Hangram: A Myths and Tales graphic novel (extract)

There was no one sent to help him so he had to find the stables himself in the dark. His feet sank heavily into the mud. Mercy was still limping although the bold steed that she was, she never complained. As Edgar felt the warmth of the hay that he fed to Mercy he was in two minds whether to return to the house or settle down beside the animal and be off before anyone awakened in the morning. He even got as far as throwing his hat onto the ground before a shiver fired up his spine to remind him just how cold it would get.

When he returned to the house he found that the rear entrance was open. Had it been left open for him or had it been open all night? He didn’t know. The staff saw him approach yet he still politely knocked on the wooden frame of the open door. A man with a large protruding stomach tucked behind a well pressed white shirt zipped past him almost knocking Edgar back outside. He was among the household staff. Edgar had never had staff of his own but it looked like the staff were mixing with the guests far more than was socially acceptable.

“Miss Abigail has had a plate prepared for you, sir,” the rushing man called to him over his shoulder. When the only response Edgar could give was a vacant stare he placed the plate he carried down on a table and pushed Edgar from the kitchens with a firm hand on his back. Edgar spotted Abigail. She wasn’t sat in her place at the table but stood behind it. An empty seat was beside her with a fresh plate of stew awaiting the new comer. Hunger pangs gargled in Edgar’s stomach. He sat himself beside the Mayor’s daughter.

“Daddy!” Abigail rudely called across the conversation being passed back and forth. “This is the man who came to the door. Edwin…”

“It’s Edgar.” Edgar murmured beside her.

Abigail looked down as he found his seat. “I’m sorry,” she said. “This is Edward.”

The Mayor was a tall, slim man who still held a great deal of vitality despite his progressing age. His hair was snow white and he had a full white beard. “It is nice to have you with us Edmond. Enjoy the food. Perhaps you can tell us all about yourself. Where are you from? What brings you here? We don’t tend to get many passersby in these parts.”

It was too late to correct it now so Edgar went along with the name change. “I’m from Elgany,” he said. “I was travelling through on my way to the trading ports in Navaria.”

A man sat directly opposite him sneered down his  thin pointed nose. “But you have nothing to sell!” he said noticing Edgar was empty handed.

All eyes now became fixed on the stranger among them. Edgar shuffled in his seat. “I was going to purchase supplies. I have my own trading post back in Elgany,” he said.

The man was relentless. He leaned forward on the table and affixed his beady black eyes on Edgar. His pointed elbows pushed his plate away from his looming  body. “You decided to travelby horse? It would have been much quicker and much easier to sail down the coastline.”

Edgar’s gaze quickly surveyed the others and his surroundings before returning to the man  asking him the questions. “It would have been but my horse – she’s out in the stables – was one of the things I was selling. She doesn’t like the water.”

“So what happened to you Ed?” asked the woman next to the man with the beady eyes. She was much more forthcoming. She had a rounded face and her hair hung close to her scalp in tight curls. Edgar assumed she was the wife of Mr. Beady Eyes, judging by their closeness and body language.

“Unfortunately on the road I was attacked by highway men. I had to divert and that’s when my horse was hurt.”

The man with the beady eyes raised his top lip slightly in a sneer. “There are no highway men about here,” he stated.

The woman patted her hand against his arm as though scolding a small child. “Now Bryan, stop giving the boy a hard time. He has been through enough.”

“I’m only trying to find out where he came from Martha,” Bryan ‘Beady Eyes’ complained. “I would only give a hard time if he had something to hide.”

Edgar affixed his most pleasant smile. “No harm done,” he said through gritted teeth.

Martha and Bryan returned to their own conversation leaving Edgar alone. The rest did likewise. Edgar stabbed a fork into the meat and had a small piece. He had lost most of his appetite and just wanted to sleep. He turned to Abigail to find she had rested her head in her hands on the table but her eyes were firmly closed and a soft wheezing was escaping from her nostrils.

Edgar managed to clear most of the food on his plate, just through politeness. When he wanted to excuse himself he approached the Mayor. It had been the first time since his arrival he had managed to have an audience with him alone. The Mayor had spent most of the evening dancing with the local women and singing bar songs with the men, including little ditties with the staff.

“I just wanted to thank you for your hospitality. I’m very tired from the journey now, if I could trouble you for somewhere to sleep for the night?” Edgar enquired politely.

The Mayor looked up at him, large white teeth made a wide grin. “The room on the first floor, second on the left should be vacant. Do you need someone to show you the way?”

Edgar shook his head the negative. He was just approaching the doorway that lead upstairs when Bryan called after him. “I am surprised the Hangram didn’t get you…”

Edgar turned back. His patience wearing to the thinnest it had been all evening, including when the robbers were behind him. “Excuse me?”

“The Hangram  hunts down criminals.”

Martha smacked her husband’s arm again. “You are scaring the boy!” she exclaimed. “You don’t know he’s a criminal.”

In the midst of the conversation Edgar hadn’t noticed the music stop. Everyone was staring at him again. He had never before felt more like a stranger. Even Abigail had stirred from her slumber and was watching him with blurry eyes.

“What … The hell …. Is the Hangram?”

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