31 iv) “It’d be wrong to lie, Cang,” Shyan says

“It’d be wrong to lie, Cang,” Shyan says, her expression not entirely serious. “After all, he gave us these fine haircuts.” She tosses her head so her shiny black hair lifts for a moment.

“But are four baths worth a thousand coins?” Cang asks. “We could easily just depart our evening meeting and forget all about the barber.”

“More coin for the tavern,” Fassn muses through mouthfuls of apple.

“A deal was struck,” Abia says simply.

Several more moments of chewing pass as the river flows.

“Well we don’t know what this thing’s worth, really,” Shyan says. “Maybe once we’re paid we can—” she breaks off, searching for the word.

“Renegotiate,” Cang says with an evil smile.

31 iii) Pockets flush with stolen apples

Pockets flush with stolen apples, the gang finds a stone bank along a thin river that winds through the city, taking their ease upon the stones, watching the day’s traffic filter past.

“This is the life,” Fassn says, the sun warming his face.

“Yeah, this? Munching stolen apples, hoping to do a deal?” Shyan asks.

“Sure,” he replies, crunching loudly. “The apple’s so sweet. Old Ajralan, may you have your fill!” He vocalizes madly before finishing the apple, core and all.

“Will we truly give a share of our haul to Monsieur Montague?” Cang wonders aloud.

Birds above screech and tumble as the gang chews.

32 ii) The glowing sphere dances into the apple seller’s face

The glowing sphere dances into the apple seller’s face. He’s perplexed, swats it away like an annoying fly, but it dodges and weaves without effort, leaving him flummoxed. Peasants in tunics thread by, oblivious.

“I guess now’s your chance,” Shyan says.

Cang sighs and darts over to the cart, keeping his footfalls quiet. He holds wide the pockets sewn into his vest, and scoops a half dozen apples into them while the merchant is distracted. When Cang rejoins the gang, and sphere disengages from the merchant, who looks around for some explanation.