The traveler was a tall, muscular man with bronzed skin, and long curling jet black hair. He dressed like a dandy, wearing a loose-fitting lace-bedecked white shirt covered by a fancy brocaded floral vest, a tight-fitting pair of buckskin pants, shiny knee-high black leather boots and a broad-brimmed green felt hat trimmed with white plumes. The serviceable long sword with the carved ivory handle and its matching dagger hanging from his black leather belt and the pair of knives tucked into the tops of his boots proved otherwise, as did his cold, hard steel-grey eyes.
Glaindil froze in the doorway, saddlebag draped over his shoulder. He stiffened and blinked in disbelief. The large village that had rambled and sprawled untidily across the hillsides of the valley washed by the rising sun just moments ago when he’d entered the stable had… vanished. Even the foundations of the buildings had been erased. The looming forest trees had closed their ranks around the inn. He pulled Argaeswen from its concealment. “Scan.” He ordered, the nape of his neck prickling. Only an incredibly powerful entity could cause such a sorcerous change.
Baleful red light oozed from between the fingers tightly clenched around the large heart-shaped ruby. It pulsed and throbbed eagerly in his left hand. “Enemy! Destroy!” Argaeswen sang in his mind.
“Soon.” Glaindil thought in reply. He slipped the living gem into the pouch hanging from his neck and twitched his shirt back into place over it. He smoothed the momentary expression of concern from his face, pasting on his alter ego’s friendly trademark smile. He entered the building, closing the door gently behind him and faced the inn’s occupants.
They were a motley crew, a mixture of villanous looking mercenaries, prosperous traders, and assorted clerics. He wondered which of the innocuous seeming facades concealed his prey’s true form. He would learn soon enough, he thought philosophically.
A man hurried over as Glaindil took a seat at one of the rough-hewn tables, putting his back against the wall. Plump and balding he was sweating heavily from his work in the kitchen. “Good morning sir, I’m Peter Atlee, the innkeeper, welcome to the Heart of the Wildwood. For breakfast we have cold cider, scrambled eggs, hard cheese, a fine blackberry jam, and a loaf of bread just out of the oven, all for just five coppers.” He announced unctuously.
“I’ll take it.”
“Right away sir.” Atlee bustled away, wiping his hands on his stain spotted apron.
Glaindil’s eyes constantly searched his surroundings, waiting for his prey to make its move.
Atlee served him. Glaindil dug in heartily. He had just finished when he heard a chair scrape against the wooden floor. He tracked a merchant heading for the exit.
The man swung the door open. He staggered back, his tanned face pasty white with terror. “The village!” It’s gone!” He wailed.
Boots thumped as other travelers hurried to the door to look outside. “By the Beard of Dravin!” One of the mercenaries swore. “He’s right, it’s vanished!” The gathered crowd buzzed with speculation and concern.
Glaindil focused his attention on the stout cleric sitting next to the roaring fireplace wearing the gilded cape who wasn’t quite successful in hiding a knowing smirk. Covered by the confusion, he rose and silently glided over to stand in front of him, blocking the proceedings from view. He removed Argaeswen and held the stone out on the flat of his right palm. “Now!” His mind shouted.
A coherent beam of red-hued light shot from the stone, engulfing the cleric. His form rippled, wavered, and melted, revealing the hideous demon crouching in the chair. “Destroy Enemy! Destroy Enemy!” The gem exalted. The beam intensified. Screaming in silent denial, the demon was engulfed in flames. It was quickly reduced to sulphuric ashes that swirled in the light breeze, sucking up the chimney. Gem concealed, Glaindil sauntered casually for the inn’s door.
“Look, the village, it just popped back into existence! ” Someone exclaimed. The demon hunter paid his reckoning and quietly departed, leaving the rumors behind him.
In response to From a Photo Short Story Prompt #10: Change