The Viscount and the Witch
A Riyria Chronicles Short: Story #1 by Michael J. Sullivan
A woman wielding a broom charged at them, looking as much like a witch as anyone Hadrian had ever seen. Matted black hair spilled down in brittle locks, leaving only one eye and the tip of her nose visible. The peasant skirt she wore hindered her escape from the thickets, and had enough rips and muddy stains that Hadrian was certain she had tripped on it more than once.
“Stop! I need help!” she cried in desperation as if he and Royce had been racing down the road. In truth the two were riding their horses at a pace just slightly faster than a man could walk. Hadrian pulled his reins, halting while Royce continued for a bit before turning around with a curious look. Over the past year Hadrian had seen the expression often enough. He knew from experience that the puzzlement would turn to irritation as soon as his partner realized Hadrian was stopping to hear what the old woman wanted. Then would come the scowl. Hadrian was not certain what that meant—disappointment perhaps? Next, Royce’s eyes would roll with open contempt and then frustration would display itself in the form of folded arms. Finally anger would rise along with his cloak’s hood. Royce pulling up his hood was always a bad sign, like fur bristling on a wolf’s back. It was a warning and usually the only one anyone ever received.