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Miguela barely slept before waking up to the sound of a timid knock at her door. Miguela had slept in her boots, riding dress, and trousers, so all she needed to do was grab her cloak and leave. Waiting for her in the hall were her friends, Scryer Caecilia and Scryer Henna. Tonight Henna’s connection with the guards would sneak them out, and Miguela would meet Koal at the inn.

 

They greeted each other and hurriedly walked the quiet halls of the compound. To Miguela’s surprise, Henna led them to the main gate. Miguela was unsure what she expected, but she figured it would involve a bit more dupery than walking out the front of the compound.

 

A dashing Arzan guard greeted them as they approached the gate.

 

“Mistress Henna,” the guard said, making a leg in her direction.

 

Now that Miguela was close to the guardsman, she could see that he was in his middle years, tall, and filled out his uniform in all the correct ways.

 

“Scryer Miguela, Scryer Caecilia, this is Poe,” Henna said, introducing the guard.

 

“It is a pleasure, Poe,” Miguela added. Poe smiled handsomely.

 

“Scryer Miguela, the pleasure is all mine. You will have to forgive my casualness with Scryer Henna. I have known her since she was a wee lass and often forget that she is grown and making her way in the world,” Poe explained.

 

“If it does not bother Scryer Henna, then there is no reason for it to bother me,” Miguela replied truthfully. Her reply brought another smile from the guard.

 

“Shall we get you ladies outside?” He asked and led them out the front gate. There were two more guards, but they paid them no mind as they walked past them.

 

“Will the other guards be a problem?” Miguela asked, not wanting to cause any issues for Henna or Poe.

 

“No, no. We look out for each other. You ladies only need not get into any trouble while you are out,” Poe answered, and Miguela noticed a worried look flash over Henna’s features for a brief moment.

 

“We will do our best, Poe,” Miguela said. Her response seemed to satisfy Poe because he did not continue the subject.

 

Poe stopped at the end of the compound’s pathway.

 

“You ladies have a good evening, and remember the guards change just after sunrise. Please return before so we can all avoid questions,” he said, making another leg as they began their walk to Arizi. They walked down the dark dirt road in silence. The sky has a dense overcast blocking the moons’ light, making the darkness absolute. Miguela became more at ease as her eyes adjusted to the night.

 

“Scryer Miguela, Poe has been a loyal friend of my family for a long time. I do not wish to cause him any trouble,” Henna started, breaking the silence, “what do you plan on doing tonight?”

 

“I need to find the woman responsible for killing off the young men in the hamlet. I will make sure that Poe is safe from scrutiny if it ever came to that,” Miguela replied. She at least owed Henna that peace of mind.

 

“So, what is the plan?” Caecilia asked.

 

“The two of you will drink at the inn while I locate the murderer with the help of an adventurer, then back to the compound. Easy as that,” Miguela explained, but she was unsure if her words were convincing.

 

When they arrived at the inn, Miguela was surprised to see how lively it was. There were people she recognized from the hamlet. Guards and other staff members from the compound mingled with drinks and food, seemingly having a good time. There was also an Arzan playing an energetic tune that she did not recognize on a lute.

 

Despite going out into the night in search of a magikal murderer, the inn’s atmosphere was infectious. Miguela noticed that all three of them were smiling and tapping their feet to the music as they found a choice place to sit.

 

Keli came to their table and took their order. While they waited for their wine to come, Miguela scanned the inn for Koal, finally seeing him in the far corner of the room, looking directly at her as if he was waiting for her to find him.

 

“I have to go. Enjoy yourselves the best you can, and make sure people see you here,” Miguela said, and with no other explanation, she left the table to walk across the room.

 

She wanted her friends to be seen so that they would have the excuse that they were not involved in any way if things didn't go as planned.

 

As she approached Koal, he looked past her at her friends and spoke.

 

“Your companions are not coming?”

 

Miguela shook her head for a response.

 

“That’s a shame. I have a feeling the more magik we had for this, the better,” Koal said, turning his attention to Miguela.

 

“I am assuming you brought what I asked for?”

 

“Yes,” she replied.

 

“Good, let’s go,” Koal said. He did not wait for her to respond and headed for the exit.

 

Miguela had no other choice but to follow the adventurer out of the inn. Koal smirked as she followed him out the door.

 

“You want to catch this Nawahl, don’t you?” He asked as she approached him.

 

“We do not know if she is a Nawahl, but yes, I really want to catch her,” Miguela said, pulling out a small pouch that held Avio’s hair.

 

Koal produced a small, intricate wooden box no larger than his hand. It had a compass embedded in the lid. He took the pouch from Miguela, flicking the box open, upturning the contents of the pouch into the box.

 

“Nothing more personal than a man’s hair, I suppose,” Koal commented with a chuckle before closing the lid to the box. Miguela watched with curiosity as he closed his eyes, and the needle in the compass began gyrating until it found its focus.

 

“Let’s find a murderer then,” Koal said, walking in the direction that the compass’s needle pointed.

 

Miguela followed behind the adventurer, wondering if she should have her head examined for following a stranger to find a shapeshifter who may wield dangerous magik in the dead of night. As they walked, the overcast cleared, allowing the bright yellow moon of fortune to beat back some of the darkness of the night.

 

“What brought you to Arizi, Koal,” Miguela asked, making small talk.

 

“I drift around from hamlet to hamlet doing odd jobs to survive,” Koal answered after a moment.

 

“That is an impressive tool you have for a drifter,” Miguela commented, referring to the magikal box he had. Koal chuckled at the observation.

 

“Just so. I was not always a drifter. I come from a family of prestigious bounty hunters. Among the best one could find in the Five Kingdoms,” he replied, his voice trailing off at the end.

 

“What happened?” She asked.

 

“Long story short, I lost my license to bounty hunt and doomed my legacy to live on as drifters and vagabonds,” he said, voice filled with bitterness.

 

Miguela noted that this would technically count as a bounty but decided against pointing that fact out. She was thankful that she would have an experienced bounty hunter by her side, even if he was working illegally.

 

“What about you, Scryer Miguela. What’s your story?” Koal asked, taking her by surprise that he would even be interested in her background.

 

Miguela told him a heavily edited version of how she came to the Academy and later to the compound, carefully leaving out the nature of her work.

 

“That’s rough, but at least you landed on your feet,” Koal said after she finished her tale. Miguela opened her mouth to argue but realized he was correct. If the Archmage’s project is considered a success, there would be a vast probability that she would not become an orator and therefore be free to follow whatever paths she wanted.

 

They continued their journey, not talking much. The scenery triggered a faint feeling of déjà vu. Miguela knew it from the memories of the men who made this trip to die, but she felt as if they were her memories. Finally, they arrived at a rickety shack that was out of sight and off the main trails.

 

“This is it,” Koal said in a whisper.

 

“Yes, it is,” Miguela replied, not caring what Koal thought about her knowing how the shack looked.

 

They approached the shack cautiously. Miguela kept a lookout for the crag spider that the woman had.

 

They were about three horse lengths away from the shack when the door opened. Out walked a short, pale, lithe Nawahl woman. Miguela could not place an age on her. From one angle, she looked like a teenager, and from another, she looked to be in her middle years. She had beautiful, silky, long black hair and wore a clingy black dress that revealed most of her bosom.

 

“Koal, I had my eye on you ever since you came to Arizi. I would have arranged for an accident to happen to you, but there was already too much scrutiny on my activities,” she said, looking at Koal like a bird looks at a worm. Suddenly, Koal fell to his knees, grunting in pain.

 

“The process you are feeling is an accelerated version of what usually takes weeks, but unfortunately, I must rush things tonight.”

 

“What are you doing to him?” Miguela demanded.

 

The Nawahl woman casually turned her attention to Miguela.

 

“You, I do not know. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Wendella, the last witch.”

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A note from CKJ5

If you like what you are reading, you can find more epic adventures in the Five Kingdoms universe on Amazon:

Book 1: Scourge of the Five Kingdoms

link: https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B09VK3JZ8V

Book 2: Dogma of the Five Kingdoms

link: https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B09VKC3TRR


About the author

CKJ5

  • Tokyo, Japan

Bio: Charles K. Jordan was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. He attended university in his home state, as well, where he studied Information Technology. After graduating, he decided to move abroad to experience more than what he had seen in the United States. He found his way to Japan in 2003, and since then, he has called Japan home.

Charles K. Jordan was always drawn to fantasy, sci-fi, and adventure. When he was a young child, the first novel he read was Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah and James Howe, and from that point, he was hooked. Since then, he has found inspiration and heroes from various writers in all forms of media. Some of his heroes include Robert Jordan, J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Quentin Tarantino, Terence Winter, Garth Ennis, and Glen Cook, just to name a few. Ever since that fateful day that led him to pick up Bunnicula, he knew his calling in life would be to create and hopefully contribute to someone’s growth and dreams.

Charles K. Jordan vowed to himself that no matter what happened in his life. He would never stop dreaming, writing, and creating.

The Five Kingdoms of Cordizal series available on Amazon:

Book 1: Scourge of the Five Kingdoms

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09VK3JZ8V

Book 2: Dogma of the Five Kingdoms

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09VKC3TRR

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