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Though it was a dream, and one that Keladry of Mindelan was quite tired of at that, it never looked nor felt like a dream. It never contained those changing bits of people, places, and roles that made dreams so aggravating for Kel. This dream was always the same. She lay with the comfortable black blanket of sleep wrapped around and through her. Then, against the blackness, light slid on movement. The light grew to reveal twelve of the large, vaguely rat- or insect-like metal creatures known as killing devices, magical structures made of iron-coated giants’ bones, chains, pulleys, dagger hands and toes, and a long, whip-like tail. The seven-foot-tall devices stood motionless in a half-circle as the light uncovered what lay at their feet, a pile of freshly dead children.

Once she saw the devices and the bodies, the man who seemed to be the master of the creations would appear. To Kel he was “the little Nothing Man.” He was almost two feet shorter than the killing devices, long-nosed and narrow-mouthed, with small, rapidly blinking eyes and dull brown hair. His dark robe was marked with stains and burns; his hair was unkempt. He always gnawed a fingernail, or scratched a pimple, or shifted from foot to foot.

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