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GrodekEdit

"Zanadar!" he bellowed loudly, wiping the sweat from his brow, "I didn't hear you fellers come in."

The blacksmith groaned and set down his hammer. "My hearing isn't what it used to be, believe it or not," he said walking towards the counter.

"You don't say?" Zanadar joked, "I hadn't noticed."

Grodek laughed and leaned on the counter heavily. "It's been a while, what brings you to my shop?"

"Well, I need a repair to one of my blades. I need it done quickly though, is there any chance you could have it finished by tomorrow morning?"

The smith rubbed his chin contemplatively. "That's not much time, I'll have to see the damage."

Zanadar nodded and wrapped his hand around one of the large hilts protruding from over his shoulder. With one quick movement he drew the heavy sword from its sheath and held it in front of him, a noticeable dent had been etched into its side.

"That's a mighty big sword," Grodek said, "I'll never understand how it is you're able to use two of them fellers at once."

"He just wears them to look scary," Elandar stated as Zanadar set the sword down on the countertop.

Grodek leaned over the blade, examining it carefully. "That's an awful big dent," he observed, "How did you manage that one?"

Zanadar chuckled a bit uneasily. "It hit a piece of metal."

The smithy looked up from the sword. "That's it?" he asked, "that must have been some piece of metal." Grodek gave the big man an amused look, "I think you're holding back on me."

"Well, it was two pieces of metal really, I suppose. And it only damaged my blade because they were moving at an awkward angle."

The blacksmith grinned knowingly. "That's from another sword, isn't it?"

"Yes, yes it is," Zanadar admitted somewhat guiltily.

"So what was the second piece of metal then?"

"Well that was the armor of the fellow holding the sword," he answered.

Grodek winced and shook his head. "I don't even want to know."

"So do you think you'll be able to have it fixed by tomorrow morning?"

"I thought you knew me better than that, Zanadar!" Grodek answered, "Of course I can have it ready by tomorrow morning. The question is can you afford to pay me to have it ready by tomorrow morning?"

"Now there's the Grodek I know." Zanadar replied. He loosened the strings on his money purse and picked out a few shiny coins. He looked backed to Morgan, who had been standing quietly in the background as the two men talked. "I seem to be doing this a lot today," he said glumly. The big man turned back to the blacksmith. "You haven't gone and raised your prices on me, have you?"

Grodek held up his hands defensively. "I would never do such a thing. I still charge the same exorbitant amount for you as I always have."

"You could make him pay more, you know." Elandar suggested irritably.

"Nonsense," the blacksmith responded, "There was a time when Zanadar almost single-handedly kept me in business. I can only hope that a war will break out so your big friend has an excuse to go start breaking things again. I could really use a few new horses, or a bigger shop."

"That's a terrible thing to say," Zanadar said with a grin as he set the coins next to his sword on the counter.

"But it's true all the same!"

"Well, I can't really argue that."

"So," the blacksmith said pointing to Morgan, "Who is your friend back there?"

"Oh, how rude of me," the big man apologized, "Grodek, this is Morgan Derek."

Morgan gave the blacksmith a friendly nod, "Pleased to meet you."

"So what's your business with these two troublemakers, Morgan?" the blacksmith inquired.

"The three of us are headed out of the city on ranger business," Morgan explained, "Zanadar and I are assigned to work together."

Grodek frowned, his deep wrinkles creasing his forehead. "Well that was disgustingly vague," he said sourly, "I see Zanadar is already rubbing off on you."

"No, he came that way," Elandar responded crankily.

Zanadar laughed. "Well, he is a fast learner."

"So you're working with the rangers now?" Grodek pushed.

"It would seem that for the moment I am," the big man answered with a smile.

Grodek threw his hands up in the air. "Blast it all, try not to be too forthcoming there, Zanadar!" he said, "I wouldn't want you to give away any official state secrets or anything. Even for an old friend like me, it's just not worth it."

"You know you're right," Zanadar answered sardonically, "I ought to watch what I say. So you'll have the blade ready tomorrow morning?"

"Yeah, yeah," the blacksmith grumbled, "you can pick it up anytime after dawn."

The big man cringed, "I'm afraid we're going to be leaving a little earlier than that."

Grodek cursed. "So I get to work all night and get up early. I sure am glad my old friend Zanadar stopped by to visit today."

"That's the spirit!"

"I could certainly use a little 'spirits' right now, if you catch my drift," the smith said hopefully.

Zanadar laughed. "We will see you tomorrow morning, Grodek," he said with a wave, "Thank you very much, of course, for your time. It is greatly appreciated."

The three men made their way out of the blacksmith's shop and back into the city. The central keep loomed over the streets as the sun sank lower into the horizon. It was not far to the stables, and the group walked briskly out the inner gate and around the towering walls until they reached New Targonor's parade grounds.

The jousting fields Morgan had passed earlier were now empty, the riders from the morning had abandoned their training for the day hours ago and the field sat empty, save for a few squires grooming their masters steeds.

A long wooden structure sat apart a small distance from the field's grandstands. It was open from either end and both the noises and smell permeating from the building left no question in the minds of any unsure travelers that these were indeed the city's stables.

Inside, the ground was covered with a matted layer of dry hay. A variety of horses filled the stalls lining both walls, sticking their heads out eagerly as the three men passed, hoping for treats. The stables were not nearly as crowded as the streets outside. Only a few stable hands scurried back and forth, busily attending to the animals. Morgan led the group to the center of the building and stopped next to an open stall.

"Well hello there, Morgan!" a friendly sounding voice called from inside the stall.

CorneredEdit

Morgan smiled politely. "Hello yourself, Renna."

A short, dark haired girl, who looked to be about the same age as Morgan emerged from the horse stall. She had a slender build and wore dark brown pants and a loose fitting grey tunic, bits and pieces of straw clung to her mussed hair. She rubbed her dark eyes wearily.

"Am I interrupting something?" Morgan asked.

"What?" Renna responded, confused.

Morgan pointed at the straw dangling from the girl's hair.

"Oh that!" she said brushing it away, "No you weren't interrupting anything. I was already awake anyway."

"Sleeping on the job?" Elandar gasped incredulously.

"Well I wouldn't say that," the girl said impishly, "more like working between naps." She turned her head slightly at the old man. "I don't believe we've met, I'm Renna!" she said, extending her hand.

Elandar ignored the gesture. "In my day we'd have been stoned for such insolence!" the old wizard spat angrily. "I ought to notify your superior."

"Her superior is Adlus," Morgan responded.

The old man cursed and took on a sour expression.

"Anyway," Morgan continued, "I do have a reason for being here-"

"Yes, yes, Minster Weasel sent word earlier."

"Sssh!" Morgan whispered, looking over his shoulder, "Not so loud, what if someone hears you? You really shouldn't speak of Adlus like that, so...openly."

"I sure hope the horses don't tell on me," she said sarcastically.

"Still," he said stubbornly, "it's not right."

Renna rolled her eyes. "All right, his esteemed Excellency Minister Adlus of New Targonor hath sent word to me, verily, of your impending arrival. He doth assure me in your company shall be one great oaf who doth respond to thy calling of Zanadar. Henceforth, upon your arrival, I, stablehand Renna am hereby obliged to offer you two mounts of unmatched quality for assistance in thy realm of speediness... verily."

The girl scanned the three men, her gaze stopping upon Zanadar. "You must be the oaf," she said, "Pleased to meet you!"

The big man frowned. "Did he really call me an oaf?"

"I'm afraid so," Renna nodded solemnly. "So..." she asked Morgan sweetly, "how is Gillian?"

"She's doing well." Morgan answered, "She'd be happy that you asked."

"Oh I'm sure she would be. Has she decided to come to the city yet?"

He shook his head. "No, she's still very at home in Tursh. I don't suspect that will change much anytime soon."

Renna wrinkled her nose. "I'll never know what it is you two see in that place. But I do know what when I finally convince Gillian to come to New Targonor that you'll be close behind." She smirked devilishly. "And then... you'll be in trouble Morgan Derek."

Zanadar raised an eyebrow.

"Never mind." Morgan said quickly, "About those horses?"

Renna laughed wickedly. "Of course!" she said, "For you, nothing but two of our finest animals."

Elandar cleared his throat loudly.

"Actually," Zanadar added, "we'll need three."

Renna looked to Morgan, he nodded. "We seemed to have gained another person."

"Oh, I don't know..." she trailed off playfully, "Minister Adlus specifically said there would be two of you. I wouldn't want to disobey him."

"Don't you even think about getting smart with us, you little nuisance!" Elandar squawked.

"I wasn't being smart, I promise. I am just trying to do a good job. I don't know what would happen if I were to give you three horses when instructed to only let you have two. Why, in your day I could be stoned for such insolence," she said tartly.

"Conniving wench!" the old man bellowed, nearly choking. "I ought to turn you into a horse!"

"Then I could kick you out of my stables with four feet instead of just two."

Morgan winced. "Let's not do anything drastic."

"I have to apologize for my venerable companion," Zanadar said, stepping in front of the old wizard, "He's very old, you see, and quite upset by the fact. He also won't fit on a horse with me, and as you can probably imagine, I don't think Morgan is particularly enthused by the prospect of sharing a mount with him either. If we had a third horse, you would be doing us a tremendous favor. There must be some way we can convince you."

Renna gave Morgan a pointed look. "You know what I want."

The ranger gulped heavily, he could feel himself blushing. "Could we just buy it, perhaps?" he asked.

"You know as well as I these horses aren't for sale Morgan," she said with a devastating grin.

Morgan squirmed about uneasily, from which Renna seemed to derive some sort of cruel pleasure. He looked to Zanadar, desperation in his eyes.

"Maybe we could rent one?" the big man interjected.

Renna sighed in disappointment and took her eyes off the ranger. "That sounds a lot like bribery to me."

"I apologize, I didn't mean to imply-"

"Lucky for you I'm very susceptible to bribes," she interrupted cheerfully, "How much have you got?"

Zanadar grumbled and once again loosened the strings on his coin purse and looked inside. "Not nearly as much as I had this morning," he muttered. He emptied the purse into his hand and counted out a few of the larger coins. "How's that?" he asked, showing them to Renna.

"It looks like a joke to me," she responded.

"I can match that," Morgan said, adding several more coins to the pile in Zanadar's hand.

"Now we're getting somewhere. What about you, old man?" she said to Elandar, "It is your horse, after all."

"Don't push your luck missy," he growled.

Renna laughed and tapped her chin absently as she thought. "I suppose that will do," she said and deftly snatched the coins from Zanadar. "It's been a pleasure doing business with you gentlemen."

"We'll stop by tomorrow morning just before dawn to pick up the horses," the big man said.

Renna cringed. "That's quite early."

"Good thing you had a nap." Elandar mumbled as they began to head towards the entrance.

"Good thing," she shot back. Renna smiled dangerously. "I'll see you tomorrow, Morgan."

Morgan gave an uneasy wave and followed the others back out onto the street. The three men began to walk back towards the tavern in silence. The streets remained busy, but a relaxed quiet had fallen over them as the sun gradually disappeared below the horizon. Morgan glanced over at Zanadar. The big man was grinning at him dumbly.

"Don't do that," the ranger said self-consciously.

Sleep at lastEdit

"Don't do what? I didn't say anything."

"You were thinking it."

The big man held his hands up defensively. "But I didn't say anything."

A surprised look suddenly shot across Elandar's face, his bushy eyebrows springing to life. He looked about excitedly. "Tenderfoot!" Elandar exclaimed in a hushed tone.

"What?" Morgan answered shortly, without thinking.

The old man leaned in closely, a conspiratorial look about him. "I think that crook running the stables fancies you," he whispered. Elandar took a step back and nodded sagely.

Morgan rolled his eyes and began walking faster. "We need to hurry up and get back to the tavern. We'll need all the sleep we can get tonight."

"She was pretty," Zanadar offered innocently, matching the ranger's pace.

"Shouldn't we be discussing the plan for tomorrow?" Morgan asked.

"There really isn't much to it, I'm afraid. We wake up, get my sword and the horses and then go to Rindol Field," the big man answered. "Who is Gillian?"

Morgan ignored the question.

"Are you courting her?" Zanadar asked. "Your wife perhaps?"

"Wife!" Elandar said. "He's just a boy. He's far too young to be married."

"I don't know Elandar," the big man replied. "Maybe it's a political marriage."

"...and that's why he doesn't walk to talk about it," the old man finished.

"Exactly."

"And that lawless rogue Renna?"

"Well she is just his mistress in the city," Zanadar explained.

"All right!" Morgan said finally, throwing his hands in the air. "She is my sister."

"Who?" Elandar asked.

"Gillian!"

"Ah, now it's all beginning to make sense," Zanadar replied knowingly.

"I told you he was too young to be married," the wizard said. "My advice to you, boy, is to never burden yourself with marriage. Especially not to your sister."

Morgan tried to think of a response, but the best he could muster was a strongly disgusted look.

"You are demented, old man," Zanadar accused. "So Gillian lives in Tursh?"

"Yes," Morgan answered, "she does."

"And Renna wants her to come and live in New Targonor?"

"Yes," Morgan said cautiously, "that is correct."

"What do you think of that idea?"

Morgan turned abruptly. "Why are you interrogating me?"

"Just making conversation," the big man said with a grin.

Soon the three men had made their way back to the tavern on the far end of the city. Thick torches illuminated the side of the building, their flames dancing silently into the crisp night air. Morgan could hear music coming from inside, accompanied by loud voices and occasional bouts of laughter.

The door to the tavern suddenly flew open, flooding the street with the familiar stench of beer and sweat. A short, portly man stumbled out of the entrance and rudely pushed his way past Morgan before staggering off into the darkness. The door began to swing back shut but Zanadar caught it. He gestured for the others to enter.

The inside of the tavern was a sharp contrast to the relative peacefulness of the evening's streets. A small troupe in the corner of the building performed a merry, upbeat tune while the more jovial patrons drunkenly sang along. Workers, retired for the day, lined the walls of the bustling tavern making passage through the crowd difficult.

"You are in rooms five and six. And no matter what the drunk in the common room tells you, room five does not belong to him," a muffled voice called out from somewhere in the crowd.

Morgan scanned the area, attempting to find the source of the voice. A large, heavy-set man standing directly in front of the ranger suddenly lurched forward, as if struck from the other side. Sascha stepped calmly out from behind him, an annoyed look on her face.

"Next time move!" she hollered at the patron. She narrowed her eyes at the three men and held up her hand. Two keys dangled from her clenched fist.

"Thank you," Zanadar said pleasantly, reaching for the keys. Sascha snatched them away at the last second.

"Not so fast," the barmaid said. "You three will be going straight up to bed. I don't need any more trouble down here tonight, and you...," she pointed at Elandar, "are always trouble."

"Blasted wench, I've never done anything wrong."

"What did you just call me?"

"Never mind him," Morgan said. "That sounds fine to us. We were planning on going straight up to bed anyway and we will be out of your hair before dawn tomorrow morning." He shifted the traveling pack on his shoulder and pulled a coin from the small pouch on his belt. "In fact," the ranger continued, "why don't you take this now so we can just leave tomorrow without disturbing you?"

Sascha's harsh gaze softened a bit. "That will work just fine. Thank you," she said and took the coin. With that, Sascha handed him the keys, then promptly turned and went back to the other patrons.

"Very diplomatic Morgan," the big man approved. "You do learn fast."

"I just want to get this pack off my back," he replied. He looked down at his hand. "Do you want room five or six?"

"We'll take six," Elandar stated.

Zanadar shrugged. "Six sounds good."

Morgan handed the big man the key and lead the way through the crowd towards the rickety staircase at the far end of the building. The second story of the tavern was centered around a single hallway leading from the stairs to a dark common room on the opposite side of the floor. Three doors lined each side of the hall adjacent to one another. Rough looking numbers had been crudely etched into the center of each of the heavy wooden frames.

"Don't worry, its more comfortable than it looks," Zanadar said in a reassuring voice.

"I wasn't worried, it looks fine to me. I'm used to the ground and I doubt it could be any less comfortable than that," Morgan answered as he found the room with a five etched above the door.

Zanadar unlocked and opened the door to his room. "You're probably right. If it were less comfortable than the ground they wouldn't get very much business," he grinned, "now would they?"

"Enough talking!" Elandar scolded harshly. "I'm tired." The cranky wizard tried to push his way past Zanadar. "Get out of my way, meathead."

"And even if it's not very comfortable," the big man continued with a sidelong glance in the old man's direction, "at least you don't have to share a room with him."

Morgan laughed softly. "Very true."

"Good night," Zanadar said.

"Good night to you," he replied as the big man and Elandar disappeared into their room for the night. Morgan wasted no time in unlocking the door in front of him and entered.

The room was small, only a bed and a worn looking desk occupied the floor. A smeared window overlooking the alley to the side of the tavern provided the only source of light. The dim glow of the moon filtered through the dirty glass and settled gently around the room. It looked as if there had once been cloth drapes covering the window, but only their ripped corners now remained hooked to the wall.

Morgan set his pack on the floor and took a seat on the bed. It was surprisingly soft. The big man had been right. He closed his eyes and slowly exhaled. The noise from below was plainly audible, though the music seemed to have stopped for the time being at least. He could hear staggered snoring from the common room and the smell was not much better upstairs than down, but Morgan did not care. He was tired. The previous night's hurried trek from Tursh had worn him out, and he had much on his mind.

He untied the straps holding his traveling pack closed and quietly opened the top, peering in at its contents. A dark leather wrapped hilt poked out through the opening. He thought for a moment then grabbed the hilt and tugged. A blackened, sturdy looking mace slowly worked its way free from the pack. Its shadowy-colored metal was light, making it easy to wield. He had another just like it in his pack.

Morgan turned the mace over in his hand as he thought. He had not expected Adlus to give him a real assignment. And though he was eager for the chance to prove himself, he was more than a little nervous at the prospect of it all. What if there was something in Rindol Field? For that matter, why had this task been assigned to him? What could be occupying the more seasoned rangers to the east in the highlands?

Morgan could not help but chuckle in spite of himself. He doubted that last bit was even true. Adlus had a flair for the dramatic and an even greater affinity for making situations seem much worse than they actually were.

More unexpected still though, was the addition of Zanadar and the cranky old man claiming to be a 'mighty wizard' to his assignment. Perhaps Adlus had sent Zanadar along simply to watch over him, to make sure that he did not foul up the job. Morgan knew better though. It was true, he was a novice, but he was more than capable of taking care of himself and handling matters with discretion. The Minister may not be the most learned man in the city, but he must know that.

So why send Zanadar? The question nagged at Morgan, hanging in front of him, the answer just beyond his reach. The only explanation he could offer was that the big man had been sent because Adlus was not sure he could handle whatever the problem was alone. Zanadar seemed like an intelligent person though. If that were indeed the case why would he bring a frail, delusional old man? Neither of them were even rangers.

The more Morgan thought the more unanswered questions he had. He liked Zanadar though, and knowing that the big man would be there in the event trouble should arise comforted him. Elandar, however, was a different matter entirely. Elandar worried Morgan.

Just then, a sharp pounding erupted from the entrance to the room. Someone was banging violently on the other side of the ranger's door. He tensed and instinctively tightened his grip on the mace, and waited.

You're in my roomEdit

The pounding continued in erratic bursts, subsiding for brief moments before beginning again. Morgan stood up and silently began to inch his way towards the door. If it were Zanadar or the old man they surely would have said something by now.

He leaned in close to the door. The heavy wood shook on its hinges with each hit, sending small clouds of dust billowing into the room.

"Who's there?" he called out cautiously.

The banging stopped abruptly.

"I am," a high-pitched, nasal voice replied after a moment.

That didn't help him much. Morgan frowned.

"What do you want?"

"You're in my room," the voice whined pathetically.

Morgan let out a relaxed breath and loosened the grip on his mace. It was only the drunk Sascha had warned about earlier. He fumbled briefly with the lock, then pulled the door open slightly and peered out through the narrow crack.

In the dim light of the hallway stood a sickly-looking, wiry man dressed in rags. His sunken cheeks and long, pockmarked face gave him an emaciated appearance. A thin, scraggly beard grew in patches around his jaw, and dark circles sat heavily under his eyes. His dirty hair was matted across his forehead. The man was filthy.

Morgan shrank back immediately, disgusted. The drunk's warm breath was putrid, and his stench was thick in the air.

"You're in my room," he repeated, his dry rasp more agitated this time.

"I'm sorry, but you're mistaken friend," Morgan replied, doing his best to avoid the smell. "This is my room. At least it is for tonight."

"You're in my room," the drunk's voice grew steadily louder. "Get out of my room!"

"I'm sorry," the ranger said and began pulling the handle closed.

The filthy man slammed his fist into the door with surprising force. Morgan stumbled back a step, dropping his mace. He heard it hit the floor somewhere behind him. It rolled back loudly before finally settling.

"No!" he shouted angrily at the ranger, his voice stinging with desperation. "Get out of my room!"

The drunk lowered his head and lunged towards the open entrance. Morgan quickly regained his composure and started to swing the heavy door shut. A sickening thud rattled through the frame and up the ranger's arm as the wiry man collided with the thick wood. He heard the drunk stagger back and fall to the ground cursing. Morgan pulled the door open to see him climbing back to his feet, clumsily attempting to regain his balance. A foamy stream of drool dripped out of the corner of his mouth and down the dirty man's chin.

"Please," Morgan said, "I do not want to hurt you. This is my room, just go away."

The drunk paid no attention to Morgan's pleas. His eyes were glazed with a frenzied madness. He clenched his fists tightly and with a blind rage, charged at the ranger.

This time Morgan was ready. He deflected the first blow and sent the filthy man's fist slamming into the doorframe. The drunk screamed in pain as large splinters painfully dug into his knuckles. The ranger kicked the side of the man's knee causing it to twist and buckle awkwardly. He then took a step back and hurled his fist directly at the drunk, catching him squarely in the jaw.

The wiry man's screams stopped instantly. He toppled to the ground, falling to a crumpled heap at the center of the hallway. Morgan mumbled a curse under his breath and rubbed his hand. He'd swung a bit harder than he had meant to. He sighed and knelt down next to the man. He was not seriously injured, although when he awoke he would not be very happy.

Morgan looked over the unconscious drunk for a moment, examining him. The dim light of the hall made it hard to see his wounds clearly. His jaw was already beginning to bruise and swell - there was nothing Morgan could do about that. The drunk's right hand was smeared with blood. It trickled slowly through his fingers and onto the ground.

Two large splinters had broken from the frame and lodged themselves firmly into the man's knuckles. His hand twitched slightly, and his blood was already beginning to clot around the slivers. Morgan leaned in closely, inspecting the wounded hand. The splinters were not too deep and should be fairly easy to remove. The injury could have been much worse, the drunk was lucky that he was not stronger.

With a skilled hand, Morgan slowly twisted one of the pieces of wood and slid it free from the man's hand. He held the jagged splinter in his palm for a moment. It looked to be largely intact. Nothing had broken off inside the drunk's hand. He discarded the sliver and then carefully removed the second in the same fashion.

When he was finished, he set the man's arm back down on the floor. Morgan sat back on his knees and thought for a moment. "I can't really just leave you here," he said. Morgan scanned the area, his eyes coming to rest on the dark room at the end of the hallway. "You probably came from there, might as well put you back."

The ranger stood up, placed his hands under the drunk's arms and pulled the unconscious man down the hall to the edge of the common room. He could hear snores drifting out of the darkness, it sounded as if there were already several people asleep in the room. He leaned the man against the wall gently. "There," he said, standing up.

Morgan walked back to his room and shut the door behind him. He removed his boots, and then flopped rather unceremoniously onto the bed.

Morning came much sooner than Morgan would have liked. He was awakened by a loud knocking on his door. He sat up in bed and yawned, it was still dark outside. The knocking continued. Morgan slipped out of bed and quietly picked his mace up off the ground. He walked cautiously towards the door, readying himself.

"Who is it?" he called out.

"Its me," Zanadar's voice answered.

Morgan lowered his weapon, relieved. He unlocked the door and pulled it open, Zanadar stood in the hallway. He was already fully armored and carried a fair-sized saddlebag that looked to be about half full. He gazed at Morgan peculiarly.

"Expecting someone else?" the big man asked.

Morgan gave him a confused look.

"Unless that's for me," he said, pointing at the mace, "in which case I'd just assume go back to bed, if it's all the same to you."

"Oh, that," Morgan replied, looking down at the dark, steel weapon in his hand. "Long story."

"I bet," the big man said with a grin, as Morgan put the mace on his bed and sat down to put on his boots. "Does it have anything to do with the blood on the floor out there and the sickly looking fellow with a swollen face propped up against the wall?"

Morgan cringed. "You knew what happened before you even came in here," he accused.

Zanadar just shrugged and continued grinning smugly.

"How bad does he look?" the ranger asked.

"Oh he looks absolutely dreadful, but you're only responsible for the bruises on his face. I suspect a strong drinking habit and a frighteningly ugly mother are to blame for the rest."

"What about his hand?"

"It's fine, just a few small cuts. How did that happen anyway? Those puncture wounds were oddly shaped, almost like teeth."

"He punched the door."

"...and it bit him?"

"Sort of," the ranger answered as he finished tying his boots.

"Well," Zanadar said, holding up a mailed hand. "I'm glad I wore these."

Morgan snatched his mace off the bed and placed it back into his pack. He stood up and slung its straps over his shoulder. "All right, let's go. Elandar is downstairs waiting for us, I assume?"

"You assume correctly."

The two men walked out of the room and back into the hallway. The drunk still lay against the wall near the entrance to the common room. He was asleep and breathed deeply, wheezing loudly as his chest rose and fell. Morgan shut the door and locked it.

"I hope he's not hurt too bad," he said.

"Don't worry about it, Morgan," the big man replied. "He had it coming anyway, making all that noise."

Morgan turned. "You heard him?"

"How could I not?"

"And you didn't come out to help?"

Zanadar shrugged. "You seemed to have the situation under control. No need for me to get in the way."

"Thanks." Morgan said dryly.

CatchEdit

The tavern was much quieter now. The crowd had nearly dissipated completely, a few of the more slovenly patrons had passed out in their seats at some point during the night and the musical troupe had long since left. Behind the bar, the innkeeper dozed peacefully.

Elandar sat quietly in his chair at the far corner of the room. He glared at the two men as they descended the staircase.

"You certainly took long enough," the old man said.

"We were talking," Zanadar replied.

"Oh? Did Tenderfoot explain about the bloodied up drunk?"

"Yes he did."

"I'm right here, you know," Morgan cut in.

"Give me your key," Zanadar said to the ranger, "I'll go put them back."

Morgan handed the big man the key to his room. He quietly stepped behind the bar and walked just past the sleeping innkeeper, to where a small row of metal rungs hung from the wall. Zanadar hung the keys up and then silently crept back to the others.

"Its bad luck to beat up a drunk," Elandar scolded.

"There was no avoiding it," Morgan explained, "I tried not to hurt him too badly."

"Oh, I'm sure you tried valiantly. As soon as the meathead is ready we can go... if we pass any small children or old women on the way, try not to beat them up."

"I've been ready to go," Zanadar said.

"Then what are we waiting for? Let's get this over with."

"Fine by me, lead the way old man."

Elandar huffed and leaned on his staff as he stood up. His joints creaked audibly as he walked out the door, causing the old wizard to leave a foul string of curses in his wake.

Zanadar cringed as he looked to Morgan. "That's what we have to look forward to. Depressing, isn't it?"

"I heard that!" Elandar yelled from outside.

The early morning's streets were nearly empty, as they would remain until dawn. With the sun would come workers, merchants and travelers of all sorts - but for now, the city was quiet. They made good time due to the sparsely populated streets, passing the occasional guard or street urchin.

Soon, Grodek's smithy sat plainly in view. A faint glow emanated from the dirty windows and the familiar call of metal striking metal pierced through the crisp ocean air. Zanadar stopped short, causing Morgan to almost run into him.

"That's odd," the big man said.

"What?" Morgan asked.

"Grodek doesn't normally work before sunrise."

"Maybe he's still working on your sword?" the ranger offered.

"Maybe." Zanadar replied. He did not sound convinced. "That'd be awful out of character for him though."

"He's probably just drunk and doesn't know what time it is." Elandar said.

"Now that would be much more like him."

The big man had barely finished speaking when a series of loud crashes rang out from the building. A deep, haggard voice screamed viciously from inside. It was human, but primitive, like a cornered animal fighting for its life.

"That's Grodek," Zanadar said sharply. He dropped his bag and took off running towards the entrance.

Morgan started to speak, but decided against it and ran after the big man. He had trouble keeping up with Zanadar's long strides. Despite his armor and gear, he was surprisingly quick. Morgan could hear more shouting as he raced closer to the building.

Zanadar lowered his shoulder as he neared the heavy wooden door. He let out an angry yell and crashed through it forcefully, bringing the door and sizable part of the frame with him. With a tremendous blast, the door was ripped savagely from the wall. It splintered loudly and crashed onto the floor of the smithy. Zanadar rushed in after it, not losing a step.

It was dark inside, the only illumination the dull pulsing of the embers from the forge. The inside of the building had been thrashed. The long table at the center of the room lay overturned and many of the racks and shelves lining the walls had spilled their contents onto the floor below or sat broken on the ground. The smith's tools were scattered about the floor in disarray.

An overbearing tension hung heavily the room. A man lay face down next to the forge, unmoving. A large sword sat broken on the ground beside him.

Next to it, Grodek stood hunched over, his back to the wall. The stocky man's head was dirty, and bleeding. He gripped his hammer tightly, teeth bared. His muscled arms glistened with sweat, reflecting the orange glow of the forge. They rose and fell with his broad shoulders as the smith breathed deeply. He grinned weakly at the big man.

Four other men also stood in the room, and were staring at the door with startled looks on their faces. They were dressed in dark clothing and wielded a variety of simple cudgels and small blades.

Zanadar stopped, and considered the area coolly for a moment. Morgan slid in behind him, peering wide-eyed at the tattered door fame.

"There are a few possible outcomes to this situation," the big man explained calmly. "And I'll be honest, none of them are terribly pleasant for you gentlemen. But if you run away right now and you promise me I'll never see any of you again... I may let some of you continue to breathe." He reached down and slowly picked up a large wooden board from the broken door off the ground and patted it suggestively. "What's it going to be?"

One of the intruders, a short grimy looking man, pulled a jagged knife from his belt and sent it flying through the air at Zanadar.

"They're the ones!" the man screamed.

Zanadar stepped aside easily as the blade sailed past and smacked against the wall behind him. He grinned dangerously and gave the man who had thrown the knife an amused look.

"I was hoping you'd say that."

The short man fumbled with his belt as Zanadar charged, trying desperately to draw another knife. But the big man was too fast, he drew back and with a rumbling growl he swung the large board upwards. He connected with a devastating blow directly under the man's chin, lifting him off his feet. He landed on his back with a heavy thud and lay still.

The entire room then suddenly began to move at once. A wild-eyed, bulky man brandishing a cudgel rushed towards Morgan. The two other men were larger, each wielding sharp looking short swords, they closed on Zanadar slowly.

Morgan leapt out of the way as the bulky man lunged at him with his cudgel, narrowly missing him. He stumbled back and let his pack fall to the floor, there would be no time to get his weapons from inside of it. Morgan scanned the area around him, trying to find something he could use to defend himself.

He grabbed a large iron hook off the wall and brought it up just in time to beat away another blow. The strike sent vibrations reverberating up the hook and through Morgan's body. He fended away another attack, and then another. He was losing ground quickly. He needed to find an opening.

"Catch!" he heard Zanadar's voice call out.

The bulky man ignored the yell and raised his arms above his head, readying to strike again. For a brief moment a large dark shape appeared over the attacker. Morgan braced himself as the bulky man spun around just in time to see the body of one of the other intruders come crashing down upon him. The two men tumbled to the ground hard, in a mess of knees and elbows. The wild-eyed attacker clawed violently at the unconscious man on top of him, trying to wriggle free.

Morgan looked across the room over to Zanadar. The short man still lay on the floor unmoving. The larger was picking himself up off the ground, a vengeful look in his eyes. He leapt up and swung his short sword at the big man in a blind rage. Zanadar effortlessly stepped out of the blade's path and brought his board crashing down upon the man's head. A loud snap shot through the room as the wooden board splintered in half.

The big man met the ranger's gaze, then grinned and shrugged innocently. He dropped the now useless piece of wood as the intruder toppled to the ground in a heap.

The wild-eyed attacker finally managed to pull himself out from under the unconscious man and jumped to his feet, ready to fight. He surveyed the room for a moment, then dropped his cudgel and ran towards the door.

"Don't let him get away!" Zanadar yelled.

Morgan took careful aim and threw the metal hook at the fleeing attacker. It rapped him sharply on the back of the knee, buckling his leg. He stumbled and fell through the empty door frame, his head meeting the hard ground outside. He turned over wearily and reached for the knife in his belt but instead met with the end of a worn old staff, which thumped him painfully across the forehead and into unconsciousness.

Elandar, carrying the big man's saddlebags, stepped in over the body and eyed his surroundings.

"That was easy," he said snootily as he tossed the bags onto the floor. "What a bunch of amateurs."

Not even lockedEdit

"Thanks old man," Zanadar said sardonically, "We couldn't have done it without you." He turned to the blacksmith. "Are you all right, Grodek?"

"Your head is bleeding," Morgan observed. "Let me take a look at it."

Grodek rubbed his baldhead and then held his hand out in front of him, examining it. "It's just a scratch, I'm fine, boy." The smith pointed at the gaping hole where the door had been. "It wasn't even locked you dumb brute!" he roared.

"I guess that's a yes," Zanadar said. He started to absently collect the attackers' weapons and put them in a pile on the floor. "You're welcome, by the way."

"I could have handled it just fine," Grodek responded sourly. He turned around, looking at all the mess. He cursed loudly. "Will someone please tell me, what, exactly that was all about?" he yelled furiously.

"Well I couldn't say for certain, but I believe those men came in here with the intent to attack you," Elandar stated.

Zanadar grabbed a large coil of rope from a hook hanging on the wall and began to bind the men's arms and legs.

The smith glared angrily at the old man. "Don't try me, Elandar."

"They probably came here to rob you and you just caught them by surprise," the big man said as he finished tying up one of the attackers.

Grodek stepped over one of the unconscious men, knelt down, and began to lift up the long wooden table that had been pushed on its side. "Don't think that I buy that nonsense for a second, Zanadar."

"Why not?"

Grodek stared at the big man coldly.

Morgan thought for a moment. "Grodek may be right," he said hesitantly.

Zanadar and the old man shared a brief, uneasy look. "What makes you say that?" he asked, his voice neutral.

"That one," he pointed to the grimy man who now lay bound tightly on the floor, "He said, 'they're the ones'. We are the ones what? What is that supposed to mean? Unless..."

"They were here for you Zanadar," the smith growled, "Who did you kill this time? Why are you in trouble?"

"Oh quit jumping to conclusions," the big man said irritably, "You always assume the worst."

"And I'm always right!" Grodek spat back. "They weren't surprised at all when they came in here and saw me." The smith's eyes widened. "They even knew I was working on your sword!"

Zanadar folded his arms across his chest. "How is that?" he said flatly.

Grodek pointed to the broken sword lying near the forge. "That was the first thing they went for. They didn't even try to attack me until I brained one of them with my hammer." He shook his fist angrily. "Blast it all, this is your fault!"

Zanadar peered at the large worthless blade on the ground. "You let them break my sword?" he accused.

"Five armed men sneak into my forge in the dead of the night and try to kill me." Grodek sputtered, "Yes, I let them break your sword."

"He didn't use them both at once anyway," Elandar cut in. He poked his staff at one of the bound men on the ground. "My, aren't you an ugly one?"

The big man sighed. "No matter," he said. "The important thing is that you were not seriously hurt. I don't need them both right now, I suppose."

"Told you," Elandar added.

"Spare me the sincerity," the blacksmith responded, "I don't need any more trouble here. Why are they after you?"

Zanadar glanced back at the old man. He was giving him a withering look. "I guess we had better ask one," the big man said, turning back to Grodek.

He walked over to the grimy man who had thrown the knife at him. The man still lay unmoving in the spot he had fallen. His arms and legs had both been tied tightly behind his back. Even if he were conscious, he would not have been able to move.

Zanadar pushed at him with his boot. "Wake up."

The man did not budge. Zanadar sighed and knelt down next to him. "Wake up," he repeated, shaking the man's shoulders. Still, he did not move. The big man mumbled something under his breath and stood up. "He's being difficult."

"So, maybe you should try another one then," Grodek pushed.

Zanadar glared at the smith. "Maybe I will," he shot back.

"Its nice to see that we are not above acting like children," Elandar commented. The two men ignored him.

The big man knelt beside one of the other attackers and shook him by his shoulders, the attacker's dark curly hair flipped about wildly. "You had better wake up," he threatened.

The man groaned and began to squirm. Zanadar dragged him along the floor a few feet and sat him upright against the wooden wall. He was about average height and had a stocky build, short, tangled hair and a mangy black beard. Zanadar knelt down directly in front of the man and leaned in closely. "Open your eyes," he ordered.

The man groaned again and wearily began to open his eyes. They were dark, and very bloodshot. As his vision came into focus, he noticed Zanadar kneeling in front of him. His eyes widened in surprise and he attempted to spring to his feet, managing only to knock himself over as he fought against his bindings. From the floor, he saw the rest of the attackers with their arms and legs tied neatly together and lying about on the hard floor of the smithy. He leaned himself back up against the wall and looked directly at Zanadar.

"What do you want?" he asked, his haggard voice defiant.

The big man laughed. "Funny question for you to be asking me, don't you think?"

"If you were going to kill me you'd have done it already," the man replied, "What do you want?"

"Straight forward enough, I can admire that," Zanadar said pleasantly. He then looked his captive directly in the eye and spoke again, his voice taking a much more serious tone. "Let's start with why you broke into the forge and tried to hurt my friend."

"Grodek is reputed to make quality blades. We came here to rob him. We did not think he'd be here."

The big man nodded. "I see," he said. He stood up and looked down at the man. "Thank you."

The bound man seemed to ease back into the wall as Zanadar walked over to the table. Grodek began to protest.

"What kind interrogation was tha-" the smith was cut off as Zanadar held up a finger and grinned. He picked up a large pair of iron tongs and turned back to the attacker.

"Open your mouth," he said, returning to the man's side.

"Why?" the attacker asked, eyeing the tongs worriedly.

"So I can rip out your tongue. If all you're going to do is lie, you might as well not have it."

A look of panic shot across the bound attacker's face. "I told you the truth. I swear it."

"Then I apologize." Zanadar replied, "Now, open wide." With one large hand, the big man held the attacker's head back against the wall. "This is going to hurt a lot," he said as he slowly lowered the tongs down into the man's mouth. Despite the bound attacker's struggles, he clasped the tongue firmly between the tong's pincers and gave it a sharp tug.

Morgan started to say something, but was hushed by Elandar. The old man gave the ranger an assuring wave and then went back to happily watching Zanadar.

The man's head jarred forward as he screamed. He tried to speak, nearly choking himself in the process. Zanadar removed the tongs from his mouth.

"Did you have something to say?" he asked.

The man cursed. "You're a lunatic!" he yelled.

Zanadar nodded. "Was that it, then?" he asked as he began to lower the tongs back towards the attacker's face.

"Wait!" the man said urgently.

Zanadar raised an eyebrow. "Yes?"

"All right... we didn't come to rob Grodek."

"You don't say?"

"We were sent for you three," he said, giving the big man an icy stare.

"Us three!" Morgan repeated incredulously. "What did I do?"

The man smirked grimly. "Maybe it's the company you keep, boy."

"Who sent you?" Zanadar asked.

He shrugged. "I don't know."

Grodek slammed his fist on to the table. "What do you mean you don't know?" he demanded.

The attacker nodded towards the grimy man on the floor next to him. "He's the one who hired us. If you want to know who ordered it, ask him. I don't ask questions, I just get paid."

Zanadar frowned.

"Maybe you shouldn't have hit that one so hard." Elandar offered.

"You're not really helping, old man," he replied. He looked back to the captive. "How did you know where we'd be?"

"He told us," the bound attacker again looked back towards the man on the floor. "When we met up with him a few hours ago most of us came here, but he sent a few somewhere else. Listen, I was just doing what I was told. He promised we wouldn't have to kill anyone."

"Wouldn't have to kill anyone? Is that why you messed up my forge with all those weapons of yours?" Grodek fumed. "If Zanadar isn't going to do it, I'll rip your tongue out myself." The smith started towards the man.

The big man held up a hand. "One minute, Grodek. Then he's all yours, I promise." He studied the captive for a moment. "You said there were others. Where are they now?"

"They went somewhere else, they won't be coming here."

"You know, you're starting to irritate me." Zanadar grabbed the man's throat and began to squeeze. "Are you going to answer my question or not?"

"The stables," the man coughed, "They went to the stables."

An ill feeling began to creep through Morgan. The color drained from his face. Renna. The ranger grabbed his pack from the ground and raced out the broken doorway.

Doors BewareEdit

He vaguely heard someone call out behind him, but ignored it, instead willing himself to run faster.

The predawn streets were for the most part empty, affording Morgan ample space to frantically dig in his pack as he ran through the city. He tried to draw one of the dark steel maces, but it caught sharply on something. He tugged harder and heard a rip as the mace slid free. Morgan flung the pack onto his back and continued to run. Sweat was beginning to appear on his forehead as he drew the second mace out from over his shoulder.

By the time Morgan reached the stables the muscles in his legs burned painfully. The main doors were closed, as they should be at this time of the morning. The building sat quietly in the darkness. From the outside, it looked to be undisturbed.

Morgan breathed heavily and carefully tested the main door. Locked. He put his ear to the wooden wall and listened. He could hear some faint shuffling from inside, but nothing else. He stepped softly in the loose dirt that ran along the side of the building, cautiously making his way along the outer wall until he had circled around to the back end of the stables.

The rear entrance hung opened widely. The faint light that should be spilling out behind the building was absent. He steadied his breath and slowly crept towards the door. As he neared the entrance Morgan could hear the shuffling, it was much clearer now.

He edged closer, and peered around the door. It was dark inside. He could make out the edges of two rows of stalls and not much more. Moving guardedly, Morgan stepped inside. Many of the horses treaded about nervously, peering wide-eyed into the darkness, their hooves making the rough shuffling sound as they crunched the dry hay beneath them.

Morgan heard a sound. His head shot up as he tried to pinpoint the source. It had come from somewhere near the center of the building. It sounded like a person. He pushed farther into the stables, keeping close to the wooden walls. He stayed below the heads of the horses, so as to not spook them and draw unwanted attention to his presence. Just ahead of him, one of the stall doors hung open.

The ranger paused for a moment, silently debating the best course of action. If there were more of those men in here, he may not be able to scare them all off. For that matter, he now stood alone more or less directly at the center of the stables. Suddenly he felt a bit foolish. It was too late to turn back now. He frowned inwardly and slowly poked his head around the corner.

A dark shape lay in a heap in the middle of the stall. Morgan strained to make out any detail in the darkness. It was a body. Something was protruding from its back. A hilt, from a small blade or dagger, maybe. His heart sank. They had already been here. He was too late.

The ranger forced his eyes from the body and continued to scan the stall. A small wooden stool rested on its side on the dirt floor against the wall, it looked to have been kicked over. It was Renna's. The slender girl sometimes had trouble grooming the heads of the taller horses on her own.

Then he heard the noise again, a whimper. It came from the back of the dark stall. It was definitely a person. He listened closer. He could distinctly hear breathing. It was uneven though and erratic.

"Renna?" Morgan whispered.

He heard the girl's breath catch, and a startled rustling.

"Renna?" he whispered again, more anxiously this time. "Are you all right?"

There was a pause.

"Morgan... is that you?" he heard her voice whisper back.

He rushed into the stall, nearly tripping over the body in the center. Renna sat huddled up in the back corner. Her legs were pulled closely and tucked beneath her arms. The girl's small frame was trembling. Tears rolled down her face.

"It's me," Morgan replied, "Are you hurt?"

She opened her mouth to speak, but could only manage to stare at the dead man. Morgan moved to block her view of the body. His foot crunched loudly on some hay. He glanced nervously over his shoulder and out into the darkened stables.

"Are you hurt?" he repeated hurriedly.

She shook her head meekly.

"Can you walk? We need to get out of here."

Renna wiped at her eyes and sniffed. "I think so," she said quietly. She took Morgan's hand and slowly pulled herself to her feet. She glanced down at the man lying on the ground. Immediately tears began to well up in her eyes once more.

"Don't look at it," Morgan said gently as he guided her past the body. He poked his head out of the stall and looked both ways. Even with the faint light leaking in through the back entrance, the building was still dark. He did not see anything, though it did little to assure him that no one was there.

The ranger cautiously led Renna out into the center of the stables. Staying close to the wooden stall doors, they began to creep back towards the rear entrance. The young stable hand stumbled lightly a few times, but caught herself. As they neared the back door, a loud shout rang out from just outside the main entrance. It was deep and barbaric sounding.

"Go! Quickly!" Morgan exclaimed urgently, dropping the whisper. But before either of them had the chance to reach the back, the front doors were blast open. The lock was blown off and shot forward into the stables several paces. A resounding clap echoed through the building as the main doors smacked violently against the front wall. Their hinges screamed in protest, but held. Renna gripped Morgan's arm tightly.

The moon's dim light poured into the stables, illuminating the inside of the building with a soft, pale glow. Several horses reared up in their stalls and cried out, spooked by the sudden disturbance. Morgan tightened his grip on his maces and whirled around to face the entrance, ready to fight.

Zanadar stood planted in the doorway. The big man's armor glistened casually in the moonlight. He held his large sword at his side and gazed into the room with an icy glare. Elandar stood behind him. The old man looked into the stables for a moment then turned up his nose.

"Where are all the thugs?" he asked impatiently.

Zanadar lowered his sword. "I don't see any," he said, his voice somewhat disappointed. The big man spotted Morgan and Renna near the back entrance. "That was a brilliant idea running off like that alone, by the way," he added.

Morgan exhaled slowly and eased back on his maces, though Renna still held his arm tightly. Zanadar and the old man entered the building. "We didn't miss all the fun did we?" the big man asked. As he passed, he glanced into the stall Renna had been hiding in. "Oh," he said soberly. "Are you two all right?"

"We're fine," Morgan answered.

"Did you do that?"

Morgan shook his head.

"You?" he pointed towards Renna.

She nodded slowly.

Zanadar studied the girl for a moment. "I see," he said. "Was he alone or were there more?"

"There were more," she sniffed. "And they may be coming back, we should go."

Zanadar patted his sword. "Let them come back. So, what exactly happened?"

"I was here getting your stupid horses ready when I thought I heard someone at the main door. It was locked though," she paused to wipe her dark eyes, "and we are never opened this early so I ignored it. But when I came in I left the back unlocked, I closed it, but that didn't stop them. I heard them come in, at first I thought it was you three until I turned around..." she trailed off.

"And then what?" the big man asked.

"They came after me. I ran into one of the stalls and climbed up into the roof," she pointed upwards, "They couldn't get up after me so they left. I stayed up there for a while, incase they were just waiting for me to come down. Then two came back, I tried to stay hidden but it did not take them very long to find me.

"One said that if I didn't come down he was going to start killing the horses. He didn't know I had a knife though. I didn't want to kill him," she looked up at the big man, trying to hold back tears, "...I had no choice."

Zanadar shrugged. "As far as I'm concerned he got off easy. What about the other?"

"I cut him across the face when I jumped down. I think I may have gotten one of his eyes, because he ran as soon as I stabbed his friend." Her face took on a frightened look, "He said he was going to come back and find me. We need to go."

"I wouldn't worry about that," Zanadar said, "If they come back we'll be able to handle them. Did they say anything else?"

Renna stared coldly at the big man through her teary eyes. "They said a lot of other things. I killed one of their friends. I know their type. They are going to come back for me, only next time it's not going to be just one man. How long did you plan on staying?"

"They weren't here for you," the big man stated.

"What are you talking about?"

Morgan cut in. "We came from a forge near the other side of the city. When we got there, a group of men was waiting for us. Fortunately, I think they underestimated what Zanadar was capable of. In any event," the ranger continued, "one of them told us there'd be men waiting here too."

"Are they the reason you're leaving the city?"

Morgan shook his head. "No, Adlus is sending us to Rindol Field to check on something. He doesn't seem to think its anything serious though. We should only be gone for a week or so, you can come with us if you'd like. By the time we get back the guard should have rounded up all the rest of those men."

"Absolutely not." Zanadar said stiffly.

"What?" the ranger asked, turning towards the big man.

He pulled Morgan aside a few steps. "She can't come," he said.

"Why not?"

"No other people, just the three of us."

"Can't you see how scared she is?" Morgan whispered harshly.

"...and don't think I'm not sensitive to that Morgan, but--"

"But what?" Morgan said, becoming a little annoyed. "If Elandar isn't going to hinder us than neither will Renna. Listen, I've been pretty appeasing to this point. First, you bring Elandar along and I know Adlus wouldn't be happy about that if he found out. Then, someone looking for you tries to kill me. Maybe that's a common thing for you, but nobody has ever tried to murder me before. As if that weren't enough then they try to hurt Renna... and she had to kill one of them - all the while with not so much as an explanation from you. No, we are not going to just leave her here, you might, but I won't. "

The big man gave Morgan a look that suddenly made him feel a bit less sure of himself then glanced back to Renna.

"Fine," he said loud enough for everyone to hear. "Are the horses ready?"

Renna nodded. Morgan straightened himself, he was a little surprised the big man had actually changed his mind.

"Good, then let's go."

A faint smile touched Renna's tear-streaked face. "Thank you," she said softly to Morgan.

Elandar scratched his head and looked up into the wooden beams supporting the roof. "How did you get up there?"

She pointed towards one of the larger horses, a foul looking, dirt colored gelding. "His name is Grayus, I climbed up his back. He doesn't let anyone else near him."

"If I were in his condition I probably wouldn't have the best disposition either," the big man said sourly.

"You don't have the best disposition," Elandar pointed out.

"Which one is mine?" Zanadar asked shortly.

Renna pointed to a large black horse in one of the stalls near the back. "That one," she said.

The big man grabbed his saddlebags off the ground and stomped off towards the animal.

"That back door looks to still be rather unsmashed," Elandar called out behind him, "Please try to resist any urges you may have to break it."

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