5 ii) Cang takes point at the church’s front door

Cang takes point at the church’s front door. There are figures in the square, crouched behind crates wrapped with rough rope and market stalls of flapping tarpaulin. A breeze passes through, turns up the dust, makes the twined flourishes on the church sway. The men who’ve taken wounds roll about in the sand, moaning, gripping their battered limbs, clutching their bruises. He turns to the gang, nods, and pads out into the square.

The princess is right behind him. Her feet have wide, grasping toes with a thin, light membrane between them — not ideal for the dusty terrain. She’s careful to avoid the sharpest rocks. Shyan, beside her, idly wishes she had the strength to pick the princess up but the very idea makes her muscles wash with cold incapability.

The gang is halfway through the square, making for the forests beyond the village, when the gruff preacher’s voice rises up behind them, loud and apoplectic. “The story of Orolio does not end here,” he screams.

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