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Like every other town in the kingdom, there was a large board in the town square. Notices, written on varying quality parchments, fluttered in the breeze.

“Y’know, once upon a time, these boards had some decent stuff on,” muttered the dwarf, craning his neck to try and read the notices at the top. “Marauding bears. The wandering dead. Haunted dungeons. Bandits! What I wouldn’t give for a good old fashioned bunch a’ bandits.”

The elf beside him said nothing, intent on reading the postings.

“What have they got on here these days,” the dwarf continued. “Missing cats!”

The elf sighed. “Missing cats could be a sign of something far more sinister,” he said in a neutral tone. “An evil cult, perhaps. It may be only a matter of time until they move from cats to children.”

The dwarf looked up at him. “You don’t actually believe that, do you?”

“It is far more likely to be a case of cats running away,” he admitted. “There is nothing here that the townspeople aren’t capable of handling themselves.”

At that moment, their two human companions came out of the tavern, their faces like thunder.

“It’s happened again,” said the woman, her hands unnervingly close to her daggers. “It’s only bloody happened again!”

The dwarf’s face darkened and the elf took a step away from him.

“They beat us to it, again,” said the young man, shifting his shoulders awkwardly under his armour. “If we’d been here just a few days ago, we could have had a pack of wolves to deal with, a young girl to save from liches in the cemetery, and the giant rats that were plaguing the tavern to drive off. But another group of adventurers was just here, and now there’s nothing that the townspeople could possibly need from us.”

The woman kicked at the dirt. “They even bought up all the decent supplies.”

The dwarf could keep quiet no longer. “Blast them! Curse the rotten wombs that they crawled out of! Damn them to the deepest pits of the stinking filth-mines of Argolia!”

The elf took a deep breath and turned to the humans, trying to make himself heard over the dwarf’s continuing string of curses and obscenities. “Did the townspeople, perhaps, tell you which way the other adventurers were going when they left? We might want to consider taking a different road.”

© Kari Fay

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