A cold wind blew a face-full of rancid soot into Hakha’s face. Damn. They had been hoping to secure the windcatcher before the next storm rolled in off the mountains. She pulled her mask up over her face, taking one last quick swig of water before she did so. Pulling her goggles down around her eyes, she signalled to the rest of her team to start wrapping up. Once the wind picked up, they would be ashed out; this was the last site in their contract, and she would hate to start losing people now.

“Okay people,” she said, once she had scaled the face of the half-finished tower and dropped to the ground. “Storm is coming in, let’s rope up.” They dutifully began tying a thick length of rope around each other’s waists, checking to ensure the strength of the knots.

Once they were done, Hakha checked their location against the map. An hour’s walk back to base camp, and then a two hour ride to Vayden, Ashworld’s northernmost city.

It was a city that Hakha was still adjusting to, all narrow alleys and neon-lit dive bars. She was from Cindertown, and the change in scenery had initially set her on edge. She missed the constant pounding of the surf, the way the pilings moved subtly with the changes in tide. She missed the constant influx of sailors, and their stories of the high seas. In Vayden, the only stories were sordid local gossip, the only friends old drinking buddies. Luckily, her contract was almost up, and as soon as she didn’t have to be here anymore, she wouldn’t.

But building wind catchers was good money, and Hakha could hardly pass it up. Like most windcatchers, they were placed to capture the cold fronts that routinely came in off of Mount Hycretia to the north. Once rigged with copper coils and the proper machinery, they would be capable of generating the energy that made Ashworld one of the riches lands in Tybrus, that kept the lights of cities like Vayden and Cindertown glowing.

As the wind picked up, Hakha thought she heard a soft chittering in the fog. Nervously, she glanced over her shoulder, but saw only the silhouettes of her team members, lashed together. Good. She knew that they were superstitious, and the last thing she needed was a panic. All they had to do was get back to their vehicles and then they would be safe. Just for comfort, Hakha checked her side arm.

Locked and loaded.

As the storm intensified, so did the chittering, until eventually Hakah could no longer pretend that it was all in her head.

“We’ve got company!” she shouted through her mask, giving the rope a firm tug to indicate that they should make haste. Doubling up her pace, her team set out at a jog, buffeted by ash blown by the steadily intensifying wind.

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