So, here's another little snippet of my story. Please feel free to tell me what you think--I really want to know!
Paodin walked into the Amber Stream Inn and Tavern just as the sun began to set. The tavern was dark, lit by only a few candles placed sporadically around the room, and the place was empty except for two grizzled old men seated at opposite ends of the mahogany bar and the bartender.
The man tending the bar seemed out of place in the dusty tavern. He wore rich fabrics most often seen on members of the Royal Court and even in the dim light Paodin could see they were spotless. His long coat hung open, which Paodin imagined was a result of his ample stomach outgrowing the buttons. Unlike most of the common men in Meinsley, the man behind the bar wore his thick red hair cut short. As Paodin sat down on one of the rickety bar stools the man turned toward him.
“What do you want?” he asked, bored.
“Are you Red?”
“That’s what people call me,” was his reply.
Ignoring the man’s seeming indifference, Paodin continued, “Jamis told me to ask for you once I got to town. He said you may be able to help me.” At Jamis’ name Red’s interest grew, and when Paodin placed the leather coin purse on the bar his demeanor changed altogether.
“Ah! Welcome to the Amber. Any friend of Jamis is a welcome distraction.” Stepping out from behind the bar, Red motioned for Paodin to follow. “Come. Let’s see what I can do for you.” He scooped the sachet off the bar and led Paodin through a small door hidden in the shadows.
The room the two men walked into was a complete opposite to the dark and dirty tavern. A large desk sat in the center of the room, polished until it shone. The chair behind the desk was massive and covered with rich burgundy fabric, looking fit to be one of the king’s thrones. Red sat down behind the ornately carved desk and motioned for Paodin to sit down across from him. Leaning back in his personal throne, Red laced his fingers together across his prominent belly.
“Tell me, what can I do for you?”
Paodin got straight to the point. “I have a horse, but I need provisions, enough for a three day journey. I also need a heavy cloak, warm enough for nights in the mountains. I am traveling to---”
“Your business,” Red cut in, “is your own. My business is to provide a service, and to do so I have no need of knowing your destination. By the looks of you, you could use a scabbard and some boots. Yours appear to be well worn.”
Glancing down at his feet, Paodin realized the man was right. His boots were all he had still been able to wear when the old hermit had given him clothes, but they were by no means in good condition. Looking back up at the big redhead, he said, “There are many things I could use, but all I have to give you are the coins in the purse--and even those have been given to me. I have nothing more to offer.”
Red dumped the coins onto his desk, talking to himself as he counted them. “This will buy enough food and perhaps a cloak, but it will never spread thin enough for boots or a scabbard. If I get a cloak from the old woman it will be warm enough and cheaper, though it will not last as long. Then there would be enough for a scabbard as well. I still couldn’t procure the boots for any less than two days’ worth of food, though.”
“My boots will serve me well enough,” Paodin interjected.
Looking up from the coins, Red ignored Paodin’s statement. “How are you with a bow? Are you a decent hunter?”
“It has been a while since I hunted, but I was once fair,” was his answer.
“Good. I’ll give you a room for the night and I won’t even charge you, and then you’ll have your supplies at first light,” Red said, grinning with pride in himself. “Follow me,” he said as he stood. “I’ll even give you one of my clean rooms. They’re usually reserved for my, um, ladies’ guests, but visitors have been few lately!”
Paodin stood, reluctantly following Red from the room back into the dingy bar room and up a rickety staircase. “You are certain my provisions will all be ready at first light? I will need to leave in quite a hurry.”
“Yes, yes,” the man said casually, pulling at his long coat as the two walked down a grimy hall. “Your horse will be loaded up, watered, and waiting for you to drag yourself from bed, and your supplies will be waiting in my records room, which you saw earlier. Don’t you worry--Red is working even now.” He opened a heavy door that squeaked on its hinges then stepped in ahead of Paodin. “Lottie, move on down the hall. This guest doesn’t require your services tonight.”
As Paodin stepped into the room, a blonde woman in only a skimpy dressing gown brushed past on her way out the door. Paodin averted his eyes, not wanting to make the girl nervous. “She can dress first. I don’t wish to inconvenience her.”
Lottie giggled and patted Paodin’s cheek. “Too bad, Reddie. He’s a real gem!” With that she blew the two men a kiss and swayed down the hall.
Red laughed, a big hearty laugh that shook his belly. “You must be exhausted, son! Good night.” He shut the door as he stepped out of the room, his laughter echoing down the hall.