Robert Witherspoon fidgeted as he sat at the burnished oak bar. He was normally a patient man, never one to fret or fuss, even when business was overwhelming, but this... this was something else again.
He'd sent word to Lord Maycourt as soon as it had happened. He'd been gobsmacked... well, gobsmacked was hardly the word... He'd been stupefied. He'd scarcely been able to believe what he'd been seeing. But there it had been, plain as day, right in front of him.
He did feel just a little guilt at using the word "it". It was, after all, a "she". A frightening "she", to be sure, but a "she" nonetheless. She'd wandered into his inn at about a quarter past noon, looking confused and bewildered, and entirely out of place. The noonday meal was in full swing, and Witherspoon himself had hardly had a moment to spare her a glance, but what bit of his attention had wandered her way had been enough to snatch the rest of him into full alertness.
It had been her hair that had first seized his attention. It was unbound, loose, and cropped at the shoulders. It was also the most intense shade of copper he had ever seen. From the hair his gaze had wandered to her spectacles, such spectacles as he had never seen before, and would be unlikely ever to see again. Not metal, as most proper frames were made from, but something entirely foreign, with a swirling mix of colours much like those on a tortoiseshell cat.
And her clothes... well, her clothes were altogether improper. She'd worn what could only be described as men's attire, with a tailored jacket and trousers. Again, the material... Not wool, not hide, but something else. Something ... he hardly dared to think it ... something sinister.
There'd been no doubt whatsoever in his mind that she was a demon.
From what domain she'd come, he knew not. But what he had known was that his colleagues needed to be alerted. A creature from another realm had invaded theirs, and there were things to be done.
A rustle from above brought his attention back to the present. He glanced around the room. No one was about. Business hours were over, and his guests were all asleep in their rooms. He knew what had made the sound, but he didn't move.
Then, a mere moment later, she was there. Not so sinister now, wrapped in a dressing gown, but still... the hair, the spectacles. He felt his eyes ought to be burning just looking at her.
"I ... I couldn't sleep," she murmured.
He wasn't afraid of her. He found it odd, but he felt no fear at all. If anything, he felt pity for her, and not a little sympathy. She was quite obviously out of her element, and if she had any supernatural powers, she'd yet to display them.
He'd offered her a room without even thinking much about it. Best to keep her near to hand. Heaven knew what manner of mischief she'd find if he let her out of his sight.
"You're not alone in that, my dear," Witherspoon replied. "I am not known for sitting up at my bar in the middle of the night."
She smiled and stepped closer. It was the oddest thing. She had a lovely smile, and a very warm and engaging face. If she weren't so obviously otherworldly, he'd have felt almost paternal towards her.
He blinked hard as he suddenly realized that he felt paternal towards her regardless. He was hard pressed to keep her demonic aspect in the forefront of his mind.
But then, that was probably her method, charming those she wished to victimize. She would probably slice him open at any moment.
But then again, if she had that sort of power over people, surely she'd prevent him from having such thoughts.
He no longer knew what to think. He would have to hold to his notion that she was a supernatural creature in the form of a lovely young woman, and let any new revelations come in their own due time.
"I was just about to put on some tea," he said to her. "Would you like some?"
"That would be great. Thanks."
She used the word "great" as if were just a variation of "good" or "nice". Very odd.
"I must confess, my dear," he said as he wandered towards the kitchen, "that with all the extraordinary happenings of the day, I completely neglected to ask your name."
"Oh," she said, somewhat startled. "I never did tell you, did I?"
He shook his head.