Numenera: Shadows of the Past
Me’gan drank the last dregs of swill the barkeep called ale. The evening crowd poured its way into the Wayward Inn, full of drunkards who stunk worse than the shit they shoved daily. She sat at a table in the back corner, tankard in hand.
A fat man took a seat across from her, stinking of musk. He licked his wormy lips.
She wanted to retch.
‘Not seen you ’ere before,’ he said. His breath smelt worse than an aneen’s fart.
Me’gan wrinkled her nose.
’I’m travelling,’ she said. ‘Heard this city had friendly locals.’
She was jesting.
‘Well,’ he raised his hands, ’I’m the friendliest of them all!’
He grinned, showing teeth black with rot.
‘Excuse me,’ she stood, ‘my cup’s empty.’
She walked away before the blob could object.
He snatched her arm, knocking the tankard from her hand. It rang against the floor and rolled under the feet of a dozen drunks. ‘Listen wench, I can be a gentleman or I can be rough. Either way I’m having a taste.’
He didn’t see her draw her knife until it was at his throat.
‘Sure, I’ll give you a taste.’ Her lips curved into a smirk. ‘What part do you want to try first?’
He let go of her and stepped back, sweat dripping down his throat. If he so much as gulped, his throat would spill crimson.
‘P-please,’ he pleaded, ‘I meant no harm.’
She raised an eyebrow. ‘Oh? That’s good to hear.’ She glanced at the tankard on the floor. ‘Pick it up and get me another drink, would you, friend?’
Me’gan withdrew the blade and watched him climb on hands and knees to retrieve the cup. She chuckled and turned back to the table to wait for his return…
…only to see a stranger sitting on her seat.
’Who’re you?’ she said.
He didn’t reply, didn’t even look up. He had a young face — handsome, though serious. That’s when she noticed the wound on his forehead.
Was that a burn mark?
She sat down at the seat across from him, the fat man had kept it warm.
‘Ignoring me won’t make me go away.’
The man was cloaked in black, covering wounds she couldn’t see but knew were there. He had come from a fight — a hard one.
‘Did you kill them?’ she said.
He looked up, eyes pale as moonlight.
‘No,’ he said. ‘They got away.’
Now she was intrigued. ‘I take it that doesn’t happen often.’
He stared down at his hands on the table. They were nimble, strong; hands of a blademaster.
Aside from Me’gan, he was the deadliest person in this inn. No, deadlier. She felt it now. Dark hands tightened around her throat. Shadows crept across the edges of her vision. She was sinking, her arms and legs slow and weighted. An ocean swelled around her. She gasped for breath, sucking black water into her lungs.
Here’s your drink.
She took another breath, air returned. The fat man stood beside her, full tankard in his hand.
‘I said here’s your drink.’
The dark figure was gone.
Strange, she had already forgotten his face. She would not forget his aura, though, which left a void in her mind like a silhouette in a memory.
Me’gan suddenly decided her seat wasn’t important.