Sunday, May 28, 2017

Coffee

The Heroes of Fannen-Dar, Chapter 20

Chester set his cup back on the counter with a satisfying clink of fired clay on polished wood. He slid it forward and placed two silver coins next to it for the bartender to scoop up. "Another," Chester said, crisp and quick. He looked around at the town center market while the thick-bearded bartender refilled the cup with a piping hot, dark brown liquid. The outdoor bar looked out over the booths and stores that circled the well in the middle of Fannen-Dar. At an hour before noon, hundreds of people milled the market, shouting for deals and tyring to trick the others out of their money. Chester saw an urchin slip his hand into the pocket of a silk tunic worn by a dragonborn locked in bargaining with a jewelry merchant. He started to stand up, but stopped himself and grabbed his cup, slouching over the counter.

"There's no use fighting for good in this town," Chester said to the froth in his drink. The bartender raised an eyebrow. Chester took another sip and squinted into the sun as he looked again over the crowd. "The only criminals we can catch are the ones whose capture benefits worse criminals. The rest are protected by bribes and debts."

"Did you say something, pal?" the bartender asked.

Chester blinked. "I think so. Is this coffee stronger than usual?"

"I don't get all the beans from the same place," the bartender said, pouring another cup for a twitching elf who had just snagged a stool. "But it's a pride of mine to keep it on the menu."

Chester chuckled. "Your pride, my weakness. I'd managed to go without for months now, but I just couldn't take the stress of the job anymore. THe captain benched me, knowing I was on the right track. He's helping the very people we're meant to stop. I needed something to settle my nerves."

"Coffee does the exact opposite of that."

"Then I needed something to keep my nerves preoccupied."

The bartender wondered why this young guard didn't have a more normal addiction, like ale or gambling. "You know," he said, "I've always thought of the city as a force of nature, and crime is just part of the natural order. The guard is there to keep the peace, but to actually try and stop all crime is a futile endeavor. It'd be like trying to stop the birds from singing in the morning. You might get some, but there are always more, and people sort of rely on that."

Chester shook his head. "Birds don't threaten people by singing, and nobody relies on getting mugged. I can't accept that." He swigged the last of his coffee. "Get me another."

He looked back out at the milling throng, watching as vendors cheated their customers and thieves plotted their next targets, and he was just supposed to sit by and let it happen. He nursed his third cup of coffee. What good was following the law when the law was wrong?

Chester's eyes snapped to a particular face in the crowd, someone who looked familiar for some reason. She was being dragged around by an elf, shoving past the shoppers with more fervor than most. They were practically tripping over themselves. Chester then noticed two others catch up to them around the well. They looked panicked. He scanned the crowd to see if anyone else noticed, and spotted several thugs who had just entered the market and were trying to look over the heads of townsfolk, as if searching for someone. Chester saw colored tattoos on one in the symbol for the Bloodroot gang. The four around the well, seemingly fleeing from the gangbangers, started climbing into it. Chester nearly choked on his drink.

After the other three had climbed in, the woman looked over her shoulder in Chester's direction, and the realization hit him, much like she had the night before.

"The woman from the orphanage attack!" he said, shooting up from his chair. He looked back at the thugs. They hadn't seen where teh woman and her cohorts went, and they weren't paying attention to Chester since he wasn't in uniform. It might have been the coffee, but Chester started walking towards the well. He quickly swiped a couple of daggers from a weaponsmith as he passed.

After all, if the law wasn't working, he'd need to break it in order to put it back together.

<< Prologue, Heroes
<< Chapter 19, Ladder

No comments:

Post a Comment