Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Halloween Bard's Tale!

I wrote this today for two reasons this Hallow's Eve: I was inspired to try something new and so I wrote this in first person and also I did not use a single name. It was more of an experiment to see if I could pull it off...I hope you like it. The story takes place in my Realm of Ashenclaw setting in the unscrupulous town of Freeport along Ship's Landing in the northern section of Wothlondia.

In a rundown bar called the Scallywag was where I found refuge and alcohol to drown my sorrows this Hallow’s Eve. The inn was full to bursting , as it was most nights according to the rumors of the bar wenches and tavern keep, whose name escapes me. But this time, all of the tavern folk were celebrating the holiday by dressing up in strange attire, wearing all manner of hideous makeup and masks, trying to appear as the creatures invading my dreams each night of late.
I raised my mug and drained its contents before calling the serving wench over to my table. “What’ll it be this time?” she asked me, not unkindly.“I’d like something a little stronger,” I replied, thinking to get myself good and drunk tonight, so that I don’t have the same nightmare I’d been having. One where I craved the blood of the innocent.
A pair of bards came in and I noted them immediately as they were both young and cheery, a man and a woman, though their flesh seemed as pale as my handkerchief on a good day. I guess it was not unusual, especially this night, if they had their makeup on, eh? They approached the barkeep and after a brief conversation, made their way to the stage, giggling and whispering to one another. It was hard to tell if they were man and wife, brother and sister, or something entirely different, although they did look familiar to me in some manner. Had I seen them somewhere in my travels? No…I’d never made it to this town of Freeport before as I was always out to sea. Who’d have thought me for a fisherman even ten years ago? These past few days, though, I was thankful to not have the sea shifting beneath me. I never realized how seasick I was until I actually made it to land. Nevertheless, me and my fellow anglers were here, in Freeport, and I found myself alone again. That was not uncommon, either, these days. I’ve been quite the killjoy.
It was the anniversary of my wife’s death yesterday and it was only five years ago. I still cannot even bring myself to say or think her name as it sends me to tears. She was a victim of the plague that killed so many who were unable to gain the support of healers or priests, or did not have the coin to buy the proper medicinal herbs. We were poor, and that cost me my wife. Yes, I blame myself. And why not? I have never afforded her or myself anything more than what we carry on our backs. It was yet another reason I chose the life of a fisherman.

As the flames on the candles flickered and the fire grew dim in the hearth, my own vision dimmed along with it. I was suddenly in a state of mild inebriation that allowed me to survive the recent onslaught of horrifying images…those of my departed wife, and those even more horrifying than that.
The sounds of the bard’s songs were intoxicating. They filled the inn’s space with hypnotic melodies and were quite the delight for everyone this evening. The Patrons were all getting good and drunk and having a delightful time. Everyone but me, that is.

As the crowd thinned out and the duo of bards took the stage for the last time that night, something changed significantly in me. Suddenly, the wine and ale tasted like nothing. I could smell the scent of cooking flesh at such a heightened degree that it made me sick and intoxicated all at once. The scent of perfume and alcohol permeated my senses and I caught the female bard staring at me and smiling. She was singing a song directly to me, though the words were lost on me, yet she pushed her way past the few folks remaining and stared at me…and her eyes flashed red?! And then she made her way back to the stage and the pair of entertainers finished their joyous tune and followed it up with something altogether haunting.

That’s when I could smell their blood, everyone that was present: the bar wenches, the innkeeper, the few drunkards remaining at the bar, and the few who danced clumsily to the bard’s melancholy melody. As the man continuing strumming his lute, the woman grabbed the closest person to her, another young woman, and danced with her, pulling her close, and spinning her away to face me as she ran an elongated and rather sharp fingernail across her throat, slicing it open. And then she began licking at the blood that flowed from the wound. That was when her appearance changed to something not of this world.
 “Come and drink your fill,” she called to me. And I fought the urge—the exceptionally heady urge—to race to her side and partake of the woman’s life force that spilled onto the floor. The crowd was racing toward the door when a shadow of something sped past me to block their path. It was the other one—the man who’d stopped playing the lute and I hadn’t noticed!—and who had also changed his appearance to something equally hideous.
His dagger and sword came free and slit the woman’s neck before him, and then he spun a dance of death like something I’d never seen before. Those blades worked their way through flesh…slicing and cutting and stabbing until only I and the innkeeper remained untouched.
 “Bastard devils,” he muttered under his breath. And yet, those words were so loud to me that I could hear them as if he'd shouted them. “Vampyrs! Get out of my Inn or I’ll—“
 The woman was over to him before he could finish the sentence and she backhanded him so hard that he soared airborne along the bar’s length, coming to rest behind it, landing with the cracking of bones. I glanced over to see that his head rested at such an angle so as to confirm his unquestionable death.
“You don’t remember my visit to you in your dreams a few nights past, do you?” she teased, moving to stand before me, a mock look of sadness planted on her face as her raven hair framed her wickedly beautiful face, her fangs exposed by her sudden smile. “You are one of us, now. And you must feed.”
 I felt the urge again and fought it initially. It was not long though, before I began to drink the blood that was on the floor of the bar. It was like dousing a fire in my belly. And suddenly, I had no choice but to demand the relief from that awful pain. And so I continued to clean the blood on the floor until I found myself tearing at the flesh of one of the recently deceased patrons of the inn.
“We’ll have to burn that one,” she said to the man, who nodded in agreement as I looked up to face him. He grabbed her, cut off her head, poured alcohol all over it and the body, and tossed them into the hearth until they turned to ash. “That is what will happen to you if you are not careful,” he said to me with a macabre grin. “Once the head is severed, we burn quite easily.”
 “You must not tear the flesh with your fangs, newborn. You must cut them and drink of their blood carefully, so that it looks like a robbery or some such. The mortals must never find out about us, or we won’t be invited back!” Her callous laugh thundered in my ears for some time.
 We collectively fed on the humans--and I was careful not to use my teeth--until I felt a tug on my shoulder.
“We must leave. The dawn is coming and we must be gone by then,” she said calmly to me. I nodded and recalled in horror that the dreams I’d been having these last few days were much more than dreams. They were visions of what I was to become…what I had become. “Come with us, my sweet. We will take care of you now.”

Somehow, I found those words comforting. No longer did I feel the pain in my heart of my emotional losses, of the void left by my departed wife, or my lack of coin. They were replaced by something else—something that dulled them into nothingness.

When I turned my thoughts outward and felt the wind rush past my face, I overheard the two of them saying that Freeport was a wonderful place for us to spend the rest of our lives. I wondered exactly how long that would be as I followed my new companions and we disappeared into the fading night.

Please join me and the other amazingly talented authors over @ Skulldust Circle where we have formed a Writer's Circle that must be seen--a collection of brilliant, up & coming independently published speculative fiction authors with much to give both now and in the future!

All Artwork and covers of my works by William J. Kenney

See you in Wothlondia! Cheers!

Also, please visit MY HOME PAGE to enjoy an extended reading experience and to see what else Ashenclaw Studios, LLC has in store in the future!

All maps, names and content copyright Ashenclaw Studios 2013 unless otherwise noted.


  1. Great Halloween short. I enjoyed it.

  2. Thanks, Tracy! I appreciate the comments and criticisms of my fellow writers very much and am humbled that you find it appealing. Much appreciated.