v) The road people, Abia, Shyan, and Cang strip off their coats

The road people, Abia, Shyan, and Cang strip off their coats and kerchiefs. Cang, the smallest among them, springs into the wagon with the garments at the ready. He and Fassn improvise a leather-and-linen tarpaulin to keep the rain off the embers of their cookfire.

The bubbling of the soup has slowed. Drops of rain patter against its surface. Fassn gets on his hands and knees, blows air on the dying embers.

Shyan, outside and freezing, calls to Abia. “Isn’t there something you can do?”

Abia shrugs. “Can make soup cold. Can’t make soup hot.”

Suddenly, a frog’s tongue of flame shoots up from the wagon. Shyan and the rest wheel to see it.

A spark has caught the damp wood of the wagon. Fire licks the frame of the vehicle, racing up the side. Cang leaps away, and Fassn tumbles out with the road people’s son under his arms. Abia releases Larry from his harness as the wagon burns.

The blaze roars for an hour — longer than the storm itself. When the charred remains burn down, and the sky spits only tiny flecks of moisture, the gang approaches the ruined wagon. Amidst the debris is the burnt-up cookpot, the golden soup within boiling furiously.

While the road people tend to their son. Shyan, Abia, Cang, and Fassn share a look. They each wrap their hands with whatever leather scraps they can find, each grab an edge of the pot, and sprint toward Gabjeoš.

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