iv) Fassn rummages the crates

Fassn rummages the crates. His wings have become translucent and wilty, like a snake’s shed skin. “Anything in here to improve these things?”

“Eric will know,” the alchemist says. “Please, let’s just get moving, okay? He hates when I’m late.”

“And where does he live?” Shyan asks. Cang rummages his bag for a scrap of vellum and a quill. Withdrawing them, he looks up at the alchemist expectantly, waiting to take notes.

“He, uh, lives in the treetops,” the alchemist replies. “He’s got this wooden fortress of branches and brambles.” The scratching of Cang’s quill underscores her words.

“And he wants these crates because…?”

The alchemist steals a nervous glance at Abianarin, still in gentle communication with the beasts of burden pulling the wagon. “They’re valuable, you see. Expensive!”

Shyan barks at Fassn. “Worry about your wings later. Find our silver, first.” She threatens the alchemist with her pommel as Fassn searches her layered robes for their purses.

iii) The alchemist keeps her mouth shut

The alchemist keeps her mouth shut, which Cang sees as a smart move. All the same, he says, “No response? I suppose you think this cap ugly?”

“No,” the alchemist mumbles.

“Relax, Cang,” Fassn says. “It’s a stupid looking hat and it’s way too big for you. Give it here.” He grabs for it; Cang nimbly ducks away.

“Hey, hey,” Shyan calls out. “We’re on the job here.” She hardens her expression, gets up close to the alchemist’s fear-stricken face. “Who’s your buyer?”

“Eric,” she sputters. “Eric… Wagon.”

Shyan blinks. “You must be kidding me.”

“No, no, that’s really it,” the alchemist says, a wheedling smile blooming upon her lips.

“Eric Wagon?” Cang sniffs derisively.

“So what are we waiting for?” The alchemist looks around with renewed enthusiasm. “Let’s go deliver these crates!”

ii) “She’s lying”

“She’s lying,” Shyan says.

“How can you tell?” asks Fassn.

Shyan looks defensive about this unanticipated follow-up. “Well, she’s lied before. I think we should knock her out.”

The colour drains from the alchemist’s face. “You definitely don’t need to do that.”

“Buyer in Almery?” Abianarin asks.

“Almery? No. Blasted place. Not worth the effort. Scary, too.” She winces back from Shyan’s raised pommel. “Not as scary as you lot, though.”

“Flattery will get you everywhere,” Cang says. “Do you like my new hat?”

The alchemist nervously swallows.