By the time the sleep has cleared from her eyes, the charred, broken streaks across Abia’s flesh have dissipated. She feels their warmth, still. The gang shares a quiet breakfast and it’s clear no one feels rested. Abia is silent, as usual, but there’s a quality to the silence that prompts Shyan to ask what she’s thinking.
“Thinking of return,” Abia says, a world-weariness to her tone though her eyes sparkle.
“Last one, huh?” asks Shyan, doubt heavy in her voice.
“Superb,” Cang says. “There are indeed several valuables I would love to acquire.”
“What about all that?” Fassn asks, jabbing Cang in the ribs where he keeps a pouch of coins secreted in his vest.
“Never you mind,” says Cang. “After all, this is for Abianarin!”
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.
When weak yellow sunlight begins edging its way through grimy tavern windows, Shyan stirs. She’d fallen asleep at the table, still gripping a half-full tankard. Fassn’s asleep too, head back and mouth wide open, snoring.
Cang continues to count his stash, making careful little piles for future expenses and extravagances. Abia’s still focused, with unyielding pacificity, at some unseen point beyond the tavern.
When the light tickles her nose, Shyan shoots up. “Master Davit!?” she shouts, her eyes wild. The barman shoots her a startled look from across the room where he’s lifting chairs onto tables. “All right now, you slept for free, off you lot go, y’hear?”
sleep, wracked apart
sad times, dying future
one giant earth
under red suns
which must, some day, set
slain in sleep that red edge falls
apart from practice, one and all
driving out the ragged ends
looking for some more pretend
more sweat, wet wonderings
weak-kneed willies in the night
dream a little dream
of a hundred ninety-nine years
when restful sleep will come