You don't know how long you've wandered in the desert. It feels like a lifetime before you see the small shapes of buildings jutting up against the horizon. Even after you see them, the walk is long and unforgiving; the desert is so flat and vast, the buildings could be miles and miles away.
Still, you walk.
With every step, the dagger grows hungrier. You feel it in your mind, just below the surface of your thoughts. When you finally approach what is revealed to be a small, abandoned looking village reminiscent of Old Western towns, the hunger has all but consumed you.
You walk through the dusty streets, looking for signs of life. Eventually you hear laughter. You follow the sound and find yourself standing in front of a narrow, wooden building with swinging doors on the front. You step onto the wooden sidewalk and push through the swinging doors.
The building is a saloon. There are tables and chairs set up around the room, but the main focus is the bar that takes up most of the length of the room. The smell of dust fills your nostrils; not the dry, desert-dirt dust from outside, but the more familiar smell of dust from old things left alone too long.
There are three men inside; two sitting at the bar, and one behind the counter. The one behind the bar is huge. He towers at seven or eight feet tall, and he's built like an ox. His beard is long and the same cherry red as the bar itself.
When you walk inside, the three turn to face you. Then, in a blur of motion, the barkeeper hurls himself over the bar and before you know it, he has you pinned to the wall.
He looms over you, his nose nearly touching your forehead, his massive had pushing on your collarbone. After an awkward moment of silence, he inhales deeply.
"Yup," he says back to the barflies. "We got a live one."
"I want it," says a man at the bar. His pale skin reflects oddly in the dim light. "I call it. It's mine."
"Don't," said his friend beside him, a figure in a long brown coat and wide brimmed hat. He took a swig out of his drink.
You frown when he speaks. There's something off about him, but you cannot quite say what it is.
The barkeeper removes his hand and you stumble forward. He grabs you by the collar of your shirt and stops you from falling.
"Relax," he says. "Didn't mean to spook you. Come on over, have yourself a drink." He walks over to the bar and leans against the side.
"I still want it," says the pale man. He's turned on his stool to face you. His eyes gleam
You want to ask who they are, what this place is, but you cannot. You want to leave, but know there's nothing in the desert but madness. You approach the bar.
"Can it talk?" says the pale man.
"No," said the man in the jacket. He turned, and the wide brim of his had kept his face in darkness, despite the light that filled the room. It looked like there were bandages around his neck that went up farther. Could his face have been covered in bandages, too? "It's voice is gone. Probably more."
"I'm The Barkeep," says The Barkeep. "It's who I am and what I do. You," he jabs his finger into your chest, "are not. Who are you?"
You open your mouth, and nothing comes out.
"Here," he says, sliding over a napkin and pen. "Try writing your name in the dirt. See if you can manage."
You take the pen and try, but can't. You don't remember what your name is. You look up at him with a worried expression.
"Figures," he says. "Had you pegged when you walked in. You're name is gone. Someone stole it, right?"
You nod. That's what the strange men in the desert had said.
"I want it," says the man with the eerie sheen on his skin. "Lemme have it."
"You wouldn't even know what to do with it," said his companion. Again, there's a strange feeling in your head when he speaks.
"There's only a handful of folks powerful enough to steal the name of the living," the Barkeep says thoughtfully, ignoring his companions. "I'm guessing it was the Queen of Snakes. She's the only ones around here who could've taken it off you. Though for what-- who knows?"
You want to know where to find her. You want to know why she did it. You want even more to know how to leave here, and where here is. You tell them so with the napkin and pen.
The man laughs. "Who knows why she did it?" he says again. "But I can help you find her. The Queen of Snakes is in the ruins south of here. It's a bit of a walk, but I'm sure you'll make it. She's a regular of mine-- loved the brew. Tell her I sent you, and she should play nice. As for the way out? Most folks here can't leave, but your blood is still running, so you ought to be able to get past the Bridge."
Bridge? you write. The winged man had mentioned a bridge.
"The Bridge," he says again. "It's where people cross. Just people though, not the rest of us." He stretches. "There's plenty of time for that, though. All the time in the world."
The two men at the bar chuckle and clink their drinks together.
"Why not join us for a drink?" says The Barkeep. "It's on the house."
The three watch you. The atmosphere seems friendly enough, now, though the pale man still eyes you greedily. You could have a drink or go look for your name and voice.
Then, the dagger at your side reminds you of its presence. It's still hungry. A comforting, yet insistent, warmth creeps up your neck.
What do you do?
-->[Have a drink]
-->[Wander the desert]
-->[Feed the dagger]