i) The light beyond the dungeon

The light beyond the dungeon is not opulent mansion, as Shyan had expected. Instead, they emerge into a long hallway, lit by flickering torches. The air is much drier here, the wooden struts petrified. Their boots crunch over sand and pebbles, each scrape magnified by the echoing corridor.

Barred doors line the hallway, too, between the doors. Cang is careful to peer into each one, his ears alert for more of the foul, damp man-things that seem to this place likened to pests. He sees none.

Near the end of the corridor, which is set with an iron-banded door, the gang begins to hear a faint, rasping breathing. Cang follows the sound to a cell and peers in. Shyan grabs a torch to aid him, and they find an emaciated old man curled up against a cell wall. He wears rags, his hair is long and coarse, his beard bedraggled. He stirs some at their approach, but even the sudden incursion of torchlight seems to agitate him.

“Grandfather,” Shyan says. “What brings you here?”

He groans and tries to roll over.

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