i) Cold runs through every fibre of the ugobok’s form

Cold runs through every fibre of the ugobok’s form. It’s the chill of a vacuum, an inescapable void. The snake’s blood vessels expand and solidify. Abia’s magic courses through it. The initial shock gives way to a longer, duller ache, and soon the ugobok finds moving its body difficult. It thrashes in a panic — fear it hasn’t felt in the face of creatures like this for an age — and catches Shyan with its powerful tail, throwing her bodily against a nearby tree.

Air rushes from her lungs as the snake’s flesh crystallizes. Abia, having left a small blue handprint on the snake’s skin, hurries to the clearing’s edge and hides in the underbrush. Cang swings down from the spire and loosens the Eckman knot with a stylish flick of the wrist, then uses the rope to bind the snake’s mouth, making great vertical leaps to get around the fang-filled maw.

The ugobok’s orange eyes gleam.

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