93 A Tavern Master“s Sense*
Even a few streets back from the docks, the rhythmic and calm beating of waves against the stone wall of the dock and the shifting of tied boats differentiated the city of Port Lovolon from any other. No other city on the mainland had had the sound of the ocean so well ingrained into its culture, that the thought of the ocean was always accompanied by thoughts of the lively Port. Even well into the night, the port was alive with trade and activity, a fact especially true was the many dockhands and sailors that frequented the many inns and taverns along the bay.
The Leaky Boat was one such Tavern that was enjoyed by the inhabitants of the city. As with every evening, they finished up their work on the docks then piled onto the city streets and made way for their preferred establishment. The sun had just set when The Leaky Boat greeted the majority of its customers for the day, serving hot food and imported ale from all corners of the known world.
The great thing about being a Tavern in a Port City? There were no shortage of suppliers for exotic drinks. The cinnamon spiced ale from Rouke, one of the Southern Isles, was an especially famed drink that The Leaky Boat was proud to serve. Arthur, the owner of the fine establishment, had long ago made it one of the tavern's signature drinks thanks to an especially well-connected acquaintance. He was not in the least bit disappointed about the deal made with his supplier on that front. In fact, he could only see the benefits.
Arthur jovially joked and jeered with the men inside The Leaky Boat. Listening as all good Tavern Masters did. It would be idiotic to not take advantage of looser lips and wagging tongues. Information could score him as many benefits as a good trade deal when the time came. Though, there were some nuts that even he had a tough time cracking.
Case in point being the group of three young men who'd arrived in the city three weeks beforehand with nothing but a coin purse and the clothes on their backs. Arthur had been asked about them many times, but the only information he'd been able to gather was that they had picked up work on the docks, didn't cause trouble and kept to themselves. Seeing as they didn't cause trouble, Arthur didn't see the harm in them sticking around. But there were certain things...strange things...that made Arthur uneasy.
Despite the assurance of plenty of witnesses, the group had a sense about them. A kind of foreboding. There was just something about them. Something that made the general populace give a wide berth. The young men never seemed offended by this, in fact they seemed to prefer it. Thanks to the coin purse they'd brought with them and the coin they'd managed to accumulate through their work, they'd taken the opportunity to rent a rooftop room from a well-known landlord who was reasonable enough to not ask questions. Though no one would ever admit it, the Inn Master that had been housing them had breathed a sigh of relief to see them leave.
On the docks, everyone accumulated a sixth sense about strangers. Most of them you'd get along with, trade with, perhaps even use to make connections. But there were some, the rare few, that despite never stepping out of line, just didn't quite feel right. Arthur had never been wrong about those feelings, but didn't have a legitimate reason to refuse the group service. So, he'd adamantly promised himself.
'If they didn't cause trouble and paid him the coin for his goods, then they could stay and eat and drink as much as they pleased'.
It had been a good philosophy to live by in the last few weeks at least.
Still, with the lack of information floating around about them...when the opportunity arose to open his ears to their conversation, Arthur wasn't the least bit ashamed about his eavesdropping.
"...you said south, so we came south," the one with violet eyes and his head shaved on both sides with a braid hanging down between his shoulder blades stated, "Did you have a plan beyond that? Cause carting crates is getting boring".
The one who wore a hood most of the time, with dark hair peeking out from the rims, slumped his shoulders in a sigh, a pale hand fiddling with the cup in front of him. He continued to stay silent, his dark eyes only flicking to his companion to acknowledge the question before they flicked away once more. After a moment more of silence, he spoke two words, "I'm thinking".
"You were never this indecisive before, that's usually Eb's job," the violet eyed man grumbled.
The young man on the opposite side of the table who had yet to speak, glared over the rim of his bowl. His straw colour hair was cut short, and his smooth skin, short height and gentle eyes made him appear more feminine than most young men. Arthur just assumed he was younger than the other two.
"I don't see you making any decisions," the shorter man replied, "Why is it Phil's job?"
The violet eyed man opened his mouth to bite back but the hooded young man spoke before he could, "Don't start, this is neither time nor place. If I'd known you two would be at each other's throats the whole time, I would have left you both behind".
The other two scoffed and turned away, giving each other side looks they thought would go unnnoticed before the violet eyed man spoke up again, "I still don't even understand why she-"
"We," the hooded young man cut in forcefully.
The violet eyed man sighed, but took the warning, "Why WE, are even travelling together".
"Some paths just cross," Eb replied, "Even if they go different directions, how do you know from one mile to the next that they won't eventually meet up again?"
"I consult a map," the violet eyed man quipped.
Eb rolled his eyes, "You're impossible".
Arthur didn't have a chance to overhear more of their conversation as an argument had broken out on the other side of his tavern.
He'd missed the initial cause, but the man involved, Ewan, was well-known for his aggression when he drank. Even the smallest disputes had set him off. It appeared that this time around, he'd encountered one of the dock workers that entertained the tavern patrons with games. Games that were slight of hand and designed to steal an individual's hard-earned coin. As one could guess, Ewan hadn't won the card game that had been played, and had released his anger by accusing the dock worker of stealing. As Arthur ascertained that much, the argument descended into a fist-fight. His gaze hardened, and he retrieved an axe from beneath the bench.
"RIGHT!" his voice bellowed over the rising din, "I'll have none of that in here! You want to fight, take it outside!"
Ewan looked at the axe, at Arthur, then at the crowd before his gaze finally turned back to the dock worker he'd accussed, "This isn't over!"
Then he stormed out of the tavern alone. There was a hush in the crowd, before the dock worker made a light-hearted joke to break the silence.
"I would have given him the chance to win twice as much back if I knew he was that disappointed".
A chuckle went through the ground, Arthur stowed the axe once more, turning back to glance briefly at the table of young men he'd previously been eavesdropping on.
Only, now there were only two. The hooded one had left.