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The Short Story





The alley that he crouched in was dark and dank, but then again, so was much of the rest of the city. It had been a bad season and food was dear. Most of the city, if you could even call it that, was of thatched roofed buildings, mostly wooden buildings, and they were beginning to mold from the rain. The musty scent of decaying roofing was almost overpowering. He eased himself into a position that was less uncomfortable, nearly every thing was uncomfortable these days. And the pain in his stomach was no more bearable than the scent of the buildings. However, he could, would and was about to do something about that. He simply had to wait for a trader with a suitably Fat purse to pass the edge of the alley in whose shadows he hid.

He could hear footsteps coming along down the dark passage between the fronts of the houses, he seemed to be having some luck tonight. There was only one set of footsteps in the quiet night, although he heard an extra thunk, almost as if an extra foot was walking down the same lane, along with whoever it was. A thought occurred to Derrl, more luck, if his guess was right, the extra thunk, meant a cane, or walking stick. He had his dagger ready, and he was sure of his abilities with it.

There was a rustling by his feet, then a squeak as something shot past his right foot. He stood, breathing hard. That should not have frightened him, but his nerves seemed frayed to the breaking point. He could almost smell the stench of fear emanating from himself. The footsteps came nearer.

Sweat and rain were beading on his forehead, though he did not notice. The footsteps were getting closer now and were almost upon him. He grimaced when he realized that hi dagger needed to be sharpened badly. It would have to suffice for tonight. He quickly stepped out of the alley to stand in front of whoever it was, desperately hoping that it would be some incompetent trader. It's an old trader. Pity, he thought, not much sense in killing the manů yet still, he was a trader, and traders did have coin, though this one might have less than most.

"Go away before you get hurt Derrl, you don't really want to hurt me." He did not really expect Derrl to listen to him, no one ever did. Pity he thought.

"Hand over the purse and no one gets hurt, trader!" he managed to snarl through clenched teeth. He supposed that he could just run now, and hope to get away. For some reason he was inordinately afraid of the frail old man. For a brief moment, what he thought was his better judgment took over, and he charged the old man with his knife. The trader's staff came up quickly with a twirl of his right hand. The but end of the staff, with its iron caps, collided with the side of Derrl's skull with a resounding blow.

THWACK!

The impact echoed off nearby buildings. He had practice. the most that Derrl would suffer from when he woke up would be a mild headache, well, not quite so mild. In the meantime, he figured that he had better keep an eye on him. He bent over, leaning on the staff, picked up the knife by the point and tossed it into the darkness of the alley. He heard a quick screech and the skittering of rats through the refuse as they were disturbed.

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