34 iii) Though its face is lipless

Though its face is lipless, the creature seems to twist its expression into one of malicious amusement. When its mouth parts, and a low, rumbling, bassy voice emerges, the very ground itself begins to quake and quiver. Tremors run through the creature’s gripping claws, to the throne, through the ornate floor, and up into the boots of the gang — everything in the luxuriant chamber resonates as one when the beast speaks.

“Abia,” it says. “You’ve come back to me.”

34 ii) A gigantic creature with wings like a bat

A gigantic creature with wings like a bat, a long, fluted neck, and a narrow reptilian face contorted with greed and malice, bursts from the darkness, bringing with it a great gust of heat and roaring wind.

The gang plants their feet to resist being entirely bowled over. The creature turns effortlessly under the peak of the huge chamber, before coming into a dive and alighting upon the throne like a housecat. Its gold scales reflect the torchlight and its claws gouge into the beautiful throne.

The two parties stare one another down, save Fassn, who’s inhaling a deep breath of the hot air to feel it in his lungs.

Shyan clears her throat, looking the creature dead in its shiny black eyes. “We’re here to deal.”

34 i) The throne at the room’s far wall is massive

The throne at the room’s far wall is massive, built of fused gold, threaded with silver, studded with diamonds, rubies, sapphires. Fassn’s eyes nearly bug out of his skull as he takes in the display of wealth, while even Cang’s mouth drops involuntarily open. Heavy black shadows press in from all corners, kept flickeringly at bay by guttering torches in ornate sconces. The heat in the chamber is enough that sweat beads at the gang’s brows as they take in the oppressive throne.

The throne itself, though, is unoccupied.

“Hey we had a deal,” Shyan calls out, though no one is apparently around to here. “Mr. Dragon? We’ve got gold, stolen from royalty! Your musicians said you wanted to buy it.”

A wave of brutal heat suddenly washes over the gang, kicking up a hot wind that throws them each into disarray. Something enormous moves in the shadows.

v) “This is no surprise,” Cang says

“This is no surprise,” Cang says. “I always knew we’d vanish into a throne together some day.”

“And just like that, those two jump in? Caution, meet wind?”

“Evidently.”

“Because of course they do.” Shyan scowls. “I guess there’s nothing valuable in here after all.” She gestures at the empty, airy space, squints up against the last red rays of the sinking sun.

“Value is found in perspective,” Cang says. He sits near the throne, withdraws a journal, and takes a brief sketch. He coughs, waves away the clotting stench.

Shyan taps at the flagstones around it with the pommel of her sword. Finding nothing, she grunts in frustration.

Cang packs his things. “Into the throne?”

Shyan nods.