ii) The many-hued potions, tinctures, ethers, and suchlike

The many-hued potions, tinctures, ethers, and suchlike sparkle under the sun. Cang and Shyan crack the lids of each crate so the bird-thing can see.

“Hail stranger,” Fassn says, raising a hand. He flaps his wilted wings. “I too know the joys of the skies.”

The bird-thing waves him off. “The bottles, what’s in ’em?”

“Magical blends of spectacular potency,” Cang says. “Perhaps you and your compatriots are desirous of a closer look? You’ll find wares most exquisitely rare.”

Shyan gives him a look. Fassn tries to get aloft. Abianarin brings a rough sheet of paper from her satchel and makes a chalk rubbing of the bony palisade.

The bird-like thing above disappears. A moment later, the great gates heave and crash open.

“I guess this is our invitation,” Shyan says. She hammers the crates’ lids back into place and hefts them into the city.

Expansive avenues of dust and dry rock run at wild angles in all directions. Buildings of squat stone, each with only one or two crude windows, are piled atop one another. Many edges and corners are worn, crumbled, and decayed, and in some places, scored, as though in a great crash. Some of the rambling buildings are reinforced with long yellow bones.

The bird-thing stands before them, its lumpy grey flesh mostly concealed by a faded but opulent robe. It stands half again as tall as Fassn and Abia. “C’mon,” it says, in a lisping voice. “Gimme the juicies.”

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