Ghost Story - Part One

A good evening for a story...

Heavy clouds slid sullenly over the dark night sky, only to be torn apart by jagged flashes of lightning. The cold sleet that had been pouring down on the sodden and muddy forest floor had already driven everyone inside to huddle over the warm fires. Only the baying of wandering Gingo packs remained as proof of life outside in this cheerless night. Hence no one saw the dark shadow that flickered for a brief second in the poor light of a lamp close to the town gates of Avalae.

Within the tavern of the small town near the border to the Fleeting Garden, the atmosphere hadn't been affected by the weather. Indeed, the biting cold and the dreary sleet made sure that the tavern was bustling with homins and Roccio Anichio, the landlord, was starting to become worried for his beer supplies.

Exuberantly and noisily, the homins were celebrating as if to forget the chills of winter and the misery outside; not one thought being wasted on the rough winter weather and the brewing storm. That was until the door suddenly swung open with a clatter bringing the storm violently into the room... In that instant all conversation stopped as all eyes were focused on the entrance. Who, they wondered as they stared at the door swinging in the storm winds, was travelling in this dismal night?

But there was no one at the door...

Suddenly lightning struck, a dizzying flash of purest white which cut a jagged scar across the watchers’ vision. It split the darkness and revealed the dark outline of a homin framed by the door.

Motionless, like a statue of finely carved wood, he stood outside only a few steps from the door. As soon as a handful of homins took heart and started to approach the stranger, he made a first step towards the door. Then, a second step followed and a third. He was moving slowly, as if it was a great struggle for him to move one foot in front of the other. Finally, he reached the doorstep. Everyone inside held their breath as the light from the tavern room hit the stranger, expecting the strangeness to take some material shape. Then there was a collective sigh of relief as the dark outline, very unspectacularly, turned into an old but perfectly normal seeming homin.

Roccio was the first to regain the power of speech. "What brings you here, to my tavern, at such a late hour, stranger?” his voice broke the silence. "Or else, what drives you from your home in a night like this?"

"My home is the forest, and my way brings me to your door." The voice sounded just like the creaking of wood in an old tree. "Am I not welcome here? In that case, I will leave."

"No, no." Roccio assured the stranger, who had again turned to the door. "So stay here with us. In a night like this we don't want to turn anyone away. Come here. Here is something to warm you up again." He placed a steaming cup on the counter for the strange visitor. "It's on the house."

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