works

9 v) Abia carefully watches Old Mossy as he separates two piles of human detritus

Abia carefully watches Old Mossy as he separates two piles of human detritus: one for Shyan, the other for Fassn. He scoops the little Shyan mound of nail and hair into the palm of his hand. “Hold this one’s mouth open,” he says to Abia. She quickly wipes her hands on her robes and kneels beside her friend, prying open her lips. Shyan’s tongue darts in and out of her mouth like a snake’s tasting the air.

“Where are my wings?” Fassn asks the room at large.

“Three,” Old Mossy says.

“Three until what?” Cang asks.

“Two,” Old Mossy says.

Cang leans in to see what they’re doing. “Pardon me?”

“One!” Old Mossy jams the mound onto Shyan’s tongue and her eyes shoot open at once. Their wet rheum is quickly faded, and in its place, the gentle, phosphorescent glow of the mushrooms.

9 iv) "Just trimmings and clippings," he replies. "The usual."

“Just trimmings and clippings,” he replies. “The usual.” With a flourish he produces a stubby knife, which, despite its short, triangular blade, appeared sharp. Cang is halfway to disarming him when Abia signals to let him work. Cang narrows his eyes but follows her instruction, every nerve fibre in his body tense.

Old Mossy bends to Shyan and cuts a lock of hair, then does the same to Fassn. He sniffs each sample, contemplating their qualities. “Hold their arms,” he says to Abia. She complies as Old Mossy takes a slice of fingernail from the third finger on each of their right hands. The sounds of jubilant celebration can still be heard around the bonfire outside.

“So it is witchery, after all?” Cang asks.

Old Mossy grins as he finely dices his samples with the knife. “Yes, yes! And it’s only just begun!”