iv) Shyan and Abia lock eyes

Shyan and Abia lock eyes. Abia shrugs. Shyan pops the lid off a crate at random, pulls out a guacamole-green phial the size of Cang’s forefinger. She shows it to her friends, then lobs it to the bird-thing, who catches it gracefully, despite its bulk.

It tosses the phial into the maw under its fleshy beak. The gang hears the crunch of glass.

All but Abia are motionless in a moment of heavy expectation. She’s oh-so-slowly folding the paper rubbing she’d made.

The bird-thing hiccups. Cang’s eyes bulge, his weapons ready.

Then the bird-thing grows. Its fleshy bulk expands, its cells multiplying inconceivably. Soon it’s unable to support its weight, and it flaps its useless wings. It stares down with rage at our four heroes, who are desperately dragging the crates away.

It loses its balance and crashes backwards, taking with it the enormous bone palisades, and many of the rough-hewn buildings besides.

“We’ll never find buyers like this,” Cang says.

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