A lone figure in a hooded cloak walked down a wood-lined path when two unpleasant looking men stepped from between the trees on either side.
“Are you lost, Miss? You look weary,” one asked an a mockingly sweet tone.
“We can help you find your way into town… eventually,” the other sneered.
“Oh, I am terribly lost,” answered a soft and trembling voice. “It’s so fortunate that I have found such helpful gentlemen out here in the wilderness where there’s no one around for myriameters!”
The men smirked and stepped closer. “We’ll just be relieving you of your effects, then,” said the first.
“My effects?” The shy voice turned worried.
“Call it payment for us helpin’ you out,” chimed in the second.
The hooded figure lifted their head to reveal an amused expression. “Yeah, I don’t think you wanna do that.” The voice had dropped all meekness, and with a firm punch and swift kick, both men flew back several paces. The would-be victim approached the would-be assailants who lay groaning and writhing on the ground. Flowing deep blue hair and dark grey eyes examined their handy work. “Don’t worry, you’re only winded. You’ll regain your breath all too soon, but in the meantime, I’ll just be relieving you of your effects…” The person rummaged around in the men’s pockets. “Call it a reminder not to accost weary travelers. Especially those deceivingly stronger than you and in no mood for your antics.”
After the funds transfer was complete, the figure tossed the spent data chips back at their owners’ feet and continued down the winding trail, tucking the blue hair back under the cloak’s hood.
The thick forest and narrow trail soon gave way and Verena found herself in a small, dusty town with only one wide pebbled road running through the middle and wooden storefronts tiredly lining either side.
In sharp contrast to the dull town, a glimmering platinum snow fox stood patiently in front of the tavern hall.
“What’s a beautiful thing like you doing in a place like this? Verena asked and the creature ruffled its fur in response, sending a pleasant melody of notes into the air. She offered her hand and the tall and elegant fox rubbed its face into her palm until it received a nice scratch behind the ears. The majestic animal emitted a low mechanical hum to signal its content. After a few moments, Verena bid the steed goodbye and ascended the stairs into the tavern.
The hall was dimly lit, as expected, with the dust dancing in what little light trickled in from the grimy windows. A few inquires later and Verena was directed to a small man perched near the end of the bar.
“I hear there’s an anomaly after your livestock.”
The man looked up. “What’s it to yeh, trav’ler? Hopin’ to settle down with a rich farmer whose livestock dun get eat’n?”
“I’ve come to remedy your problem.”
“Ha! Is that so? And what would a little lass like yeh do about it? Are yeh an enchanter? I dun need any sorcery.”
“A sorcerer uses sorcery, and an enchanter uses enchantments, and I am neither. I’m a slayer.”
“Yeah, well yeh’re too late anyway… the famed Death Stalker just left to take care of it and I’m sure he’s fit enough to handle it.”
Verena sighed, annoyed. “Alright, do you know of any other anomalies around here that need slaying then?”
“Nope, just the one. Still not sure what yeh’d do about it anyway, but yeh could try the next town over to the west. Heard something was ruining the crops there, but could just be blight.”
“I appreciate the assistance…”
Verena stepped back out on to the street. The snow fox was gone, a hover bike in its place.
“Nice hair! Was your mum a siren?” the owner of the bike asked enthusiastically.
“No,” she answered curtly, tucking the loose blue strands back into her hood yet again. “Which way’s West?”
“That a way,” he pointed, “but I hear they’re having trouble, so I think you’d be better off sticking around here.”
Verena set off in the direction he had indicated. “Thanks for your concern.”
A foul creature with too many eyes, hairy claws, and ridges of armor lining its back burst from a field of wilted vegetation. Its gaping maw was filled with small, jagged teeth, visible in the snarl it held as it raced forth, scrambling towards a startled man who stood frozen in the clearing.
The beast continued to lumber forward with animated screeches piercing the air when a tall and muscular figure leapt onto its back. The figure paused for a moment, swaying to keep balance, then plunged a thin blade between two plates protecting the being’s brain.
With a loud whimper the man collapsed to the ground at the same time as the oversized bug, and the victor tumbled gracefully down before it, blue hair cascading around their shoulders.
“Well done!” The man had collected himself and warily approach the lifeless corpse. “No one will believe this!” His expression of relief and celebration quickly turned to worry. “No one will believe this…”
Verena sighed. “Believe what? That a “little lass” slew the anomaly that’s being ruining your crops when none of the townsmen could?” She cleaned her blade with care, then looked sharply down at him.
She sheathed her sword. “Tell you what - you throw in an extra 200 and I’ll let you tell everyone that the Silver Slayer bested this beast. That way your town’s inadequacy will remain a secret safe with me - Slayer’s Honour.” She held out her hand.
“Ah- uhm… alright, deal,” he agreed, handing over his data chip for payment.
“Idiots,” Verena mumbled as she walked away. “Can’t even handle a beetle.”
Verena hefted a large canvas sack onto the counter of the apothecary. The pharmacist began sifting through, turning each item carefully over.
“Where’d you get your hands on this haul? You work for a slayer, then?”
“Something like that,” she conceded.
“Slater eyes, bile, and soft shell… I could give you 300.”
Verena leaned down against the counter. “Are you trying to short the Silver Slayer?”
The pharmacist stuttered. “Oh, uh, well, for the S-Silver Slayer… 350?”
“400 would be great, thank you,” Verena affirmed, and the purchaser relented.
This town was laid out a bit different than the last, yet it still looked dreary. Two wide roads intersected at the heart of the town, highlighting the more public facilities at the center. Verena made her way to a cobbler for a much needed refresh of her worn boots.
“And how’s a fair lady such as yourself manage to wear down these soles like this?” the cobbler asked as he examined the damage.
“Lots of walking,” she said dryly.
“Right… well I’ll get these fixed up in no time!”
Verena held up her data chip. “Use the good thread - I don’t want my feet to fall out just as I get to your friend’s shop in the next village.
“Yes, of course,” the cobbler replied sheepishly.
A few more shopping stops later and Verena was picking at a flavorless stew from the inn.
“You say the Silver Slayer was here?” someone at another table asked their companion.
“Yeh, he felled the thing eating the amaranth harvest,” the companion replied.
“Aw, I wish I coulda seen him… I hear he’s 7 feet of rippling muscle, flowing silver locks and a beard that would shame a philosopher!”
Verena’s expression changed according to the veracity of each claim.
“I heard he took down 3 Carpanthi by himself!”
Verena recalled a fond memory and smiled faintly to herself.
“Well hopefully he’s headed over to the swamps. I hear there’s something there that needs slaying a’fore the land starts sinking in more than it does already.”
With that, Verena took her leave.
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