Hebenon: The Scarecrow Trials Book 1

The watcher did not wait. When the black-beaked horrors, the tails of their long coats flapping behind them like wings as they ran, passed beneath him, he dropped, using the slick metal pole to swing around, leveraging his descent with practiced ease. His own black boots, designed as the Crows’ were for running on wet surfaces, yet altered for stealth, caught the second Crow full on, one planted in his chest, the other across the throat to throw the figure, coughing and spluttering, into a collection of recyclables awaiting pick up. The Crow hit his head on the wall after a surprised squawk and lay still.

The tagger, hearing the tumult at last, dropped the spray can and ran blindly in the other direction, narrowly avoiding a fall into the fish pits teaming with the city’s major food source.

Torn between pursuing the target and addressing the commotion behind him, the lead Crow spun mid-step, thumper swinging in the hopes of connecting with whatever threat was behind him.

The smaller figure, masked, head covered to be unrecognizable, dropped and rolled under the swinging black stick. The thumper clipped his shoulder, and then hissed through empty air. His roll brought him to his feet within inches of the Crow, mechanical eyes making contact long enough for the shorter individual to snatch at the vent line of the Crow’s breathing unit with lightning speed.

Surprised, gasping to breathe, thumper falling as hands scrambled for the flailing end of the line attached to it, the Crow staggered back two steps and slumped to his knees. Breathing without the mask was not impossible: most in Hebenon did without such units every day. But great exertion required greater oxygen, less damp in the air…and for those unaccustomed to it, it could be a shock to adjust to.

If the Crow came from the Uppers, such an adjustment would be a necessity.

He dropped to roll again, snatching up the thumper as he moved beyond the struggling man’s flailing grasp. His roll took him sideways, brought him to his feet, and after a single blow of the thumper to the Crows helmeted head, he was away again, a leap and a swing and a push off the nearest wall landing him back on an upper grated ledge. He disappeared down the path between buildings without being seen, without a second look at the protest the tagger had left behind.

He knew what the words would be.

Death to Kistama. Death to the lord of donkey balls.

Anyone in Hebanthe Falls viewing it knew exactly whom the message was for. It was the same all over the Levs. And if the moisture in the air did not erode it away within the next ten minutes, as it was already trying to do, bleeding the bright yellow paint down the wet wall of gray metal to drip into the churning river, so would anyone in the Uppers who saw it next.