It was a busy day at the market in town. People were roaming all over the place and the noise made by the vendors, each shouting about whatever it was they were selling, made it almost impossible to have a decent conversation with anybody. Two women met at the exit on their way out.
-Bheana, have you found the trout you were looking for? – asked Antaidha
-No, Isgair had already sold the few he had left from the other day. He said the man who was supposed to bring him more never came this morning. They had a contract, you know? Once every 4 days that man would provide him with fresh fish. Isgair said he never missed a delivery before.
-Oh, too bad! You can’t rely on anyone anymore these days. There are so few people you can trust left. One can’t even have the courage to open the door to young children nowadays.
-Yes, you’re right! Poor fellow, can you imagine? Murdered and thrown into the lake by kids!? The eerie thing is that they didn’t rob the house afterwards. They just killed the poor bastard and went off to their business.
-Maybe he fought back or screamed and they got scared and ran off! People don’t just go killing others without any reason, do they?
-Ah, who knows? This world is getting more evil by the day. I can feel danger everywhere. Even now I feel like something dark is watching.
-Don’t worry, Bheana, we’re safe in town! The Kings Guards are watching over us and the Governor even ordered them to double the patrols at night.
-That’s what’s worrying me. Why did he order that? Something is happening and it’s not good.
-I’m sure they have a reason, but we shouldn’t concern ourselves with these sorts of matters.
-Maybe you’re right. I’m just a little uneasy lately.
-Just go home and rest your eyes a bit. Well, this is where we part ways. Take care, my dear!
-Thank you, Antaidha, you mind yourself as well!
The two women parted ways. Antaidha was almost home when she noticed something strange. Her kitchen window was wide open. This was unusual as she never leaves her hut without checking every door and window to be shut. One can’t be so reckless, especially in this part of town.
She lived in the peasant’s corner, the poorest part of Bhaile. And, if that wasn’t enough, there was a brothel right at the end of her street. That’s where all the drunks and lowlifes would spend most of their days.
Antaidha looked at the open window for another moment and then she built up the courage to go to the door. Maybe she just forgot to close it today. She did leave in a hurry to go to the market before everything good and fresh was sold.
As she carefully walked inside, she looked around but saw nothing suspicious. Everything was in its place and nothing was missing. She went to the kitchen to put the sack on the table and close the window.
Suddenly, she felt a chilling cold coming from behind! As she turned around something grabbed her by the neck and pushed her. She fell on her back, missing by just a hair’s width the table’s margin. The thing that attacked her was still holding her neck tightly.
It was hideous! It had bright yellow eyes, but its pupils were dark and thin. Like a cat, but they were emanating evil. Its skin was pale and you could see the black veins thru it. She felt something stinging her neck. Talons, like those of a bird of prey. The creature was hissing in a terrible voice. Antaidha tried to scream, but the creature’s grip was too strong and she couldn’t let out any sound.
-Where is he? – hissed the creature.
Antaidha was shocked! The creature could talk. It was looking for someone, but who? How could she, Antaidha, a simple, poor and single woman know anything of value for such a foul beast?
-Where is he? – hissed the creature again.
-I don’t know what is it you are seeking! – she cried in despair.
-The one who told you the story about the man murdered on the lakeshore. Where is he?
-I… I don’t know! I can’t remember who told me, all the people in town heard the story. It’s the only thing everybody is talking about for the last two days.
-Liar! Don’t die for him! Tell me, where is he? What’s he called?
-I can’t remember! I think it was the lumberjack, Aiream, but I’m not sure. I told you, everybody in town heard the story. Please, don’t hurt me!
-Aiream… Aiream he’s called; thank you! – hissed the creature.
With a swift move of her taloned hand, the creature slit Antaidha’s neck. It got up, took some sort of vial from its belt, and drank it. In a few seconds, the creature was gone. Now, in the house, there was only Antaidha’s lifeless body and the missing girl from the lake.
She walked towards the door and when she opened it, the tall, thin boy was waiting for her in front. She told him something and then left together.