35 i) In the vast chamber, with the massive dragon draped across its imperious golden throne

In the vast chamber, with the massive dragon draped across its imperious golden throne, the gang appears insignificant, small, powerless. Doubtless that’s how the view looks from the long, scaled head with burnt lips and jagged fangs, staring down at them — at Abianarin, the one who left.

She stares right back at the dragon, her mouth turned up with the faintest hint of a smile, as though she enjoys the heat, the intensity, the focus. Fassn’s had time to do a double-take, taking in their staring contest. He even waves his hand in front of Abia’s face, but she’s gracious enough not to be annoyed. “I will not work for you again,” she says.

“Such certainty,” rasps the dragon. “Are you not here as a contractor of sorts? Selling a necklace to a rich old man so you can buy your dinner?”

“I am free to leave,” she says.

“So you are,” the dragon says, turning its chin up in a haughty expression.

Another stony silence drags on until Fassn’s belly rumbles.

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