December 28th, 2002
Old Friends Make Good Enemies: The Aftermath - By Milekan
The Barkeeper started getting upset after watching the man for quite
"Hey, you gonna buy somethin'? Or ya jus' gonna sit there, takin' up
space at my bar?" he called as he cleaned the inside of a mug with a
dirty and over-used wash rag. A rooster neck dangled from the barkeeper's
chin, hanging loosely on the high collar of his baggy green long-sleeved
shirt. A blond stubble coated his face, like a sheen of golden-and-white.
His gut was visible under his stained brown apron, and his matted
and shaggy hair fell down in curls to his pointed, lobeless ears.
Usually, Torranus wasn't easily agitated, but something about this new
'customer' upset his nerves.
The 'customer' wore dark steel gauntlets, boots which were thoroughly
worn in, and a pair of dark blue, woolen leggings which showed signs of
hard travel. Barely covering this was a full length robe, the color of
midnight. Thrust through a rope around his waist was a menacing dagger
and a small coin pouch. With the hood pulled deeply on his head, his
face looked like an abyssal cave. Waiting nervously for the stranger to
acknowledge him, Torranus finally let his temper erupt.
"Hey! I'm talkin' ta you, buddy! Either buy somethin' 'er get out!" he
shouted, slamming down the mug and throwing his wash rag to the floor
as he straightened up his body, eyeing him closely.
The man continued to look at the bottom of his long finished mug of
ale, tracing invisible figures into the counter of the bar. After a long
pause, Torranus began to move towards the man in hopes of scaring him
out, though deep inside he felt a twinge of fear rise to his fluttering
belly. He stretched his arms out to grab the man, feeling as if he were
moving through water. In a single motion, the man reached into the
pouch tied to his waist, flipped a few gold coins into the air, and was
headed to the door before Torranus had even realized he had missed.
Quickly bending to grab the coins from the ground, Torranus let out a sigh of
relief and dropped the money into his apron pocket.
A barmaid wearing a creamy white blouse with a diving front, walked
quietly into the tavern. The cuffs of the dress were ruffled, stained in a
few places from spilling ale. Her skirt, flat and loose-fitting, was
embroidered with thread-of-gold along the sides, the circular hem
surrounding her petite ankles. She was wearing a silky blue apron over her
dress, a smooth texture to allow any liquid she spilled to simply slide
down the material. Her hair was blond and worn in curls, golden locks
falling down to her bare shoulders. She possessed a charming smile that
went well with the puckish twinkle in her blue-green eyes, and a small
but bold nose. Most likely hired for her beautiful appearance to attract
outside customers, the barmaid was a stunning woman to look at.
"Hey there, Torri!" she shrieked from behind Torranus. She stopped mid
step to look at him jump in terror and juggle a mug in his hand, until
it smashed on the floor.
"Oh, I'm sorry! I din't mean ta scare ya!" she said in an apologetic
tone, with a hand over her mouth and looking at the shards of pottery.
"Jeez, Sariya. Don' do that!" Torranus screamed as dropped his head,
pretending to look at the broken mug. He closed his eyes and shook his
head. Letting out a little shiver he hoped that she hadn't noticed,
Torranus continued restocking the shelves behind the bar while she began
flipping chairs off tables.
"What's got ya so worked up anyway?" Sariya asked, bewildered.
"Oh, nothing Sari. Just... a... uh... customer... that came in...
recently...." Torranus said, hoping she wouldn't question his answer.
"A customer? What'd he do ta scare ya so much, hold a knife to yer
throat?" she queried, half distracted with her work.
"Oh no! Nothin' like that. It's just that... well... he had this 'feel'
about him... that I just didn' like," he replied, feeling a little
better about telling someone. Heat spread over his face, betraying his
"Oh Torri, we *all* know ya don' have a sixth sense, like the elves
do," she retorted with a chuckle.
After a slight pause in thought, Torranus replied uneasily, "You're
right, I'm jus' a lil' paranoid... But enough o' that, I'm too anxious ta
see my sons again. They been with my wife's sister fer about two months now."
Torranus dropped the thoughts about the mysterious man, and continued
telling Sariya stories of his children. Only half listening, she
continued with her work.
After a hard night of work, Torranus was cleaning up the tavern when he
was startled by the metal cling of coins dropping slowly atop a table.
Swinging around quickly, his fear was confirmed as he looked into the
eyes of that same stranger. Frozen in place, Torranus could feel his
chest tighten with panic. He hadn't been much of a fighter, one of the
reasons why he ran the tavern. The only people he stood a chance against
were the drunken locals. Gazing with horror at this monster of a man, he
knew the seconds were ticking. Trying to utter some words, Torranus
found that his tongue refused to work. Slowly backing towards the bar, his
feet felt like lead. He tripped on a lift in the carpet and tumbled
into the front of the bar, hitting his head painfully. As he watched the
man slowly make his way down the walkway, Torranus put one hand over the
lump on his head, as if protecting it from more injury. The other he
directly in front of him, a nonverbal command to stop.
The stranger stood only inches from Torranus, and bent down to put his
head directly in front of the barkeep's. Slowly, the stranger raised
his hand to his face, covering the area over his mouth, shaking his head
slowly. Torranus instantly understood that the stranger was mute.
Quickly realizing his folly, the barkeep let out a jolly chuckle.
Swiftly jumping to his feet, he put on a large grin, "Sheesh! Ya
really scared me, friend. I'm sorry I han' noticed before. What'll it be?"
Realizing that he was stumbling over his words, Torranus slurred an
apology, and filled a mug with his finest beer.
"So I can tell yer not from around 'ere. Where d' ya hail from?"
Torranus asked as he pulled a quill, some ink, and piece of paper from the
shelves behind him.
Sliding them to the man, he watched intently as the man just looked at
the quill. After a moment of silence, Torranus awkwardly cleared his
throat and began taking the paper, ink, and quill back. The man reached
out and lightly tapped Torranus' hand. Grabbing the quill, the man
slowly penned "Food" in squiggly letters. With a smile and a chuckle,
Torranus began preparing a plate of food for his new friend.
The next morning, Torranus heard the door swing open and the floor
creak slightly as he was overturning chairs from the top of tables. Without
looking, he automatically said, "I'm sorry, but we're closed. Oh, it's
you again, m' friend. Well... I guess ya can stay while I clean up in
'ere. Pull up ta th' bar."
As he overturned the chair still in his hand, the stranger made his way
toward the bar. Torranus walked behind the counter, then put down what
was left of a loaf of bread. The stranger pulled off a small piece and
put it towards his mouth. Torranus watched it disappear into the
darkness under his hood. Torranus poured a bowl of still-warming soup from a
cauldron above the fire and set it in front of the man. Trying not to
sound too eager, as he slowly reached for paper, a quill, and ink
'conveniently' set together, Torranus asked, "So ya been 'ere three times
now. But ya yet ta tell me yer name...."
He watched anxiously for the man to reach for the paper. He had little
expectation of an answer but, to his surprise, the stranger reached for
the paper. Torranus peered at the word and read, "None." Thrown off by
the odd answer, the barkeep pondered for a moment, "Ya don't have a
The stranger slowly nodded. Pushing the paper and ink closer to the
man, Torranus quickly chattered off some more questions.
"Where ya from? Ya got anything with ya? Are ya jus' a traveler?
Where's yer family? Ya got a family?"
Again, the man gripped the quill and slowly printed "No family. From
His handwriting got progressively worse with each word, until finally
he threw the quill into the fire. Confused and a little abashed,
Torranus put away the ink and threw the paper into the fire as well. Finishing
his meal and having a few mugs of ale, they sat in silence for hours.
Torranus continued with his chores until all that was left was the mug
in front of the stranger. Finally, Torranus built up the courage to
demand an answer from the man. As he looked up, he realized that the man
was already gone. Bewildered once more, Torranus picked up the mug and
began to clean it, lost in his thoughts.
"So when do I get ta meet this new 'friend' o' yers that ya told me all
about?" Sariya asked inquisitively as she served a table with two
regular customers, both concentrating on their round of cards.
"I dunno. He comes an' goes as he pleases. He's been here three times,
but he never tells me anythin' specific about himself." said Torranus
as he served drinks at the bar. "An I'll tell ya another thing, he never
pulls off his hood... it's sorta eerie, but it never bothered me."
Torranus stated boldly.
"Sure it didn', Torri." Sariya said as she shot him a sly glance.
After long hours of anxious anticipation, Torranus finally assumed the
man would not be returning tonight. He and Sariya, though both
disappointed, continued with their nightly chores of cleaning, cooking, and
serving. After the evening's excitement began to die down, the door swung
open. Glancing at the door for only a second, Torranus quickly looked
back to see the mysterious stranger. Unable to control a large grin on
his face, he signaled to Sariya across the room. She quickly made her
way to the bar, and leaned closely in to Torranus.
"There's th' man a th' hour now." Torranus said happily as he pointed
to a seat at the end of the bar and began preparing a plate of food for
his mysterious customer. Sariya quickly served her last rounds for the
night and speedily began cleaning up.
When she finally finished, Sariya pulled a stool up next to the man,
peering intently at the darkness where his face should have been. After
long moments without acknowledgment, she thrust out her hand and said
cheerfully, "Hi! My name's Sariya. Torranus told me about ya. It's nice
to finally meet ya."
The stranger continued to sit there, drinking his ale and seeming to
peer into his empty plate.
"It must be hard bein' mute, but ya seem to get along fine! He also
tol' me ya were an orphan, that musta been hard, I can't imagine," she
said hoping to get some sort of response out of him. "Oh! I'm so sorry! I
wasn' thinkin'! Hold on a second!" she cried as she went bolting around
the counter to retrieve the paper, ink and new quill.
Placing it in front of him, she waited intently for him to pick it up.
After no response, she sighed and looked up at Torranus, taking a step
back from the counter. He shrugged apologetically and finished cleaning
a mug for his friend. Filling it again with his best ale, he set it in
front of the man and reached for the paper and quill. The stranger
grabbed Torranus' wrist. Picking up the mug with his other hand, he chugged
down the contents. Setting it down, he reached for the quill and drew
Torranus' hand back towards him. Torranus placed the paper in front of
the man and released the quill, watching the paper intently.
To the barkeep's surprise, the man leaned inward and began to scribble
something on the paper very quickly. Torranus watched as he dipped the
quill into the ink, wrote rapidly, and dipped again. Looking under the
stranger's hand, Torranus and Sariya tried to make out the writing, but
the man's forearm too fast over the paper to read easily. They waited
until the man was finished. After a slight pause in his writing, the
stranger dipped one final time into the ink and signed the paper.
Torranus watched as the man sprung to his feet and rapidly walked out
the door. Turning his attention back to the paper, the barkeep slowly
picked it up. As he read speedily, Sariya tried peeking over his
shoulder. Torranus moved so that she couldn't see so she muttered under her
breath, sat in the strangers seat, and impatiently waited for Torranus to
finish. Slowly lowering the paper from eye level, she looked up to see
tears trickling down his face. She slowly reached for the paper and
began to read...
"This is the most difficult and regrettable thing I have had to do. I
have delved on this over the last week that I have come to your tavern.
Unfortunately for me, this will not be the last time I must do this.
"I am not a stranger as you had called me, nor am I mute. The burden on
my heart is too great, so I could not bear telling you this in person.
I am truly sorry.
"I am actually a messenger from Karlisna. I cannot tell many specifics,
but Shadowclaw's army has attacked our beloved City. He attacked with
wanton savagery. The few that fled the city have hidden in the nearby
forests to regroup. After his troops ransacked the city, they withdrew to
an unknown location. We few survivors went back to clean the wreckage
and repair the damage. Among the dead, we found your wife and two sons,
as well as your sister- and brother-in-law. The were given a proper
burial. Again, I am truly sorry.
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