i) The man at the door is dressed in clothes of finest cut

The man at the door is dressed in clothes of finest cut. Brocaded lapels, silver cufflinks, and supple, thigh-high riding boots complete his look. His face is narrow and hard, pinched in a permanent scowl. Behind him quivers Horton Belwether, the blacksmith.

Pointing with a quaking hand, Horton says, “That’s them, they’s the ones.”

“I would thank you not to handle my property,” says the lich, his voice a pleasant baritone edged with cruelty.

Shyan swallows hard and meets the man’s empty eyes. There is something decidedly inhuman about them. She keeps her voice from cracking and says, “Finders keepers?”

A malicious smile plays upon the man’s lips. “Oh, to have found, and kept, when I was but a boy,” he muses. To his fearful companion, he says, “Close your eyes, Horton.”

An instant later, the lich claps his hands, and from them a sonic boom pulses forth, stunning the gang, leaving them locked in an eternal moment while the lich laughs.

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