A large, hulking figure appeared in the doorway, the sheer size of the man blocking the wistful rays of a setting sun. The man paused and looked slowly around the room, his eyes examining each tavern patron carefully, as if seeking evidence of guilt on their untidy faces.
All conversation died and silence enveloped the room. The Tavern of the Displeased Lemur was a frequent watering hole for many tough and unruly men, but the sight of the newcomer censored even the most churlish of occupants. At last, the barkeeper spoke up in a trembling voice.
“May I help you, sir?”
The visitor didn’t speak immediately, but stepped purposefully into the room and closed the door behind him. Then he turned to the speaker.
“Aye,” he said, his high-pitched voice and strong Belgian accent coming as something of a surprise. “Aye and that you may.” He moved to the bar and leaned closer to the bartender. He spoke again, this time in little more than a whisper. “Do you be servin’ waffles?”
The terrified bartender nodded mutely and walked stiffly into the kitchen to fetch the order.
“And a goblet of milk, if you have it,” the giant shouted. He looked around the room, an expression of happy anticipation on his wide face. “I does love me waffles and milk.”
The other customers tried to act casual and went back to their drinking, while a few groups even resumed their discussions, but there was a pall over the company. At length, the stranger spoke again, casually.
“I’m looking for a stranger,” he said in his sing-song voice. “Hast any of you seen him?”
“You’re the only stranger here,” another man said, before quickly raising both palms outward. “No offense,” he added.
“None taken,” assured the newcomer, pushing back his tunic to reveal the hilt of a colossal sword. “What’s your name, smartass?”
“Well, Philip,” the stranger said, his pronunciation of the name sounding a lot like “Flip,” “I don’t like a’bein’ taunted.”
“Oh, I wasn’t--”
“Quiet, swine!” the giant shrieked, coming to his leather-clad feet and drawing his sword all in the same motion.
He raised the weapon and was just preparing to strike a killing blow, when the final rays of the sun were suddenly blotted out and replaced by a piercing shriek that ripped the air like thunder.
The trees began swaying as if buffeted by a hurricane and a sense of evil rushed over the entire countryside. Church bells, although they should have been ringing madly in the violent wind, were silent. Bibles, laid open in devotion, were slammed shut by the gale, and the pious, virtuous vicar swore under his breath. All that was good and right was momentarily suspended, as the vicious darkness passed overhead.
Slowly, the black veil gathered itself and began focusing its intensity on the Tavern of the Displeased Lemur. The occupants began quarreling and the barkeeper brutally smeared mayonnaise on the stranger’s order of waffles and then laughed maniacally.
The giant listened intently as the shriek died away into a low howl of evil. His face tightened, not in fear exactly, but rather apprehensive anticipation.
“It is the mighty dragon,” he said quietly. “He has found me at last.”