gin bottle

The room was broad and low ceilinged. A fire flickered in a stone fireplace on one side of the room. Tables and stools were distributed seemingly at random throughout the room. A long bench filled the wall opposite to the door. A sullen man, stocky and cliched in a dirty apron and glowering stare stood frozen in the act of smearing grease around a glass with a dirty towel. Eight other men were distributed in three clusters about the room. They, like a barman, stared in complete silence at the Spanish soldiers.

“Well,” Jurisco repeated, slapping his warhammer into the palm of his hand, “quite a jolly bunch of devil worshippers, ain’t we.”

Ernat stepped to the side, viewed the passive bar patrons and turned back to Gari.

“Find a stable for the horses. Bring the gear here. You,” he pointed at a youth nearby, “show him where he can stable the horses.”

The boy, who would have been around 14, hesitated and looked back to a seated man. The man eyed the strangers [Mythic roll. Change, Balance], and nodded.

Before the boy could act on the instruction Albergio stepped forward and grabbed him by the hair. He wrenched him forward and back to the door so that he sprawled on the ground squealing.

“Hurry up,” Albergio growled. “Don’t make me get impatient.”

With tears in his eyes the boy got to his feet and, cowed and buckled over in fear, he followed Gari outside like a whipped dog.

Snow gusted in the door around the five remaining Spaniards, causing the candles to flicker in their holders and the fire to gutter. Still there was no movement from the locals. They stared with an intensity that was quite different to anything the Spaniards had experienced before. They were used to contempt. They were used to being feared. But they had never quite experienced the feeling of awed fascination that this crowd was giving them.

Eduare, who was last into the room, turned and shouldered the door closed. He turned and tested the sword in its scabbard. It slipped easily and he felt that familiar comfort of knowing that he was a dangerous killer. With a smug smile on his face he sauntered to the bar and with this face only centimetres away from the bartender’s he said, “Best you pour me and my friends a $%#@ drink you %&^$, %^$$#head.”

The bartender stared square into Eduare’s eyes for many long seconds, as if searching for something. [Mythic roll. Work hard. The mundane.] Then he broke the stare and reached for a bottle and five shot glasses. The bottle was made of clear glass and an unusual shape. If there had ever been any markings on it they had worn down now. There was no label to indicate what the clear spirit might be. He splashed liquid in the glasses as if he was pouring a continuous shot, liquor spilling all over the counter.

Eduare grabbed up the glass and threw the spirit down his throat. It burned with a fire quite unlike brandy. It reeked of pine gum and an alcohol so pure that it could have cleaned anything. Eduare coughed. Squinting through tear-filled eyes he grabbed the bartender by the collar and dragged him over the bar.

“What the $%#^ do you call that @#&% you &$#@?”

“Barovichka,” said the barman, simply.

Throwing the bartender back, Eduare reached for his sword. It was halfway out of the scabbard, his body turned to a slight angle so that he could continue a continuous draw to cut the barman in half, when a voice interrupted him.

It was the man who had silently instructed the boy to help.

“It is the custom to greet visitors with Barovichka.”

His accent was thick and old fashioned, but understandable. It was a version of Spanish that had gone out of fashion hundreds of years ago, when Spain was still expelling the Moors.

to be continued…

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