Part 1- The Man Of Action
The Walnut Jester retains an odour that smells of, although literally impossible, experience, with fainter hints of dry alcohol and vinegary vomit. Although it may compel others with little or no history in this tavern to cringe in disgust (or even retch in certain cases of which I had seen), the signature puke and blood stains had no effect to my attitude; this place has left its everlasting mark on me. The walnut drink house is rather large; enough space to easily accommodate over thirty-five men sitting, and a further fifty or so on their feet. In the hollow heights above me I can see wooden struts holding the prism-shaped roof steady, and a clearly unhygienic dove nest in the high left corner of the tavern. The walls are varnished to preserve the gorgeous dark brown, and they are decorated with a white and tan crown border running along the base of the wooden room. Men of all shapes and sizes are sat at the tables scattered around the ‘I’ shaped structure, built with, quite humorously considering the title of the establishment, high-quality oak, that are coated with a deep brown polish to continue the theme of the atmosphere.
I smile at a few familiar patrons as they raise their glasses and nod their heads towards me; I am somewhat famous in a slightly quaint way in Blackmire. I approach the bar, where the usual middle-aged, busty and hearty barmaid, Laura, busily scrubs up the tavern’s kitchen utensils. I take a stool at the counter and raise my hand, flashing a mischievous grin and a wink at the golden blonde woman. She places the ale glass in her hand onto the surface and strolls over to me, before leaning over the counter, teasing me by stroking my dark hair.
“What is it today honey?” She asks, returning to an upright position to retrieve a cider glass; she knows exactly what I have.
I sigh. “One oak brewed honey and apple cider,” I order, huffing in humour as Laura mouths my predictable answer.
“You got it,” she says enthusiastically, licking her teeth and brushing her hair back, ensuring it has not caught on her ears and still flows down to her broad shoulders. As she turns to pour the beverage, and as I turn away, she calls me back. “Heard you been havin’ a bit of a time with young Abigail Harelds, has ya?”
I lower my head, slightly embarrassed. “Yes. It was a one-night-thing...”
“You don’t have to explain, the girl’s pretty good lookin’, an’, as much as the girl is as much a cow as ‘er mother, ‘twas obvious she wanted to get some, her daddy ain’t exactly the most lenient man I ever met.”
“Eh. I still think I should’ve said ‘no’,” I mutter, gazing deeply into the wooden counter.
“Honey, don’t take this ta heart, but your only a man, an’ men don’t think about that sorta thing anyways,” she assures me, stroking the back of my left hand as it rests on the bar. “Here’s ya drink.”
“Thanks,” I say, reaching into my pocket naturally.
“This one’s one the house, darlin’, now drink up, no point feelin’ sorry for ya’self.”
I smile politely back at her, almost blushing. Laura is a friend of mine, nothing more, but she is also a fantastic source of wisdom. Not the ‘you youngun’s are so ungrateful’ sort of wise, but more the wide local knowledge variety.
I turn quickly to my left as a short, bulky man takes the stool next to me. His moderately curly hair is a dark chestnut, complimenting his slight tan and light grey eyes. He appears to exude a very masculine demeanour; his sideburns that travel along the sides of his not quite full, but not exactly bony cheeks, thin into a stubble that runs along his square jaw, and finally meet at his solid block of a chin; his enormous muscles bulging beneath his green cotton shirt and dark-beige cow-hide trousers, stone shoulders and boulder thighs; his hands, broad and scarred from either fights or manual labour, and finally his slouching position over the bar, hands cupped and his face devoid of emotion.
“Morning my love,” he speaks, his voice hinting a charismatic and charming personality. “A ryitall root ale please,” he smirks, raising an eyebrow as Laura winks at him.
“I can’t stand that drink,” I chuckle, as I look across the bar to make conversation.
“Shame, it’s one of my favourites. Say, aren’t you Tempus? I heard your name mentioned an awful lot when I first got here.”
“Indeed I am, nice to meet you...” I pause, awaiting my new acquaintance to fill in the purposely left gap.
“Kerran. Kerran Evane,” he complies, taking a swig of his drink as soon as it hits the counter, letting out an exaggerated exhale of refreshment, suddenly shooting his arm out, and splaying his hand for a manly handshake. I respond and slap my palm into his, giving a hefty shake to match his own.
An awkward moment passes between us as we stare meaningfully into our drinks, his viscous and black, mine much more dilute and a colour that comes unappetisingly close towards the appearance of urine. “So, do you live here Kerran?” I enquire, tapping my index finger on the counter.
“Nope, just’a passing through. I’m all over the place these days,” he replies, clearly reminiscing past events of his adventures in his head, or at least that’s what I think he is reminiscing.
“Me and you both, brother.” I chug a large measure of my purchase.
“Really, what business ya got here then? Gotta admit, as much as this place sure is gorgeous, there ain’t much going on.”
“Trust me, there is always something going on; you’ve just got to know where to look for it. If you so wish,” I smile.
At that moment, the tavern doors burst violently inwards, and a figure walks with harmful purpose through the entrance. “Oh shit,” I curse. Kerran gives me an oblivious look, and then turns to the man who has just made his dramatic appearance.
Traddus Harelds stands in a sentinel like stance, examining the pub crowd, ignoring the annoyed faces of the patrons sat at the tables. His messy grey hair and woollen coat is a signature of his, along with his often dirty slacks. He observes at around five feet, eleven inches, his silver grey eyes intensely scrutinising the appearance of every single man in the building, waiting until he finally finds his target; until he finds me.
I go to stand and leave, but my new acquaintance places his hand upon my shoulder and pushes me back down to my place, and with surprising strength too; I’ not exactly doing this action gingerly.
“Don’t worry, if that guy gives you any grief, I’ll make sure he’ll get a nasty shock. Although I’m damn sure you could do that capably by yaself.”
I clench my fists and grit my teeth, hoping to heaven the farmer doesn’t spot me. I’m not scared or intimidated by him, far from it, I just don’t want to get into a brawl; I refuse to fight an old man. “You!”
Heavy grunts of fury and footsteps that seem like that of an ogre thump on the floor, and the boards echo the dull and threatening noise. The man’s eyes have narrowed, eyebrows arched in vicious intent and his pendulum arms swing to and fro, the movement exaggerated with every repetitive motion. His bony, dirty, scratched index finger is pointed rigidly in my direction, shuddering in an uneasy motion as anger and uncontrollable urges to commence conflict pulsates through his veins. “Wha’ did ya do ta my daugh’er!?” He screeches frantically, as he draws himself to full height and thrusts out his chest.
I dismount from my stool and do the exact same, my harsh crimson eyes glaring down into his mind. “Calm down, I don’t want any trouble Tradus.”
““Wha’ did ya do ta my daugh’er!?” He repeats, even louder than the first time.
My mood suddenly changes drastically in annoyance, “Perhaps you should ask her,” I growl; everyone knows that Abigail is just as much of a bitch as her snotty upper-class background mother and oh-so-better-than-thou father. “She probably hasn’t spoken a word of straight truth to you, so think about what you say before you march in throwing accusations,” which is very hypocritical coming from me, considering that I was as inebriated as a hedgehog in a cider distillery.
“Don’ you question the believabili’y of my daugh’er! She told me ‘nough to know you’re drunk as a skunk!”
Damn, so much for keeping that hush. “So what, everyone has a bit too much sometimes,” I reply harshly, trying not to drop the arrogant father.
“Is tha’ wha’ ya do usually then, steal away li’l girls’ innocences?”
My anger wells over, and I feel the blood pumping like torrents through my ears, pushing me towards the edge. My mouth opens rashly, and I retort, but the blood through my ears: it’s too loud for me to hear what I respond with. My gut-instinct that this was something harsh and disrespectful is confirmed as not only Tradus’ jaw drops, but Kerran’s does too, with a slightly shocked grin to it. As the flow of my bodily fluid stems from my head and to my muscles for confrontation, I also realise that the pub crowd breathes deeply, as if I had just struck below the belt.
“I’ll kill you!” He yells, his voice pounding my ear drums intensely, spitting as the words eject from his throat.
Kerran stands up, only five feet eight inches, barely tall enough to look remotely intimidating to myself. “The man says he don’t want no trouble, I suggest you heed what he is saying,” my acquaintance breathes, slowly and steadily.
Tradus examines my acquaintance briefly, shrugging his shoulders and sniggers quickly. “Wha’ the fuck ya gonna do: bite ma ankles? Ge’ out me way!” The farmer barks, shoving his hands against Kerran’s barrel chest. Tradus’ face falls when he realises that not only does the stranger he has pushed have muscles the size boulders, but now possesses a leer of anger and insult, with silver eyes that have flickered to deep purple.
In anticipation the farmer brings in a heavy right hook that Kerran doesn’t even bother dodging, he simply raises his bicep and tenses, and the bony fist pitifully bounces away, leaving Tradus with a face like a gaping cod.
Seizing the opportunity of the man’s paralysis in reaction to the ineffectiveness of his punch, Kerran draws his enormous hand all the way back to his thick ribs, fist clenched, and launches a destructive left strike that is reminiscent of the collision of two steel shields. The father’s cranium snaps backwards, and his body falls limp as consciousness fades out of him. As he plummets towards the floor I leap to catch him, ensuring that he doesn’t brain himself when that thick skull cracks against floor.
Meanwhile, the pub crowd begins to cheer for Kerran, and he replaces himself onto the bar stool that he was previously seated at, ignoring the audible (that being an understatement) admiration and applause he was having directed his way.
I rise and sigh deeply; sometimes there are things that you just don’t do, and obviously, pissing Kerran off is one of them. Shaking my head as the crimson blood begins stream from Tradus’ obliterated nose, I too retake my seat at the bar, focusing a disapproving gaze, reinforced with the shaking of my head, across to Kerran.
“I don’t know what ya shakin your head at; you pretty started much that whole thing.”
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, you think what ya said had absolutely no effect on that prick’s mood, huh?”
“It probably did, and I’m sorry, but you really didn’t have to stick up for me,” I smile solemnly, trying to prove my appreciation.
“It’s fine,” as he cheers up slightly, as his eyes once again switch colour to the mortal silver. “Hey, if ya want to thank me, ya can pay for me drink,” Kerran laughs, patting me on the shoulder. “That moron needed to be taught a lesson anyways.”
I huff in humour, and then pay for Kerran’s drink. Looking up, I realise that the time has slowly edged its way towards midday, and with that I must take my leave to hold another spiritual connection with Alison. “Thanks, friend. It was nice meeting you Kerran, try and stay out of trouble, if you can,” I laugh.
“It’s all my pleasure. Hell, if ya feel like it, we can always go for another drink sometime soon. It’d be good, after all, I’m here for the next couple ‘a weeks.”
“Sounds like a plan.” I about and head for the tavern doors, feeling quite fulfilled after forming some kind of friendship, the no-strings-attached kind, the calm, laidback kind. The kind you would find only in Blackmire. One thought penetrates my mind as I make for the exit, and I swivel around to face Kerran, who is continuing his flirtatious advances towards the undoubtedly experienced barmaid. “Hey, Kerran?”
“What’s troublin’ ya?”
“What exactly did I say to Tradus, I didn’t even hear what came from my mouth.”
The hulk of a man bursts into laughter just recalling the ordeal, before he turns towards me and grins enthusiastically. “Ya told the man that ‘is daughter fucks like a courtesan.”