i) Rising up over the water, the sun beats down hard

Rising up over the water, the sun beats down hard. It reflects off the river, burning the skin of the four rough folks in the paddle boat. Cang and Shyan paddle, each to a side, but their energy has depleted since their mad dash early in the day. The town is far behind, now, and what lies ahead isn’t certain.

“I’m hungry,” Fassn rumbles, his hands linked across his belly, his eyes closed. “Can we catch some fish?”

“Certainly, old friend,” Cang says, his breathing heavy between strokes. “Simply dive in there and scoop up a mouthful with those stubby fingers of yours.”

Fassn makes a face but it’s enough to know he might actually be considering it.

Trees and reeds go by on the banks. Birds flit above them, and aquatic creatures of all descriptions tussle and move below the surface. The sun moves across the sky as the gang follows the river north.

“Where are we going, by the way,” Fassn asks.

Shyan and Cang share a glance. She shrugs. “We’ll know when we get there,” she says.

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