i) After the bandits depart


After the bandits depart, Shyan, Fassn, Cang, Abia, and the road people sit down to an evening meal of hardtack. The road people’s son idly stirs the golden mushroom soup while his parents eat. The embers are low but the boy’s technique is excellent: smooth, slow, deep strokes keep the soup from burning, and the heady stench of molten gold fills the darkening copse where the group takes its repast.

Beyond the growing twilight gloom lies the port town of Gabjeoš, the group’s destination. From their vantage, they can see tiny fires springing up throughout the town.

Though no one speaks, they’re all glad to see the town. The hardtack is running out, and the road people’s son stares deep into the golden pot during his stirring shifts, for which he’s volunteered rather often. His parents stand aloof from him, watching him with dispassion, whispering quietly to one another.

Shyan calls an end to the repast. “Early night tonight, friends. We’ll be in Gabjeoš by morning.”

As her companions break for rest, Shyan asks the road people’s son if he wants to take first watch. He grunts without looking and continues to stir.


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