iii) Abia sits, legs crossed, next to the old man

Abia sits, legs crossed, next to the old man. He trembles, gently. Has been trembling since the evil word passed his lips: “lich.” Now his red eyes brim with tears.

“What is a lich, grandfather?” Shyan asks.

Another shudder goes through the man’s frail body. “Its name is poison,” he says, his eyes wandering the room slowly, landing on no one. “Name is poison.”

Shyan catches Abia’s eye. Abia says, “Lich dead, not dead. Magic, not magic.” The torch casts crazy light in the cramped cell.

“Who’s crazier, you or the geezer?” Fassn says. He runs his hand through his long, greying hair, and feels a tinge of regret.

“Why does the lich keep you here?” Shyan asks.

“She’s right,” the old man rasps. “Dead, not dead. The lich is all.”

Cang stares impassively but inside, his mind churns. He’s suddenly at the old man’s side, and he lays a hand on the man’s shoulder. He flinches and yelps as though burned. He scrambles uselessly, trying to get away from Cang, knowing there’s nowhere to go. “The lich,” he rasps. “The lich has been in you!”

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