© 2009, Patrick Hester. All Rights Reserved
Evermist: Chapter Six
Elias and Narut passed through the South Gate and down the walk towards the Pier District. A wall encircled the Pier District, intended to act as a first line of defense in the case of an invasion, but really it was to keep drunken sailors and Conscripts from invading the city on a bender, or so Sergent Fesh had said.
Conscripts were not allowed in the city once their training had begun. No one had said why, but Elias assumed desertions were lower when there was nowhere for the Conscripts to run.
A bustling area filled with inns and taverns had grown up in the district. Elias’ father had slapped him so hard he fell and hit a table the one time he’d gotten the courage to ask about the Pier District. Then he didn’t sit comfortably for a week. Still, his friends and he would sneak down and try to see what was going on and make up stories based on the little they could see and hear.
Walking down the cobblestone streets in a Militia Uniform to meet his friends for drinks felt oddly surreal.
“The Widow’s Apron,” Narut said, pointing to a sign hanging from a two-story building painted in white and green. Music wafted through the open windows, a woman singing accompanied by a lyre.
“I’ve traveled all over this world,
And now to another I go.
And I know that good quarters are waiting
To welcome old Rosin the Beau.”
Elias nodded to the ancient tune he’d heard before as Narut opened the door and gave him a shove inside. He had to squint to make anything out in the dimly lit interior of the tavern. The room was fairly large, with tables and benches spread throughout, each one hosting a small candle in some sort of red glass or crystal holder, casting dim, flickering red light that made it difficult to see. A platform on the far side had the most light, and that’s where a woman with long dark hair sat strumming a lyre and singing softly.
Elias couldn’t help but notice that the laces of her blouse were all but undone, showing the most impressive bosom he’d ever seen, and barely containing it.
Elias blinked, then saw where Fyet stood, waving to them. They had to move through the maze of tables to reach the little table where Fyet and Broat sat already nursing drinks and looking far too enthusiastic.
“Isn’t she wonderful?” Fyet whispered once they’d sat down. Eli could only nod.
“What’ll you boys have?” asked a woman’s voice. Eli looked up, about to ask what was on the board but the question died on his lips as he found himself staring at Milicent’s winning smile. Fyet was snickering. “My Aunt and Uncle own this place,” she whispered to him. “I work part time here, part time at the fort.” Clearing her throat she continued louder, “We’ve dark beer, lager or mulled wine all three coppers cept the beer, that’s four. Dark bread’s fresh and costs two for a slice or eight for the loaf. Jam’s provided cuz I like you lot. If you want stew it’s five, spiced pork is ten and whitefish is six.”
“Stew, Millie,” Fyet said, placing his money on the table. “And another lager?”
“Stew and beer,” Narut said. “Pork and a refill on the beer,” Broat added, placing his money next to Fyet’s where she could see it.
“Ah…” Elias fished out some coins, blushing again as it felt like everyone was smiling at him. “The pork with beer please… And a loaf of the bread for the table.” He produced the coins and she gave him a wink and spun away from the table. Before she was even out of sight, Narut was poking him in the ribs and laughing.
“Here’s a story, a little bit gory,
A little bit happy, a little bit sad,
Of Lily the Pink and her medicinal compound,
And how it slowly drove her to the bad.”
The patrons roared and applauded at the popular song. His friends began to sing along, thumping the table with their mugs and stamping the floor. Elias found himself laughing and clapping in beat as Millie returned with the drinks and scooped coins from the table, then she whirled away again.
She wasn’t gone long before returning with the plate’s artfully arranged on her arms. She would set a plate down and scoop up the coins in the same motion, so fast he almost didn’t notice she was doing it. When she set the bread in the center, his coins stayed where they were. He looked up to ask her why but she winked and whispered, “Bread is on me tonight.”
Swallowing was hard for the first few bites, but the pork was good, and the beer better, so he was soon relaxing again. Every now and then, Millie would return and clear a plate or refill a drink, scooping coins as she went, and always he would get a smile, a wink or a nod. As he watched her move through the room, she would smile at most, but she never nodded or winked at anyone else, which just made it hard to swallow again.
“To L company!” Fyet cheered, raising his mug. Elias grinned as he joined the others in the toast.
The night passed quickly enough, and soon Elias found himself staggering along with his friends, making their way back to the fort. His bed swayed, tilted and spun as he climbed into the upper bunk, still giggling like a fool.
“She likes you,” Narut said from below.
“We’re bound for Evermist,” Elias countered.
“That’s why you should see her again. Before we leave!”
Elias chuckled, closing his eyes. Sleep came soon enough, and with it dreams of a flaxen haired girl with such a lovely smile.