v) “Perhaps a reward with more materiality”

“Perhaps a reward with more materiality would whet the appetite of my compatriots,” Cang says. “As pleasant as your domain no doubt is–” he adds, through clenched, clattering teeth, “–we have no wish to rule it.”

“What my friend means is we’ll help you,” Shyan says. “And afterwards I trust that you’ll help us.”

Cheers, woops, and general merriment spring up from the taciturn creatures. They slap their fleshy podlike fingers with one another in celebration. Some Jiko sing.

“Thank you, most marvelous surface dwellers,” the leader says. “I will show you to our grim house of horrors, where the evidence of Grumalla’s deviance is kept. Come.”

The Jiko shows them bloodied, broken cribs, shredded clothing, masticated toys.

“Grumalla big,” Abia says.

Spreading his arms to get the length of a plaster cast bearing the giant print of a taloned creature, Fassn says, “I don’t want to live as a god.”

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