I was struggling with the WIP earlier, and somehow got caught up in this:
“Nevermore! And my name isn’t Raven either. It’s a sore throat,” croaked the man in the tattered black cloak, flopping down like dropped bladder on the stool. He didn’t quite burst, however.
“That’s what you said last time,” said mine host, dryly.
“My name wasn’t Raven then either. Arrack!”
“Don’t you mean ‘Ark!’ Mister Not-Raven,” said Cybelline, toying with her near-empty glass. There was that brittleness in her voice that said ‘I’m looking for a fight or sex, and I’m not sure which I’d prefer. Help me decide by saying the wrong thing.’
“No. Arrack, Malthias,” he said to barkeeper. He improved his chances. “One for her too.” And then ruined them again. “It’ll stop her wisecracks.” He wasn’t her type anyway. She liked them big, blond, well-dressed, muscular, handsome and attentive. He was small, shapeless in that loose grey shirt, and slumped onto the bar, paying it more attention than her. And he wasn’t what anyone would call handsome. ‘Fine-boned’ would be the kindest, and Cybelline wasn’t one of those. She’d have said that he had a sharp hook nose, a pointed chin and… uncomfortable glittery eyes. The kind she felt saw too much. He was entirely too like the raven that he said he wasn’t. And he’d be the center of attention, not you. She didn’t like that either.
“You like to have the monopoly on those,” said Malthias, taking down a bottle from the top shelf, blowing the dust off the cork. “But you did say ‘nevermore’ last time, Ramarin. You always do.” He took tall glasses out from under the counter, tossed ice in them, pulled the cork with his blunt square teeth, and poured the liquor. The clear fluid went cloudy as it hit the ice, as if it wanted to hide it.
“This time I mean it,”said Ramarin making glass clutching movements with his left hand.
“That’s what you said last time too.” Malthias pushed the glasses across the bar-top. “I wouldn’t drink it if I were you,” he said to Cybelline, who had been about to refuse it. So she couldn’t. She took a sip and wished she had. It stank, not smelled, of anise. The taste was lost in the raw alcohol though.
“Most people thin it out with water,” said Malthias, pushing a jug towards her.
“Ugh. He blasphemed. I heard him,” said the not-raven, his mobile face shrivelling in a rictus of mock disgust. “Water. He said ‘water’, in this very holy place. Wash his mouth out with gin.” At the same time he poured some of the blasphemous stuff into the glass, before drinking at least half of the Arrack in one long gulp.
Cybelline added water, tasted it again, with what of her taste buds had survived. The water hadn’t had much obvious effect on the amount of alcohol. It was, admittedly, more drinkable now. Just.
“And so,” said Malthias leaning forward on the bar, his big head tilted in enquiry “How is our friend General Porknees this time?”
The subject of payment had not arisen, Cybelline noticed. That, considering Malthias normally wanting money up front… was interesting, let alone whoever General Porknees was. But there was a chance she might learn something valuable. And a girl in her position took what was available.
Ramarin snickered nastily. “Having apoplexy, I should think.” He raised the glass in his left hand in a salute.
Malthias smiled. “But otherwise in good health?”
“Sadly, old friend, sadly. He’s never let me get close to him again. I keep trying though.”
“Better luck next time,” said Malthias. His tone said he really meant that. It wasn’t mere polite barman talk. Whoever Porknees was, Malthias hated him.
“I said ‘nevermore.’ And there is something wrong with this glass,” Ramarin announced, holding it up, peering intently at it, a show-man to the core, calling for a response. Not getting one, besides a wry twist of the lip from Malthias.
“What?” asked Cybelline, obliging him, despite herself
It was an experiment in character, setting and the response of the readers to cues. Maybe the start of a story…