The Shadows Chapter 20
By Keith Adams
Old Man Cain took a long sip from the glass of ale in his hand, spilling a bit over his ancient, white beard. Cain had lost almost all of the hair atop his head long before the Mystic Wars. Cain spent a great deal of his time in the local inn, drinking himself senseless every night. He had done this every night for over 20 years, and he was old then. Old Man Cain was a fixture in the inn, and occassionaly told yarns about mysterious things he had seen; no one paid much attention to Old Man Cain, but everyone knew he told tales of a demon finding a child in a valley.
Yes, Cain had seen some pretty odd stuff, but his run was coming to an end. Cain knew it; his stomach has feeling pretty worn out lately. He had drunk himself out of his cache of savings from when he was a sailor. Cain missed the sea, but this inn was close enough to it for him to smell the air he had given up so long ago.
Cain remembered the time he went to Ozzie's island, back before Ozzie had decided to annihalate humankind. He had snuck into the forest, and saw a mysterious blue light, and a child coming out. Ozzie tried to kill the child, but the child talked his way out of it. That was almost 22 years ago. He remembered the child was the strangest one he had ever seen; the child had dark blue hair and white skin.
Cain looked out the window; a slight drizzle was outside, punctuated by flashes of lightning in the distance, off to the north, where Truce Canyon had dissapeared a few months earlier, in a blue light.
"Hey Cain," said a freakish teenager named Rewoem. The teenager was scruffy looking, having no home to speak of; he wandered from place to place, spreading an air of unquestionable stupidity and agression. He did nothing worth doing, noted Cain, picking fights with anyone who got in his way. He never said anything worth saying, because all he said was garbage, a considerable amount of it was absolute babble. Rewoem tried to excuse his behavior by saying he really wasn't any worse than anyone else, but he was scum. Stupid, pitiful, agrressive scum "what's the matter, Old Man? Tired of being drunk and stupid, so you're going to do something about the second by removing your brain from your head?" Rewoem's insults not only completely missed the mark, they didn't even use the right type of ammo. Cain ignored the punk. "Ignoring me, are you?"
Rewoem drew a knife from inside his brownish vest, drawing it back before swinging it right at Cain's back, but the knife was parried by a long, thick staff, and barely made a nick in it.
The wielder of the staff was a tall, roughishly handsome young man of twenty four. He had twinkling blue eyes, was lightly built, and wore a bemused smirk. His brownish hair flickered in the torchlight, and his greenish jacket. and brown pants both had many pockets. His jacket reached down to his feet, but not the ground. He leaned back, in a catlike stance, his wide brimmed hat covering his eyes.
Rewoem twirled the knife and took a wide swipe at the man, who handily backed out of the way and whipped his staff across Rewoem's face. Everyone stood transfixed, unable to move. The man whirled his staff upwards, across Rowoem's jaw, and Rewoem looked horrified as he reliazed the other end of the staff had a small blade, broad and shard, coming to an evil looking point. Rowoem tried to thrust his knife at the man, but the man danced behind Rowoem and swung his staff across Rowoems back, causing the young punk to cringe in pain, falling to a knee.
Rowoem got up, still saying nothing, but Cain reliazed that the man was toying with Rowoem, who didn't pose a danger to him, The man spun his staff across Rowoems head, and Rowoem crumpled to the floor.
The Man sat on a stool next to Cain. The man twirled off his hat, revealing parted brown hair. He smiled at an attractive barmaid, then turned his inquiring brown eyes on Cain, as if he was evaluating him. Cain had a few questions of his own.
"Thank you, whoever you are," offered Cain gratefully.
"Think nothing of it," the man waved his hand almost as if shrugging off what he had done "I am Taram Alason, gambler at large."
"Wannta drink?" asked Cain.
"Sure," smiled Taram, who winked at the barmaid "Two ales please, add a bit of s'laor to one."
Cain threw his head back "Where have all the drunkards gone?" he asked.
"Here's another one," noted the blue eyed, blonde barmaid, who noticed a shadowy figure coming into the bar. The figure stepped into the light; he was wearing a well-worn brown vest, and greenish pans. But there was something odd about the newcomer, something which Cain noted with a degree of horror; he had blue hair, pale white skin, and red eyes, and after a few staggered steps, the figure crumpled to the floor.
The innkeeper considered himself a solid, pratical person, not overly alturistic nor overly antisocial. He was a man in his middle years, and had a dignified, proud look. His wife was another story.
His wife, Misses Ataile Inush, was a large, social woman who seemed to talk to everyone. When she came in and saw a group of two people - a young rouge, and a barmaid - standing over a crumpled form, she rushed down the stairs from her room to the group.
"Who is it?" she asked of the barmaid, Alicia, her youngest daughter.
"I don't know," said Alicia simply.
"He just wandered in," interrupted Old Man Cain from his barstool.
"He might be a refugee, fleeing the shadows," offered the young man in a light voice "But the Shadows still haven't recovered from the trashing they were given at Porre."
Ataile let loose a small stream of air "Whoever he is, we'll take him up to a room and get him fixed up. Come on, young man, pick him up."
The irrepresible wanderer Toma strolled over to the person, squinted at him, and then, nodding to the young rouge, helped pick him up on their shoulders and follow Ataile's lead into an unoccupied room on the upper level.
Alicia stood over the man, who had been unconscious since first arriving three days ago. They were in a small room, with a few chairs, a chest, and a few chairs. They had put his old clothes in the chest and dressed him in black pants, white shirt, and a black jacket. The man didn't have black hair, as she originally thought, but very dark, blue hair. The window was open, and the moonlight shined on him from the rooms open window which overlooked the ocean. The man's complexion was getting a bit darker now; he had recovered from the unnaturally pale complexion he had three days ago. He was handsome, in an odd way, and was troubled. He had an oblong face, clear; he occassionally muttered names; Gaspar, Schala, R66-Y. She wondered what those names meant.
The man's temperature, which has almost deathly cold when he first arrived, was now warmer. He smiled occasionally, and his eyelids, his eyelids sometimes tried to lift themselves. They had cut his hair, which was now only at the top of his neck. Alicia sighed; she wondered just who this man was.
The mans eyes opened suddenly, and he clutched his stomach. He staggered up, stretched, and looked out the window. He looked down at his clothes, shrugged, and then turned around and looked directly at Alicia.
The man's eyes were a dark red, inquiring, full of rage; they seemed ready to boil over at any moment. He raised an eyebrow and shrugged. He ran his hand throw his hair, noticed it was shorter, and took it in stride.
"Who are you?" questioned Alicia, ignoring the odd feeling in her stomach.
"Who am -I-?" the man smiled "I have more impo -, no, I suppose you're right. I am Janus, of Porre."
"Would you wait here - just one second," said Alicia, who called downstairs that the man had woken up. Ataile, Toma, Old Man Cain, and Taram came rushing up into the small room.
Toma arrived first. He gave the man an appraising glance, then winked as if he remembered him from somewhere. Ataile smiled approvingly, and Janus smiled back. Old Man Cain looked at him like a kindred spririt, and Taram looked as though he had seen his ideal.
"My name is Janus, an explorer and bard. I have been searching for something very important for a while. Would you mind filling me in on what has gone on since Ozzie's defeat?"
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