Chapter 1

Elina: There is someone who's trying to kill me. He thinks that I don't know about him. He thinks it's going to be easy because he is smarter than most people.

But I have something he doesn't.

Something that sets me apart from others.

From far away, I can hear him coming. One step at a time. Riding on a horse. Sitting on a worn out saddle. A sword slung around his back. A hood to protect him from the wind.

In his mind he is probably counting the money he'll get for delivering my head. I hope he was promised a large sum, otherwise it would be insulting to me. Maybe I'll ask him. I really ought to know how much my head is worth.

Or I could live my life in peace. Run away and stay elsewhere. He'd give chase and never find me. Because I only appear when I want to be found. But where's the fun in that? I think I'll stay and wait for him. See what he does. What scheme he comes up with. Maybe he can even entertain me. And just when he thinks he has succeeded, I'll kill him.

Let's play a game.

Salem: I was hired to find a girl. Her name is Elina. It seemed like a standard job at first. I was approached by someone from the Church of Deliverance. Said that there was a witch that needed to be taken care of. Not the first time I worked with the Church. Not the first time I killed a witch.

The standard sum for a witch hunt was fifty gold coins. Enough money to buy food and pay rent for half a year. Less than that if the King decides to increase taxes again.

But I was offered eighty-five gold coins. Which was odd.

The representative of the Church said they paid me extra because they wanted me to bring her in alive. In one piece. Not just the head (like I usually do). Breathing and in full health.


A dead witch was better than a live one.

But hey, not every day you get to such a large pay day.

Reportedly, the witch was last seen in a village by the name of Altheim. Ten days from where I live, the provincial capital of Merkelborough.

I told my sister, Yulia, that I'd be going away on another job. She was sick and not getting better. I told her that with the extra money from this job, I could hire a proper doctor to take care of her full-time. Buy the best medicine from the monastery. She'd be finally cured. She coughed and smiled and told me to be careful.

She said, "Don't lose your head over delivering a head."

She always had a great sense of humor.

I also had a great sense of humor. But she never laughed at my jokes.

I rode a horse that somehow shit more than it ate and after ten days I arrived at Altheim. Little stone huts, wooden roofs, a well here, a donkey there. The people looked a little thin, a little rough, but friendly enough.

Finding a witch was easy. Just follow the dead bodies. But these villagers didn't look afraid. They said the last death was from a year ago. When someone was run over by a horse.

Which was good news, but also odd. Villagers out here should drop dead like flies. With doctors only found in the cities, a simple cut at the finger could be a death sentence.

I asked who the local doctor was and they said that they didn't have one. I asked what they did when they were ill. They said that a girl from the forest would come to sell them medicine. I asked where this girl was. The villagers said they didn't know. She just comes to the village every couple of days. She's been coming for as long as anyone could remember.

So I waited.

Based on this, there's one thing I know for sure about Elina: she is predictable. And predictable made you easy to find, easy to kill.

After two days of waiting, I found Elina.

But there was a problem.