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Ningh studied the broken spellbomb handed to him by the cleaning lady from the tavern. She was not an unpleasant looking dwarf, but her stench was so overpowering the wizard thought he might pass out.

"Did ye roll around in trash 'afore comin' in, lass?" he asked with a tight voice, doing his best not to breathe in directly.

Fern's face grew red at the insult, and her fist's clenched at her side. "Nay, milord wizard," she replied courteously. No matter the offense taken, it would be unwise to piss off a magic user, even one as lesser known as Ningh. "I had a rough morning with the leftover rubbish from last night being, um, rather ripe."

"Mmm," grunted the salty old wizard. "Weel, I can tell ye that this particular spellbomb was a portal. I remember the human that bought it just a few days back. He went on and on about wantin' to get back to his home by the big tree in the east... a town by the name of Valekshire, Why do ye want to know, then?"

Despite the advice she had received to keep her mouth shut on the subject, Fern revealed a little of what everyone believed had happened to the popular prostitute at the Grinding Wheel tavern. "Ceean's gone missing. This broken spellbomb was in her room, so I assume this human took her, either against or will or not. But I aim ta find out. She was me friend, ye see. Now you just make another portal spell and stick it in one o' yer bombs. And also one back to the Grinding Wheel. Both free o' charge, too! Else I'll tell the good folk around here that yer selling to humans again. They won't like that, despite what the Queen says, may she be protected by the ancestors and the Gods that keep them."

Ningh's eyes shot open at the threat. Not that he was unaccustomed to such talk, but he certainly didn't expect it from a cleaning lady. This must be important to her for the lass to speak to a wizard in such a manner.

"Calm ye down, Fern. I'll make ye one for free. But ye shouldn't be goin' alone. Take a companion, a good fighter, mind ye, just in case things go wild out there," Ningh told her calmly. "Come back in the a few hours and I'll have all ye need. I'm sorry that yer friend is gone, lass. Truly, I am. That Ceean... she is a right fine looking lady, to be sure. I'll miss her, too. But never mind that," he added, growing a bit red in the face, himself.

On her way back to the Grinding Wheel tavern to have dinner with Taen, the handsome young cook she had been obsessing over for quite some time, Fern's thoughts raced about the coming adventure. Should she go? Was it her place to seek Ceean? The lady certainly woulnd't be sticking her neck out for Fern, after all. But it just felt right, almost as if destiny were calling upon Fern for the first time in her life. She would go, but she would not stay long. If there was nothing immediate that led her in the direction of Ceean, Fern would come right back home. No need in endangering herself. She wasn't a fighter, and didn't even know of one... except for Burton and his boys. But she couldn't ask one of them to come with her or they'd know she talked to someone about the murders in the tavern the night before.

Later, in Taen's personal quarters attached to the kitchen, they ate a sumptuous meal of mutton pie, crisply fried turnips, an assortment of roasted an spiced nuts, and an entire wheel of the most exquisite moldy cheese, all washed down with chilled ale. Fern hadn't eaten quite so well in years.

"This is too much to waste on a cleaning lady," she muttered after a unleashing a long belch. "But I do thank ye for it, Taen. I can't remember the last time food this good passed me lips."

"Would ye stop always puttin' yerself down, Fern? I happen to think yer worth all the best food in the world. I've... I've been admiring ye for years, don't ye know?" the handsome young cook admitted.

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