WORDS!

You pick the ewte door.

Ewte, you think to yourself, mentally sounding out the word. It doesn’t sound threatening.

You put your ear up against the door, straining to hear whether there is anyone inside. The wood is unexpectedly cool beneath your skin, and you can hear nothing; whether it is because the door is thick, or because there is no one inside, you’re not sure.

You shrug inwardly, wrap your hand around the door handle. How bad can it be? Then you twist the handle, push the door ajar, and slip inside.

You immediately raise your hand to shield your eyes, startled by the brightness.

Straight ahead of you is a desk, and upon it a burning lamp, the colour dull orange. Sitting at that desk, with its back to you, is a hooded person, busy writing. It is burbling to itself, you think, then you realise that the sound is coming from beside you. When you look over into the corner of the room, you see a small tank of water, with some kind of pump installed.

It is such an odd scene you cannot help but stay where you are, fascinated. You can sense no danger. Surely a person educated enough to write will bear you no harm.

Then you notice the person’s hand, the pale green skin, the webbed fingers, and you cannot help but gasp. Is he an ewte, then? In the face of such alienness the word takes on a sudden darkness.

The creature seems to stir out of its thoughts at the sound. Without looking at you, it asks, “Did you do it?”

You don’t know what to say in response. Yes? No? Sorry? Maybe it’s better to leave before it figures out what you are or—worse yet—what you’re not.

But before you make up your mind, the ewte turns around in its seat to face you. “I said, did you—.” It stops speaking, then sighs. With the desk lamp behind it, you cannot make out its face. “You’re not who I want,” it finally remarks.

Now you’re compelled to speak. You shake your head. “No, sorry.”

It quirks its head to the side. “I thought the werekin were sleeping outside?” Then, without waiting for you to reply, it continues, “I guess the horse sent you.” It turns back around to face the desk, flicking a hand dismissively in your direction. “Tell him I’ll let him know what’s going on tomorrow, and not a moment sooner.”

You nod, backing towards the door. “Okay. I will.” Your voice sounds a lot weaker than you wish it did.

The ewte glances at you over its shoulder. “Go, then.” It eyes you for a second, then says, “Unless…?”

You have nothing to add. You back out of the room and pull the door closed carefully, your heart stuttering in your chest a little.

Well, you’re still alive; that’s something to be thankful for. But you haven’t found a souvenir yet, and time is slowly but inexorably ticking by. You need to keep moving.

What do you do?

* Continue down the hallway.
* Open the stein door.

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