iii) “My dear,” purrs the lich

“My dear,” purrs the lich. “Would this magnificent tome be a gift, perchance, from the lighthouse witch?”

Abia blinks, her senses slowly returning. The weight of the lich’s presence — an oppressive sickliness that makes her think of rats crushed under carriage wheels, their guts baking in the sunlight.

“There’s a good girl,” the lich continues. Horton, behind him, attends to the rest of the gang, who are moving slowly, as though underwater, out of sync with time’s normal stream. The blacksmith clumsily picks their pockets, finding, unfortunately for him, not much.

“The lighthouse witch has something valuable to me,” the lich tells Abia, pouting in an exaggerated, theatrical manner. He grins, his disgusting maw splitting open to reveal the absent fang. The stench of rot washes over Abia. “And the sad part is, I know it’s not valuable to her.”

Abia stares him down, clutching the book, saying nothing.

“Good little servant,” says the lich.

“Wonderful servant, sir,” says Horton, always ready to hit the boss’s prompt.

The lich rolls his eyes. Quietly, to Abia, he says, “I meant you, but you know that.” He blinks sweetly. “Get the fang for me, won’t you?”

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