Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Fistful of Coins

Heavily scarred and brutishly melancholy, Tolsk sat in the back hunched over a family-sized platter of roast spinefish and a stack of empty shot-glasses that would have embarrassed a frat-boy on break.  A scythe-bladed axe-like weapon leaned perilously at his side like a barely restrained junkyard dog slavering and ready to bite any who ventured too near.  The man radiated a savage sort of hostility that kept the other patrons at a respectable distance despite the crowded conditions.

Several of the doxies and trollops sized him up as they sashayed from table to table making their rounds, some not quite so covertly.  None approached the man.

He was outcast, unclean and his manners were appalling.  Clad in the heavily notched and frequently patched hyper-dense alloy armor of a kidrin from Liswan, Tolsk guzzled liquor, gorged himself on fish, and glared balefully at all before him like some puritanical demigod who simply Did Not Approve of those who found themselves falling under the icy scrutiny of the man's smoldering blue eyes.  To say that he made people nervous would be akin to noting that an elephant is prone to flatulence.  It was one of those things perhaps best left unsaid.

What thoughts lumbered through the man's shaggy head, no one could even begin to guess.  His expression was a frightful combination of wantonness and violence that made legitimate criminals withdraw back into the shadows.  A freebooter, reaver, killer and rogue; it was obvious to one and all that he was all those things and more besides.  He wore the bloody remnants of a Panossian officer's cloak, the soiled boots of a Tabrenian Oligarch chased in gold and heavily scuffed from drastic misuse, a sash taken from the corpse of a sacred hermit of Onduz, and a collection of tinkling charms hung from his neck suspended from braided strands of scalps taken from various opponents and victims that had the bad fortune to cross his wicked, amoral path. 

He brooded like bad weather over his table and eyed everyone suspiciously as though he were some urchin concerned that they might steal his food.  He devoured his meal with gusto and belched so as to knock over his most recent shot of cactus-vodka.  Glaring fiercely at the liquor's sudden betrayal, he grabbed a passing serving wench and demanded a mug of the darkest ale they had in the place.  He grumbled that he was through with duplicitous drinks and their deceptions.

Few who observed the man would doubt that he was indeed quite drunk.  Possibly dangerously so.  But to whom the danger was most acute was the one point of contention that prevented the bouncers from forcibly removing him or the ruffians sitting across the room from accosting him, or so they told themselves.  Like most scavengers, wage-slave employees or cowards, they waited for their opportunity.  It was sure to come after all.

The evening drew on, the Tavern of Three Bells grew increasingly crowded, the ugly, smelly Uncouth man from beyond the Great Western Wall sat with his broad back against the dingy wall covered in sickly yellow paper that peeled back from the rough accumulation of plaster that had built up over the decades as one hole after another had been repaired in the wake of the regular fights that marked the height of the social agenda for the place.  Other places had dancers, floor shows, comedians even. The Three Bells just waited until a fight broke out.  They always did.  Like clockwork.

Leaning over ever so slightly, Tolsk let out a massive, incredibly loud and noxious fart then settled back into his bench.  For a moment everything came to a halt.  Silence.  From the back some childish voice tittered.  Another person giggled.  Someone snorted.  Soon the whole place was laughing, guffawing and doubled-over with ribald humor.

Red-faced and furious Tolsk threw down a fistful of stolen coins without any regard for their actual value and strode forth from the Tavern of Three Bells and out into the early evening fog.

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