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By Hans-Jrg Knabel and
Daniel Stacey (aka Mage of Adanos)

The clothes of "normal" people on Argaan.

Four mugs lost. Belgor smiled all the same.
Nothin to grin about, Murdra hissed, glaring at Ped. The new boy was on his knees, hurriedly picking up the pieces. This one was even worse than the last. Slow, lazy and weak, Murdra thought. Cant even lift four ales! She tossed a rag into the spill. Wipe that up!
No harm done, Belgor said, a slight grumble in his voice.
Bah! Murdra spat. Ed ave given the other boy a scolding, e would ave. Now es pamperin the new one been two weeks already! Broken mugs and four thirsty men waitin for ale, she said, angrily nudging Ped with her foot. Where?
Middle table, he mumbled.
Garv and is friends, Murdra growled, casting a short glance into the tap room. This means trouble! She placed four new mugs on the sideboard and topped them off with ale. When she was done, the boy was still busy wiping up the mess. Move! she snapped, picking up the mugs and trudging into the tap room.

The customers mood matched her own. They were packed tight, heads together as they whispered amongst themselves in the candlelight. Murdra could hear only snippets, but she knew what they were talking about: the gruesome morning find, looming at Lorns side like a dark omen. It was a plank, split at the ends and half-burnt, but the golden letters were still clearly visible, spelling the words Tear of Setarrif. Lorn and the other fishermen had pulled it out of the sea and lugged it into the Maiden.
Its just one ship, Murdra heard Elgan say as she passed his table.
Yes, Lorn murmured, but the flagship!
Murdra trudged on. No use mulling over the outcome of the battle. When the igh lords are feudin, theres nothin you can do, she thought. Just keep your ead down and ope. She had given up on praying long ago.
Bout time! Garv shouted as Murdra reached his table. His head was shaved clean, as always. The fat scar running from ear to chin stretched menacingly as he spoke. Thought the Myrtanians were going to get here before the damn ale.
Its ere now, Murdra hissed, plunking down the mugs in front of Garv and his friends.
Not good at apologizing, are you? Garv grunted, a baleful grin splitting his scarred face. Murdra felt him pawing at her buttocks, his fingers digging painfully into her flesh. Thats as far as e goes, she thought, slamming her palm into his cheek. The men at the table looked at each other, grinning expectantly. Garv rubbed his cheek, eying up Murdra with a piercing gaze. Murdra knew she would have to tread carefully now, but she kept her chin high.

What? The challenge in her voice was clear.
Garv remained silent. Without hesitation, Murdra turned around and trudged back to the kitchen. She felt queasy the whole way back. Bound to stir up some trouble today, the dog, she thought, and she suspected today meant soon.
The boy scampered into the tap room as Murdra reached the kitchen. Took you long enough! she snapped, glaring at him, then she took a few soup plates from the cupboard and put them on the sideboard.
A chair hit the ground with a crash. Murdra looked up.
Garv was standing near the table, a mug in his hand. He spit the ale on the floor in a violent spray. Thats no ale, he yelled, that watered-down piss! The people in the tap room fell silent. The dog, Murdra thought. Then the mug came flying. She ducked behind the sideboard, and it soared over her head, shattering behind her on the kitchen wall.
And thats another mug, Murdra growled. Cold ale was dripping from her hair down the back of her neck and on her brow. She stood up and bared her teeth. Just as she was about to butt heads with Garv, an idea crossed her mind.
You! she thundered at the new boy. Throw him out!

The clothes of "normal" people on Argaan.
The boy hesitated. Garv was two, no, three heads taller than he was. Now well see if es good for somethin, Murdra thought, grabbing a rag to wipe the ale from her face. Ped took a tentative step in Garvs direction. You, uh, need to go now, he said too meek, too quiet.
Garv mustered the boy from above. Or? he asked.
Ped shrank back. M Murdra! he squealed.
Murdra rolled her eyes. Garv laughed. You take orders from a woman? he asked, looming over Ped. What kind of man are you?
Ped struggled to speak, but no sound came through his lips.
Garv grinned. Not yet, hmm? he jeered. We can fix that. He grabbed Ped under the arms and lifted him up without breaking his stride. Thought so, Murdra thought. Good for nothin, that one. Garv seemed to gauge the distance to the door. Lets see if he clears the doorway! he hooted.
Put him down! Belgor had stepped behind Garv, his voice calm and deep. Garv turned around, Ped still in his grasp.
I wont say it twice, Garv.
The kings favourite, no less! Garv dropped the boy. I have no quarrel with you, Belgor. Just with your beer, your service, and this whole stinkin tavern.
In that case, you are free to go, Belgor said firmly, teetering forward on his wooden leg. Garvs friends slowly got up from their chairs, and a few woodcutters followed suit. There was violence in the air. Murdra had enough. She tossed the rag back on the sideboard and trudged into the tap room. Why arent you lettin Ped deal with this lump? That was our agreement. e pulls is weight or
e gets thrown out, I know. Belgor finished her sentence. But whats the boy supposed to do against Garv?Bah! Murdra was annoyed; she put her fists on her hips and gave Garv a challenging look. ow about it? Want to try tossin me?

For a heartbeat, Garv looked like he would. Then he shrugged. A pox on it, he growled. Who cares about the swill here anyway. He turned his back on her and left the tap room with his friends.
Good riddance, Murdra hissed, looking around. The boy had taken off. She could see him running along the gallery. Then he was gone. Legs it and leaves is work behind, she growled. Well, I never
Let me talk to him, Belgor said. He turned and followed the boy up the stairs.
It didnt take long for the regulars to turn back to their gloomy discussions about the naval battle and the looming threat of a Myrtanian invasion. Calls for mead and ale broke through the whispers, and Murdra got back to work. After she had taken care of four tables all by herself, her patience was wearing thin.
Whats takin them so long?
After the fifth table Murdra caught a glance of Ped walking across the courtyard. He must have had left the house while she was in the kitchen. Murdra wanted to take a look, but Elgan and Lorn clamored for the mead she had forgotten. She snorted and turned around.
As Murdra brought the cups of mead to Elgans table, she could see Ped streak back into the tap room from the corner of her eye. He was headed up the stairs again. That does it! she growled, slamming the cups on the table.
Id like a meat broth with that, Elgan said.Later. Murdra wiped her hands on her apron and hurried for the stairs.

She could see the boy darting from the gallery onto the balcony. As Murdra climbed the stairs, the seventh step creaked under her slippers as always. But something was different. Murdra could feel the hair stand up on the back of her neck. Normally, she could hear Belgors peg-leg thunk on the floor no matter where he was, be it the tap room, the gallery or the yard. It was a regular, familiar toc, toc, toc. It had remained silent for quite some time now.
Murdra quickened her step, hurrying through the gallery, to the balcony. The door to the common room, where the boy slept, was open. Murdra headed for the door. As she saw the wooden leg lying on the floor, something inside her shriveled up.
Belgor was dead. Somehow, she knew.
She kept going all the same, until she was standing in the doorway. Why? she asked herself. Belgor was sprawled on his back, eyes wide open. Ped stood not far from him, mute and motionless, his back to the door.
Why? Murdra asked, her voice quiet and flat. Then rage took her. Why? She was practically howling now. She didnt know what else to say.
Ped turned around. Im sorry, he whispered.
Not good enough! she thundered, rushing in Peds direction. Murdra grabbed him by the collar and pushed him aside with all her strength. Ped stumbled against the bed frame, knocking his head against the wall. He crumpled to the floor at Belgors side. Just like father and son, Murdra thought. Both dead?

Then her world dissolved into tears.


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