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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 35: Beam 9
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Previous chapter: Chapter 34: Slade 141
“It's not healthy, you know,” Bron was talking to James from the other side of the bar.
James stopped with the pipe in his mouth, looked at Bron, bleary eyed and annoyed. “What?”
“Drinking all the time the way you do. I've known some good men who have drunken themselves to an early grave.”
James waved his hand belligerently as he shook out the fire on the end of the match he used to light his pipe. The herb, a harsh smelling bud that didn't smell like cannabis but had much a similar effect as far as James could tell, was what he considered a lucky find of the day when he asked one of his customers where he could score some mind-altering chemicals. Once he released the smoke from his lungs, he asked Bron sarcastically as he passed the bowl, “Are you worried about me? I'm touched.”
“Aye, I am a bit worried. You don't seem like the typical sort of ruffian we get in Acton.” James had learned in discussions with Bron, who had been here daily in the last week that James had been cooking out of the Bloody Bucket, that Acton was a landlocked part of the southern portion of Zaprad, a nation in the northwest of a landmass called Crioqua. If there were other continents across the oceans, Bron wasn't aware of them.
“What's the typical ruffian like?”
Bron coughed miserably as he handed the pipe back to James after hitting it. “Not so educated,” he gasped out.
James toked thoughtfully on the dragon pipe as he proceeded back to the kitchen to continue filling orders. He enjoyed cooking, particularly while he was drunk and high, and keeping coin floating in couldn't hurt matters. He was considering staying, mulling over numbers and deliveries in his head when the barkeep, who had shown up to work in the early afternoon and left late in the evenings every day since James had assumed ownership of the place, entered for the first time that day.
“Good morrow, my lord,” Jeeves addressed him. “There's a visitor for you at the bar.”
“Bollocks. Is it another of the reeve's men? Give him his pittance and send him on his way.” James vaguely remembered setting up a deal with several of the local law enforcement to turn a blind eye to his practices in the tavern, but he hadn't expected them to return so quickly.
“No, m'lord, ‘tis the reeve himself who visits us today.”
“Tell him I'll be right out,” James responded, his paranoid and befuddled mind trying to work on an exit strategy. Jeeves returned to the bar. Steeling himself, James followed after him, silently motioning toward Dawn's station near the door as he stepped out.
“Morning, Sheriff. You hungry?”
The official's face was clenched in consternation. He didn't appear to want to waste time with small talk. “Are you the man they call Beam?” Dawn had crossed the distance at a speed that was inhuman and entirely silent; she slinked up beside the magistrate. She looked as if she blended in well with the local populace since she had shed her black clothing for brown-colored leathers and rags, and, covered in dirt as she was, she would be nearly indistinguishable from a typical malnourished street urchin. The reeve noticed her approach and turned to watch her as well as James, and he rested his right hand on the pommel of his sword nonchalantly as he warned her, “That's quite close enough, child.”
“Watch how you talk to her,” James admonished the man. “She wants to turn you inside out and paint my bar with your entrails, and respect for me is the only reason why she doesn't.”
The reeve's hand tightened around the grip of his sword. “I've heard tales of a white-haired man called Beam, his daughter, and the demon who have all taken up residence in the Bloody Bucket in Acton. I now see that the rumors are true.” He drew the sword in his right hand with a flourish James found ironic for the man's lowly station. “I will now be taking the two of you into custody.” He addressed Bob specifically and with malice. “Face me now, demon, that I may execute the King's justice on you, foul beast!”
James sighed. “How much do you want?”
“What?” The reeve seemed as if the wind was taken from his sails all at once as he turned to James in confusion.
“Money. Coin. How much to get you to walk out of here and leave us be?”
The reeve stammered for a moment as his face turned purple. A vein on his forehead started to pop out. “Wh-what?! You dare to insult...?!”
“That much, huh? Sorry; not worth it. Kill him, Dawn.” His small assassin stepped to the right side of the reeve and grabbed his sword arm by his fist and forearm. In the same moment that he tried to shake his arm away from her, Dawn jerked sharply as she turned her body perpendicular to his, and, without breaking her full composure, she drove the edge of the blade of the longsword across the magistrate's chin. The large gash across the right side of his neck and face from where his severed jaw now hung slack spurted red liquid like a fountain. He slowly raised his left hand in disbelief and felt the wound as his right arm hung limp with clear compound fractures in the radius and ulna, and stood watching in shock as Dawn whirled around, the blade arcing through the air before it lopped his head off. The head bounced across the floor, and Bob bounded after it.
“Over here, wench,” James called out to one of his serving girls, whose name he was pretty sure was Miralla. “Why don't we go celebrate this victory together?” She acquiesced to his request again; he wasn't entirely certain of her motivation, but he certainly did intend to collect money from her earnings at the end of the week.
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: