v) “I am kinda hungry”

“I am kinda hungry,” Fassn says. Cang gives him a regretful look that straightens Fassn’s spine. “But Old Ajralan has had his fill this day,” he says. “Not, though, his fill, of you.”

The alchemist blinks. Her horse whinnies as Abia murmurs to it.

“I’ve got plenty of delicious steaks here,” the alchemist calls out, with a deliberately seductive inflection. Her hand creeps toward her coat, seeking a pocket within. “Just let me get them for you,” she says.

Shyan pulls her horse alongside the wagon, gets up close to the alchemist. Suddenly, her hand finds her coat, and like the strike of a viper, she withdraws and shatters a flask. It releases a thick cloud of oily smoke, and a noxious odour.

“Blek, it’s worse than the dome,” Fassn says.

The alchemist springs from her seat but her face finds Shyan’s pummel. A quick crack later and her dazed form slumps to the ground. Cang springs upon her, binds her to her horse. He yanks her pointed hat off, revealing a lined face screened by a mop of ashen hair. He tries it on, finds it to his liking. It sits low upon his bald head.

“If you kill me,” the alchemist rasps, “you’ll never find the money.”

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