40 ii) The Sleepy Gendarme is as its name suggests

The Sleepy Gendarme is as its name suggests: full of half-conscious town-guard types slumped in their cups. Only a few crude wooden tables are jammed into the common area, and most have smelly men draped upon them.

With a quick word and the subtle clang of coins, Shyan earns the gang a couple of beds, but not before she casually catches a glance at the face of every sleeping guard, just to be sure there’s no one she recognizes. Cang, to be safe, double checks.

40 i) When the laundry’s complete

When the laundry’s complete and the gang’s looking more or less sparkling new — Fassn the obvious exception, having refused to let Montague touch his patchwork garments —fatigue washes across them like a tidal wave.

“Montague,” Shyan asks, still half-drunk and eyes half-closed. “Where’s a good inn, hm? We’ve got coins to spend, tell us.”

“Ah but of course, my friends, the Sleepy Gendarme, just across the street! Mattresses of straw or down, patron’s choice!” He grins seedily. “Be sure to tell them Montague sent you.”

39 v) The heat, for Abia, grows

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.

39 iii) Cang’s reluctant to give up his vest for laundering

Cang’s reluctant to give up his vest for laundering, lest its many secret pockets be discovered with their dozens of hidden coins. Still, Cang’s wedged them in there so effectively that even as Montague and his assistants scrub on the washboard, no telltale trebly clink of metal alerts them to the coins’ presence.

That is, until the glowing sphere, still trailing the gang like a curious bird, swirls around the sodden vest, dipping in and out of the bubbles and confusing Montague’s assistants. The sphere performs tight little corkscrews around the secret pockets while Cang glares from afar. As one of the assistants begins prodding a pocket, Cang barks a warning from across the room.

39 ii) “Nevermind. Something Master Davit used to say.”

“Nevermind. Something Master Davit used to say. Not important,” Shyan says.

For the next couple of hours, Montague, alongside a couple of dimple-cheeked helpers who seemed to emerge from the cabinets, and wore tiny, pointy green shoes, laundered the gang’s clothes. Weeks of sweat and grime flow with the water, leaving their simple garments fresh and clean.

This with the exception of Fassn of course, who’s still snoozing lightly on the floor, his mismatched garments and armour caked with filth and memories.

39 i) The gang reluctantly shells out a handful of coins

The gang reluctantly shells out a handful of coins each to Montague, with the exception of Fassn. “This dirt, these smells, they’re a part of me! They’re, like, part of the experience.”

Cang sniffs. “Typical.”

Fassn lays himself out on the floor with a cloth over his face, breathing deeply, slowly, contented, while his companions strip down.

“It’s been an age since I’ve had these clothes laundered,” Shyan says. “We should’ve just bitten the bullet in the first place.”

Cang squints at her. “Bitten the what?”