I've worked at the Green Bull pub for around a decade now. It isn't a fancy place like some others in Ireland. Nay, Hermitsgrove is a small town, a tight-knit community full of farmers and masons, all earning just enough to support their families. The buildings have that rustic feel to them, as if you'd been plunged back through time to the eighteen hundreds. Ivy crawling up the faded brick walls is a common sight here, complimented by the cobblestone walkways on either side of the streets. Everybody knows each other, and you can't do something without another person finding out about it. It is somehow quite comforting and horribly irritating at the same time, but most of us don't mind. Usually people stop by the Bull at some point in the day, seeking a reprieve from the mundane task of working.
As for myself, I don't mind working. Sure, the job can be demanding at times, one or two guests even making a fuss, but I enjoy it. Besides, if anyone gets too rough Tam gives them a tongue-lashing. He's the owner of the place, inherited it from his da when the old man passed, being the only son and all. He used to work at a nearby dockyard, managing a crew that loaded and unloaded ships. I suppose he's taken that mentality and applied it to his current career. Tam's built like an ox and has the temper to match if you provoke him enough. Most times, though, he's an easygoing fellow. A gentle giant, one could say. He was even kind enough to give his cousin a job here.
Nicholas, or Lanky as we call him, is just that, all skin and bones to where you think him more skeleton than man. No matter how much he shoves down his gullet, Lanky still stays thin. He's not the brightest tack in the drawer, but he can do a good job when he sets his mind to it. Unfortunately, Lanky's as scatterbrained as a bag of marbles. Easily distracted by the tiniest thing, I've seen Tam driven up the wall by his behavior. One time he was carrying a bunch of dirty dishes to the kitchen and dropped the stuff when he thought he saw a spider. Tam bellowed at him for a good while after that.
So it was no suprise when one event in particular happened. It was twelve o' clock on the dot at night, a storm brewin' something fierce outside. Tam was tending the bar, although there weren't a great many people at the moment. As for myself, I was taking drinks to the tables, but we obviously weren't very busy, so I just sat on a stool, a Sherlock Holmes novel in my hands.
Just then the door burst open, several of our patrons nearly jumping at the noise. Lanky stood in the doorway, eyes bulging and mouth agape, looking for all the world like a fish that had been thrown onto the shore. The bag of supplies he had been sent to get were wedged into the crook of his arm, which, like the rest of his body, was shaking. Lanky stayed like that for a good five minutes before Tam yelled at him to either get inside or he'd drag him in. The younger man shuffled into the building, unceremoniously dumping the bag onto the bar. Tam then disappeared for a moment before returning with a towl. He held it out to his cousin with a grunt, Lanky taking it with trembling hands and wiping himself off. When he was as dry as possible, he slumped into a chair, one hand held to his forehead.
"What the devil has you so worried?" Tam asked, reaching above himself for a wineglass.
"I very well might 'ave seen the devil," Lanky croaked.
"Well, I were walking back from Miller's when I thought I saw a white light in the woods. It kept movin' back and forth somethin' quick it did. So I decided to see what was what and approached it. Me heart nearly leapt out of me chest. Turns out that light was a wolf of sorts, all white and glowin', with a pair of golden horns atop 'is head and smaller spikes of the same color on 'is back. Anyways 'e were fighting somethin' that looked like it had crawled straight out o' Hell. It had fangs the size of yer arm, Tam, an' it's whole body were covered in green skin that looked like it were all decayed. Well, they snapped and they clawed at each other, goin' round an' round so fast I almost lost track. Finally, the wolf goes and bites the monster on its arse. Well, the beastie howls somethin' awful, worse like a banshee even, and goes skedadlin' off into Widow's Pond. The wolf spat ou' the chunk an' turns to look at me with two eyes that might 'ave well been made o' solid gold. Well, I had enough of the sight and raced back through the woods to here."
"You've been sampling the ale again. I told you not to do that."
"Oy! I ain't lyin' Tam! I really did see it!"
"You probably just saw an ordinary wolf hunting a deer or something. That isn't anything special."
"That wasn't any ordinary wolf," an old man muttered from his table. We knew him as Willhelm, a regular prone to telling fanciful tells to anyone who would listen. He had spent a long time at sea as a fisherman and was well-versed in old folkore that nobody cared to remember anymore. Willhelm knew nearly every scrap of old Irish tradition, some that no book ever contained. He was quiet and patient, the events of life rarely getting to him. Usually, he didn't enter into someone else's conversation, so we were surprised to hear him speak up.
"Then what, pray tell, was it?" Tam asked, a little perturbed that someone was encouraging Lanky's flight of fancy.
"Those woods aren't too far from here. I'd even wager they were right next door. With all the details your boy here gave, I'd say he saw some sort of hearth spirit that has decided to protect this inn."
"What the blazes are you on about?"
"You've never heard of the old tales, have you? A hearth spirit protects a place from those that would seek to do it evil. The "beastie" as you call it, which I believe to be a bogart, posed a threat and the hearth spirit saw fit to attack it."
"See, Tam! I told you it weren't just a normal wolf!"
"Shush it, you. Willhelm's out of his mind, he is."
"Believe what you will," the old man stated nonchalantly, returning to his beer.
"Crazy old fart, eh, Colm?" Tam asked, turning to me.
I merely shrugged in response, giving a small smile.
Eventually the pub shut down for the night, and I was ready to go to sleep. Not before brushing my teeth, though. That bogart's arse tasted like an ashtray.