Loot Mule: 02 – The Drunkard’s Colic

It was widely known in the lands of Dinidae that the state of a tavern’s sign was a fair indication of the quality of ale served within. A general list of priorities for any decent tavern-keeper (and, similarly, any patron within) would be: signage, brewing, waitstaff, smoke leaf, bards, keg-runners… and stools being somewhere near the bottom of that list. So, a tavern’s sign was incredibly important to the success of the establishment. It was their calling card, their carte de visite. It was the first thing that any thirsty potential-patron would notice—and it was imperative for that sign to make them decide in that split second that, yes, I do want to spend my gold here. So, naturally, the wealthier the tavern the more ostentatious that sign becomes—which magically translates into the potential patron’s mind as: drink here, we can afford the good stuff.

The Drunkard’s Colic had no sign. Instead, one would only have to look at the ornate wrought beggars that decorated the road leading up to it to have a fair indication of the quality of ale served there. It sat hobbled atop the Mistweave Canal; and the air surrounding it was wretched, filled with the stink of stagnant sewage water and a perennial fog that hung low in the skyline. It was the lowest rung in a row of broken ladders; catering to folk wealthy in dirt, souls lost to vices and nameless vagabonds meandering between taverns. To most the people here were just flies on a shit at the end of the shit-stick. But to Cooper, they were most fascinating people in the world.

Greasy ribbons of pipe-smoke pooled amongst the rafters of the Drunkard’s Colic. The tavern floor was a high-octane ale fuelled surge of concentrated energy. In one corner of the dinky tavern a brawl had broken out between two hulking men, with the larger of the two tossing the other over the table; and those around them cheered the sudden burst of violence by throwing their stools and smashing their pint glasses. Sat quiet and dull in the other corner was a group of haggard-looking men—none of whom were complete, all missing an eye or an appendage of sorts. But their silent mulling did not last long as once they noticed the brawl happening near, they rose to their feet with a great triumphant cheer—as if it were a call to arms—and began tossing their own stools and smashing their glasses and indiscriminately throwing punches at whoever was closest. Those not spitting out thick globules of blood—or searching for their newly missing teeth—had instead made their way like a turbulent wave to the centre of the tavern floor, where they boisterously danced to the metallic fast-paced tunes of the fiddles, the flutes and the lutes of the three bards standing atop of a hastily built wooden platform.

The general agreement within the Drunkard’s Colic was that this would go on for the rest of the night as it has done so every night before it; and all the same familiar faces would be here, as they were before. And it was because of this no one could have predicted that on this particular day, at this unusual time of night, the door to the Drunkard’s Colic would open and three new patrons would enter. Yet that is exactly what happened, and the sheer shock of it caused the entire tavern to freeze mid-action and lock eyes with whoever had just entered. And the three new guests—greeted by the muffled screech of strings suddenly stopping—stood warily by the door, hesitant to move. It was quite evident from their somewhat ragged yet purposely attired outfits that they were Adventuring Miners.

The one who stood at the forefront of the group—and also the apparent leader of the group—was a man named Carver. Calver wore a large but thin hooded cape that draped over his body; the hood of which he pushed back as he entered the tavern to reveal a bony, angular face; accentuated by his tightly cut flaxen hair. At first glance, he wielded what appeared to be a shillelagh. It was long and made of a blackened wood that could have easily been mistaken for coal; yet, unlike a typical shillelagh, its bulbous end was translucent and had a rich honeysuckle orange hue, resembling that of amber. Carver stood at an average height—yet he possessed the uncanny ability to manipulate his presence, allowing himself to seem larger and more imposing than he was. And, inversely, he could also make himself seem smaller and more inconspicuous. He was always either the first man you would notice in any room you walked into or someone so unmemorable that you would quickly forget their face after bumping into them; he did so without any use of tricks or spells but instead through his expert use of body language—which was the key hallmarks of any good Canary. But even with those great skills, Carver, much to his dismay, could not escape the fact that he was now currently on the other end of every discerning eye in the tavern. He had to think quick.

With one swift movement, Carver swiped a pint of ale from the table closest to him and chugged its contents. Then, after smashing the now empty glass onto the floor, he proceeded to punch squarely on the jaw a somewhat timid looking man who had only stood up to politely ask for recompense for the sudden loss of his drink.

Carver was met with roaring cheer from the tavern and his actions started a chain reaction that threw the tavern back into its drunken frenzy: stools again were alight in air, and the bardic strings were quickly accompanied by the thrumming beat of knuckles on skulls. The group quickly took advantage of the situation to slink away into a quiet corner of the tavern not yet disturbed by the surrounding bedlam.

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