Astra 4 blinks and then rubs her eyes. It makes no difference. The oil
from the roof of the wagon gives only a dim light, but there is no doubt
the dwarf sitting opposite her is rapidly transforming into an orc. The
seems unaware of the change as yet.
Astra runs through the possibilities in her mind. The apparent change in the dwarf could conceivably be merely an illusion caused by some spell cast on Astra herself. But what could the purpose of such a spell possibly be? She assesses that possibility as being highly unlikely. The alternative is that the change is for real. She had not thought that, since the Crystallics ceased to function, there was any magic left on Terra that was powerful enough to do something like this. Could someone have somehow found a way of "recharging" the Crystallics? However it was done, whoever is responsible must have a rather malicious sense of humour, she thinks, given the traditional hatred of dwarves for orcs. It would certainly seem that the spellcaster is not on the side of her captors. But I can't assume from that that whoever it is will necessarily be on my side, Astra thinks.
The possibility of the change just being an illusion is removed when Astra hears cries of dismay and horror coming from outside the wagon. She realises that the other dwarves must have been transformed as well. Whoever did this must be even more powerful than she had first thought. The former dwarf who is guarding her gets to his feet, so that he can stick his head out of the wagon and investigate. For the first time he sees his new body, and lets out a terrible howl of anguish.
1/29/2000 9:41:00 AM
The Never Ending Quest Home
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