A rush of saliva floods Cang’s jaw, his mouth watering at the prospect of getting into the chest. His fingers play across the iron hide of the padlock, follow its loop to where the seal is cracked.
Silently, he draws the lock from its place in the trunk, sets it down on the wood floor with a soft thunk. He hears the guards moving around below, even hears the shift of the princess in her soft sheets.
Holding his breath, Cang lifts the lid of the trunk, praying to Old Ajralan — though he’d never admit it — that the hinges won’t squeak.
Cang gets his wish, but not entirely. The hinges are silent, but the trunk’s contents are softly luminous — and moving.
“These foul grey creatures have ruined our livelihood,” Cang says. Shyan is up, now, carving a chunk of wood into the likeness of a humanoid. The gang sits by a low fire, reflecting and planning.
“All for some revenge,” Fassn says. He shakes his head sadly. “Not what Old Ajralan would want.”
“It’s my fault,” Shyan says flatly. “They were after me.”
“But they did not get you,” Cang says, the hint of a wry smile playing on his lips. “You fought like a maelstrom and won. Now I believe the time has come to earn our leisure,” he adds.
He thinks back to the handful of gems Old Mossy showed them. He imagines slipping them one by one into his many pockets, and his grin grows wide.
“I heard singing,” she says, her eyes unfocused, far away. “Two voices. One low and gruff, the other light, lilting.” She trails off and lays back in the dirt.
“What happened to me?” she asks.
“Old Mossy and the princess came after you for Davit,” Fassn says sadly. “Filled you up full of bone dart poisons, and still you kicked the crud from their teeth.”
“Sure,” she replies absently. “But after?”
“After,” Fassn says, drawing into himself. “After was a boon of Old Ajralan.”
Fassn breaks off his singing, speaks loudly in the common tongue — for the benefit of his compatriots, perhaps? He says, “Old Ajralan, I beseech you, reach down and touch my poison-stricken friend. Show her the depth of your benevolencee. Make clear your might! May you have your fill.”
The bone darts quiver like pins in an earthquake. They seem to be rising from their firm, fleshy foundations. Their lengths stained with blood, leave Shyan’s skin, dance up, with their points just above the ugly pitted wounds they’ve left.
“Yes,” Fassn cries, ecstatic. His eyes squeezed shut as he bobs up and down. “Yes, may you have your fill!”
The darts fall subject to gravity once more and tumble en masse to the ground, each contained within the perimeter of stones.
Shyan’s eyes slowly open.
Cang and Abia watch with a mixture of surprise and horror as the darts shake in Shyan’s skin.
Fassn’s song to Old Ajralan rises in intensity. Abia feels a kind of queer affinity for Fassn, his wiry beard, and his god. Often had she employed the power of melody to work uncommon feats. Now here was the old man doing so himself.
Meanwhile, Fassn concentrates, trying to keep the melody in his head. It’d been a while since he was taught the insistent chant. A while since he’d asked Old Ajralan for a favour directly.
Shyan twists on her back, slowly moving within the stone perimeter. Fassn takes a moment to shush and calm her as the darts quake.