i) All but Abia instinctively draw back

All but Abia instinctively draw back when they see that purple flash, as though something of the hue is embedded in their cellular structure, as though their ancient ancestors upon the savannahs knew that purple to mean misery and death. Abia alone remains near him, his light, mottled hand in hers.

Only the hissing crackle of the torch fills the room with sound.

“When lich get you?” Abia asks.

Either the old man shrugs, or his body is racked with palsy. “Years, and years,” he says. “Years, and years.”

“He gave you teeth?”

“No,” the old man says, shaking his head. “No, no.” The shaking continues, grows more urgent.

“Keep him quiet,” Cang says. He kicks at the old man’s leg censoriously; the man withdraws it like a cowed dog.

“No, no,” he continues.

“Who did?” Abia asks, gently squeezing his hand.

The old man wheezes. “I did.”

+++

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