Part 23: InterludeInterlude
The Tavern of Broken Dreams (Music)
"And thus did the Nameless One give chase. His quarry-" Oudilin coughs, clearing his throat as another tavern wench takes his cup away to refill. "A moment, if you please," he gestures to the crowd, and they part as he steps down, "The Golden Gates beckon."
You hide a smile with your mug. You had heard many a bard in your time, and few needed to pass the 'Golden Gates' so soon, as Oudilin said. Quite unprofessional. Then again, downing five ales would do the trick for anybody, even a Deva. It also answers some questions about the workings of an angel's body.
The crowd murmurs as he leaves, discussing the journal brought to life in an angel's words. Looking around, you find to your surprise that the odd smattering of planars had grown considerably. The tavern had slowly filled over the telling, and few had left in the meantime. Each stool and chair had been filled, certainly not enough for the growing line of customers who found themselves having to sit on the edges of tables or lean against the walls.
The bowl of salted fire crisps you had been nibbling on had helped to work up a good thirst. Alone, they were mildly spicy, but a good handful of them left tongue and lips searing. The nip of sea salt added a sharp contrast that most found mildly addicting, and Shara Six-Blades is quickly replacing the bowls across the bar and ordering more to be placed on the tables.
The cambion crouched on the floor and chained at the neck merely scowls and polishes his mug. It looks to be the same one he had been working when you first entered. If he doesn't stop soon, he would be taking off he finish.
You find your throat aching for a drink, and your mouth watering for another crisp. Ah, such a clever trap!
Shara Six-Blades is quick to pour you a glass of the hevala nectar you gesture to. Well watered, of course: the stuff was tooth-achingly sweet and thick otherwise, fit only for children who had a neverending hunger for sugar. The stuff is soothing on your tongue, sweet with a flavor remniscent of summer peaches and blueberries, freshly plucked and still damp with the morning dew.
You pop a crisp in your mouth.
"Fascinating tale, truly fascinating. Though, of course, some parts must certainly have been woefully embellished," a strong, stern voice mutters next to you.
You look up to a face framed in a spiked red helmet and a body in matching armor, scarlet as a sinner's blood. He is fresh-faced and smooth-skinned, either a highly competent fighter to be so unmarred or a new recruit. "The Harmonium," he continues, "sends its regular patrols through the Hive. So many gangs of cutthroats and thieves- and in broad daylight! Impossible."
The woman in worn leather armor and dust-covered rags, Scii-tavakis, smiles over her mug. It is a toothy, unloving grin, "Oh? And I suppose you're here to keep the peace, aye?"
The Harmonium guard stands up proudly, "Aye. My officer had heard an unusual gathering here in the Hive, and I was diverted from my patrol to keep an eye on things."
The woman chuckles dryly, holding her body like steel even as she leans back. That spear in the crook of her arm has seen plenty of use: the wood just past the obsidian spearpoint is stained a deep red, blackened with age. She is a coiled snake, ready to strike, "I have been in this unusual city for a while, Harmonium. The usual patrols in, say, the Clerk's Ward consists of three to five. Where are your companions, Hardhead?"
The young officer scowls and shifts uncomfortably, looking the warrior up and down as if considering whether he could arrest her, "I- believe they should be here any moment now."
The pale-faced Scales-of-Three stops counting the coins behind the bar and looks up, staring at the small crowd as if he may need to step in and mediate. As the young Harmonium guard relaxes, however, the Rilmani sets his wooden gaze back on his task.
"No need for that, Mikon," Shara Six-Blades says to the Harmonium guard, "You know I have little tolerance for violence, unless it suits me. I can put down any fight, near enough."
"Be... wary," Scales-of-Three intones in his hoary voice, "In a throng such as this... balance... is in order." With that, he spoons a pile of coin into a small pouch and scribbles in a ledger, "Now we stand at the tip of a precipice, steep and high. Our foothold is slippery, and the fall would be fatal indeed. Balance..." he mutters.
Shara clicks her tongue, "The only balance I'm worried about is the precarious situation with the Black Knot Ale." She dangles a set of keys before Scales-of-Three, "Go to the warehouse and roll in four fresh barrels. I'd been saving that stash for next month's Festival of Serpents, but with this sort of business..."
The Rilmani blinks in his egg-shaped robe, "But- the ledgers-"
"The coin's still flowing," she snaps, "And at this rate we'll be down to the last dregs in half an hour. Now get going and bring another twelve tins of those crisps, as well."
As Scales-of-Three scurries off, Shara Six-Blades looks to you with a smile, "A good worker and steady accountant, but such a preachy fellow. I don't suppose you'd be thinking of lunch about now? Cook is going to have a hard night ahead of her, but we might as well keep bellies filled while throats are wet."
When Oudilin returns, a good-sized cut of venison is set before you, slathered with a steaming gray sauce and peppered with mushroom slices. A bit more rich than you are used to, but you had skipped breakfast in your haste to meet your old friend. The smell of spice and grease is alluring.
"Now," Oudilin's piercing voice cuts the chatter quickly, the sudden silence ringing like a brass gong, "As I was saying, the Nameless One's quarry, though a poor Dustman..."