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            The little boy led the dwarf westwards towards the village. Every now and then, the boy would cock his head and peer around, as if to check if he was being followed. However, the dwarf was indifferent and he slumped down upon his mule. The most peculiar thing about him was his vest, which had many flashing trinkets and reflecting metals interwoven into the fabric. The dry wind whispered its presence and the only sound that happened was the plodding of hooves and the patter of the boy’s feet. The dwarf raised his head and grinned at the boy.

            “I’ve traveled for forty-seven nights. I haven’t gotten much sleep either” He groaned, popped his back, and urged the mule onward. Waiting a few minutes he asked, “How much longer until the inn?”

            Bantaf’s Inn is beyond that ridge,” declared the boy and pointed. They continued walking for some time in silence. Brightening, the boy awoke the dwarf from his nap and said, “Well, Here we are!”

            Khazam looked down from the ridge upon a sickly looking tavern in the middle of a tiny village. One would think that this was the end of the world. Dirt crumbled down the ridge as they moved down to the inn.



            Iroj, the richest merchant of the village, glanced at the odd figure that now had managed to out drink all four of the local drunkards in the inn’s tavern. So far the fat dwarf had managed to do nothing but show off his seemingly immense drinking and flirting skills, which were impressive. Grimacing, he continued to glare down at his cup of dietary brew.

            Khazam let out a loud roar of triumph and slammed his fist down upon the table. He managed to slur, “Anyone fancy a game of cards?” Grasping into his meticulous woven vest he took out a blue deck and proceeded to shuffle. The four drunks quickly somehow managed to accompany him and the other tavern guests along with the barmaids approached to view the game. They shuffled and passed cards and slowly a large pile of coins accumulated upon the table. Khazam had won again and again, and with each game his moneybag grew larger. It was then that old Iroj lost his temper as he noticed the drunks losing even to the worst of Khazam’s hands.

            “Peter, Herring, Dwandle, and you other twerps are useless!” he cried, pacing around the table. Then seating himself at an empty chair, he leaned across the table and whispered and speaking the word “mage” with great sarcasm, “Let’s play, mage.”

            “Alright then,” chuckled the dwarf with an evil grin, “lets start off with what you have to offer?”

            “This,” he said nonchalantly, throwing four large sacks of coins upon the table.

            Khazam thoughtfully looked at the coins from one of the sacks and raised a brow. “Now how did you get these coins from the north?” Waving his hand to dismiss his own question, he shoved his pile forward and nodded. “Very well, but this isn’t a fair amount.” Reaching into one of his pouches and took out a ring. It was made out of iron, and had nothing embellished upon it. Palming the item back and forth he began said, “If you would let me tell you about my coming.” Iroj nodded and so Khazam began to tell him of the tale.

            “It was the age of chaos for the lands in the Far East!”

The little boy scratched his head and interrupted, “But didn’t you come from the west?”

“Shut up,” he snarled and continued with a nod of his head, “I believe it was Eptcer the thirty-second, forty years before the wars of Angruin. The Lady Tyrie, our noble queen, had recently married the foreign King Darthinout of Urinkisow.”

Then pausing slightly he sipped from his mug of beer until he continued, “That night their vow’s were taken and I was selected among my colleagues by the new couple as the safe-keeper of the royal treasuries.”

He took a draught from his beer mug and wiped the foam from his beard. “Yet upon the next night the evil king sent his personal guards out, they swept across the castle and murdered all the staff.” Khazam blinked furiously, as if to dispel tears and sighed loudly. “I believe that I alone escaped.”

Then raising his hand with an immense flourish he held the ring aloft. He continued, “This ring I found in one of the treasure troves. I haven’t found out what it does, but I’m sure that its worth far more than what you have there.”

Iroj spat on the ground. “You expect us to believe that? And even so I wouldn’t bet my amount against that.” He growled, glaring down at the piece of normal looking iron.

“No, but perhaps a little more will agree with you.” He smirked sheepishly and pulled four cherry-sized gems from under his vest and slapped it down on the table.

            Iroj nodded his acceptance, with a slight glint in his eyes, and proceeded to shuffle his cards. Then dealing he glanced at his cards. His hand consisted of the King, the Queen, the Knight, and the Jester, which he then laid down upon the table. The dwarf’s face suddenly broke into a huge frown; his hand consisted of the Thief, the Soldier, the Peasant, and the Jester. That hand couldn’t match the Iroj’s hand.

 “Curses!” he screamed. “My luck always runs out after my fourth win.” His face darkened and he grumbling something about being the fourth child as the onlookers peered at him closely.

Iroj’s smiled and grinned, “Well, well. Your thief might be your luck.”

Khazam then turned to Iroj and said, “Deal me the fourth.”

Iroj shuffled the cards and slipped the fourth card towards Khazam who looked at it intently. Then grinning he slapped the card on the table and hissed, “The Tax Collector!” Raising his head he cackled with glee and grabbed all the coins leaving the ring behind.

Iroj sat there stunned, and then picking up the ring he stood up and glared at the dwarf. “You accursed fake! I should have never played against someone with the dark one’s luck and one who can’t even use real coins!” He paced around the room a bit as Khazam shrugged and thumbed at his nose. Snarling he stormed towards the fireplace. Then pausing and stared once again at the plain iron ring. “Good riddance”, he grumbled and threw the ring into the fire.

“No!” cringed Khazam and he leaped from his chair and knocked the table over trying to stop Iroj.

The ring melted, the fire snuffed out, and an eerie ravine began to open like a wound beneath the tavern floor.



Four minutes later, the mule decided to take another gamble at a few odd looking weeds. Taking a mouthful, he walked over to the side a bit and stared down into the huge hole where the tavern had been sitting. Swallowing, he walked off and proceeded to wait. His master in shining trinkets would be back; it just took a couple of weeks and when he would come back he wouldn’t be covered in so many tinsel metals anymore.