“That’s probably enough for me, anyway,” Fassn says. He makes a great effort to still the chattering of his teeth: it fails. “I think Old Ajralan’s had his fill, anyway.”
“Concurred,” says Cang, who’s got the lip of his crowbar at the tile’s grout. He heaves and heaves and suddenly, with a crack, the tile gives way and comes loose. He hefts it, leaning far back to accommodate its weight. The tile’s nearly the size of his own torso, if not its density. “I believe I am ready to depart,” he says, a greedy glint in his eye that’s matched by the sparkling aspect of the tile.
“That’s right, don’t bother,” Fassn says from below. “Just for a second, won’t take long. I just want to have a taste.”
At this, groans of protest from the other three.
“Old Ajralan,” Fassn intones.
“Don’t say it,” Shyan says through gritted teeth.
“May you,” Fassn continues, haltingly. He’s waving his arms wildly to reach the brown goop under him. “Have your fill,” he finishes, fingers stretched to the breaking point. Still, he can’t quite reach the sludge.
The gang splits by gender into the two rooms, and for the first time in a while, sleep comfortably on a mattress of hay.
Their collective dreams are haunted. Shyan sees a massive, scaly foot crush a martial artist in an instant. Cang cracks open an elaborate treasure chest to find only sharpened stones inside. Fassn calls to Old Ajralan, but receives only billowed smoke in response.
Abia stares deeply into the dragon’s eyes.
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.