There was no knocking on the door. At this time of night, nobody ever knocks. At this time of night, if there’s someone or something at the door, they’re going to kick it in… for better or worse.

The door shattered into splinters and dust as a huge man in comically undersized leather armor punched it through with an enormous bare fist. Before the pieces had all fallen to the ground, two men wearing boiled leather over chainmail and carrying crossbows were already three paces into the house, checking corners and sweeping areas.

In a few noisy seconds, they had canvassed the ground floor of the humble little home. The pots and pans in the small cooking area were thrown, clattering, across the dining table, the cushions in the corner had been turned over with a thwump, and the stonecutter’s workshop to the left of the door had been combed and its equipment rattled thoroughly. When the dust had settled, the only movement in the room was the flickering of the enormous man’s torch and the dancing shadows it cast.

Both of the crossbowmen kept trained eyes on the staircase. The mustached one muttered to the huge man behind him.

“Seriously, Grug? A stonecutter? What kind of paranormal freak disguises himself as a craftsman?”

“Grug dunno. Smart parormal freak?”

“There’s no evidence anywhere in here. No ectoplasm, no suspicious fur, no caked blood, no half-eaten squirrels, no bizarre assortment of alchemical reagents, not even a stray ritual candle! Tell me, Grug, how exactly would a paranormal freak hide something in a workshop like this?”

“Stone box?”

“Damn you Grug, you’re hopeless. You’re a big, loveable, and hopeless. Let Alan do the investigating from now on. Or maybe one of those seven new rookies that joined yesterday…”

The bearded man, Alan, hushed them. “Shhhh! Hear that?”

They heard a soft whimpering from upstairs.

“Alan, take the point. Look, Grug, all we’ve done here is upset the poor little girl. We’ll say we’re sorry and go get some sleep.”

Grug scratched his chin as he followed his compatriates up the narrow stairs toward the loft. As Alan pushed the door open just a crack and Fredrich began to assure the little girl, “There, there. We’re sorry for the mess…” Grug yelled “SNAKE!” and dove atop the two of them with an enormous bound. “Oof!” Alan landed prone, and Fredrich landed supine, staring up at Grug.

Grug, looking Fredrich squarely in the eye, wrested Fredrich’s crossbow from his hands and hurled it sideways through the door into the loft. There was a shriek, a crack and splintering, and then silence.

As Grug climbed to his feet and picked up the torch, Fredrich sprang onto him.


Grug hushed Fredrich with a broad finger. “Snake girl.”


Grug pointed. Alan and Fredrich looked.

On the floor in the tiny loft, covered in splinters, was a petite teenage girl, gazing at the ceiling. She really was beautiful, right down to the lifeless nest of snakes that made up her hair.

The Midnight Oil

The door creaked open, ringing the little bell as it went. Fredrich and Alan tiredly vaulted over the empty bar to get to the back room. Grug simply stepped over it. The back room was dominated by a long table, at the end of which a half-elven man with long hair and a well-kept goatee pored over papers. The three sank into comfortable, high-backed leather chairs near to him. Fredrich spoke.

“Close out the investigation at Frond Street. Medusa. Four years old, maybe? I forget how long it takes those things to mature. Commendations to Grug for a thorough investigation and quick thinking. Oh, and the investigation at the High Temple turned out to be a dud. No mummy lord. Just some gossip and rumor taken a little too far.”

The man looked up and smiled. “Very good! Commendations to Grug. You guys have been busy. Two tonight?”

Fredrich managed a tired smile. “You know us, Redford. Can’t rest when we can see our leads coming together.”

“It’s true, you three are like hounds. You do the Midnight Oil proud. And the six million citizens of The City sleep safer for it.”

In the silence, Grug blushed, and even Alan cracked a wry smirk. Redford went on.

“Well, now that you tell me you’ve just closed two cases, I hate to ask this of you, but…”

“Is it the rookies?”

“Yeah. They’ll need induction. And if you have any cases that look… well… none of them are ever easy, but let’s not start them off trying to hunt down the Black Fang, eh?”

“Hah! It’ll be our pleasure. Grug, you want to do the honors? You’ve earned it. I’ll fetch the oil.”