|“Now where did you hear of Cimmerians?” My father asked me when I’d related what Thromis had told me. I was spared having to answer as he continued with a glint in his eye, his voice held the tones of an anger that was long ago satisfied.
“I was perhaps a bit older than you are now and helping your grandparents with the inn, as you should be helping your mother and I. Not off getting wild ideas about far away people.” He paused a few seconds. “Not that there was much to do as it was winter and the caravans were not due to start passing through until the first thaws came along. But it was your grandfather’s habit to maintain a kettle of stew on the fire and a keg of his early brew just in case of a lone traveler.
Usually that stew became our daily meals but on that day a burly stranger dressed in wolf furs came through the door. He wasn’t a tall man but you could tell he wasn’t to be trifled with. His hair was snarled and long, he was unshaven and you could smell that he’d been traveling for many days. The handle of a sword stuck up over his left shoulder.”
Father paused and pointed over to the corner of the room where the light was the poorest. “He tossed a pack on the floor over there, a silver piece on the bar and a copper to me. He then ordered that his horse be seen to and that he be given a large bowl of the stew and a crock of the beer.
I was sent out to see to his horse and I could see that it had been ridden hard, head drooping and all lathered and steaming in cold. I lead the poor creature to the stable and removed its tack and harness and after walking it around to cool it down I gave it a good rubbing with straw.
When done with my duty I returned to main room and I admit to simply staring at the stranger and his sword as he wolfed down the bowls of the stew. Until my father sent me off to clean out a good room for the stranger should he decide to stay. Wasn’t much to do as mother saw to it that the inn was always clean. I figured my father just didn’t want me offending so I stacked a couple of extra blankets on the bed and made sure there was charcoal in the brazier.
Done, I headed back to the main room and it was at the top of the stairs that I heard the door slam open and rough voices. I crept halfway down the stairs to the same place you go when you want to watch to room with out being seen. As I found my spy point one voice demanded loudly that they be served food, beer and bed.”
My father paused for few seconds then with a scowl on his brow he cleared his throat. “I heard my mother scream and I could see that one man had her and was…treating her roughly. Looking over at the bar I could see that a second man had a dagger at your grand father’s throat. Two others were behind the bar, one helping himself to the beer and one to the meager till that father kept to change coin for guests.
All four were loud with cruel laughter that almost drowned out your grandmother’s cries. I admit that I was very frightened and find no shame, now, in telling you that tears came into my eyes. At the time it was shameful to me and I furiously tried to blink them away wondering how I could help.
And it was in one of those eye blinks that the man with your grandmother began to slump to the floor, a poniard having some how appeared to pierce his head, temple to temple. At almost the same time the man holding a dagger to my father’s throat staggered back from the impact of a beer crock that hit him in the face.
It was the travel stained stranger and with wide eyes I watched as he ran towards the bar and leapt over it with his sword out. His weapon ran though one man’s neck and into the cabinet behind him leaving him hanging there kicking out his life. The stranger’s free hand had grasped another by the hair and had slammed his head back across the sturdy shelf behind bar. There was the sound of a giants knuckles being cracked and the man slumped to the floor when the stranger released his grip.
The bastard who been hit by the crock had recovered and as your grandfather rushed to your grandmother’s side he’d pulled a sword and charged towards the stranger.
There was no exchange of blows as you hear of in the story teller’s tales.
The stranger simply freed his blade as though it were merely resting in a scabbard hanging on the wall not buried in a man’s neck and the wood work of the cabinet. With the same motion he followed through and hurled his sword speeding it forward to slam into the last man’s chest to bury it’s self to the hilt.”
My father’s eyes gazed into some hidden distance as he spoke. “There were four men slain in less time than it takes to tell of it and the stranger’s face had shown no emotion as his bearing showed no trace of his exertions.
As the stranger recovered his sword and cleaned the blood from it with one of the dead men’s cloaks he told my father to keep what the dead men had as compensation for my parents’ troubles. He warned them that they should not be boisterous with the new property as these men might have vengeful companions.
The stranger sheathed his sword, picked up his pack and strode to the door where he stopped and turned back to face my parents and I.
He spoke to us one last time to tell us that if friends of the dead men came along to say that they had offended a Cimmerian and to tell them what he looked like.”
“And with that he left.”
Father then looked at me fondly and said, “That is all anyone around here knows of Cimmerians. And the stables have been neglected today so you had best make yourself busy, go!”
© Copyright 2006 Corliss (UN: djvj at Writing.Com).
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