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The Horse and Cow reached the city gates in record time, galloping all the way for fear that Tom and Sabrina might be in danger in the waterways beneath the city. They soon discovered that it was easier to get into the city than to get out of it.
The line to exit Alarin's main gate stretched on for half a mile, and the guards were taking their time inspecting each citizen before letting them pass. The Horse stopped to read a notice that had been posted on a large corkboard near the main gate. "All residents exiting the city are forbidden to transport food and weapons outside the city walls," read the Horse aloud. "What's that all about?"
"I overheard some men talking back in the square," said the Cow, gasping for air. "They said that they had seen large groups of monsters gathering in Walwicky Forest to prepare for an attack on the city."
"That's nonsense," said the Horse. "The Wall of Monsters has held the evil from Walwicky for more than a hundred years. This is just one of those ridiculous stories that grown men tell to scare their children into going to bed at night. In any case, we can't let it slow us down."
"Come on," said the Horse. He made a sharp left turn down a narrow street and galloped away. "We can get out faster by the south entrance."
"Okay," said the Cow, "But could we stop for some water or a soda or milk or beer or juice or something along the way? I swear, I'm sweating up a storm and I think I lost twelve pounds of fluid in just the last six blocks."
"We don't have time to stop, Cow! Tom and Sabrina could be in trouble. Could you stop thinking about yourself for one minute so we can help them out?" said the Horse.
"Stop thinking about myself for one minute?" said the Cow, as she followed the Horse's through a winding alley. "I can do that. I can do that. When do you want me to start? Now? Have you got a watch? Okay, let's make it right this minute starting now, go!"
"Oh my gosh, Cow," said the Horse. "I'm guessing all that standing around in pastures eating grass did very little towards building your social skills. Perhaps we can get you into a recovery program when this is all over."
"Maybe we can take you to a special doctor who can stop your tongue from wagging all the time," said the Cow, huffing and puffing as it struggled to keep up with the Horse.
The Horse and Cow were too busy exchanging pleasantries to notice the squeaking wheels of a small carriage pulled by a miniature black pony that trailed them throughout Alarin. A dark blue tarp with red tassels formed the roof of the carriage and shielded its occupant from the sun. Inside, a small man sat smiling and licking his lips as he whispered to himself and laughed.
In twenty minutes, the Horse and Cow reached the south gate, and sure enough, the line was short and moving swiftly.
"Why do you think this line is so much shorter?" said the Cow, coming to an abrupt halt behind the Horse.
"That's easy," said the Horse. "This is the express gate. In other words, the guards are open to receiving, shall I say, incentives."
"Incentives?" said the Cow, "Oh. You mean bribes. But what have we got to offer them. We don't have any money."
"Don't worry. I've got it all figured out," said the Horse, smiling for the first time since they had arrived in the city.
"Something tells me I'm not going to like this idea," said the Cow, "But I'm too exhausted to do anything but keep myself from falling over, so I guess I have to go along with it."
A few minutes later, the south gate opened and the Horse galloped alone down a steep dirt road that headed northwest out of the city towards the Ginz River. The gate opened a few minutes later to allow a small man in a carriage to follow. As the gate closed, the little man could hear the guards shouting loudly to each other: "Hey, do you think we should eat it or put it in the circus? I haven't had steak in a while." said one. "I don't know. Maybe we could make enough money selling it to the circus, make enough money to buy steak for a year," said another. "Hey, I know; I know: let's eat half and put the other half in the circus!" said a third. The guards cackled with laughter as the gate closed with a heavy metal thud.
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