The old inn was sagging with life. Inside its doors, wooden booths were crammed into every available space. Lanterns hung from the low ceiling. They illuminated parts of the room but left the corners flickering in shadow. In one such corner, narrow stairs led up to rooms for rent, rooms which, for the most part, remained vacant and collected dust. As the scratches on the booths and the stains on the wall told, however, customers at the pub downstairs made up for any lack of overnight guests. The floorboards had collected years of boot-dirt; Elsie never swept the around the room’s dim edges or under the table. Starting around twilight each day, the building began to fill with chatter, which steadily grew to laughter and raucous conversation, which continued to grow so that by midnight, shouting and song could be heard from the cobblestone street outside.
The same group frequented the inn night after night without fail. Men old and whiskered, young rogues, sailors with stories sparkling in their eyes, and even a few women–fierce and sturdy–filed in to end their long days with a pint.
Amoung this group, Ben Brogan was most loved. As evening turned to night, eager faces crowded around him to hear a tale. Excited eyes shone in the yellow light as Elsie took the momentary calm to wipe down the counter with a rag. Even she was intently listening for his story. No one understood how one man could have, survived so many adventures, voyaged to so many places, and met so many people.
On one such night, Connor burst through the sturdy door, hair sticking up from the wind coming off the sea. His big boots made his legs look like sticks. “Where’s Ben Brogan? I’ve been waiting all day for one of his tales.”
Ben chuckled from a dim booth.
“Elsie, bring ole Ben here another pint to loosen his tongue,” said Connor as he and several others squeezed around the table.
Old Ben Brogan smiled wryly and rubbed his stubbly chin. “One of these days, I’m going to run out of stories to tell, lad.”
“We all know that day is far in the future,” said one of the regulars. The rest agreed, chorusing with “Aye!”, and now the group of listeners had expanded to the surrounding tables as well.
“Come on, Ben!” Connor smiled with anticipation as he leaned over the table.
Ben thought for a moment as he took in a deep breath. Then, with a raise of his eyebrows and a mischievous twinkle in his eyes, he said, “Have I ever told you about the time I saw the Banshee?”