Updated: Oct 28, 2019
The pale, white light of the full moon shone down on the secluded clearing, reflecting off the light fog. It was a scene of immense beauty, so in other words, the perfect time to find a new victim. It wasn't long before the perfect one stumbled into my sight. He was holding a bouquet of wild flowers and looking intently at everything, as if lost. He was handsome, too. I liked that, they were always more fun to toy with for a while, and they always seemed to taste better. I brushed off my silken dress, preparing for the most important part: the first meeting. With everything ready, I stepped out into the open. "Why hello there. Are you lost?" I asked innocently. The man whirled around in surprize, "What? No, I'm not lost." I continued approaching slowly, "Are you sure? You look lost." He answered awkwardly, clearly unsure of both himself and me, "No, I'm just... meeting someone." That was when I reached him. I took a red rose from the bouquet and smelled its fragrance. "So you mean these flowers aren't for me? That's a way to make a lady very sad," I said, sure to add a sweet, pouty quality to my voice. My prey became visibly uncomfortable, "No, they're for a very special lady." He started looking around obviously avoiding my gaze. "I think I'm in the wrong clearing." I put my hand lightly on his cheek and turned his head so he would look me in the eye. "Or the right one, because it brought us together." I then held him close and kissed him. When he didn't resist, I knew I got another one. ~ ~ * ~ ~ Normally when I opened up shop for the day, all I have to worry about is dispelling "curses" from townsfolk who crossed a black cat's path or explaining to someone that the illness they've contracted is not the result of black magic. That morning, however, I had something quite different. As soon as I opened my door, I saw a young woman in fine clothes waiting outside next to a carriage. Her eyes were red, as if she'd been crying. "Are you Mr. Merriman?" "I am. Why don't you come in Ms...?" She accepted my invitation to enter. She seated herself at the table and looked around uneasily at my trophies. "Kendan. Terah Kendan. Tell me, sir, do you really do what I've heard?" "That depends on what you've heard, doesn't it? But if you're truly wondering, then let's just say I didn't purchase that werewolf head." "So you're good at what you do, then? Solving problems?" I leaned against my counter and shrugged, "I've got references if you have time for that sort of thing, but most of my clients don't. What do you need? Seems worse than harpies snatching food." She nodded, tears streaming down her face, "My father is the duke of a small village... one of the servants..." she started sobbing, too distraught to continue. "...Your lover." She looked up at me as if I struck her, so I quickly added, "I'm not judging you. It's just that... first and foremost, I'm an investigator. I both have an eye for this kind of thing and need to know it. Either way, continue madam." The young woman nodded, "Lately he's been so distracted and, worse yet, he's been avoiding me. This isn't like him. A witch has to be involved." I nodded, trying not to seem condescending. That exact set of circumstances was most certainly one of the most common things I heard, and more often than not it was nothing. I tried not to make that seem so obvious. "How long has this been going on?" "Three, almost four months now." "Has he been talking about anyone else? Seeing anyone else?" "No!... At least, not that I know of..." "Do you know if he's going through anything like family troubles?" Ms. Kendan shook her head confidently, "No. He doesn't have a family." "Alright, I'll be perfectly honest with you. Normally, this kind of thing is nothing, but if you pay my fee I'll happily investigate it for you." "I'm not imagining this, aid I'll prove it to you. What's your fee, sir?" I've always tried to make sure I didn't take advantage of my poorer clients. I didn't feel like that was going to be an issue for her, "Since we're leaving Blackwatch, that's fifty grams up front with an additional ten for every day I'm gone-by the way, this village isn't Venhollow, is it?" She looked thoroughly baffled, "No. It's called Ensville. Why?" "A former lover of mine lives there. It's a rather long story. Either way, those are my initial prices. My other fees vary depending on what I'm actually dealing with, but a good baseline is fifty." The noblewoman produced a bag of coins from her purse and handed it to me, "There is your advance, Mr. Merriman. I will be in my carriage when you're ready to go." As she left, I poured the bag out on the counter. I picked up one of the coins and ran my thumb over the image of a sword splitting an anvil for a moment. I then counted out the coins to find that there were fifty-two. I left thirty-two of the gold coins out and deposited the rest in a drawer. Then, I donned my hat and walked out my door. When I was outside, I locked the door and turned my "cock egg disposal" sign around so it read, "On a job - will return soon". Finally, I climbed inside the carriage and sat across from my client. The driver took off without prompting. The woman asked, "Did you not trust me?" "You'd be amazed how many people try to cheat someone who kills monsters for a living. Speaking of trying to cheat people..." I held out the two coins, "you overpaid me." She took the coins with a surprized expression, "It's so refreshing to see a man of integrity." "That's a surprize to you, is it?" "Somewhat. I expected someone in such an ugly business to have ugly business practices." I shook my head, trying not to show my offense, "That's what happens when you prejudge people. I pride myself in running a fair business." "Of course, I apologise if I offended you. Back on the subject of people taking money from you, are you sure you should be announcing when you're gone?" I chuckled, much to the woman's surprize, "What?" "It's just that people have a heathy fear of my shop. They say it's full of dark magic or ghosts, as if a witch hunter would allow that. On a more practical note, I'm a regular consultant with the police. In fact, they might as well have deputized me, so anyone who robs me will be hunted down with extreme prejudice." "That must be convenient." "It can be, although some of the errands they send me on can get tiresome." She nodded, with a very strange expression on her face. "I would've thought a man like you would put a lot more joy in his work." "Make no mistake, there's nothing like the feeling of saving lives by slaying evil, but there are plenty of routine contracts I can do without." "As a client on such a contract I could almost take offence." I wasn't specifically referring to her contract, of course, but it was the sort of job I was talking about so I didn't bother defending myself. I was fully expecting to find nothing evil to kill, irritating me further, but in the name of customer service I couldn't let her see that. To that end, I said nothing further, only watching as the city went by at the slow pace required by the traffic on the streets. As much time as I spent in the wilderness, I always preferred the city. There was a certain life to it I found appealing, and the buzz of activity reminded me that is was the people just going about their lives that I fought for. Before long, we left the city and the carriage was able to pick up quite a lot of speed. As we sped along the highway, I got a great view of the dense forests of eastern Dakania. It should've been a beautiful scene, but all I could see when looking at the woods was a breeding ground for spriggans, puca, hags, harpies, and the occasional boggart. After some time, I turned my attention back to my employer. "So tell me about this man of yours." "His name is Mord, and he's the best man I've ever known. He's the perfect reminder that 'nobility' has another definition." "Too many of your peers forget that, in my opinion." She nodded, wiping tears from her face, "He always made time for me, and he always listened. Believe me, if I wasn't absolutely sure he was bewitched, I would've never bothered you, Mr. Merriman." They're always absolutely sure, even when I catch the person in question in a far more ordinary act of infidelity. Then I become a charlatan at best, and ironically, an evil warlock at worst. "Time will tell, Ms. Kendan." The ride to Ensville was a long one. It was very nearly dusk when we reached Duke Kendan's manor. The woman moved with such focused intensity I barely had time to put my hat on the rack before following her to the library where her father waited. The man was the very picture of aristocratic authority with an impeccable suit and hair that was just starting to turn grey. He was calmly reading when his daughter got his attention, "Father. I've brought-" He had slowly looked up when he heard the door open, "Evit Merriman. I thought you would be taller." It didn't surprize me that he knew who I was. After all, I had done several jobs for nobility before, and they all spoke to one another no matter how much they detested each other. It was where most of my business came from. "I get that all the time, Your Grace." The man turned his attention back to his daughter, "You can leave us." "But-" A harsh glare cut her off. Without another word, she left us alone. "I trust my daughter hired you about her... paramour." His tone said it all, I only needed to state the obvious, "I take it you don't approve?" "Of course not. That man cleans my stable, he is so far beneath her station it would be laughable if it wasn't an abomination." "Young hearts don't often care about such things, Your Grace." His already stern expression hardened further until I thought that his face would quite literally turn to stone. "You're full of surprizes, Mr. Merriman. I wouldn't have taken you for a romantic." "I speak only as a man who's made similar mistakes, of course." He nodded, satisfied that my, admittedly true answer fit into his world of preconceptions. He then continued making his point, "He doesn't love my daughter, not really. He's made his conquest, and now he's moved on to someone more his calibre." "For what it's worth, I think you're correct, Your Grace, but your daughter is compensating me very well to investigate this for her." "So it comes down to money, does it? I will pay you three hundred grams to leave Ensville this very night." I thought privately about how I often found myself killing most people who tried to bribe me into dropping a contract. That thought brought out a small chuckle from me, "No, I couldn't do that. You see, your daughter and I have an agreement, one that I have staked my reputation as a professional on. Surely as a man of noble birth, you understand the need to maintain one's reputation." "A man of integrity, so few of those left these days." "So that's where she gets that sentiment from. On that subject, did you intimidate this man into leaving your daughter alone?" Duke Kendan's eyes narrowed into a glare that would've been comical if not for the man's authoritative features, "Are you accusing one of your betters of simple deception?" I never considered nobles my betters. They had more money and finer possessions, but they were still capable of the same vices as other people. In fact, their sense of entitlement often gave them a greater propensity for them. Still, good manners meant that I couldn't say that to the duke, "Your Grace, I will be thoroughly investigating this village. If you truly did such a thing, the trail will lead me to you. The best thing for all involved, especially you and your daughter, would be to tell me now." He didn't seem to like it very much, but he did answer, "I would have done it in a heartbeat if I thought it would do any good, but no. These young people are so set in their ways, they would still be cavorting about just to spite me." "An excellent answer. Now I have some standard questions to ask you. Has anyone new arrived in this community, present company excluded?" He waved a dismissive hand, "I don't keep track of the comings and goings of peasants, or their superstitions. You'll have to ask someone 'common'." "Then I will take my leave of you." Before I was able to do exactly that, the duke said, "I want you to leave this community as soon as possible. It's nothing personal, Mr. Merriman, I just disapprove of your current contract." "If only I had such a luxury. I fear if I disapproved of cases such as this, I would be without business. Have a pleasant evening, Your Grace." My employer waited just outside the door with an angry look that couldn't have escaped my notice even from a mile off. "What did you two discuss?" she asked with venomous hostility. "Exactly what you would think Ms. Kendan. He disapproved of our business arrangement, to the point of trying to bribe me away." "Did he succeed?" I scoffed at the very thought that she would ask me that. "I'm almost offended that you would think so little of my professionalism that you would ask me that. You and I made an arrangement that to me is a binding verbal contract. I would never betray that without first being betrayed, myself." Her expression softened a great deal. Clearly, my explanation placated her. "Very well, where does our investigation begin?" Her assumption that she would be accompanying me made me chuckle just a little, inappropriate as it might have seemed, "Unfortunately madam, this is not 'our' investigation. You are too close to it, so I will proceed alone, as I always do." "What could possibly be funny about that?" "It is simply that you're not nearly the first of my clients who thought to accompany me while I'm attending to my duties." She was about to speak up in protest, but a quick gesture from me stopped her. "Don't worry, Ms. Kendan, I'll keep you appraised of the situation. Have a pleasant evening and I'll get back with you soon." Although she was reluctant to do so, she returned my courtesy, "Of course, a pleasant evening to you as well, Mr. Merriman. I will eagerly await your word." I walked off purposefully, headed for the stable. After that journey, the horses would need tending to. I reasoned that with any luck, the man in question would still be there, or at the very least someone who knew his whereabouts. I had only just gotten my had on my head when I walked through the stable door. The only other person inside was a young man brushing the coat of one of the horses. If that truly was the man I was investigating, then his appearance made the depth of my employer's affection for him much clearer. "Are you Mord?" I asked while walking up to him. "Yeah. You're one o' them witch hunters, aren't you?" "That I am. Evit Merriman." I extended my hand to him in greeting. He only sneered and continued brushing, "Alright." "Don't you know it's rude not to take an offered hand?" "Yeah. I'm just not a very polite person." I grabbed his arm, stopping him from doing his work. He didn't react to either of my rings. I would've been very surprized if he did, but I had to make sure. "I would rather have your undivided attention." He pulled his arm out of my grasp and continued brushing. "And I would rather get my job done. Talk if you need to. Otherwise, leave me alone." "I understand you have a romantic attachment to the duke's daughter?" "Of course not, it wouldn't be 'proper'." "You can drop the act, sir. I'm here on her behalf." The man scoffed, "She wasted her money hiring a witch hunter, then." "She tells me you've been ignoring her lately. She's worried." "Yeah. She would be." "This wouldn't be about another woman, would it?" He turned his attention away from his work, then. His full hostility was directed at me, "What if it is? What would you do then, put a silver bullet through her heart?" "I just want to speak with her. I'm perfectly capable of having a conversation without shooting someone, you understand." "I don't care. It's not happening." That sort of hostility and evasiveness is exactly the sort of reaction I would get from a man bewitched, but it's also the reaction I normally get when I'm investigating the personal lives of others. It didn't prove anything, but it was just enough to make me suspicious. "What are you hiding?" "I hate to be the one to tell you this, Mr. Merriman, but people aren't always hiding something the way you think, and not everything is your business." "Unfortunately, it's been made my business." "Unfortunately for you, witch hunter. I'm done talking to you, now. I trust you know the way out." To punctuate the end of the conversation, he returned his attention to the horse. It was inescapably clear that I would get nothing further from him, so without another word I left him to his duties. I then made my way through Ensville proper, taking in the sight of the village and its inhabitants. Small communities like that were my bread and butter. They were always having problems with harpies stealing food, or vodyanoi or rusalka drowning fisherman-problems it takes a professional to solve. The lifeblood of the community was, of course, a small place called "The Roadman's Rest", a small inn and tavern in the middle of town, appropriately enough on the main road. The sign that hung above the door depicted a large cauldron above a cooking fire. On the inside, almost everyone in the community was relaxing after a long, hard day. The dull roar of conversation quieted into a murmur when I entered, and all eyes watched me with great interest as I walked up to the bar. As I set my hat down on the bar and climbed up on a barstool, the bartender greeted me, "Welcome to the Roadman's Rest, stranger. Can I get you anything? A drink? Food? A room?" "A vodka, a room and information." "Two grams for the drink, ten for the room, information's free." I counted out the coins while he poured the drink. "My name's Evit Merriman, witch hunter..." "I figured by the outfit. I always wondered why you all look the same." I chuckled. That is something I heard quite frequently. "Our customers have an image in their heads of what a witch hunter looks like, so most but not all of us take up that style for the customer's sake." "That 'image' is there because you all dress the same. Anyway, what did you need to know?" "Do you know a man named Mord? Works the stables at the duke's manor?" He gestured to the lively tavern, "I know everyone here, Mr. Merriman..." I held up my hand, interrupting him, "Please, formality is for nobles." The man nodded, "Aye, Evit then. My point is that everyone in Ensville's a regular. Of course I know him." "Has he been acting queer lately, maybe for the last three months?" "Aye, more like four, actually. To the day tomorrow, in fact. He's been distant lately, and he brushes off anyone who asks. If something's wrong I hope you can find out. He's a good lad." "To the day tomorrow, you say? Tomorrow's a full moon, he hasn't gone missing on the full moon this whole time, has he?" The bartender looked up at the ceiling, clearly very deep in thought. "Now that you mention it, he has." "I was afraid you'd say that." One of the other patrons, one that clearly wasn't entirely sober spoke up, "Why's that? He's not a bloody werewolf, is he?" The barman answered before I did, "That lad is no a werewolf." He then looked over at me, clearly looking for the professional input I was going to provide anyway. "He's showed no signs of lycanthropy. That's not even what I'm here for, anyway." An even more inebriated villager spoke up on the other side of me, "We all know why you're here!" The man behind the bar nodded, "Aye, not many people in this town can afford to hire a man like yourself, and only one would want to for the likes of Mord." I finished my vodka and said, "That is one subject I'm not talking about. In fact, I should go up to my room now. It seems I'll have a long day tomorrow." The bartender reached under the bar and put a well-worn key on the table, "Upstairs, first door on the left. Sleep well." The accommodations were very humble, little more than a bed and a chamber pot, in fact. Still, it was far from the first time I had stayed in such quarters, and I don't have many needs when it comes to luxury. Even though it was still early, I went straight to sleep. I had much to do the next day and I had learned long ago to take rest whenever I could find it. I awoke right as dawn came and had a breakfast that seemed woefully inadequate for the day's exertions. I then made my way into the surrounding forest. If my hypothesis was correct I would need my iron bullets, but I kept my weapon loaded with lead. I was not about to find my quarry in broad daylight, and I was far more likely to meet a bear in those woods than a spriggan. The search was both long and exhausting. I checked every clearing, meadow, and field I could find in search of my prey. It was early afternoon when, in a secluded clearing, I found what I was searching for: a ring of red mushrooms growing out of the ground. "I've got you now," I said, even though the intended listener was not yet there. The nest step, of course, was to return to my client with the painful admission that she was correct and I was not. When I entered the duke's manor, I was met by a butler. "May I help you, Mr. Merriman?" "Yes, I'm here to see Ms. Terah Kendan." "Of course, right this way." I followed him to the same library where I had that lively conversation with the duke. She was calmly reading in a manner that made her the spitting image of her father. I felt it wise to keep that comparison to myself. She turned her attention to me as soon as I entered, "Mr. Merriman. Do you have news, or are you here for today's payment?" "I have news." She nodded and addressed the servant, "You can leave us." "Of course, madam. I will be right outside." As soon as he was gone, my employer asked, "What did you find?" "It seems you were correct. He has been going into the forest every full moon night, where I found an elf ring on the ground." "So Mord was bewitched by an elf?" I nodded. "What are her intentions with him?" Delivering bad news was the worst part of my job in my opinion, far worse than the dull, routine contracts that so plagued me. I was just glad I wasn't announcing someone's death that in that instance. "She intends to lure him to the elves' world of Alphiem, where he will be devoured." My client looked too mortified to speak. I sympathised with her, but I had a responsibility to continue, "It's worse than that, I'm afraid. I've never known an elf to toy with its victim this long, so I believe she intends to take him on this very night." Ms. Kendan broke her silence, "You have to save him!" "I intend to. In fact, I could use your assistance in the matter." "My assistance?" "Yes, you might be able to get through to him while I can't." She stood up with a look of pure determination on her face, "Alright, I'll talk to him right now!" She then tried to walk out, but I grabbed her by the wrist to stop her, "Not now, when we confront the elf." "Then let's go there now." "We can't, she's not here yet. You see, the elf rings are gates to Alphiem, and they only open when the full moon is high in the sky or on Mid-Autumn Night. It's going to be a full moon tonight, but night-time is hours away." She sat down, defeated, "I just want the man I love back. Do you understand that, Mr. Merriman?" "More than you know, madam. I swear to you that no harm will come to him." The young noblewoman fell into a melancholy silence for a short while. Unfortunately for me, there was more business that needed to be discussed and there was never a good time for that sort of talk. "Of course, there is still another matter, Ms. Kendan, that of my fee." "Of course, I almost forgot your motivation in this matter." "I very much don't want the man you love harmed under my watch, madam, for both professional reasons and humanitarian ones. However, I still have to sustain not only myself, but also any family I might have in future." She looked surprized, as if she had only just realised the inherent hostility in what she had said. "I am terrible sorry if I've offered any offence. Please, continue sir." "My price varies based on the hazard offered by my quarry. Because elves aren't that dangerous in an overt conflict, my price is thirty grams per head, and one-twelve for a whole party. In this particular instance, I very much doubt there is more than one. I don't expect payment until after the job is done, of course." She nodded distantly and said nothing more for a very long time. I kept my distraught client company over those hours. For a long while she tried to return to her book, but it seemed as though she couldn't focus her attention on what was on those pages. Eventually she asked, "How will you defeat this elf?" "With iron bullets, of course." "Iron? Why iron?" I often had to explain the inner workings of my trade with clients. I enjoyed such conversations, they reminded me of my brief time as a teacher before I got into my current profession. "The beings of Alphiem are invulnerable to all things of Alphiem. Now, Alphiem is composed of all earthly elements except iron..." "... So iron can hurt them." "Pure iron, yes. In fact, they're violently allergic to it. The slightest touch of it burns them, it's why I wear this iron ring. Another property of iron is that it disrupts elven magic." Her face lit up as she was struck by a sudden realisation, "So all we need is iron to free Mord from the elf's influence!" "Sadly no, that would only work while she was working her magic. For example, if he was holding something iron when he encountered her." "Her expression turned to dejection, "I see..." The unfortunate silence returned as she once again attempted unsuccessfully to turn her attention back to her book. A couple of hours passed until it was finally dusk. "It's time to go now, madam," I said. She practically jumped out of the chair with her exuberance, "Finally. I thought this moment would never come." "It's still quite likely that we have hours more to wait." "Perhaps, but for now, we're doing something." She didn't wait for a response. She simply walked out and left the manor entirely. I followed her, and then she followed me as I led her through the woods. The young noblewoman wasn't wearing anything even remotely resembling proper attire for the forest, but she didn't complain when she rolled her ankle on a fallen limb, or when branches snagged her dress. Before long, we made our way to the clearing where the elf ring waited. I stopped just outside, where the trees would provide concealment. In preparation, I removed the revolver cylinder loaded with lead and replaced it with one loaded with iron. "And now we wait," I whispered. Wait we did, and that wait seemed interminable. We were there for hours while the night grew ever darker and the full moon rose ever higher. It was nearly midnight when the fog rolled out of the elf ring and dissipated, revealing a stunning woman in a white dress. My client whispered, with great intensity, "There she is, shoot her!" "Not yet." "Why not?" She was now angry as well as impatient, so I was somewhat concerned she whispered too loudly. Fortunately, the she-elf made no indication that she heard her. "Because to be free of his enchantment, your man needs to fight off her influence himself. If I shoot her now, that'll never happen. We need to wait for him." Ms. Kendan didn't look happy, but she made no further argument. Luckily, we didn't have to wait long before Mord walked into the clearing. "You're finally here, darling," the elf woman said, "I was wondering if you forgot about little old me." "I would never forget about you, my love," he said, sounding offended that she even thought that he could do such a thing. "I've been waiting for this day since we first met." He started walking towards her when my employer ran into the clearing. "Stay away from her!" she shouted. I was calmly walking out into the open as well while Mord whipped around in surprize. "Terah, what are you doing here?" He asked. "I'm here to save you from that monster." He looked back and forth between the two women. Her choice of words clearly angered him, "Monster?! That is the woman I love." Ms. Kendan held him in her arms, "I'm the woman you love, remember?" He pulled away from her, "Not anymore. I love her now, and she loves me." I finally spoke up, "Yes, she loves you the way I love rare steak." "What the bloody hell are you doing here, witch hunter? And what are talking about?" "That elf woman, there wants to eat you, and I'm here to stop that from happening." The elf chose that moment to speak up, herself, "That is a lie! I would never hurt you, darling. I love you." Ms. Kendan shouted her down, "No you don't! Stop twisting his mind, harlot!" "What are you talking about?" he asked. I was the one who answered, "Think about when you first met her. You would've felt drawn to her without knowing why. Well, I can tell you why: she's bewitched you." The man turned back to the elven predator, "Is this true?" "Of course not," she said, "If you felt drawn to me, it's only because we were meant to be together." "That's not true!" My employer then turned Mord's head so he was looking her in the eye. "Do you remember when we first met?" "Yeah, I thought it was strange that a woman of your standing would go to the stables. I was annoyed that you were looking over my shoulder." "That's right. You asked me to leave, so you could work. I left, but I kept coming back. When you asked why, do you remember what I said?" The man nodded. By my observation, his expression seemed clearer, somehow, as if a cloud was being lifted from his mind. "You said it was because you loved horses." "Yes! We talked for the rest of the morning about horses. That is what love looks like. It takes time, not like whatever she's offering." Mord turned back to the elf, "Our whole relationship has been a trap, hasn't it." "I believe that would be my cue," I said before I aimed my revolver at her and shot her three times in the chest. She fell to the ground as the last echoes of the gunshots faded into the night. The couple took a moment to regain their bearings. "You just saved my life, didn't you?" the man asked, with heartfelt gratitude. "She is the one who truly deserves your gratitude. Without her, this conversation would be very much different." The noblewoman shook her head, "No, you're a hero, Mr. Merriman." By that time, I was walking towards the ring and I had traded my firearm for one of my grenades, "Nonsense, I merely provided a service." "What are you doing?" Mord asked, suspiciously eyeing the explosive in my hand. "Getting rid of the elf ring. Otherwise more would return in retaliation." "Don't you know it's terribly ill luck to destroy an elf ring?" I chuckled. Those sorts of unfounded superstitions always amused me, no matter how many times I heard them. "If that's the case, then I'm already cursed a dozen times over. In point of fact, however, it's quite the opposite. It's ill luck to leave them be." I then lit the fuse, dropped the grenade and ran quite quickly, followed by my client and her love. One of the most unequivocally satisfying parts of my trade was the sound and power of my grenades as the blast destroyed the ring of mushrooms and the iron shrapnel ensured that no other would replace it. With the otherworldly portal destroyed, the only thing that remained was for money to change hands. The next morning, I told Duke Kendan that my business was concluded. He was less than pleased with the results of my contract, but he was ecstatic to see me leave. He called a carriage for me immediately. Due the great rate of speed the driver demanded of the horses, I was back in Blackwatch by the evening. A man in simple clothes was waiting for me when I returned to my shop. He was sitting up against the door looking unbearably bored. When he noticed my approach, he shot up and fished an egg out of his pocket, "My rooster laid this last week. I'm told you can do something about it before the bloody thing hatches." I just chuckled and shook my head. The work of a witch hunter is never done.