ii) The rank stench that follows

The rank stench that follows is clue enough for Cang to know the footsteps belong to one of the lich’s man-things. Its dragging feet move slowly, and Cang believes it to be alone. “So be it,” he thinks. “Far less formidable when singled out from the pack.”

The rest of the gang has hushed, too, listening closely to the rasping breath of the creature.

A few barren stars twinkle through cracks in the masonry. When the creature steps into murky view, it lays its empty eyes on Cang. Alarmed, he circles back into his cell, keeping his back away from the man-thing. It follows implacably, but its dexterity can’t match Cang’s. He dances past the creature, which can only pivot and wobble, then slips out the gate. As the man-thing grumbles, he closes and locks it.

“One down,” he whispers to his friends in the darkness. A chill crawls up him when no reply comes. “I suppose I shall merely continue on then.”

Two whispered words break the silence. Without seeing her, Cang can tell it’s Shyan. “Careful, Cang,” she says.

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