“Oh for Arra’s sake!” I turned and stared at the bottles behind the counter to hide my expression.
“What?” Todd asked.
“The third bloody time this bloody week!” I grumbled, grinding my teeth.
“What is?” Todd looked at me and then the dusty bottles lined up on the shelf.
“Bloody adventurers, that’s what.”
Todd looked to the door. I gestured for him to look away.
“You mean that fellow what with the green cloak and the shiny stubble?” Todd asked.
“Aye, and the lass in white with the tiara, and the hooded fellow with a bow and the shaved muscles with the leather vest and the axe.”
Todd’s face fell. “I’ll get the broom,” he said and shuffled to the back room.
I turned around and cracked my lips into a smile, “Welcome to the Knightly Night, good sirs and lady!”
“I thank you.” The man in the green cloak took a few steps into the room. He was lightly bearded and fiercely eyed.
“We are the finest inn in all of Taravel! My husband recently passed, it was his inn you see, won in a game of chance and-“
“Yes, yes, I… don’t care about any of that,” green cloak said. It seemed he would not be distracted.
“Tell me, my good lady, might you have any interesting news?” He took a few steps with a raised eyebrow, his cloak fluttering dramatically behind him.
“News, milord? What sort of news?” I cocked my head, my mind racing.
The man frowned. “News, you know, gossip or …”
“I get all of my news from Old Gordon, down the way at the Gilded Gelding,” I prompted but green cloak just shook his head.
“Surely you know of a conspiratorial duke or an ogre in the forest eating children…”
“Heavens, how dreadful,” I tried to look mortified.
“Rupert, you’re frightening the woman.” The white-clad beauty said. “It was just an example, there’s no ogre.”
“Ogres are our specialty, as it happens,” The burly hairless one said. “Weak spot just above the knee.”
“Oh, well that’s a relief,” I said. “No, no ogres thank the gods. I do have some meat pies and ale, or perhaps you would like a room?”
“Meat pies? Sleep?” Rupert looked confused. “No, I don’t think you understand. You see, we’re adventurers.”
“How lovely.” I forced my lips to hold their smile.
“So…,” Rupert drawled.
I scratched my chin. “I have some baked apples. Can add a spot of cream if you like.”
“Might you have rats in the cellar? We would be only too happy to clear them out for you,” Rupert prompted.
“You know, big ones with teeth and maybe one that’s larger and abit diseased… perhaps eating children that wander too far.”
“Rupert, again with the child eating.” The white-clad woman scolded.
“Here there is naught but the whispers of sky and the peril of winds.” It took me a few moments to identify the raspy voice as the man with the bow. His face was in shadow but I could see tattoos running up his arms.
“Not now, Cthuluomicon, I’m trying to get us a quest.” Rupert said.
“A quest is it?” I raised an eyebrow.
“Aye, a quest!” Rupert encouraged.
“As it happens, there is a door out back in need of mending.”
“A door is it? Possessed by an evil spirit? Or is it the door to an alternate plane whereby demons enter our real to prey upon the weak?” Rupert drew his sword in anticipation.
“Errr…The bolts are a bit loose and the hinge…”
Rupert squinted furiously.
“Come to that, I did hear I strange sound the last time I was back there,” I mused.
“Say no more, good lady, we will rid you of this heinous evil.”
Rupert sprinted to the back room, his companions close behind.
“It was the door … by the ….,” I stopped talking. No one was listening. I took down a bottle and poured a glass of amber liquid. I saluted the sounds of splintering wood and took a sip.
“Bloody adventurers,” I muttered.
A few moments later the band returned, exultant smiles upon their radiant faces.
“The demon has been quite slain, good lady,” Rupert reported, wiping sawdust from his cheek.
I nodded but could not find any words to match his enthusiasm. I took another drink.
“She is overcome with relief!” Rupert relayed to his friends. They cheered. Rupert waited, watching me with raised eyebrows. “Now there is just the matter of the reward…”
I coughed. “Of course, milord, I have a bit of gold I might-”
“No!” Rupert interrupted with his hands raised. “No reward will be necessary! I wish only to assist my fellows in these trying times.”
“But you just-“
“You need to offer so I can … is this your first day or something?”
“Ok.” I took a deep breath and set my eyelashes to batting. “How can I ever repay you? Please accept this amulet bestowed upon me by my grandfather, I hear it has some magic property but I can’t find the-“
“No, no, no, we already did that … just … never mind.” Rupert’s sword clattered to the ground and he sullenly sheathed it.
He went through some internal debate before nodding and turning back to me. “I wish you well, good lady. If you are ever in need, we are at your service.”
He bowed and ducked through the front door, flanked by the other three.
Todd meandered into the dining room, holding a sack of splintered wood. He looked at me and I shrugged.
“Bloody adventurers,” Todd said
I nodded. “Aye.”
Photo Credit: Flickr / Søren Niedziella
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