9 iv) “Just trimmings and clippings,” he replies. “The usual.”

“Just trimmings and clippings,” he replies. “The usual.” With a flourish he produces a stubby knife, which, despite its short, triangular blade, appeared sharp. Cang is halfway to disarming him when Abia signals to let him work. Cang narrows his eyes but follows her instruction, every nerve fibre in his body tense.

Old Mossy bends to Shyan and cuts a lock of hair, then does the same to Fassn. He sniffs each sample, contemplating their qualities. “Hold their arms,” he says to Abia. She complies as Old Mossy takes a slice of fingernail from the third finger on each of their right hands. The sounds of jubilant celebration can still be heard around the bonfire outside.

“So it is witchery, after all?” Cang asks.

Old Mossy grins as he finely dices his samples with the knife. “Yes, yes! And it’s only just begun!”

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