25 v) The gang spends the rest of the day approaching the city

The gang spends the rest of the day approaching the city, reaching its cobblestone streets at dusk. Warm light spills from open taverns as people hurry about, driving goats and pushing barrows. Despite the gang’s haggard appearance from days on the road, nobody gives them more than a passing glance. The glowing sphere bobs and weaves, but attracts no attention.

Jaunty music reaches the party’s ears from a two-storey wooden building with simple stained glass windows.

“My thirst is suddenly overwhelming,” Cang announces.

“My throat, too, is parched!” Fassn adds loudly.

“Yeah? And when we can’t pay the bill?” Shyan asks.

“I don’t want to run,” says Abia.

“But perhaps we will strike up a contact, someone who will know where we can sell our goods,” Cang adds with a placating grin.

Shyan shrugs. Marching through the tavern door, she says, “Well it would be nice to sit down.”

25 iv) “In fact,” Fassn continues, “let me just taste ’em a second.”

“In fact,” Fassn continues, “let me just taste ’em a second.” He reaches for the princess’ necklace with bony fingers.

“I should think not,” Cang says, whisking the necklace away from his grizzled companion. “You shall bring down their value.”

“No way,” Fassn says. “My spit is mystical.”

“Nonsense,” says Cang. “You disgust me.”

“Boys, boys,” Shyan cuts in. “Nobody’s tasting anything. We’re headed straight for a jeweller or a fence. Whomever wants to take this necklace off our hands can do so.”

“Well I want to take it off his hands,” Fassn says.

“Great, just show us the coins.”

Fassn makes a show of patting his pockets, but of course he comes up empty.

“That’s what I thought,” Shyan says. “Now let’s get this done so we can enjoy a hot meal for a change.”

25 iii) The city’s composed of towers

The city’s composed of towers, great rising spires of grey, blue, and brown. The sun glares off their bulky edifices as the gang cranes their necks to take in the buildings’ soaring tops.

“They’ve built stone houses like mountains,” Shyan says, her jaw agape.

“I don’t wanna sleep in the woods anymore,” Fassn says.

“I bet they have an inn down there,” Shyan says. “An inn like none you’ve seen, with ceilings you couldn’t jump to reach.”

The glowing sphere bounces impatiently.

“Yes, yes,” Cang says. “We shall sell you in good time.” At this the sphere bobs away from Cang and circles behind Fassn, as though it were cowering.

“Ah, c’mon Cang, we can’t sell the little guy,” says Fassn. “Those jewels, on the other hand,” he says, and smacks his lips.

25 ii) The glowing sphere bobs and whirls at the thicket’s edge

The glowing sphere bobs and whirls at the thicket’s edge. When the gang starts to follow it, it perks up and zooms ahead, then turns another quick circle.

“I have already grown tired of this,” Cang groans.

Still, the gang follows its path through scratching thickets as the sun falls low into the sky. Golden light streams through bare branches when suddenly the sphere stops its forward march and starts looping.

Shyan gives the signal to halt. “What’s it saying now, Cang?”

“Pardon me? I am certain I do not know,” he replies.

“Wait,” Abia says in a low tone. She creeps ahead, parts the thickets, and beyond, finds a great city.