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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 27: Beam 7
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 26: Kondor 141
The three companions crossed a dirt road while the sun was still high in the sky, and James decided to follow it toward the right. The road was rutted with deep grooves in places that looked as if they had been gouged by the rounded wheels of carts dragged down the narrow dirt course. He led the small party down the lane, which was still a very slow procession as Bob was not accustomed to walking, and as the sun was beginning to set the group crossed over a river by way of a stone bridge to which the path led and entered into a flat blue road that looked to have been made by laying stones together. This road seemed to have been maintained in much better repair than the previous, and James considered it to be the first fortuitous sign of civilization he had seen since waking in the woods. They continued walking, passing at least three separate farmhouses that could be seen far back from the road and several dirt paths, and finally, at the first crossroad they came to where the blue stone road broke into three paths, the group stopped in front of a large, two-story tan stone building with a shingled roof and a smoking chimney. A large sign with red lettering that read “THE BLOODY BUCKET” was hanging above its open doorway. The upbeat tune being played on a fiddle that could be heard above the raucous cacophony of voices talking over one another within encouraged the group to enter even more so than did the respectively savory and smoky odors of cooking meat and burning wood that emanated from the entrance.
And where there's good food and laughter, there's bound to be drink, James mused to himself.
The group entered the tavern. James saw a full house; dozens of round tables littered the room with seemingly no rhyme or reason to their placement. Most of the men were seated at these tables, some playing with dice, though some were also seated at the bar, and several others on the far end of the room were placing bets and throwing darts into a dartboard. The standard of cleanliness the tavern had been maintained with left something to be desired; James could feel the pull of the sticky stone floor under his feet with each step he took toward the bar. The smell of burning herbs inspired James, and he took a cigarette from his pocket and lit it in his mouth. Most of the patrons were large, burly men dressed in leathers and dirty tunics. There were no women he could see. James decided that the particularly large man near the door, standing easily over six and a half feet and three pounds if he wasn't at least three hundred, tall and big, probably acted as a bouncer for the establishment. It was something of a long walk to the bar, a good hundred steps in at least; the building itself must have been over 2000 square feet, and the majority of the space seemed to be here in the vaulted common area. Heavy doors lined the walls both on the ground floor and in the open upper area. Several chandeliers with burning candles hung suspended in the air by pulleys the ropes of which hung from respective wooden vertical support columns. Conversations in the part of the room they crossed quieted audibly as the three passed, spreading out as other patrons noticed the oddly-dressed newcomers, and many heads turned to watch the mangled Turbirb’durpa with open distaste as the three odd companions approached the notably pristine counter.
“Evening,” James said once he had finally reached the bar. It was the cleanest-looking place in the house, the polished metal surface standing in stark denial of the sticky stone floors, smudged, dirty glasses, and the patrons seated at it. The bartender himself was smaller than most of his customers, clean-shaven, and dressed in dark leathers and a tunic that looked to have been well-tailored. James spent a moment to take in his surroundings as he waited for the bartender to finish pouring, scanning the beefy-looking man being served next to him at the bar in terms of potential threat, as well as the bottles of what he was guessing were liquor arranged meticulously by potency or price behind the counter. He placed his hands flat and open, palms down on the polished metal surface, and with some resolve evident in his features, contrasted sharply by the burning cigarette hanging lazily from the corner of his mouth, James spoke to the slight-of-frame but sharply dressed barkeep as he tried to ignore the eyes he felt still burning into his group. “We’re gonna be exchanging work for food and board.”
The barkeep calmly rubbed a small cloth in his hand on the polished counter idly and set down the bottle of amber-colored liquid as he watched James warily. He did not look at Bob at all, but spared a glance at Dawn. “Hail, strangers, and well met. Pray tell, what service do you offer?”
James’s temper flared inwardly as he tried to determine the meaning behind the almost alien sounding words. “What?”
“Buuuuu, buh,” Bob said.
“Shut up,” James told Bob impatiently as he threw him a menacing stare before he turned back to the barkeep. The white-haired man took a drag off his cigarette as he finally deduced the meaning behind the question. “I’m gonna cook. So, can we exchange services?”
“I’ll fetch the master of the house,” the man behind the counter responded, and James watched him exit through a doorway behind the bar presumably into the kitchen.
James turned to the man seated at the counter. “Hi, do you come here often?”
“A bit, aye. I’m a blacksmith in Acton. Name’s Bron.” He extended a hand to shake with James, and James graciously took it and shook it firmly.
“Bron? I’m James.”
“It’s a pleasure, James. Let me buy you a drink.” Pleased with the interaction and settled that not everyone here was a complete imbecile, James took a drag off of his cigarette and waited silently.
Shortly thereafter, a large, burly man entered from the opening. He surveyed the room until his eyes fell on James, then approached him, flashing a look at Bob and Dawn with more discomfort evident in his features than the barkeep had displayed. “Hail, stranger,” he began, burly arms crossed over his chest as he came to a stop opposite James at the bar. “We’ve no need for a cook. If you’ve coin, I can provide you shelter and a fine meal. Otherwise, you may return whence you entered.”
James clenched his fingers and leaned back from the bar as his arms dropped to his sides. He sighed in exasperated annoyance as the last grains of the sands of his patience dropped through the metaphorical hourglass, then plucked the cigarette from his lips to speak clearly. “I don’t think you understand; I was trying to be nice about this. I’m going to cook here, and we’re going to be eating and sleeping here.”
“Geronimus,” the man called out, and the massive man standing near the door started to lumber toward them.
“Dawn,” James looked to the slight girl beside him. “Show them how serious I am.” He placed the cigarette back between his lips.
“Yes, sir. Do you want me to kill them all?”
“No, just put the fear of God into them. Kill anyone who tries to attack me, you, or Bob.”
“Yes, sir.” James watched as the expression on her face contorted as if she were gripped by a rage, and she jumped up onto the bar, drawing her gun and screaming, “Alright! Everyone take out your valuables and lay them in front of you! This is a robbery!”
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #280: Versers Reveal. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: