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Strong Woman and the Renegade

Chapter 1

Skinder Flake's first mistake was his dearth of groveling when he had come to ask Kinegar Kyer to meet with the sheriff in his office. His second mistake was in touching him to usher him through the door.

"Off," Kinegar ordered, pointing vaguely at the offending hand.

"I'm sorry, force of habit, please forgive me!" the rat-faced weasel of a man whined. "I forgot. Just a momentary lapse of memory. Never happen again, I promise."

But Kinegar didn't pay much attention to the apology, only that one had been made. He stood before the doorway, taking his time to show that he could.

"Come in," the sheriff beckoned from inside, behind his desk.

Kinegar stayed put. Noting both the sheriff and Skinder were watching him intently, he took a moment to tighten and flex his muscles. He was a formidable, awesome display, Kinegar himself had decided long ago, while admiring himself in the mirror. It was for that reason he wore scant clothing all the time, even around town -- a black loincloth, a couple black leather straps crisscrossing his chest and back, and sheaths for his sword and crossbow were all he wore. Covering more would deprive the general public of a wondrous, guilty pleasure, and Kinegar, the humanitarian that he was, had no such desire to do so.

"Please?" the sheriff said.

The blond haired, steel complexioned warrior obliged, striding into the room, noting how it brightened in his presence. Sheriff Hock Thruggar was seated behind his desk. By rights, Hock should stand to receive his esteemed guest, but Kinegar understood the sheriff's social dysfunction and dismissed the issue.

"Kinegar," the sheriff began.

"Please," Kinegar interrupted. "Call me Mr. Kyer."

"Mr. Kyer," the sheriff breathed impatiently, "I need not remind you of this morning's dire events."

On that point, Kinegar Kyer wholeheartedly agreed.

*        *        *        *

The crimson tinge had barely faded from the eastern sky. The farmers on the outskirts of Eldradi had been up for hours, but the town proper was only just approaching that sluggish first moment of consciousness. The dusty streets were barren, save for the odd drunk who had collapsed before reaching home. Not even the sleepy shopkeepers were milling about yet, meandering from their homes to their stores.

Thus, when the lone figure came marching into town from the south road, he went unnoticed. He was cloaked in a hooded grey robe, the uniform of the enchanters, a mysterious sect of scholars disciplined in the practice of magic. Enchanters were feared and respected, as was their power. An enchanter in town would set its residents on edge, and his leaving would trigger a collective sigh. One simply avoided enchanters at all cost, unless one needed an underhanded task performed and was willing to pay.

This particular enchanter, however, had no intention of being ignored. When he reached the center of the main street, in full view of most of the town's buildings, he halted and planted his feet firmly in the dirt. Raising his hands, he began to weave his magic. Ethereal tendrils of magic grew from his fingertips, and with swipes of his arms he wove them together into a weightless fabric. Curving it around, he connected the edges to each other, until it formed a sphere. At last, he jerked his hands, snapping the threads. The sphere became real and fell to the ground, where it burst with a sudden, thundering boom that shook the earth and rattled every wall, ceiling, and false front for miles.

Instantly, Eldradi was alive, reeling about in abrupt confusion. Exclaiming voices came from everywhere at once, from windows and opened doorways, from the drunks in the street. Seconds after the blast, a surge of panicked townsfolk burst from their homes in various states of dress, then stopped dead in their tracks at the sight of the enchanter. After moments more of shuffling about, when the town was at last still and a myriad eyes were fixed on him, the enchanter pulled down his hood and began his speech.

"Citizens of Eldradi," the bald, grey-bearded man addressed, "my name is Enther Nyss. A great transgression has been wrought by this town. One of my colleagues -- my brother, in fact -- was killed on a job one of you, a Mr. Shauve Hoggins, hired him for. His death is an outrage. Eldradi will suffer for it! To carry out retribution, I have amassed a formidable death squad. Among them is the legendary warrior, Dimph Schung, and two of his best pupils. There is also, besides myself, the renowned marksman Strotor Thraush. I trust these names are familiar to you. Yet I am a man of mercy, and that is why I warn you now. You have two options, citizens of Eldradi: pack your things and leave town by tomorrow morning's sunrise, or suffer death at the hands of my company!"

With that, Enther Nyss turned and headed back from where he had come.

"Mr. Nyss," came a voice from the crowd. It was the town's sheriff, the enchanter saw, who had spoken, and he didn't look pleased with the responsibility to do so. Enther Nyss stopped but did not speak.

"Shauve Hoggins is dead," the sheriff said. "He was killed in the same way as your brother was, by an enchantment gone awry. The town is innocent. Must there be this war of revenge?"

"Shauve Hoggins made the deal," the enchanter said, "but you let it happen. There will be no reconciliation. Come tomorrow, Eldradi will cease to exist." He started walking again.

The sheriff, visibly disturbed by the number of eyes watching him, relying on him to speak for them, summoned the courage to speak again. "We cannot allow you to bully us around. If your death squad shows up tomorrow morning, they will be arrested. Or, if necessary, killed."

Enther Nyss did not acknowledge the sheriff again. He left as calmly and steadily as he had come. He did not see the eyes that watched him silently until he crested a hill and moved out of sight. But he felt them.

It may be unimportant,
So don't worry about the grade.
After, there's a purple rush,
Maybe it you've even played?