iv) Within the wagon, Fassn stirs the golden soup

Within the wagon, Fassn stirs the golden soup with both hands gripping a spoon. The road people’s son sits beside him, a shivering wreck, his forehead purple and swollen, his eyes puffy and red. He sputters, coughs, hacks up particulate — some of which floats into the soup. Fassn hums a tuneless song and otherwise ignores the boy.

Outside, the storm rages. Abianarin, hood drawn over her eyes, rests a hand on Larry’s mane, to keep him from spooking as lightning strikes around them. Shyan, Cang, and the road people push the wagon from behind, rocking its warped wheels slowly through grasping mud.

Sibilant hissing comes from within the wagon, the sound of raindrops meeting heat. “Keep that fire lit, Fassn,” Shyan calls out. Fassn’s voice reaches her, muffled from the storm and his absent teeth, saying, “Water’s getting in, Shyan!” Whatever he adds thereafter is swallowed by a fit of coughing from the road people’s son.

The town of Gabjeoš, once so tantalizingly close, has now vanished in the dark.

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