Medievia Mudslinger

January 25th, 2004

The Case of the Missing Tiara by Antrix

I allow my friends to call me Trace. My enemies don't call me anything I could say in front of a dame in high heels and a feather boa. Sometimes I can't find the boa. People know me when I owe them money. A lot of people know me. Not many call me Trace. Other people know me when they need me. Not many of these call me Trace until it's too late.

My name fits me like a tight dress on a beautiful dame. I trace things. I'm a Private Eye, just as it says on my door. It's not a bad job, and I'm good at it. Finding missing objects or missing people, watching husbands and wives, tracking down assassins, battling eldritch creatures from the depths of the netherhells - I've had twenty years in the business, and it's cost me plenty. Not much can faze me, or so I thought.

I'd just finished the case of the Vampire's Missing Teeth. Piotr had been grateful, and the stock of mirrors he'd given me had auctioned off nicely. Not many people wanted to know me, just then. The case had cost me my dignity, my helm, an elderly maiden aunt, and a small stuffed poodle who called me Ralph, but life was good.

"Rent's due, Trace," the landlord shouted through my door. He still wanted to know me. I had no more mirrors left, and the petty cash had gone on the small bottle of firebreather in the top drawer of my desk. That desk had been a present from the Duke of Trellor for finding his loofah. It had cost me my hearing for a week, two fingernails, the love of a good woman, and my dartboard, but the desk was good.

I heard footsteps again. The landlord had something else to say. He really wanted to know me. I pretended to be asleep.

"Are you Trace?" a voice asked. It was the sort of voice that could open doors in the classiest parts of the City of Medievia, and I pretended to wake slowly.

I took my time looking at her. Her voice fit her like a dagger fits its sheath; like firebreather fits its bottle; like I like.

"I'm Trace," I replied. I saw the smooth wings and the skin that looked so soft it could be used to line my mouth when people who wanted to know me for money came around. The dame wore more gold than a dragon had scales, and as I watched, she flowed into my room like a babbling brook.

She sat down on my chair and her face dissolved into tears. I've seen many tearful dames, and they all cost me something, but none had literally dissolved like this. "You're a Naiad," I said. I'd met a naiad before, a water spirit, and she had cost me a dry-clean only suit of chainmail, my birthmark, and a pair of scissors I was fond of."

This didn't seem to get anything out of her since she just started bawling even louder than before. I decided to try a nice guy approach, maybe it would calm her down.

"Please, please, don't cry. There's nothing to be afraid of here." Which was true, this was, after all, the City of Medievia, and you could always bribe a guard to protect you for a day. "Now, tell me what happened and I'll see what I can do." I flashed a smile big enough to put the jesters to shame.

This seemed to settle her down, as she wiped her tears from her watery cheeks. She looked eerily beautiful, in that just-took-a-swim kind of way, as she gave a timid little smile in return.

"Please, sir, can you help me find my lost tiara. Mother will be ever so angry if she finds out I've lost it!" she whined in a voice almost high enough to break the bottle containing the last of my firebreather. I made an exaggerated gesture at covering my ears, and I politely asked her to use her indoor voice. I knew her type - the kind who would whine her way to victory and then gloat about it to all her friends. I had an ex like her. Her name was Esmerelda, and it cost me a bow tie, a contract in blood, and my goldfish Sparky to get out of that one.

"Now calm down lady. You gotta tell me the details first." I took out some paper and my second best quill, I had lost the first one along with a clump of hair and some toilet paper when I did that case for crazy old Yaxley of Enara.

"Well, I had this really nice tiara and I got it from my mom as a present for my birthday." Her sobbing had stopped, and she was getting into her gossip, or storytelling, mode. "So I'm just playing around with it, showing it off to my friends and all that. Then one day, we're like 'let's go play!' and we all just run off and have fun. Well, I left my tiara on the riverbank and I had completely forgotten about it. So my best friend, Nystica, who is really cool by the way, reminds me about it. She has a really nice voice, you know?"

"Please, lady, I'm going to have to teach you about 'short and sweet' one day. Now, would you get to the point?" I asked. Teenagers were trouble in my opinion, always rebelling against whatever was keeping them 'down'. I once had to talk to some teenagers for information, and it cost me my wisdom tooth, my champagne goblet, and all of my patience.

"Well, it turns out a couple of bad beavers stole it!" She was waiting for me to jump. I didn't, so she continued. "They had stolen the tiara, and now I don't know where it is! It was a family heirloom too! My parents will be ever so angry at me. Please sir, you have to get it back!" She was about to turn on the waterworks again, but I had already had enough of that for one day. I pretended to be in deep thought, puzzling over the case.

What I was actually doing was congratulating myself on getting such a simple job. It was one of those open shut cases where half the work had been done for me. Who knows, I might not even lose things on this one. All I had to do was find this beaver who gave new meaning to the term three-claw-discount, threaten the beaver into giving me the tiara, give the tiara to Nyxaia, and reap the rewards. I grinned to myself; this was going to be like taking roots from a blind hermit.

"Of course I'll do the case, lady. After all, I am the best detective this side of the Courrain. But there is still the fact of the money," I said with a smile.

She was definitely young and loaded because she offered a reward with two more zeroes than I had expected. I was literally speechless, and I tried to cover up by closing my eyes whilst taking a chug from my firebreather. Instead, I almost choked on my flowerpot, and covered my table with soil. She was quite amused by this.

"Well, ahem, that seems like a reasonable offer," I coughed. "I'll get on the job tomorrow even though I don't usually do work for this amount of money. However, I'll make an exception for you." I flashed my biggest fake smile and she almost reeled from the sunlight shining on it. I showed her out and waved goodbye. Then, when I was sure she was out of hearing distance, I started to party down like it was my birthday. And not just any birthday - the last time I danced like this it had cost me a loaf of bread, a whole lot of earwax, and three firebreathers. That had been one wild night.

Next morning, I arrived at the muddy riverbanks of Ryvaera. It was a peaceful river, with all the animals living in perfect harmony. I could make out the underwater kingdom of the naiads when I looked into the crystal clear river. I decided to not take a swim this early, because it would also just arouse suspicions. Instead, I headed for the beaver dam, the scene of the crime.

It seemed innocent enough. A group of beavers were standing there, and they looked like they were gnawing food in true beaver fashion. Boy, was I wrong.

"What you staring at, old man?" one of the beavers grunted at me. I guess my observations were too close for comfort.

"Nothing, nothing," I said. "Keep on doing whatever illegal things you are doing kids. I won't tell your mommies." I used my best joking grin and tone of voice. This was mistake number two hundred and one. The last two hundred had cost me a lot of things like my second cousin twice removed, an old box of tissues, and my shoe-polishing kit.

"What are you up to?" one of them demanded. "Gonna tell on uth? I don't like the look of you. Gueth my boyth ought to change that." The speaker and apparent ringleader, a buff young beaver, pointed at me. All of sudden, four beavers were upon me. I knew I had stumbled on something big, not to mention illegal, but now was no time to dwell on this. I had to fight the good fight.

I groped around my shins and retrieved my trusty old dagger o' fire. I remember the case I did for Glazebru to get this. It had cost me a flame retardant pillow, half of my left pinky toe, and a yo-yo. That's when I realized a dagger isn't much fending off four beavers. I decided to have a go with some magic.

I started chanting, and acid flooded from my fingertips to splash the beavers. I remember when I learned this back when I was an apprentice to a wizard in the City of Medievia. It had cost me the better part of my childhood, a glass mug with the words 'best apprentice', and a pair of spectacles. The beavers were obviously stunned, I guess they didn't expect a dagger toting man to know the black arts. I smiled smugly and begin to cast another spell, but they turned and fled. With their ringleader leading the pack, they dove into one of the interconnected dams.

"Typical," I thought. "Look for an easy fight, and run when you're outmatched." I canceled the spell, and I checked my belongings as I dusted myself. To no surprise, I felt my pockets somewhat emptier than before. The fight had cost me my library card, a throwing knife, and a pair of my good socks. It wasn't a bad loss, although I still swore to get them back somehow. I put my dagger back in its sheath and turned around, surveying the area.

It was a dismal scene. Wood chips were strewn about, and the scent of burning lumber lingered in the air. I could put two and two together to figure out what they were doing. Those kids had been partaking in vandalism of another beaver's dam. I don't know where they got the paint from, but the entire wooden log roof was covered with words like 'PAY UP ON TIME' and 'VIVA KINGBEAV'. I assumed kingbeav to be a person with a severe lack of originality. I suspected deduced that this guy was at the root of the trouble.

I decided to ask around the Dam and maybe find some information on this 'kingbeav'. I had never been on a dam before so I really didn't know where all the 'hot spots' where. I mean, humans go to bars, trolls go to mass-human-killing ceremonies, and dwarves go to box socials. But beavers were something else. Did they hang around the best tree or spend all day working?

I wandered around the dam. Most of the beavers were working diligently. It almost, keyword almost, made me feel bad and lazy. Finally, I saw a beaver lying down with a lazy look on his face. He seemed my kind of beaver, so I decided to talk to him.

"So, nice weather you got here?" I asked as casually as I could.

"Yea, every day ith the same. Gnaw wood, puth the wood on dam, repeat until you're tired, and go to bed." The beaver sighed and looked at the bright blue sky. "Y'know, you humanth are lucky folketh. You get to do what you want - there is no predetermined path for you. I have to gnaw wood until I die." He eyed me with a sad look.

"Ok." I really didn't know what to say. "What do you know about KingBeav, I saw his..." I felt a clammy claw tug me towards the lazy beaver.

"How do *you* know about thith?" he asked suspiciously.

"I saw it being painted on a dam roof by a group of bad characters. They tried to hurt me, but I managed to scare them away," I said with a hint of pride.

"Folkth around here don't talk much about the kingbeav, 'cause motht people get hurt when they do. Why do you need to know?" The beaver still hadn't let go of my jacket. I tugged away from him, and unruffled it. The jacket had a special place in my heart. It was a gift from Queen Elnissa herself, in return for finding her ice sword. That case had cost me a lock of my hair, a stuffed gnasher, and my fishing pole.

"A thertain - sorry, certain - naiad has lost a certain tiara, which I suspect a certain gang of beavers has taken. Doing well so far?" I smiled, keeping my expression mirthless.

"Well, he'th ith the guy who keepth uth grounded on the dam," the beaver said, looking around nervously. "Hith gang makes uth work all day, and they take almotht two thirdth of the lumber. They threaten uth, and they put the rebelth away for an extended holiday, if you know what I mean." The beaver scratched his head. I could tell he was uncomfortable saying this. He peered around again before starting to talk once more. "Anyway, if you want to take them on, be my guest. Most of thethe beaverth aren't exactly thmart. Half don't know what'th going on, and the other half are content to gnaw wood all day. I, on the other hand, need to get out of thith dump. What I'm thaying ith, how about we work together on thith?"

I was intrigued. Noone had ever volunteered to join me, and I had been fine with that for thirty years. Trace worked alone - everybody in the City of Medievia knew that. But then again, I knew the City of Medievia like the back of my hand. I had connections there, and I knew where all the warts and veins were. Here, I was in Beavertown, Medievia, with not a friend around. I figured there should be a first time for anything.

"You got it, partner. The name's Trace. What's yours?" I asked as I shook his claw. My hand would hurt for days after.

"The name'th Dilbie," he said with a smile. At least, I think he smiled. You can never be sure with beavers.

We first hit up Susie's place. She was a dame with a dam, not to mention also having a cool head and information for a price. Luckily, Dilbie 'knew' her quite well, and he didn't have to pay. I learned that Kingbeav's gang moved around a lot. This was to escape the fuzz, although according to Dilbie, the police were all 'incompetent nincompoopth'. We showed up at Susie's and Dilbie just walked right in. No knock, no nothing. I could tell that this kid had guts and potential. I walked in right behind him.

The place was well decorated, and countless books littered the bookshelves. Susie had a lit wood chip in her mouth, and she was flipping though some pages. She saw us and waved us over to her desk.

"Dilbie, how are you? And who'th thith handthome human you brought with you?" Her natural facial position shifted, showing even more teeth. I took this to be a huge beaver smile. I liked this gal already.

"The name's Trace. It's a pleasure to meet you," I said with a smile.

"Trace, huh? Y'know, I onthe met a human, and he cotht me three pieceth of lumber." She chuckled as she talked, as if remembering some good times. I like this dame even more now, and I responded with a nod.

"Hey Thuthie, we need the locathion of kingbeav'th hideout. Think you can get for uth?" Dilbe asked nonchalantly. A look of horror spread Susie's face. I could tell these two had more than just a friendship going on.

They decided to talk alone, and I was fine with that. I decided to look around a beaver's home as they journeyed into the kitchen for a nice chat. The bookshelves contained logs, letters, and general information. This girl knew what she was doing, and I suspected that she got rich from what she was doing. I was reading some note about the local election when they came back.

"Ok Trathe, we got the paper so let'th get going," Dilbie said blandly. His face was like a blank piece of paper where I couldn't read anything. That alone told me a lot, but I wasn't certain what.

"Be careful, Dilbie. Come back in one piethe," Susie joked casually but I could tell she wasn't really laughing.

It was a dark farewell as we departed, but I couldn't dwell on two beavers' relationship; I had to find the tiara. It turned out the hideout was in a wilderness room a few miles north. We decided time was of the essence and left as quickly as possible.

On our little walk, I learned that the dam had been under the misrule of Kingbeav for almost ten years. Dilbie told me there once was a time when the beavers had a culture, a unique one where Beavers expressed their creativity and there wasn't only one job occupation. Now there was nothing but wood, wood, and more wood. I figured that this wasn't just a tiara - this was about saving an oppressed group of beavers. I decided I needed to get money from the beavers as well.

We finally saw the hideout. A few branches lamely covered the hole, and I cleared them off quite easily. There were ladder steps leading down into the blackness. Dilbie was as pale as a yeti.

"What's on your mind, Dilbie?" I asked, trying to sound concerned.

"I'm not going to lie to you Trathe," he said nervously. "No one has fathed the Kingbeav gang and lived to tell their tale. So, I gueth I'm just really thcared right now."

"Now, now, don't worry about it," I said. "I'll protect you, I've been in this situation before."

"Oh really? What happened?" Dilbie asked.

"Nothing much really. Half my company died, and I lost a wig, my dragon boots, and my mudslinger." For some reason, this didn't seem to calm his nerves, so I quietly slunk into the hole to avoid any more conversation. I promised myself to take another communication course when I got back to the City of Medievia. The first one didn't go too well, and it had cost me several thousands of gold, a business card, and a bottle of ink.

We landed at the bottom of the tunnel, and we could not see a thing. I quickly made two light sources for us to use. There was only one way to go, and we followed the path onward to this 'Kingbeav.' During the entire trip, Dilbie was literally on the verge of fainting. I almost felt sorry for him until I realized that I was in the same situation. My stomach tumbled when I remembered the last situation like this. It had cost me a box of cookies, a cow's heart, and a spatula. I shook my head, trying to get the memory out of my head.

After a ten-minute walk, we came to a large cavern. It was damp, and there was a lingering smell of burnt wood. I saw a huge group of beavers playing around. There were poker chips, cards, and even a few rounds of fisticuffs taking place. I knew there was no way I could take on thirty beavers in one go, so I decided to look for another way to Kingbeav. I spied a lone, ornate door in the north wall. It had to be the private office of my good friend, Kingbeav.

"Dilbie, you stay here. I'm going to try to sneak to Kingbeav's office. Sounds good?" I whispered.

"Uh, uh, uh, thure, I think." He obviously was not sure, and he was most definitely not thinking. His situation had gotten worse and he could almost pass as a terminal beaver. However, I couldn't take him with me, and this was the only option.

I bade the beaver farewell and sneaked past the hooligans. They made so much noise I could have probably killed half of them before anyone noticed. I decided against that and edged closer to the door. I finally arrived, and I tried the handle. Locked. I almost gave up right there when I remembered the pin I had gotten from the thief master. It was said to be *the* skeleton key, and it had cost me a cymbal, a torch, and my map of the City of Medievia. I fumbled with it and twiddled it around in the keyhole. Ah-ha! The lock clicked softly as my pin found the perfect notch. I decided to peer through the keyhole first before opening it. I saw a solitary silhouette of a beaver crouched down and deep in writing. I grinned and braced myself as I slowly opened the door. This is when I made mistake number two. I stepped into the room, only to find a dagger at my throat.

The beaver was quite large for his species. He had scars across his face, which were probably from all the fights he'd been in. He was quite an impressive figure, and I had never heard of a beaver handling a dagger before. He sneered at me.

"Thought I wouldn't hear you, huh? Foolish human! Think you're so much better than us." He laughed coldly without taking his eyes off me. He spoke perfectly, with no sign of the lisp that most beavers had. I could see that he hadn't been born and raised on the dam.

"What are you talking about? Look, sir, I just want to talk to the one and only Kingbeav." I was in no position to do anything other than grovel, unless I wanted a dagger where my lunch ought to go. "You know, I once met a criminal mastermind, and he cost me my wisdom tooth, my dignity, and a couple of mints."

He laughed again, that cold, heartless laugh. It sent shivers down my spine. I quickly surveyed the area as he laughed with his eyes closed. I couldn't see much to help me escape this dilemma and my stomach turned violently. I decided to just keep him talking.

"What's so funny?" I asked knowing he controlled my life at the moment. Sweat started to form at my temple. "Seriously, I only wanted to talk to you. You see, you happen to have a tiara that belongs to a naiad friend of mine."

"Oh, and you'd like it back?" he cooed at me as if I was a baby. "You were willing to sacrifice your life for, for a tiara? Please, my friend, you can't be that stupid. Well, actually, you are a human, so I guess it's understandable." He grinned, showing me his sharp teeth. Made for cutting wood, they gleamed with the shine of a razor-sharp edge, but that probably wasn't all he used them for.

"You really dislike humans that much? You think we're that ignorant? Well, I know quite a lot about your group and your real intentions." I ventured this, hoping he'd take the bait.

"Wh-what? You don't really know." He lost concentration for a moment as he thought of something. This was my chance and I took it.

With one quick motion, I grabbed his arm and used all my force to tear the knife away from my vulnerable neck. He blinked in disbelief before he started scowling at me. The beaver fur gave me a good grip, but Kingbeav was amazingly strong. I punched him in the face, and he loosened his grip on the dagger. I quickly wrenched the dagger from his hands, and it went flying into a corner, outside of both our reaches. My own dagger flashed into my hand. I prayed for the gods to bless it, and in one quick motion, I stabbed the dagger deep into the beaver's back.

Kingbeav howled in pain as I twisted the knife in his back. I removed it, hoping to see a dead body in front of me, but, alas, he was still standing. He was weakened, though, and he showed some signs of being in pain. However, he still possessed almost superhuman strength, and I was momentarily stunned. He jumped on me, biting my exposed body and clawing at my arms. I felt the life draining away from me as I saw red all over my body. The pain was excruciating, and I would have screamed if his body wasn't smothering me. I figured I was doomed, but I was wrong.

Dilbie burst into the room and tore the monster off me. They started fighting and I looked on in amazement at the young beaver holding his own against Kingbeav. I quickly stood up and said my prayers for a rejuvenating heal. I felt life returning, and I looked at the two fighters engaged in mortal combat. Dilbie saw my eyes and as if reading my mind, he fled. I rushed in for the kill and stabbed Kingbeav not once, not twice, but three times. He was on the verge of leaving this realm. I saw his eyes flutter as he tried to stay alive. I moved in for the kill with a sneer on my face and my dagger in position.

"Pl-Please, spare me." Kingbeav rasped, he was choking on his own blood. "You must hear my story before you decide my fate."

I stopped and looked at this pathetic figure. He was still enormous but you could see that he had no life left in him. He wasn't going to leave his hideout alive, and he knew it. I looked at him with pity and decided to let him say his piece.

"Sure, I'm up for a story every now and then." I gestured at him to keep talking before I change my mind.

"Well, that's very kind of you, human." he said it with a growl, loathing the word. "Us beavers weren't always split, we once lived in harmony on the dam. Then the naiads started bringing in adventurers, advertising the river like a second-rate hotel. There was an increase in beaver deaths, most from egotistic adventurers, and our community started to die."

"Oh, that's very nice but how does running off with your gang and bullying the remaining beavers help?" I asked sarcastically.

"Well, impatient human, let me finish." He coughed and covered his mouth. Fresh blood dribbled between his claws. "Those beavers were fools. We took the smartest beavers, with the exception of your friend, and we made our den. We were planning to somehow bargain with the naiads. They were stubborn, and they refused to stop their destruction of the river. Finally, we decided to steal some of their possessions to raise the stakes. This lousy tiara was the smallest theft, but it somehow has led to my death. Thank you, Mister Human, for killing the beaver community and ruining our dam."

I was stunned. I finally realized that this wasn't just about a tiara, but rather was about the entire beaver dam. I was in way over my head. I didn't know what to do - get the tiara and abandon my newfound friends, or try to save this dying beaver society. I was in deep thought when Kingbeav let out one final gasp and shuffled off this mortal coil.

"Trace, what are you gonna do?" Dilbie asked desperately. He too finally understood what was going on, and he was starting to worry.

"Well, I think I have an idea." I whispered. I grabbed the tiara and rushed outside into the mob of beavers.

They looked at me and then they saw Kingbeav's body through the doorway. I heard knives being unsheathed and growls coming up from their throats. I knew that this was it. I took a deep breath and began to talk.

I explained the whole story, starting from when that naiad walked through the door right through to when Kingbeav died. I heard murmurs of agreement. These were the 'smart' beavers, after all.

"That'th a mighty good thtory, thir, but how will we be able to get our dam back?" A young beaver yelled. There was mumbling, and I decided to propose my plan.

"Well, that's a very good question. Here is how I think we can please both sides in the river.."

Squelch-squelch. I rapped on the door of the naiad palace as best I could underwater. I waited for a minute before a servant opened the great doors and ushered me in. She seemed to know who I was, because she immediately left to summon the princess.

Nyxaia arrived with all the bells and whistles her station demanded. She looked bored and distracted but when she saw the tiara in my hands, her eyes lit up like lanterns. She rushed to where I was standing and poked the tiara, checking to see if it was the real thing.

"Ohhh, how lovely! You've found my tiara, Trace! Thank you so much. I'll get my gold to reward you!" She was about to leave when I grabbed her shoulder.

"No thanks. I want another kind of reward." I smiled gently. "Please, let's have a seat."

We sat down on the plush sofa, though it took some time in water, and I started to tell my story. Glad of the water-breathing spell, which had only cost me my membership card for the Mage's Guild, I spoke for some time. In the end, I told her that I wanted my reward to be for the naiads to stop promoting the river to murderous adventurers. After hearing this, she stammered a bit and appeared to hesitate. I knew that her mother didn't know about the lost tiara, and I also knew that she needed her mother's permission to make this decision. I decided to take matters into my own hand.

"Well, if you can't make this decision, I'll ask your mother." I waved cheerfully and left the room before she could stop me.

After wandering around the palace, I found the naiad queen, Delaia, with her guards. She was writing on some paper when she looked up and saw me. She was about to summon her guards when she saw the tiara dangling from my index finger. I told my story again, breathing deeply to quench my parched throat. Delaia's reaction was calm and dignified.

"What you are asking of me will help the beavers but it will crush the naiads," Delaia said softly. "We rely on humans to buy our jewelry and to trade with us. I know they may be a hassle to the beavers, but I can't think of a way to please both our sides."

She sighed, and I was racking my brains for answers. I decided to bring in the other half of the problem. I left the palace and I called for Dilbie to talk to the queen. I returned with him, and we spent many hours debating on a solution. In the end, the naiads and the beavers arranged a compromise. The beavers would provide the naiads with lumber to trade for money, and in return, the naiads would mark the beaver dam as out-of-bounds to all adventurers. Dilbie and Delaia shook hands, and they both had grins on their faces. It was like that time I resolved the dispute between the gypsies and the townspeople, only that time it had cost me a lock of my hair, a jar, and my grandfather's dentures.

I guess you want to know what happened next? Well, I gave the tiara back to the naiad, and I still bargained my way for some gold. Then I went to the beaver dam and visited my friends Dilbie and Susie. They had decided to get married and start a family. Everything was going well for the beaver colony, and they had made Dilbie the new mayor, a job perfectly suitable for him. I never did get my stuff back from the beavers, but life was good and things were moving along. That is, until I returned to Med City.

I walked up the stairs to my PI office and saw an eviction sign plastered on the wall. I tried the doorknob but it wouldn't move an inch. Frantically, I ran to the landlord's office and I sighed with relief as I saw him sitting there, puffing on his cigar.

"So, um, what's the deal with the eviction paper on my board? I mean, that's not good for business if you know what I mean." I joked playfully. The look he gave me could have turned water into ice.

"Look, Trace, I've given you more than enough time to come up with the cash. Sorry I had to do this to you, but it's my job." He sighed and returned to looking at his papers. I figured this was the time to say goodbye to all my money, and I took my pouch out.

"How about you take down that notice and give me my stuff, and I'll give you this big old bag of gold. Sounds like a deal?" I waved the bag in front of his eyes, his head followed the motions. Without a sound, he gave me back my keys and quietly took the bag. As I left the floor, I was sure I heard a loud voice screaming 'SCORE'.

I returned to my office and I tore off the eviction sign. I unlocked the door and looked into the office. The sight was appalling, but I had expected it. This wasn't the first time I had gotten evicted, and the last time had cost me my mahogany desk, my grandfather clock, and my safe. Luckily, I never had any money in the safe, so the joke was on him. I looked around the room and sighed - he had put up pink wallpaper and replaced my mugs with empty brandy bottles. I sat down in my chair and looked outside. The city had never stopped and never would I. I smiled and was glad to be back home. That was when someone knocked on the door.

"Who is it?" I said cheerily, because a potential customer always needed a good first impression, and I gave it my best.

"It's your landlord, rent is due in a month, and you had better pay on time," the gruff voice answered before trotting away.

I heard the familiar footsteps again. I groaned out load, and I was prepared to throw one of my brandy bottles at his face, when a different voice spoke.

"Are you Trace?" A gruff voice spoke through the glass. I could see by his silhouette that he was not of humankind.

"I'm Trace," I said, smiling to myself. Here we go again.


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