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 Post subject: Just for a Drink
PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 5:57 am 
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"Sorry, lad, but the pup's gonna' hafta wait ou'side."

A pair of sharp, jade eyes glanced up from the dark confines of the well-shading hood of an average traveling cloak. The corner of the bouncer's - Bartholomew - left eye winced, and a small part divided his thin lips. His arms at his side, the traveler moved his right hand out in a gesture, keeping his index and middle finger straight and the other fingers slightly curled. His companion nuzzled the hand in response, though the hooded figured continued to stare down his opposition.

"Bu', if you're not gonna' be makin' any trouble-like...there're always e'ceptions."

The concession was met with a slow, honest nod, and he stepped aside to admit the unusual pair through.

Jaedin kept his hood pulled low, allowing him to see his surroundings but discouraging an external appraisal of his identity. He wrinkled his nose in surprise as he inhaled.

Cedar...?!

Another sniff confirmed his surprise. Indeed, the grease-laden scent of alcohol was all but absent in this establishment. Judging by the current crowd, this looked to be one of the only "respectable" bar's Jaedin' had ever occupied. Moderate conversation pervaded the room, but none too raucous or boisterous. The occasional bellow sprung up from the drunken belly of a now-intoxicated fellow, but the overall decibel-level remained pleasantly low. Soft torchlight donned the walls, somehow un-obscured by the haze of those who idly smoked with their comrades. The ceiling slanted upward from where he stood, allotting space above for a loft of rooms. At the far end of first story, a set of stairs ran up to them.

As usual, small round tables dotted the majority of the floor space, with a smattering of chairs around each one. With their own audacity, candles stood - one a piece - on each table, still lit. And unbroken or soiled, at that. To Jaedin's left, the bar-proper stood out from the wall several feet, presenting a broad, 20-foot face and two, smaller ones at either end. Stools lined its outskirts, but only a few lonely individuals occupied them: the bulk of tonight's population resided off the bar. A euphoric display of colors, textures, and shapes decorated the wall behind it. Whiskey, vodka, every flavor and color of beer, cognac, wines - both good and bad - scotch, and other liquors - even Saki - hardly did justice to this eclectic anethaeum of inebriation. Dozens of more mainstream ales, ranging in color from black to amber, to even yellow, lined the counter beneath the liquor wall.

Aware that his appraising of the room had left him smack in front of the entrance, Jaedin uprooted himself from the floor and made his way to the bar. No one took notice of him or his illegitimate guest as they proceeded. Not even the room seemed to care, as the well-maintained floor refused to utter even the faintest of squeaks. He couldn't even break any unspoken social idioms: the space between his place and the others seated at the bar was at least a three-stools' width. Pleased, he took his seat without incident. Trinix contentedly curled up in a ball by his feet.

"This'd be a first," was all he uttered to Trinix under his breath.

Jaedin had come almost unarmed. His armor, array of deadly missiles, and even his all-purpose hookshot did not accompany him on this particular visit. Only his trusty blade remained on his person, strapped mid-way-down on his back. Though its position made it impossible to draw conveniently with one hand, his long traveling cloak would easily conceal it whether he was sitting or standing.

Reaching for a small, burlap sack strung to his belt, Jaedin spoke to the bartender, who had silently appeared to serve him.

"Guinness," came the answer to the unspoken question which hung between them.

"Aye."

With the tall, wooden mug he had been cleaning with a remarkably white dish cloth, the bartender swooped across the inventory of beer taps and reached for the glossy-black handle labeled "Guinness". When the bartender returned, Jaedin noted the pleasant, 3/4" thick foam head which donned the surface of his deep-ruby beverage. As his waiter set the heavy mug down, Jaedin brought his money bag up and rested it by the waiter's still-occupied hand. The bag gave a small, dull thud and clinked as he set it down.

"I don't want to see the bottom."

His attendant nodded.

Presently seated, served, and - so far - satisfied, Jaedin took several gulps of beer before turning his attention to tonight's entertainment: the normal, everyday conversations of those around him. He chose to ignore the instinctual knowledge that screamed through his brain: how the bartender kept a loaded crossbow: how the man on Jaedin's left kept a menacing dagger beneath his clothes, strapped to his left thigh: how a good handful of people behind him brandished cheap, albeit sturdy short-swords at their hips: how two men were trying to pick the same man's pocket, while he had already lifted both their purses: how the voices around a particular poker game could, possibly, come to blows in another hour or so: how fast he could kill the first person to lay a hand on him from any one of 10 different directions: how the air tasted like a murderer lurked about. Jaedin wasn't concerned.

He was just here for a drink.

Three men off to the right somewhere spoke comfortably about an advantageous investment opportunity. Apparently, one of them had come into the favor of a particular noble in the city; Nikolai. Their relationship had afforded him the chance for a monopoly on the noble's affairs at sea. Now, he - Trent, it seemed his name was - already owned a small shipyard at the docks and conducted his own, private trade with local vendors overseas. But, he lacked the means to immediately meet this noble's needs. To seal their contract, Trent needed to demonstrate successful delivery of 65% of Nikolai's latest transaction within the next 10 business days, which was far beyond the capacity of his current business. His plan would be to rent the services of larger, merchant ships until he had the means to buy and build his own fleet. However, his funds remained too meager for such an aggressive business move.

He conveyed his plight to these two friends and businessmen, in the hopes they would partner with him in this business venture as financiers. One of them, with a gruff, heavier voice, seemed ready and willing, commenting that his own business could recover if the venture went sour. The other, more shrill, was also agreeable, but launched a barrage of queries at his friend. Questions of legalities, taxes and tariffs, square footage and tonnage, estimated arrivals, projected costs - nothing escaped his inquisitive mind.

Trent smiled and responded amiably. Their conversation continued...

With very fluid grace, the bartender swiped Jaedin's near-empty glass and slipped another, full one in its place. Jaedin hardly had to open and close his hand during the transaction. Aside from that movement, he hardly even blinked. Truly, such skill impressed the equally dexterous traveler.

Jaedin closed his eyes and gulped down another mouthful of the heady, smooth liquid. Its taste was full and salty, tantalizing his dry tongue. He had already eaten this morning, and would not have to again until tomorrow, but the beer helped and tasted wonderful. Jaedin closed his eyes.

After upholding his obligation, the bartender sidled over to Jaedin's left to continue his interrupted conversation. One man at that end of the bar threw his arms in the air at his approach.

"What am I gonna' do, Burt?!" he exclaimed softly. The alcohol had stolen whatever heated passion his plea might have had.

"It's gotta' be hard, Henry. I know...Did she give you any warning?" Burt's voice was smooth and concerned, and it resonated with hard-won experience. He soundlessly procured an empty mug and began cleaning it.

"N-no...I don't think so. I mean...things were great. We...we'd only been living together for 3 months, but I was sure...she was so perfect, y'know?! Now it's all gone...our money, her, my life..."

Henry guzzled the rest of his beer, keeping his face clean the whole time. Jaedin noticed the soft crinkle of paper in his other hand.

"I got home t-t'day, and she'd just got up and left. I couldn't find her things...just this note on the bed sayin' she was..."

His voice broke and swayed, from the grief and the alcohol.

"Pregnant...," he breathed.

A pause opened between the two for a brief moment. Jaedin let another bitter mouthful of Guinness beat his tonsils into submission.

With a deep breath, Henry composed his emotions and voice and continued.

"...and that she was going to stay with her mother."

"I kn-kn-know we weren't married...we weren't s-sure it was time or anything-g. I'm not afraid to be a dad! I...I know I'm no king. Horses don't bring great money, no matter how m-many I t-t-train. But I'm gonna' make it someday, Burt. I wanted...I wanted Kendra to be there with me. We were going to share life...kids and everything!"

Perhaps with a whimper or maybe a wearied sigh, Henry lost the will to converse further. Burt reached over and gave the lonely man a good pat on the shoulder.

This time, the bartender didn't make a glorious swipe at Jaedin's drink. Like a normal person, he simply took the mug and refilled it from the tap. He commented:

"You sure're goin' through it fast."

Jaedin smirked at the compliment.

"S'pose I'm hungry -er...thirsty. Maybe both." He chuckled at his accidental joke from beneathe his still-drawn hood.

Burt returned the mug and wiped the counter of excess saw dust and peanut shells. As he finished, Jaedin gestured towards the silent, now-alone man Burt had just been listening to.

"What's he drink?"

After glancing over, Burt raised an eyebrow, but still answered.

"Spiced rum-by-the-pint, most o' the time. He's got the house ale today...it goes a mite cheaper."

But Jaedin had already counted several small, silver coins onto the counter.

"If he can't walk himself home when he's done, I'll see to it he makes it back in one piece."

Burt couldn't help but let the phrase "Wait...what?!" cross his visage, but he bit back the words and simply nodded.

Drunkenness did not have the stereotypical affect on Jaedin. By now, he could feel his eyes begin to float of their own volition. The yeasty taste of Guinness lingered on his tongue, and he knew that his loss of visual focus wasn't something in the air. But, were he to stand or talk, one would notice no inhibitions or complications. Instead of attacking him physically, alcohol went after Jaedin's mental faculties; relaxing his nerves and prompting his mind to wander off from its singular topic of "survive". Given something comical enough, he might eventually crack a legitimate, happy smile.

Green orbs gleamed as his eyelids surged open. Something sultry wafted towards him. A soft, audible caress tickled his eardrums. Shivers ran up and down Jaedin's spine, tingling every pore in his body and nudging the hairs on his arms and neck to stand on end. Again, those seductive qualities inundated his keen senses, overwhelming him and dilating his pupils. It was all he could do to keep from turning. He swigged from his mug, keeping a tight grip on the container.

"Whoo..." he whispered.

It was to be expected at a pub, but Jaedin had apparently glossed over that glaring detail. After all, there were more than enough spare rooms upstairs, and there were woman already present. Maybe he just hadn't had enough time to properly attune to their seductive voices. More than likely, though, it was Jaedin's own sensitivities which were his undoing. Combined with the alcohol, his face was an open book, if the safety of his hood hadn't sheltered him. Most men might have been "intrigued" at the woman here, who were not dirty, nor scantily clad, nor haughtily giggling at the groping end of a man's grimy hands. But to Jaedin, such women's exquisite, feminine perfection glimmered brighter than a ray of sunshine on the darkest day of his life. Just her voice, let alone the scent of her skin or the lighthearted presence she added to the room, was like therapy on Jaedin's woeful body and mind.

He closed his eyes once more, letting Burt soundlessly replace the mug once again.

There were...more than a dozen of them, according to the voices he picked out from the congested crowd behind him. They were scattered amongst the room, animated, talking, and drinking with their other, male friends. One was...5'4" or so, along with several others. One particular sounded quite different - easily 6'. Jaedin could only imagine their smooth, ivory skin; those sparkling, bright eyes; that pleasant, soft expression - epitomized pictures of happiness. It all remained at Jaedin's back as he shuddered again with agony, denying himself once more. The affect was so potent...so long had he been removed from such stimulus. All he was permitted was the idle, albeit on-the-up-and-up imagination.

The average man of upright disposition, married or not, could easily testify of his own...bodily satisfaction. Indeed, one could be sure that many woman of similar lifestyle's would say much the same. And, both would never say they regretted their actions. Whether an encounter led to a lasting relationship or just a night of bliss, men and women knitted their existence with the utmost intimacy. It was the way of the world; mankind. Other races might do so as well, but Jaedin wasn't about to go guessing about that. In fact, Jaedin questioned his own humanity because of his hyper sensitivity, among other things. How could a human, no matter how callous, be so weak and vulnerable? This...didn't feel normal...natural.

Orcs, Elves, Dwarves, Goblins, Halflings, Ssars, Drows, Kiltharr: the majority of the human populace rejected them as social outcasts. And, since mankind occupied a large majority of the modern, civilized world, those races lived most of their lives in rejection. Some were hunted, killed, or enslaved; all for the innocence of their heritage. In a way, Jaedin, a human, fared no better. He had wandered aimlessly for years, rejected and hunted by both the foolhardy and the cunning. He carried the reputation of a merciless, coldblooded, grotesque and despicable butcher: in his name, woman and children had been slaughtered to the tune of maniacal laughter, while their male protectors and guardians were forced to watch the ordeal before their lives were ended in a similar fashion. Jaedin's surprise at so easily sitting down tonight was not unwarranted.

Again, that sweet sound danced through his mind. Grief racked Jaedin's emotions while his eyes moistened. His free, right hand trembled while he pushed back tears with another, strong draught of ale. He spoke his thoughts softly, unaware he did so.

"Why me? Why him? What is it about me that I need to be ruined so thoroughly?"

Thoughts surfaced like air from a violent pot of boiling stew. This time, he didn't need Josh's golden eyes for his past to torment him. It seemed reasonable to think...to be aggravated over. He was only a man...wouldn't it bring even the strongest one to his knees!

One trembling hand lifted a now-full cup to his lips.

He had gone for so long without...being with a woman. Since he had...been with her. Years had flitted away like a parched forest against lightning; faster than he could drink. He had forgotten everything that was to experience; the feel of her skin beneathe his young, callous and scarred hands; her honest, sparkling blue eyes set in contrast with her utterly pale skin and with a background of silken, jet black hair that ran to the middle of her back; her curvature, accentuated by the thin, fitting material of her pale blue dress, flowed with the soft contours of the bright light of the full moon above. He could never forget how her pale, rosy lips had parted as she glanced at him from over her frail, ebony shoulder: that single, ivory, perfectly-set cheek hardly moving as she breathed the handful of deadly words that would come to save his life.

A jagged pang stabbed through his heart, jolting a tear from its precarious perch. Together, in their confined quarters, he had held the only woman who had ever...well, let him. Amidst the raucous voices all around - the panic and that terrible discovery - they had weathered that terrifying storm. Her hands ran delicately over the scars: chapters in his horror-story of an existence. With a gentle, firm arm, she had forced him down and quieted Jaedin's paranoia. She never told him why she interceded, though they both knew the consequences. She simply...had. And, for once, that was all Jaedin needed.

He wished...all he would ever need. So Jaedin quaffed once more from his meal-in-a-mug and thought of it no more.

Burt returned shortly after Jaedin's reminiscing, unaware of his recent, emotional turmoil. The seasoned bar keeper kept more than a wary look on Jaedin's beverage, or, rather, the constant lack thereof. But, his customer did not seem too belligerent, so he had no real reason to withhold Jaedin's seventh drink. Nevertheless, he couldn't help but chime in to the traveler's silent musing:

"How you feelin', friend? Looks to me like you're gonna' have too much for one night nigh on soon."

Gruffly clearing his throat, Jaedin nodded generously.

"Mmmm, I s'pose you'd have me right..."

He paused before he spoke, considering.

"How much to let one of your rooms?

The response was quick and smooth; almost automated, had Burt not been obviously human.

"15 a night, dinner included, 'less you plan on stayin' longer'n 3 days. Then we can talk. Check out's at 2 after dawn, unless you're too drunk to stand. Then I'll do your packin' for you."

The bartender interrupted Jaedin when he reached into his cloak.

"You got plenty left to cover your tab for a few days, let alone a room. Take a load off, lad, and don't worry about it."

Too tired to quibble over useless etiquette, Jaedin calmly thanked the bartender, kindly commenting that Burt could "keep the change". Hearing Jaedin cluck his tongue, Trinix rose and dutifully followed his master as he trudged upstairs and unlocked his allotted room. Weary beyond belief, and a mite drunk too, the friendless stranger collapsed into the soft, down mattress and lost consciousness. He did not arise for a long time, despite the ruckus when that card game did come to blows.

And, despite the deep, terrible sorrow and seclusion he harbored, he did not stir when a tender hand gently rapped on his door. Her silken voice reached for his ears, but his mind refused to rise to any caller, no matter how needed. He was just too alone for companionship.

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