So I wrote a short story, but I’m thinking this could be a part of something bigger. ..

Just Passing Through

It was a typically quiet night in the village of Bilge. The fisherman had completed their daily hauls and were now drinking away their miserable existences in the miserable little inn in the miserable town of the aptly named Bilge. It’s main productive enterprise was in the business of fish, if that wasn’t obvious by the smell that hung in the air, like a filthy green mist. Most of the coin these fishermen earned during the day was then spent at the inn, drinking and whoring until they went home to their families, unfulfilled and with empty pockets. Bilge was a small town in the northern reaches of the middle of nowhere, where everyone knows everyone, and so unwelcoming to strangers.

The young barkeep, distracted, picked up his rag and started wiping out an empty flagons ready for the next round of ale. It was late and most of his respectable patrons had gone home, leaving only three tables. Two were full of local troublemakers, loud, merry and plastered, with the ageing bar wench Rosie on one younger lad’s lap. The other table was occupied by a man in a dark, shabby cloak, hooded so his face was almost wholly enveloped in shadow, unreadable, sipping from a small wooden cup of rum.

The barkeep watched as old Dale stood. Shirtless, his body was stained brown and strong, despite his advancing years and grey hair, shaped by countless days at sea hauling rope and cargo beneath the vicious sun. He hefted his flagon and took a mighty swig, before wiping his mouth on his hairy arm. He then fixed his eyes on the stranger, who before had gone mostly unnoticed.

“Ahoy stranger! Care ta share a drink?” He spoke loudly, with a thick, wild accent.

 The stranger simply sipped at his rum, before slowly looking up, his face still shadowed by the hood, and shook his head.

Dale’s welcoming smile seemed to melt off his face as he looked round his table full of sailors, and began to smile again, this time different, excited. Having not taken his eyes off the proceedings, and scrubbing the filth from his dirty rag further into the flagon, the barkeep thought he heard him say, “Looks like we’ve gone and got ourselves a catch, lads” and he knew what would happen next. Dale and his crew hated strangers, and loved unburdening them of their hard, or in some cases not-so-hard earned coin.

Dale walked around the table. All the fisherman’s eyes followed him as strolled across the floor of the inn, looking uncomfortable to have his feet on solid ground. The stranger looked up slowly as he approached, raising his head enough to shine some light on his lower face. A square-set jaw with a short but unkempt beard framed a wry smile that tugged at one corner of his mouth. The barkeep had a bad feeling about the man. For all Dales size and experience with beating outsiders, there was an intangible menace that hung in the air about the drifter. It put him on edge just being in the same room as him.

Dale pulled a chair out from a nearby table, spun it round and sat down at the strangers, resting his chin in his hands. 

A few seconds past, before the sailor broke the uncomfortable silence. “Dale,” he held out his hand, expecting the stranger to shake it. He didn’t move. He was still not even looking at the fisherman, his gaze absent-mindedly wandered the room before resting on the bar wenches breasts with a slight leer. A hand subtly adjusted something hanging from his belt.

“So whas’ with the ‘ood, it don’ feel much like it’s rainin’ in ‘ere, or ‘ave ya got summat ta hide?” Asked Dale, squaring himself against the hooded traveller, seemingly liking his chances against the smaller man across the table from him. To be fair, most men were smaller than Dale.

Still not even sparing the big sailor a glance, the outsider replied.

 “Am I supposed to understand a thing you just said?”

 Dale didn’t take that well. Scowling, he reached to pull the man’s hood down, growling,

“I don’ like your to-”

With one hand sipping from his rum, the hooded man used the other to grab Dales wrist, one second it was tucked in his cloak, the next it was holding the fisherman’s outstretched arm. The barkeeper had missed it.

Dale’s face screwed up in pain, before he yelped like a wounded dog and the barkeeper heard a loud CRACK. The massive sailor jumped up in pain, holding his wrist, his hand flopping around at the end and bending at an unholy angle.

“AAAH FUCK… MY HAND, FUCKIN’ GET HIM!” He whined, his crew jumping to their feet. Some grinned broadly, excited with the chance to put an outsider in his place, others furious with the strangers audacity. A few drew knives, a couple others axes of the type a lumberjack would chop wood with. One even pulled out a sword, though how a poor fisherman got his hands on a blade like that the barkeeper wondered, before then starting to profusely worry about how he was to clean the blood off the floor of his father’s inn afterwards. He ducked behind the bar, not wanting a part of the bloodshed that was about take place under his roof. It was silent but for the agonisingly slow rasp of a blade being drawn, then there was clashing, screaming, wet sounds, like you would hear in a butchers, of meat being cleaved, the clang of weapons hitting the floor, before one big thump that the barkeeper presumed was the body of the cocky stranger slumping to the deck.

 He crawled up from the ground where he had been lying, before peering over the bar. The sight before him chilled him straight to the marrow. Bodies lay strewn about the inn, some complete, others missing limbs, two missing heads, fountains of blood pouring from stumps where once were body parts, all well dead. It was the silence that chilled him, the sudden silence and lack of movement but for the blood still pulsing from the carcasses. 

Then the shadows seemed to move out of the corner of his eye. At the back of the inn a man was stood, just one. He raised his wooden cup and knocked back a shot as if he had never dropped it, then knelt beside one of the bodies, wiping a fine sword clean on shredded rags that would have once resembled clothes. He then stood, sheathed his fine blade beneath the folds of his cloak, and strolled over to the bar without a care, avoiding the puddles of blood now forming on the floor and leaking through the floorboards. The sawdust strewn about the floor to soak up spilled ale, was now swelling with spilt blood.

He looked normal, human, handsome even, if it wasn’t for those eyes. The barkeeper could only look away, and to this day they haunted his nights. Those endlessly deep red eyes, with thin red cracks running along the whites, leading into the centre the colour of arterial blood, gave him away as something other than human. His red, hungry eyes and his cocky grin. 

“This should cover the Rum, with some extra for your troubles. Apologies for the mess, I’m just passing through” he growled, reaching for the bottle behind the counter whilst dropping four blood soaked bronze coins on the bar from his outstretched hand, one at a time. The barkeep picked up the coins, they smelled of fish, before leaning down to pick up the one that had rolled off the bar and fell to the floor. He stood and looked up to an empty room. Empty but for the eight dead locals and some dismembered limbs littered about the floor of his inn. The door creaked shut. There, Rosie the bar wench was huddled in the corner, her arms wrapping her legs and rocking back and forth. She looked up, and her eyes opened wide before she let out a frigid scream that could be heard throughout the blackness of Bilge.

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