A pause only Winnifletch herself notices, a twinge in her guts as she unsacks the gull that Gert Mews has lugged to her sea-spindle shack. Dazed but not dead, the bird crawks down onto her workbench. Think of shearwater honey, Winni tells herself, with predictions truer than gold. She grabs its fat fluttersome breast. Jams it wings-and-all between her vise’s steel jaws. Holds firm. Don’t think of shattered sailors.
Outside, the cries of the blood locusts swelled, as they would until month's end. These creatures writhed below ground for seven years before breaching the surface to feast on fruits and flesh alike. It was during the prior plague that she'd set foot in this shanty for the first time, foolish and desperate, in search of her own bloody accord. By the daemons' whispers, it would be during another such plague—this one, with any luck—that she'd regain her freedom. But if the daemons lied, or if her replacement failed to arrive—