“I really need to figure this out,” I grumble to myself. “I cannot continue doing nothing all day every day. There has to be some reason that I am here, there has to be a reason that the portal only seems to take me into a random tavern in fire country. I need to figure this out but I do not have enough information to start. Seems like I do not have a choice, I must continue to visit the tavern.”
“Even the voice in my head does not know what I am doing here,” I drape myself in a thick black cloak. “He seems to know far more about me then he lets on but I am certain that this is something that he truly knows nothing about. I have no choices here and it turns out that I do not like not having choices. Gods, no one should have to live this way, having only fragments of memory.”
“I remember in my dreams,” I pull up the hood of my cloak to conceal my face. “But I have no control. I am not learning anything of consequence, at least not fast enough so now I have no choice. I have to sit in a tavern and drink until something interesting happens, without knowing who I am I cannot reveal myself. I cannot predict the consequences of revealing myself without knowing who I am. No, not who I am, who I was, I can guarantee that I am not the same person that I once was.”
“Just once I would love it if things were simple,” I turn to face the door that hides the portal. “I would love it if at least one of the puzzle pieces would fall into place without me having to fight for it. I do not even know my own name and now something is changing, I can feel it, there is something coming. Only I cannot identify it without the right memories, all I know is that I have to wait for it.”
“Pep talk over,” I cross through the portal. “Agatha, I will take the usual if you do not mind, I am going to the bathroom. I expect a meal as well, I do not care what it is, you may choose, something different from last time. My drink should be sat at my regular table, alone, by the time that I get back. I had a rough night, I could really do with a drink and you know that I do not enjoy waiting.”
“Of course,” Agatha sounds terrified. “There is just one small problem, it would seem that your usual table is occupied. I tried to tell them that it was reserved but they threatened to harm me. The rest of the customers too, there are other tables free, I will det you up with one of those if you like.”
I raise a hand and Agatha immediately stops talking as I stalk over to the table that I usually use. The tree men seated there turn to me and a deep growl emanates from my chest and they quickly get up. I jam my hands into my pockets as I watch the man scurry away, trying not to draw attention to themselves.
“You should leave this establishment,” danger lurks in my voice. “Never return or I will be a lot less polite.”
The men scramble for the door as fast as they can.
“You have my thanks,” Agatha tells me. “I will bring you your drink immediately and I will send word to the kitchen for you. To show my appreciation for getting rid of the riff raff it will be on the house. I will be back momentarily, you make yourself at home, my lady, though you have never needed permission before.”
“That will not be necessary,” I place a chunk of amethyst on the table in front of me. “You have more need of this than I do. There are few people who would show someone like me any kindness. You have always done so, you treat me no differently that you treat any of the others here. The least I can do is pay my way and I have more riches than I could spend in a life time, I require no charity. I certainly do not require payment for getting rid of those fools, you just tell me if they come back.”
“Of course, my lady,” it’s clear to me that Agatha is choosing her words carefully. “You have my apologies. I never meant any offence, you have always been good to us here and from what I understand my little establishment is the only one that you visit. In fact, it would seem that no one has ever seen you out side of here. I am sure you are aware of the criminal element that runs out of here. Some of them have voiced there interest in working with you, they say that anyone who can disappear so completely would be very valuable to them. I told them that I would pass on the message.”
I shake my head and Agatha nods her understanding before bustling away to the bar to be quickly replaced by the pretty serving girl she employs. Alice places a tankard on the table before me. I’ve spent enough time here that the staff are aware that they should only stay if I speak to them. Unless I initiate a dialogue I simply won’t participate in it, I don’t want to reveal the few things I know about myself. Knowledge has become the most precious of commodities for me. I know more about the other patrons of the tavern than I know about myself which is a very odd feeling. That’s all I do these days, I eat, I drink, I watch, I learn and then I do it all over again.
“Your meal is ready,” Agatha slides a plate onto the table. “Raspberry, bonus veren siteler almond and oat breakfast biscuits. They are still warm from the oven, the chef made them for the staff but I know the kind of things that you like. I believe there is also some yogurt, I can send Alice to fetch some for you if you would like. I expect that you will be here all day, you usually are, we will keep your tankard full. Just ask if you wish for anything else to eat, one of the local farmers paid with a bucket of fresh raspberries. The chef’s imagination really does surprise me sometimes, who knew you could make so many different things from a berry.”
Agatha disappears and just as I’m finishing the first biscuit Alice appears with a bowl of yogurt studded with yet more tart berries. She offers me the bowl and I nod so she sets it on the table. She’s a sweet girl and a pretty one which is an unfortunate situation for someone in her profession. It’s only mid morning and no one has been sat here for as long as I have but still some of the male customers have already started pawing at her. I keep an eye on her, the same as I always do.
“Alice!” I call the girl back and she has to extricate herself from the grasping hands of yet another man. “I do not like the way that they treat you, I cannot imagine that you feel any differently about it. If you find yourself getting into a situation that you do not like then all you need to do is call for me. I am more than I appear, I am certain that I could handle anything they might throw my way.”
“The girl will be fine,” Agatha has overheard my words. “Most of the regulars feel the same way about her as you do. It’s mainly those that are passing through that take things a little too far. These people may be criminals but they protect their own and Alice is one of outs, even if she does live the straight life.”
“You need not concern yourself,” Agatha assures me. “Besides if anything deadly were to happen I’d rather lose one of these cheapskates. You always pay and you pay well, your business is the only thing keeping this place running.”
“Don’t worry about me, my lady,” Alice smiles. “I’m used to it and Agatha’s right, the regulars will step in if it goes too far.”
Alice scurries away to continue her work.
“I told the men that were interested in you that you didn’t want to get involved,” Agatha tells me. “They keep telling me that they only want you to steal something but I think they’ve finally gotten the message.” I draw a long wooden box from within my pocket and place it on the table. “They wanted to speak to you themselves but I was able to convince them that it would be a bad idea.”
“You have my thanks,” I tell her. “I doubt that anything that they want me to steal would be something that I would want in their hands. Agatha, I know that you are aware of the nature of your clientele. You are aware that you need not do business with people such as this, I can get rid of them for you. They would never come back and I could keep you running until such a time as some more respectable customers were to arrive. It would not be any trouble, I might even enjoy myself.”
“I pray that I cause no offence,” I tell her sincerely. “I know that for many of the people here crime is a way of life. It is who they are and it may well be who you are and if you choose to remain in this life then this will be the last that you hear of this. I will not bring this up again, I will simply wait for you to make a decision. You may come to me with your answer at any time but until then I will not speak of it again.”
Agatha looks uncomfortable for a few moments, shifting her weight from foot to foot and wringing her hands. With a sudden burst of movement she takes the seat opposite mine, refusing to meet my eyes. It’s clear that she wants to say something and whatever it is it must be important. There is no way that she would make such a bold move if she didn’t think it was necessary. Agatha is a woman who blends into the background but most people don’t seem to realize that she does this on purpose.
“Whatever it is that you think you need to say you should go ahead and say it,” I say softly. “You need not concern yourself about upsetting me, contrary to popular belief I actually have a pretty solid hold on my emotional state. It takes quite a lot to make me snap and besides I have been watching you. I watch everyone, I know that you have noticed because you watch everyone too. You actually talk to these people, you have far more context to what you see than I could ever hope for. It you have seen something that concerns you then you can tell me about it.”
“You’re right,” Agatha grunts. “I’m the eyes and ears of this place, it’s why I hired Alice, so that people would pay more attention to her than they pay to me. As you said yourself, she’s a sweet girl. She attracts attention without ever meaning too which means that people are generally looking at her rather than me.”
“I’ve heard word of a man by the bedava bahis name of Kai,” she says softly. “He’s making the rounds of all of the taverns. He visits a different one each day, people seem to think that he’s looking for someone. He’s looking for someone and you appear to be hiding from someone, I wanted to let you know.”
“From the sounds of things this man is getting closer to here,” she whispers. “I would expect that you don’t want him to find you. As I have pointed out we value your patronage around here. From what I have heard there is a good chance that he’ll be here today so you have a couple of choices. He travels alone and the only strangers here are the group that you pulled Alice away from. That means he isn’t here yet which means that you could leave now and check back in the morning. Or you could slip through the door behind the bar, it leads to my home, if he comes in you can hide in there.”
“I truly appreciate you coming to me with this,” I assure Agatha. “But you are mistaken, if he really is looking for someone it isn’t me. At least not as far as I am aware, as far as I am concerned there is no one searching for me. I do not hide to protect myself, I hide to protect others. Do not bother to ask me what that means because I will not tell you but you can be assured that I am in no danger.” I flick open the box before me, ignoring Agatha wrinkling her nose in distaste.
“I am glad of that,” Agatha sounds completely genuine. “I’d prefer to keep you around, you’re like unofficial security for this place. We used to have at least four fights a night but since you have been coming here we hacen’t had a single one. I’d have given the same warning to anyone.”
Agatha takes a good hard look at me now, even though there is no possible way that she could make out my features within the darkness of my hood. Even though I know that she can’t see me her scrutiny makes me nervous. That’s when I realize that she’s scared, the rumours about this man have her terrified. She places her hands on the table and I know that she’s about to get up.
“Please do not get up,” I say softly. “I may look like a person who is trying to hide but just stop and think about that for a second. Look around, I stand out like a sore thumb in here, I may be hiding my face but that means that I immediately arouse suspicion.” I quickly roll a cigarette using the materials in the box. “Not a good tactic for actually hiding. Now think about what little you know about me, I am territorial, I care about others and I have no problem with threatening large groups of armed men. Do you really think I would be that scared of a single man?”
“I think that you could snap a single man in two and play with the bits that fall out,” Agatha chuckles. “Everyone is afraid of something and if a woman like you can exist then it only makes sense that you would have a natural equivalent. As for the hiding, not hiding thing, I hadn’t thought of that.”
“Love the imagery,” I snort. “You are right, there is a person that I am afraid of but it is a woman, not a man. I may not be afraid of this man but you clearly are so I have made a decision about what will happen. When he gets in you are going to be the one who goes through that door and I will remove him from the premises.”
“You really do not need to worry about this,” I try to reassure her. “It does not matter who comes through those doors. Whoever it is all you need to do is give me a signal and I will handle it. I will get him out of here and he will never come back and perhaps one day you will tell me why he is looking for you. Relax, I do not need to know but I will not pretend that I am not curious.”
“He’s not looking for me,” Agatha whispers. “He’s looking for Alice, she’s a runaway and her Father is searching for her. Rather he’s paying an obscene amount of money to have a mercenary search for her. Put that bit of information together with the fact that there’s a stranger going from inn to inn and everything becomes a little clearer.”
“You thought that it was me,” it’s a clear statement, not a question. “That is why you suffered my presence when I first came here. Even though I never spoke, you made sure that I was fed and watered. The world is a dangerous place, you should have gotten rid of me but then you would not be able to keep an eye on me. Then I think you knew that you wanted me here when he came.”
A small smile spreads over Agatha’s face and rather than being irritated I find my respect for her growing. She played me and up until right now I had no idea what was going on and a mind like that is one that I can get behind. She may have been using me for her own ends the entire time that I have known her but then again I always knew that she was a criminal. The only part of this that actually surprises me if that she’s done all of this in an attempt to protect Alice. I understand the risk that she’s taken in coming clean with me but when I Iook into her eyes all I see is honesty. It kills her to ask for deneme bonus my help but she’s done it anyway and she’s done it for Alice. However these two women came together they have formed a bond that is clearly closer than blood. I find myself drawn to that connection, though I don’t quite know why and the intensity of my reaction surprises me.
I have done something that I never expected to do, not only have I shared something about myself, I have shared almost everything about myself that I even know. Something about their connection really resonates me. I must have had an experience that I don’t remember, a relationship similar to the one that they have. Knowing that I don’t remember it leaves a dull ache in my chest. I don’t spend all of my time alone because I want to, it’s more like I have to, when I woke up at home for the first time I went exploring. I found an entire bookshelf and one of the shelves contained diaries. They were all mine and I began devouring the information but I had to stop pretty quickly. My dreams are a natural way of recovering my memories whereas forcing them by reading the diaries started a cascade of memories that nearly knocked me out.
“I will help you,” I assure Agatha. “When the man enters I am certain that you will know him for who he is. What that happens I want you to take Alice upstairs, you strike me as a woman who can take care of herself. Do you think I have not noticed that the rail on the inside of the bar is actually a spear? I would be surprised if you did not have more weaponry upstairs, if anyone comes up there that is not me or someone that you trust I want you to do what you have to do. For all we know this man simply appears to be alone, he could have others working with him. Appearing one way and actually being that way are two very different things, you know that better than most.”
“That sounds reasonable,” Agatha agrees. “But you should know that this may not be as easy as you think. I know a fair few of the innkeepers who’ve already met with them, one of them’s a good friend of mine. He spent his youth working in forges, he’s a large man and very strong. He tried to eject him because he was making his customers nervous, it quickly escalated into a fight. I’ve never heard of my friend losing before but he did lose this time and he lost badly, I saw him a week later. He was still bed ridden and the doctors were unsure of when he’d be back on his feet.”
“I appreciate the warning but I am not concerned,” I tell her. “When I try to get him to leave he will attack. I will fight back and you have told me how long it has been since this place last saw violence. These people are afraid of me, they will attack him rather than me and then it will not matter how good he is. These people all have a bit of bloodlust built up inside of them, sheer numbers will handle him. Even I could not stand against all of these men, at least not without sustaining serious injury.”
I get up from the table and disappear into the bathroom, knowing that Agatha will be gone by the time that I return. Once I’m alone I reach for a small bump somewhere inside of me, a bump that contains magic. I don’t really know how to control it but I do know how to change my appearance. I don’t wear the glamour often because it’s itchy but now I have a reason to and when I emerge from the bathroom the cloak is over my arm.
Wearing a false face I swiftly join Agatha and Alice behind the bar, making a point of stowing my cloak so that they can easily see it. I meet the eye of both women and they both nod, they know who I am. I can also tell that they’ll keep their mouths shut, this way it will be easy for me to confront the stranger without it seeming too out of place.
“I really must thank you for agreeing to allow me this position,” I tell Agatha pointedly as a customer approaches. “I will not be in town for long but the opportunity should help me to gain enough funds to continue my journey.”
“Business has been picking up,” Alice picks up the thread easily. “It is you who are helping us.”
She smiles brightly and heads out to clear tables.
“It would probably be best if you remained here,” Agatha has anticipated my plan. “I’ll go out and give Alice a hand.” I fit my cigarette between my lips and though Agatha frowns in disapproval she doesn’t say a word. “Once you know a few of the customers and your way around you’ll take over. Then I can get back behind the bar where I belong, just give a shout if you need any help.”
I nod, plastering a beaming smile across my face as Agatha disappears onto the tavern floor. It’s becoming more than a little obvious that today is going to be busy, it’s not even noon yet but still the only table that isn’t occupied is the one that I have recently vacated. There aren’t any people seated at the bar yet but it won’t be long until there are. This was not what I had in mind when I said that I wanted something to happen. Still, it’s better than just sitting around and I find myself going about the work with a practiced ease. I don’t remember ever having done this before but I’m fairly certain that I have. I even seem to know where everything is back here but the best part is that I have an unobstructed view of the door. I light my cigarette with flint and steel.