Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
The saloon door creaked loud enough to give the patrons pause. The stranger in the doorframe was backlit by the afternoon sun, and he appeared as a robed, dark figure, standing in the doorway, scanning the interior of the inn.
Finally, he started pacing slowly towards the innkeeper. The door creaked back and forth a few times behind him, before finally resting in its place. The dim light inside cast shadows on the stranger’s long coat, his face masked by the oversized hood, as he slowly and deliberately sat down at the end of the bar. He leaned his bundle of spears against the dirty wooden counter, and proceeded to light a long stem wooden pipe. He looked like a raggedy wanderer, with long white hair that clumped up in thick strands here and there. There was a long, ungroomed white beard flowing from under his concealing hood, and the man’s thick eyebrows caught the flicker of the pipe whenever he inhaled.
The man took his time to look around the Inn. There was nothing cheerful about it. Most patrons drank quietly alone or in the company of sultry looking friends. There was something more all of them had in common: they were all studying the pipe-smoking stranger, especially when they thought he wasn’t looking.
But he was looking. He could sense their fear, their desperation, their curiosity. The stranger beared no semblance to the peat miners in the village, and he knew they did not take kindly to strangers.
The inn keeper approached warily.
“C-can I get you anything sir?”
The stranger peered at the inn keeper through the smoky haze inside the inn. He smiled as he leaned forward, grabbed the man’s collar slowly and deliberately and whispered in his ear.
“You’ve done well, Morrissey.”
The innkeeper was surprised to see the stranger motion for his pockets. He expected the man to produce a dagger or some other implement of death. What he did not expect was the man taking out a silver drake and putting it in the innkeeper’s hand.
“M-Master Drake?” the innkeeper breathed a sigh of relief. “You scared the living Ayemar out of me-”
“Shhh, Morrissey. Don’t blow my cover” the half elf snarled. Then he leaned back and smiled. He’d always had a firm grasp of illusion enchantments. His disguises had fooled people much more observant than the old bartender.
“You were right”, the half elf continued. “Bailey took the bait. I ran into him in the woods the other day. Well done.”
“You’re too kind, sir” the keeper smiled. Drifter knew the innkeeper and all these peat miners hated thugs and highwaymen just as much as he did. Yet given his previous misadventures, it wasn’t safe to enter the village undisguised. He could trust the bartender to keep a secret, still. Nothing good old silver and gold can’t do for you.
“Does that settle your debt with those hoodlums then?” Morrissey inquired.
“Hmm. Not yet. Reinauld is still out there somewhere, and I’ll find him.”
“You know”, the innkeeper said leaning closer to the half elf, “folks around here said a merry band of wildmen left for Port Sulpice a couple of days ago. Could’ve been him in that pack, I reckon”, the man continued while leaning back and picking up a pewter mug. He poured wine from a jug he’d stashed behind the counter.
It was definitely the good stuff - sweet Bermelle Red. And Drifter had exactly the right thing to go with it - Bermelle Leaf, the finest pipe weed this side of the Sea.
It was only after the 7th or so mug that he began to realize the wine was too good.
Drifter was in the wrong place to get drunk. Yet there he was, struggling to see through the liquory haze. He could hear laughing behind him. The patrons had become oblivious to the stranger, apparently. Drifter hadn’t killed anyone since he arrived, true enough, and that was all these simple folk needed to unwind. He tried to shift his weight on the stool. His motions were slow, clumsy. Did the wine do this to him? No, it couldn’t have... It wasn’t the first time he drank this much in one sitting.
Was there something in the wine?
Had the barkeep drugged him?
Drifter looked around. He couldn’t see Morrissey anywhere. Come to think of it, he hadn’t seen him ever since he have Drifter the jug. Where was he?
Was everyone laughing at Drifter? Is that why they were so jolly? Maybe they knew he was drugged. Maybe they knew they were safe.
“Keep yourself together” he told himself. He reached for his spears discreetly - good, they were still there. “I need a plan. I can’t panic.”
He could just get up and walk away like nothing happened. “But something has happened”, he admonished himself. “I can’t bluff my way through this. Or can I?”
Well, there was no time to waste. If indeed he had been poisoned, waiting any longer wasn’t going to help him.
Everything in his body told him getting up had been a bad idea. The room was spinning now, but he tried as hard as he could to fake it. He needed to regain composure, and fast - he reached for his spears and flung them on his back with deliberation, trying as hard as he could to appear uncaring and undisturbed.
His disguise! Only now did he realize that he lacked the beard or the white flowing locks he’d displayed when he first arrived at the inn. How long had he been here? It should have lasted him at least an hour, but judging by the fading light outside, he could clearly see now that he’d overstayed his welcome.
“You don’t look so good, pal.”
There was a man blocking his way out of the Inn. It was a tall peat miner brandishing a large metal tankard, and sporting a surprisingly smug grin.
“Had a little too much to drink, eh buddy?” the man laughed. His question was met with laughter from most of the other patrons. So maybe they had set him up after all.
“Out of my way, you blundering idiot!” Drifter managed to mumble. He’d no sooner said it than realized he couldn’t fake being coherent at all. “Guess I can’t talk or bluff my way out of this”, he realized.
And by the way they looked at him, he knew he was cornered.
Posted by seamus at 9:34 PM