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Lelia the Cunning must save the princess, defeat the Bandit King, and get officially certified as a licensed hero. Oh, and there’s a dragon. There's always a dragon.

Fantasy / Humor
Casey Glanders
Age Rating:

The Tale of How Lelia the Cunning Defeated the Bandit King (and a dragon)

On a cool, calm day, when the air felt good against the skin and the clouds floated in front of the sun like giant, white balls of fluff, Abby Foster, the Miller’s daughter, sat on a red and white blanket on a grassy hill and listened as her mother told her stories. This was her favorite time of day, when the family would pause in what they were doing and come out to the hill in the meadow for a lunch of bread and meat, and maybe some butter and jam. Sometimes, her father would go to market and bring back strawberries, which was always a treat. Today she sat in her simple, pink dress and let her white apron catch crumbs as they fell from the corners of her mouth.

“Tell me a story,” she asked her mother, who was busy putting some jam on some bread. “Tell me a story about a brave knight.”

“Oh, there’s plenty of those,” her mother said with a smile. Abby shook her head.

“I want a real story. One about a real knight that did fantastic things.”

“Plenty of those, too.” Her mother said as she took a bite. “What exactly are you in the mood for?”

“Are there girl knights? Can a girl be a knight?”

Her mother swallowed and then took a sip of water from a small jug they had brought with them. “A girl can be anything she wants to be, darling.”

“That’s what you say,” Abby said as she took the jug from her mother and took a sip. The water felt cool as it tickled its way down her throat. “But for real. Can a girl be a knight?”

Her father, who had been busy cutting some meat from a bone with his small, sharp knife, smiled and said, “The greatest knight this land has ever known is a girl. In fact, the three greatest heroes of our age happen to be girls.”

“Really?” Abby asked, intrigued. She had read many storybooks, scrolls, and parchments, but they were all the same. A brave, handsome hero that would ride up to a castle and find a princess. He would slay something large (that more often than not, breathed fire) and then whisk her away from her tower. Abby never cared for those stories. As a miller, she toiled hard and prided herself on her work, and she questioned the values of a man that wanted a woman that just sat in a tower all day. What decent job skills would someone like that possess? Swooning?

“Tell her the story, Mama.” Papa said as he popped a piece of meat into his mouth and chewed. “You’re better at it than I am.”

“Oh, you.” Mama said with a smile. She looked to her daughter and said, “Well, the thing about a story like this, is that it’s not just one story. This story belongs to many people and started a long, long, time ago. But to better appreciate it, I suppose I should start with something interesting.”

“Like what?” Abby asked.

Her mother bit her lip and thought for a moment. “Well, how about we start with the tale of Lelia the Cunning?”

Abby sat up, now very intrigued.

“Once upon a time…”

The Tale of How Lelia the Cunning Defeated the Bandit King (and a dragon)

Once upon a time, there was a tower that stood far from the edge of Westglen. It was in the Barrens, a cruel, desolate land that had no trees, no water, and no life to speak of. One might question who would build a tower there, or where they would even find the proper building materials, the money for the transport of the labor, the food costs, and so on, but the tower was so old that anyone who did know about it didn’t tend to focus much on things like that. The tower simply was, and that made it even more ominous.

While that alone was enough to force many a tale and legend into being, it was what was rumored to be inside the tower that made people greedy with desire. At the top of its winding stair, guarded by fierce, unimaginable beasts and perils, was a small, dusty, tin lamp. It was said that anyone who rubbed the lamp would summon forth a powerful jinn that would grant three wishes. Or kill you. Honestly, the legend was a bit vague on this point.[1]

So many adventurers had journeyed for the lamp and died that it had become something of a tradition in the small border town of Lockfoot to hold an annual picnic and festival to honor those brave enough to venture out into the wilderness and seek the fabled, and possibly cursed, lamp of the jinn. The villagers, well-accustomed to brave and noble idiots that came ill-prepared for the Barrens, would hold a lavish feast on the first day of the Spring Moon. There would be music and laughter, games and fun. Many a prize would be one at the festival booths, and many a maiden would swiftly and awkwardly be brought to womanhood behind the bleachers of the jousting stands. It was a grand and inebriated time for all, and the braver warriors, always strong, gallant, and extremely armored, would revel in the praise. After all, each one of the countless heroes that came through knew that they were the one that would rise above the odds and return victorious.

This became a bit of a problem for the kingdom of Westglen. The deluge of heroes that would move through the sleepy and often hung-over village of Lockfoot had not escaped the attention of the king. Before long, a royal proclamation was announced, which stated that any hero that was to venture into the Barrens to retrieve the lamp had to pass a challenge worthy of a hero. This cut back the number of applicants, but the citizens of Lockfoot made the most of it, and would actively go out of their way to find quests, challenges, contests, and perils befitting a brave and adventurous knight. In fact, the business of perilous travel became so popular that many Hazardous Tour Agencies had sprouted up throughout the quiet, little hamlet.

So, it came to pass that on a quiet Tuesday morning, a young woman rode into Lockfoot. She was small, thin, and rode atop a slim, gray and white spotted steed. Her long, blonde hair shone like the sun, and swished in its ponytail as she rode past the inns, the apothecary, the visitor’s center, and the town watch. She was dressed in a simple leather tunic and dark leather pants. At her side was a short sword in a homemade scabbard, and on her belt, amidst numerous bottles and belongings, was a sharp, silver dagger. She pulled back on her reins in front of a quaint cottage that sported a small sign out front. The sign read, Doris & Deacon’s Deadly Destinations. It was known as one of the finer Hazardous Tour Agencies, and came highly recommended. The young woman dismounted and tied her steed to a post, and headed inside.

The agency was the front half of a home, and the young woman glanced around at the paintings that covered the wall. She saw images of dragons, ogres, litchis, and witches. She saw a small, lopsided desk with a chair in front of it, which she sat in. She took a pamphlet from the desk and was reading about the Basilisk fields when a small, round-shaped man with a moustache far too large for his rosy face emerged from the back.

“Good morning, Lass,” the man greeted the young woman. She nodded back and stood to shake his hand. It was solid, despite the fact that the man’s skin had the texture of slightly undercooked bread. “Deacon McGuire, at your service.”

“Good morning. I’ve come for a quest to prove myself worthy of the king’s ordinance.”[2]

Deacon coughed and looked at the young woman. “Have you? Well now, that I can do. But, pardon me for saying so, you’re, um..?”

The young woman raised her eyebrow. “I’m, um, what? Female? Small? Too pretty?”

Deacon tilted his hand back and forth. “Bit of all of that, I suppose.”

The young woman sighed and crossed her arms in front of her chest. “My name is Lelia Gallathorn. I studied as a warrior maiden under the Sect of Snow, fought the bandits of Bloodwyrm Pass, defeated a Southern Troll, and have done a shopping list of other great things before even setting foot in this town. The only reason I am here, now, is because the king’s stupid law about being a proper adventurer prohibits me from journeying into the Barrens until I get rated by the constabulary here in Lockfoot, so I am here for a quest that meets your standards.”

“And if I give you one, you plan to best it?”

Lelia chuffed. “I plan to kick its ass, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Deacon laughed and smiled. Lelia swore that the man’s body actually rippled with each chuckle. “Well now, never let it be said that Doris & Deacon’s Deadly Destinations isn’t an equal opportunist! You want a quest, little lady, then a quest you shall have! Um, do you have a preference?”

Lelia shrugged. “Not really. I mean, if I pick my challenges, I’m just going to avoid the ones I find too hard, and then what good would I be?”

Deacon grinned and took a large, leather-bound book out from a drawer in his desk. “A fine answer, Miss Gallathorn. Now, let’s see what’s available this month. Oh! Are you fond of rescuing damsels in distress?”

“Excuse me?”

Deacon turned his book around to show Lelia a painting of a princess decked out in the pinkest, frilliest gown she had ever seen. She was combing her hair while several bluebirds sat on a windowsill beside her. “This is Princess Sophia. Rumor has it that she’s being kept locked away in a tower by a gang of bandits. The bandits also have a dragon. The dragon is quite large. Does this sound like something you’d be into?”

Lelia shrugged. “I guess. I mean, the whole damsel thing doesn’t really do it for me, but a quest is a quest, and the dragon sounds like fun. Now wait, is she under a curse or anything?”

Deacon shook his head. “No, the notes say she’s just stuck up there. Been there six months or so. She’s the daughter of some lesser house that couldn’t afford to pay off the bandit leader.”

Lelia nodded. “Okay, that sounds legitimate. So, is there a reward associated with this one, or is this strictly for accolades?”

Deacon grinned. “There is a reward being offered by the girl’s father. At least 100 gold coins to whomever can bring his little girl safely home to her family. That bounty is payable directly though this office, of course.”

“Of course,” Lelia said with a glance. “At a processor’s fee, I’m sure.”

“Our rates are 30% per standard assignment. I hope that’s not too much for you, Miss.”

Lelia shook her head. “It’s robbery, but I’ll take it. That’s more than enough to buy some better gear and feed me and my horse for a week. So, I’m guessing you have the directions to the tower?”

“That I do, that I do. Here,” he handed Lelia a blood-stained map. Lelia examined it and then rolled it up. “Thank you for your business, Deacon. I’ll be back in a few days. Um, do I need to pay you up front for the map? I have some gold.”

“No need, dear. I don’t take payment up front. You go, have your little quest, and I’m sure you’ll be back.” Deacon said with a smile. “Happy hunting!” [3]

Lelia looked at Deacon for a moment and then nodded her thanks. She headed out to her steed (she was a three year old horse named Whistle Wind, and Lelia would sometimes make up songs about her name when she brushed her hair, but if anyone heard them, she would punch them in the face), mounted her and rode out of town down a well-worn path. Deacon watched her go from his doorway with a grin.

“Happy hunting, Miss.” Deacon said in a tone that would have made Lelia pause, had she still been close enough to hear it.

The map was extremely wrinkled, but showed a clear enough path. Driftwood forest was large, and connected to several others in the kingdom, but her destination was a day’s ride at most. The trail looked easy enough, and bypassed many of the region’s known obstacles. Lelia examined the map closely and noted that her route had been highlighted ahead of time in red.

“How very helpful,” she said under her breath. Overhead, a bird cawed in the morning air. Lelia glanced at it, and frowned. She then looked at how much gold she had on her person, and came to a decision.

Lockfoot, while a small town, enjoyed a relatively high level of safety. With the constant stream of heroes that moved through the sleepy hamlet, only the most foolish bandit would try to rob someone. After all, that someone might turn out to be a legendary hero, or at the very least, a well-armed idiot. Therefore, the shops and merchants stationed in Lockfoot offered a wide and varied array of goods. This did not go unnoticed by Lelia as she visited shop after shop.

An hour later, she had collected the items she felt she would need for this particular quest. Based on what she knew of the surrounding woods, the perils that were outlined, both in in story and on the map, and what her own common sense told her, she was as prepared as she would ever be.

Once she was safely outside of town, Lelia stopped on a hillside and took out her new purchases to take stock of her inventory. Her belongings included:

˜ One short sword, forged of dwarven steel (Not as light or sharp as an elf sword, but stronger and more durable.)

˜ One silver dagger, given to her by one of her fencing masters.

˜ One rabbit, skinned and salted.

˜ Five red potatoes.

˜ Some blackberries.

˜ Some garnish.

˜ One ceramic plate.

˜ A pink, lacy dress with a plunging neckline.

˜ Some rope.

˜ Five small, leather bags.

˜ Black powder.

˜ One (minorly) cursed gem.

˜ Some raw meat in a leather pouch.

˜ A simple bow.

˜ Six arrows.

˜ A lock pick set (standard traveler’s edition).

˜ A flint set.

˜ Some apples for Whistle Wind.

Lelia nodded to herself, content that she had everything she should need. Carefully, she packed up her belongings.

The trees rustled with the sunlit breezes, and the air smelled of flowers. It was about the safest-looking path Lelia had ever seen. As soon as she was far enough down the trail that she was sure no one could see her from the town, she came to a stop. Before her was a side trail not marked on the map, but Lelia was familiar enough with these woods to know that this path (if the well-worn dirt was any indication) would most likely take her to Black Blood Falls, past the home of the witch Hester, and then to a connecting path that should bring her within a few miles of her destination. That route, clearly not marked on the map and possibly far more perilous, was the one she turned down without hesitation.

Now, most adventurers, when faced with additional tasks, usually head in the opposite direction. Only a great fool would put themselves in more danger than what had been planned, and Lelia was not a fool by any stretch of the imagination. Still, she headed down the trail of known perils, confident in her choice.

Several hours later, she came to a pretty clearing that ended in a bridge that crossed a small, bubbling waterfall. Black Blood falls was a slightly exaggerated name, but no one ever drew in tourists with a title like Quaint Bubbling Pixie Falls. The bridge was wide enough for a horse and cart, and Lelia came to a stop a good distance from its entrance. She dismounted and tied her horse to a tree that was at the edge of the clearing. She then set about gathering sticks and twigs and put them in a pile beside the road.

A few minutes into this, she heard the inhuman roar of a great beast. “Who dares?” A great voice bellowed. “Who dares to cross my bridge?”

Lelia continued to calmly gather sticks and twigs and put them in a pile. Behind her, a great, hairy, and (aside from a tiny loincloth that seemed to be there more for show than anything else) mostly-naked troll emerged from under the bridge. He stood eight feet tall, and when he reared back and held his malformed club above his head, he blotted out the sun. “No one, be they man or woman, may cross my bridge without first paying the toll, and a hefty toll it is! Now! Who dares to cross my bridge?”[4]

Lelia started arranging her twigs into a neat, circular pile. “I’m not crossing your bridge, am I? See? I’m over here.”

The troll paused, slightly confused by this answer. “Nonsense! There is no way across Black Blood Falls for 50 miles in either direction! You have no choice but to cross here! And that means a toll!”

Lelia laughed to herself. “Would that be a troll toll? Seriously, I’m just parking right here, if you don’t mind. Is there a toll for that?”

The troll scratched his head, some of his pre-prepared rage abating. “Well, no, but…”

“Then there’s no need to get all bent out of shape, is there?”

The troll slumped a bit and watched the young woman. Lelia reached into her belt and took out a flint. Then, she drew her dagger and started striking the flint to make sparks. After several strokes, a tiny trail of smoke started to waft up from the center of the mound she had built. Lelia gently blew on it, and before long, she had a small fire going.

The troll watched all this until a knight rode out of the woods. He was covered head to toe in shiny armor, and sat tall on the back of his black steed. “Ho there!” The knight cried. “Foul beast! It’s bad enough that you would attack travelers on this bridge, but to keep a bosomy slave to do your cooking? That is unforgivable!”

Lelia looked up from her campfire. “Excuse me? What did you just call me?”[5]

The troll roared and lifted its club, happy to have a familiar scenario to deal with. “Come, rider! Pay my toll of blood and glory!”

“The glory shall be mine, but the blood shall be yours!” The rider called back. Lelia rolled her eyes and set up a long stick above the fire. Behind her, she heard the tell-tale sounds of combat. There were loud clangs, a slam that shook the earth, and the gargled cry of a horse. Some foul words floated on the wind, followed by the sound of metal shattering. Lelia heard a blood-curdling scream, and then nothing.[6]

As she went to a pack on the side of her horse, she again heard the voice of the troll. “What are you doing?”

Lelia took out a skinned, dead rabbit that she had stored in her sack. She put it on the stick over the fire. Then, she took out a small, brown blanket from her satchel and spread it not too far from her fire. “Well, since you asked, I am making myself a lunch. I have some rabbit, some beans in my satchel, and some fresh berries that I picked on the trail this morning. I am going to cook my food, eat it, and then see what happens next.”

“Is that a challenge?” The troll roared. Lelia shot him a glare.

“How is making food a challenge? Look, I’m hungry, so I’m making a lunch. That’s it.”

Lelia tended her rabbit. Behind her, the troll rumbled, “Really?”

Lelia nodded without turning around. “Really.”

“You’re not going to fight me?”


There was another pause.

“Not even a little?”

Lelia shrugged. “Really, what’s the point? You’re huge. You just took that last knight apart like he was made of paper. And you ate his horse. I heard you back there. You actually ate his horse. I have a rule about directly engaging things that are large enough to eat a horse. That rule is not to.[7] So, I’m making myself a lunch and enjoying this day.”

Lelia turned the rabbit on its stick. The meat simmered and browned over the fire. She heard movement behind her. “Um, that smells good.”

Lelia nodded. “It sure does, doesn’t it? Nice, juicy rabbit, caught in a farmer’s field.”


Lelia nodded again. “Oh yeah. Some rabbit, some herbs. I also have some potatoes and some berries for garnish.” She took out some potatoes from her sack and put them in a tin, which she then set in the fire.


Lelia glanced back at the troll, who was looking confused.

“It’s a thing you put on food to make it taste better.”

“I knew that,” the troll said quickly.

The troll kept watching Lelia as she cooked her rabbit, and was waiting for the young woman to bolt for the bridge, or try to distract him, but she never did. Instead, she finished cooking her rabbit, fished out her potatoes with a stick, and made up an oversized plate of delicious-smelling food.

Lelia was about to dig in, when she noticed the troll watching her. “Yes?” she asked innocently. She popped a piece of rabbit in her mouth and slowly chewed.

“That smells good.”

Lelia took another bit. “It is good. Really good.”

There was a pause.

“That’s a really pretty plate, too.”

Lelia nodded. “It is pretty. Very pretty. It’s ceramic.”

“Ceramic. Huh.” The troll nodded, clearly confused and intrigued.[8]

“If you give me the food, you can cross my bridge.”

Lelia smiled. “Tell you what,” she said. “If you let me cross, and promise not to give me any trouble in the future, I promise to bring something good to eat with me any time I have to use your bridge. Sound good?”

The troll nodded as he drooled. “Deal. Now, give me the food. And the plate. It’s ceramic.”[9]

Smiling, Lelia handed over her plate and unhitched her horse. “Thanks!”

The troll nodded as Lelia proceeded to calmly ride across. Behind her, she heard the sound of a galloping horse. “Ho there!” A voice called out. “Let me pass, fiend!”

Lelia kept riding, as the sound of battle and blood-curdling screams of terror filled the air behind her.

Before long, she came to a fork in the road. The path she crossed was the one that she had been on earlier, but this was considerably father up the way. She stopped, dismounted, and then took out some rope from a satchel. It wasn’t much, but it was long enough for her to string between two trees along the path. She strung it at eye level, and gave it a pluck to test it tautness. The rope twanged in response. Satisfied, she again mounted her horse and rode on.

As night fell, the forest ended abruptly at the edge of a rolling meadow. In the distance, Lelia could see a bonfire before a massive, black castle. She considered the sight, and the amount of singing she could hear, and the beer she could smell, even from here. She considered how many bandits it would take to generate that much ruckus, and nodded to herself.

“About what I thought. Okay.” Lelia had been expecting this much trouble, and possibly more. She took out the pretty, pink dress and quickly changed. As an adventurer, Lelia was admittedly not used to wearing finery. True, she thought it was pretty enough, but her mobility was cramped, and her bosom was far more exposed than she was used to.[10] While this led to some uncomfortable readjusting, she convinced herself that this was in the name of Questing, and therefore could be excused by her fiercely independent conscience as an act of professionalism.[11]

Once she was finished with the dress, she took the black powder she had bought in town and carefully filled the bags that she had brought with her. After tying them together, she rode Whistle Wind as close to the party as she dared before dismounting. Then, with a quick self-check of her appearance and some last-minute primping (along with a vow to burn the dress when she was done with it), she put on a big smile and proceeded towards the bandits, leaving her horse, packs, and weapons behind her.

The bandits were busy singing about the loose morals of a woman that lived in the city of Nantucket when Lelia approached. There were about a dozen or so, all sorely in need of a bath and a shave. Their collective smell reminded Lelia of cow dung, burning wax, salt, and spoiled food. Their singing was out of tune, and their movements were clearly lubricated by the golden beer they drank with reckless abandon. She stood quietly and waited as one by one, the bandits noticed her and stopped singing.

“Hey,” one said in a confused voice, “what’s a girl doing here?”

“She smells good. Is that, is that soap?” Another asked.

“You know what soap smells like?” A third asked.

“I have an idea. She’s got pretty hair.”

A chorus of agreements echoed in response.

“Well now!” A loud, burly voice boomed. Lelia looked towards the voice and saw a man with an enormous gut, christened by a long, wild, curly black beard. He was dressed in a faded, red shirt and his hands were holding the sides of his pants. Lelia couldn’t tell if they were resting there, or were necessary to keep his leggings from collapsing in protest to the ground. “What brings such a fine young woman as yourself to Bruno, the Bandit King’s bonfire?”[12]

‘Lord, save me from bad spells and stupid bandits,’ Lelia thought to herself. “Hi there,” she said in an overly-sweet voice. “My name’s Lelia. I was sent from town with some fresh party supplies.”

The bandits responded with a pleasant murmur. Bruno laughed, which made his body ripple like the broken surface of a fatty pond. “And what supplies would those be, little miss? Or, would you be one of them?”

Lelia grinned. “I brought supplies, and I brought a surprise.” The pirates cheered as Lelia winked at Bruno. Bruno flashed a grin that featured entirely too many teeth.[13] Lelia smiled back, and took out the bags of black powder. “Here are the supplies,” she said as she tossed them in the fire. She then quickly ran to Bruno, grabbed him, and spun him so that he acted as a makeshift bandit shield. “And here is the surprise!”

The fire erupted with a loud, violent explosion. All the bandits went flying, many of them bursting into flame as the explosion came into contact with their alcohol-soaked clothing. The scene was pure chaos, as people were either lying motionless on the ground, running around on fire, or collapsing all around her. Lelia looked up at Bruno, who was looking straight ahead with a vacant, twitching expression. She stepped back as the Bandit King fell forward and crashed into the ground in a heap of smoke and lard.[14] She then rolled him over (this was no small task), and searched him. She found a great iron key, a whistle, and a rolled-up note. She looked around and saw what near a small group of tents one that was larger than the others.

Not wanting to waste time, but genuinely curious at this point, Lelia went to explore. She saw a great table with maps, scrolls, and a dagger that had been dramatically thrust into a random point on the table, no doubt during a heated exchange. She saw chests of gold (something she would have to remember for later) and a large, yellowed cot, but the one thing she was expecting to see was absent. With a shrug, Lelia leaded back out to the scene of smoking carnage by the fire.

Lelia looked around to confirm that the bandits had been properly dealt with, and then gave a loud whistle. A moment later, Whistle Wind came prancing up. She rubbed his nose and fished an apple out of her satchel. “Good girl,” she cooed as she rubbed the horse’s nose. While she didn’t like riding in a dress, she liked the idea of changing around bandits (albeit passed out, dead, or burning bandits) even less. Lelia (carefully) climbed back on her horse and proceeded towards the closed gates of the castle.

There was no moat. It looked like the builders had started one along the north side of the castle, but then gave up. Lelia wondered if this was due to budgetary concerns, or if the presence of a dragon had anything to do with it. She examined the gates, which looked thoroughly sealed, and then examined the area around the gates. She noticed what looked like a great, stone bird at one side of the gate, and rode towards that. She looked at the statue, and then looked at the whistle she had taken from Bruno, the Bandit King. With a shrug, she gave it a blow. A loud, long note sang from the whistle, and in response, the gate slowly started to clank upward.

Lelia rode carefully into the courtyard. There, in the center of a large, scotched patch of earth, was a small, red dragon, chained to a great, blackened stone. The beast was glaring at Lelia and spouting small streams of fire as it pawed at the ground, its red wings fluttering at its side. Around it were some rusted armor remnants, blackened with soot and completely empty.

Now, a thing about dragons. There is no such thing as a “small” dragon. Baby dragons start off about as big as a horse.[15] Even sea dragons, which are born only in the great, black trenches of the deepest oceans, are at least as big as a decent-sized shark. Full-grown dragons can be upwards of seven stories tall, and grand black dragons have been known to tower above castle walls, their wings as wide as a small hamlet. In other words, even though this was a “small” dragon, it still towered over Lelia at a good 20 feet tall. In fact, to Lelia, there was nothing small at all about the young, magical beast.[16]

Lelia slowly dismounted a good distance from the dragon and approached the ring of scorched earth with caution. She took out the bag of raw meat she had been carrying and tucked the (minorly) cursed gem she had purchased inside it. She was of course careful not to touch the stone with her bare hands, and used the bag the stone was in to handle it. Lord knew what would happen if she came into contact with it, after all. After securing it in the meat, she spoke in soft tones to the dragon. “Hey there. Hi. It’s okay, sweetie. It’s okay. Here!” She held up the bag of meat. “I brought you something! Something yummy! Do you want something yummy? Do you?” She dangled the bag in front of her.

Now, another thing about dragons. They hate people. They really do. People are the natural enemy of dragons, what with all their questing, fighting, and slaying. In fact, the people epidemic is the primary issue of concern when dragons gather and converse. Granted, it sounds to you and me like growling and roaring, but in dragonese, it translates to something similar to what you might hear when people talk about their homes being overrun with termites.

While humans are seen as a problem, they are also seen as a solvable problem. Most dragons agree that humans tend to taste better than almost any other food group, even cow. And that’s really saying something, because no creature in any of the realms can barbeque a cow like a dragon. Humans are seen as a delicious annoyance, and for some, inexplicable reason, there was no tastier variety of human than the princess-type human. And here was a girl in princess-type clothing, smiling and offering a dragon a snack. While the young red dragon might have been able to tell the difference if he bothered to look closely, it was generally assumed by most dragons that if a young girl was nearby in a pretty dress and happened to smell nice, then that pretty much narrowed it down to princess, maiden, virgin sacrifice, or a lonely craftman’s daughter. All of which fell into the ‘delectable’ category for a dragon.

So when Lelia started cooing to the dragon, and shaking a bag that smelled of yummy raw meat, the sight of her dressed as a princess pushed the poor beast over the edge. If it could have rolled over in anticipation of the tasty treat it believed it was getting, Lelia was pretty sure the great beast would have. Twice.[17]

With a heave, Lelia tossed the bag of meat to the dragon, who leapt (as much as his chain would let him) and caught the bag in its tooth-lined maw. It swallowed the bag in one swift gulp, and then looked expectantly to Lelia for more. Lelia stood and waited. About thirty seconds later, the dragon glowed with a fine, purple light and promptly passed out. Lelia waited until she was sure the beast was sleeping before cautiously approaching and examining the great monster’s iron collar. The metal band had dug into the flesh of the dragon, and had left deep, crimson lines in its neck scales. Lelia took out Bruno the Bandit King’s key and tried it on the collar of the dragon. It unlatched with a clank and fell to the ground with a dusty thud. The dragon itched at its neck with its back leg, but remained asleep. Lelia suspected that the (minorly) cursed gem would be enough to keep it sedated for another few minutes, which would be more than enough time to do what she needed to do.

Lelia went to her horse and took her sword and dagger out, along with her leather tunic and pants. She then headed to the tallest tower in the courtyard (tradition dictated that this was her destination) and made her way up the winding, stone staircase. She was largely unconcerned with booby traps or skeleton warriors, as most people didn’t seem to bother with security beyond a dragon. After all, it was a dragon, for crying out loud. If that wasn’t enough, some undead swordsmen would hardly be a deterrent.

Lelia found herself outside a heavy wooden door. She considered if she should kick it in, or maybe try out her lock pick set, but after a rather loud knock, the door swung open to reveal a maiden in a light blue dress sitting at a spinning wheel. Her beautiful, platinum hair was done in a braid and trailed down her back, and she was humming as she worked by the light of a dozen candles.[18] She looked up in surprise at Lelia’s entrance, and then frowned.

“Hi,” Lelia said with a wave. “I’m guessing you’re Princess Sophia.”

“Um, beg your pardon, but why are you here? Are you to join me up here?”

Lelia snorted. “Hardly. I’m here to rescue you.”

Princess Sophia snorted and laughed, causing her spinning wheel to shake. “Oh my! You, a princess, here to rescue another princess? I hardly think…”

“I’m not a princess. Um, can I use your lavatory?” Lelia looked around the small, round room and saw a little door off to the side. “Thanks,” she said without waiting for a reply. A few minutes later, she emerged dressed in her tunic and pants, her pretty, lacey dress rolled into a neat, little ball under her arms. “I was scared that I would end up ripping this thing. Now, I can at least get my money back.”

Princess Sophia considered the young woman before her. “You’re not a princess?” She asked.

Lelia shook her head. “Not hardly. I am Madam Lelia Gallathorn, here to rescue you, Princess.”


Lelia shrugged. “Well, it would be pretty weird to call me Sir, now wouldn’t it? So yes, Madam. It’s a respectable title.”

“I suppose,” Said Princess Sophia, “but I have never heard of a princess being rescued by a woman, even in the most socially progressive tales.”

“Well then, you need to be reading better stories. Look, I’m not here for your hand or any of that. I’m just here to bring you back to the village of Lockfoot, collect a reward, get my certifications in order and continue on my quest, so if you don’t mind?”

Princess Sophia looked around her prison of a suite. Lelia looked, too. She wandered Sophia's room, and made sure to open the windows as she did. The room was flooded with moonlight, and Lelia got a slightly better look around. There was a beautiful, four post bed, a bird cage, a writing table, several bookshelves, a lute, and a pretty, pink fur carpet.

“Someone slew a pink bear for your rug?”

Princess Sophia nodded with a large smile. “I know! I was amazed when I saw it! I’ve heard tales that they are the fiercest of all woodland creatures.”

Lelia nodded in agreement. “They’re a handful, that’s for sure, but they’re not the worst. Try facing a unicorn, or a blue deer, or, Gods help you, a Wonder Moose.”[19] Lelia shuddered. “Now, get your stuff. It’s a day’s ride back, and I’ve been more than lucky. That tends to run out, if you’re not careful.”

Princess Sophia nodded and stepped forward. “I am ready. There is nothing here that I care to keep.”

Lelia smiled. “Great. Let’s go, your Majesty.” With that, Lelia turned and headed back down the winding stairs, although a little slower than before. Apparently, going down a winding stair in a layered dress is far harder than going up. “Seriously, you couldn’t have changed before we left?”

“This is my only dress,” Princess Sophia said as she carefully took each step. “I have been given food and water, but not clothing.”

“So, you slept in that?” Lelia asked.

“Oh no,” Princess Sophia said with a blush. “I, um, that’s an awfully private question.”

Lelia sighed. “Just making small talk. You princesses are sometimes a little morbidly attached to those frilly gowns.”

Princess Sophia shrugged. “You ever try sleeping in a corset? No human has. I would imagine that it would be considered a form of torture.”[20]

They made their way to the courtyard, which was now deserted. Lelia looked around, but it looked like the dragon had awoken and flown away, happy to be free of its bonds. “How did you best the dragon?” Princess Sophia asked as she scanned the yard.

“Poisoned him with a (minorly) cursed gem. It put a sleeping enchantment on people that could last for a full evening, so I figured I would get an hour out of a dragon.”

“That was awfully risky, wasn’t it?”

“It worked, didn’t it?”

The Princess had little to say to that. “I’m just very impressed. I was trapped in this tower by an awful witch, and was never let out. The dragon saw to that. Since my imprisonment, I’ve never been beyond my tower. Truly, this is a great day.”

“Truly,” Lelia said as they ventured out of the castle. They left through the still-raised iron gate and found Whistle Wind, who had wandered back out to the fire and was rooting through some tall grass for some food. Lelia whistled, and the loyal steed raced to her side. “Come on, Princess. Hop on, before we have company.”

Princess Sophia looked around. “What company? You defeated the bandits. How did you defeat the bandits?”

“With a pretty dress. Bandits always shut down when they see a beautiful girl in a pretty dress.”[21]

Princess Sophia nodded. “I suppose so. I’m just impressed that you took down Bruno, the Bandit King. Tell me, did you challenge him to single-combat?”

“No, not exactly. I, um, threw a bomb in his fire and then used him as a shield.”

“And what about his men?”

Lelia gestured to the still-smoking bodies on the ground. “They went boom. Actually, it worked a lot better than I had thought. I was planning on the blast getting three or four, but they were so soaked in booze that the whole camp went up. Couldn’t have worked out better, actually.”

Lelia mounted her horse and then helped Princess Sophia on behind her.

“And how did you ever best his hired ninjas?”

Lelia paused. “His what, now?”

There was a whoosh of air, and out of pure instinct, Lelia drew her dagger and brought it to the level of her eye. The silver blade clanged as it stopped a throwing star in mid-air and bounced it off, into the night. From around the two women, four shapes appeared. They were dressed in brown body suits, complete with hoods and masks to hide their faces. They were each armed with short swords, and were slowly circling Lelia and Princess Sophia.

“Ninjas. He had ninjas.” Lelia sighed to herself.

“We wondered,” one of the ninjas said, “when you didn’t appear on the road, what you had done. You bested the Troll?”

Lelia nodded and gripped her reins. “Yeah, you could say that. Sorry to disappoint you, gentlemen.”

“We waited for hours!” Another ninja called out. “Do you know how many cramps you get in your legs when you’re crouched in a tree for hours?"[22]

“Not my problem. Look, your leader was taken down and there’s a rather large chest of gold in that big tent over there, so why don’t you just take it and consider it payment for services rendered.”

The head ninja stepped forward. “I don’t think so, Ma’am. You see, our employer wouldn’t appreciate that.”

Lelia glanced at Bruno, the Bandit King’s body. “Um, I really don’t think your employer would care at this point, fellas.”

Lelia looked around. The ninjas, whether they were decent at what they were doing or not, had them outnumbered. While the thought of a good fight was always something that excited Lelia, it was dark, she was outnumbered, and she had Princess Sophia to consider. All it would take is for one of these losers to sneak up behind her with a knife, and then there would be a tense stand-off, followed by a surrender, followed by a capture and death-trap, followed by a narrow escape amidst impossible odds, and then a rescue of the Princess Sophia (again), a chase, and then the eventual defeat of the ninjas. While that formula did make for an exciting time, Lelia was getting tired, and she really wasn’t in the mood to be tied up.

“Get her!” The lead ninja shouted. Lelia gave Whistle Wind a kick, and they shot down the road like lightning. Behind them, Lelia heard the loud scramble of panic and confusion as the ninjas mounted their horses and took off after them. In the back of her mind, Lelia noted that these bandits were awfully loud for “ninjas,” but she let it slide. Professionals or not, they were a gang that had been paid to do her harm, and she wasn’t in the mood to test their proficiency.

“Keep your head down!” Lelia yelled at Princess Sophia. Lelia ducked as close to Whistle Wind as possible as they galloped down the forest path. She reached behind her, grabbed Princess Sophia’s collar, and yanked down. With a surprised squawk, Princess Sophia fell forward onto Lelia’s back and wrapped her arms tightly around her waist. Lelia stayed like that for about a minute, and then sat up.

“It’s okay now, you can sit up.” Princess Sophia straightened up in her seat and tried to remain dignified.

“What was the meaning of that? You might have ruined my dress!”

“If I hadn’t,” lelia said as they rode on, “I might have ruined your neck.”

Lelia slowed to a stop and guided Whistle Wind off to the side of the path. Both women listened as they heard the sound of swiftly approaching horses, spurred on by the sound of leather slapping hides and the obligatory “Yah!” A few seconds later, they heard a series of stiff, low-bass strums, much like someone bumping the strings of a lute, followed by a series of strangled screams and the sound of bodies crashing to the ground. The sound of rushing horses slowed, and then trailed off. Then, the only sound from down the path was that of low moaning, mixed with the occasional sob.

“Okay, we’re good,” Lelia said as she gently urged Whistle Wind down the path.

It was late, and while Lelia wanted to rest, she knew better than to stop in a forest. While the main road she was on was safer than the side path she had travelled earlier (at least, now that the ninjas had been dealt with), she still hesitated at the thought of sleeping in a forest, period. She had known too many travelers who had fallen asleep, only to wake up robbed, enchanted, cursed, eaten, or to find some other, horrible fate had befallen them, and that was if they woke up at all. Besides, town was only a couple hours away via the path on the map. Lelia sucked it up and pushed on. There was a bed at the local Inn with her name on it, and she fully intended to sleep there.

By the time they reached Lockfoot, it was near midnight, and the town watch was in full-swing. They stopped the tired Lelia and sleeping Princess Sophia at the town limits and checked to make sure that the two women were human and not Demon Riders, or anything else that might try to get into the town under the cover of darkness.[23] Once they were convinced that the women were women and not necessarily evil, the town watch permitted them entry. Lelia promptly rode down the street, past Doris & Deacon’s Deadly Destinations, and straight to the head office of the town watch. Lelia whistled for the sleepy guard outside to wake up and come over, as the Princess Sophia slowly blinked awake.

“Are we here? Are we safe?” Princess Sophia asked with a yawn.

“Here you go,” Lelia said to the guard. She shifted her weight in her saddle, which caused the Princess Sophia to slip off and fall to the ground in a flailing, surprised heap.

“What is the meaning of this?!” Princess Sophia screamed as the guardsman helped her to her feet.

“Guard, please arrest the Princess Sophia for robbery, extortion, and for the organized murder of however many heroes that Doris & Deacon’s Deadly Destinations have sent to her little bandit camp. On that note, you might want to arrest Deacon McGuire for being in on the scheme.”

“Ma’am?” the guardsman asked. Princess Sophia shot Lelia a murderous glare.

“See, I was tipped off by the bird,” Lelia said. “I thought it was weird to see a messenger bird so early in the morning, but then I looked at the very bright, very clear, and very blood-stained map that Mr. McGuire provided me and I realized that it was clearly a trap. I mean, seriously. The castle is what, two hours from here? You’re telling me that no one has bothered to save this girl, and she’s been there for weeks? Obviously, something was up. So, I considered the route and what I knew about the forest, and I prepared myself accordingly.

“The scam was simple enough. Deacon sends a warning to the Princess here, who then would tell her subordinate Bruno to dispatch his men along the forest path. The men would subdue any travelers who didn’t take the Troll Road, drag them back to the camp, loot them, and then feed them to her pet dragon.”

“Lies!” The Princess Sophia screamed. “You have no proof of this! I was a captive of an evil witch! I am royalty! I am..!”

“You are from a lesser house that couldn’t afford or didn’t care enough to pay a ransom for your imprisonment. And tell me, Princess, if you were ‘imprisoned’ in that tower, then how come your door was unlocked? How come you knew all about Bruno and his gang, when you confessed that it was a witch and not them who put you in that tower? How come you had that messenger bird sitting on a perch? In fact, it was you who brought those ninjas, wasn’t it? When you opened the windows of your tower, the bird got out, and you took your sweet time getting down those stairs in that dress. That was just enough time for those idiot ninjas to get out of their trees and show up to try to ruin my night. I don’t blame them, they did say they had to serve their employer, which was odd, considering the guy who was supposed to be their employer was cooked in an explosion.”

The guardsman looked from Lelia to the Princess Sophia, who was shaking with rage. “If what you say is true, then why would I have let you take me back here? Why not kill you on the road and be done with it?”

Lelia grinned. “Ah, because you know as well as I do that a forest is not the place to be caught alone at night. I was your protection. After all, I did defeat all your challenges. You knew you were probably safe to let me think I had saved you, head back to town, chastise Deacon, and then round up a new bandit gang for your scheme.”

Princess Sophia suddenly calmed down and laughed to herself. She looked at Lelia with a strange smile that did not reach her eyes. “Clever girl. Clever, little girl. You think this makes you special? You think you can just hand me off like a common criminal? I am not just some common, lesser-house princess!”

Princess Sophia raised her arm and extended her hand. A bright, green flame erupted from it and encircled her,[24] causing the guard to step back. The townspeople who were still awake (most of which had been busy drinking at the local pubs) came out into the street to see what the commotion was about.

“I am the Dread Witch! I am the Cry of the Night! You think you can just toss me in some common cell? You think that someone who can imprison a dragon can be defeated by a girl with a pig-sticker?”

Lelia dismounted and stepped back. Whistle Wind and the guardsman followed, giving the Witch Princess Sophia some room to levitate as she erupted with a plume of magical, green fire. “I have studied the dark craft like no other! No sword can slay me! No riddle can undo my powers!”

Lelia glanced up. “Um, Sophia?”

“I have travelled the Barrens and solved the riddle of the Demon Lords! I have tasted the Blood of the Seven! I have seen through the Eye of Perseus!”[25]

Lelia pointed and cleared her throat. “Sophia? Princess?”

“SILENCE!” She was really getting going by this point. Her eyes were glowing a fierce green, and her platinum hair was whipping around her head in a whirlwind of magical fire and wind. She was busy charging a spell in her hands, and the air around her crackled with fire and electricity. Her voice started to echo and reverberate as she spoke in ancient tongues, and she raised her hands over her head. A huge, bright ball of swirling energy was forming above her as she focused her attention on Lelia.

“And now, you die!”

Lelia didn’t flinch or take cover in any way. She really didn’t see a point. The moment that the Witch Princess Sophia screamed out “And now, you die!” She was crushed by the weight of an angry red dragon that had been swooping down towards her from a decent altitude. Lelia noticed it when the dragon’s form started to block out the moon. The dragon stamped out the green fire like it was a cigar butt, and when the Trampled Witch Princess Sophia started to scream from underneath the dragon’s talons, the great beast bent down and took a well-deserved bite of its favorite food, Princess. Lelia flinched as the dragon enjoyed its meal. The townsfolk, a bit too intoxicated to understand the gravity and horror of the act they were witnessing, cheered the beast on. With a mighty, flame-filled burp, the beast settled back, looked at Lelia for a moment, and then took off into the night sky with a furious beating of wings.

“Well,” Lelia said (mostly to herself), “That was extremely convenient.”

“What do you mean I can’t be certified?”

Lelia was standing in the office of the Town Watch and using what many would not consider an inside voice. The head of the local constabulary, Captain Wilkinson, was hunched over his desk and focused on a mountain of paperwork. He gave a long sigh that is generally mastered by city officials and looked at the young, angry woman before him.

“Look, Ms. Gallhorn, I…”


“Whatever.” Captain Wilkinson pushed his glasses back to their proper position atop his rather large, red nose. “While I recognize the work that you’ve done, your contract was with Doris & Deacon’s Deadly Destinations, and with Mr. McGuire’s arrest and the pending investigation of their agency, I’m afraid that the crown has revoked their QCS.”[26]

“But I did the quest! I defeated a troll, a bandit camp, a dragon, saved a princess, I did everything I was supposed to! Can’t you just certify me for that and let me be on my way?”

“The crown doesn’t allow for municipalities to provide certification. It was worked into the law last year. Remember that whole privatization of serf services bill thing? Well, that was a part of it. Only a licensed agency can provide you with your papers, and your contract is not through a licensed agency.”

“But it was when I took it!” Lelia all but shouted.

“True, but was the success of your quest filed before the revoking of their license?”

Lelia opened her mouth to comment, and then realized to her horror that he was correct. The moment the investigation started, their license would have been pulled, which meant that even if she tracked down Deacon in his dungeon cell and forced him to sign the contract, it wouldn’t count for anything.

“Well, what about the reward for the Princess Sophia? Can I at least get my 100 gold?”

The officer shook his head. “The contract was for the safe return of the Princess.”

“Which I did, I returned her.” Lelia said, her arms crossed.

“To her family?”

Lelia felt her stomach knot up. “Well, the contract specified that she be returned. Not that she necessarily be alive.”

“Even if that insane line of thinking applied here,” Captain Wilkinson said, “Which it doesn’t, you can’t even return all of the princess. All that we scrapped up as an arm and some gristle. On that note, here.”

The Captain handed Lelia a notice. Lelia took one look and hit the roof. “You’re charging me with littering?!”

“She was your princess. You dumped her on the street. You get to pay for her cleanup and disposal. Same rules apply for duels, Ma’am.”

“But we didn’t even duel!”

“You were about to. Still counts.”

Lelia felt every muscle in her body tighten at once. She wanted to scream, to punch the captain in the face, to set fire to his office, or a blissful combination of all three, but she couldn’t. She was a hero, a knight, and as such, she had to show some restraint.

Even if she really didn’t want to.

Tired, dejected, and in need of a drink, Lelia found herself at the Puttering Pony,[27] a local pub. It was just like any other pub in town, except that it had a pony painted on its sign, and that bought some points with Lelia. She sat at the bar, downed her dwarven ale, and muttered to herself about the unfairness of the universe.

At this, Mama finished her bread, took a drink, and looked around at the beautiful scenery.

“Well?” Abby asked, slightly frustrated.

“Oh,” Mama said. “You liked it?”

“Of course I liked it!” Abby said, excitedly. She was nearly hopping in place. “No one’s ever told me about a girl hero before, but is that it? I mean, did she ever get to the tower? What about her wish?”

“Well, I’m not quite there, yet. You see, it’s not just Lelia’s story. There were two other heroes involved.”

“Were they girls?”

Mama smiled and nodded.

“Can you tell me their stories, too?”

“Help me clean up,” Mama said, “and I’ll tell you another when we get back to the mill.”

And while the tales of Lelia the Cunning did indeed continue, this particular story unfortunately must come to an end. Word count limitations and all. Still, the rest of her grand adventure, as well as those of her friends, are a tale best told another day.

[1] Please note, not all jinns are like this. While the common misconception is that they will creatively murder you with your first wish, many will first grant you a test wish that usually involves something small, like a sandwich or a piece of gold. You’re much more likely to be utterly destroyed by the horrifying, unseen consequences of the second wish, and the third will either reverse everything you had done, or damn you to an eternity of ironic punishment. In this case, the intentions of this particular jinn will, for now, remain a mystery.

[2] Only a licensed Hazardous Tour agency could provide an official stamp that could certify a hero. There were some fly-by-night, unofficial Questing Agencies that would claim their credentials were just as good, but many who used these services reported that they cost a fortune, and no one in the real world paid much attention to what was commonly viewed as a fake, purchased license. The “heroes” that went this route often times ended up as servers at local pubs who talked about going back to get their real certifications, right after they finished writing their novel, designing an interactive board game, and opening their very own dream pub.

[3] This is a common mistake, but we can forgive Lelia for this. Many young adventurers will avoid paying up front in favor of going after treasure and paying the Hazardous Tour Agency back later, but these types of quests often times are more perilous and have a lower payout in terms of a potential treasure. Also, the Hazardous Tour Agencies practically rob you blind on the bill-me-later rate they charge. Since this is Lelia’s first use of a Hazardous Tour Agency, we can write her choice off as a rookie mistake. For a better deal, she would have fared well at Madame Tolacity’s House of Misfortune and Wicked Affairs, especially if she had inquired about a certified quest on a Tuesday. Those are Madame Tolacity’s half-off days.

[4] We would like to apologize for this stereotypical portrayal of the common road Troll. Many of these gentle giants are merely misunderstood bridge owners who feel that their sovereign rights as citizens of the kingdom and as magical creatures are being continually violated by smaller, hairless, overly-clothed people that have no respect or understanding of the painstaking care Trolls give to the underside of bridges. Their carpentry skills are unmatched, and they can tar-seal a hole like you would not believe. To view them as mindless attackers is not only inaccurate, it is borderline prejudice. The nudity portrayed here is about right, though.

[5] Lelia honestly wasn’t so much offended by someone commenting on the shape of her body as she was bemused by the word “bosomy.”

[6] Knights are viewed by many magical creatures as canned food that puts up a fight.

[7] This is a good rule to live by.

[8] Fun fact: Trolls freaking love to own quality dishes, and would kill any number of knights to have a complete dining set. You would, too, if you ate most of your meals straight off of rotting deer and knight carcasses in the woods.

[9] Told you.

[10] It made her feel bosomy.

[11] Many a man as fallen prey to professional cleavage.

[12] As a matter of principle, if you are in charge of a bandit gang, you are a King, Baron, Emperor, High Priest, or any other important title you can think of. This builds fear with the locals and helps generate a +1 on your respect levels with your followers. It also distracts from your horrifying smell and living conditions.

[13] Bit of a selling point, really. Scurvy was so common in bandit camps, people thought you were weird if your teeth weren’t falling out.

[14] Imagine if a Carl’s Jr caught fire.

[15] Of course, of course.

[16] The largest dragon on record was Halberd, the Doom Lord of Alacrazanth Mountain. She was as tall as a 30-storey building and could breathe radioactive fire (citation needed). Because of her massive size, she would routinely feast in the nearby Iron Sea on tasty whales, which she ate in the same way that a burly sailor munches sardines.

[17] It would be wise to note that many dragons are quite regal, and that only a very young dragon would debase him or herself to the level of doing tricks for food. Most know enough Humanese to ask politely for their prey to stand still before they cook them alive. Also, while raw meat is considered a nice treat, the reaction shown here should in no way be taken as common for a dragon. This poor babe had been starved by its captors and hadn’t eaten in a week, so really, Lelia could have tossed a rotted skunk carcass and the dragon would have thought it was Christmas morning.

[18] According to Better Castles & Keeps, the spinning wheel is the must-have tower accessory. The runners-up included (but were not limited to) magic mirrors, a four-post bed, shackles, a pottery wheel, riding crops, paddles, candles, silk scarves, and a writing desk.

[19] Honestly, you would fare better to go forth drunk and naked against a dragon, or even a lesser-demon, than to challenge the fury of the Wonder Moose.

[20] It’s true.

[21] This was a known fact. Bandits always tended to be more susceptible to the whims of a lovely young woman in a pretty dress. Maybe because they are so unused to soft things that smell nice that their brains, long damaged by violence and booze, are easily overloaded by beauty. Or maybe they just really, really like pretty girls. The debate continues to this day.

[22] It should be noted that while you may have some fantastic, neigh-mystical view of what a ninja is, in the land of Westglen, they were not nearly as competent as what other tales may have led you to believe. In fact, most were ordinary bandits who had read too many pulp stories from the East and gotten the idea to raid their mother’s bed sheets for suitable material to make ninja costumes. Some, like our friends here, managed to learn a skill or two, and some even go so far as to hire a ninja master from the Far East. These “masters” are usually just masters of the con, but that is a matter for another story, entirely.

[23] Demon Riders are a real problem. Don’t believe all the downplaying by the media. They are single-minded menaces that will burn a town to the ground to find a lost girl, a magic ring, or whatever happened to be put into their tiny, hellfire-fueled heads. While not smart, they are relentless in their pursuits. Most town watches have an emergency plan in place to deal with Demon Riders. Unfortunately, it usually involves screaming and running.

[24] This is not normal. If this happens to you, please see a specialist.

[25] Saying “I’ve seen through the Eye of Perseus!” in the magical community is the rough equivalent in your world, dear reader, to bragging that you have a Communications degree.

[26] Questing Certification Status. Often times confused with the Quiet Children of Salaath, a fairly popular heavy-lute band. Check out their latest explicit ballad, Masters of the Wand.

[27] Ask the owner about the name of the bar sometime. The story will blow your mind. No lie. There’s not enough space in these margins to tell it, but wow. Wow.

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