Chapter 24.5

Geetsha didn’t bleed. Riss didn’t know how to describe it. The girl came apart in a shower of white powder, as if Vosk’s shot had penetrated a bag of flour rather than a living person.

Drifting like ash from a forest fire, flakes of white scattered down all along the clearing. One landed on Riss’ machete. She lifted the blade toward her face and touched the substance, marveling at it as it flaked away into smaller pieces, disintegrating at her touch.

“What the fuck,” whispered Torcha. Then she sneezed.

Riss glanced over, saw Torcha wiping an ashen smear off her face. Flaky bits of Geetsha rained down on all of them, and then the world went blurry. Riss blinked. Torcha staggered. The barrel of her rifle wavered.

Vosk stared at the spot where Geetsha had been standing, aghast, his face dusted white. Her clothing, blown apart by the force of the powdery explosion, settled in shreds on the ground. His features stricken, Vosk gagged, turning aside.

When he turned, he spotted Calay, still crouched near the tree. He’d partially freed the man trapped in the roots, and he froze like a cornered animal when Vosk’s attention centered on him.

“Don’t do it,” Calay murmured. White flakes drifted down into his eyes and he blinked, coughing.

In that moment of distraction, Vosk drew his other pistol and shot Calay in the stomach.

He fell like a normal man, clutching his midsection as blood erupted from his back.

No no no. Everything was spiraling out of control. Riss had to put a stop to this, or at least slow it all down somehow, before anyone else got hurt. She tried to call out to Vosk, but her tongue felt swollen and useless against her teeth.

Riss took a step forward, or rather tried. Her body wasn’t behaving. A tingling sensation started in her feet and hands, then spread up her limbs.

“Tuh…Tor…”

She tried to say Torcha’s name. Tried to ask if she was all right. Torcha’s rifle tumbled with a muted thunk to the ash-dotted earth. She collapsed atop it.

Riss’ legs buckled. Somewhere, Adal said her name, but her peripheral vision was a haze of grey.

She hit the ground hard, unconscious before she got there.

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