If you happened to be in a pub known only as that place between two others, on the night of the great storm bigger than all others before or since. You might have been witness to a very strange affair.
That night, it was so stormy that no man, or animal could travel safely. And the roads had been blocked for miles by mud and slush. Only a fool, or someone who could fly, would even dare step beyond their front door. Let alone tried to travel.
Yet this was a stark contrast to what lay inside the building. It was full of life warmth and laughter. Those in residence had been there for days waiting for this cursed weather to pass and as such had become quite jolly. Spending all their gold on food, drink, and of course, what women that lay at hand.
This made the arrival of the stranger all the more eventful and memorable.
At what must have been an hour before the stroke. The door was blown open by a seemingly invisible force, and their standing in the doorway, silhouetted by the light of the two lanterns guarding the archway was a man.
The entire tavern fell silent, and tried to hide their faces from the sudden cold and this menacing figure who seemed to be born from the worst the world had to offer. Yet still, those who were brave enough peeked above elbows and shoulders when they could without appearing to.
He stepped inside and closed the large, heavy door behind him, and immediately the warmth returned in a great wave almost as powerful as the cold that preceded it. At least physically. The man’s overpowering presence seemed to suck all warmth from the world.
His dark cloak dripped on the floor as he walked toward the bar each small splash, like his steps, audible in choking silence. Making a staccato beat to the man’s stride.
When he arrived at the bar. He put two hands on the wood, worn smooth by many glasses and cups of ale, and asked the man behind.
“Would there be a chance of board and a hot meal? And if so, how much would I have to part with?”
The barkeeper looked the man up and down. But despite the observant personality that those in his profession maintained he could not find a thing about the strange man that stood before him.
The cloak he wore was long; it draped all the way down to his boots. And while the hood was up his face was in shadow. There was nothing he could see of the man who stood across the no man’s land of the bar.
“Ten silver a night, food is extra; and no trouble.” He said cautiously. Meaning the last as both a warning and a plea.
The strange man smiled. Or at least gave the impression of a smile. “I have no intention of making trouble. But I do not have ten silver. Would this do instead?”
As he reached inside his cloak the barman unconsciously reached for his knife under the wood. Honestly, had this been any other man before him, and had he drawn that weapon he might have lived. But this man, he was something else, he gave the air of one who had killed and could kill without thinking. The man let go of his knife.
As he fumbled for whatever lay beneath his cloak he turned his head slightly revealing, at least in part, his face. Yet all the bartender could make out in this was a deep and old scar crossing his left cheek.
The man straightened again and the features were again lost to shadow. But that was no longer an issue, as the man put down a golden coin.
It had the seal of a rival kingdom and the bartender could not hold back a gasp of surprise.
“What is this?” asked Bem. The local strongman, and unofficial problem solver. “No foreign currency is allowed.”
“I do not wish to cause a problem. But this is all I have.”
The man behind the bar waved off the muscular fellow. “I think this will do fine. I will send over a meal shortly.”
“I think it is not.” Replied Bem. “I will not have someone come in in this manner.
“And I will not be insulted.” Replied the stranger with an eerie calm.
“And what shall you do about it?” Bem leaned in as close as he could. Towering over the wet and small man. Yet still, he chuckled.
This angered Bem, and he swung his fist in a wish to kill. Truly, had it impacted that might have been true.
Instead. The closed fist went sailing overhead and into the bar. Followed swiftly by the owner’s head.
The room collectively gasped. “He will be alright. But he will be out until tomorrow night. By which time I will be long gone.”
And from there the stranger strode over to a seat in the corner and, taking off his cloak, sat down in the shadows to await his meal.
Now. Perhaps in any other part of the world the room would stay dark and ominous for the rest of the evening. Careful not to incur this stranger’s wrath. But here in this part of the world, he was quickly forgotten and the party continued.
After all, he seemed strong enough to take care of himself, and he wanted to be left alone. That is all the rest really wanted to know.
Before long, his meal arrived and he tucked in with gusto. Hot food in this weather is a true blessing. And for a man that looked as well travelled as he, he seemed to know it well.
The party continued on around him whilst he ate, oblivious, or trying to be, of the man that was eating his meal in the dark corner.
The real question was simple. Why was he here, of all the places? And how did he get here through the storm. No-one was able to get this far unless they were in league with the gods of the weather themselves.