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The Legless Lion writhed in the nets on the floor, splashing its flippers in blood-stained puddles. The mouth opened, showing yellow teeth, emitting its fearful bark and a waft of fishy breath. The eyes, liquid brown, roved the room. Did it see the gutted carcasses of its fellows hanging from hooks in the ceiling?

Quickly. Isandor grabbed the knife more tightly.

Cut the heart, kill in one stroke, as it was done properly. Don't show his uncle his hesitation. His uncle had too many doubts about him as butcher's assistant already. Isandor didn't want to lose his job.

He stabbed deep into the hairy chest. As the blade sank in, a golden glow burst, unbidden, from his fingers.

Oh, by the sky-lights!

The chest split open and the animal's heart jumped out. Isandor managed to catch it, warm and pulsing, in his trembling hands. Gold light poured from his fingers, filling the hole in the animal's chest. The lion barked and snapped at the netting, raising itself on clumsy flippers. Its fur had faded from mottled grey to an eerie blue, a faint glow. At the place where the heart should be, the chest shimmered. Icefire, forbidden and feared.

Isandor lunged as fast as his wooden leg would allow, catching the lion around the neck. The fur was rough and stank of fish. He cared not about the animal's snapping mouth. His uncle must not be allowed to see that this had happened again, the third time in as many days. With one hand, he flung the heart back into the animal's chest and let go, sliding off the hairy back.

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