Ghost find sympathetic ears.
At first Ghost thought she had stepped into a tavern, which she was surprised to discover disappointed her. To her right was a high oak bar with mostly empty shelves behind it; to her left was a step down to a large carpeted area with perhaps a dozen overstuffed chairs arranged in small bunches. A large fireplace with a small fire in the center of the wall opposite the bar, but otherwise the only light was twilight entering through the windows. Directly opposite her as she entered was a doorway with a heavy curtain hung over it; the warm yellow light of an oil lamp showed under the curtain.
Ghost took all this in without noticing any occupants. As she scanned the room a second time to verify this observation she noticed the top of a head over the back of one of the chairs near the fire. As she was trying to decide if she should speak to this person from where she stood, walk closer to it, or leave and continue on her way when a head peered around the side of the chair beside the one she had noticed.
“I’m Goldilocks,” said this new head, contradicting the evidence of its totally hairless scalp. “You in some kind of trouble?”
“Hey, Lazarus!” shouted Goldilocks, looking toward the curtained doorway. “Someone here to see you!” As she shouted this the first head peered at her too. This one was a man with enough golden hair to equip a small village. Something about his face reminded Ghost of a cat.
Almost as soon as Goldilocks had finished the curtain parted and another man joined the group. Lazarus was a tall, well-built man with a symmetric face good carriage, the potential beauty of which was spoiled by his veiny ink-black skin, blood-shot blue eyes, and too-long, too-thin, limp white hair. Ghost was considerably startled by his appearance; the last time she had seen someone of this ilk had been at the Unseely court.
“Woah!” said Lazarus, backing up a step and raising his hands in surrender. “No need to draw a sword on me.”
Ghost glanced down and saw that indeed her blade had appeared in her hand. She looked up at Lazarus again, and he did look to be of harmless intent, so she pushed it back out of existence.
“That’s better,” said Lazarus, coming forward again. “A might jumpy for a dryad in an elfin city. You being actively pursued by someone?”
“Are you in immediate danger? Is someone chasing you?”
“Oh,” said Ghost, “No, not really. It’s just you look… well, dangerous.” He looked slightly confused at this, and really he didn’t look dangerous at all in his carpet slippers and worn tunic. “I guess I’m just tired,” she finished lamely.
“She smells of the court and… Elendorie’s sausage rolls?” purred a deep voice beside them. “Since when did dryads eat sausage?”
Ghost looked and saw that both the faces from before were now attached to bodies and standing beside her. The male was a tall, barrel-chested man in an open vest and draw-string trousers. He wasn’t just hairy, as he had seemed when only his head was visible; he was actually covered in golden fur. Goldilocks was a short and stocky woman—broad but not fat and probably every bit as strong as her companion. She was dressed in a long flowing blue-and-green skirt, loose white blouse, crimson vest with bold yellow stitching, and a homespun tan shawl that didn’t match the rest at all.
“It was only a sample,” said Ghost, “but I was so hungry I’d try anything. Though it was tasty. I’d have had more if I had had money.”
Lazarus looked her up and down for a moment and then said, “My name is Lazarus. I believe you’ve met Goldilocks; this is her husband Axe. Together we run The Last Ditch, and since you are here you are most likely about to become our next client. But first let’s see about getting you warmed and fed. I see my partners have let the fire die down again; Goldilocks, would you fetch another shawl and get her settled while I build up the fire and Axe gets us each a bowl of soup?”
A brief bustle later and Ghost found herself sitting in a comfortable armchair in front of a warm fire wrapped in a heavy wool shawl and eating eagerly from a large bowl of very tasty venison stew. Thoughts of the disappointing evening and uncertain future vanished easily from her fickle mind as she enjoyed the comfort of the moment.