43 i) The dragon’s manse is dark and quiet

The dragon’s manse is dark and quiet. The foyer is empty, a single oil lamp burning low upon a polished credenza. Crushed velvet drapes of deep purple hang over wainscotted walls. The floor’s composed of greywhite marble tiles, each half a metre square.

Fassn strides confidently into the foyer. When he steps on the second tile from the doorway, a faint snick is heard, then a yelp of fear and confusion as Fassn drops down and out of sight.

42 iii) Abia, on the other hand, doesn’t feel welcome at all

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.