ii) The creatures blink only rarely

The creatures blink only rarely: rapid, nervous movements that ripple through the crowd. Their eyelids are vertical, closing over the centre of their pallid eyeballs.

Some of the bigger ones scuttle closer. Their bodies are fat sausages, with four limbs, each ending in a hand-like appendage with four fleshy fingers. At the end of each finger is a sticky, sucking pad — a ripple of audible pops follows the creatures’ movements.

One of the things gets within a stone’s easy throw of the party, and halts. It stands uneasily upon its hind legs, and in a strained, gurgling voice, speaks. “Well met and welcome,” it says. “This is our humble home beneath the ice. Please, stay with us through the night, for it is so very cold.”

“We’ve been doing pretty well with camping, thanks,” Fassn says, though his gaze betrays his words, lingering lasciviously as it does upon the fire.

“Please, warm yourselves,” the creature says. “We are the Jiko, and we have lived in these caverns for age upon age. You are our guests. We live to serve.”

The other creatures stay perfectly still and silent, save for the cascade of unsettling blinks that make fairy lights of their eyes.

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