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. Should he remain silent?
Should he speak out? The hammer continued pounding.
Immersed in his task, the dwarf did not see the grotesque
figure moving through the shadowy doorway. For a mo-
ment the fire flared, outlining a black, misshapen figure
shorter even than the dwarven smith.
This dark one shuffled forward, and again the blaze rose,
revealing a hump of flesh that twisted the stunted body half
sideways. Still the smith hammered, eyes focused on the
wheel, unaware of the one who slowly limped toward him
The hunchbacked figure raised a hand to his chest and
wrapped his blunt fingers around a small object that hung
suspended from his neck by a chain.
Blue light glowed between those fingers as the amulet
sparked to life. His other hand gestured toward the smith.
Softly, the blue light spread outward, advancing slowly like
an oily, penetrating mist. It reached forward in uneven tend-
rils, closer and closer to the smith.
For the first time, the hammer faltered slightly in its blow.
Reflexively, the dwarf raised it again, ready to strike. Sud-
denly his face distorted in a grimace of unimaginable agony,
and his body convulsed with a violent spasm