16 v) Abia’s cells twist and scream with the pressure of the cold

Abia’s cells twist and scream with the pressure of the cold. Her fingers feel brittle, as though one swift knock could loose them from their moorings. She wears the agony on her face, but Cang is heedless, his mind blank, hungry for gold. He approaches her offered pile of stones with delusional greed. When he’s got both hands on the loot — such that it is — Abia strikes with her frozen fingers.

Her aim is good, Cang’s distraction is entire. She finds a space of open skin on his neck, makes contact. Instantly the cold flows into him, rushes through Abia’s bloodstream to freeze Cang’s flesh. His face twists in agony as he goes cold.

Washed with sadness, Abia struggles his rigid form out from the cave, lets the heavy door slowly shut behind her.

16 iv) Abia’s attempt at jolting Cang with cold having failed

Abia’s attempt at jolting Cang with cold having failed, the magic fades from her fingers. She lets her hand fall to her side, as she watches Cang fill his overloaded pockets, sacks, pouches. Each is already fat with stone, but he fills them all the same, letting sand and grit run over their mouths and spill back onto the earth.

With a grimace, Abia wills more energy into her hand. Her nerves are wracked with pain as they twist and chill. She feels a corrupt mass flare up within her brain but pushes aside the sensation to focus on freezing her fingers.

When the spell is at last, painfully cast, Abia grabs up a few choice stones and offers them hesitantly to Cang, like a meal for a cat. He spots the stones and appears delighted, trotting over to accept them. Abia’s frozen hand hovers, ready to strike.

a sprawling place, abia, cang, cold, fassn, fiction, logan bright, sadness, shyan, truth, works, writing exercise,

16 iii) Abia returns to the cavern

Abia returns to the cavern. First in, last out is Cang, counting up his gems of rock and stone, a look of ebullience pasted across his face, such that Abia had never seen on him before. She takes a cautious step toward him, and he flinches. He’s not looking straight at her — how could he, with all this gold about? — but still, he’s twitchy.

Abia feels a wave of fatigue from activating the freezing in her fingers, but pushes past it. Again, frost creeps down her digits. She carefully approaches Cang, but when her fingers near his flesh, he bats her arm away with an instinctive flick of his wrist. He’s not alarmed, but he’s defensive.

“Please, Cang,” Abia says. “I try to help you.”

Cang, though, continues as though he cannot hear, his pockets bulging with ill-gotten, valueless loot.

a sprawling place, abia, cang, cold, fassn, fiction, logan bright, sadness, shyan, truth, works, writing exercise,

16 ii) Shyan is next up

Shyan is next up. The tears of joy sliding down her cheeks turn to ice as Abia’s magic works its way through her nervous system. The happiness of seeing Master Davit anew is frozen as Shyan’s mind goes blank. When her body is rigid, Abia drags her to the door.

It’s closed again already, Fassn on the other side, thawing out. Abia struggles and labours with the heavy stone alone, then carefully drags Shyan through. When she clips the door frame with Shyan’s hand, Abia sucks in a breath — but luckily, she doesn’t lose any fingers.

Abia lays Shyan down beside Fassn as best she can, their frozen forms contorted. It isn’t long before Shyan’s icy tears turn back into water.

a sprawling place, abia, cang, cold, fassn, fiction, logan bright, sadness, shyan, truth, works, writing exercise,

16 i) Abia sighs and silently apologizes to her compatriots

Abia sighs and silently apologizes to her compatriots, each stuck in their own little lovely world: Cang with his riches, Fassn his deity, Shyan her lost master. And Abia, along with the knowledge of the rest. Illumination has its own costs.

First, she approaches Fassn. Her fingers frigid, she stretches them out. The dark skin takes on a bluish hue and pinpricks of frost appear at the edges of her nails, as though her hand was preserved in a block of ice. Abia’s cells throb with arcane potential. Fassn, oblivious, is ill-prepared when her frozen flesh touches his own. All of that cold rushes into his body, jerks his senses alive.

His eyes shoot open, wide with panic and pain. The ice nips and his nerves, and turns the spices and fine silks of his fervent hallucinations back into dust and stone. When his comprehending eyes meet Abia’s, he drops his gaze, heartbroken.

v) “I want a bigger share,” Cang says

“I want a bigger share,” Cang says, wiping blood off his knife.

“A bigger share of the mushrooms?” Fassn asks. He’s sitting atop the ugobok’s neck, as though riding the motionless creature.

“Indeed. Once they have been transmogrified to gold.”

Shyan hefts the tear duct. It’s goopy, amorphous, and stains her breastplate with vile juices. “Is the mushroom man really going to need all of this?”

“There are many mushrooms to change,” Cang says. His eyes glint.

“What if he’s gone?” Shyan struggles with the duct. It’s still cold from Abia’s fading magic. “What if we get back there, and find only mushrooms?”

“Mr. Jashenzizok wouldn’t dare,” Fassn says. He adds, “My mouth hurts,” and rubs his jaw.

“Our crates,” Abia says. She runs a hand gently down one of the ugobok’s lifeless fangs.

“Worthless, compared to all that gold. Come on,” Cang says, hopping to grab Fassn’s pant leg and drag him down. “Let us move. Mr. Jashenzizok awaits with our prize.”