The word given form.

Sundown makes her own spells, pulled screaming and bloody from the red meat of her body; view of tendon, sick white glimpse of living bone. The breath of empire, hot in her throat.

Her supplicants are dying from inexpressible rages. She takes the print of the boot on their face and shapes her words sharper than swords. Poison to pour in the cochlear ear. She finds demons and gods in trash cans, overpasses, rusted-out train tracks. The amniotic tang of decaying iron in a steel-gray puddle.

“I need a man killed,” one says, and she smiles. “I need everyone killed, dead in their beds.”

“Stand on this space,” she tells one. “Hold the hot wax close to your hair. Dig the sigils out of your flesh.” White tracks like bird marks. “Work your fingers deep in the wound.”

Downhill the universities throw parties, grow monsters; trade goes roaring in and out at the docks. There is a saying, popular in the dives: soft power is a hard ruler.

Sundown gnaws her way back.