“There’s been four disappearances in the last month.” Közi sighed as he leant back against his seat. Four people missing, all from the same town, it was eerie, how could people suddenly disappear? The again, the town of Upyri had always been suspect. People talked about the towns origins, how it was the first recorded settlement of humans. Reports of Ghosts and other supernatural creatures could all be traced, in some way back to the town. The superstitious kept well away.
Közi was an academic, a scholar of fine arts, medicine and law. His father, the duke, had spent such money on his son in the hopes that his mind would fill with knowledge and that people would talk of his family in the highest standards. Közi, therefore had a natural thirst for knowledge, however, his logical mind told him there was nothing to fear in Upyri but some silly old fools who had taken their childish bedtime stories a little too far. He was the perfect candidate to discover the secret behind these disappearances.
Of course, all manner of supernatural creatures had been blamed, the ghosts of lost souls, crying out for a host so that they might find a way back into the land of the living, vampires following their natural thirst for human blood and the undead, hungry for flesh. To Közi this was nonsense.
“There is absolutely nothing to be afraid of, Upyri is just an old town, the oldest town there is, there is bound to be unrest regarding a place so old,” he said, glancing to his right at his fellow scholar, Yura. Yura glanced back nervously but remained silent.
“I swear to you Yura.” Közi said, noticing the unease in his companion, “we will have nothing to fear in Upyri.”
The carriage arrived in Upyri late that night, it pulled up alongside a small inn at the heart of the town. The air was thick with a fog that loomed over the village, silent, unmoving, still. As the two passengers collected their luggage and entered the small building, the driver of the carriage cracked his whip and was gone before Közi could turn round. The two friends entered the inn. The dark room they entered was lit by only a single candle that lay on a small wooden desk, three old, tattered chairs sat by the window in the corner of the room and a distinct smell of garlic caused Közi’s stomach to turn.
“What kind of person leaves garlic out on the desk of an inn?” Yura asked, pointing towards the source of the smell.
“Indeed.” Közi muttered, taking out a handkerchief and placing it over his nose. His hand moved in the dim candlelight over the wooden desk, in an attempt to find some sort of bell. When he found it, he rang it three times.
A hooded figure appeared from the shadows behind the desk.
“Newcomers? What do you want at a time like this?” It was a man’s voice, soft and smooth.
“We require two rooms,” Közi stated, “for how long I cannot say, I’m here to conduct a study along with my friend Yura here, I am Közi. He held out his hand to the man but got no reaction.
“We have three rooms spare, you are lucky,” said the man. He then turned back towards the shadows.
“Hizaki, Hizaki, get in here!” He shouted. A girl with long, light brown hair appeared in the room, her face was dirty and her tattered dress looked as though it hadn’t been washed in years. She bowed and walked forward, picking up the two men’s luggage and disappearing through a door.
“Hizaki will take you to your rooms, here are the keys, if you need anything Hizaki will take care of it, if she can’t help, my name is Teru. Közi and Yura nodded and headed for the door through which Hizaki had gone.
“One more thing.” Teru added. “You may want to be careful, in this town, creatures roam the night, in the day, they sleep, but other creatures awaken, you are never safe, keep that in mind,” and with that Teru disappeared back into the shadows.
That night, Közi began a diary documenting his trip, it was this he would use throughout his study in the town of Upyri a documentation of his work, therefore, he could keep his innermost thoughts secret and only publish what he wished his fellow scholars to see. He wouldn’t show them the part where he admitted, despite his own logical reasoning, a small part of him was afraid.
Közi awoke early the next morning. The sun had barely risen above the skyline but birds were chirping happily and all seemed peaceful, the fog had lifted and a thin beam of morning sunlight was now attempting to break through the white clouds above. Közi shook himself awake, dressed and washed and left his still sleeping friend in bed whilst he embarked on an early morning walk. Most of the townspeople were still sleeping, however, servants were already up and performing their morning duties, as were bakers, butchers and other merchants, preparing for another day. Közi walked past a small shop. Its windows were blackened with dust and its door was almost hanging from its hinges. A dirty looking man with the longest red hair Közi had ever seen was stood outside, busily sweeping the outside step. Közi didn’t think this would have been a top priority, given the state of the rest of the shop. As he got closer, he noticed the shop was a butchers.
“Slow business?” Közi asked, walking towards the other man. Something inside him made him pity the poor man. On closer inspection he looked as dirty as his own shop. The other man seemed startled but managed a faint smile.
“Yes but, it will pick up.”
“You sure about that?”
“No…but it is always good to stay positive…isn’t it?” At this Közi smiled.
“Yes, I suppose it is, and your name is?”
“Kami! My lord requests your presence.” Another man with light brown hair, riding a dark brown horse appeared from the north of the town. He stopped beside the two men and lowered himself from the horse.
“Captain You!” Kami exclaimed bowing slightly. “The Lord has asked for me?”
“He requests you attend a dinner this evening in the court.” The captain replied, producing a note engraved with a royal-looking seal from his navy blue coat and handing it to Kami. “But what he desires with a mere butcher, and a failing one at that I do not know, then again, my lord always was keen on your sort.” He added with an almost nasty sounding tone of voice.
“I am honored captain but I have nothing to wear! Nothing that would suit a royal banquet that is!” Kami replied.
“My lord said you would say that, he therefore asked me to give you this.” You plucked a small brown bag from his pocket and handed it to Kami. The butcher opened it and peered inside.
Közi could have sworn Kami almost fainted; he stepped backwards, almost falling over his own broom, but used the wall of his shop to steady himself.
“There must be over fifty gold coins in here!” he exclaimed.
“I know, the Lord must be getting soft.” You replied, obviously unimpressed.
“If the Lord is kind enough to give this gesture than I shall surely attend the banquet!” Kami smiled.
“Yea…sure.” You replied rolling his eyes. “I am instructed to come for you just before sunset, my lord doesn’t like to dine with the sun in his eyes.” You added, mounting his horse. “Do not be late, you know what my lord does to those who have poor timekeeping.” At this, Kami gulped and nodded silently. “Good.” You replied, urging his horse forward. He took off at great speed and disappeared in the direction he had come from. Kami looked bemused.
“Fifty gold coins!” He exclaimed. “I’ve never had this much money in all my life!” Közi smiled but then thoughts of the previous conversation made it fade.
“You looked…scared when You was talking of your lord’s punishment.” He commented thoughtfully. Kami’s smile also faded.
“Oh…well…although the Lord has always shown me kindness there have been stories…”
“Of the things he does to those who disobey him…but it is only a legend, as I said, the Lord has always shown me kindness…I think it is just a scare tactic, no man could be that bloodthirsty and heartless.”
“I think you are too trusting and naive Kami.” Another voice interrupted them. A tall man with dark hair, dressed in rags appeared beside them. His clothes were cleaner than Kami’s but had the same signs of wear.
“But Hizumi, I think you often believe too much of what you are told.” Kami replied.
The man called Hizumi studied Közi carefully.
“Who is this stranger?” Hizumi asked, looking at Közi with an air of suspicion.
“My name is Közi and you would do well not to talk to me in that tone!” Közi replied.
“You could be one of the Lord’s spies for all I know and have to report back to him and have us locked in the Lord’s stinking dungeon of rotting flesh!” Hizumi remarked.
“Hizumi! Közi is new in our town, don’t make him uneasy! People are uneasy enough when they come into this town.” Kami shouted.
“What is the Lord’s name?” Hizumi asked, turning back to Közi.
“I…don’t know.” Közi replied honestly. At this, Hizumi laughed.
“You must be new to not know the answer, anyone who doesn’t know the Lord’s name obviously isn’t scared enough to learn it, and that means they’re unaware of what the lord is capable of.” Kami rolled his eyes.
“I must get back to work.” He added opening his door and turning to leave.
“Közi, if you need anything, please let me know, I now consider you a friend.” He smiled once more and disappeared inside the small dirty shop.
“Yea, because no one who lives here will be his friend.” Hizumi laughed.
“That’s horrible! He seems like a genuinely nice man.”
“And he is, I’m friends with him too! But that doesn’t mean I can’t have a little fun sometimes.” Közi looked disapprovingly.
“Listen Közi, if Kami considers you a friend than so do I, I live over there.” Hizumi pointed to a small house, tucked in between two large trees. “So knock on my door is ever you’re in trouble, I’ll be there.” And with that, Hizumi headed off into a nearby bakers shop.
“Suppose I should get some breakfast.” Közi decided, turning back and heading for the inn.