iii) The grasshopper doesn’t reply

The grasshopper doesn’t reply, which makes Shyan nervous. “Where are we going?” she asks again.

Cang catches on, puts steel in his voice. “Best to speak up, insect.”

“Back to m’ home village, ‘sall,” the grasshopper says. “Plenty of folks what’s willin’ to buy alchemic concoctions like ya’s have in them crates.”

“And who are these mysterious buyers?” Cang asks.

“Fellow bugs?” added Fassn.

The grasshopper’s compound eyes glimmer. “Plenty of odd folks about in the village,” he says. He dry-washes his humanoid hands, without letting go of his beast’s reins. “Best not to spoil the surprise.”

“Gods,” Cang says. “Can we never simply get paid?”

ii) “And this god of yers is a birdman like y’self?”

“And this god of yers is a birdman like y’self? Goodness, is it the big fella what’s grumblin’ in anger, back where I picked y’all up?” The grasshopper rubs his legs together, producing a wiry sound.

“Old Ajralan is no ‘birdman,’ grasshopper,” Fassn says. “He is the worlds’ connoisseur, an aesthete of highest order.” He bows. “I am Fassn, his fingertips, his eardrums, his taste buds.”

Cang snorts. Fassn whirls on him. “Something funny little man?”

Cang bristles and by instinct his hand finds his dagger’s hilt. “Watch your words, taste buds,” he says.

“Boys, boys, I won’t be havin’ no fightin’ on my wagon. My old beast of burden’s fickle, like to stick and run as pull on through, gettin’ up into her years as she is.”

Shayn sits up. “Where are we going?”