Nightvoid Chapter 2: The Inn at a Thousand Crossroads [Revised]

Nightvoid Chapter 2: The Inn at a Thousand Crossroads [Revised]
Photo by Tom Parkes / Unsplash

Night fell on the Halgyr, and only a few miles away, on the road to the capital city, lay a solitary inn in a town too small to be worthy of a name.

‘The Inn at a thousand crossroads’ stood empty, save a solitary lantern gripped in the had of a solitary barkeep. If there had been any passersby curious enough to watch, they would see the light from that lantern move slowly from the left side of the establishment in an agonizingly slow journey to the right.

But the proprietor was not old enough to be feeble. If he was slow it was because he had his reasons. There was a certain level of grime to the establishment. It was the kind that one would wash away if they were seeking a different kind of business. Tables and chairs were to be washed only with water. The floor was to be swept, not scrubbed.

One by one, he washed the chairs and turned them up onto the tables. One by one, he closed the clasps on the windows. When he came upon spilled drink, he went retrieved a handful of wood shavings to soak it up. He would sweep them up in the morning if he found the time.

Finally, there was the thumping of footsteps at the side door that led out back. If the inn had been in a city, it would have been the alley entrance for deliveries. The town had never grown enough to require anything so advanced or interesting as an alleyway, though the door was often used for morning deliveries.

The door swung open without a knock, and footsteps dragged in boots and muddy prints. The owner of the boots was a lanky man that the barkeep thought of as a southerner, though he’d never asked. He had wind-worn skin and dark brown eyes. The hair on his head had thinned since the Barkeep had seen him last, but his beard had only gotten longer, it hung down to his naval.

To the barkeep’s astonishment, the man was followed in by a girl of thirteen years, perhaps fifteen at most. There was a similarity in their appearance.

“Bringing children to your meetings now, Vistle?”

The girl made a rude gesture at the barkeep, while Vistle only scoffed, slumping onto a barstool. He knocked the counter three times, eyeing the tables as if there were people seated in chairs there.

“Bar’s closed.” Said the barkeep, in answer to the knocks.

The girl reached over the counter and grabbed a few bottles. The girl’s legs lifted up off the floor as she reached behind the counter, snatching several bottles by the necks like prized geese. She looked the barkeep in the eye as she pulled the cork of one bottle with her teeth and spat it out.

She slid a bottle in front of the man that looked to be her father, and he got to work on the cork.

His hands worked slowly, patiently, to work the cork up out of the bottle. He took a long draught, and slowly placed the bottle on the counter before him.

“Wasted good men on this job.” It was the first time the lanky man had spoken. For a moment the barkeep thought that he was the one being spoken to, until he heard the click of a walking stick entering through the back door.

The old man had come himself. Whatever this meeting was about, it must be important for him to come himself.

“They knew the risks. Our mother church protects her relics jealously.” The obvious question hung in the air as the old man looked the two of them over a moment. “Did you get it?”

“I said wasted, didn’t I?” His voice rang hollow as a broken bell. He drank deeply until the bottle was empty. The girl slid another in front of him and he got to work on the cork. “There was nothing there.”

The old man was still. He gave no sign that the news was anything new. Like the deaths of Vistle’s associate was neither a surprise or noteworthy.

“So, you came here empty handed?” he said it with no inflection, like it wasn’t a question. Vistle must have known that it wasn’t a question, because he answered only by downing the remaining contents of another bottle.

Vistle spun without warning, hurling the empty bottle at the wall.

“Asher. Rebis. Lirai.” Each name he punctuated by throwing a bottle at the wall. His forehead was glistening with sweat. “We opened the damn box, and it was empty.”

At this, the old man’s demeanor changed. He stood a little straighter, his eyes lit up, like a mouse that has smelled the cat.

“Empty… they took them out already.”

The barkeep had honestly been trying not to listen, but he realized he was staring at the old man. There was a real fear in those eyes.

The box of which they had been speaking could only be the Yaedorn box. An ornate silver chest that contained the three most important relics of the Church. In ancient days, before war of Calumite, it was carried into battle to signify that their god was fighting in their midst.

The old man met the Barkeep’s eye, and he felt face go white, a stone the size of his fist bobbed in his chest.

“We were never here.”

Finally, the back door was slammed, leaving him behind in solitude. It was a stillness that felt as dangerous as the Inquisition that was sure to come for him.

Jordan Hawes

Jordan Hawes

Spokane, WA