“Cold,” said █████ in a small puzzled voice, a heartbeat before the steel of his gorget parted like cheesecloth beneath the shadow of a blade that was not there. He had time to make a small thick gasp before the blood came gushing out of his throat.
And the cowbells peeled in his antlers, singing *fool, fool, fool* while the red woman looked down on him in pity, the candle flames dancing in her red red eyes.
*The bear is all in black*, ▓▓▓▓▓ thought. *Like ▒▒▒▒▒*.
She had killed █████ with a whisper, and she would kill two more before she was through. *I’m the ghost in ▓▓▓▓▓*, she thought. And that night, there was one less name to hate.
“I beg...” █████ swallowed. “... a ... a drink of water, and ... another boon. If you would...”
The ranger was leaning away, and for an instant it seemed that ▓▓▓▓▓’s slash had not touched him. Then a string of red tears appeared across the big man’s throat, bright as a ruby necklace, and the blood gushed out of him, and █████ fell.
█████ was sprawled across the cobbles, his throat a red ruin, eyes gaping sightlessly up at a bank of grey cloud. His ugly spotted dog stood on his chest, lapping at the blood pulsing from his neck, and every so often ripping a mouthful of flesh out of the dead man’s face.
When the man pulled his spear loose, blood sprayed out in a dark fountain. “Carry him, he says,” he muttered, chuckling.
The axe blow that had killed him had split his skull apart, but the great tangled beard could be no one else’s, or the garb, patched and unwashed and so faded it was more grey than black.
“Aye, but he thought us friends. A common mistake. When the old fool gave me his hand, I took half his arm instead. Then I let him see my face.”
█████ put the point of his sword to the hollow of his throat and curled both hands around the hilt. And suddenly he lurched to the left, staggering into the rail. Wood split, and █████ vanished with a shout and a splash.
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