“I didn’t know your kind could drink ale,” Hattie said as she slid a pint across the wooden bar, giving the newcomer a sidelong look.The vampire, thin and pale and cold, snatched at the pint glass and took a long swig. Next to him, one of her regulars, Thorin, chuckled. “Didn’t think ya could drink anythin’ other than blood,” he said in between gulps of his own drink.“Careful, now,” Hattie said, giving her regular patron a stern glance. “Not every night we have a vampire here.” She gave him a nod before going back to wiping down the bar. “What brings you here on this windy night, vampire?”The gaunt figure sighed, drained his beer, and slammed it down on the wooden surface so quickly that it shattered.Hattie laughed. “I see the stories of supernatural agility aren’t false. Does that mean that werewolves are incredibly strong, just like they say?”“It is,” the vampire replied, looking down. “Do you have more ale? Or, perhaps, chicken blood?” He snarled at Thorin, who had started to laugh. “Did I say something funny, human?”“Now, now,” Hattie said, swatting at Thorin with her rag. “I can get you another ale, but I’ve no chicken’s blood. Go kill your own in the market tomorrow if you want that.” She poured him another ale, then stared at him as he chugged it. “Never seen a vampire so…scared, is it?”He paused his drinking to stare at her with his red eyes. She stared back, issuing a silent challenge. Thorin, meanwhile, had spilled ale across his front, and was busy trying to figure out how to mop it up without spilling more.(He failed miserably.)“You have a lot of questions, barmaid,” the vampire said.“I’ll give you another ale for free if you have a good enough story,” she replied. “Honest. I don’t get enough interesting tales runnin’ a tavern so far off the main adventure paths. Most exciting thing is this one,” she jabbed her thumb at Thorin, “and guessin’ how many clean shirts he still has left. So what is it? Fight with another vampire?” The wind outside howled and Hattie reached over to shutter the closest window, though she kept her eyes on the vampire.He sighed, brushed his long blonde hair out of his face, and shook his head. “No. Worse. How much do you know of the powers of humans?”Hattie frowned. “We don’t got any. Just —- well, only the undead, I suppose, but you’d have to be magicked the right away to become one of them. Nigh unkillable, though.”The vampire nodded. “Not the only way to give a human powers through death, barmaid.”“My name is Hattie. The free ale is off the table if you keep calling me ‘barmaid’. It makes me sound like a common who—hey, Thorin! Knock it out!” She shoved the man’s hand away from the other side of the bar, where he’d nearly stolen a full jug of ale. Thorin yelped and fell off his stool, hitting the ground with a loud thump. Hattie laughed and looked back to the vampire. “You were saying?”The vampire didn’t give Thorin the slightest glance, even when he bumped into his stool as he shakily got to his feet. He just stared into his ale, giving it a swish now and then, lost in thought. “You hear of the village of Brandermeer?”Hattie shivered. “They were killed all in one night. Nobody could talk about anything else for months, even though Brandermeer is a month’s journey on foot.” She paused, taking in a slow breath. “They said it was…”“A vampire?” Her newest patron laughed, his knuckles whiter than the rest of him as he clutched his mug. “A young one. One who didn’t listen to his elders. So smug, this vampire, who thought he could escape the consequences of a night of ravenous, pointless murder.”The wind outside began to pick up, the shutters of the tavern shaking as the torches flickered. “Is it true, then? That people who get murdered can haunt those who did ‘em wrong?” Hattie asked, shivering from the cold air. The shutters did nothing to keep the biting chill out of the tavern despite the warm spring evening they’d enjoyed just an hour or two earlier.“‘Pay the humans no heed, lest you sow a vengeful spirit’s seed,’” the vampire said slowly, reciting something that appeared to haunt him as much as any spirit. “Hattie, have you ever seen a village full of bloody, vengeful spirits?”She shook her head slowly as she watched him take one final swig of his ale. The door to the tavern, previously shut, began to slowly open. The wind stopped, the air still and eerie.The vampire stood up, dropping a coin on the tavern. “Well, you’ll see them now. Thanks for the ale, Hattie, it was much better than the last village.”