The outside of the inn is dimly lit. There are two stone or clays statues at the entrance looking very dangerous. The carving of the statues are so life-like that in the dark they look like they can leap out and pounce on intruders. And that is precisely the point. Other than being a good luck charm, the statues are also suppose to scare away intruders. But Sarah knows this so she is not afraid to continue to approach the building.
It isn’t a very tall building. Eight stories high. Probably can house no more than a hundred guests. In the background, Sarah can hear the some water flowing. There is probably a river behind the inn. There are also noises coming from the inn. Sort of chattery mumbles of rough men and women.
When Sarah walks in, those mumbling men and women continue their business on what seems like a gambling table which has cards and tiles spread out on them. On the far right end of the room looks like a customer service table. Two pretty young ladies are busy with their chit chat. In the corner is an older lady almost falling asleep. But she heard Sarah walking in and so lifts her head to look at her. Then she puts on her glasses wanting to see more clearly. She looks closer at Sarah.
Old lady: what’s a humanoid doing here at this hour.
Sarah is a bit stunned. Humanoid? Are not everyone in this room human?
Old lady: you looked surprised? The Dragon Inn’s guest after sunsets are of the strangest variety.
Sarah suddenly realizes that she has heard of shape shifters in the woods but she’s never seen them. They came with the first colonists by hiding in the craft and then left the colonist to find their own place to live. The old lady looks up and down her trying to read her.
Old lady: you look like you are from some school. A teacher?
Sarah: Yes. I am a teacher at an elementary school in….
Old lady: I don’t care where you are from. What are you doing here. We have one room left.
Sarah thinks to herself: one room left? How can that be? But she did not utter any words.
Old lady: one room only. You want it?
Sarah: well, yes but we have two adults, two kids and a robot.
Old lady: no kids in the Inn at night. Too scary for kids. And no robots too.
That’s not very good. The kids need to rest. ADA can stay on the transporter but the kids have to have a room.
Sarah: How much for the room?
Old lady: 4000 pet
Sarah: I give you 8000 pet and you let the kids in.
Sarah haggles with the inn lady. The old lady slightly closes her eyes and stares at Sarah with a slight animosity. Sarah stands stern and tough yet her eyes are soft and gentle. The old lady looks away.
Old lady: bah…8000 pet and not one pet less. You make sure the kids don’t walk in the hallways at night. I am not responsible for any trouble they might get in. Guest at night are of the strangest variety.
Sarah: are they the rumored shape shifters?
Old lady: rumor? kid, you obviously have not been around here. And don’t call them shape shifters. They are very gentle folks. But don’t upset them. These are the more gambling bunch. A bit more rowdy. Not all shape shifters are rowdy gamblers. Some stay quietly in the woods in their own home.
Sarah: why did they move to the woods?
Old lady: its a long story. Some seek peacefulness. Some seek refuge.
As they are talking, a tall dark shape shifter walks toward them.
Shape shifter: Lady Juba, I need another glass of water.
He is tall and wearing a hood which shadows his face so it was difficult to see. But his build was strong. Arms, legs, torso. You know he works out a lot.
Lady Juba: 10 pet. Don’t drink so much water, Rono. I don’t have that much.
Rono: Lady Juba, you know I need one glass of water every half hour. There is a whole river behind there.
Lady Juba: but the water pump is broken and I can’t anyone to fix it.
Rono: let me take a look. Perhaps I can fix it.
Lady Juba: you can give it a try but I don’t think it’s fixable. Here’s the key. Go look yourself. The toolbox is in the shack next to the pump.
Rono grabs the key from Lady Juba’s hand and walks through a door next to the service table and disappears into the dark. Sarah listens very carefully to the conversation to see if she can detect any sort of abnormality that might signal danger. But she cannot find any trace of disturbance. It seems other than the gambling bit going on at the table, there isn’t much to worry about.
She hands Lady Juba a monetary card to pay for the room. It is a shiny little card. Lady Juba smirks a little when she holds the card in her hand. After fiddling with it behind the counter, she returns with the card and hands it back to Sarah. Immediately, Sarah’s communicator indicates that 8000 pets has been transferred to the Dragon’s Inn. No signs of trouble there either.
Sarah heads back to the transporter. Fiona has nearly fallen asleep. The kids are all quite and in dreamland. ADA is staying alert looking out for any signs of trouble. All is calm and silent. A little too silent.
Sarah: I got a room for us. Let’s move the kids into the room.
Fiona: I can carry one and you carry the other.
Both girls each carry a kid in their arm. ADA trails behind them again watching for troubles. Lady Juba greets them at the entrance with the room key. Room 899. They take the elevator up to the eight floor. The hallway is lit with flickering candles. The wooden floor creeks as they walk toward the room.
Once in the room, the kids are put into bed and both Fiona and Sarah fell asleep on the couch.
ADA is a robot so she doesn’t sleep. She continues to scan the environment for any strange anomalies. It dark outside and the room is also dimly lit. ADA’s light detection beacon cast a red blinking line that scans around the room. It also casts a red hue on the walls. It is calm and silent.