Half of the rear windows on the inn had been covered in wood by the time the two men returned.
The Innkeeper turned from her perch atop a table. “You’re back. What news?”
The Vicar stepped to one side, dusting off his cloak, and let the Constable inside. “She wasn’t there.”
The Innkeeper set her hand on a cocked hip.
“I warned you.” Kannen climbed down from beside the inn’s owner.
“Let’s not jump to---”
The Constable cleaved her thought in half. “None of them were there.” He set his hat on a hook. “The Miller, Cleric, this stranger… no one.”
The Taverness joined Kannen and the Mayor beside the glowing coals. “They couldn’t have made it far in this weather.”
“There’s more to their tale.” The Mayor got up and set a fresh log on the fire.
The Vicar hung his cloak and shuffled to the fireside. “We saw lights. Bright bursts, and then a clap of thunder.”
The Innkeeper climbed down. “We heard it, too.”
The Constable scanned the room. “We need to organize a search party. They don’t have much time.”
“Quite right,” the Mayor said. “It’s a bitter day indeed.”
“He’s already killed them.” Kannen turned away from the group and glared into the fire.
The Innkeeper set her mallet on the table. “You don’t know that.”
“Like she didn’t know that this man was dangerous?” The Taverness pointed to the boards over the rear window. “You believe at least part of her story.”
“There’s no time to argue.” The lawman walked to the counter and helped himself to the spirits. “We have to assume they’re alive until we know otherwise.” He took a swig. “You said these things are coming after sundown?”
Kannen turned her head and nodded.
“Then, we need to do what we can to make ready.”
The Innkeeper plopped down in a seat. “What are we even fighting against?”
All eyes turned to their outsider. Kannen’s body shivered as she glared into the fireplace.
“I only caught a glimpse of them,” she said in a quiet tone. “I felt their presence more than anything.” Kannen’s eyes met the Constable’s. “I watched a man bigger than you get reduced to vapors.”
Kannen took cautious steps around the room. “They want the stone, and there’s no opposing their will.”
The Innkeeper looked to the Constable. “So, where do we begin the search?”
The lawman walked toward the back storeroom and pointed southward. “I’ll take a group and search around her cottage. We’ll need another group to go check on the Smithy and search that end of town.”
The Vicar rubbed his clean-shaven chin. “Some of us should continue securing the village.”
A stern glare from the Constable caused him to shudder. The holy man lifted an unsteady hand in Kannen’s direction. “She should be the one going. She’s proven she can catch him.”
The Constable studied him and the girl. “Point taken.” He nodded at the Innkeeper. “Stay with her. Once you’re done here, make your way around town.”
The Vicar backpedaled next to the Innkeeper.
The Constable tossed Kannen her overcoat. “Grab your gear. This may take a while.”