i) Cang pads onto the damp

Cang pads onto the damp, grimy cobblestones, careful to keep his soft leather boots from raising any noise. He hears the trademarked sound of the grunting creatures above, and wonders briefly what horrible sorcery the lich might be up to in his private chambers. What fiendish magics Ulxurix’s form might have given him. What the lich might have taken from Cang, when he rode around in his body. Cang shakes his head to dispell the dark thoughts, but cannot.

Squinting into the blackness, he whispers, “Am I perhaps near somebody’s cell?”

“Mine,” Abia whispers back.

Cang counts out the ridges of his lockpick with his fingertips, then feels around for the iron lock. Like everything else down here, it’s aged and filthy. He inserts the lockpick but it doesn’t slide home. It’s stuck midway through. He tries to withdraw it but it’s snagged there, too. He yanks at it madly, creating a tinny, clanking metal sound that rings throughout the dungeon.

Cang gets hold of himself, breathes deeply. He’s about to try again when he hears a sound from above: the opening of a door, the descent of footsteps.

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