The Kid in the Tavern

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
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Submitted: May 17, 2017

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Content

Submitted: May 17, 2017

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A girl stood at the center of a forest clearing. Wearing a black, somewhat form-fitting full-body stealth suit, black gauntlets, and soft black boots, she would have been invisible in the night except for the fact that her entire head remained uncovered. Her pale skin, black eyes, black hair tied back in a ponytail, and emerging feminine features gave her a mature edge for someone who couldn't be older than fourteen at the most. A random assortment of utility and survival items adorned her belt, while her gauntlets looked slightly bigger than her actual wrists.

Her full attention was trained on the modest-looking redwood tavern she was facing. From the outside, the place looked small, but the girl knew that inside, the place was exceptionally cozy, and it was one of the reasons why she kept coming back to this place and...well, actually, she didn't have any other choice. Not if she was looking for a job.

A guard wearing a black suit, white shirt, black tie, black slacks, and black dress shoes stood outside the tavern. In his formal clothing, he stood out in stark contrast to the tavern's more homely appearance. As Saiya approached, the man held his hand out, instructing her to halt.

"No one underage is allowed at this establishment," he said to the girl. "If you're just short, please show me a proper form of identification."

"I have not seen you here before." Her voice was childlike, but there was a seriousness to it that spoke beyond her years. "What happened to the other guard?"

"I've only been here for a few days." Suspicion crept into his voice as he stared at her. "What about you? I've never seen you before either."

The girl locked gazes with him. "I am not here to drink. I am here for a job."

"You?" The guard laughed. "You're just a kid. What kind of job would you take at a tavern? Dishwasher? Apprentice waiter? Cooking-"

His voice stopped as the girl's gauntleted right hand flicked upward towards him, and a blade the length of her forearm extended from a hidden sheath above her wrist, flashing dangerously close to his face. This all happened within a second.

"Does this answer your question?"

"Saiya!" A deep voice rang from inside the building. "Good to see you again! It's been too long!" In the doorway stood a man in his sixties with shockingly white hair that ended at his shoulders. He was a bit of a stout figure with a pale complexion. His clothing was a bit out of place as well: he wore a white lab coat and matching pants, with the odd stain or two covering them here and there.

"Kelvin," Saiya said flatly with a curt nod. 

Surprised, the guard turned to face Kelvin. "You know this girl?"

"Of course I do," said Kelvin with a broad grin. "And don't worry, she's not here to drink. In fact, her line of work is more akin to yours."

"I can see that." The guard turned back around to stare at the blade still being pointed at his head.

"Come along, Saiya," said Kelvin, gesturing for her to come inside. "Stop scaring my new guard."

Saiya gave the guard one last look, then retracted her concealed weapon and moved past him, following Kelvin into the tavern. Upon entering, Saiya was greeted to the sight of a massive metal chandelier hanging above the main entrance. Each candle on the chandelier was glowing a fire color to match a prominent element of nature: fire, water, lightning, wind, amongst others. On the walls hung tapestries of prominent scientists, each adorned with artistic references to the discoveries they were credited with.

Past the main entrance, the odd pair entered the tavern proper. The running theme seemed to be a mix of rustic and modernity, with wood furnishings for walls and floors, while the tables and seats were made of a futuristic-looking metal. The people too looked like a mishmash of beings from different eras and backgrounds, with at least a dozen patrons at the moment spread around the room. Three particularly loud individuals nearby looked like they might have been enjoying themselves a bit too much.

Kelvin slipped naturally behind the bar counter. Saiya took a seat in her normal stool. It had a small dent in it that made most adults uncomfortable when they sat in it, but for Saiya, it was perfect. She suspected Kelvin left it dented just for her, but she couldn't be sure.

"The usual?" Kelvin asked with a large grin on his face.

"Yes."

Kelvin poured a cup of Saiya's favorite drink: orange juice, and placed it on the counter beside her. She took it, taking measured sips while holding the cup with both hands.

"So," Kelvin said, his hands resting comfortably on the countertop. "How is my favorite bounty hunter and assassin-for-hire doing these days?"

"Nothing much." Saiya took another sip. "In fact, I was lost in the fog on the way here."

"Really?" Kelvin laughed incredulously. "You? Lost?"

Saiya gave him an annoyed look. "You try navigating the crazy out there. I can't make heads or tails of it."

"To be honest, I haven't stepped outside my tavern in a while." While Kelvin talked, he started to polish some of the glasses below the counter. "The shipments come, but yeah, we all know it's a dangerous world out there right now."

"No one's going to mess with you and this place," Saiya said earnestly. "And I'm not talking about your new guy. I mean you."

"You flatter me.".

"I mean it."

Before Saiya could continue, their conversation was interrupted. One of the loudmouths from the noisy table had approached them and slammed his glass on the countertop, clearly intoxicated.

"Barkeep! Why is this little girl here?!"

"There's no need to get upset." Kelvin's voice was calm. "She works for me."

"Hey kid." It was the voice of the second loudmouth, and like the first, his voice was slurred. He positioned himself right behind Saiya, his face to the right of her head. "Where's your mommy and daddy? Are they worried?"

Saiya didn't respond, but calmly continued sipping at her juice.

"This kid ain't talking!"

The trio was now complete as the third came over to join his pals. "What kid don't like talking?"

"My friend asked you a question," said the first. "Why aren't you answering him?"

Again, Saiya said nothing. Kelvin looked like he was considering further intervention, but Saiya sensed he was going to let this play out. That suited her just fine.

"Hey!" The first reached for Saiya's shoulder. "I'm talking to you-"

He was just about to touch her when Saiya twisted in the bar stool and smashed the side of her nearly-finished glass of orange juice into the man's face. He yelled and staggered back, his face cut open by the broken glass. His two comrades rushed at Saiya and in response, she dropped off the stool and went low to the ground on all fours. As the second reached her, she aimed a precise kick at his knee, the force of the attack bending his leg at an awkward angle. He screamed and started to keel over. Before he could go too far, Saiya threw a two-fisted gut punch into him, causing him to gasp as the air left his lungs and altering his fall backwards instead of sideways. The third man managed to grab her right arm, but her left arm's elbow swung around and smashed directly into his nose, breaking it and causing a fountain of blood to erupt out of his nostrils. As he tried to retreat, Saiya's spinning kick smashed against the side of his head, knocking him out cold as his temple hit the side of the countertop with a dull thud of meat against wood before dropping one more level to the ground.

At seeing his two comrades knocked unconscious, the first man, who was still hurting from the glass, drew a large broadsword from his back. In response, Saiya's arm blade extended as she prepared for a more serious fight.

"That's enough!" Kelvin's voice boomed throughout the tavern. All around, onlookers from around the tavern had been watching the fight, and at the sound of Kelvin's thunderous voice, they stopped. His commanding tone had something...powerful to it, and the patrons who were watching knew it was time to turn back to their own conversations and drinks.

"But she-" the first patron protested.

"Get out," growled Kelvin. Saiya noticed the guard from outside was here. He nodded at her and tried but failed to hide a smile of satisfaction. Clearly, he had been watching the fight and had developed a newfound respect for her.

The first said nothing, but sheathed his broadsword and glumly helped the guard drag his two comrades out of the main room.

"I'm sorry about that, Saiya," said Kelvin after they left. "Those three have always been trouble. Relatively new though. Obviously, they don't know about you or your reputation."

"They know yours though." The faintest of grins formed at the corners of Saiya's mouth. "If they didn't, he would've continued to argue."

"Bah. I'd never threaten them directly like that." He winked at her. "Not that they know that."

Saiya nodded, then her expression changed to concern. "Oh! Sorry about breaking your glass." She started to pull out some cash. "Do you want me to-"

"No, no!" Kelvin smiled at her. "You've done me a proper favor dealing with those thugs. Besides, I have plenty of those pints lying around."

"Alright." Saiya stuffed the amount back in her belt, then shifted in her stool. "I didn't come here to fight your patrons, Kelvin. What job do you have for me?"

"Let's see here..." Kelvin took a look at the postings on his bulletin board, his hand running across the many pieces of paper hastily posted. "Ferocious monster...missing bride...escaped convict..." He paused, his hand stopping.

"What is it?" Saiya asked.

"The fog..." He sighed, his hand slipping down to his side. "It's still the most requested."

"I...see..." For the first time, the barest hint of concern appeared on Saiya's face.

"Are you afraid of it?" Kelvin asked, studying her. "It's perfectly natural to be. Especially for someone your age."

"Don't be ridiculous." But Saiya hesitated. "Though...I have been out there. I have seen...things. Things I don't want to see again. Something is very wrong with this dark fog."

"More wrong than the reason why we all seemed to be trapped here?"

"I think that's the least of our concerns, to be honest." Saiya's gaze intensified as she spoke. "Kelvin, I don't think you know just how much of a haven your tavern is. I have no doubt you'd be able to defend yourself here, but out there..." She shook her head. "We're all prey."

"Well." Kelvin started looking at the other postings. "I do have this lost treasure job-"

"All that being said," Saiya interrupted. "I will take the job. Or...jobs, since everyone seems to want to know."

Kelvin arched an eyebrow. "That's one of the biggest one-eighties I've seen in a while."

"I'll admit this fog scares me, but we can't stay here and hide forever. And I have this feeling the fog will get worse and worse if we do nothing about it."

Kelvin held his chin thoughtfully with his right hand. "This might not be the best time to tell you, but there are others who have tried. Dozens even. And not one of them has returned to my tavern."

Saiya tried to put on a brave face, showing more bravado than she actually felt. "None of them were me."

Kelvin grinned. "True enough!" His gaze turned somber. "In all seriousness, do be careful. I don't want to lose you. I think this situation goes far beyond anything we've ever seen before."

"Even beyond a tavern in the middle of nowhere out here in a mysterious forest?"

"I still haven't figured that out yet," said Kelvin with a laugh. "Maybe someday."

They were silent for a moment.

"I'm going to try." Saiya got off her stool, leaving a few coins on the counter. "Thanks for the drink again, old man."

"Anytime!"

As Saiya headed outside, Kelvin could feel a sense of dread permeate throughout his entire body, giving him the chills. This whole situation, of his tavern being trapped here in this forest, of adventurers venturing in and out of the fog, and some of the strange sounds that could be heard both during the day and night that spoke of horrors beyond imagination...Kelvin shook his head. Something highly unnatural was going on here, and trying as he knew everyone was, the fog made it impossible to navigate beyond a day's travel on foot before one lost all sense of direction. Regarding Saiya, while she was amongst the very best of the adventurers who visited his tavern in terms of skill, he still worried for her. As talented as she was in the arts of killing and tracking, she was just barely growing past the point of being a child. While he knew not to underestimate her, Kelvin couldn't help but wonder if he had just sent her to her death.


© Copyright 2017 T. J. Wong. All rights reserved.