v) “The blacksmith,” Shyan says


“The blacksmith,” Shyan says, her tone dour and disbelieving. “What could you possibly have against him?”

“He’s a competitor and rival,” Ulxurix says. “You could have brought your soup to him and I’ve been out of a commission. Not to mention your young friend’s dental work, here.”

Fassn waves amiably.

Cang subtly elbows Shyan. “What is this blacksmith’s name, madam?” he asks.

“Horton Belwether,” she says, grinning. “You can make it look like an accident, if you want.”

Abia shudders.

“Good thinking, sister,” says the wizard. “Best make it look like an accident. I don’t want his whole ruddy family coming up here to knock my lighthouse down.”

Shyan sighs. “Looks like we’re off to the smithy.”


iv) With some unease, Shyan gestures to the weapon


With some unease, Shyan gestures to the weapon at her hip, and says, “What do you think we’re doing with these old things?”

“They are not merely for hunting our dinner,” adds Cang.

“Good, good,” chirps the wizard, in an oscillating cadence. “Let me describe your mark!”

For a few moments Ulxurix works herself into a righteous fury, decrying her dreadful rival, whom the gang is to make suffer in exchange for Fassn’s teeth. The portrait is that of a middle-aged fellow, overweight, with a wife and four children.

“He lives at the centre of town,” says Ulxurix.

“Town? As in, this town?” Shyan asks.

“Of course,” the wizard replies. “He’s the blacksmith!” She cackles with manic delight.


iii) Look, maybe there’s something we can do for you in exchange?


“Look, maybe there’s something we can do for you in exchange?” Shyan asks. “We’re real good at running errands.”

Ulxurix ponders. “Errands,” she muses. “Errands.”

“We could deliver something, or pick something up,” Shyan continues, doing her best to goad the wizard.

“We could bite or chew something,” Fassn adds. Abia squints at his teeth and he grins, proud. She taps them with her fingernail.

Shifting his bag to more readily hide the bulging gold bar, Cang says, “Yes! We could bite or chew,” going right along with the absurdity of the statement.

“Well,” Ulxurix says. “I don’t need anything, delivered, picked up, bitten, or chewed.” She taps at her chin with one finger.

“Found? Lost? Broken? Fixed? We’ve got all sorts of skills,” Shyan says.

A malicious glint flashes through Ulxurix’s eyes. “How about ‘killed’?”