The coal chute is what I imagine a snake’s belly to be like— cold, cramped, and dark. I slide through the soot-tainted air and land with a dull thump upon a goose-down mattress. A gargoyle’s high-pitched scream vibrates the metal overhead, along with several loud clangs.
Scrambling up, I look quickly ‘round. My favorite knife had made the descent ahead of me, knocked from my hand as I’d dived for the chute. Before I can spy it, my partner flies out in a blur of dark clothing and pale skin— and lands with an audible hiss of pain.
I grimace at Benjamin, hoping some soft, vital part of him hadn’t found my knife in landing. My concern abates as he clambers off the mattress, his head bent over his hand. Set in the soft pad of his palm is a small hole. Though Nighters often incur injury over their nail-studded shields, the occasional puncture wound is infinitely better than being taken by a gargoyle.
Puncture wounds can heal; a caught and carried means certain death.
“Would this be yours?”
The cellar guard holding out my knife isn’t one I recognize. As word of us has grown, the Nighters have swelled in rank, drawing others with a desire to protect our city. I take the knife with murmured thanks and return it to my pistol belt.
Below the leather, my hip aches; there’s nothing comfortable about landing on pistol butts and unforgiving knife handles.