iv) “So do we,” Fassn says

“So do we,” Fassn says. “We’re trapped in an icy cavern full of slimy tadpole folk.”

Shyan slaps his shoulder.

“Consider your manners when a guest in the home of another,” Cang says.

The Jiko ignores the interruption, holds its arms aloft, fleshy, webbed fingers splayed. In a rich baritone — tough to imagine such a voice coming from such a runty creature — it extols the virtues of the Jiko society, deep in the frosty underground, with an air of repetition, like this exhortation is standard-issue.

“But,” it says, letting the word fall heavily.

The crackling of flames seems all too loud. Abianarin takes a hesitant step away from the fire.

“Then came Grumalla,” the Jiko says.

The others, watching intently with their wet, blank eyes, take up a hushed chant: “Grumalla, Grumalla.”

“It slays our young in the night,” their leader continues.

“It takes our children!” another shouts.

“Transforms them!”

“Silence!” their leader suddenly booms. Again, only the sounds of kindling fill the cavern. After another dramatic pause, it continues. “So, surface dwellers. Is your courage a match to the task? Will you find Grumalla, and end the terror of the Jiko? When the deed is done, you shall live as gods under the ice.”

“Gods?” Fassn asks.

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