Word count: 85,000
When fifteen-year-old Edna discovers an expensive pocket watch hanging around her little brother's neck, she is afraid he stole it. As she tears the watch off, her brother crumbles into a pile of cogs. Horrified, Edna flees into the city streets for help, but encounters Ike, a thief who attempts to steal the watch before he realizes what it is—a device to power Coglings.
According to Ike, hags kidnap children to work in their factories and replace their bodies with Coglings—clockwork changelings. Desperate to rescue her brother, Edna sets off across the kingdom to the hags' swamp, with Ike in tow. There, they learn Coglings are also replacing nobility so the hags can stage a rebellion and rule over humanity. Edna and Ike must stop them, but the populace believes hags are helpful godmothers and healers – no one wants to believe a servant and a thief, especially when Ike has secrets that could label them both as traitors. The two must make the kingdom trust them or stop the hags themselves, even if Ike must embrace his dark heritage and Edna must surrender her family.
The window slid up with a squeak. Green smoke slithered up the side of the tenement and drifted over the cracked sill onto the floor. It lifted toward the ceiling, solidifying into the shape of a woman. Crimson curls framed the hag’s narrow face, shadowed by the deep hood of her cloak.
The scent of lavender hovered on the hag’s robes, clashing with the smell of must that clung to the small room. Two brass-framed beds took up most of the floor. Blankets covered the sleeping lumps atop them. The little boy on the bed wheezed against the head of his stuffed bear, drool dripping onto the brown wool. The hag tiptoed to the bed across from the door and, from the folds of her enchanted cloak, drew out a mechanical square almost four feet long. She set the square on the floor at her feet and frowned at the sleeping teenager – too old to be of any use. The girl faced the wall, with the threadbare blankets tugged around her chin.
The hag removed a vial and a rag from her skirt pocket. Holding her breath, she dribbled three drops onto the rag, yanked the teddy bear away, and shoved the cloth against the child’s mouth. His eyes opened wide, his gasp muffled, and his body jerked.
By the seven saints, she should’ve cast a sleeping spell over the girl, in case the boy made too much commotion.
“The Dark Mother will string you up, Simone,” she cursed herself.