iii) A tin bell jingles

A tin bell jingles as the gang enters the smithy. A coal-stained fellow, stout, with an unkempt beard, pauses with a hammer held above his head, mid-stroke. He pulls the round goggles off his face and stares agape at the four arrivals.

“Hello, sir blacksmith,” Cang says. “We are agents of the wizard Ulxurix, here to slay you.”

The blacksmith’s face falls into a mask of terror.

“Cang, you moron,” Shyan says, stepping forward. “Not true, sir. We’re just a band of travellers, looking for some help.”

“Metallurgical aid,” Abia says. She holds the book the wizard gave her, slightly away from her chest.

“That’s me,” the blacksmith stammers.

“Those coals look great,” Fassn says. “Can I have one?”

The blacksmith nods dumbly, and Fassn goes over to the forge. With his fingertips, he picks up and drops a number of coals, sending up the scent of sizzling flesh with each.

“These are hot,” he says.

Just then, five bedraggled figures burst into the smithy, tired and panting. The bell above them rings.

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