"This Week: “The Inn of the Seven Blessings” by Matthew Hughes
(Originally published in Rogues.)
The thief Raffalon was sleeping away the noon-day heat behind some bracken a short distance from the forest road when the noise of the struggle awakened him. He rolled over onto his stomach, quietly drawing his knife in case of need. Then he lay still and tried to see through the inter-layered branches.
Figures scuffled, voices spoke indistinctly, the syllables both sibilant and guttural. A muffled cry, as of a man with a hand over his mouth, was followed by the sharp crack of hard wood meeting a human cranium.
Raffalon had no intention of offering assistance. The voices he had heard were those of the Vandaayo, whose border was not far away. Vandaayo warriors left their land only for ritual purposes, and then always in groups of six, and never without their hooks and nets and cudgels. Their seasonal festivals centered on the consumption of manflesh, and if Raffalon had attempted to inte