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Marie Kessler and the Firebird (Abridged)

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Marie leaned against her shovel and frowned down at the fox. "Now," she said.

"Bitch," he said back at her.

She raised her eyebrows and shrugged. "You lead travelers into swamps with promises of magical wildlife," she said, "and then smother them. What was this last one? Golden bird? Magic snake?"

The fox opened his mouth, then sighed and looked away. "Emerald salamander," he said. "You'd be amazed at how many people fall for that one."

"I'm amazed every day," Marie said.

The fox looked like a man right now, and she'd buried him up to his neck in the slurry-like mud of the swamp. He narrowed his eyes at her. "So that's it?" he asked. "You're just going to kill me?"

"That's my job," Marie said. She put down her shovel and pulled her silver knife from its sheath.

"You Grimms," the fox said as she knelt down. "You think you're so righteous. I do you people a favor. The people who follow me? The thieves and the greedy, larcenous bastards who are willing to go any mile for a little more treasure? I'm culling the herd of the noxious and the cruel and the evil. You should thank me."

Marie narrowed her eyes. "The cruel and the evil?" she said. "You can try your silver tongue on me all you want, but you attack the naive and the young, not anyone worth killing. Talk all you want, but you're just a predator."

"And you're just a murderer," he snarled.

Marie smiled and readied her knife. "I'm a Grimm," she said. "And we both know what that means."

The fox's blood was startlingly red on the cold ground. Marie cleaned it off her knife with her handkerchief before she sheathed it.