ii) Burbaloo’s confident grin disappears

Burbaloo’s confident grin disappears. Shyan and Cang share a look of concern, while Fassn, laying in the grass, wiggles his incisors. “I think these are coming loose,” he says to no one in particular. Abia, meanwhile, is a few paces away, examining a sprawling patch of regular-sized puffball mushrooms that populates the clearing.

“Miss Burbaloo,” Mr. Jashenzizok says. “The dipyetrodranhar, please. Let us get your friends squared away. Then we shall discuss next steps.”

Burbaloo the alchemist’s lips work but the sound that emerges is a breathless wheeze, at best. Shyan leans in to hear. A wash of rage comes over her face before she regains her composure: the work of an instant.

“She says we don’t have any.”

“Don’t have any?” Cang blurts. He smacks a crate with his open palm. “All this, still, we don’t have any?” He storms over to the complicated alembic and gives it a petulant kick. “We don’t have any?”

Suddenly a tiny knife appears in his hand. “Oh well,” he continues. “I suppose we’d best be compensated. Then we’ll be on our way.”

“Well, my minuscule friend,” Mr. Jashenzizok says. “Were that it were so simple. You see, dipyetrodranhar is the critical ingredient in one of my most popular transfigurations.”

Abia looks up, suddenly interested.

“The transfiguration,” Mr. Jashenzizok goes on, “of mushrooms to gold.”

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