v) The gang paddles out from the water’s edge

The gang paddles out from the water’s edge, leaving the fisherman standing with his pole. He shouts, “Thieves, thieves,” and chases them. Others, alerted by the noise, come to look. Fingers point at the small boat splashing madly along the coast. It’s moving very slowly.

“We’ve gotta drop some weight,” Fassn says.

“Get outta my boat,” the fisherman calls.

“We have no weight to drop,” Shyan replies.

“It ain’t yours,” says the fisherman.

“Cang?” Fassn offers.

“I shall gladly kick you back into the water, if that is your intention,” Cang says.

Fassn squeezes the water out of his beard.

As the boat passes under an arched, stone bridge, some peasants upon it begin dropping rocks and sticks down upon the gang. Their riotous voices are alarming. Many are chanting “thieves,” which, while disparaging, is entirely accurate.

Aside from a few bruises, the team thrashes past the bridge and heads north, away from the town. Shyan looks back as the sun burns mist from the water. Seems the whole town is arrayed against them, shaking sticks, throwing rocks, shouting epithets. “Well,” she says. “One more place we can never come back to.”

iii) As the elderly fisherman awakes

As the elderly fisherman awakes from his dozing, Cang slips the paddle boat loose of its moorings. He climbs in and waits for the rest to do the same.

Stepping over the lip of the boat, Fassn catches the curled toe of his boot and tumbles forward, spinning his arms helplessly as he falls into the boat. Cang is thrown overboard, and splashes into the water.

This is enough to wake the dozing fisherman, who regards them all with surprise and confusion. “Who,” he sputters. “What’cha’ll doin’ with my boat?”

Shyan approaches the fisherman while Fassn and Abia struggle to extricate Cang from the water. When he plants his feet on the shore once more, he turns and pushes Fassn in, too. Rather than be upset, he starts to casually float upon his back, making short circles in the sea. “This is great,” he calls out to no one in particular.

“We’re taking your boat, sir,” Shyan says. “Sorry about that,” she adds, as she hops in.

iii) The gang treks to the harbour

The gang treks to the harbour, where stained and leaking fishing boats bob in the gentle tide. Fishermen and townsfolk give them the side-eye as they pass — word has travelled fast of the morning’s events.

Further north at the docks they find fewer people. This end is shady and cool, with only the odd greybeard casting his line into the green water. The gang mimes a fun and friendly conversation, but the fill of their garments and overall gloom of their demeanour means the illusion is a difficult sell. Still, they get closer and closer to a four-seater rowboat, tied up near a young man snoozing in a folding chair.

“This is it,” Cang whispers.

“We’re gonna steal it?” Fassn asks.

“Quiet. Not steal, borrow,” Cang replies.

“I’d feel better about this if we paid for it,” Shyan says.

“Go ahead, then, if you can spare the coin.”

Shyan flushes gently. Her gear, like all of theirs, is somewhere behind them, in the castle. Meanwhile, Cang is already at the ropes, quickly untying them.

The snoozing man stirs.

ii) Cang barks a yelp and drops the fang

Cang barks a yelp and drops the fang. It’s motionless.

“Twitchy,” says Fassn. He stoops with a groan and grabs curved purple tooth. Without pausing, he slips it into a ragged pouch he’s sewn into his coat. As far as anyone can tell, it doesn’t move of its own accord. He pats it. “Whaddaya think it’s worth?”

“Worth?” Shyan asks. “Who would buy it?”

“I do perhaps have a contact who may be interested,” Cang says. He’s shaking his hand as though he’s burnt the fingers. “He and I have not made our acquaintance in some time, however. ‘Tis entirely possible his passion for occult obscurities has been snuffed out, replaced by something equally peculiar.”

“Well, we could use the money,” Shyan says.

“We shall have to hire a boat,” Cang says. “This fellow, Richmond, lives up the coast. I surmise a journey on foot would be most disagreeable.”

“Then we’re gonna need money,” Fassn shouts. “Maybe someone here in town would buy it?”

“Who, like Horton?” Shyan says. “No way. Let’s see who’s renting down at the harbour.”

i) When the fang lands on the floor

When the fang lands on the floor, the magic circle dies away. Its light and noise dissipates so slowly it’s hard to notice, but as the gang stands in silence, intoning whatever private tribute to Berstuun they may, the circle’s magic fades. Nothing is left but the fang.

Shyan rummages some drawers until she finds a mallet. She raises it dramatically and an instant later brings it down on the purple fang. The force, though considerable, isn’t enough to break the thing: it goes flying out from under the mallet and bounces off a far wall, leaving a crack in the plaster.

Cang sprints over to find the fang itself unchanged. He holds it up in two fingers. “Do you think we could secure a good price for this object?”

“Maybe from the lich,” Shyan says. “But I don’t think she should have it.”

“What’ll happen to the witch, Ulxurix, if we break the tooth?” Fassn asks. “Her body, I mean.”

Shyan shrugs. “I don’t know. Can it be worse than a lich running loose?”

Just then, in Cang’s fingers, the fang twitches.

v) Fassn clutches his iron bar

Fassn clutches his iron bar as the gang makes their way out of the rain. They step up a set of ornate stairs, worked by a master craftsperson, to huddle by the massive double doors of the castle. The wood is engraved with stylized depictions of a looming figure standing tall above a frightened populace. Ordinary people flee and hide as the figure triumphs above them. At the centre of each door is a brass knocker, cut into the shape of a predatory bird’s head.

Fassn reaches up and knocks.

Nothing but the thunder and rain returns their greeting, until Shyan spots a flash of movement at a first storey window. Another moment later and the ornate doors slowly swing inward, revealing a dark, dank foyer with creeping mists along the floor.

“Come in, honoured guests,” comes a voice. It’s familiar, yet eerie and alien. The gang can’t place where it’s coming from.

Suddenly, Cang materializes from the mists before them. He smiles, his mouth full of glowing purple fangs. “So good of you to join me.”

iv) The creak of the bars sends a chill

The creak of the bars sends a chill down Abia’s back, worse yet than the rain pounding down. Shyan groans and grunts as the wrought iron bars are wrenched away from their place in the gate.

With a sudden give, her efforts are rewarded. She stumbles back, her fists still curled around two bars. She clears her throat, spits, and throws them to the ground.

Fassn grabs one, inspects the broken end, and sucks upon it like a lollipop.

Shyan, her breath still ragged, gestures through the newly opened hole in the gate. Abia passes her rucksack through, then slips easily in behind it. She watches from the castle grounds as Fassn struggles through the narrow opening, his paunch getting caught. He keeps hold of the bar, though, and eventually slides in, but not before moaning about the pain in his wings — which of course have long been gone.

Shyan throws her things over to Abia, then climbs in herself. Setting foot on the castle grounds seems to stoke the weather above, and a mighty crash of thunder rings around them.

The castle stands, silhouetted against the mist.