You never want to set foot in a tavern again but you decide it’s your best chance to learn what happened last night. You will your body to climb the uneven wooden steps to the front entrance of Drake’s.
When you open the door you’re greeted by thick, dank air that could peel the righteousness off a paladin. Odors don’t often bother you, but the decades-old mixture of sweat, urine, spirits, and gods-know-what, is an agonizing addition to your crapulence.
Shafts of sunlight poke through uneven gaps between the deteriorated wall planks and a large and brazen oil-burning lamp suspended from ceiling paints the room in a dim, yellow glow.
Drake’s main attraction, the legendary bar that runs the entire length of the north wall, stands empty. The chaotic patchwork of tables, no two the same size or shape, are also unoccupied apart from one near the back of the room. There, a very large man, or perhaps a small giant, sits surrounded by crates, sorting bottles of liquor. As you approach, the man stands and towers over you, him like the mighty oak and you the squirrel.
“Wasn’t sure you’d be back,” he says in a voice the tone of thunder and the texture of gravel. “I’ll get your things.”
Unnaturally muscular for a mortal, his skin is dark like a moonless midnight and his head is bald and scarred. His chiseled features and hulking frame is not diminished by his loose-fitting attire — burlap pants and a once-white shirt, streaked and stained.
“Thank you,” you say, in spite of not having any idea of what he’s talking about. “Are you Drake?”
“Drake is a myth I created to sell more ale,” he says with a flicker of pride and a faint smile. “I’m Margaret.” At this, he stares you down, his bright green eyes daring you to laugh or say something foolish so that he can rip you in half.
You maintain your composure and, evidently satisfied, Margaret turns and disappears through a doorway in the back wall.
The stillness of the hollow pub is cut by the sound of heavy footsteps and merriment. The front door swings open and three soldiers file in — the first loudly aggrandizing a tale of some conquest and the other two patronizing him with their laughter.
Their armor bears the King’s emblem — an eagle’s head in gold surrounded by a ring of luminescent purple flames. Great swords with jeweled hilts dangle from their waists in ornate scabbards. These aren’t just any soldiers — you recognize them as Knights of the Royal Guard.
The knight telling the story stops mid-sentence when he sees you and smiles broadly. “Look there, it’s the halfling from last night. I wasn’t sure that we’d see you again, little friend. Long live the Wonder Chicken of Draffs!”
“I think you have confused me with someone else,” you respond, finding it difficult to conceal your irritation.
“You really don’t remember last night? We had quite a time the lot of us!”
Before you can respond, Margaret returns holding your rucksack, your family’s mace still tethered to the side with leather straps. “Here. That’ll be one silver.”
“One silver,” you ask. “For what now?”
“Safekeeping while you drank your weight in ale. But for you, I suppose I can taken ten copper.” At this he unexpectedly throws back his head like a wolf mid-howl and laughs heartily.
Feeling slightly uneasy about haggling with Margaret, you retrieve a silver piece from your coin pouch and thank him for his services, turning your attention back to the the knights. “Why are the Royal Guard in Draffs? You’re a little far from home, aren’t you?”
“You really don’t remember?” The storytelling knight says, parrying the question. “I suppose you did drink quite…”
“Maybe this will spark your memory!” another knight interrupts. He prances up to you flapping his arms like a madman, pecking at the air, and clucking like a chicken. “Bok-bok-bok-bok half pint! Bok-bok-bawwwwk!”
The knight, now only inches away, makes your face flush and your anger foam and froth within.