v) “No, you can’t,” Shyan replies

“No, you can’t,” Shyan replies. She straightens her spine and adds, “Can they?”

“Nope, no, no,” Fassn says. He struggles to his feet, raises a club. “We’ve got a soup brewin’.”

The brigands chuckle. Their leader’s eyes reflect the steel in his hand, and the mirth ends.

Cang darts into the woods and a few moments later appears ’round the back of the half-dozen men, a short bow raised with deadly intent.

Abia, meanwhile, stands with Larry at the cliff’s edge, tenderly rubbing his mane, her eyes a flat mask. She watches the road people, who talk animatedly in whispered tones. At last, they appear to agree, and both the man and woman stand tall alongside Shyan, hafting improvised weapons of dubious value.

“This wagon’s ours,” the man says.

“These people, too,” says the woman.

The bandits turn to one another, ill at ease with such a show of opposition. Their leader spits and sheathes his knife.

Shyan gives them the road people a nod. “Tell your son to go stir the soup.”

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