31 i) The gang scrubs up nice under the noonday sun

The gang scrubs up nice under the noonday sun, its power mostly obscured by the city’s rising buildings.

Shyan’s hair is combed and all the dirt’s gone from under her nails. Cang’s bald head is shiny and smooth. Abia’s dreadlocks gleam with fresh beeswax, and Fassn’s beard has actual shape — it no longer looks like he’s wearing a tumbleweed upon his chin.

“I love this stone,” Fassn says, stamping his foot appreciatively.

“We’ll we’ve half a day before the buy,” Shyan says. “I’m awfully hungry.”

“Thinking of turning over another share of our haul for a hot meal?” Cang asks with a sneer.

Just then, the glowing sphere zooms away, coming to a bobbing rest over an apple cart, whose owner is engaged in the other direction.

30 i) Fassn throws his hand into the air, bounces on his toes

Fassn throws his hand into the air, bounces on his toes. “Me, me, me!” he says.

Monsieur Montague another elaborate bow and shows him to the central barbery chair. “This is where the magic happens,” he says, beaming. “We will trim and groom, yes? Then you may relax for a soak.”

Fassn hops into the barbery chair, still grinning. Montague prepares his shears while the others lean against the tubs’ edges to watch.

“Er,” says Monsieur Montague as he begins combing the tangled grey tumbleweed that is Fassn’s head. The comb snags again and again, but Fassn doesn’t seem to notice. Montague shoots a placating look at the gang, who stare stone-faced back at him.

29 i) Before the guards can effectively pursue

29 i) Before the guards can effectively pursue

Before the guards can effectively pursue, Shyan holds open the bathhouse door and the gang slips inside. Within is a cloistered environment with low ceilings and but a hint of sunlight filtering through gauzy curtains. The glowing sphere turns a corkscrew around Abia’s shoulders and flutters past, ruffling the curtains and letting more light in.

A half-dozen bathtubs ring the mirror-lined walls, arced in a circle, pointing at a barber’s chair in the room’s centre. Fassn is uncomfortably reminded of his dental surgery and feels a phantom pain shoot through his jaw.

A stringy man with a wiry moustache appears a back room, polishing a set of hair shears absent-mindedly. When he spots the gang, he stops short, his eyes wide with fright for just a moment before a cunning shrewdness takes over.