Before Convergence #3 - The Kid In The Tavern

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: May 17, 2017

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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, slightly oversized 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 most. A random assortment of utility and combat items adorned her belt, hinting at her survival abilities.

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 the interior was exceptionally cozy compared to other such establishments. The main reason why she kept coming back here though was...well, she didn't really 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 entrance to the tavern. In his formal clothing, he stood in stark contrast to the tavern's more homely appearance. As she approached, the man held his hand out, instructing her to halt.

"Hey," he said. "No kids allowed in here."

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

"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? Waiter? Cook? Dishwash-"

His voice stopped as the girl's gauntleted right hand flicked upward towards him. A blade the length of her forearm extended from a hidden sheath above her wrist in less than a second, with the tip flashing dangerously close to his face.

"Does this answer your question?" She asked.

"Saiya!" A deep voice rang from inside the building. "Good to see you again! It's been too long!" In moments, a man stepped out of the doorway to join the two. He was a stout figure in his sixties with shockingly white long hair that ended at his shoulders and an almost ghostly-pale complexion. But most interestingly, he wore a white lab coat and matching pants, with the odd stain or two here and there on his clothes.

"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 an exasperated look, then retracted her concealed weapon and moved past him, following Kelvin into the tavern. Upon entering, the young girl was greeted to the sight of a massive metal chandelier hanging above the main entrance. Each individual candle on the chandelier was burning a color matching each prominent element of nature: red for fire, blue for water, yellow for lightning, green for wind, and others more. 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 an odd mix of rustic modernism, 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. At one end table, a knight conversed a sultan, while at another, an eastern swordsman spoke to what looked like an astronaut. Everyone spoke in relatively soft tones, though there were three particularly loud individuals dressed in furs who looked like they might have been enjoying themselves a bit too much.

As Saiya approached the bar counter, Kelvin slipped naturally behind it, ready to serve. She took a seat in her normal spot: one of the half-dozen stools there, but hers had a small dent in it that made most adults sitting there uncomfortable. It was perfect for her, and while she suspected Kelvin left it dented for just that very reason, she couldn't be sure.

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

"Yes."

Kelvin poured a glass of Saiya's favorite: orange juice, and placed it on the counter top. She took it, taking measured sips while holding the drink with both hands, treating it like a hot tea cup.

"So," Kelvin said, his hands resting comfortably on the counter top. "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 looked at him in mock annoyance. "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, everyone knows how dangerous it is 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 guard. I mean you."

Kelvin flashed her a smile. "You flatter me."

"I mean it."

Before Saiya could continue, their conversation was interrupted. One of the loudmouths from the noisy table came up to them and slammed his glass on the counter top. He spoke in a slurred voice, clearly intoxicated.

"Barkeep! What's this little girl doing here?!"

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

"Hey kid." The second of the loudmouths appeared on Saiya's opposite side. Like the first, the man was clearly drunk. "Where's your mommy and daddy?"

Saiya didn't respond, calmly continuing to sip at her juice.

"This kid ain't talking!" The trio was now complete as the third popped up above Saiya's head. "What kid don't like talking?"

"My friend asked you a question!" The first was speaking once again. "Why aren't you answering him?"

Again, Saiya said nothing. Kelvin looked like he was considering his options, 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-"

When his hand gripped her shoulder, Saiya twisted in her stool and smashed her nearly-finished glass of orange juice into the side of the man's face. He yelled and staggered back, his face cut open by the broken glass. In response, his two comrades attempted to grab the young assassin, but she dropped off the stool and went low to the ground on all fours. She aimed a precise kick at the knee of the second, 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 wrapped one hand over the other and threw a two-handed punch into his gut, causing him to gasp and fall on his back. 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 executed a spinning kick, which connected with the man's temple, knocking him out cold just before he face-planted onto the tavern floor.

At seeing his two comrades so viciously defeated, 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. There was something in his tone and mannerism that spoke to a hidden power, which immediately stopped Saiya and the first drunkard completely in their tracks. And the other tavern patrons, who had found themselves watching the fight, knew it was time to stop and 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 also been watching the fight appeared to have developed a new-found 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."

"Nah. I'd never threaten them directly like that." He winked at her. "Not that they know, of course."

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, a semblance of fear appeared on Saiya's face.

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

"Don't be ridiculous." 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 in this forest?"

"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 hunt-"

"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. And we get all sorts of people here."

"I'll admit this fog scares me, but we can't stay like this 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. You're one of my best adventurers. A real top five in my books."

Embarrassment colored Saiya's cheeks. "I don't deserve that kind of praise."

"I know you've had a bloody past, but that doesn't mean you can't redeem yourself. Like what you're doing now for our community."

"A tavern full of people in the middle of nowhere surrounded by a mysterious forest that will likely never let them go?"

Kelvin laughed once more. "That's something I still haven't figured out yet. Maybe someday."

"Well, regardless, 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, of adventurers venturing in and out of the fog, and of the strange sounds everyone could hear coming from the forest both during the day and night...Kelvin shook his head. Something highly unusual was going on here, and trying as he knew everyone was, this dark mist made it nearly impossible to navigate beyond a day's travel on foot before one lost all sense of direction. As for Saiya, while Kelvin fully believed 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.