1. Welcome to Sheepshank
Gaspar watched as Mily, his sheep partner, walked over to the seagull. He could tell from the look that the seagull gave Mily that it knew exactly what was going to happen next. Unfortunately it was often the seagulls who attempted to bring counterfeits into Sheepshank, so they all had to be inspected before entering the town, but that didn’t mean it was always the seagulls. There was a short conversation. Gaspar could tell what was being said even though he couldn’t hear the words. Mily was being calm, as always, explaining to the seagull that it was a legal requirement for it to allow the inspectors to search its wagon. The seagull looked angry, but did eventually nod.
Using a signal they’d worked out together not long after they started working as a team Gaspar slithered over, grateful for the speed his tail gave him, because he really didn’t like leaving her alone for too long. Mily was better at doing the talking part of the inspection, and would continue doing her part throughout the search, while Gaspar enjoyed the search, especially when he actually found a counterfeit. On those days he felt like he’d done a good job, because he was keeping the inhabitants of Sheepshank safe.
“This is the third time I’ve been searched in half a season,” the seagull said, sounding less angry and more thoughtful. “I know it’s just your job, and I’m certain you were given orders to keep an eye on my race, but we feel like you’re focusing too much on us. Not all seagulls are criminally minded.”
“I know,” Mily replied. “I wish things were different, but there are a lot of seagulls who do try to bring counterfeit charms into Sheepshank, so we have to keep checking any seagull who wants to trade within the town. Counterfeit charms can hurt trade as well as the people who buy them, thinking they’re something they’re not.”
Out of the corner of his eye Gaspar saw the seagull nod. “We are grateful for the job you do, keeping Sheepshank as safe a place to trade as possible, but there are many good seagulls beginning to feel like everyone sees us as guilty even if we’re not. Some are reacting badly and even acting in ways they wouldn’t normally because they’re so angry.”
“There’s not a lot we can do about that.” Mily sighed. “Thank you for your co-operation. It is always appreciated.”
None of the charms the seagull had with him seemed counterfeit. Gaspar didn’t always find them before they were sold. None of the inspection teams were perfect, because it seemed the counterfeits were getting better. After one last glance through them Gaspar turned to the seagull.
“It appears that everything is in order,” Gaspar said.
Mily nodded. “You’re free to go.”
They watched the seagull pull his wagon into Sheepshank before going back to their normal positions. Mily looked at Gaspar, Gaspar looked at Mily, and they both shrugged.
“I didn’t detect any fakes,” Gaspar said quietly, “but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there.”
Mily nodded. “Hopefully that seagull was an honest trader.”
“I hope so too.” Gaspar shook his head. “It’s just getting so hard to tell the difference between a counterfeit and a true charm, and I worry.”
“We all do.”