v) A cookpot full of liquid gold bubbles and churns, wafting harsh, metallic vapours up through the vale.

A cookpot full of liquid gold bubbles and churns, wafting harsh, metallic vapours up through the vale. It simmers like a pot of viscous soup. Its roiling contents are the hue of a late summer sunset in one’s home village.

“Can we have it now?” Fassn asks. “I can’t chew so soup is perfect.” He winces and rubs at his gums. He feels a small, hard point, emerging from the soft tissue. “There’s something in here.”

“Is it done?” Shyan looks to Abia first, who nods once, nearly imperceptible.

Mr. Jashenzizok bobs his mushroom head with obvious glee. “The transmogrification is complete! Friends, this has been an utmost joy. For too long was I trapped in that detestable mushroomy body, away from my spells and alembics. Working on this project — what a treat. Give yourselves a hand.” He claps, and Burbaloo joins in a minute later.

Blood flushes Shyan’s face. “Listen, she robbed us, remember? This pot of gold is the least you can do.”

“When can we move it?” Cang asks. He licks his lips.

Fassn kicks the shredded remains of the ugobok tear duct. “Can I eat this, at least?”

“Move it? Where do you want to move it?” Burbaloo asks, her confusion evident.

Cang blinks. “To a town? To sell? So we can retire and be done with this nonsense?”

Fassn’s boot has become stuck in the duct. He struggles to remove it. “One is never done with nonsense!”

“Well of course you’re free to move it,” Burbaloo says. “But how will you move the fire?”

Shyan stares daggers at Burbaloo from behind purposefully calm, half-lidded eyes. “What?”

“The fire. The transmogrification will reverse if the soup gets cold.”

Fassn perks up. “So it’ll be mushroom again?”

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