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The club had served good purpose—an instrument of finality dispensing previous ‘disagreements’ with unruly clients and interchanges with wizards. One could never be too careful at out-of-town fairs or in the company of disreputable relic coveters or dealers. Yesterday he had found an amphora of withered dry olives with impressive inscriptions dating back to the year 401 CD, certainly a prize to a historian—yet hardly worth the ten mezks of its material value; nearby, he had discovered a mouldering wristband of a Karkarian vassal which gave off an offensive stench and an eerie whine when he twirled it from his index finger. And then, an ostler’s whip handle whose poor workmanship was only outmatched by the black scavenger beetles that inhabited its core.

Risgan gave a weary sigh. When would he ever see the end of such unavailing bric-a-brac? Perhaps his luck might change? The hope was strong. A snuffle from the nearby forest suddenly shook him from his thoughts.

He crouched instinctively, poised like a panther.

The sound was gone. Probably just a foxmok or passing baby basilhoon. Risgan laughed. Relatively harmless.

Relatively.

He gave an offhand, assuring flourish.

He swung his attention back to his industry.

Drenched in sweat, he grunted some time later to more vigorous axe plunges, which pawed at the earth as if the dirt were some newborn isk that was in need of being put out of its misery. The clink of metal on pickaxe was music to his ears, even in these late hours of feverish burrowing. The jangle from the newly-hewn deep hole was slightly tinnier than normal, a sign which could mean anything, or next to nothing. The brisk ring was a bit peculiar in the midday summer heat. Risgan paused to scratch at his cheek. He screwed up his red-rimmed eyes. Unseemly things lurked in the nearby forest. His haste in choosing this less than wholesome site, brought cool tremors to memory that perhaps it was an ill move to scavenge here.

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