Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash
“What do you mean?” The slick robed inquisitor grimaced as the gapped tooth geezer slurped from his tankard.
“What I means is,” his eyes couldn’t decide to cooperate, one drifted over the inquisitor while the other darted to follow his wild gesturing, “Is that it’s The Beast of Fear!”
“The Beast of Fear,” the other drunkards in the sparse tavern repeated in monotone.
“The Beast of Fear?”
“The Beast of Fear,” the chorus repeated.
“Rights!” The geezer hiccupped, “The Beast of Fear…”
“The Beast of Fear.”
“… dwells in that cave, and no one, no plucky hero and surely no inqueez-ator can defeat it.”
“What makes the Bea…” The inquisitor hesitated, eyeing the other patrons in the rickety tavern, “What makes this… creature, so formidable?”
“It’s cursed!” The geezer waggled his fingers. When the inquisitor didn’t react he cleared his throat and continued. “It can see into your mind, siphon your deepest fears and manifests them against you. That’s why they call it the Beas…”
“Yes,” the inquisitor shifted forward and placed his hand over the geezer’s mouth. “I get it, thank you. And you say a hero has ventured up there recently?”
“Well I wouldn’ta called him a hero, so ta speak… more of a… what would you guys call him?”
“Scrawny kid,” one of the patrons moaned monotonously, “He’ll suffer the same fate as us all. We will all be consumed by The Beast of Fear.”
“The Beast of Fear.”
The inquisitor twitched, “Will you please stop that!”
The tavern door swung open and a beaming, scrawny kid swaggered in, dragging a grotesque, dismembered limb. It was pale green and appeared to be made up entirely of congealed slime, the inquisitor sniffed the foul stench and recoiled when he realised the limb was in fact a head, or at least something that vaguely resembled a head.
“Evening gents!” The scrawny young lad hefted the head onto the bar, it squelched with the impact and sagged over the edges.
“Watchya got there boy?” The geezer asked.
“The Beast of Fear of course!”
“The Beast of Fear.”
“I’m here for the reward!”
“Well, ah…” The geezer scratched his head, “We never really thought we would pay it out to be honest… we just used it to entice heroes to keep the Beast of Fear fed.”
“The Beast of Fear,” The monotonous drawl echoed.
“WOULD YOU PLEASE STOP THAT!” The inquisitor barked, “You all just outed yourself as Beast cultists and will be delivered to the inquisition, but if you repeat that phrase one more time I swear to the gods I’ll make your punishments more severe!”
“Yeah they get on your nerves don’t they?” The kid laughed, leaning nonchalantly against the bar as the head slid off and plopped onto the floor, “Sucks about no reward though.”
“How…” The inquisitor hesitated, “How did you defeat the Beast?”
The kid cocked an eyebrow, “Of Fear?”
“The Beast of Fear.”
“Damn you!” The inquisitor said through clenched teeth. “Tell me how you did it.”
The kid reached into his vest and pulled out a rusted amulet, “Amulet of dimmed brawns, grants the wearer obscene strength but places a curse on them for a short duration that dims the wits. When The Beas…” The kid smiled mischievously, “When the creature looked into my mind it saw only blurry impressions of fear, manifested they were weak indeed to fight.”
“Ah, so you are the one I am looking for.”
“Oh?” The kid snatched the ale from the drunkard geezer and took a swig, grimacing at the bitter taste.
“I am not really here on behalf of the inquisition, I am on contract from the local Witch Coven… you stole some cursed items from them recently… I’m here to take them back, along with your head.”
“Oh, on an errand for those hags eh?” The kid placed the tankard down and narrowed his eyes on the inquisitor. “What a ridiculous profession. You look the right fool working for them.”
The inquisitor narrowed his eyes, “Do I? Well it will be the last thing you see!”
The inquisitor cast holy fire, a startling white light from the gods that blind all the uninitiated who gaze upon it. The patrons moaned and shielded their eyes and the inquisitor laughed. Only, an arrow cut his gloating short as it sailed through the light and into his hand.
He screamed and tumbled over as the kid emerged from the shrinking light, bow in hand.
“How?” The inquisitor gasped.
“Bow of blindness, you can take a powerful shot but you are blinded while drawing… makes things interesting.”
“You bastard!” The inquisitor conjured a flame jet with his other hand and blasted the kid who fumbled through his pockets.
The fire hit his figure and billowed in steam, filling the room with a humid cloud.
The fire sputtered out and the kid emerged from the steam, only now he was fully grown, beset by handsome features with a silver bracelet around his wrist… and shivering. He stamped on the inquisitor’s good hand, breaking it.
The inquisitor screamed as the kid fumbled through his pockets with shaking hands, until he found a small wooden chest and opened it. The new bracelet on his arm was sucked from his skin and sealed itself within the chest. His shivering broke as he returned to the visage of a kid again, sweat pooling down his skin as he breathed a sigh of relief.
“Ah, much better,” he said.
“How the hell are you still alive?” The inquisitor croaked.
“Bracelet of timeless beauty. It makes you into your ideal physical self but freezes you, then I used the unbreakable chest, it stores your jewellery but the caveat is that it will never open again.” He tossed the chest away like a piece of garbage. “You see, inquisitor, I am a curse hacker, hence my little raid on those pesky Witches. It doesn’t matter what curse or charm or spell you try to bind me with, I have the tools to counter them in unconventional ways… which is probably why no one has defeated me yet.” He leaned down and patted the inquisitor on the head. “Take care of those hands.” He smiled and made for the door.
As he cracked it open, he turned back with a devilish grin and shouted, “THE BEAST OF FEAR, THE BEAST OF FEAR, THE BEAST OF FEAR!” And bolted from the tavern.
The cultist patrons of the tavern repeated the monotonous chant several times before settling in quiet, while the inquisitor writhed on the floor, unable to cover his ears with his wounded hands from the incessant, annoying chanting.
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