Previously on Fractured Dawn . . .
A man wakes on a beach with no memory and discovers a strange purple stone embedded in his chest. After being visited by a silent women with red hair he settles down for the night.
The next morning he heads of in search of civilisation and gets caught up saving a woman who is being chased by bandits. During the fight his body suddenly transforms into stone, giving him the advantage. Once the bandits flee, the man from the beach returns to human form and then the woman he rescued knocks him out.
The man wakes later to find himself in the care of Benso Falter, a doctor from the small town of Bridgewood.
The man from the beach looked around. Bridgewood seemed a nice little town, he thought. He wondered if he’d come from a place like this; quiet and out of the way.
The doctor had talked about the town’s history, about how they stayed away from city business and just got on with things. And they looked to be doing well. The town was settled nicely among the surrounding woodland, not too far from the coast. They worked the trees and supplied timber to the state capital, Iscandari.
After a final check-up and filling meal that was an improvement over the roasted crab, Benso had asked his daughter to give their new guest a tour of the town.
“So,” said Tanel. “What do you think?”
Stood in front of the towns General Store, the man from the beach turned and shielded his eyes from the low setting sun. “You people have a nice place here.”
“That we do.” She nodded at the inn across the street. “Guess we’d better see about getting you a place to stay until you plan your next move.”
The man looked up at the sign above the door to the inn. “The Highwayman’s Hat. What’s the beer like?”
“It’ll stay down,” said Tanel. “Don’t expect much more.”
They crossed the main path and entered the inn. It was already quite busy despite still being early evening. A couple of tables to the left housed card games and the man from the beach could smell something awful coming from the kitchen.
Tanel saw his offended nose. “Bet you’re glad you ate before we got here.”
The pair stepped up to the bar and were greeted by an elderly looking gentleman.
“Evening, Castor. I need to speak with the boss.”
“Head on up,” said Castor.
Tanel started for the stairs on the other side of the room but hesitated. She turned back to the man. “You okay to wait here? I won’t be long.” The man was distracted watching the nearest card game. Tanel signalled to Castor instead. “Watch my friend, would you?”
“Will do,” said Castor.
Tanel headed up the stairs and disappeared into one of the rooms. Castor tapped the man from the beach on the shoulder. “Can I get you a drink, Mr?”
“What have you got?”
“Depends on how much coin you’re carrying.”
“Not a bit.”
“Water it is then.” Castor put an empty glass down on the bar and lifted a full water jug from behind the counter. He poured the glass half way. “On the house,” he said with a half arsed grin.
The man from the beach picked up the glass, checked it over and then took a sip. “Many thanks.”
“You have a name?” said Castor as he took to drying a few glasses waiting on the side.
“That must be frustrating?”
“I don’t mind it too much.”
“Not for you,” said Castor. “For everyone else.”
The man laughed. “I guess so.” He took another sip and then something grabbed his attention over by one of the card tables. One of the players had a serving girl by the wrist and he was looking furious; face red and teeth bared.
“Hey, you little bitch,” said the rough looking man. “You spilt my drink.”
“I’m so sorry,” said the girl as she tried to take her arm back. “I’ll . . . I’ll get you another.”
“And how does that solve the issue of my soaking wet trousers?”
“I . . . I don’t know.”
“Maybe,” said a slob of a man sat opposite the commotion, “she could suck the beer outta your pants?”
The rough man looked the girl over from head to toe. “That ain’t a bad idea,” he said. “How about it, beautiful. You feel like apologising properly?”
“I don’t do that kind of work, sir.”
“And I don’t like playing cards with a beer stinking crotch but in life you have to roll with the punches.” As he said this he punched the air in front of her with his free hand. She flinched, lost her footing and fell to her knees, right there in front of him. “That’s better,” he continued. “Now how about making the best outta a bad situation?”
The whole inn was watching the incident now but no one was intervening; not the staff nor the patrons. The man from the beach clenched his fists.
“You don’t want to do anything stupid,” whispered Castor.
“Please, let me get you another,” the girl begged.
“Suck. The. Beer.”
The man from the beach could stand by no more and walked up behind the sobbing girl. “Let the girl go,” he said. “She’s apologised. There’s no need to humiliate her.”
The rough man kept his eyes on the girl. “I don’t recall asking you to join this debate.”
“And this girl didn’t ask you to lay your filthy hands on her. But, you know, you have to roll with the punches.”
The rough man let go of the girl now and stood up from the table. He stepped forward a little so that he was nose to nose with the man from the beach. “I’ll give you one chance to back out of the situation you seemed to have stumbled on before I make you beg to leave.” He drew his sword. A few of the men on the table watched with interest while everyone else moved away from the surrounding area as if the card table was on fire. “Turn around now before my boys here beat the living crap out of you.”
“That’s a kind offer,” said the man from the beach. “But I’d be disappointed with myself if I didn’t at least attempt to knock you out.” He head-butted the rough man who dropped his sword and flew back across the card table.
The other men around the table all stood and drew their swords. The man from the beach grabbed the drinks tray from the serving girl and pushed her around behind him. He felt his chest tightening and his skin began to tingle.
“Enough!” came a voice from the balcony above the bar, a voice that demanded respect and obedience in equal measure. A voice like an angry mother. A voice that would peel the skin from your flesh. “Put your weapons away now before I stick them somewhere that’ll make it hurt to sit down.”
The man from the beach watched as all the men around the table edged back a few steps and put away their blades.
“That goes for you too,” said the woman. “That drinks tray might not look like a weapon but you sir look fixed to use it as one.”
The man handed the tray back to the trembling serving girl.
The whole bar remained silent as everyone watched the woman as she calmly walked across to the staircase and made her way down to the bar area. She had short, red hair and wore such outrageous clothing. Her face wore makeup that would make anyone else looked like a fool yet she pulled it off. Patrons parted for her as she sauntered towards the scene of the altercation.
“So,” she said as she sized up all involved. “What seems to be the problem here?”
The rough looking man sat up amongst the remains of the table, clutching his now busted nose. “This asshole butted into . . .”
The woman raised her hand to interrupt. “You know what, I regretted asking that the second the words left my mouth. I actually don’t care. All I know is that it don’t happen in my establishment. You four, pick up your boss and head out that door. Don’t worry about the tab, the drinks are on the house.”
“But . . .” said the slob.
The slob looked at the other men who all nodded. Two of them helped the rough man to his feet and they all walked out the bar.
The serving girl stood and hugged the man from the beach. “Thank you, mister. You didn’t have to –“
“Abigail,” said the woman. “Get out back and clean yourself up.”
“Yes, Miss,” she said. She squeezed the man’s hand and then hurried out to the foul smelling kitchen.
The woman stepped over to the man. She was a little shorter than he was so she wasn’t quite able to stand nose to nose, but she sure tried. “She’s right you know. You didn’t have to do that.”
“I apologise for the mess I made.”
“Apologies don’t fix tables or replace glasses.”
“I have no money.”
The woman sized him up. “You got any other skill besides being a nuisance to those around you?”
The man went to speak but was interrupted by Tanel from the balcony. “He can cook.”
“That so. Well, you can probably smell from the general direction of my kitchen that there is an area of service we find ourselves severely lacking.”
“I did notice the stench when I walked in.”
“Vesty!” she shouted.
The kitchen door opened a little and a weasel faced little man stuck his head out. “Yes Miss?”
Vesty sighed. “Yes Miss.” He disappeared back inside the kitchen.The woman returned her attention to the man from the beach. “My name is Dusty Brooke. I own this establishment. You work for me now.”