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you to keep that cursed Jab off my land," Farmer Jae yelled.

Galen rounded Farmer Jae's barn and made his way through the crowd that had gathered at the common border of Farmer Jae's and Farmer Nee's properties. Weighed down with Fa, he'd had to slow to a walk near the outskirts of Lok, so Elric had arrived ahead of him.

"My Jab wouldn't have your filthy swug if she was crazy drunk," Farmer Nee said.

Galen reached the front of the crowd, and Fa squirmed out of his grip, dropping to stand beside him. Jae and Elric stood on the near side of the low stone boundary wall, Nee on the far side. The differences between the properties were dramatic. The yard surrounding Jae's barn and outbuildings was clean, his equipment lined up neatly for use in the grassfields. Nee's yard was cluttered with discarded, rusted tools, the dead remnants of failed gardens, and the elaborate contraption that was his livelihood: his still. Apparently the clod-throwing had escalated to a higher level this time, because both farmers were marked with large olive-colored splotches. Small pieces of excrement clung to their coveralls, and a fairly large piece hung from the curly white hair on Farmer Nee's cheek in apparent defiance of gravity.

Elric turned, his hands raised. "And now we have silence. That is good. Farmer Jae will tell his side."

Farmer Nee mumbled in protest; a look from Elric silenced him.

"Honored El." Farmer Jae smacked his lips as he gathered himself to speak. "I went in to feed Des today at highsun. He was lying on his side and wouldn't get up. He hadn't eaten his morning meal." Farmer Jae's prizewinning swug, Des, was the cause of many disputes. Jae cared for him with fanatical devotion, feeding him the finest sea spree four times a day, bathing his flabby bulk in
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