Chapter 1 of TStbNL, Part 3
The silence was broken with the crash of wood on wood. Old Jordin bustled into the room, followed closely by Laecima. The door battered against its jamb on its return trajectory, but the sound was overshadowed by the raised voice of the elderly innkeeper. “It was right there!” he shouted, pointing to an empty table in front of the remnants of the bar. “I didn’t move it. Kiki didn’t move it. It certainly didn’t move itself. So I want to know, where did you put it?” Jordin paused with his hand extended towards the offending table, no longer stabbing the air with every other word.
“I didn’t touch it, Jordin.” Laecima’s normally mild voice sounded strained to the breaking point, but somehow remained at a normal level. “I haven’t even been in the room.” The high color in her cheeks and the white-knuckled grip on her towel showed that her vaunted patience was near to cracking.
“You just don’t remember!” Jordin’s volume didn’t diminish as he made his absurd claim. Old Jordin was notorious for two things: a reckless regard for bystanders when pushing a wheelbarrow, and forgetfulness. “I set it down, turned my back to check the brandy cask, and you moved it somewhere!”
“Oh, for Ban’s sake,” Laecima said sharply as she walked over to the cabinet that held the small cask of Kirillian brandy. She swung the door open, grabbed the chipped pitcher that apparently was the source of the argument, and thrust it into Jordin’s stomach before pivoting and slamming her way through the door once again.
Jordin looked at the pitcher in his hands, then beamed happily and crowed, “I knew you moved it!” He cast his triumphant grin across the room of bemused faces before exclaiming, “Who in the Pit is that?” His pointing finger was unnecessary, since there was only one man in the room who wasn’t born in the town, but he provided it nonetheless.
Comrick cleared his throat with a rumble, then announced, “We have a fine visitor this eve, Goodman Jordin! I am sure he would enjoy a warm meal and an opportunity to slake the thirst a long and weary walk has inflicted upon him.” He paused, glancing at the stranger, before adding, “Our guest’s name is Dae’shun.”
The stranger inclined his head towards the innkeeper but added nothing to the speech. Jordin looked at the man, absently scratching his wiry grey beard. His brow furrowed as if something was familiar about the situation, but dealt with the nagging thought in his usual manner: a shrug and shake of the head. “Want something? Ale? Brandy? Wine? Food? What?”
Comrick answered the innkeep’s question with a helpful recommendation. “The ale is quite good, my friend, as is Jordin’s lamb stew. I think you’ll not go wrong with such an order.” The stranger nodded his acceptance of the counsel, and Jordin shuffled into the back to bellow the food requested to Laecima before drawing the brown ale into a mostly clean wooden mug. He thumped it onto the table before the stranger, warily eyeballing the dog still lying at the man’s feet as he did so, but made no comment about it. His reticence was caused by the jingling sound of coins in the stranger’s hand, which he passed into the hostler’s wide hand.
Jordin looked down at the bronze coins in his palm for a moment, then back at the stranger. He suddenly launched his half-cackle of a laugh and turned to the occupants of the other tables. “Coins!” he exclaimed through his laugh. “Maybe the sound will remind the rest of you how civilized payment is rendered!” His jingling of the half-dozen metal bits drew little more than exasperated expressions from the rest of the patrons. Jordin was still shaking the coins as he went into the kitchens to show his wife.
Comrick chuckled at the stranger’s bemused glance. “The townsfolk exchange their services for their meals and drinks. You and the merchant will most likely be the only opportunity for Jordin to gain real metal monies for his inn. He is a generous man, and is reluctant to turn away his friends, even if the exchange benefits him little.” As the stranger lifted his mug of ale, Comrick raised his own cup and said solemnly, “Dae ef’rin hal, ai dae’shun na lanja.” The people of our haven welcome you, and you are a stranger no more. An ancient greeting in Old Aeldric, a language as dead as the empire that spoke it.
The stranger blinked, mug halfway to his lips. After a moment’s pause he tilted his head slightly and answered, “Dae’shun dae mila, en un’dael lemae.” The stranger thanks the people, becoming one with them. The traditional reply, flawlessly pronounced. Comrick smiled as the stranger, named Stranger, shared a drink with him.