A Debt of Copper [Part One]

It was on the sixth day that Eryn uncurled from the depths of her iron place and found the village astir once more. Margaret had brought her milk and bread this morning, her worn plump cheer openly replaced with a troubled brow and anxious eyes. She told her of how a strange man had arrived late last night at the Brandied Pig, like a winter shadow out of the autumn rains. He had ensconced himself in a corner seat, ignoring the open stares of the villagers and the chilly silence that fell.

The man was neither tall nor wide of build, but outsiders were far from ordinary in these parts and times, so his presence had drawn every eye in the room. The barkeep, Iven, had hailed him without so much as a gesture in reply. He did not ask for drink or bed, but remained hunched over the empty table, his face and attire shrouded by a thick grey traveller’s cloak that swept down to the floor.

Curiosity had quickly turned to wariness, then to a dark fear, and the common room had emptied a short time thereafter. All had left, save him, and there in the inn did he stay the entire night and morning. It wasn’t right or normal, said Margaret as she wrung her creased hands, for a man not to speak his intent when he entered an unfamiliar town, much less not speak at all. Not normal at all.

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