“Of course you can spend the night with me and Chloe,” Christine said with a smile. “I owe you all a lifetime of debt.”
“I don’t know about all of that,” Sigthyme said. “But we’d definitely appreciate a place to rest up.”
Sightyme, Tak, Riffen, Juniper and Grace all stood in the middle of Augendale, a mining town which was now past its prime and falling into ruin. More specifically they stood outside the general store called The Copper Pot which was run by Christine Hauck.
Christine was a human woman in her late forties with curly brown hair that had a few streaks of gray. She seemed perpetually tired and overworked, with bags under her eyes, but a kind smile on her face.
The group had managed to arrive just as Christine was closing up shop and locking the door to The Copper Pot. They had explained their situation briefly, leaving out the part where Riffen is a prince of a kingdom that they need to protect.
“Either way you all are all more than welcome to stay with me. No need to pay the prices that are set at The Silver Oyster. You’d think that the army leaving would drive down the prices of the rooms,” Christine said.
“The army has left?” Sigthyme asked.
“Well no, not all of them. Only the ones with the pointy ears,” Christine said as she looked over at Juniper.
“The Elves?” Juniper asked.
“The army of uh…what’s the country?”
“Ohn’serine,” Juniper said.
“Right. Right. Well about a week back they made an announcement that they were withdrawing all their soldiers from the Gray and Black walls,” Christine said. “Nate wrote to me and said that members of the other two armies are not very happy about it.”
“Yeah we’ve heard some strange things are happening back home,” Juniper said.
“Anyway I’m sure you all want to get off your feet. Let’s walk over to my house and I’ll set you up with some places to rest,” Christine said and she started to lead the group toward her home.
“What about the cart?” Sigthyme asked.
Chrsitine turned back around and looked at the cart being led by a pair of horses.
“Yeah, bring it. The house behind ours is abandoned but they had a small barn built. You’ll be able to store them there,” She said.
Sightyme nodded and led the horses behind the group as they followed Christine to her home. The horses were stashed in the abandoned barn and fed some oats that Christine had in storage. The group then crowded around in the main room of the house near the hearth that was burning brightly. Chloe, Christine’s daughter, was excited to see everyone, but was most excited to see shadow.
“Puppy!” Chloe said, her expression lighting up at the sight of the dog.
She ran over and threw her arms around the black, blink dog who happily licked her face.
“That’s Shadow. He’s my friend,” Riffen said as he took a seat on an old, wooden chair.
Chloe laughed and hugged Shadow.
“I love him,” She said.
“Yeah I do too,” Riffen smiled.
There wasn’t a whole lot of space or chairs, but the group was comfortable enough sitting on the floor. The whole house had a cozy atmosphere which only got cozier once a soft rain began to come down. The small taps of water hitting the glass windows could barely be heard over Chloe laughing and telling stories.
“Then the door slammed behind us and me and Bobby ran as fast as we could,” Chloe said.
“I thought I told you not to go into any more abandoned buildings,” Christine said.
“Mom. Bobby dared me too. I had to do it,” Chloe said.
Christine just shook her head.
“Sounds like this Bobby kid is full of trouble,” Riffen said.
“Yeah he’s always getting in trouble. He tries stealing from soldiers. Lucky he’s fast enough to get away,” Chloe said.
“He steals from the soldiers?” Riffen asked, his eyebrow raised.
“Bobby is only a bit older than Chloe,” Christine said. “His parents died when he was just a baby. He lives here with his grandmother. They don’t have much.”
“Yeah Bobby says that it’s the soldiers fault that his parents aren’t around,” Chloe said.
“Chloe. That’s enough. Why don’t you go get ready for bed,” Christine said.
“But I want to stay up with Shadow!” Chloe said.
The dog was comfortable sitting partially in Chloe’s lap.
“Don’t worry, Chloe. He’ll still be here in the morning. Plus the quicker you are asleep, the quicker you can spend time with him tomorrow,” Juniper leaned over and gave her a smile.
Chloe gave a quick nod and stood up, running to her room as fast as she could.
“Thanks,” Christine said, giving the whole group a small smile.
“What she said about the soldiers,” Riffen asked. “Is that true?”
Christine just shook her head.
“Bobby’s parents were both hired by The Mardrec Government. No one knows for sure, but the rumor is that they were some sort of spies. His grandmother is very bitter and sorrowful. She barely leaves the house. That’s why I do my best to keep my eye on the boy.”
Christine’s expression was sad and she looked partially drained. The life here in this ghost town full of soldiers really took its toll on a lot of people living here. Christine was no exception.
“Thank you again for allowing us to rest in your home,’ Sigthyme said, noticing the lull in the conversation.
“Yes, we really appreciate it,” Riffen said, echoing the sentiment.
“Of course. It’s my pleasure to help out heroes such as yourselves,” Christine said.
Sigthyme let out a small laugh.
“You think we are heroes?” He asked.
“Well aren’t you?” Christine asked.
That quieted the entire group. They just silently exchanged glances with one another.
“I’m going to go tuck in Chloe and head to bed myself. I have to open The Copper Pot in the morning. Help yourself to what little food is in the kitchen. If there’s an emergency, just knock on my door,” Christine waved them all goodnight and left the common room.
The group remained quiet for a moment before Riffen let out a small sigh.
“I think you all are heroes,” He said, as he laid his head back in the chair.
“I’m going to bed,” Grace announced.
She had spread out her bedroll and laid on top of it. Grace then rolled over onto her side, facing away from Riffen and the rest of the group.
“Hero,” Tak gave a big smile and leaned against the wall.
“That’s right, buddy,” Sigthyme tapped Tak on the knee.
He put on a good smile, but Juniper could tell that it fell flat. Sigthyme didn’t quite believe it. However, Juniper didn’t say anything. The day of travel had worn her out and she was quick to fall asleep. Before long the entire group was sleeping in the common room of Christine Hauck’s home.
Everyone except for Grace.
Grace laid there for several hours, eyes closed, doing her best to fall asleep. But ever since leaving Xylon she had a horrible time trying to fall asleep. She would toss and turn, ever restless. And when she did manage to fall asleep, she was tormented by scenes where she was covered in blood or clutching a bloody dagger in her hand. The sound of a man choking on his own blood echoed around in her head.
This night was no different. She just laid there, unable to fall asleep. Grace was wide awake and could hear the differences in the way the rest of the group breathed and snorred while they slept. Tak was definitely the loudest. So much so that sometimes she wondered how anyone could fall asleep with him around.
Eventually Grace sat up and looked around her. In the darkness she could make out the shape of her friends sleeping. She could always see great in the dark when the other humans she hung out with couldn’t see at all in total darkness. She was special that way.
Grace decided she was not going to get any rest and that a walk around the town might do her some good. She stood up and walked across the room, silently. She was always the best at moving without making a sound or being spotted. A dark room like this was child’s play for her.
She made her way to the large wooden door. Tak and Sigthyme were both sleeping close to the door, so Grace was extra careful as she turned the doorknob and opened the door. She slipped through the crack and closed the door behind her.
Grace let out a small sigh before she felt something touch her leg.
She quickly turned around and saw the shape of a black dog sniffing her.
“Shadow. What are you doing?” Grace asked in a low whisper.
Shadow stuck out your tongue and started to pant, just looking at Grace.
“Go. Go back to Riffen. Go to bed,” She said.
Grace did her best to shoo the blink dog but Shadow just looked at her and nudged her with his nose.
“Look. This isn’t a game. I’m just…” Grace stopped and let out a sigh. “I’m trying to reason with a dog. This lack of sleep is killing me.”
Shadow let out a small bark and rubbed his face against Grace, begging for some pets.
“Yeah fine,” Grace pet Shadow behind the ears. “Let’s go on a walk.”
Grace and Shadow walked through the town which was even darker and emptier at night. The groups of soldiers which were out, walking the streets were now passed out in a pub or sleeping back in the barracks. The few townsfolk who still lived here were at home, sleeping through the night. At night you could tell how little life was still in it.
“No wonder this place is super haunted,” Grace said, as she walked.
She passed by old abandoned buildings of all sorts of shapes and sizes. Most of these were abandoned homes, but she could tell some of them were businesses. Mining guilds, supply shops, bars, restaurants, and many others were abandoned and left rotting.
One building in particular stood out among all these abandoned wooden buildings. This one was made mostly from stone and seemed to be in good condition. Out front there was a sign which read “Platinum Shine. All Are Welcome.”
“Huh, a shrine,” Grace said. “Guess people still worship here or something. I’m sure this place can use all the prayers it can get.”
Grace turned and began to walk away, but she stopped quickly when she heard a noise coming from inside the shrine. Shadow was pointing his body in that direction and let out a small growl. Grace heard some sort of thump and then someone letting out a grunt of pain.
“I think someone is in there,” Grace said as she looked over at Shadow. “Let’s go check it out.”
Grace ran up the set of stone stairs and made her way to the large, wooden doors. Lucky for her the doors were unlocked and surprisingly easy to move. She opened the door just enough for her and Shadow to slip inside and the door of the Platinum Shine closed behind her.
Header Photo Credit to IIDanmrak‘s DeviantArt Page