Arriving in the small town just as the storm shook away her calm to begin pouring forth a cool fury, I spotted an inn, and by the looks of it, was vacant enough for my liking. Guiding my horse into a free stable, I called out to a youth to feed my horse & tend to the superficial claw mark given by a wood-cat. I flip him an extra gold coin much to his bewilderment, no doubt having never called one his own. Tipping my hat to the boy, I make my way around the inn to get out of the rain.
A few lanterns swayed in the wind, bathing the foyer in an almost somber light. The baseboards creak underneath my feet, while the tin roof threatens to fly away to unknown destinations. Breaching the doorway, I was met with surprise. If the exterior seemed to bid a man to keep on moving, the interior bade them to stay. On my left a barmaid tended to the counter which was inlaid with a beautiful design of a mountain side, the carpenter having chosen a fine deep red wood to work his craft onto. Behind the bar was stationed a massive mirror lined with a congregation of spirits that would make any drunkard shout with glee, before alleviating his pockets of any honest, or ill earned coinage. In my experience there are only two kinds of taverns; One where you know you’re getting into a fight, and one you don’t. This looked like the second one.
The barmaid looked to be a woman in her mid-years, though only because of my practiced eyes. Of middle height, she had deep brown eyes, and long auburn hair bouncing down her shoulders, Quite a fetching woman to any eyes. At noticing my arrival, she gave a polite smile in my direction. “Will you be needing a drink, sir?” she says. “I’ll take a whiskey, any kind will do.” returning the smile, knowing full well that she will probably opt for the most expensive. I gaze around the inn in search of a place to settle my tired form, finding that the owner spared no expense, or skill in the comfort of his guests.
The masterwork that was put into the the bar-top was also applied in no short supply to the booths, tables and chairs populating the room. Beautifully engraved struts held the roof aloft, and I notice there are “privacy booths” in each of the far corners, no doubt for the discerningly paranoid. I opt for a seat at the bar, and take in the crowd behind me as I gaze at the mirror set in place to no doubt assist a wary traveler like myself. Three, four, ah, five patrons in attendance. I almost missed the one sitting in one of the privacy corners in the far back of the room. Is it a man or a woman I wonder? “Here you are, sir, that’ll be two gold coins.” She does not disappoint, with the price or the quality of the drink. I thank her and give her three coins for her hospitality, what can I say, I’m in a cheerful mood this evening.
Three of the patrons have begun some kind of card game, I don’t know which, I make it a point not to gamble unless it’s my life on the line & in those cases I usually don’t have a choice. The trio look to be travelers themselves, yet I would say haven’t even hit their twenty fifth year. They are trading jokes, seemingly having a good time. Unable to see many features of the two turned to my back, I noticed something rather odd about the dealer. He looks to be of mid-height with closely cropped blonde hair, a good square jaw, and a smile that tells me he is used to using it to his advantage. But it is his eyes that draw my attention the most. Piercing red tinted eyes that I swear could be rubies. Am I seeing things? Maybe it is simply the distance between us playing tricks on my own, maybe it’s the drink, yet I can not shake a familiar notion.
While the red eyed dealer begins shuffling the cards, one of the men at his table goes to relieve himself, the other orders more drinks. “Oy, barmaid, we’ll be needin’ more O’ that fine gut-buster if you please.” he says, half slurring his words. Laughing at something the dealer said he turns back to the table. I see a shuffle near the privacy corner and wonder if I’ll catch a glimpse of the as of yet, unknown patron. Halting my investigation, I hear grunts and a crashing sound come from the back said of the inn. I hope off my stool, ready to investigate as drunk patron number three falls through the door, apparently unconscious. As I go to examine the scene, his two friends nearly fall off their stools laughing. “Aye, Grinwald, we told ye that stuff ain’t for the likes of you!” Says the drunkard. “It’s true my friend, we did warn you. That gut-buster is cheap for a reason! Hahaha!” the dealer adds.
As I draw closer I begin to notice the tears on his coat, and the strange way his arm is crooked to the side. Could he have broken it during his fall? Knocking my thoughts to the side I turn him over to face up, and my blood runs cold. “Well out with it, is he out cold, friend?” Asks the dealer.
“That would be one way of putting it.” muttering to myself more than anything.
It was one way of putting it, of course in this case, he was very much dead. It seems that whatever he ran into outside had ripped his heart straight from his chest! The marks across his body seemed to indicate that he struggled before the death blow, yet clearly this was not enough. Peering towards the door, I ready myself for anything that might come through.
“Well lets get him out O’ the floor, and back into ‘is bed.” Says the drunkard. “Aye, we have quite the journey to make tomorrow.” the dealer agreed.
“Gentlemen, your friend is dead, and whatever did this is still outside!” I say hurriedly. Drawing my blade, as they scramble to the side of their friends corpse.
“What the blazes happened! Did ye see anything, stranger?”
“I saw what you all saw, and whatever your friend here met with is still unknown. It could be stalking us at this very moment. Now draw your blades, any one of us could be next.” I say to them, now fully awake and mostly sober. The dealer while finely dressed for a traveler, reveals two hidden blades from his coat about the length of my forearm. Nasty looking blades with teeth meant to rip, and no doubt sharpened to a razors edge from the look of them. The drunkard wobbles back to their table and retrieves an ordinary looking axe he had left to the side.
“You two back there, what say you, will you help us?” I say in their direction. Still nothing.
I make my way to the privacy corner to find a pair of boots cleverly left in view, the corpse of the fourth patron, and an open window. Bewildered, I shout back to the pair to get away from the doors. “Get back, there may be more than one of them!”
To his credit, the drunkard reacted with the speed of a sober man, but it was too little to have made a difference. Bursting through the door their friend fell into, a monstrous beast barreled into the man. Ripping, and biting the entire way to the ground, the woodsman twisted as he fell and maneuvered the beasts weight into a rolling throw, sending it crashing into the tables behind him. The drunkard lay squirming on the ground, blood pouring from his wounds, but alive for now. It was then that I only just noticed the barmaid was missing, or hiding behind the counter.
Snarling and awkwardly getting back on it’s feet, I and the red eyed man face the beast. not really registering our presence as much as the tables and chairs surrounding it, the best thrashed and crashed everything nearby, seemingly oblivious to anything else.
There are major differences between wolves and worgs. A wolf, given the right diet and lifestyle, can grow to monstrous size, yet they are a composed creature, noble even. Snarling only for effect of fear; a tactical choice of dominance and attack, and rarely without a pack. Worgs, being naturally Human or otherwise, transform into similarly sized beasts. Similar in action and size, but very different in temperament and sociality. Speaking creatures who have been turned are solo hunters,and they always have a mean temper about them. This one was particularly agitated. Worg.
A quick glance to the red eyed man to spread around the creature was surprisingly easy. Experienced or clever. I’ll take either right now. As the beast continued it’s tantrum against the furniture of the bar, we side stepped an equal distance around the crazed animal. The best way to take a Worg down, is from multiple angles. A vicious cleverness about them, yet very simple creatures. It will go for one of us, while the other guts it from behind.