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A shadow slowly snaked its way across the floor and a woman stiffly sat herself at a lone table. The pale light from the single lit candle illuminating her features, making her look like a cooper colored ghost. The barman looked over at the apparently new customer with heavy eyelids, then, seeing she wasn’t going to order anything, continued scrubbing the tables with his muddy cloth.
The woman just sat there, silvery white hair cascading over her shoulder, amber eyes almost glowing in the dark.
“Can I get you something?” The barman asked, voice completely devoid of emotion.
There was a moment of silence as the woman slowly turned to face the barman, head tilted slightly to the right as if she didn’t understand the question. Her head was at an angle which only allowed light to shine on the luminescent eyes, hiding the rest of her countenance.
The barman looked up again, setting his cloth aside.
“If you ain’t here to get anything, you better get out. We’re closed.”
“I do not understand.” Her voice came out distant and she tilted her head even more to the right. “You are… closed?”
The barman sighed in exasperation. “Look lady,” he said, “I’ve got my family to return to, so I’ll ask you again, nicely, to leave.”
The woman looked up and this time, the barman could clearly see her countenance. Her skin was the same grayish white color of her hair, exactly the same. Her ears were pointed and narrow.
“You are with… family?” She said, again in that drifting voice, as if a single wisp of wind could blow it away.
“Yes,” the barman, instead of getting scared of her odd appearance, got quite annoyed. He watched as the woman’s gaze floated over him and latched itself onto a spot slightly behind his right shoulder.
“I do not understand,” the woman repeated, standing up with her words, slowly drifting across the inn. “You are with family, yet you do not understand…”
The barman turned to look. Behind him, was the prize of his collection, and the witness of his deceit. A pure white wolf skin was stretched across the wall, covering nearly half of it.
“Oh yeah,” he said, pride filling his voice, “didn’t skin it myself though, got it off a huntsman for three drinks.” He then let lose a cold bark, “the idiot was too drunk to think clearly!”
The woman had made her way across the inn by then and leaned in closer towards the barman.
“And is it…” She said in a hoarse whisper, “a mere plaything for you? Or is it a decoration perhaps?” Her eyes shone with malice.
The barman was too drowned in his gloat to register the sharp fangs in front of him.
“Pretty though ain’t it? My wife and me children are scared of the wretched thing, think the family would avenge its death.” He made air quotations at the words. “Silly superstitions, I don’t believe one bloody word of it. Let the wolves come I say, see what they can do,” he huffed out his chest as if just to prove the point. Then his eyes fell on the woman before him, and his pupils dilated in terror. The echoing scream hung in the stiff late night air like a death sentence.
Next morning, the customers came and went as usual, shepherds, farmers, huntsmen, but all their attention was drawn to the wall behind the barmen. The white wolf skin was gone.
When the huddles of farmers grouped together finally got bored on bizarre hypotheses, one of them finally plucked up the courage to ask him. The barman had his back on the farmer all the time he spoke until he reached the question.
“What happened to the wolf skin?”
He had been anticipating the question and had an answer ready. As the sun hit the highest spot on the horizon, distant howls permeated through the air and every other sound stopped and in that exact second. The barman turned to face the farmer, amber eyes glinting with what seemed like pure elation, lips twirling into a half smile. A distant whisper came out of his lips.
“She is with family.”