i) The fishermen heading to the ocean

The fishermen heading to the ocean give the band peculiar stares — four strangers from distant, disparate lands, helping an ancient, withered, nearly naked man through the streets. From the castle, of all places. Peasants steer clear as the gang pads through town. Children stare.

The only sounds, beyond their laboured breathing and plodding footsteps, is a rumbling in Fassn’s belly. He looks to the sky. “Old Ajralan, may I have my fill.”

“We just ate last night,” Shyan says. She’s supporting most of Berstuun’s weight.

Fassn uses this opportunity to shift more of it to her. “But this is today.”

Cang grumbles something under his breath, his eyes focused hard on the ground before him.

“We’ll eat once we feed this guy to the magic circle,” Shyan barks.

She catches herself too late. Berstuun doesn’t react, but silence falls. “With respect, of course,” she eventually adds.

They draw close to the door of the lighthouse. Abia feels, in the tingling creep of the hairs on her arms, the circle above.

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