Lethean Shroud

Bristly appendages stretched up over the table’s edge in front of her. A spider emerged with them and Rayanna gasped.

It skittered past the lantern and traced her host’s forearm, resting on the table’s surface. The man didn’t flinch. “You got nerves strung higher’n cat gut on a fiddle. But are those a victim’s jitters, or are you jumpy ’cause you’re lyin’?”

“Or maybe I don’t like spiders as much as you do.” She offered a shaky chuckle. “I mean, do I look like some kind of … murderer?”

The stranger narrowed his eyes and hesitated for an uncomfortably long moment. “Things ain’t always what they seem. Most especially out here in these parts.”

She bit her lip and the sting alerted her she’d been chewing it unconsciously. The iron hint of blood grazed the taste buds on the tip of her tongue. “Oof. I uh, don’t know what else I could say to–”

“Nothing.” He huffed. “What you say means less than the brush of spider’s hair. Won’t know what you are until I see whether or not you got fangs, will I?”

She coughed on the acerbic trickle of blood at the top of her throat. “I’m sorry, did you say fangs? Is that some kind of joke?”

He raised his chin. “Do I look like some kind of comedian?”

She stiffened and responded with a quick shake of her head.

The stranger emitted a wet, throaty caw. “Ha!” One corner of his lips twisted upward as he poked a finger in her direction. “Now that, was a joke.”

“Oh.” She forced a weak smile. “Not what you seem.”

“You sure as fire don’t come from ’round here, so it’s good you catch on quick enough.” He sniffed. “Suppose it won’t do no harm nor good for you to have something to call me by. It’s Reeve.”

“Mister Reeve, or–”

“Just Reeve.”

“So, can you tell me where we are?”

“My cabin.” The chair legs squawked against the floorboards as he stood. He picked up his rifle near the trigger. “Best not make any cracks about the surroundings.”

“Of course not. Seems hand crafted.” She scanned the windowless log walls. Webs billowed at the ceiling near the wood stove. “But I was asking about the area around here.”

He loped across the room. “That’s more complicated question than you’d figure.”

“Is there a town nearby?”

As he leaned the gun against the wall, he hesitated and whipped a glare at her. “Why do you ask?”

“I seem to be an imposition here, but I’ll need someplace to stay until I can find a way home.” She shrugged. “Wherever that is.”

“Town’s a long way off.” Squaring his shoulders, he faced her. “And there’s no hope of you gettin’ there tonight.”




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