Saturday, June 11, 2011

Holstein hospitality

It was well after midnight when Captain Trask arrived at the Slaughtered Ox, Eppsteins only inn. Like the rest of the town, the inn was dark and the doors were locked. Trask was bone weary after a long day in the saddle and in no mood to be inconvenienced further by these yokels. He hammered on the inn door until the landlord appeared at the second floor window. "I'm here on the Elector's business. Open up!" snarled the captain, and one look at the stranger told the landlord that the topic wasn't up for discussion.
Once inside, Trask's demand for food was met with a bowl of warmed over porridge and the worst beer he had ever tasted. "Won't be recommending this place to the folks back home" he mused as he finished up his meal. A good nights sleep and he'd be ready for business.

It was almost noon when the Captain awoke. "Getting too old for this" he muttered to himself as he stretched to loosen up his stiff muscles. Downstairs the inn already had a few of the locals loafing about. Trask ordered a breakfast of chops, which was served to him by the landlords daughter. He tried to open a friendly conversation with her, as gathering information was always the first step in settling these local disturbances. The girl barely acknowledged his gesture and hurried away when her father glared at her.

After his meal Trask relaxed a bit and observed the landlord and the few patrons hanging around. He noticed that no one was even looking in his direction and the volume of their various conversations had dropped off since he had entered the room. He strolled over to a pair of locals and ventured a friendly introduction, which was met with stony silence. Trask's patience, never his strong suit, was wearing thin, so he confronted the landlord at the bar. "As I told you last night, I'm here on the Elector's business. Now I will ask questions and you will answer them." The interrogation of the landlord was fairly unproductive. He was a frightened man. He knew nothing of the murders but several dangerous inmates had escaped from an asylum a few miles outside of town several months ago and were thought to be living in the forest. Perhaps they were responsible.

During the hour Trask spent with the landlord the other patrons had drifted away one at a time until the place was empty. He decided to spend the rest of the afternoon walking around the village to get a feel for the place. The rest of the villagers were no more helpful than the loafers at the inn. They barely responded to his inquiries and seemed quite frightened. He did manage to learn that the mayor had run off several weeks before and no one could say who was in authority in Eppstein. When the sun started to go down the streets of the village emptied quickly. Trask made his way back to the inn to the sound of doors and shutters being closed and barred. His evening meal was a repeat of the midday experience. The patrons kept their distance, spoke in low tones and pointedly ignored him. When the landlord's daughter appeared to clear off the table after his meal he was suprised when she discreetly slipped a note to him. Stepping outside as if to take the air, Trask read the note.
"Meet me tomorrow at midday behind the church. You are in great danger."