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Inquisitor Gregor Ezekyle Kern was having a bad day. The witch he was pursuing had gotten away, his hired help was gunned down by a mysterious stranger, who had in turn tried to kill Kern, but he took care of that problem. Although saying the man was a problem might be giving him too much credit. Kern had fought much tougher opponents. He was more of a minor setback. After striking the fatal blow with his sword, Kern set off after the witch, following her tracks in the mud towards the forest.

So after a long trudge through the muddy forest, Kern found the witch in a small clearing standing beside a massive moss-covered stump talking to a man. Beyond them, a hole large enough to walk through was dug into a hill. Kern guessed that’s where she stored her magical tools since he never found anything back at her hovel.

The man she was talking to was obviously a warrior. Although he had no blade, it was the way he carried himself that gave it away, proud and tall as if no man could strike fear into his heart.

Kern watched them for a while, trying to figure out his next move. On his way through the forest he dropped the ancient book in the mud. He didn’t have time to look over it during his pursuit, so he opened the book figuring it was as good a time as any. The ink on the pages was completely smeared and the pages themselves were soaked. He tossed the book aside. Guess I’ll just have to do this the old fashioned way then.

The man must have told the witch something she didn’t want to hear. Her face suddenly turned to shock. He grabbed her arm and started dragging her away. Kern wasn’t about to let her escape again. He burst through the brush. The man saw him and froze. Good. Kern drew his rapier and started walking towards them with a smile on his face.

“By order of the Inquisition, release this woman and I promise no harm will come to you.” He lied. Kern had specific orders from the Grand Master to kill the witch and anyone with her. And when the Grand Master gives an order, you obey without question. Although it wasn’t like Kern didn’t like fulfilling those orders. In fact, he enjoyed it much more than he showed because every foe he faced was a challenge waiting to be solved, and by solved he meant killed. As far as he was concerned this man counted as a fellow conspirator, which gave Kern the right to test his mettle against a fellow warrior.

The man released the witch and placed himself in front of her. Now that he was closer, Kern could see the man’s face clearly and it looked very similar to the witch’s. He was too young to be her father. A brother perhaps or a really close cousin.

“No!” The man bellowed. “This ends here, inquisitor. I have orders to take this woman before the Council.”

Kern had been given a specific decree signed by both the Council and the Inquisition for this woman’s head. Apparently she had killed five inquisitors before Kern, which violated the long-standing truce between non-evil magic users and the Inquisition. Two thoughts flashed through his mind when he heard that. Either she was a powerful witch or those inquisitors were laughably weak. Given that the Inquisition doesn’t recruit anyone weak, the former could have been true, but after the fight he had just been through, and now meeting this warrior, it was obvious she wasn’t working alone. He stared at the cowering woman behind her warrior shield. The decree classified her as a druid, but Kern didn’t care for the specifics. Any magic user was a plight upon the world, an insect to be squashed beneath his boot.

“Who gave those orders?” He decided to play along.

“Lord Ventillius, High Councilor.” Said the man.

“Where are your official documentations?” Kern asked.

The man narrowed his eyes at Kern. Gotcha. “Right here.”

The man reached into his jacket pocket. That’s when Kern spotted the jade necklace around his neck, but it was too late.

The man charged forward and leaped at him. In the blink of an eye, mid-air, he morphed into a giant wolf. Kern ducked, a reaction of pure battle-hardened instinct. The wolf soared overhead before landing gracefully behind him.

Kern scrambled to his feet and faced the wolf. The witch screamed behind him. He jerked his head just in time to see her sprint for the hole in the hill.

Kern cursed under his breath. Not again. He faced the wolf. It stood there, a low growl emanating between its barred teeth.

Kern shook his head. “You stupid fool.” He raised his sword. It had been a long time since he fought a shape shifter. “So be it.”

The wolf lunged, but Kern sidestepped, and when the wolf landed in front of him, he kicked up with his boot. It landed right on the wolf’s snout with a hard thud. The wolf yelped and jumped back. It shook its head, nostrils flaring uncontrollably from the blow.

Kern brought his sword down in an arc, and the wolf lunged forward at the same time. It moved with such speed that it covered the distance before Kern could bring his sword down to his waist. It clamped its powerful jaws onto Kern’s forearm.

Kern screamed. He punched the wolf in the nose and head over and over. He lost his grip on his rapier and it tumbled to the side. The wolf finally let go and backed away. Kern gripped his arm. Blood poured between his fingers. He glanced at his sword, then to the wolf readying for another attack. It leaned back on its hind legs. There was no way Kern could reach his sword before the wolf pounced, so he did the next best thing.

Dropping to a knee, he grabbed the dagger from his boot’s hidden sheath, and jerked it up just in time for the wolf to barrel into him. Both wolf and man toppled to the ground. Kern held up his wounded arm in defense and the wolf clamped its jaws onto it again. Kern screamed through clenched teeth. He still had the dagger. He stabbed the blade right into the side of the wolf’s head.

The wolf’s teeth released their pressure and the beast slumped over. Kern clambered to his feet. The wolf morphed back into the man. His face stared blankly up at Kern. Kern placed his boot on that face and slid the dagger free. After wiping it on the grass, he replaced it in his boot before retrieving his fallen rapier.

He was getting tired of all this witch’s help. Grasping his injured arm, he walked towards the hill wondering what else was in store for him.




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