Abia, on the other hand, doesn’t feel welcome at all. Her robes, too, are sparkling clean — though for her, this doesn’t bear mentioning the way it does for Cang — but even as the weirdly compelling heat grows, the dragon’s passive inferno, Abia does not enjoy the sense of place that Cang’s musing about. Instead, she’s wondering if this was the right move at all, if she shouldn’t have stayed away in the first place, let alone returned.
And yet she can’t ignore the oddly pleasant warmth settling just under her skin, intensifying imperceptibly as the gang nears the dragon’s hidden manse.
The heat, for Abia, grows. Waves of infernal fire wash over her spirit, leaving her body unharmed but her mind seared.
Twenty years or more since she’d left the dragon’s employ. Twenty years or more since she’d torn herself away from the shackles of its malignant expectations. It had been a few years since she’d even thought of the dragon, found herself surprised to find its scaly head invading her mind.
Years to quit, mere hours to return.
fur, sticky sweat, tiny crawling things
barking dogs and screaming men
tweets of birds high up in trees
careful to stay in the shade
wet heat reigns still
An hour later, the gang’s warming themselves by the fire at the same dingy tavern where they’d first seen the musicians perform. Their coin goes a long way in this place, and stacked before them on the rude wooden tables are a dozen empty tankards and stacked plates, each with its attendant greasy streak or blob of hardening sauce. They sing and caper about the little tavern, buying cheap drinks for lucky bystanders.
Abia makes merry with the rest, but inside, she does not feel the heat of the hearth. In fact, she’s quite cold. She thinks back to the dragon perched upon its throne and right away she’s flush with heat.
A gigantic creature with wings like a bat, a long, fluted neck, and a narrow reptilian face contorted with greed and malice, bursts from the darkness, bringing with it a great gust of heat and roaring wind.
The gang plants their feet to resist being entirely bowled over. The creature turns effortlessly under the peak of the huge chamber, before coming into a dive and alighting upon the throne like a housecat. Its gold scales reflect the torchlight and its claws gouge into the beautiful throne.
The two parties stare one another down, save Fassn, who’s inhaling a deep breath of the hot air to feel it in his lungs.
Shyan clears her throat, looking the creature dead in its shiny black eyes. “We’re here to deal.”
Her forearms have again assumed the approximate shape of a pyurume’s, but Abianarin’ cells quiver as she approaches the door. Feeling vanishingly tiny under its implacable gaze, she brushes her fingers against it — is stung by a hissing arc of heat. She draws her hand back and mutters a curse in her mother tongue.
“Door not like me,” she says.