Her attention wavered for merely a moment and just like that there was an arm around her neck, tight as a lover’s noose. The hand fumbled at the collar of her shirt and she started counting the number of her days.

“Ears,” it hissed. “Where are your ears, girl?”

Cedar made a strangled sound and the arm loosened, just slightly, enough for her to croak, “None, none!”

“Tourist,” it cursed, and spat, trail of spittle wet as sea foam down her cheek. The arm winched tight. Cedar waved her hands urgently, fumbled at her belt for the knife the guards at the gate had given her, thin as their smiles, and pushed it tendondeep in the arm. It chuckled happily and threw her to the muck of the street. “Grow sharp, little eagle, and grow wise; perhaps you’ll gather your ears yet.”

She was alone on the street, bruise blossoming on her throat and shirt bedaubed with blood, true red flag of citizenship. Cedar coughed and shook and regretted mightily the impulse that brought her twice to Wieroo.