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Amy was waiting for Marti when she came down the stairs into the common room, cups of coffee in hand. She raised a cup and smiled. "Sorry, but I'll have to do as your guide for awhile. Bunny had an errand and should be back soon. She didn't want to keep you waiting."
Marti accepted the cup. "Thoughtful band of thieves, aren't you?"
She lifted her eyebrow. "I beg your pardon. I am no thief. Not my fault some people are careless." She winked. "Come have a seat. I'm keeping shop for Ogre while he finishes up the baking."
"You seem to be everyone's right hand girl," Marti commented, following Amy to a table by the fire.
"Everyone does what is needed." She shrugged and sat in an armchair beside the fire. "We hid these last night," she explained in response to Marti's frown. "Ogre wasn't sure if furniture was going to get broken and he loves these chairs."
She settled into one, glancing at Amy over her cup. "So what is this place?"
Amy set aside her cup and took a deep breath. "Tilldae was formed by an adventurer named William Tilldae and his party, the Seven Swords. They hit it bag and retired, building a place they could call home. William, a fighter, started the vineyard. His best friend Daisy Eddison and his wife Sheila built this inn." She gestured to the mantle. "Sheila actually carved this mantelpiece herself. She was handy with a chisel, which made David Sunter, a bard who opened the general store, pleased as pie when he needed assistance making instruments." She sipped from her cup. "Sunter and Sunter has a reputation for being one of the best places for quality instruments. Patricia Whetstone liked horses and built the stable. Kids took up the trade of their parents, learning from the time they were able to walk." She grinned. "Case in point. Ogre's my uncle. His sister and my mom, Kiva, was a thief who married a bard named Anthony. Dad said from the moment I took my first step and fell, he knew I was going to be a tumbler. My first clear memory of my Dad is learning how to do a cartwheel." She smiled at memories. "We used to perform for everyone on market days as A and A. Mom loved to watch us."
"Where are your parents?" Marti asked gently.
Amy laughed. "Traveling! They come by every once in awhile. Last time they were here, Dad brought Ogre some hops from another country and he was soooo tickled!"
"Ogre's your uncle?" Marti leaned forward. "Isn't he..." she trailed off, looking uncomfortable.
"A half ogre?" she finished. "Yeah. Grandma found him in an abandoned ogre nest while investigated some tunnels. She brought him home. His real name's Harry but everyone calls him Ogre. He's a really good wizard when he's not cooking, brewing or otherwise making a mess." She laughed. "The rest of us are so glad you're here. Now he has someone else to talk to about magic and we can stop pretending to understand!"
Ogre came from the kitchen, carrying a steaming plate. "My niece being annoying?" he asked Marti. "Thought you might appreciate some warm bread."
Amy set aside her cup and took the plate. "Thank you, uncle. I am such a spoiled princess."
He rolled his eyes. "I got the front if you want to take Marti on the walking tour."
She took a few slices of bread and balanced them on her cup. "Ofk urp," Amy said around the bread in her mouth.
"Gross." Ogre winced. "I've better manners than you and I file my tusks!"

They had eaten their bread, finished their coffee and were outside the inn when Bunny arrived leading Apple, the horse pulling a cart covered with a canvas tarp. She smiled and held Amy for a few minutes before greeting Marti. "Have you been on the walking tour yet?"
"Not yet but looking forward to it." Marti gestured to the horse. "What's in the cart?"
"Loot from the last band of unsuspecting sheep passing through. We did the whole kidnap scenario hoping they would give up the location of some dragon treasure but the bastards were broke." Bunny shrugged. "It was fun for about an hour. Then I had to fight the urge to cause them bodily harm."
"Interesting." Marti tried not laugh.
"Says you." Bunny held out her arm to Amy. "Would you ladies care for a guide?"
Amy shook her finger at her. "Oh, NO! I've seen what happens to the people you guide!"
Bunny feigned hurt. "Whatever do you mean?!" She stuck out her tongue. "You gave Marti the town's history?"
"Certainly did. But I made the coffee."
Bunny sighed. "That's good to know. I had visions of her having to suffer through Ogre's gourmet sludge." She looked at Marti. "Ogre can't make a cup of coffee to save his life. He should stick to brewing." She shrugged. "Anyways, the tour..."
They walked along the dirt path, past the inn. "Ogre's as you know. He lives in the back." Bunny waved at the building. She pointed at the building further up the path. A porch ran along the front, steps leading up to grand double doors with glass panes proudly proclaiming "Sunter & Sunter's Etc". Windows in the front had thick curtains pulled back, allowing passersby to see shelves and bins neatly arranged with what one could only guess were delights untold. "Sunter and Sunter's Etcetera." Bunny grinned. "Anything you need fenced, Sunter's the one to talk to." She unhitched the cart and pulled it to the side of the building. "I'll come back later to see what he can use."
They continued walking, Amy sliding her hand into Bunny's. A small shop sat dark, windows curtained. The house next to it seemed to huddle next to it for comfort. "This was the alchemist's house and shop," Amy explained. She pointed to the black and charred areas nearby. "That was where he blew himself up."
"Nice!" Marti looked around.
"Wanna look inside?" Amy offered. "I have the keys."
Amy led them up the porch steps to the glass paned door and unlocked the door. She felt around in the dark for a lantern as Bunny opened the curtains. Marti grinned.
Inside, herb drying racks lined the walls between windows. Tables had been pushed aside, baskets of trinkets tucked underneath them. Wooden crates were stacked haphazardly in front of a counter. Marti wandered through the room, running her fingers through the dust and blowing on cobwebs. "This would be mine?" she asked. "I could do whatever I wanted?"
"Of course." Amy opened a window and smiled.
She frowned. "Will I be required to work for free?" she asked stiffly.
"No." Bunny folded her arms. "No one works for nothing. Everyone is compensated fairly. In fact, anyone who tried to do that would have to face the wrath of the council."
"I would have to go adventuring?" Marti stood in front of Bunny.
"Only if you wanted to." Bunny grinned. "I only like willing company. More fun that way."
Marti took one more look around the shop and dusted her hands. "Then I guess I'll need your help moving some furniture."
"You'll stay?" Amy asked, her grin bright.
Marti shrugged. "Couldn't pass such a sweet deal." Amy tackled her, nearly knocking her into the wall.
"Well," Bunny said thoughtfully, "I know we can get Hazard to cover the stables for me and I'm sure Gordon needs something or other from town-"
Marti cut her off. "You forget who you're talking to."
She reached into the scroll tube and took out a piece of canvas, holding it against the wall. When she unrolled it, the painting of a blue door became solid. She opened the door and grinned as Bunny and Amy gaped at the spacious apartment on the other side. "Like I said, you forget who you're talking to."
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August 2011


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