i) The hike from the ugobok’s spire is a slog

The hike from the ugobok’s spire is a slog. Carefully balancing the snake’s massive tear duct in her arms, Shyan struggles to keep her boots from getting sucked into the muck. After a few days of Fassn complaining that his gums hurt — an unbearable pressure drives from within them — the gang arrives in the clearing of Mr. Jashenzizok.

He and Burbaloo, the alchemist, gather around an iron cookpot the size of a bath tub. The bubbling cocoction within smells of mushrooms and herbs. They chatter quietly to one another in excited tones, unaware of the party’s arrival. Shyan lets the tear duct fall to the ground, and the sudden movement attracts Burbaloo and Mr. Jashenzizok’s attention. Shyan notices the field of puffball mushrooms — the ones Mr. Jashenzizok promised to transmute to gold — is empty, stripped away of all but a few tiny white puffs.

She looks to the simmering soup, then back to the empty field.

Fassn takes a deep whiff of the pot. “Yum,” he says. “Mushroom.”

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