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The club had served good purpose—an instrument of finality dispensing with previous ‘disagreements’ with wizards and unruly clients. One could never be too careful at out-of-town fairs or in the company of disreputable relic coveters or dealers. Only yesterday he had been compelled to ward off the thrusts of two petty thieves in a back alley whose overzealous confidence had earned them a quick beating, thanks to his trusty club. And the day before a squawking dealer had occupied his time for an hour squabbling over a price of simple amethyst. In terms of his finds, recently he had discovered an amphora of withered dry olives with impressive inscriptions dating back to 401 CD, certainly a prize to a historian—yet hardly worth the ten mezks of its material value. In a nearby crypt, 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 had run out? The feeling was discomfiting. A snuffle from the nearby forest suddenly shook him from his thoughts.

He crouched instinctively, poised like a panther.

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

Relatively.

He gave an offhand flourish.

He swung his attention back to his pick-axing.

Drenched in sweat, the relic-hunter grunted some time later to more vigorous axe plunges. The clink of metal on pickaxe came as music to his ears, if not like the restless pawing of some newborn isk that was in need of being put out of its misery. 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, even in these late hours of feverish burrowing, was peculiar in the midsummer heat and Risgan paused to scratch at his head, screwing up his red-rimmed eyes. Unseemly things lurked in the forest, and his haste in choosing this less than wholesome site, brought apprehensive memories crawling that perhaps it was ill move to scavenge here.

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