“You won’t Believe this!” Bingo shouted, and slammed a newspaper onto the table. From his spot in the training area, Joachim paused and looked over. Glory set down her lunch, a bowl of leftover stew, and arched an eyebrow at the newspaper in front of her.

“You’re joining the printers guild?”

“The headline, you daft boozer!” Joachim wandered to the table and peered over Bingo’s shoulder. With his nearly three foot height advantage, it wasn’t difficult.

“Human Town Vanishes Overnight,” he read aloud. “You’re right. I don’t believe it.”

“Just look!” Bingo insisted, tortured by his companions’ lack of interest. He gestured to a sketch of an abandoned town. “It’s Corn Hall! Rumor has it that every living thing for miles has just disappeared!”

Glory sighed and gestured towards one of the papers. It fluttered over and hung in the air an inch above her bowl. The runes on her hands hated getting dirty. Bingo practically held his breath while she read the hovering article.

“It sounds like another scam,” she said. The Freelance Hunters last visited the town chasing sightings of a unicorn. They had, in fact, caught the beast, which turned out to be the towns fastest horse, gussied up with a prosthetic horn to lure in tourists. Their anger at the deception was legendary, and an embarrassment for all involved.

“You think they’d try again after what we did to the mayor?” Joachim asked. Glory shrugged and resumed her lunch.

“If something tragic has befallen them, they surely deserved it. Besides, The Daily Buccina is notorious for publishing rumors, gossip and outright fabrications.”

“They’ve posted a nice reward for anyone that can solve the mystery,” Bingo said.

“Then it is definitely fiction.”

“But three-hundred gold teeth might be worth the trip, right?”

“That presupposes we find anything at all. And should we be successful, we would still require sufficient proof. It’s a fool’s errand, Bingo. Never put stock in a payday from a publisher.”

“They did have some very good whiskey,” Joachim offered

“If you think I’m going to trudge through the wilderness for five days just to save some hick town where everybody hates us from a dire threat that I guarantee you is just going to be another tourist scam, you have another thing coming!” The wizard determinedly went back to her lunch, satisfied that the matter was settled.

***

A week later, the three of them stood at the edge of what was once Corn Hall.

 

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