To celebrate the release of “Ritual of the Stones,” I am releasing a free serialised story set in the same world of Frindoth. The story will follow the journey of Pewtory the Lesser bard as he travels to Lilyon to witness the Ritual. I hope you enjoy.
Chapter 10 – Payment
Pewtory snapped his last rasher of bacon in half and then dipped it in the egg before him. The yolk swelled and then burst, overflowing onto the plate, like a volcano spewing lava.
He plopped the rasher into his mouth and closed his eyes as he savoured the taste. It has been a restless night and the food was most needed to replenish his energy levels. Once the stranger had left him, Pewtory had been more shaken then he realised.
His attempts to fall asleep were futile and he found himself getting up every few minutes to wedge another object of furniture against the door. He kept Willow and Wisp next to him on the pillow – he was not prepared to take any chances.
He opened his eyes, Sheila stood by the table in a loose fitting gown. It gaped open so the bard could see virtually all of her left bosom - a pleasant sight. She noticed him looking but made no effort to cover up. Instead she shifted her stance so that her weight was on one leg and her hip jutted out. The coffee jug swung loosely in her hand. Her hair was dishevelled and her eyes puffy but she still managed to look attractive.
“Coffee would be wonderful,” Pewtory said and smiled. Appearances were everything. “The Falconer’s stump looks a different place in the morning.”
Different was an understatement. Devoid of people the place seemed smaller somehow. The tables and chairs had all been straightened into rows and evenly spaced. The surfaces had all been washed over, although little could be done to disguise the stale odour of ale soaked wood.
It was hard to imagine where, in this cramped room, his makeshift stage had been located last night.
“Most people sleep off their hangovers. No one is usually up this early,” Sheila replied as she poured the steaming drink into his cup. He was again reminded of how young she actually was. He felt guilty for looking at her only a moment ago.
“Said with the sincerity of someone who resents being up early.”
Sheila shrugged. She wasn’t going to pretend to correct him. Once she had filled his cup she staggered over to the next table and sat down, resting her head in her folded arms. Service with a smile.
“How did you come across those fish anyway?” the wench asked without lifting her head.
“Well there is a story to behold, One that involves love, lust and betra-“
“The shortened version please,” Sheila said holding her fingers to her temples.
“I was performing in Kron, fell in love with a woman, stayed there for a year, then got itchy feet and decided to leave to pursue my dream. She gave me the fish and said if they were still alive when I came back she would marry me.”
“You told me they were a gift from a princess, who liked your singing in the palace of Manistor,” the voice of the innkeeper made Pewtory jump.
Melvin stood at the foot of the stairs in nothing but a dirty vest and underpants. He had a cigar in the corner of his mouth and his eyes squinted to the smoke. The strands of hair that had been greased back last night, now stood erratically on end.
“Did I? It must have been the drink talking.”
Through the banisters, a pair of bare feet slapped down the stairs in a lazy fashion. A woman emerged carrying her shoes in one hand and the majority of her clothes clutched in the other. Her powdered face was smeared and her eyes red. Melvin moved to one side without even looking at her. She hesitated at the bottom of the stairs, tutted in disgust before leaving the tavern, slamming the door.
Melvin was unfazed by the action and sauntered over to the table and poured himself a coffee. He sat down with a groan that sent a waft of alcoholic breath and tobacco directly into Pewtory’s face. The bard pushed the rest of his breakfast aside, losing his appetite in an instant.
“I presume you are waiting for your payment,” Melvin said slurping the coffee. Throughout the whole process the cigar had somehow not left his mouth.
“As I said yesterday, it is like you can read my mind,” Pewtory said.
The innkeeper grunted and reached behind him into his underpants. Pewtory prayed the man kept his money contained in something and not loose against his skin.
“That was some show you put on last night.”
“Thank you,” Pewtory responded, trying not to imagine what the man’s fingers were touching.
Melvin rummaged around and then pulled out a brown leather pouch, much to the bard’s relief.
“Seven bronze wasn’t it?”
“Nice try, eight.”
Melvin shook out some of the coins into his palm, turning over coins with a giant slab of a finger. He counted out six bronze on the table.
“Well earned that. Well earned.”
“You’re two bronze short. I paid eight deposit on the understanding that I would get it back if I trebled your income. I think I more than covered my share of the bargain,” Pewtory tried to keep his voice even. After last night’s incident he was in no mood to be messed with.
“I have already said it was a grand show.”
Melvin began to drop the coins back in his pouch. Pewtory leaned across the table and gripped his arm and stopped him.
“Then where are my missing two bronze?”
“Take your hand off me. I will only tell you once.”
To Pewtory’s left there was the sound of a crossbow being cocked. He looked over to see Sheila aiming the weapon at his face. She looked like this wasn’t the first time she had handled the weapon.
Pewtory removed his hand slowly.
“The eight bronze covered your meal, drink and room for yourself. Last night, a man asked for directions to your room, said you were intimate. I saw him go in. I did not see him leave. The two bronze is for trying to screw me out of an extra bed.”
“That man was a stranger that nearly took my life. When I stay in an establishment, the very least I expect is for the proprietor not to direct killers to my room. How about I fetch the towns’ Watch to settle this, and I also include in my songs how the Falconer’s Stump is a good place to come if your want your throat slashed.”
For the first time that morning, Melvin removed the cigar from his mouth and blew out a puff of smoke. He reached into the pouch and counted out another two bronze coins, he then added another three and pushed them towards Pewtory.
“I trust your stay at the Falconer’s Stump was satisfactory,” the innkeeper said and smiled.
Pewtory scooped the coins up and secreted them inside his cloak. He then gathered his belongings and stood. As he passed Sheila he asked her, “Is this Gandarra’s only inn?”
“Of course not. There is the Cockerel’s feather, the Carthorse and the Skivvy’s Nest. You won’t find a crowd in any of them apart from the dregs of society.”
Pewtory nodded. “Next time I am in Gandarra, reckon you two will still be here?”
“As long as the town’s standing,” Melvin said and smiled to reveal stained teeth.
“I’ll be sure to go to one of those other inns then,”
Pewtory stayed long enough for the smile to fall from the innkeepers face.