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"It's only getting worse, isn't it?" The usually cheerful and optimistic Piper readjusted her round spectacles into a slightly less crooked position atop her nose, as she read the local newspaper that was spread out upon the shop's counter top to herself. The death count had increased dramatically in the last month along the roads, and it had the shopkeeper worried. Another mutilated corpse had been found just three miles along the road, with the authorities still trying to identify the body, the newspaper said.

Her small tea shop was located in Lilytree, a town just a couple of miles from the city gates. Normally a cheerful little place, it was quite often viewed as a haven from the bustle of the city streets, for those who wanted the tranquil nature of the countryside whilst maintaining the convenience of the city. In the last month, however, the streets were almost empty - with travellers and locals alike not daring to spend more time than necessary out in the open. The appearance of a guard was rare, with most of the city's force focusing on keeping their inner walls safe.

Piper looked up from the paper, taking a sip of one of her trademark blends of tea. This week it was a lavender and lemon infusion, not that it mattered. Her shop had been empty all day; nobody was brave enough to venture out, even to their local tea shop. A troubled sigh escaped her lips, and she moved over to the window to look outside, hand on hip. She was growing restless. Her usual afternoons of farming and foraging in the local woods for supplies had been postponed until the roads were deemed safe, but the supplier from the city that she had been relying on instead hadn't visited in almost a fortnight.

The woman's eyes scanned the empty street outside. The sun twinkled overhead merrily, and the birds chirped as they took their dust baths on the path outside. Nothing about this day felt dangerous, apart from the lack of people in the streets.
With a decisive nod to herself, she finally grabbed a nearby chair, and proceeded to take it out to the front of the store. Cup of tea and newspaper in hand, she proceeded to read the rest of it out in the sunlight, paying little heed to the cautionary sign some feet away that read: 'For public safety, please stay indoors.'

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"This week is beyond dreadful. May their souls find peace..." The Knight said with a depressed tone, throwing another body into the pile, which was getting bigger by the day. It was becoming sickening, the putrid smell of rotten flesh filling the Kingdoms streets and alleyways, causing townspeople to become sick. What a time the Kingdom had succumbed to.

Artos had been patrolling the very road in which most of the bodies were recovered, for many years, and never once came to any problems such as the ones he is facing now. The usual quiet and bright road of Rosebush, where deer and rabbit would play as you strolled on a daily walk, or the birds would sing as you had picnic with your family, but now, no one is allowed to walk out of their homes, by rule of the guard. Even they feared to leave the Kingdom walls. Artos on the other hand didn't fear, this is his life, he would sacrifice himself to save one of the townspeople, it was his duty.

Striking a match, throwing it on the pile of bodies, Artos let out a sigh. Today he planned on going out, towards Lilytree, there was a nice tea shop on the way. His sister had fallen ill, and the owner of the shop usually had a tea that would make her feel better right away, but since no guard has been patrolling that road recently, there is no telling if the shop owner was still alive. The body he had just burned was discovered close to the shop... Beginning to worry, he shook the thoughts of out his head and walked towards his quarters. Quickly gathering his things, he let his commander know where he is going, telling him it was to search in the are of the recent body finding, making it easier for him to get out of the Kingdom gates without answering too many questions.

After leaving the city gates, he is welcomed with a warm ray of sunshine, the smell of flowers and the sounds of birds singing. A smile appears across his face, being the first one in a long time, this was something he missed. Being able to walk freely, not having to fear for his life. But in the moment, these were just dreams, the reality is there is something or someone killing townsfolk and he couldn't let his guard down. Shaking his head and calming his mind, he heads down the road towards Lilytree. Making sure to keep his eyes open for whatever was causing the deaths, along the way, hoping not to find another body.

After walking for several minutes, he can see the tea shop, with someone in a chair sitting out in front of it. Who could be crazy enough to sit outside in a time like this? He picks up his pace and gets closer to the figure, speaking with a harsh, battle-worn tone, "Hello! You do know that you shouldn't be out of your home, right? The Guard has deemed these roads unsafe for civilians."
From beneath her mass of wavy rose brown hair, Piper lifted her gaze to the knight with a start. She had clearly been so absorbed in her reading, that she was oblivious to his approach.

Oh! Hello!” She sprung up from her chair, clutching at the large newspaper suddenly as it’s light pages were caught in the breeze. The woman was substantially shorter than he was, her body covered in modest attire. Her thin and airy shirt was tucked in at her waist; long sleeves rolled up to just before her elbows. At her waist, the tea stained apron tied above her long skirt marked her clearly as the owner of her tearoom. Looking up through her golden, round framed glasses, the friendly green eyes of a lady in her early thirties greeted the knight. A smile beamed on her face as she addressed him in her silvery voice.

Well, yes. But it’s such a lovely day, isn’t it? And this sunlight shouldn’t go to waste, in my opinion.” Despite her friendly tone, she sounded quite stubborn for a moment. She observed him curiously, honestly surprised - and equally delighted - to meet another person, thought she failed to recognise him as a regular visitor. “Would you like to come in for a cup of tea? I’m afraid my fresher herbal infusions are lacking because- well- you know. Lack of supply and all that. If I could just go foraging like I used to, that wouldn’t be a problem. But of course, I think that would be bending the rules a little bit more than just sitting outside the front door.” The woman fussed, almost as much to herself as the man. The whirlwind of words that came forth from her mouth (as that would be the best description of it) was pleasant and precise, but said much about the lack of customer interaction she’d had recently.

Oh! But yes, I do have plenty of air tight blends, if that’s more your cup of tea.” She suppressed a delighted chuckle at the pun, as she moved towards the shop’s little doorway; her now empty cup in one hand, the newspaper stuffed under her arm, and clutching the back of the wooden chair with the other. The door itself appeared well weathered, with a vine of sorts growing around the split planks, but it seemed secure enough. Piper reached out for the brass door handle with the same hand that was currently clutching onto her empty cup.
Being startled by her jumping up quickly, he took a step back, smiling in her response. Noticing that she had clenched the newspaper tight, he thought maybe she had gotten frightened by his random approach.

"Yes, the sunlight is a wonderful thing. I haven't felt the warmth of it in oh so long." Sighing, looking towards the direction of Lilytree, before looking back to the woman with the Golden Frames. "And, yes! I'd love to come in for a cup of tea, for multiple reasons." Saying with a somber tone, before looking over his shoulders, making sure nothing was to sneak up on them. "You was saying something about air tight blends?" quickly flashing a smile as the sun beamed off his greenish-yellow eyes, causing them to sparkle.

When the shop owner reached for the door handle, taking it in her hand, the sound of galloping horses gathered in the distance, as of they were approaching faster and faster.

After what felt like an eternity, the source of the horses came into sight. A small group, containing five horses and riders, elves. They had came from the direction of Lilytree, bows in hand. One of the elves, who Artos assumed was the leader of the little hunting party, came out front of the rest, presenting himself.

"I am, Nylian, the lead hunter of this group." the elf said with a smile, brushing his long silver hair out of his face, revealing a scar over his right eye. He takes his bow and throws it over his back, before pulling a small note from his leathery breastplate, reaching it to the Knight. "We had heard that there have been quite a few mutilated bodies here in this area recently. We think it could be one of the creatures that has recently been showing up in our area."

Artos takes the note and begins to read, seeing if anything made sense to him. There had been no descriptions on what was causing these innocent people harm. He looks over to the shop owner, reaching her the note, "Have you seen anything of this description?" Asking with an eyebrow raised.

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