v) Neither Shyan, Fassn, nor Cang can understand the horse

Neither Shyan, Fassn, nor Cang can understand the horse — but Abia can. She slips under the porous surface of reality and swims slowly beneath. To her ears, the horse speaks her own mother tongue, with a fluency and clarity of expression rare even for native speakers.

The horse is casually surprised to speak with a person, but maintains his composure.

“Friend horse,” Abia says, as her teammates watch helplessly on. “Praytell, know you the destination of your former stable-mate? His companion has swindled us with the help of dread sorcery. We would be most appreciative for any aid you may see fit to bestow.”

The horse whinnies, looks about to his other stabled cousins. “He went off with her, just another horse, following a person’s command.”

Abia nods. The horse continues. “The one with the funny hat whipped the poor bastard, and hooked him up to a wagon, carrying a bunch of crates.”

Abia relays the word “crates” to her friends. They lean in, as though that might help them understand.

“And where were they destined?” Abia asked.

“She said something about Almery.”

The colour drains from Abia’s face at the mention of that dread place. “Are you sure,” she asks, swallowing hard against a newfound stone in her throat, “she said Almery?”

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