At the head of an ostentatious flight of stairs stands a massive set of double doors, crafted of fine, ancient oak, with filigree of silver veined throughout. Both Rivera and Rufus stop before it, turn to face the gang.
“Boss is through here,” says Rufus.
“You’re not coming with us?” Shyan asks.
Rivera shakes her head. “Boss likes to talk to clients alone.”
“What do you think, Abia?” asks Shyan.
“This is true,” she says, her tone suggesting no elaboration. The floating, glowing sphere takes a couple of turns around her head.
The musicians throw open the double doors. Within, an enormous throne room, and a thick, wet, unbearable heat.
“Good luck,” says Rivera, closing the door behind her.
cram your comeuppance
and try something new
stare down your failures
and victories too
rain on my skin, gone much too soon
dust off this axe, maybe strum you a tune
“The boss is exacting,” Abia says. “But he loves gold.”
The attendant observes from his vantage point atop his long nose. “This one has sense, at least,” he says. “But, alas, the boss is not receiving visitors right now.”
“Right,” says Rivera, rolling her eyes. “Don’t mind him,” she tells the gang. “He’s just lazy. He’ll say whatever it takes to get rid of us.”
“A most scurrilous accusation,” says the attendant, entirely unphased. “Truly, the boss is absent, on a walkabout, of sorts.”
Shyan gives Abia a questioning look. Abia replies with a look that says “don’t worry.” Sure enough, Rivera and Rufus push past the attendant and ascend an ornate staircase. The gang wastes no time in following, leaving the attendant blinking calmly in the foyer.
you have been lied to, yoohoo!
earth’s crust is riddled with pits
nothing can change without effort and strain
and yet, I’m feeding you shit
Abia shakes her head, a gentle motion that suggests a firm “no.” “Boss will know,” she says.
“Quiet down back there,” says the flutist. “Show a little respect.”
Cang gives her a grievous look, but says no more.
An attendant in a crisp waistcoat descends a set of wide, mahogany steps, and stares down at the gang past his long, crooked nose. “Rivera, why have you brought such filth into master’s home?”
Rivera, the flutist, draws herself up. “Getting some gold, all right? They brought something nice the boss is gonna want.” She gestures at Cang, who’s holding the necklace.
“Their clothes are filthy.”
“We took a bath, all right?” Shyan says. “Look, even cut my hair. What more could your boss possibly want? He either likes gold or he doesn’t, forget about hygiene.”
A small smile creeps onto Abia’s lips.