iv) Abia returns to her friends with the book

Abia returns to her friends with the book, cutting short Shyan and Cang’s debate. Fassn holds the gold bar to his chest like a baby, stroking it gently and cooing.

Seeing the ornate tome in Abia’s hands, Cang says, “We are by no means trading gold for that book. Unless — what is it worth?”

“It’s worth nothing at all,” says Ulxurix from the top of the stairs. She carries a tray with cups and a pot of tea. “It’s only a loaner. Sit, friends, sit, enjoy a steaming brew.”

“Thank you for your generosity,” Shyan says, true conviction belied by her hesitant speech. “And what do we owe in return?”

Ulxurix beams. “A while in your company is all I ask. Don’t get too many visitors up to the wizard’s tower, you know,” she says. Her tattoos seem to shift minutely.

“This is a lighthouse,” Fassn says, correcting her with good cheer.

“Is there a smith in town you would recommend? We’d like to have this bar divided,” Shyan says.

“Of course, Shyan,” says Ulxurix. “Garret Tasabinian works with many precious metals, and I do believe he is between projects at present.”

Shyan grins for an instant before the smile vanishes from her face. “Wait a moment. You know us?”

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