v) Shyan removed her gloves

Shyan removed her gloves, and led the group across the split pikes as though they were water spiders. Her exposed flesh caught splinters. She winced at the pain sinking under her fingernails but kept her strength enough to cross.

Fassn was next, and he crawled, muttering under his breath, his face flush with the effort of supporting his body weight. Cang followed, and had some difficulty with the exercise, given his diminished wingspan, but by the end showed none of the sweat or heavy breathing of his companion. Finally, Abianarin followed. Her passage was most unusual of all: when she crossed, her form became smoky, indistinct. Her friends squinted at her, and before they knew it, she stood beside them on the other end of the pit.

“With my share,” Fassn said, panting, “I’m gonna retire.”

iv) The dry sound of cracking wood

The dry sound of cracking wood filled the chamber, as Abianarin’s humming grew in pitch and volume. Soon, before the wide eyes of her companions, the poles’ spiked points split into a Y shape, with grinding protestations from the ancient wood. When Abia let her humming fade, the spiked poles, once fit for a palisade, resembled small, flat platforms. Splinters were all that remained of the split points.

Dusting herself off, Abianarin gestured to the pit.

“Foul sorcery,” Fassn muttered.

“Let us see your Ajralan do this,” she said, with a smile of satisfaction.

“So we’re to crawl across on hands and knees?” Shyan asked.

“What is next is up to you,” Abia said.