v) A haze comes over the group

A haze comes over the group as they wind up the stairs. Abia’s first to feel it, a swirling emptiness in her head. It starts behind the eyes and tunnels through the deep brain, down her spinal column. An endless second or two later, the feeling retreats, and she’s fully aware. She looks ’round at her companions and finds they too seem to be fighting the sensation.

“Oh, dearies,” comes the sprightly woman’s voice from above. “So sorry, so sorry,” she says. “You poor things.” Abia’s vision clears enough to see the woman retreat anew to the top of the lighthouse. With a great mechanical clank, and a peculiar photonic flash, the cloying haziness is suddenly dispersed.

The wizard appears before them. “A little trick from back when I was a girl. Soup into gold, such a long process. I just sped it along.” With some effort, she presents in her palms a flawless gold brick. It glows gently in the dim light.

Cang salivates and absently fingers the tiny emerald sewn into his vest’s lining. Fassn leans in to lick the bar, rub his new tooth nubs along its frictionless form. Shyan throws out an arm to stop him and guides the gang a step back, while Abia traces the wizard’s tattoos with her eyes.

Shyan gestures at the gold brick doubtfully. “All that soup for one little bar?”

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