Sigismund, Andreas, Ilsa
The inn has no name, hidden from the world in the depths of the Schwarzwald on a back road folded in between a pair of low mountains. It is small - little more than a farmhouse - but there are never so many patrons that this becomes a problem.
The forest is dense in the valley, mostly fir trees and tall, black pines. Less hardy trees are scattered throughout, these having shed their leaves long ago, in advance of the now-deepening cold, standing dark and skeletal against the pale winter sky.
The headwaters of the Little Enz lay in this region, and - in happier times - men would come logging here, sending the wood downstream to Vaihingen and the Neckar. There was money here, once, and an inn such as this would have more business than it would know what to do with. But then there came war, somewhere far away, and the men went off to fight and die, and now there is nothing here ... just a house, and a few woodsmen.
There is a lantern by the door, glowing golden in the twilight, and a few cows wander out of the forest, lowing softly, their bells sounding deep, muffled notes as they loiter around the barn waiting to be put away for the night. A child - a dark-haired girl of no more than eight or nine years - comes out to do just that. When done, she goes to the stables to feed (and generally coddle) the guest's horse. It is a handsome beast, speaking of its owner's wealth, and she has seldom seen its like.
It is also the first to be housed here in quite some time. The horseman, one Andreas Richter, is within the house, sitting warmly at a table by the fire, being given every attention by the lady of the house. Her attentiveness likely arises from that very infrequency of guests ... but perhaps not. There is no sign of a man about the place, and Andreas does appear quite well-off.
The lady, for herself, is a lovely woman - dark of hair and eye, with a skin just dusky enough to suggest Hebrew or Romany blood somewhere in her recent heritage. She is young, but certainly not so much that she should be unmarried. Coupled with the handful of children working around the inn, it's easy to guess that her husband is away in the war ... either fighting, or already dead.
Her name, Andreas has found, is Ilsa.
The only other person in the common room, a grizzled woodsman (a trapper, from his clothes, and a bear of a man), keeps giving Andreas dark looks from his corner by the kitchen. Given the way he chats with the innkeeper as she comes in and out of the kitchen, he must be a local. And, considering the aforementioned dark looks (particularly given when the lady is at Andreas' table), he might be something of an admirer of the hostess.
Andreas overhears his name: Bergen.
The patrons end their meals as night settles more thickly over the forest. The trapper lingers for a while, but Ilsa eventually shoos him out the door to his home and daughter, then disappears into the kitchen to clean up and prepare a few things to cook overnight, by the fire.
Andreas, in the common room, is just beginning to contemplate going up to his bed when a cool draft seems to sweep the room, the fire losing its heat. And, with that, he and Ilsa are not alone in the house.