Arndt choked on the murky dregs of beer and slammed his pewter tankard down onto the bar top in disgust. He spit the remaining sediment that clung to the inside of his mouth out onto the dirty floor of the worst drinking establishment in town. His investigation into the smith’s apprentice came to an abrupt standstill over a week ago when his wife had vanished. Getting drunk was the only way he could ignore the whispers around town that his sweet Jiselle had murdered the Mullen’s boy. Arndt was unable to get drunk enough on the cheap swill served her to force thoughts of how convenient her disappearance was. In the end, he returned the money to the Mullen family and dropped the investigation. He spent his nights in whatever tavern was selling the cheapest ale now.
He hefted his purse with the intent of buying himself another round, only to realize that he’d already emptied it for the night. Shoving the empty bag into his vest, he pushed up and away from the bar. The brew sank its claws into him faster tonight than he expected. He pushed to hard and fell on his ass in the dregs he had recently deposited on the floor. The room roared with laughter.
“Fuck all of ya.” Arndt muttered as he recovered himself from the floor. The room felt like it was spinning as he stumbled out of the tavern. As he staggered down the streets toward his empty home, people crossed to the other side of the street to avoid him. He glared at them as they shared muted conversations, no doubt about him or his wife. Grimacing, he remembered how they used to come up and make conversation with him. He hunched over as a wave of nausea swept through his guts. He spewed out the rubbish he drank earlier that evening into the streets as more passers-by muttered in disgust. He straightened up when the churning in his stomach subsided and continued home.
As he approached his home, a wrongness nagged at his brain. He knew something was off but fretfully could wrest the wrongness into a coherent thought. For the third time of the evening he cursed the cheap beer and what it did to him even though he knew he’d repeat the same ritual tomorrow night. Arndt paused outside the door to fill his pipe and light it. The terrible wrongness asserted itself on him once more. Scratching at the stubble on his chin, he stared at the glow from the hearth in the window attempting to place his misgivings.
His pipe clattered to the steps as he realized the hearth had remained unlit since Jiselle disappeared. Ignoring his fallen possession, Arndt fumbled for his keys and burst into his home expecting to see his missing wife cooking dinner. Instead, lounging in a chair by the hearth was a man with a closely cropped haircut. Leaning against the chair within easy reach of its occupant was a sheathed short sword. As Arndt entered more cautiously the man spoke without turning around.
“I’m here to talk to you about your cultist wife.”
Apropos of: Arathania