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"I Think I Know This Guy!"
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"Well, this is it!" Aerye exclaimed happily. "Here's the village!"

The young elf gestured down into a valley toward a small town down in the middle of the vale. It seemed a peaceful place, and from where they stood the adventurers could see the vague shapes of people going about their business.

Ree scoffed. "This place looks dull."

"Don't worry," Jerea said as she clapped her companion on the shoulder, "I'm sure we'll find something to do soon enough."

"I remember that the blacksmith said he needed help. Why don't we go talk to him?" Aerye suggested.

***

"Fine bunch of lasses ye are," the burly dwarven blacksmith grumbled.

"Hey, I'm not a girl!" Saitomi protested.

The old dwarf laughed heartily, clutching at his sides in mirth. "Ye elves all look like lasses to me!"

"Aerye said that you needed help with something," Jerea said.

"Oh, aye, that I do, but ye tall folk ain't going far without supplies and armor now are ye?" the dwarf replied. "Take a look at me stock and take what ye need."

"Chain shirt," Saitomi and Jerea said simultaneously.

***

"There's no end to them!" Saitomi screamed.

Jerea reared back and smashed in the skull of yet another centaur as he charged. "Keep fighting! We can't give up!"

"I'm out of spells," Ree sighed resignedly. "Again."

"I'm not surprised," Jerea muttered.

A centaur's spear plunged through Saitomi's shoulder, but Aerye was by his side immediately to tend to the wound with her magic. The adventurers fought back to back as the seemingly never-ending horde of corrupted centaurs continued their relentless assault despite the corpses piling up around the four adventurers. Suddenly, the diseased horde pulled back as their leader strode forth.

He was a massive centaur clad in thick black plate armor, and the fur on his horse-half was a dark grey. Wisps of spectral blue flame spurted from beneath his armor from every movement, and the air around the green-bladed halberd he wielded was distorted from the heat resonating from the weapon.

"Foolish mortals," the creature roared, "you dare stand up to the might of Baron Madius?"

Jerea tightened the grip on her maul as Saitomi stepped beside her, his bloody blades held firm despite the elf's exhaustion. "We won't let you terrorize the people of this land any longer!" the cleric shouted fiercely.

"I'm not afraid anymore," Aerye said firmly.

"I will make you suffer, little elf!" Madius bellowed.

Ree folded her arms over her chest and smirked defiantly. "But ... suffering is magical!"

"I'll kill you first, you impudent lout!" the spectral centaur snarled as her charged the sorceress.

***

"I can't believe we did it!" Saitomi cried excitedly, jumping up and down atop the spectral centaur's remains.

With Baron Madius defeated, the centaurs returned to their normal peaceful selves, tending to the adventurers' injuries and offering them what gifts they could.

Jerea nodded to Saitomi. "It was hard fought, but we managed to come out on top."

"Looks like Hecarim won his last blue ribbon," Ree snickered as she crushed the defeated foe's helmet beneath her boot.

"Really?" a passing centaur grumbled dryly.

Ree shrugged. "What?"

"We should get going back to town," Jerea stated, "we need to take Aerye back to town and give her a proper burial."

"Wait, she died?" Ree asked, confused.

Saitomi sighed sadly as he looked down at the young elf's corpse in his arms. "Remember? She healed you instead of herself with her last healing spell. She saved you."

"I thought she would have stabilized," Ree replied.

Jerea shook her head. "I couldn't get to her in time."

Ree gave a small shrug as she started slowly down the dirt road back to town. "I guess she wasn't so bad after all."

Jerea and Saitomi looked at each other in surprise for a moment, then hustled to catch up with the sorceress. Unbeknownst to the three adventurers, a pair of eyes watched their every movement from the underbrush. The watcher squeezed a tiny gemstone, silently communicating to his allies.

I've found them.