19 i) Facing off outside the caves

Facing off outside the caves, a dozen short grey humanoids, wide mouths full of sharp teeth, and bright, staring eyes, vs our four intrepid travellers, staggering from their painful memories and crude illusions. Shyan, in front, has her fists up and jaw set. Fassn flanks her, with Cang and Abia behind. “Well?” she asks.

The princess smirks. “Would Davit have approved of your haste?”

“Master Davit is dead,” Shyan says, her voice flat. “It was I who killed him. If you wish to kill me, know you won’t be the first to try.”

“Certainly not,” says the princess. “But we shall be the last.” She flicks her wrist and her retainers draw blowpipes and loose a wave of darts cut of splintered bone. Many reach Shyan’s skin, and she soon feels their poison coursing through her blood.

17 v) “When they came for me, I was ready”

“When they came for me, I was ready. Thanks to Master Davit, so had so kindly made space for me under his wing, I could fight. I had killed him, yes. I mourn him still. But when they came for me, well… I killed again. He taught me how. More important, he taught me why. I slid from stance to stance, struck clean and true where needed. They had a lot to prove, each in his own way, for his own reasons. Me? I had nothing to prove. Nothing but love for my master, who taught me all. None could come against him. None could come against me. I struck, and wept, and soldiered on.” Shyan draws her knees to her chest. Her eyes are rimmed red. “They hunt me still.”