25 iv) “In fact,” Fassn continues, “let me just taste ’em a second.”

“In fact,” Fassn continues, “let me just taste ’em a second.” He reaches for the princess’ necklace with bony fingers.

“I should think not,” Cang says, whisking the necklace away from his grizzled companion. “You shall bring down their value.”

“No way,” Fassn says. “My spit is mystical.”

“Nonsense,” says Cang. “You disgust me.”

“Boys, boys,” Shyan cuts in. “Nobody’s tasting anything. We’re headed straight for a jeweller or a fence. Whomever wants to take this necklace off our hands can do so.”

“Well I want to take it off his hands,” Fassn says.

“Great, just show us the coins.”

Fassn makes a show of patting his pockets, but of course he comes up empty.

“That’s what I thought,” Shyan says. “Now let’s get this done so we can enjoy a hot meal for a change.”

25 i) The glowing sphere turns loops and corkscrews

The glowing sphere turns loops and corkscrews in the air, straining at the edge of the thicket like an eager dog on a leash.

“Can we keep it?” Fassn asks.

“Well do you promise to take care of it, clean up after it? Having a glowing sphere is a big responsibility,” Shyan says.

“Certainly is a pushy little thing, isn’t it?” Cang asks, watching it struggle at the thicket’s edge. It quickly circles his head then returns to its position.

“Maybe we should actually follow it,” Shyan says. “It showed you those jewels, right?”

“Well, I liberated them,” Cang says, defensively.

Shyan shrugs. “Good enough for me. Little ball of light, let’s see what you’ve got.”

24 i) The glowing sphere bobs along

The glowing sphere bobs along above Cang’s shoulder as he pads over to the gang’s hidden camp. It gently illuminates the way, its light taking on a softer, moonlike glow. Cang ignores it until he reaches the camp.

“This thing is watching me,” he says, breathless.

“That little light?” Fassn asks. “Why would it wanna watch you? You’re not that interesting.”

“It was in the trunk of the princess,” Cang says. “It showed me these jewels,” he adds, holding aloft the valuable necklace he pilfered.

“Right now, I’m more interested in that than any light,” Shyan says. “We’ve gotta find a place to sell it.”

23 v) As the princess shifts, the light zooms into her face

As the princess shifts, the light zooms into her face, perching upon the bridge of her nose. She’s fully awake, now, yet can see nothing but the light’s distracting glow. She calls out for her guards.

Cang stifles a beat of panic, feeling the heavy weight of the jewels in his hand. All he can see of the princess’ face is the strange glowing sphere, too. He sprints to a window like a dart, throws a rope out, and climbs down. Once he’s over the lip, the sphere leaves the princess and follows.

Cang flees the village, jewels in hand, the point of light following over his shoulder.

23 iv) The glowing ball of light makes a faint “zip” sound

The glowing ball of light makes a faint “zip” sound when it flies across the room. The play of light and shadow across the branch-woven walls make a soft chiming noise that’s oddly pleasant. The light circles the princess’ sleeping form, illuminating a wide necklace of precious stones looped about her neck. It then circles back around the chamber to return to Cang and hang about his head.

He gives the light a nod and creeps over to the princess’ bed, wiggling his fingers to limber them up. With a single “click” its clasp comes loose in his hands, but the princess begins to stir.

21 iii) “Just bust down the door, storm in, ‘Hey, give us your jewels or your life’?”

“Just bust down the door, storm in, ‘Hey, give us your jewels or your life’?” Shyan asks from her place on the floor. Though she’s still, the clarity of her vision astounds her. Her senses each seem sharpened somehow, with none of the poison’s fog coursing through her.

“Perhaps we shall consider that our second string approach,” Cang says. “I, for one, have no wish to bloody my knuckles, nor to fill my skin with bone darts. Though,” he says, gingerly picking up one of the discarded darts, “I would be interested to learn this poison’s construction, perhaps even turn it to our own noble purposes.”

“Noble, right,” Shyan replies.

“Alas, I propose something more subtle. The fall of night, an unlatched window, a shadow loading jewels into its pockets.”

Shyan sits up. Her stomach grumbles and her skin itches. “You know what?” she asks. “I think you’re right.”