Running and spinning, Russel brought his sword down on the wretched creature's head. They had called her Tabitha and witch and crone, but she didn't look human with large lips, leathery skin and horrible pointed teeth. She had breasts, but that was all that made her female. He rifled through her pockets, looking for the bean. It had been a great idea to send Matilda, the barmaid, in ahead of him. He'd heard the beastly woman tell her all about the spells she could cast to help Matilda escape from an oafish husband.
The worst curse, she assured Matilda, was the spelled death-sleep. He wouldn't wake, ever, she promised. The witch would even give her the bean cure, in case she ever changed her mind. She hadn't begun gathering her materials when Russel broke in and knocked her unconscious.
Matilda screamed and ran for the door. He doubted she would stop running before she was back behind the bar. Russel, however, was cautious. It was unlikely the witch was alone. He hunted through her pockets, finally coming up with a green-brown bean. He stowed it away and backed slowly from the cottage.
He backed into a beautiful blond woman. “Who are you? What are you doing?” she yelled as he ran to his horse and mounted, yanking the reins free from the branch he'd lashed them to. “Come back here! Stop!” The last word was accompanied by an arc of power, magic, that made his hair stand on end. It missed, and he rode on. He didn't go home and he didn't approach the cliffs either. He wanted a moment to regroup before he did anything.
The witch had been quelled. The cure for the curse was his. And who was the beautiful woman that attacked him? Helen perhaps? Victor's wife? He didn't envy the man a wife like that. Gritting his teeth, he realized that he was getting one just like, her own daughter.
The kingdom came with it, he reminded himself. And he knew how to quell the daughter. He would do a better job of it than Victor had. After finding a quiet cottage to rest in, one with a woman with open arms, he set out in search of the fortress. The witch and mother would no doubt be close on his heels.