6 v) By true nightfall, when the sun has sunk low beyond the trees

By true nightfall, when the sun has sunk low beyond the trees and their craggy shadows reach lengthening black hands to grab and drag and never let go, the party arrives in the grey creatures’ village. The creatures are awake, keeping a vigil with burning torches and lanterns strung up in the trees. The crunching ground underfoot gives the group away, so that when they reach the village proper, the creatures are arrayed about in anxious anticipation. Seeing the princess on her own two feet, plodding along in the company of humans — two of whom are obviously bearing signs of poisoning — they erupt in cheers. Someone produces a flute, and another a drum, and soon the village square, such that it is, between the trees, erupts with music and mirth.

The princess grins, happy to be taken into the celebration. Soon the gang loses sight of her among her companions. For humans, at a glance, these grey creatures are tough to distinguish.

Shyan clears her throat, speaks up over the noise and dancing. “So,” she says. “The antidote?”

They don’t seem to hear her.

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