v) Tell us about deal

“Tell us about deal,” Abia says. She gently pats the back of the old man’s rough hand.

“Wet magic,” Berstuun gasps, his breathing coming more and more shallowly now. “Dark places. I deserve it.”

“Okay, as fascinating as this is,” Shyan says. She motions for the door.

“At last, someone speaks sense,” Cang replies.

“Ulxurix left me once,” the old man continues. “Magic circle… left me with it.”

Fassn’s face falls and he stops petting the man’s papery skin. “I think we know where this is going.”

Berstuun sobs. “She left me with the circle. I made a deal.”

“A deal that gave you purple fangs?” Shyan asks.

He begins nodding, doesn’t stop. “Fangs, magic, death. I’m to blame.”

Abia says gently, “No, not to blame.”

Berstuun meets her eyes for the first time. They’re red and overflowing with milky tears. “Yes,” he says. The dim purple light from his mouth is revolting. “I’m to blame. I called the lich.”

iv) “Blame me,” Bertuun rasps

“Blame me,” Bertuun rasps. His throat is dry as a barn before a conflagration. The purple glow of his teeth has faded down to barely a flicker.

“Tell us about girl,” Abia says.

Cang groans. “Let us leave!”

“Yeah, c’mon, old man,” says Fassn. “Tell us a love story.”

“I was young,” he replies. “So young.” His palsied hands move to his scalp, touch the few thin white hairs still clinging to it. “She lived in the castle.”

“Rich girl, eh?” Fassn says.

“I worked the fields. It could never be. Never be.” Berstuun’s face collapses in anguish. “Never be.”

As he writhes on the floor, Shyan takes a step back. “Abia, maybe we should be going.”

“Never be,” Abia agrees. “So what you do?”

“I made a deal,” he says, carrying the sounds until his voice rises to a pitchy whine. “I made a deal.”