Desert Crystals Part 29 – Knives in the Night
Exotic shapes danced behind the thickly bubbled glass, casting a shadow play of dragons onto the street. The puddle of warm yellow light outside The Stout Apothecary was separated from the stark ovals projected from overhead lamps by rivers of pitch blackness. As any Meriodonal knows the dark brimmed with fauna banal and murderous in equal measure, much of it thankfully directed at maintaining the balance between those populations.
The more daring of the night beasts- a mating pair of godless-shrews scampered out of the flickering shadows. They were pursued by a third far larger godless-shrew, its double jaw extended towards their hindquarters. As it latched onto the pair the pub’s window exploded outward and a man fell heavily onto the crunch of glass. With the window removed the noise of a vigorous brawl intruded onto the night air.
Estfel Trabine roused himself from his bed of sharp pavement, shook his head and peered curiously at the ground.
“Oh hello – a godless-shrew. Ahh, you’ll be having babies soon,” he smiled at it dazedly. Two shrews dangled limply from its teeth, their threeway congress completed. Estfel cooed at it admiringly for a moment, then snatched up the equally dazed beast and hurled it through the smashed window.
“Take that you ball-worm!” An anguished cry greeted his accurate toss.
Trabine pulled himself fully to his feet, gingerly toeing the glass with one un-booted foot. The night air breezily assaulted his naked legs and torn shirt. He swayed for a moment and lurched towards the pub door.
“You alright out there Estfel?” Melee Galabrendle bellowed over the fray, “Oh you little-” her words were lost under the sound of glass breaking and punches landing.
“Quite alright my dear, I’ll be with you in just a tick,” Estfel hauled on the door handle, jerking it open as a wannabe assailant fell through the open door, receiving Estfel’s knee to his face as he went. Estfel stepped over the prone figure and rolled up his remaining shirt sleeve. The bar was a mess. Melee stood on a table in the middle of the room whacking people with the disintegrating wooden chair she had until recently been slumped in. She was surrounded by bruised and bleeding patrons, some of whom were gamely attempting to stand, only to be smashed back down again. Estfel saw no need to be concerned for his fellow editor; Estfel’s priority was the burly man with the strange beard who had thrown him through the window.
Although Estfel’s loud commentary on the facial hair of the other customers had not directly caused the fight, it had certainly primed them. Estfel’s undressing (after mocking the burly chap’s crenellated cheek tufts) and his bold declaration that he would show them all his scars was in itself well tolerated. Even Estfel’s whirled skirt landing in the fireplace where it immediately caught light and showered a table of rough looking university types with tatters of flaming silk was largely greeted with laughter. Melee drawing a pistol and shooting “the flames, the Bane-damned flames” probably crossed the line though. The barman had cut them both off as soon as Melee emptied the round and wearily tossed the pistol at the bar. It might have been Melee’s murderous glowering that then caused the barman to call in her tab. It was a mistake.
Estfel was merely very drunk. It was the natural result of starting with Quaverscant whiskey and following it with several bottles of mu-wine, and it took him the usual way. The mu-wine stripped away his natural reserve and brought back intensified memories of safari and a summer spent chasing armfish through the long grasses with his sisters. Ah, happy days of family, sunshine and late night trysts by the effervescent waters of the Glimmer. Indeed, that was where he had acquired a number of impressive scars, from inadvisable cavorting in those waters. Undressing was the obvious course of action when somewhat over-warmed by such romantic memories.
Melee however, had attained a dark state of scowling discontent again the natural result of whiskey followed by the violently blue mu-wine. Estfel, well knowing his partner’s disposition had considered a word of caution round about halfway through the second bottle but was still inwardly brooding about their earlier dispute over the beasts of the Allwright Marshes, not that he could have recalled the precise points of that disagreement. (Sometimes just remembering that you’ve been wronged is quite enough.) In this case Melee’s natural antipathy towards the general public and the mild hallucinogenic properties of Quaverscant whiskey, as well as Estfel’s insistence on once more telling her (and anyone in earshot, which at Estfel’s volume was everyone in The Stout Apothecary) about his stupid romantic liaisons in fizzy water all combined to produce a lethal discontent. The fire sprites clearly signalled danger and the barman was unprepared for war.
As Melee finished off the chair she was holding with a vicious strike across the barman’s shoulders Estfel swayed towards the gentleman with the ridiculous beard who it seemed had been the recipient of Estfel’s gift of godless-shrew. The beast had ejected its eggs into the man’s beard where they’d clearly used their sharp piton-like claws to anchor themselves in his throat. The anaesthetic properties of those claws had been documented by the Journals Biologinary several years ago; their effect would last for some hours. If the man was lucky he would awake to find them gone, otherwise the hatching young would use his neck and face as their first meals. Estfel gingerly plucked them from the man’s throat and arranged them in a small pyramid on the table top. With his desire for a scrap thwarted Estfel contented himself with an unbooted kick in the ribs.
Melee had apparently resolved her dispute with the pub. She left a heap of cash on the bar (taken from the tables of others) and helped herself to an unopened bottle of mu-wine.
“Come on Estfel, we’ve got work to do. I’m of a mind to do the editorial for the next issue.” So saying she staggered out of the pub’s door. Estfel followed a moment later, wondering where his other boot had gone.
Coming Soon: Part 30 – Twisted Up