35 iii) “Fury, that’s right,” Shyan growls

“Fury, that’s right,” Shyan growls, meeting the dragon’s blazing eyes with her own. “We’ve got a lot of anger and not a lot of money. You don’t want to have to deal with us.”

Another slight smile seems to crawl across the dragon’s scaly mouth. It arcs its neck and lets out a high-pitched noise almost like a squealing pig. It’s loud and unpleasant, such that Cang covers his ears.

A moment later, through a plain door recessed into the wall, the dragon’s butler steps forward, bearing a velvet pillow, upon qhich rests a fancy lacquered box.

“Now we’re talking,” shouts Fassn.

34 v) “Why so hasty, youngling?” asks the dragon

“Why so hasty, youngling?” asks the dragon.

“No need to be rude,” Shyan replies.

“I am nearly 4,000 years old. You are but a youngling, a sprout in the grass, reaching for sunlight that will burn you in the end.”

“I didn’t ask for a history lesson or to get my fortune told,” says Shyan. “We just want the money, all right? We’re hungry and want the coins.”

“Trifles, all,” the dragon says, its voice a bassy purr. You may take them, and the necklace, too. I’m a simple creature, and I’ve now selected a more precious treasure.” The creature turns its blazing eyes onto Abia, and she meets his gaze, flat and calm.

34 iv) Abia’s brow is perfectly straight, her expression serene

Abia’s brow is perfectly straight, her expression serene. “No,” she says simply, quietly, yet the power in the single word resounds through the chamber.

“We’re here to trade,” Shyan says. “Abia’s not looking for a job.”

“No,” the dragon rasps. “Of course not. You’ve brought the spoils of royal larceny in exchange for common coins.”

Shyan glances at Cang to confirm this, but he’s tracing the tiles with his gaze, trying to find the loosest seam into which one might insert a prybar.

“Well, yeah,” Shyan says to the dragon.

“I love your scales,” Fassn adds.

“The coins, then. Let’s get this done.”

34 i) The throne at the room’s far wall is massive

The throne at the room’s far wall is massive, built of fused gold, threaded with silver, studded with diamonds, rubies, sapphires. Fassn’s eyes nearly bug out of his skull as he takes in the display of wealth, while even Cang’s mouth drops involuntarily open. Heavy black shadows press in from all corners, kept flickeringly at bay by guttering torches in ornate sconces. The heat in the chamber is enough that sweat beads at the gang’s brows as they take in the oppressive throne.

The throne itself, though, is unoccupied.

“Hey we had a deal,” Shyan calls out, though no one is apparently around to here. “Mr. Dragon? We’ve got gold, stolen from royalty! Your musicians said you wanted to buy it.”

A wave of brutal heat suddenly washes over the gang, kicking up a hot wind that throws them each into disarray. Something enormous moves in the shadows.

33 iii) Abia shakes her head, a gentle motion

Abia shakes her head, a gentle motion that suggests a firm “no.” “Boss will know,” she says.

“Quiet down back there,” says the flutist. “Show a little respect.”

Cang gives her a grievous look, but says no more.

An attendant in a crisp waistcoat descends a set of wide, mahogany steps, and stares down at the gang past his long, crooked nose. “Rivera, why have you brought such filth into master’s home?”

Rivera, the flutist, draws herself up. “Getting some gold, all right? They brought something nice the boss is gonna want.” She gestures at Cang, who’s holding the necklace.

“Their clothes are filthy.”

“We took a bath, all right?” Shyan says. “Look, even cut my hair. What more could your boss possibly want? He either likes gold or he doesn’t, forget about hygiene.”

A small smile creeps onto Abia’s lips.