The Limits of the Possible
"He's not coming back out, I tell you!" stated a pimply-faced man, shaking his head with finality. "It's been an hour and a quarter since he went in. He's done for."
The townsfolk, huddled together in the midst of the ruins and rubble, watched the gaping black hole of the entrance to the tunnel in silence. A fat man dressed in a yellow smock shifted slightly from one foot to the other, cleared his throat and pulled his wrinkled cap from his head.
"We have to wait a bit longer," he said as he wiped the sweat from his sparse eyebrows.
"Why wait?" snorted pimply, "There in the caves lurks a basilisk, or have you forgotten, burgrave? Anyone goes down there, that's the end of them. Have you forgotten how many have died down there already? What are we waiting for?"
"This was the agreement, wasn't it?" murmured the fat man uncertainly.
"An agreement you made with a living man, burgrave" said the pimply-faced man's companion, a giant of a man in a leather butcher's apron. "He is now dead, as surely as the sun shines in the sky. It was plain from the beginning that he was headed towards death, like all the others before him. He didn't even take a mirror with him, only a sword - and everybody knows you need a mirror in order to kill a basilisk."
"At least we've saved some coin," added pimples "there's no one to pay for taking care of the basilisk. You might as well go home. As far as the sorcerer's horse and baggage... well it would be a shame if they went to waste."
"Yes," said the butcher, "It's a fine old mare and the saddlebags are full. Let's take a look."
"What are you doing?"
"Shut up, burgrave. Don't get in the way unless you want a punch in the face," threatened the pimpled man.
"A fine old mare," repeated the butcher.
"Leave the horse alone, my darling."
The butcher slowly turned around towards the stranger who had suddenly appeared from behind a collapsed wall, just at the back of the audience gathered around the tunnel entrance. The stranger had thick curly brown hair and wore a dark brown tunic under a puffy cotton coat and tall riding boots. He had no weapons.