The seven adventurers sat at a table in the front of the inn, staring at Spamwich’s most recent creation. It appeared that he had braided together jerky and green onion stalks, or maybe it was seaweed, impaled them on sticks, and coated them in a mysterious brown sauce. As a side dish, there was a long-grain rice with a sprinkling of wild rice with black husks still on, now blossomed out like flying insects. To complete the picture of something dead by the roadside, it had a spray of tomato sauce over it.
They exchanged glances, and shook their heads.
Grace raised a finger. “Maybe we should take up hunting in the woods tomorrow.”
Cleo shook her head. “Don’t go into the swamp alone, there are some big things in there. Question of who would be hunting whom.”
Flummox and Animus leaned forward and spoke together. “Probably are in the…” They glared at each other, then Animus continued. “Probably are big things in the woods too.”
Flummox nodded. “Probably need to make a party of it, if we really want to hunt. But then we’d make no progress on the issues of the day.”
Sapphire pushed back her mug on the table. It misted a bit as it sloshed. “There seems to be no lack of fish, and yesterday’s dinner was excellent.” There was a murmur of assent. “So let’s list out the biggest problems, then divide and conquer.”
Animus scowled. “Well, it’s got to be these damn rats, for one.”
Rufus shook his head. “I think I’d better help you on that one.”
Flummox waited until she was gone, then nodded. “Okay, that’s one. I think we need to get to the bottom of this undead stuff. Sherlock’s been hinting he wants us to help out investigate the jewel robberies uptown and I’m sure I can get him to escort me and D-Stract uptown, and make some inquiries of my own while I’m there. There is a big party Saturday, that’s tomorrow night.”
D-Stract nodded. “I’ll need a dress though.”
Sapphire raised her hand. “Cleo and I were talking about taking the mules out to meet the dragon. I should be able to talk with them, now that Rufus has broken the ice. It sounds like he’s a negotiator, and maybe we can get his help with some of the heavy lifting.”
Grace shuddered. “Well, if you insist. I’m sticking with you then.”
Cleo smiled. “Not sure what your little bow will do to dragon hide, but I’ll welcome a second archer.”
Grace nodded. “We might bag a critter on the side, or pick up some nuts and berries. It could be fun, we three women alone. We can talk about the menfolk.”
Cleo giggled. Sapphire smiled smugly. Rufus shook his head woefully. “I guess it’s decided then. You ladies go charm the dragon, I’ll help Animus with the little rat problem, while Flummox and D-Stract find out about these undead uptown.”
Sapphire bit her lip. “What about Dorothy and her friends from Oz? We just gonna let them wander around town?”
Animus nodded sharply. “Why not? They’re not our problem, anyway, and I don’t see them being much use to us. Those goodie two-shoes will get along with the villagers just fine.” The others exchanged glances and shrugged.
Turning reluctantly back to their dinners, they let out a collective groan.
Flummox grimaced. “I need a beer.”
Suddenly a shout rang out from the front door. “A beer! Somebody said there is good beer in this place!”
Beryl peered at him carefully. “You do have money to pay for these, I presume?”
The Asian threw back his shoulders in an attempt to look dignified, swayed a little, and put on an angry face. “I am not one of those common vagabonds taking a break from looting and pillaging! I am the Prince of … oh it’s top secret. Anyway, I have plenty of money.” He whipped out a coin purse and half-emptied it on the bar in a cascade of gold. Quite a few people in the bar suddenly sat up straight.
Flummox muttered, “Make that double trouble. Get ready for a rumble.”
Rufus, Sapphire, and Grace all began muttering and making subtle passes in the air, which began to smell of ozone and scorched earth. The others checked their weapons.
The Prince whirled around, clutching the end of the bar, fighting for balance. “Did I hear someone speak? Or perhaps it was just a belch. I don’t see anyone here of sufficient station to be addressing myself.” He swayed back towards the bar.
As the rough party reached for their weapons, Beryl raised his voice. “Anyone using weapons in here, or breaking the furniture, will find themselves banned. There is not a lot else to see in this town, and nowhere else to get a drink, so calm down gentlemen.”
The tall ruffian grinned wickedly, as he lay his greatsword on the table. “No weapons then.”
It is probably best not to recount the details of the brawl that ensued. Goldilocks, Beryl, and the party of adventurers mostly took refuge behind the bar, and made sure none of the liquor was lost, with the aid of a conjured squirrel of fire and a bird with electric coronas for wings. Spamwich was horrified to see much of his dinner used as projectiles, and barricaded himself in the kitchen. Several other guests ducked through the doors that lead to their rooms, and/or the rear exits.
Surprisingly, the two dark figures defended the Prince, but they were still badly outnumbered until two ninjas arrived, making the odds only six to four (and a half, as the prince was barely able to stand), although the trained ninjas were well able to hold their own.
Sapphire’s voice slowly raised in a sing-song chant, with a bit of wand waving, and the brawlers got gradually slower and more sluggish until they all slumped into chairs and went to sleep. “Well, that’s that,” she ended. “I’m tired.”
Beryl picked up several coins from the bar, then started dragging bodies out to the street. Everyone else still standing headed for bed.