The inn’s windows were dark and empty when the traveler found them.
No, not a traveler. A trespasser. Not by her choice either; she was merely searching for some place to hide or rest without much care of where that was. She was desperate.
Her clothes were burned and her arms and legs bore numerous bloody cuts. She had found this place by chance and had fled towards it, prompted by some instinct.
After all, there was no mistaking the humble nature of this building. Despite the years, the wooden exterior built upon the solid foundation of stone had not deteriorated much. The ancient grain of the rich oaken boards had withstood weather and rot, as well as time.
The inn was four times the size of a normal house, built to accommodate crowds of people. But that was not what attracted the young woman to it.
It was merely a thought.
When one thinks of the most important building in the fantasy world, whether in games or stories, there is one that stands out above all the rest: the inn.
From a place to sleep and recover health to a meeting place for adventurers, the inn is a place of solace, refuge, and respite. Epic quests begin around an inn’s hearth fire, and companions may be met dining upon repast both foul and fair. An inn is safety, or so the weary traveler hopes.
The inn’s signboard was faded and the years had worn the paint long away. But still, she had hope, and she was desperate. So the trespasser mustered what courage she had left and pulled at the door’s simple handle.
Nothing happened. After a few seconds she pushed instead of pulled and the door swung inwards.
The door creaked open and revealed a dark room. To be more accurate, it was the common room where food and drink was served. Normally, the tables would be filled with weary travelers like the intruder herself, but dust covered every surface and no one was present. The inn was clearly long deserted.
“…Of course it’s empty.”
The intruder sighed and leaned against the doorframe, strength suddenly exhausted. She rested her forehead on one arm and tried not to cry. Her hopes had been shattered yet again. But it’s not as if she had had many to begin with.
“Ever since I came to this world everything’s been going wrong, huh?”
Slowly, she walked into the center of the room and turned around. An empty inn. A world full of monsters and the unknown outside.
Her burned arm and shoulder hurt. The young woman felt the cuts on her legs start to ache as the adrenaline of panic and flight left her. Against her will she collapsed in a chair, raising a cloud of dust.
She was tired. So tired. And though it was empty, the inn called to her. In its walls she hoped for at least some safety. So she sat and rested.
Outside it began to rain. Another misfortune narrowly avoided. The young woman closed her eyes as the rain began to patter on the inn’s roof overhead. She could hear the gentle drops turn into a flurry overhead, muffled by the thick roof. But somewhere, upstairs, she heard water dripping down through the cracks, landing softly somewhere above her head.
It was peaceful. The traveler sat back and felt the pain of her injuries fade, at least for a moment. The rainfall became background noise and she let herself relax for the first time in what felt like ages. She would rest here, at least to begin with. But a thought nagged at her, something that could only be said here. So she opened her eyes and addressed the empty room.
“…I’m really hungry.”
To listen to the audiobook of The Wandering Inn, click here.