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The Cultist and Toffeemaker was the only inn in the town.

Town? Village. If there were more than two dozen buildings sheltering in this little almost-circular valley between hills, it would have surprised the traveller.

He knew he had left Hadin and entered the Sylliku Wastes, which was bad. He knew because the crop fields had vanished, as had the pastureland and the orchards. Very little grew in the Wastes, and the only settlements of any size stayed close to the border, where the soil was still good, and were on opposite coasts of the wide peninsula. Anywhere else needed to be near a river, and there were few of them. This particular village had three wells, rather than a stream running through it, and that must have been enough, along with the thin crops growing on the surrounding hillsides to enable the place to survive.

It wasn't often he got lost, but it happened occasionally. He sighed and went into the inn. It was empty.

"Hello?" he called out.

A head popped up from behind the bar at the far end of the room. "Hello!"

He approached the bar. "Good evening, miss," he began, "I wonder if you could help me?"

The owner of the head stood up. She had a mass of curly blonde hair, and her skin was very pale. As she stood up, the traveller saw that she was wearing a traditional low-cut peasant dress, and was incredibly well-endowed. "Help? Why? What's the matter?"

The intensity of her gaze unsettled him slightly. He faltered and looked around. "Where is everybody?"

"There's a hue and cry," she told him. "Some bastard stole the church silver, the whole village is going after them."

"Except you?"

"Except me," she confirmed. "Father made me stay behind just in case. I was having a nap."


"He owns this place," she gestured around at the empty, and somewhat run-down inn. "What can I get you?"

"Pint, please," the traveller told her. As she retrieved a mug and began pulling it, he remembered his purpose in coming in. "I was wondering if you could help me. I'm travelling from Segurida to Zanabad, and I seem to be a little lost."

"Lost? How so? Those are both outside Hadin, and you're outside Hadin now. What's the problem?"

"I usually make the journey in the other direction, and I try and stick just inside the border. I mislaid my bearings this time, I think."

"I think you did," the barmaid agreed, as she finished pulling. "We're a good five miles out of Hadin, here."

"Right. How much?" he asked.

She smiled and set the wooden tankard down close to her side of the bar, then leaned forward. "I dunno. I'm sure we could come to some ... arrangement."

The traveller couldn't help his eyes being drawn to her deep and tempting cleavage. "I, er... Is that, usual?"

She smiled saucily at him. "I don't get to see many new faces here, let alone handsome ones. How about you give me a good time, as the price of the beer."

He tore his eyes up, but couldn't quite bring himself to look her in her eyes. "That's a very good offer. Am I that much of a relief from the monotony?"

She tugged on her dress, moving her neckline an inch or so downwards, giving him the beginning of a glimpse of nipple. "Yes. Plus, it'll annoy the Hell out of father if you do me on the counter. Get him back for not letting me join the cry."

The traveller began to raise his hand to reach for her. "That's, uh, that's good. But if you were on the cry, you wouldn't have met me, would you?"

She captured his hand and pressed it to her breast as they began to lean in towards each other. "That's why we should do it on the counter, not on his bed."

The traveller was fairly sure that made sense, on some level. He also knew he was looking into her eyes, but all he could see was her massive and inviting cleavage. He leaned in further and kissed her, at the same time moving his hand up and then slipping it inside her dress. She whimpered a little, then broke the kiss, and began kissing her way over his chin, along his jaw, and down to his neck.

He realised just a fraction too late that her flesh felt cold.

The ghoul sliced her sharp teeth together and ripped through the man's jugular. He flailed in pain and panic for a second, then collapsed onto the bar top, and slid backwards onto the floor of the inn. The barmaid ghoul re-adjusted her dress and looked down at him. He was well-built, she could store him in the cold of the cellar and he would last her a good few weeks. It was such a pity she had been so hungry, it really was lonely here in this deserted village, and she would have liked to have kept him around for a day or so to talk to him first.
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