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from The Hunt for Bheanoira by Dacia M Arnold

Chapter 2

Sir Gregory’s journal was as outdated as Jude’s family’s welcome in Rijk. Luch’s hooves clop-clopped with each step on the stoned road into the town. Gold lanterns hung at intervals on high golden poles lining the streets. The market was abuzz with traders, with the locals distinguishable by their clean, tight fitting clothing. Jude deflated his posture, noting his barbarian attire in comparison to the Sciorta townspeople.

Mae had worn regular trader’s clothing. He looked for the girl in the faces of passersby as the companions made their way to the inn at the center of town. Jude did not spot a single person with the fire red hair of the mysterious girl the night before. Until he reached a crowd outside the inn. A red-bearded man spoke loud over the crowd of nomads.

“Legends tell of a forest so unnaturally thick of underbrush that grow tougher with every swing of a blade.”

The grand gestures and the Rijkic armor the man wore charmed Jude’s attention.  

“Only a strong enchantment can make such a place impassible…”

Jude dismounted and led Luch to the trough outside the inn, ears perked to the presentation, but head down to keep from looking too interested.

“The village of Sciorta sits nestled to the cursed wood…”

Jude snorted a laugh. No investigations needed.

“Only the wall and river protect our humble dwellings and the carnivorous plants. A truce between the creature of the wood and the town’s folk.”

“What is the creature?” an onlooker shouted over the crowd.

“Aye, sir. Look around cha. The City of Gold and magic can mean only one monster lurks in dem wood. Leprechauns.”

The crowd erupted in laughter and dispersed. Some threw single golde...

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