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Justin woke to a grey furball sitting on his chest,washing it's ears.With a pitiful meow,the cat had him awake.Getting to his feet,he looked over the lip of the roof.The Black Hounds were gone,along with the gem.

He sighed and looked at the cat.He was a rough creature,with scars down one leg and skinny.Really skinny.It gave another pitiful noise and brushed against Justin's leg.

He rolled his eyes.As if the cat was getting any food from him.He turned to climb down into a small alley off the side of the building,and glanced at the cat who was watching in interest.Justin shook his head and prepared to hop down.

Walking quickly into the street.The sun was just coming up and he knew the markets would be opening,a good time to blend in with the crowd.

Suddenly he stopped.Footsteps behind him.He slid into the shadows,waiting for someone to come after him.

Justin was a well known theif all across Murria.While he may not be recognized,it wouldn't long before he was caught.He held his breath.The footsteps stopped.

A loud,yawning meow greeted him.

He groaned.Was this cat out to follow him?The grey furball sat in front of Justin,seemingly taunting him.

He bent and ruffled the cat's ears and stood.Turning down the road,he realized that from the ground,the city was actually very full of shops and markets.All the homes must be in a section of town,or in apartments above shops.

He saw an apothocary's shop,a merchant's counting house,a scribe,a watchmaker,a silver smith.And then the more unusual stores,such as the small town homes of old prefessors and wizards and merchants selling pets of all kinds.And the home of the Beast Keeper.

Justin knew he would never go to the Beast Keeper,and though he was tempted to go peep in the window,he decided against it.All Beast Keeper's were the same,and he'd seen plenty.

With a sigh he heading towards the outdoor market,the little cat behind him.He decided the fluffy grey tom would bring a good price at a market...and their would be goods that would feed him for weeks there.All towns in Murria had a black market,even a big one like this.

The market was a nice enough place,big with tents all around.Merchants selling wares,women with homespun clothing,farmers trying to sell chickens and goats.At the far end from where Justin was standing there would be jewlery and fine decor fit for the lord of the manner.

Justin sighed and walked over to a young farmer who was attempting to see some vegetables.

“Are you interested in a good barn cat?"He asked the old man.The man was short with a grey,scraggly beard the color of the cat's fur,his eyes deep brown and crinkled at the corners.He looked honest enough to Justin.

The farmer shook his head.“No need.Plenty of cats."

“I'll give you a good price."

The farmer though for a moment.“20 silver Liks."

“30."

“25."

Justing smiled and picked up the little grey cat.He gently handed him to the farmer,who set down the vegetables.The farmer fished in his pocket and handed Justin the money.“Thanks."Justin shook his hand as he left.

He was glad the cat would stop bothering him.Besides,the farmer would give him a good home,he decided.

Walking through the tables of jewelry and silver,Justin focused on a small bracelet.Solid gold.He knew it would fetch a good price in a big town like this.A village?Maybe at least 30 Gold Firs.Time to distract the young girl running the stand.

“Mamm,"He said,“What a lovely necklace you are wearing.May I see it?"He asked smoothly.

The girl sighed.She was a tall girl,maybe 18.Old enough to be smart.“Not for sale."She said gruffly.

Justin shrugged and told her,“I know,but I was hoping I could see the style.See what it's pretty owner likes."He grinned.

The girl rolled her eyes.“Anything on the table is good,and for sale.Choose there."

Justin nodded and scanned the contents of the table,which he had all memorized perfectly.The band he wanted was in the right bottomhand corner of the table.

He stood there at least an hour,hopping the girl would begin to grow bored with him.Sure enough,she turned to another customer.Silently,her slipped the band into his bag.

“Nothing here interests me,"he sighed.

The girl glanced and him.“That's too bad."

“Thank you."He walked off.Of course she would notice he had taken something,but now was not the time to run.Not yet...

The end of the market,where the crowd thinned.Perfect.

He bolted.

Dimly Justing could hear shouting behind him,tables moving,jewlery falling.He had the bracelet in his flannel bag.

Almost to the gate.

Almost there...

Justing groaned as something tackled him from behind.He turned to see the horrible creatures he had hopped were gone for good.

Black Hounds.

The one pinning him down was twice the size of the others and snarled,revealing long,yellow fangs dripping a green liquid.Justin knew it was poison.Knew the creature had won.

He used his bag to smack the thing in the nose,hoping the Hound would be confused enough to let go.He jumped up,trying to get past.But just as he scrambled up the wall,he felt a grip on his leg.

His heart beat faster,hoping against hope it was only the dog's claws,hoping the awful green poison hadn't gotten into his veins.But he knew it was hopeless.He pulled his leg up onto the wall after him,looking at the awful wound with unregistering eyes.

Blood dripped down his calf and mingled with the poison on his skin.A wave of pain washed over him,blurring his vision.

He heard the voices of the market.The Black Hounds howled,leading them toward him.He jumped off the wall.As the weight came down on his legs,the pain nearly made his knees give out.Spots danced in his vision.Justin groaned as he did his best to run.

He stopped several times,gulping air.He had to make it to a village,somewhere.Away from there.His leg would barely hold him.Justin knew the running had pumped the poison into his blood.He needed a healer.And trying to escape like this,getting one wouldn't be easy.

The sun was almost high.Justin groaned as finally he couldn't bear it anymore.Collapsing,he gripped the bracelet.As if he would ever be able to sell it now.

Dimly he thought of the cat.Good that he had given the creature away when he had.Couldn't care for it.As his vision dimmed,he hopped the cat would be happy.He wasn't sure why he thought of the cat,but he did.

Just as Justin faded off,he could almost hear the cat meow behind him.

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