34 iii) Though its face is lipless

Though its face is lipless, the creature seems to twist its expression into one of malicious amusement. When its mouth parts, and a low, rumbling, bassy voice emerges, the very ground itself begins to quake and quiver. Tremors run through the creature’s gripping claws, to the throne, through the ornate floor, and up into the boots of the gang — everything in the luxuriant chamber resonates as one when the beast speaks.

“Abia,” it says. “You’ve come back to me.”

34 ii) A gigantic creature with wings like a bat

A gigantic creature with wings like a bat, a long, fluted neck, and a narrow reptilian face contorted with greed and malice, bursts from the darkness, bringing with it a great gust of heat and roaring wind.

The gang plants their feet to resist being entirely bowled over. The creature turns effortlessly under the peak of the huge chamber, before coming into a dive and alighting upon the throne like a housecat. Its gold scales reflect the torchlight and its claws gouge into the beautiful throne.

The two parties stare one another down, save Fassn, who’s inhaling a deep breath of the hot air to feel it in his lungs.

Shyan clears her throat, looking the creature dead in its shiny black eyes. “We’re here to deal.”