Outside Paivi’s Pub
Rain still falls. I told you. It won’t stop anytime soon.
Paladin and chronicler stand in the street. Wet cobblestones. Puddles of mud. Gutters flowing like rivers. They should go in, but they do not. The door is open.
A paladin has pulled up the hood of her parka. She does not mind getting her hair wet, but the smell gets annoying. A chronicler packed an umbrella. He does mind getting his hair wet.
The pub is right there. Where it always were. The square where five streets meet, with the oldest well in town, just up the hill from the docks. People have rested here since before the elves came.
Or so they say. Because a town with less than two oldest pubs is not a town, and it only has one pub.
The square is empty. A paladin and chronicler met no one walking here. They see no one now. They just stand there – in the rain, in the street on the wet cobblestones.
Candles burn in windows. A door is so familiar. She is close now. Twelve years. On the other side of that door.
The rain falls.
– – –
Someone had oiled the doors since last. It didn’t creak the way it used to, but the stupid bell still made the same racket.
Toine stepped down the two steps into the room without even looking. Raoul came right behind her, and for a moment they paused to let their eyes adjust to the darkness within.
The room was just as she remembered, the same open space in the middle, the same square tables along the walls, the same crack in the mirror behind the bar back at the far end of the room. And yes, it smelled just the way it always had – spilled beer and sweat, candle wax and wine, and underneath it all the warm embrace of the best pies you’d ever had.
Candles in bottles burned on every table, and in the windows facing the street. A rope light hung above the mirror behind the bar, and the door to kitchen stood ajar, but not much light came through it.
Toini spotted four other people in the room. The two over at the end of the bar and the one sweeping the floor had all turned to look as they entered. The fourth, by a table along the wall, hadn’t moved at all, might be asleep, or just too busy with their own thoughts.
Raoul said nothing, just slid down at some table and then didn’t move at all. Soon enough even Toini would forget he was even there.
Toini herself walked over to the man with the broom in the middle of the room. He’d stopped sweeping and stood there looking at her, waiting to see what she’d do.
Short, about the same height as herself, but thin and wiry. Bald and dark skinned, almost red in the candle light, but with a white beard, and white eyebrows – all neatly trimmed.
“Hey babe,” he said. “Will I get you a menu?”
“Hello,” said Toini. “I’m looking for Paivi.” She paused to clear her throat. Twelve years. “Is she in?”
The man looked at her.
“Paivi? Sure. Out in the back. Should be around in a bit.”
She shifted on her feet. “Uhm…” Cleared her throat again. “Would you mind getting her for me?”
“Uuh…” He raised an eyebrow. “Uuh…”
He looked over at Hylletoft at his table, and at Skoft and Engvar by the bar. Yeah, they were okay. He could leave them to it for a bit. It’d be fine. Paivi had emptied out the cash machine after lunch anyway – and the hippie gal just wanted a favor.
She was safe. You didn’t get your face inked like that if you had a reason to hide. He had a good feeling about her.
“Yeah, well, sure and I can. Hold this.” Ali’ast held out the broom to the woman, and she took it without hesitation. Bonus points to her. “I’ll be right back.” Grinning, he spun around and headed for the kitchen door.
As he pulled it open, he paused and yelled over his shoulder. “Hey, babe. Who’s looking.”
“Toini. Tell her my name is Toini.”