ii) “And this god of yers is a birdman like y’self?”

“And this god of yers is a birdman like y’self? Goodness, is it the big fella what’s grumblin’ in anger, back where I picked y’all up?” The grasshopper rubs his legs together, producing a wiry sound.

“Old Ajralan is no ‘birdman,’ grasshopper,” Fassn says. “He is the worlds’ connoisseur, an aesthete of highest order.” He bows. “I am Fassn, his fingertips, his eardrums, his taste buds.”

Cang snorts. Fassn whirls on him. “Something funny little man?”

Cang bristles and by instinct his hand finds his dagger’s hilt. “Watch your words, taste buds,” he says.

“Boys, boys, I won’t be havin’ no fightin’ on my wagon. My old beast of burden’s fickle, like to stick and run as pull on through, gettin’ up into her years as she is.”

Shayn sits up. “Where are we going?”

i) The grasshopper tells tall tales of tall reeds

The grasshopper tells tall tales of tall reeds. His home is far afield, under a bramble, by a stream. He lives with his wife and three children, all grasshoppers themselves.

“Normally we’s afraid of folks like y’all,” he says, gesturing to Fassn, with his gauzy wings. “Birds and the like’s wont to eat grasshoppers like us, stature or no.”

Fassn says, “I’m not a bird.”

“No, I suppose not,” the grasshopper says.

“I’m a devoted servant and appendage of Old Ajralan.”

“Who’s that now?”

Fassn looks to his companions, exasperated.

“A god Fassn believes in,” Shyan says.

“Spirit man,” Abia adds.

The grasshopper blinks his compound eyes. Fassn scoffs.