Hungry for Answers

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Fern dumped the rubbish from last nights revelry into the river behind the Grinding Wheel Tavern. She'd been part of the morning cleaning crew for the past 15 years, and every morning was the same. Leftover food, broken bottles, buckets of vomit, and the occasional article of clothing too destroyed in a bar fight to be worth mending. Today was no different, and so Fern went through the motions without particular notice of what she was throwing out. Her thoughts were all on Taen, the new chef.

Six months prior, the old chef in the tavern's kitchen had died during the dinner rush. Old Gumper fell face first into the fucking rabbit stew, they said. Of course, the rabbit stew was still served to the tavern full of hungry patrons. A dead man's face wasn't about to cost the owners a whole pot of perfectly serviceable food. But, as fate would have it, the stew wasn't yet done, and neither were the side dishes ol' Gumper had been cooking.

A young dwarf who had been working the morning cleaning crew with Fern for a few years, a sexy bastard named Taen, just so happened to be on hand that night. He jumped right in and started finishing the ol' Gumper's dishes. And the owners were delighted. Suddenly, the food coming out of the kitchens at the Grinding Wheel were no longer just serviceable; they were delicious. No one knew what young Taen's background was other than the fact he was from Kelgrond Central, a place where only the wealthiest of dwarves or the poorest of beggars tended to live.

The methods of cooking and the array of spices that young Taen used led most to believe that he was the former cook for a wealthy family. Some said that he was some heir to a vast fortune just out to see how the other side lived before he assumed his place at the head of his family's estate. But Fern didn't care one way or the other. She'd been infatuated with Taen since his arrival several years ago. Although, after she had tasted his cooking that infatuation turned into a full blown obsession. No one had ever made Fern lose herself in a simple mutton pie before. Fern was, after all, a hard working and respectable dwarven lady. Taen, however, could melt her entire soul with one well-seasoned dish. It was unlike anything she had ever experienced.

"Better than sex, even," she thought to herself with a wicked grin.

The last lot of rubbish from the night before lay before Fern while she paused for a moment, thinking of Taen's excellent food. Her stomach was rumbling happily when some movement in her peripheral vision caught Fern's attention. Glancing over to find the source, she saw the night security crew leaving a side door and hauling several large packages, each wrapped in dark linens. Watching intently, Fern thought the bundles looked a bit suspicious. Whatever was inside, though, was none of her concern.

"Mind yer own business, Ferny," she reminded herself. The last time she poked her nose where it didn't belong, she was almost fired. Reaching down to grab the bin nearest to her, Fern noticed some broken clay pieces that looked like they used to make small globes.

"Spellbombs?" Fern asked aloud, plucking some of the pieces out of the rubbish. And sure enough, upon further inspection, she saw the mark of a local wizard, Ningh. Dwarven wizards always left their mark out of foolish pride, and Ningh was a male, so that meant double the amount of asinine hubris. "Not yer concern, Ferny," she whispered to the wind. And that is when she noticed the blood.

Now, strictly speaking, blood was not an unusual sight in the rubbish bins at the Grinding Wheel. Fights often broke out late into the night, when the ale had taken control of the patrons. Once or twice a month there was a stabbing, which sometimes even ended in death. The Royal Army would be contacted, and a constable would be sent from Kelgrond to do an investigation. It was always the same; no witnesses, no arrest. It was all just a formality, really. The Queen didn't give one ounce of orc shite about the good folk outside of her capital city.

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