Aoide was unhappy to hear the knock on her front door. It was an unhappy knock, a gruff open-up-now sort of knock. She opened the porthole and looked out through the smoked glass. Two stout, rough-looking dwarves with thick beards stood outside. They looked like identical twins.
Aoide raised the smoked-glass window.
“Can I help you, gentledwarves?” Aoide asked.
“Rifgrid Brothers,” one said. “Collections and Repossessions.”
“We collect so you don’t have to,” the other said.
“Well, thank you for that,” Aoide said. “Unfortunately, I don’t need any collections or repossessions today. I’ll be sure to magic-mirror you if I do. Thanks for stopping by!”
“You’re welcome,” the first dwarf said.
Aoide closed the window. She only retreated a few steps from her door when the pounding knock sounded again. She returned and raised the glass.
“We’re not here to collect for you,” the second dwarf said. “We have to collect from you.”
“Collect from me? But I didn’t request any collections,” Aoide said.
“It’s not up to you,” the first dwarf said. “Because of your many unpaid bills, we have to liquido...liquify...take your stuff and sell it off.”
“Well, that’s no good,” Aoide said. “What are my other options?”
“You could pay us twenty silver pieces,” the second dwarf said. “That’ll stave off the bill collectors for a month.”
“I don’t have twenty silver pieces!” Aoide said. “You see, I’m a musician, and my lute was stolen. Our whole band was robbed of our instruments. The Queensguard is helping us find them. So if you can just wait a little while—”
“I’m afraid not, miss,” the first dwarf said. “We have to take your money or your stuff today.”
“Unfortunately, I’m not home today.” Aoide lowered the glass and locked it into place. She ran through her apartment to her sleeping-room, thinking she would hop off the rear balcony and fly away somewhere until the dwarves left.
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