30 ii) “Er, right,” Montague says delicately

“Er, right,” Montague says delicately, still tugging at the comb in Fassn’s hair. “Perhaps I get you all started,” he says, moving to a handful of bath tubs along one wall. He approaches each in turn, and adjusts a metal mechanism, shaped like an iron nose. After each squeaks its protest, it begins issuing forth water that spills into the tubs.

Shyan starts at this, peers into the water-spewing thing. “Magic?” she asks Abia.

Abia just smiles enigmatically, says, “Maybe.” She touches the water and cannot hide her surprise when she finds that it’s hot.

v) “Know you?” Ulxurix exclaims

“Know you?” Ulxurix exclaims, her tattoos shuddering. “Of course not! I’m but a kindly old lighthouse keeper, you see.” She winks at Abia, who looks down at her hands to find the book she’d been given is gone.

“But you’ve just my name,” Shyan says.

“Oh, tosh! Why not come up for a cup of mead and a rump of rutabaga?” asks the wizard. Suddenly, the gang’s aware of a delectable scent, glazed rutabaga with salt and cracked pepper.

Fassn imagines diving into an enormous mug and tearing at a massive plate of rutabaga, until he remembers his teeth. He pouts. “Can you fix my teeth, wizard?” he asks. He lets his mouth hang wide so she can inspect the gums, and the shiny white nubbins within.

“With pleasure, my friends! Come on up for ale, and the wonders of modern dentistry.”

iv) Abia returns to her friends with the book


Abia returns to her friends with the book, cutting short Shyan and Cang’s debate. Fassn holds the gold bar to his chest like a baby, stroking it gently and cooing.

Seeing the ornate tome in Abia’s hands, Cang says, “We are by no means trading gold for that book. Unless — what is it worth?”

“It’s worth nothing at all,” says Ulxurix from the top of the stairs. She carries a tray with cups and a pot of tea. “It’s only a loaner. Sit, friends, sit, enjoy a steaming brew.”

“Thank you for your generosity,” Shyan says, true conviction belied by her hesitant speech. “And what do we owe in return?”

Ulxurix beams. “A while in your company is all I ask. Don’t get too many visitors up to the wizard’s tower, you know,” she says. Her tattoos seem to shift minutely.

“This is a lighthouse,” Fassn says, correcting her with good cheer.

“Is there a smith in town you would recommend? We’d like to have this bar divided,” Shyan says.

“Of course, Shyan,” says Ulxurix. “Garret Tasabinian works with many precious metals, and I do believe he is between projects at present.”

Shyan grins for an instant before the smile vanishes from her face. “Wait a moment. You know us?”