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The Drunken Bard

By @machase

The Drunken Bard Tavern was well-known throughout all four kingdoms. Men from far and wide visited with big bellies and open wallets, paying whatever they needed to drink its alcohol. It was why it had earned its reputation, after all. It served the strongest unregulated alcohol in all four kingdoms. Men would travel for months to say that they sat in its wooden benches and drank out of its glass mugs. At some point in the night the drunk would join in chorus, singing songs both ancient and haphazardly created.

Mia Pennyworth worked at The Drunken Bard as a serving wench. If she had another option, however, she wouldn’t be there. It was the only job in the city that would accept someone of such a low status. That excluded the blacksmith’s shop, of course, and even that required special skills and training. So, she dealt with the men who cat-called as she walked out of the kitchen with a tray full of ale balancing precariously as she weaved her way through the crowd. Rolling her eyes, she placed them on tables and in hands throughout the tavern. Her tray was full of coin from men who demanded more of it. She placed the last beer at a booth with a man much more silent than the rest.

“Whoa, whoa! Don’t put it on the papers,” the man shouted over the noise, removing the beer she had just placed. His face was sheltered by the black hood over his head.

She glanced at the table for the first time since arriving to it, and noticed it was littered with papers. “How can ya work over this noise?” Mia replied.

“I can’t, but it’s a lot more private than being somewhere silent.” He kept his head bowed over the papers in front of him.

Mia stared at him blankly, though she knew he couldn’t see it. Private? This was fuller than the ***** house down the street, though she was sure many of these men would make their way over there in the later hours of the night. With a shrug she walked back toward the kitchen, picking up more orders along the way. The bartenders were having their own problems at the barrels, filling as many glasses as they could with the elixir. She walked behind to drop the money into the safe before walking into the kitchen with the food orders.

“Oi, Eddy. I’ve got more of ‘em for ya,” Mia said as she placed the papers on the counter.

“These people won’t stop eatin’, huh?” Eddy replied, picking up the orders as he circled around to mix something.

“Nope. But as long as they’ve got money, I’d be happy feedin’ ‘em all.”

Eddy laughed, however it almost sounded like an evil cackle. Eddy was probably the only thing that kept her alive while working. He was a great friend of hers even though he was a lonely fifty-year-old widow with a thirty-year-old son, whom he had been trying to get her to marry for years. He was like a father to her. After piling the tray high with food and drink, she entered the tavern once more. She was greeted by a loud roar of men. Sighing, she served them all.

*

Mia eyed the man every day for weeks. His hood stayed firmly on his head–never once did he remove it. He always sat in the same booth with the same pile of papers covering the table. Growing impatient, she decided to find out what was so important in those papers. Instead of returning to the bar or the kitchen with her vacant tray, Mia walked across the tavern to the man who sat alone. After sitting across from him, she placed the tray on her lap and stared.

His face was visible from the seat she was sitting in: he had a hard jaw line with dark stubble, dark skin, and black hair. When he glanced up at her, she saw striking silver eyes that seemed to glow against his dark complexion. He studied her for a moment; his grey eyes darted across her face. Self-conscious, she pushed fly-aways that had escaped her messy bun behind her ear and glanced away.

“What do you want?” he asked as he returned his attention to his papers.

“What’re ya workin’ on?”

“Nothing that concerns an unhelpful woman like yourself.”

Unhelpful?”

Offended, she kicked him hard in the shin, making him let out a shout. He glanced around at the men to see if anyone had noticed the attack; however, none of them seemed to hear him over their own noise. The man glanced back at her in complete shock.

“What was–?”

“I can move my foot a little to the right and be far more unhelpful.”

Rubbing his leg, he muttered obscenities under his breath. “I’m trying to pinpoint the location of something.”

“Location of what?” She peered at the papers on the table.

“Don’t you have people to serve?” he asked as he shuffled the papers into one pile.

In response, she raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms. After heaving a heavy sigh, he flipped through his papers and handed her one. It was a hand drawn picture of a bracelet. It had one stone at the center. Down the metal ring words in a strange language Mia had never seen were intricately carved. She passed her fingers delicately over the drawing. Mia didn’t think she’d ever seen something so beautiful, even if it was just a drawing. To Mia, the words looked like scribbles. However, she almost felt something radiating off the page, reaching out to her.

“What is it?” she asked and handed the drawing back to him.

He watched her for a moment before responding. “It’s an artifact rumored to have been touched by the goddess of the Four Kingdoms herself. It’s a priceless object and I intend to find it.”

“Priceless?” she echoed. The word piqued her interest. That meant she could get out of the hole she worked in. She could repay debts she had accrued. She could live her life. Maybe she could even receive an education. “When do we start?”

“When do we start–?”

“Lookin’ for it. I wanna help.”

“Whoa, you’re not coming.”

“Yeah, I am,” she said as she stood.

He stood along with her. “No, you’re not.”

She bared a smile. “I have a few more hours left of work. Stay after closing. We’ll talk then.”

“But–”

Mia was already gone–giddy on the promise of an adventure.

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