Back  To The Gassenti Chronicles  


The next day they broke camp early and rode east. Ben slowed them down a little, but if anything, he kept the horses from riding themselves to exhaustion. How the little mule put up with it all was anyone's guess.

This road was not part of the ancient Murhnian network of highways that connected all the capitals. Instead it hugged the coast and tied together most of Halffarthing's costal towns. Some of the Halffarthing lowlands were more marsh and swamp than land, and a variety of hostile creatures lurked there, some animal, some with primitive but hostile cultures.

The lizard men of Halffarthing in particular were a problem, attacking anyone they saw as a threat, or food. It was said Lord Valious the Second had tried to parley a similar treaty with them as his ancestor had the orcs, only to have his emissaries eaten. His grandson, Lord Valious the Third, had tried to set up a buffer zone to keep the village people and lizard men from attacking each other, but the drive for resources on both sides drove the two ever closer, and ever more in conflict.

At one point they faced an ambush from the swamp, spears flying at them from either side. Ben was hit in the hindquarters, but Rosileen quickly healed the wound. Perah-Perah and Asyra used their newly acquired magical skills to weave a noxious mist in the swamp on either side, allowing them to escape without further conflict.

"We should find a place to rest for the night," said Rosileen once they were clear.

Perah-Perah looked at her, confused, "But it's only midday. We have a lot of ground to cover yet."

"True, but I'm spent. It took all my power to heal Ben's wound. If we get in trouble further ahead, I won't be able to do much more than bandage."

Perah-Perah was about to argue the merits of healing her slow donkey when she would be much better off riding with one of them on a fast horse, but thought better of it. Rosileen was a very accommodating passive person, but in her ran a stubborn streak as hard as diamond. She suspected Ben fell firmly in that category.

In the end it was decided to stop at the next town, in hopes of finding information as well as rest.

The town was Southerpost, and it was on the coast wedged neatly between two swamps. The appearance of the buildings implied both a defensive arrangement, and that none of the buildings were more than a few years old. One suspected that a thriving rebuilding industry and stubborn settlers accounted for the town's survival.

After some questioning, they found a place to stay. By the look of the very graphic representation hanging on the tavern wall, it was apparently called The Lizard's Head, but Swamp Gas would have been more accurate. Acrid and alcoholic fumes wafted out as if there was a home brewery run by very drunk and gassy dwarves inside. Nari growled at the horrible smells.

"Are we sure we want to stay here?" said Asyra, uncertainly.

"I'm absolutely certain I don't. But I'm also sure it's the only tavern here with rooms. We can shut the doors and burn some potpourri."

"I wouldn't advise that," said Victoria, who suspected that lighting anything here would be an adventure in five different kinds of pyrotechnics.

The five of them found a table that was relatively vomit free and sat down. Nobody noticed Nari crawl under the table and curl up, making the table look like a giant earmuff was hibernating under it.

"Stay here," said Perah-Perah, "I'll go talk to the bartender."

The bartender was a bit of a paradox. He was typical in that he was large and burly, but he also wore a painfully obvious toupee and his face looked like a boy who could cry at any minute. He was currently arguing with a young looking punk in black leather armor. Without warning, the young man suddenly flashed a knife and jabbed the bartender in his shoulder, then spat in his face and ran out of the tavern. Perah-Perah ran over, and the others shortly followed. Most of the other patrons took a distant interest in the event.

The wound wasn't severe, but already he was going white and looked like he was about to convulse.

"Poison," said Perah-Perah, who had seen members of the Syndicate brought back in such condition.

"I can help," said Rosileen, "try and slow it down. But I can't make a cure unless I know what kind of poison was used."

Perah-Perah's eyes narrowed in silent menace, "I'll be right back," she said and ran out of the bar.

Asyra caught up with her sister around the corner of the bar, standing over the body of the young man, with his knife in his hand, his arm slashed, turning white and ready to convulse.

"Did you-?" Asyra began.

"I wish. The idiot tripped on a rock and cut himself," she looked at the knife handle's markings and smiled, "Which makes my next job even easier... Okay, punk, tell me where the body is before you go blind and die."

The bodies were exactly where the young punk said they were. Three of them, all of them with crossbow bolts in the head, one stripped of his armor, dumped in the swamp not more than a day ago. They had hardly been eaten at all. A quick check in their pouches revealed a number of blank copper coins with a "V" etched in one side, and a single silver one of the same. It also uncovered a vial of yellowish liquid. Perah-Perah nodded in satisfaction.

"Let's go."

When Perah-Perah got back to the bar, the barman seemed whiter, but more stable. Rosileen was applying pressure directly around the wound.

"Do you have the poison?"

Perah-Perah held up the vial, now half empty, "The antidote."

Half an hour later the barman recovered completely, and had only the wound to tend to. Rosileen was still too tired to heal it magically, but washed and bandaged it nicely.

"Oi, I owe you a debt of gratitude I do," he said casually, as if this sort of thing happened all the time, "Beer's on da house, how's that?"

"I'd prefer information if you've got it," said Perah-Perah not really wanting to sample the beer unless it was absolutely necessary.

"Sure, but can I ask ya what happened to the lad who stabbed me?"

"He fell on his own knife and poisoned himself. I treated him first and had my sister get a town guard to take him to jail."

"Oi, that's right good of ya, miss. Jason there, he isn't such a bad lad really. Just a bit hot tempered. Due to his lack of parent like influence, got a hot temper like his dad did before the lizard men took him. What I don't understand is why he poisoned me! He's taken a swing at me and a few swipes, but never poison!"

Perah-Perah couldn't help roll her eyes remembering the young man's level of stupidity, it was rare among the living, "He didn't know it was poisoned. He found the bodies of three dead men in the swamp and stole their stuff. They were assassins from the Thieves Guild. They also carry some antidote on them at all times as a bargaining chip or in case their weapon is used against them. Also, they never willingly depart with their knives, but rather destroy them when they are no longer of service, so there had to be a dead assassin around somewhere. That fool certainly couldn't have been one... either that or admission standards have plummeted."

"Well, thanks again," said the bartender getting to his feet, "Now, wha's this about needing information?"

"We're looking for someone," said Perah-Perah, "An orcish woman, possibly dressed like a warrior. She may have had a large book with her, though I doubt she would have carried that in the open."

"Orcish woman you say?" said the bartender thoughtfully, "Yeah, I remember serving her. She was dressed for battle, but then that's nothing unusual with the orcs. Didn't see a book with her, though."

Asyra took the long shot question, "Any idea where she went?"

"She asked about Oool, so I suspect she went to see him."

"Oool?" said Rosileen, "Is that a orcish name?"


"Gnomish?" said Victoria in disbelief, "Not many of them around anymore!" And this was true. Most of the dwarf cousins preferred cooler climates, and thus had lived North when the Darkness came. They suffered more casualties back then than any other race.

"Yeah, Oool's an odd one. Old, too. He lives near the docks. You can't miss his house."

"Shaped like a mushroom, is it?" Victoria said recalling the folklore.

"Not really, no. But I guess I can see why people used to say that. Look, I don't mean to pry, but you ladies wouldn't happen to be of the 'For Hire' type, would you?"

"Perhaps," said Perah-Perah, always open to a fat commission.

"It's just that there is a caravan stopped here, down by the Merchant House. Apparently they are waiting for something, but word is once they get it they are going as quickly as possible eastward, and are looking for armed people to ride with them. With the lizard men attacking as much as they are lately, I thought you might be interested in a mutual advantage."

Perah-Perah smiled, it sounded like they could make a little money while pursuing their quarry, "One more question. Where is the nearest port if I want to get on a ship to Dogford?"

"Well, back west in Halffarthing Proper, of course."

"I meant something eastward."

"Oh, of course. Well, the village of Salewood would have to be it. Boats resupply there and the shadier kinds smuggle stuff through it, so they say It's a hard day's ride from here at any rate."

"Thank you very much, barkeep, you've been most helpful."

"Please, call me Brun."

They decided to split off into pairs. Asyra and Perah-Perah would go talk to the gnome named Oool, while the others would follow up on the possible job opportunity eastward. If it was convenient they could always use the extra coins on hand.

It didn't take long to reach the building of which Brun spoke. It was, in fact, shaped like two saucers cupped one on top of the other, to make a very fat disk like building. It looked like the sort of thing people claimed floated in the air slaughtering cattle and kidnaping people for every uncouth and highly unhygienic experiments.

There was no visible door, but as they approached, part of the lower half of the saucer fell down like a draw bridge across a quaint little moat that was apparently designed to hold back an invasion of rampaging squirrels.

Even Rosileen had to duck her head a little to get inside, since gnomes are about two thirds a halfling's height.

Inside, they saw what appeared to be an ordinary shop. Well, ordinary if you could get past the fact the walls had no corners. It was surprising how disconcerting that could be.

A little man with a long white beard, blue coat and red pointed hat eyed them suspiciously. He appeared as if he would be more comfortable on a lawn somewhere.

"Yeah, what do you want?" he asked.

"We were just wondering if you could help us find someone," she asked politely.

The gnome stood to his full height behind the counter, as if that could in the least way be mistaken of intimidating.

"I'm not in the bloody missing person's department."

"We were told she came to see you."

"She, huh?" the gnome shifted a little, "She got a name?"

"Sephilith Ve-" Perah-Perah didn't finish the sentence, because she suddenly noticed no less than a dozen crossbows pointed at them. They appeared out of nowhere, from the ceiling, the floor, the bookshelf, the large vase, even the flower pot. Some complex design of pulleys and levers had to be involved, but she couldn't see any of it.

"We aren't here to hurt you, sir." Perah-Perah said reasonably.

"That's what the last bunch said, but then they ambushed me on the way home. I'm just lucky... YOU'RE just lucky I'm letting you walk away. You go back to your masters and tell them it takes more than a pretty face to fool old Oool. Now git, before my finger slips."

Asyra tried her hand, "But sir, if you'd only-"

"I said GIT! If I tell you again it'll be the last time."

Perah-Perah and Asyra backed out of the door carefully and non-threateningly. Once outside the moat door shut with a snap and all the windows became drawn.

"We could probably take him out,"said Perah-Perah, "Break a window and lob a stinking cloud inside."

Asyra shook her head, "He's pretty much told us everything we wanted to know. Sephilith was here, he knows her, the assassins we found were after her, she was probably the one who killed them, but she isn't here anymore. The port at Salewood is in all likelihood where she's going. I don't think we need to smoke him out."

Perah-Perah nodded in agreement, "I know. I meant just on general principals."

"Oh, well, you can't blame him for being afraid. He thinks we're assassins with better fashion sense."

"You can never go wrong with black," said Perah-Perah in defense of the dead assassins, "Unless it's also frilly."

"Anyway, he's afraid and I can see why. Leave him be."

Perah-Perah seemed reluctant at the idea, "Yeah, all right. But we also learned something else from him."

"What's that?" Perah-Perah felt her scar tingle, "We found out who build Sephilith's bloody crossbow."

"Why can't we know what the cargo is?" asked Victoria, who had taken the roll of negotiator.

"Security, ma'am," said the cargo master, "you don't need to know what it is to protect it."

Rosileen tugged on Victoria's cape lightly as she countered his argument, "That all depends. If it's a thousand gallons of lamp oil, I need to know not to have my friends lob any fireballs."

"I can't see a problem with anything like that, ma'am. So do you want the job or not?"

Rosileen's tugged harder. Victoria nodded, "The pay sounds good, I'll just have to confer with the rest of my colleagues," she turned and bent down, "What is it?" she half whispered.

"What about Ben?"

"What about him?"

"He can't keep up with your horses at that pace! They want to ride hard all day!"

"Ride with one of us."

"But what about BEN?"

It dawned on Victoria how much the mule meant to her, though she couldn't see why, "We could get the bartender to take care of him, and have him sent to Dogford or wherever when time allows. Like we did at Merrick. How's that?"

Rosileen frowned, not liking the idea, but not seeing an alternative, either. She nodded weakly.

When everyone got back together, they decided to take the job. It was heading in the right direction, and the pay was good. They decided to rest up and told the cargo master to inform them when they were ready to leave.

Brun was more than happy to put them up for free that night, in the least vomitty smelling room he had, and promised to take care of Ben as if he were his own son. Having seen Brun's son serving drinks, Rosileen hoped he didn't get them confused.

Before dawn the next morning, the cargo master came and rapped at their doors. It was time.

Still rubbing sleep from her eyes as they rode, Soo thought she saw a number of horses cresting a hill off in the far distance. But when she checked again there was nothing. Probably her imagination.

Soo also wondered what all the fuss was about, and why everyone insisted on referring to a person as cargo.

There was indeed a cargo wagon, full of heavy chests and crates, but it was obvious to her that it was the woman sitting at the front of the carriage, her face covered by a coachman's hat and veil, and her figure concealed by a riding cloak, was what the cargo master was really talking about. Soo had noticed that she arrived by cover of darkness the night before, and was hunched trying to attract as little attention as possible, like she was trying to be ignored. Problem was, she never once touched the reins, so there didn't seem to be a reason for her to be there. She wondered if anyone else had noticed.

By the time they stopped for a quick lunch, The first half of the journey had gone smoothly. No attacks, no wandering monsters to get in the way.

Soo was surprised to find that no one else had found the second rider out of place, but now that she mentioned it, Perah-Perah cast a piercing analytical gaze towards the mystery woman. The woman, it seemed, was also keeping an eye on them. She quickly looked elsewhere, however, when Perah-Perah's withering glare got through its warm ups and really hit her.

Lunch was soon over and the ride was on once again. Off over the next gentle hill, they could see smoke rising. This didn't bode well, but it was still an hour off at least.

Perah-Perah noticed the cargo's eyes fall on her again. It wasn't a critical look, but more one of curiosity. If fact it wasn't directed only at herself, but at everyone in her party. She tried to piece together what it meant.

That was when the tree fell in front of them. If it had fallen any later it would have hit the carriage horses and maybe even Soo or Asyra. The carriage stopped barely in time.

"Weapons ready!" commanded Perah-Perah, bringing a spell online in one hand and reaching for her bow with the other. Victoria leveled her crossbow, and Asyra and Soo readied their bows. Not having any long range weapons to use, Rosileen went for the cover of the carriage. She'd be no good as a medic if she was impaled with a spear twice her size. The woman and cargo master joined Rosileen underneath.

There was silence for a moment. Perah-Perah and the others waited on their horses, hoping the vantage point would give them advanced warning.

Then they came. No spears were thrown this time, but instead they rushed on foot out of the swamp and into their midst.

They looked like some arcane genetic experiment gone wrong, or from a world where evolution had favored the reptiles. Basically humanoid, but with thick scales and a vaguely crocodile like head.

Perah-Perah launched a cloud of putrid smoke into their midst on her side, halting the advance of some of the hoard. On Asyra and Soo's side, the lizardmen rushed. Several fell to their well placed shots, before they came within range of their bone clubs.

Perah-Perah cursed the fact that she didn't couldn't cast a decent fireball yet, and slung a few magic missiles before unsheathing her sword.

Being mounted gave them a bit of an advantage, because the lizardmen were too focused on hitting the center of mass to consider the tactical advantage of hitting their unprotected legs. Everyone took advantage of this to keep the high ground and hack and hew the swamp raiders. When they came too close to the wagon, Rosileen scampered from underneath to whack a few lizardmen in the head. The grace and technique in her staff swings seemed to be improving with practical application.

Soon they were driven back, with only a few spears thrown in defiance as they did. Fortunately no one was hurt* *aside from the lizardmen, of course, many of whom left behind women and children, the children vowing revenge on the warm meat things, and continuing a cycle of violence that would not end until one of them stopped tasting good.** **Lizardmen taste like chicken.

It took some time and a little magic to move the tree, but soon they were able to push past it and move onward to Salewood.

However, before that they came across the place where the smoke had been rising. A small hamlet, with barely enough room for a tavern and church, was on fire, and its townspeople busily getting it under control.

"Pull over!" Perah-Perah called to the cargo master.

The cargomaster nodded, and pulled up by the tavern, which was mostly undamaged and sported many lizardmen heads on the ends of planted spears, "This is our stop anyway."

"You're not going to Salewood?"

"Nope. Too obvious. Salewood's almost a city."

Too obvious? Perah-Perah felt some pieces slipping into place, but doubted she was curious enough to unravel this puzzle if it was going to slow her down any more than necessary.

At the local tavern, apparently renamed The Row of Bloody Lizard Heads On Sticks shortly after the battle, some of the survivors approached them.

"How bad was the attack?" asked Perah-Perah.

"Bloody awful!" said one peasant, "We barely drove them off to the west, but I think they might have just run out of spears."

"Those sound like the ones we encountered. There are a few less to their number tonight."

"Well, that's a small relief. You guys wouldn't have any food to sell in that cargo? They burned our harvest and we're dangerously low."

The cargo master looked at the diminutive cloaked female, who shook her head, "Sorry, just the bare essentials," she said.

Bare essentials? Perah's ears pricked up further. She had a sinking feeling in her stomach. She was almost certain she knew where this was going.

"Right, sorry."

Asyra rode up closer, "If you have any horses left, have someone ride to Halffarthing Proper and inform Lord Valious. We spoke with him recently had he would be quite interested in your situation. You can be sure to expect aid from him."

The peasant nodded, "I'm leaving in the morning, but thanks anyway," he turned his attention back to Perah-Perah, "You say you may have ran into the lizardmen who attacked us. Did you see their leader?"

"What did their leader look like?"

"Some kind of female orc, with dark armour and horns on the helmet."

"How do you know it was female, let alone orc?" asked Victoria.

"Aye, you have a point there, miss, but I don't think many other species or sexes would be inclined to wear the armour she wore. She also had a magical crossbow of some short that never ran out of bolts!"

"And she was leading them?" this didn't sound right.

"Sure looked like it. In the middle of the battle when things were all hand to hand, she road up into our midst and started firing that cursed crossbow, then ran off. Didn't act much like a leader, mind you, but then that's what I hear most leaders do. Go into the battle to make an inspiring appearance and then retreat to safety."

Perah-Perah was a little confused, "But the lizardmen were driven back westward. This orc didn't go west did she?"

"I don't know, I didn't see."

A different peasant spoke up, "I saw her go east, I did. Ran like the wind, a coward of a leader if I ever saw one."

"She wasn't their leader," said Perah-Perah, wondering about the scenario. She happens to come through town in the middle of the battle, and stops long enough to fire some shots into people and cause mayhem? Something didn't add up, maybe she was an out and out human hater, and her crusade was actually tied in with the orc army sent to capture them in Merrick. Maybe.

The sound of dozens of hoofbeats could be heard coming from the west. Perah-Perah thought they might be reenforcements at first, but they couldn't have known about the attack this quickly. Then for terrifying moment she thought it was the renegade orc army hot on her trail. Then her third suspicion turned out to be true, and she started wishing it had been orcs.

"PENNY!"_boomed the most paternal voice in the world. The voice was attached to the most parental father figure in the world. Slightly overweight, well groomed, fading brown beard and warm grey eyes that looked like they enjoyed nothing more than to laugh like a jolly man three times his weight. His pipe was probably in his belt pouch.

The woman in the cart cursed under her breath, and looked to Perah-Perah and the others desperately, "It's daddy. You have to help me! He wants me to marry against my will, but I already love another!"

Perah-Perah's eyes rolled up into the back of her head, "Oh, for the love of..."

"Penny, you get off that cart at once, and come with me. Sir Reginald almost called off the wedding!"

"GOOD!" the woman said, showing a classic teenage amount of backbone and wisdom, "I hope he chokes on the wedding cake!"

"Now, now, pumpkin," said the father reasonably, "let's be reasonable."

"No, YOU be reasonable! I love another and yet you insist I marry Mr. Boring!"

"I refuse to acknowledge that swineherd as a potential suitor!"

Perah-Perah felt nauseous. She couldn't take this anymore.

"All right everyone, STOP!" Though young and unpracticed, the command in her voice was sufficient to make everyone do just that.

"You men, stay back! In our group are powerful wizards and warriors, you would be best to be wary," Penny beamed with satisfaction, her heros here would save her.

One of the men half-whispered to the father, "They're probably from Teal."

"Yes, that makes sense, on one of their bloody crusades to free the 'oppressed' women of the island, no doubt. Tell me, women of Teal, is it your policy to interfere in the affairs of parents?"

Perah-Perah's blood began to boil, "We are not from Teal, and we certainly had no idea what was going on here. I'm just going to say a few words of bloody common sense and be on my way. You, 'Penny', how old are you?"


Rosileen clasped her hands and looked to Victoria, "Isn't this romantic?" she said in a starry eyed voice, "Trying to be with the man she loves, betrothed to another."

Perah-Perah shot a finger at Rosileen, the anger boiling over, "No, it's not romantic! It's not sweet! It's not wonderful! And the first person to go 'Awwww' gets a magic missile in the face!"

The accusing finger shot back at Penny, "You! Where's this boyfriend of yours?"

"You mean my beloved?"


A young man stepped forward, with a fair body and face, and the same naive air about him as Penny, "I'm the one," he said, "I planned it all, and have been waiting three days for my true love to arrive," he then addressed the father, "I will do anything to prove my love to your daughter, sir."

"I think not, young whelp. Penny is betrothed to Reginald, and I shall not be dissuaded."

"But I love her, and not you or any power can stop true love!"

"Awwww!" said Soo.

Perah-Perah finally lost it, "I SAID SHUT UP!" she yelled shooting a magic missile at a mounted lizard head and blowing it to pieces.

Everyone fell silent.

"You're all about to get a dose of reality. Penny, you are going to go with your father and marry Reginald."

"I shall not!"

Perah-Perah eye's narrowed, and her fingers glowed, "Say that again."

Penny opened her mouth, finally registered the threat Perah-Perah had made, and closed it again.

Perah-Perah gestured towards the swineherd "What do you love about him?"

Penny's gaze went distant, "The way he talks and speaks to me. His gentle touch and honest face. His strength and-"

"Okay, that's enough. Now listen up, girl. You are not in love, you are in lust. There is always a chance that it could grow into something more, but odds are it won't."

"But I don't love Reginald!"

"What the hell does love have to do with marriage? That's for poor people. You're rich and privileged! It's all about power and advantage. You have affairs! What, you think dear Reginald won't find some trollop once he's bored with you? Please!"

"An affair? But I couldn't..."

The father spoke up, "This is an outrage! I won't stand here and listen to my daughter get lectured on how to be a whore!"

Fortunately, Perah-Perah only shot a glare at him, "Then go somewhere else. This is girl talk." "I cannot betray my love!" Penny wailed.

"How are you betraying him? By occasionally sleeping with this Reginald person and giving him an heir?" this receive a number of nods, both from the other girls and from the father's men, "Look, being rich and powerful isn't easy. It comes with responsibility. For some the responsibility comes with blood and unspeakable pain and, for others it's fighting in wars and probably getting killed. All in all, I'd say you get the better deal. At least you get a baby in the end."

Penny seemed unconvinced, but Perah-Perah pressed forward, "Once the honeymoon is over you can see your farmboy secretly. Trust me, it will be more exciting than seeing him every day after he feeds the pig their slop."

"I'll kill him first and burn the body before I allow this to happen!" yelled the father, drawing his sword, and casting a glare that showed he felt the young lad was nothing less than pure evil.

Perah-Perah spoke with the force and finality of a freight train, "You will do no such thing. You know as well as I do that this is how it's done. You've done it and so has your wife and so has everyone you know. The problem is you never told your daughter that. Will you swear before this High Priestess of Salias that you've never had sexual relations with anyone outside of your marriage?"

Unlike many other worlds, the gods of this one were not only real, but liked to take some time out to make public displays of their power. Even if it only happened one time in a thousand, that one was often graphic and painful. Nobody liked to play those kinds of odds, and Salias was known for being a stickler for the truth. Rosileen, knowing to play along, rose herself to her full half height an looked as snootily important as possible.

"Er..." said the father carefully, backing away from Rosileen's gaze "... it depends on what your definition of 'with' is."

Perah-Perah nodded, "I thought as much. You should know that I know people of the most foul and secret sort. If I should hear any kind of accident or foul end befalls the farm boy, you will hear from them, but I assure you the conversation will be short. I can't abide hypocrites."

"This is an outrage! You have no right-"

A missile from Asyra snapped his drawn sword in half, "A man who would sell his daughter for land and power should not talk too strongly about rights," she said.

Perah-Perah smiled, and turned her attention back to Penny, speaking so low that only she could hear her, "Now listen to this part most carefully, girl. If none of what I said appeals to you there is one more choice. You can save yourself. Forget the pig boy in shining armor and his cunning plans. Forget whatever you've read in those gawdawful romances that I know you've read or seen played a thousand times," she winced at the memories it gave her.

"I saw you looking at us. I know what you're asking yourself. If you really want to be free, you run, now, and never look back. Make your own life somewhere, go to Teal perhaps, but do it for yourself. Maybe someday you will meet pig slop boy again and maybe you won't, but those are the breaks of real life.

"If, however, you want to be taken care of by someone, then you go marry Reginald and remember everything else I told you. Now, if you'll be so kind as to pay us for our services, we have a boat to catch."

"Why should I pay you? You're not even defending me!"

"First of all, we were hired to bring you to this town, and we did. Secondly, you should be paying me double for the advice I'm giving, but I'm throwing that in for free. Thirdly-" the glow of her fingers indicated there was no real reason to explain 'thirdly'. Penny dug into her purse.

Perah-Perah looked back to the father, "You heed every word I said, no harm is to come to anyone here. I am a woman of my word, and not to be trifled with." She loved adding the formal tone at the end of her speeches. The beauty of it was that as time went on, when they remembered what she said, it would eventually all sound that good.

Penny paid up, and watched them ride off towards the now setting sun to the east, the giant wolf padding along and keeping pace with them.

There are conflicting reports about what Penny did in the days that followed. Some say she hanged herself in despair of being forced to marry a man she didn't love. Others say that she married Reginald and the farm boy forsook her, never to love again. Still others say she ran off with the farm boy that night and they died together tragically at than hands of lizardmen.

But a few insist that she fled that night to Teal, started her own business and got herself two husbands (one for the weekends). Being nowhere near as romantic as the others, this theory received the least amount of attention.

What everyone agrees on, however, is that she seemed a little more confident that day, as if she had finally made up her mind about something. Perhaps because she saw in those fading figures something that had been lost in her own isolated life.