The grumpy barman runs them off and the gang stumbles, bleary, into the streets, the dry heat already picking up. Sweat-stained peasants saunter by and the reek of alcohol rises from the gang.
“Maybe now we can get our clothes cleaned too,” Shyan says, poking at a handful of coins cupped in her palm. “Hm,” she says, squinting at them. “Seems to be less than I thought.”
“Alcohol has that sort of inebr—” Cang begins, before a fit of hiccups interrupts him.
Eyebrows furrowed against the traitorous sun, the gang makes for Montague’s barbership.
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?”
“There appear to be no obvious discrepancies,” Cang announces, after tallying their takings according to several nations’ standard accountancy procedures. The coins are now gathered into four equal piles, one for each member of the gang. The little glowing sphere races around and between the neat stacks, turning and twirling.
“What about the barber?” asks Shyan.
“His mistake,” Cang says, “was rendering his services before accepting payment.” With a subtle gesture, he moves his palm over his stack of coins, and they vanish.
Fassn’s finished with Cang’s drink and is busy licking the empty eggshells sprayed across the table. Abia looks wistfully past the red-nosed drunks, laughing into their cups, through the grimy tavern windows, and out beyond the alleys to the dragon on its throne.
“That’s right,” drawls Fassn, his moustache and beard filled with foam. “We can’t be doin’ unethical stuff. Old Ajralan can’t be havin’ his fill of— of that.”
“We stole the necklace that’s paying for that drink,” Shyan points out. It’s not clear whether Fassn has heard her.
“Perhaps I shall just count our takings once again,” Cang says after a moment, uncoiling in an instant like a tight spring or a cobra patiently waiting to strike. Forming a small barrier with his body, as best he’s able, he begins sliding coins between little piles, crunching numbers with great concentration, not even pausing for a sip of ale. Fassn none-too-subtly slides Cang’s drink towards himself and consumes it while Cang counts and re-counts their coin.
A server brings another round of tankards brimming with spicy amber liquid. Fassn drinks from his without lifting it, just glues his lips to the rim on the table and makes loud slurping noises as he vacuums the booze to his mouth.
“At this rate,” Shyan says, enjoying a swig herself, her eyes beginning to glaze, “at this rate a pittance is all we’re gonna have.”
“Then I suppose the barber Montague will have to make do,” Cang says. “For certainly we could never skip town with wealth in our pockets, no. That would surely be unethical.”
“Yes, the barber,” says Cang, expertly rolling a coin between his fingers. “I suppose we owe the old fool a debt.”
“But we’re already spending the money,” Fassn says, as a server brings him a fresh platter of honeyed duck.
“This is undeniable,” replies Cang. In a single mighty swallow he empties his flagon and signals for another. “He knows not our price. We can offer a pittance and he shall be none the wiser.”
“Well, I don’t know,” Shyan says, her brow furrowed. “That’d be unethical, wouldn’t it?”
“Stealing,” says Abia.
“Exactly,” Shyan says. She spots a platter of oiled eggs and flags another server to bring them over. Her mouth full of egg, she mumbles, “On the other hand…”