careful,” he warned sincerely. “And keep both eyes open for us.”

“As you wish, Father.”

Yaca fought the urge to adjust his eyepatch. Father released a growling, bear-like sigh. Some of the tension dissolved when Father finally picked up his plate and sliced a filet of dugong.

“Now,” he said. “Go track down that disgraceful brother of yours, would you?”


“Y’know I’m an Imperator, not a babysitter, right?” Yaca stood anyway. “And Tai’s a grown man.”

“What is an Imperator if not a babysitter for the Old Prince?” Father joked, able to summon only a thimbleful’s mirth.

“Don’t let Macaw hear you say that,” Yaca tried. “I called him needy once and earned myself a hex. My sandal straps came undone every five minutes for a week.”

There was that booming laugh, the one that echoed down the breezeway and startled the egrets to flight. It lifted Yaca’s spirits, if only by an inch. “Go on, my boy.”

“As you wish.”

After tapping elbows—once for goodbye, twice for good luck—Yacaha hopped onto the rail, spider-monkeyed up a nearby pillar, and hauled himself onto the terrace’s stone awning with all the effort of a rabbit grazing its grass.


There were four temples scattered across Port Xacabal—Keen Eye, Long Talon, Hooked Beak, and Bright Wing—but Yaca knew his brother. The Women of the Wing dressed in nothing but feather skirts and shawls.

He dashed down tiers of terracotta roofs. Under clotheslines. Over gardens. Through swathes of vine draping down from overhead. His sandals clacked on the baked clay shingles, his long loincloth whipping his thighs. When he reached the peak of the royal dovecote—the second-highest point in the city, where macaws croaked and flew in and out—the clocktower across Peddler’s Square announced midday with a clang of bells. Down below, fruit sellers sold guava and figs; meat mongers proclaimed the freshness of steaks and sausage; farmers arranged bouquets of radicchio, butter lettuce, and vine-ripened tomatoes fit for artistic display. Here, the protection of the massive canopy of Port Xacabal’s famed ceiba tree ended. Half a mile tall and three miles long, it enrobed the upper city in hanging jungles, dripping vines, and a constant cascade of leaves. Its massive roots snaked through the cliff on which it stood, alongside and around the manor, branches shielding the wealthier districts from the punishing tropical heat: allowing only honeycombs of light to pass. This area, on the edge of its branches’ cover and beyond, was poorer, sure, but at least there was less birdshit, more palm trees, and the perfume of flourishing oleander, gardenia, and climbing jasmine ivy.

Protection, he thought. From what? He imagined the Priesthead weeping at the Cacique’s feet, begging for haven, and balked at the image.

Yaca sucked in the sights of men and maidens, the smells of flowers, feathers, and sweating bodies. In the distance, ships sailed through the sparkling turquoise delta connecting Port Xacabal’s great lake with the sea dividing Bazagra and Lilithya, surrounding the latter island nation in the world’s biggest moat. To Lilithyan ports, sloops carried cargos of salt fish, mauby sugar, and coca coffee, while catamarans ferried passengers bound for foreign harbors. Yaca was no sailor, just as he was no good on the back of a water horse, but his admiration of the waves had persisted since childhood, ever since he failed to learn how to swim.

He was much better at acrobatics.

“Trim that loincloth any higher and we’ll have a scandal on our hands, Mister Commander.” Yaca swung up between two marble columns, looking down at the sacred scrying pool his brother saw fit to bathe in. The ladies flocking him squealed. Feathers floated on the surface as the less dedicated adherents shamefully gathered their wet shifts and scuttled out into the temple proper.

“Imperator,” they acknowledged, passing beneath Yaca with downturned heads. “Imperator. Imperator. Imperator.”

They’d left scents of geranium and cactus pear behind on Taiburon’s broad chest, or perhaps that was the pool’s perfumed water. Yaca wouldn’t know: the Temple Ponds were banned from menfolk, a rule Tai callously ignored. Gold glitter dusted his cheekbones. Made gold bars of his clavicles, amber cosmos on his brow. The latest nobleman’s fad traded brute strength for effeminate beauty—one Tai leaned into and then betrayed as he stood, unfurling from the water to his full and muscular 6’6” height.

“Four, huh?” Yaca said. “A new record for you.”

“Three and a half.”

Yaca dropped down from the perch above, landing on his brother’s shoulder blades and knocking him gut-first to the ground. The skin of fermented guava wine fell off Taiburon’s belt.

“That’s right.” Yaca stepped down from Tai’s back as he would a rotten log, rubbing the back of his head. “Three and a half…” Yaca nudged the wineskin with his foot. It was empty. He kicked it. “Macaw’s foot, brother, this is medicine! These women, these young ladies, you might’ve just ruined their chance at becoming something greater.” He sloshed a sandaled foot through the Pond and splashed Tai with a wave. It was already profaned, after all. “You’ve stolen the lives of the snakebite victims who needed this wine to recover. You’ve stolen the futures of girls with Prince-given gifts, who can be tossed to the curb as harlots for so much as kissing your cheek! And for what? So you can drown your jealousies in drink and park your sorrows in a wheelhouse that isn’t your betrothed’s because you know she prefers the stableboy?”

Tai was big. It made his blows slow.

Yaca was small. It made dodging second nature.

“Brother, stop this.” Yaca danced away, where he could speak without being interrupted by a fist. “Rumors of your antics have become whispers in the clans, and our family can’t afford to lose its—”

“We are not family!” Taiburon thundered. “You are not my brother.”

Yaca’s tongue went dry. No words could grow there without rain, and the drought was long.

Taiburon turned, amber eyes bloodshot with drink and the angry half-truths that so often came with them. “Imperator Yacaha. The great zemeyek. What a crock.” He spat at Yaca’s feet. Spittle sprayed his toes. “Yellow Yacaha. That’s what they should call you. Whenever has there been born a son of the Macaw with skin like yours? With squinty eyes that cannot see? Or should I say… eye?” The eyepatch grew heavy. “Go on and tell your tales on how you lost it, but smart money says it was carved out by the henchmen of a collector of freakish curiosities. Could probably find it in a dusty jar if I scour the shops hard enough down on Espenshade’s Row. What do you think?” Circling the domed temple, Taiburon plowed through chaise lounges, wooden stands, clay pots of flowers. Yaca mirrored the movement backward. “Princes live! If all I had to do was pop out of some unmarked crate of prawns down by the docks to become Imperator, I’d have hands-and-kneed it through the castle sewers on stew night when I was a youngin, and be the Lilithyan King by now!”

“You’re drunk, brother.” Yaca kept his tone neutral, pretending the words didn’t sting. “I recommend sleeping off your stupidity before embarrassing yourself further.”

The mammoth of a man stomped through the Pond, rearing back for a punch, but when it ballista-fired, Yaca ducked to the right, leapt up, and used Tai’s wrist as a launchpad to find safe haven on the perch above. Normally such an escape would’ve left him adrenaline-high, but rotten fatigue harried him. Tai’s words were like toxic mold, and spread because they were… well, they were true, weren’t they?

A hurricane-force sigh stirred the grit below, where Tai’s fist left a crater in the wall. His knuckles were white with ash, julienned red where the rock had scissored through his skin. “Yaca—”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“No, I just—”

“It’s fine. You’re drunk, and from the look of things, you didn’t quite get what you came for. I’d say it’s time to head home before we collapse the temple. What say you?”

“I’m sorry.”

“I know.”

Yaca whistled a breath through pursed lips, following the dome’s curved catwalk to follow his brother, below, to the door. He looked down at himself: saw olive feet between leather straps. Reached up at his head: felt silky black, so long and straight the ties barely held it. And his eyes? Well. They spoke for themselves, didn’t they?

There’d never been born a son of the Macaw with skin like his. Never one with narrow eyes that supposedly could not see. Yaca tried all his life to give up the title of Imperator, of Macaw’s zemeyek; to relinquish it to his sister Juraka, the one person willing and capable of performing his duties but That’s not how it works, little godling.

His parents loved him for his station. His siblings, likewise, hated him for it. Little Guey and Karaya were too young to hate, but once they learned the ropes they’d hate him for it, too.

For the macaw feathers tattooed down his arms, legs, and back. For the way they glowed ultraviolet and vibrated, lifting from his flesh to suspend in a field of antigravity whenever a threat ripped a hole in the veil separating men from chaos. For the fact that he was born with them.

“Macawborne,” something hissed. “Macawborne.”

Sobered by an impending threat, the brothers exchanged nods. Taiburon cranked his baritone up and out until it became a warning siren to Clear out! and Run away! and Get inside your homes! He didn’t look back as he tore up Honeysuckle Hill toward the Manor. To their family. To their warband, starved after six weeks without a fight.


Yaca jumped and landed in a deep squat at the zenith of the temple archway. Rainbow feathers whipped around him. The screams of birds engulfed him. Black antimatter roiled in one hand; ball lightning cracked in the other, and as the avian tornado raged, elements of another world wept through his veins.

“It’s a lovely language, Marawak,” he yelled at the breach, teal eye ablaze. “You really should try learning more than one word.”

When the feathers settled and the screeching faded, all that remained was dust.

Nervous chatter echoed from the rift. The beasts had every right to be nervous.

Once the dust settled, there was still a man where Yaca once stood. One with olive skin, Narrow eyes. A man who didn’t belong in Bazagra.

But from his shoulders spread great macaw’s wings, forged of obsidian and void. A large macaw’s skull, cut in half, concealed the right side of his face. The upper beak ran down his nose; the lower detached, articulated to his jaw. From the cavernous socket where his eyepatch used to be streamed glowing mist. Half violet. Half black. This eye, this half, was no longer sightless, no longer blind—and no longer his alone.

“I can teach you new words,” he said in two voices. “Let’s start with run.”

About the Author

When this marine ecologist isn’t yelling at Congressmen to save sharks and whales, Brianna spends her spare time writing. A chronic wanderer originally from New York, she enjoys long walks through the cemetery and short walks to fridges full of leftovers. She prides herself on embracing literary themes most might find uncomfortable. Her cat and her parents are her biggest supporters. In that order.
Find her online at

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