iv) Abia channels frost into the ugobok

Abia channels frost into the ugobok, trying desperately to keep it from regaining its monstrous strength. She thinks of the Jiko’s former realm, and of Grumalla, gardening, lonely. She wonderes if the place is still cold, now, or if their actions really did help to warm it up. She imagines that she’s facilitating the transfer of its frigid clime, through her flesh, along every nerve ending from her heart through her fingers, and into the scaly hide of the ugobok, keeping the dangerous creature sedate.

The snake twitches and shudders as Cang works on its eye. Abia keeps her touch anchored, gentle but firm, moving with the body of the snake. Her face is calm, neutral, but inside, she’s terrified she might break contact or concentration, and in that instant, the ugobok’s enormous tail will flick and summarily kill her friends. She ruminates on this, pictures fleshy, animal cells overcome with tiny points of frost — partly to keep the spell alive and vibrant, and partly to ignore the bloody violence Cang wreaks with his knife.

iii) “What’s to feel bad about?”

“What’s to feel bad about? This thing would eat us if it could,” Fassn mumbles. His mouth, now entirely empty of teeth, is tender, and the words emerge poorly formed. His back straightens with the onset of an idea. “We should eat it, instead.”

“We’re not here to eat it,” Shyan says. She catchs the ugobok’s eye. “We’re not here to eat you.”

The snake grumbles and writhes gently, unable to fight the effects of Abia’s spell.

“We do, however, have need of one of your eyes.”

“It’s only one, though,” Shyan says. “It’s going to make us rich.”

“Filthy rich,” Cang agrees. He draws a skinning knife, topped with a wicked hook, from his bag. He approaches the head of the snake, then stops to ponder. “Indeed,” he muses aloud. “These fangs may well be worth a pretty penny, too.”

“Well if cutting out its eye kills it, we can talk about its fangs,” Shyan says. The beast’s great orange eyes bear down upon her. “Somehow this feels cruel,” she says.

“What, you never eaten meat before?” Fassn asks. “Where do you think it comes from?”

“Come along, now,” Cang says. “I’ll do it.” He gestures to Abia. “Keep a hold on it, would you?”