22 ii) Cang watches closely as one of the sentries limps through his patrol

Cang watches closely as one of the sentries limps through his patrol. The guard makes several turns about the courtyard, keeping eyes alert, especially at the bases of the twin trees.

Another guard has a black eye: it’s ugly, purple, already swollen shut. Its wide mouth is turned down in a frown.

Cang gathers a couple of stones and waits for his moment. When the limping sentry is at the edge of his loop, Cang throws a stone the opposite way, which the black-eyed guard notices. His gaze tracks it, and he squints with his good eye to see what it might have been. To test his peripherals, Cang makes a quick, silent wave far at the edge of his vision — and the guard doesn’t seem to notice.

“Perhaps next time Shyan should blacken both their eyes,” Cang thinks with a cruel streak of glee.

19 iv) The arc of the stone cuts gracefully through the dim light

The arc of the stone cuts gracefully through the dim light and clonks the princess in the head, leaving her stuttering through her chanting. The sense of tingling radiation fades from Abia’s mind as the princess wobbles. Old Mossy growls and runs to the princess’ side.

The other wide-mouthed creatures look panicked as Shyan lays into them. By now, several are groaning on the ground, clutching wounded arms and legs. Shyan begins to feel their poison moving through her body, and lets out a war cry of passion enough to loosen knees. She points an accusatory finger at Old Mossy and the princess. “Leave this place,” she growls, “or I’m coming for you next.”

Old Mossy growls again, but signals to some of his still-standing fellows to aid him in dragging the princess and their fallen friends away, while Shyan stands tall, breast heaving, beads of sweat breaking at her brow.

iii) Cang backs away from the door itself

Cang backs away from the door itself, paws at the vaguely-opalescent stones of the wall. Hefting his warhammer, he cleanly knocks a stone the size of his head loose of its mooring. Fine particulate clouds and takes many minutes to settle. With a laugh, Cang knocks another stone loose, only to realise that a band of iron stands behind the stones. He raps a knuckle against it, opens his ruck. “I was certain I’d carried a chisel with me,” he says, pulling out a set of clanking manacles. He draws out two iron spikes. “Perhaps not.”