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Contents Copyright by Bruce Durham unless noted otherwise

The iron-bound door flew open, crashing against the jail-house wall and squeezing out a spray of dust.


Framing the entrance stood a short man, his right arm ending in a wicked blade attached at the wrist, the fingers of his left hand hooked on a leather belt. He entered, followed moments later by someone much larger. The second man eyed his partner bemusedly while reaching out to close the door. Scowling, the smaller man approached a chair occupied by a whip thin scout, whose boots braced the edge of a cluttered desk, balancing the heavy piece of furniture on two legs. The scout raised a finger in greeting.


The small man snarled, his wizened face squeezing into a series of tight wrinkles. "Out, Aticus. You're not Provost material yet."


The thin man dropped the chair to all four legs and stood, towering over the other. "And you are, Stump? Brannock really clawed the barrel when he appointed you Provost of this dump."


Stump moved quickly to occupy the vacated chair. "No thanks to Ethyn, here." He jerked his chin at the large man standing quietly by the door. "I didn't ask for this."


Ethyn crossed his arms and considered the leathered features of his old friend and former deputy. "You could have told Brannock where to put his offer."


Stump chuckled. “What? And spend the rest of my years answering to you?”  He spied several men standing against the far wall; raised a thick eyebrow at Aticus. “Who are they?”


The scout moved to the window and peered out before replying. “New recruits.”


Stump carefully scrutinized the potential trainees. They were quiet and nervous. Word of his no-nonsense approach to Fen Way’s lawlessness had traveled fast. He pointed at a young man with an overly large Adam’s apple. “You. Does your mommy know you’re playing soldier?”


Blushing profusely, he blurted, “I’m here to join the city guard.”

Ethyn Gant eyeballed Stump and exchanged a silent signal. On the first day they had decided Ethyn would make the introductory speeches, given his dominating size and soul-withering countenance. It worked surprisingly well. Ethyn began in a quiet, even voice, “Your new Provost is Stump. He is called Stump for obvious reasons. That sticker of his is not for show. Me? I’m the Provost of Monroi Pass. Stump was my deputy. Before that, our home was the Lost Company.”

... this story kept me entertained.

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