Ellwood had just returned when the husky innkeeper appeared in the common room and made an announcement. His announcement wasn’t loud and it needn’t have been. The room wasn’t that large and there weren’t that many people in it. I counted sixteen, ourselves included. There were the three of us, the innkeeper and serving wench, six men and two women who were obviously locals—farmers no doubt, a traveling tinker; a sell-sword, which is to say a mercenary, who from the looks of things had not been doing too well; and a darkly cloaked figure in the corner. Now one might expect a darkly cloaked figure in the corner to be the cause of potential mischief, but the truth is that I have hardly ever been in an inn or a pub or a taproom or a tavern or a bar or a saloon that didn’t have a darkly cloaked figure in the corner. Most of the time, they do nothing more than mind their own business. It’s only those few who end up in stories causing trouble, that the name of darkly cloaked corner lurkers everywhere becomes tarnished.
“We are privileged to have in our presence today,” said the innkeeper, “the world famous storyteller Eaglethorn Beltbuckle.”
Ellwood snorted into his recently filled cup. Was it his twelfth or thirteenth refill? I stood up.
“Eaglethorpe Buxton at your service.” I casually moved around the room to find the best spot for story telling, eventually settling on a stool near the fireplace. “And this is the story of the Queen of Aerithraine.”
“Oh God! Not her again!” shouted Ellwood. “Don’t you have any new material?”
The sellsword at the bar began to get up, whether in defense of the Queen or of my story-telling or just to make for the outhouse I don’t know, but a single steely look from Ellwood put him in his seat again. Apparently neither of them had any doubt whom was top dog.
“I shall recount the tale of how I sold my sword to get a poor but beautiful farm girl out of prison and then slew a werewolf using only this fork!” I triumphantly pulled the fork from my fork pocket.
Suddenly the darkly cloaked figure in the corner jumped to his feet. He swept aside his cloak to reveal black armor and a dozen long thin knifes on a bandolier across his chest. He began plucking the knives and launching them directly at Ellwood Cyrene, so quickly that seven were in flight at one time before the first met its destination. That destination was not, as had been intended, the torso of my friend, for Ellwood had jumped up at almost the same instant. With a quick flick of his wrist, he deflected the first two knives toward the wooden bar, where they stuck with loud thunks. He ducked to the side of the third and fourth knife, and then grabbed the fifth, sixth, and seventh right out of the air and sent them back at the cloaked figure. By this time the assailant had thrown two more knives, but Ellwood easily dodged them. One of them hit the wall just near my head. The other went into the fireplace causing a cloud of embers to float up into the air like fireflies. And then it was all over, for the three knives that my friend had returned to the would-be assassin had all found their marks—one in the man’s right hand, one in his chest, and one in his throat.
Everything was quiet for one moment, and then chaos erupted as the townsfolk and the traveling tinker rushed this way and that to get out of the way of a battle that was already over. In thirty seconds, the three of us, and the darkly cloaked dead body, were the only ones left in the room. Even the sellsword had fled.
“That’s better,” said Ellwood. “Everyone likes a werewolf story.”
I recounted my story of the farm girl and the werewolf, at least so far as I had revised it up to that time, to my friend and my half-orphan companion. I’m not going to tell it now, because I want to make some final editing before it sees print. You should always get a true story just right before you print it.
Afterwards we made our way up to our rooms and I have to say that they were quite nice. I would have half a mind to write up a review for a travel company and give that particular inn three stars if only I could remember what the name of the little town was. In any case the rooms were very nice, all the more so since they were free to me. I made sure that my little elf princess was settled in and had the door locked before preparing for bed myself, and was just about to lie down when there was a knock at my door.
I pulled the portal open a crack to find Ellwood Cyrene. He leaned in very close to me. I could smell the ale on his breath.
“I have something to tell you,” he said.
“Yes?” I leaned closer only to better hear him.
“I’ll be gone when you wake Eaglethorpe,” said he. “Don’t continue on the East Road. There will be a battle fifteen miles east of here tomorrow. You will have to make a detour.”
“Be careful, won’t you?” He reached up his hand and brushed aside a strand of hair from my forehead. Then he turned and walked down the hallway to his room.