- The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone.
- Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception (1954). p. 12.
- Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception (1954). p. 12.
Late summer 1477, Village of Silverhook, Princedom of Rubaron
The creature had called itself Gunner.
Recognizing the lie easily, the humble tavernier became even more candid. Adopting the smile of credulity, he changed his suspicious face by adorning charm. A simple nod, a slightest fold of his milky skin, an affable gesture, and the damp intensity of his gray eyes, were all carefully considered.
With an expert dexterity, the innkeeper swept his impeccable establishment, studying the infinite facets of the future within reach.
This summer evening, the tavern had only a handful of customers, a rare fact considering the miraculous fertility of the Rubaron province. Usually these three regulars, Jacke, ser Steiner Fitz, and Emilio, clashed in puerile and futile arguments, but their fanatical enthusiasm greatly dissipated the boredom of the sulky tavernier. They all shaped the triviality of his routine. Strange that so few souls had come to mop in Ironland vodka tonight. He would have guessed the wealthy peasants spending just as much the ascendant bourgeois. Not that the absence of beggars might have chagrined the taverner in some way, but a more imposing crowd would have facilitated his work-and he never refused honest gold. If it existed, of course.
In itself, the tavern of The Crimson Hand remained impeccable, the only perfection of its owner, its immaculate protection. The moon left its ocher and benevolent light the tables of oak, and the silver of the cutlery and glasses sparkled, blinding in that ghostly evening. Outside, the song of nature and the movements of the night brought comfort to the tavern-keeper. More as the unmerited serenity, the one that his desire had turned real.
Reporting his attention to the thing called Gunner, the tavernier, curious by birth but phlegmatic by profession, could not help thinking: Who are you?
There were few changelings in this heretical period, where magic and wonders burned at the stake, and the humble tavern-keeper doubted that they had found his trace until now in this rainy shithole of Silver Hook. They would have been foolish to send a Lesser Being in his pursuit, although any creature was theoretically capable of accomplishing it. There is always bad days, even for regicides.
Carefully studying his features, the tavern-keeper congratulated the rigorous artist who had parried this thing with such convincing attributes. Like the Thyrian people, the thing was olive-skinned and smelled of perfumed leather and concealed sweat. Its clothes went hand in hand with the supposed vagrancy of the creature. His brown eyes looked bright, too. A first fault, acknowledged the tavernier. The eyes reflecting the intention with the most acuity, this thing could not conceal from the tavernier its abyssal and crushing emptiness. Some crumbs dotted his jaw, probably vestiges of a bad shave. A second. The Thyrians love their beards. Either he was a liar or it was not a human being. However, his breath swarmed with diversity, which the tavernier appreciated. Your creator loves his culinary pleasures, is not it?
“Well, Gunner, what can I do for you?”
The thing, seated alone at a double table facing the window and close to the hearth, stared at him, betraying its surprise.
“How do you know my name?” His voice was grandiose, conceded the tavernier.
“I heard you just now!” The tavernier replied warmly. ‘What can I offer you? Are you looking for a feast, or are you thirsty? Or is it the flesh you covet? “
Slamming his fingers, the tavern-keeper assumed a theatrical, playful air when Sybille approached. The sight of the ribald with her blond virgin face relaxed the thing. Do you feel desire? Do you even understand it? From memory, the tavern-keeper thought not, the changelins condemned by nature to sterility.
“Sibylle is an angel, but my sauerkraut with bacon is truly delightful!” The tavernier smiled at the same time as he traded, detecting at the same time the disappointment on the artificial features of the creature. They have found my track. If not, why should Gunner playing this judgmental role? The creature was looking for Richard Frates, like a thousand kingdoms and so many empires, but it had found only a dandy playing the innkeeper. Obviously this thing calling itself Gunner was disappointed. But the tavern-keeper was as much a mirage as the changelin was a thyrian tinker.
“No thank you, friend, I’m just going to take a beer and then resume my travels,” Gunner said this time, clumsily hiding the agenda that had guided him here.
‘As you please, my good Gunner!’ I’ll get you this and some supplies for the road!
It’s kind of you, tavernier, ‘thanked the creature.
My father often said, “Be ungrateful with the tinker, and you will regret the clemency of hell,” the taverner closed with a bow.
The false re-smirker smiled, and the tavernier detected there some roguish malice. Its smile said, “I know who you are.”
Glancing at Sybille, the innkeeper walked to the back room, joining a walled room whose sounds could not escape. Flanked by the succubus, the simple tavern-keeper let the mask fall and let the words flow:
“Did you detect its essence?” He asked.
– No, your greatness, “said Sybille, with an air of anxiety, which did not fit with his usual fury.
– This is not good, ‘the tavernier said. ‘He is too subtle for a Lesser Being but his aura is as imperceptible as a simple peasant.
– Maybe …, ‘suggested Sybille before lowering her eyes, hesitant.
“- Yes, my sweet fury?” His tone implied command.
‘- Maybe he is just a simple tinker, your greatness … “
His instinct dictated her to slap him, but the tavernist chose the impossible compassion of a human for a demon-daughter. He grabbed her wrist and pulled her against him. His skin, though gentle, radiated with a profound warmth. Her long blond hair snaked on the moderately hairy torso of the innkeeper.
“Am I just Rick the tavernier?” He murmured.
- No, your greatness, ‘she whispered before kissing her neck.
– That’s my mistake, I’m just a tavernier. In my eyes, Gunner is as much a tackler as I am naive and generous in your eyes. “
And he looked into the turquoise abyss of Sybille’s eyes. For a moment he forgot his nature and almost kissed her.
And thus, he had almost died.
She wants me dead still.
“Innkeeper!” Thundered a voice.
This improvised authority of campaign marked the disgrace of Ser Steiner, a free-rider became guard of the marechaussee. A caricature of Temerian like no other, Steiner was the culmination of centuries of feudal failure feudal. A real asshole!
“Observe well,” the tavernist commanded the devil-daughter.
Returning to the hearth, Rick the Tavernier invoked the Way and became weak and helpful again, joyful and foolish. Offering the pint of panache to Gunner, Rick received the present with a rogue and deeply mocking smile.
“I hurry to offer you some provisions!” Rick was beginning to tire of pretending cordiality, ready to obliterate the thing. After all, he could.
I hate my life!
For Indeed, They had secured Rick’s trail the day Avalan Den would die for his crimes.