“And you’ve got a fence who will take that?” Shyan asks Cang doubtfully.
“Certainly,” replies Cang, hefting the heavy tile. “We shall simply make contact with a local. Perhaps a musician.”
“A musician who works for the dragon?”
“Er,” says Cang. Shyan tugs at the heavy front door, which had apparently closed silently behind them. It’s sealed tight, not budging a bit.
“Er,” says Shyan.
“Maybe the dragon’s not so secretive after all,” says Shyan as the old man hurries away. “That old guy’s got the message, at least.”
“This is a place of misery,” says Abia. “People feel it.” She closes her eyes, lets her fingers trail over the rough door the gang knows conceals the entrance to the dragon’s manse. “It radiates from within.”
“Are you certain that is not the fabulous wealth resonating from within?” Cang asks. He’s not even watching, instead keeping his eyes on the street as a lookout.
At that moment Abia’s finger lands upon a knot of wood of subtle hue, differently shaded than the wood around it. With a gentle, soft click, the knot depresses and the door swings open.
“Here goes nothing,” says Shyan.
“A grand, old, audacious thing, built right into the side of the cave?” asks Cang, to which Old Mossy nods readily. “We have had occasion to encounter it,” he continues.
“Did you hear a knocking?”
“A knocking, like this,” says Old Mossy, rapping his fingers on the flat of his palm to make a soft slapping noise. “Well, sort of like this.”
“I don’t think we heard any knocking,” Shyan says.
Old Mossy’s eyes take on a haunted look. “Strange, that,” he says. “Last I was down, I heard a knocking, as though from the other side.”
The princess squeezes his hand reassuringly.
“A knocking, and a deep voice, calling my name: ‘Asmosius…'”
The gang rests up in Old Mossy’s hut for the rest of the night. He stays away at the celebration, but the grey creature and his kin never seek to rope them in for feasting and dancing, despite their status as rescuers of the princess. Only Cang is still awake when Old Mossy returns, with a retinue of guards with their mouths set firm and the princess herself. Cang’s quick to wake the others, who reluctantly drag themselves from their pleasant sleep.
“I trust you’re feeling better?” the princess asks.
Shyan’s eyes are teary still, but clear. “Yes. Though the antidote may be worse than the disease.”
“Bad dreams, only,” says Old Mossay. He waves the whole notion away. “Listen. When you were fetching the mushrooms needed for the antidote, you climbed down into a cave.”
Shyan lets a beat pass before she says, “Right.”
“Then let me ask you: when you were down there, did you find a door?”