The days of the week lined up like buckets, ready to catch whatever fell in. And, like the buckets the volunteer fire brigade left standing in the square in Verdure, they caught mostly sand, thought Belyn Morrow ruefully.

There were days she felt resigned, could sign the papers officially scrapping the Epiphany, could review her decommissioning documents with ease and professionalism.

But most days she felt as empty as the scoured landscape outside the window of her lodgings. Even the storms that wracked Loess found a mirror in her emotions, lost as she was without the sky. At night the thousand stars mocked her with their distance. Once, you came among us, they sang. And now look at you.

Some days, her buckets were filled with impotent tears. Did you think you were a god, she raged at Emmion Verrill. Did you think you were so clever that morals, rules did not apply to you? Where are you now, but hung from your balcony forever, a burnt corpse watching the sky that rained not salvation but fire.

Other days, she grasped nothing but air.

Today held a paper, crisp and clean, New Blood money and advertisements still, even after the loss of the stars. A name, the Jade Dragon, and a promised commission “for the right captain.”

She could read between the lines. Years of being one of the few female pilots had taught her. The dirigible was classically constructed. Old. The crew tight-knit. Undisciplined, after the loss of a captain. Still, something in her stirred that had not since she left her heart aboard the Epiphany.

Today, when she stared into the storm, she read wind patterns, chances of survival for a ship adrift.

And in the patterns of the shifting sands, she read stars.

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