Once upon a time in the land of Arke, there lay a small village whose citizens never got sick, never felt ailments of any kind.  One day a peddler came to the village with wares stemming from the farthest corners of Arke.

“Come!” he barked, “Come see my treasures!  I’ve all the wonders of Arke represented in my wagon!”

So the villagers came; first a few at a time and then in droves.  They handled the fabrics and the leathers.  They toyed with the trinkets and tasted the wines.  Finally the peddler asked, “Who among you will be the first purchase?”

But the villagers all began to feign boredom and walk away.  “What?” the peddler bellowed, “Not one of you will pay for your sample of my wares?”

Shushed murmuring was the village’s response.  Slowly the peddler climbed into his wagon, only to return with a long staff.  He stuck the staff near the road.

“A curse upon this village!” he yelled, and a red glow shown from the staff.  The peddler climbed back into his wagon and left the village, leaving his staff standing where he’d placed it.

Within a week the villagers all began to feel strange. Coughing and sneezing became common sounds in the village market and taverns.  Runny noses and aching heads the norm.  The villagers didn’t know what to do; these symptoms were so foreign to them.  After a town meeting, the village council thought to remove the peddler’s staff.  Many feebly tried but couldn’t muster the strength.

Finally, a young girl decided to seek out the peddler, taking a small amount of money with her.  Upon finding him, she purchased what little her money would buy, a small crystal necklace.  She raced back to her village as quickly as her fever-wracked body could manage.

But when she arrived, the village was gone.  Not a stick from a building or a marker from the roadway was there.  She stood in an empty valley; no sign that her village ever existed.

With tears in her eyes, the little girl absently rubbed the crystal necklace around her neck.  She coughed once, snapped the necklace’s crystal and vanished, leaving only the sound of a lonely wind, howling in the valley.

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