Secrets of Ravenstone: Keeper of La Tecla (The Key) Book One

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Chapter 17

Once stepping foot inside the tavern yet again, a musty odor greeted us, causing us to grimace in utter disgust.

Ten men sat at a large table to our right; loud and boisterous, smoking and playing a game of cards. We waved our hands in front of our faces in an effort to clear the air of smoke, letting out a few coughs in the process. The men glanced at us briefly, studying us up and down, making us feel uncomfortable.Then after a few moments, they focused their attention back to their game.

There was a long counter bar to the left stretching halfway down the side of the wall where people sat drinking heavily, or passed out drunk. All around the rest of the establishment, were tables of different sizes scattered around.A large circular table was situated in the far corner away from everyone, and hidden in the shadows. For lighting, there were candles placed on the counter, window shelves; a few tables and in an old rusting chandelier that hung rather low.

There were cobwebs hanging in corners; even underneath the chairs and tables.Rain dripped from holes in the roof falling into pots and buckets set in certain places. Knowing how heavily it rained, we began to worry about Marxus and the others, hoping they wouldn’t be delayed in coming back. We would have to stay longer than planned and we didn’t know how these people would react to that. We certainly don’t want to out stay our welcome especially after the scene we caused outside. I also worried horribly about Zanz, and hoped he was behaving himself.

“I think we should sit at that table in the corner, out of everyone’s way, and view. Hopefully we won’t be harassed there.” Anthony observed quietly as he pointed toward the table in the corner of the room,“Just remember what Marxus told us.” and he looked down at me then over at Erik.

“Would you please stop looking at me!? I said I’ll stay quiet okay!?” I replied as I glanced over at the table that looks to have had better days.

We made our way through the maze of tables and buckets holding on tightly to our bags,over toward the round table. At least back here, we wouldn’t have to inhale the stale smoke of the cigarettes. The round table had a small bench-like seat around it, sitting only four people. We didn’t care about who sat in what order; all that mattered was that we sat some place.

Since there were five of us and one seat short, I reached out my right hand pulling a nearby chair over from another table.Placing it on the outside of our table, I sat down. Erik offered to get the chair at the same time I did, but I thanked him for his kind gesture. We placed our bags at our feet as we sat there quietly looking around, cautiously checking beneath the table for spiders or any other insects.

Ten minutes of not ordering anything to eat or drink, the barkeeper walked over to our table wiping his hands on his apron; stained with food, dirt, and God only knows what else. Exactly that...God only knows what!

“Are you going to order and make it worth the pay? You caused enough ruckus outside. You disturbed our people.” he ordered in a deep gruff Scottish accent.

“We’ll just have water for now.” Anthony replied in his elegant accent, “We already ate and we meant no offense. We were just…upset at our comrades for driving off without warning.”

“Well, perhaps you too much trouble for ’em, eh? Fancy speaking there.”then he turned, walking back over to the bar to ready our drinks.

The chair I sat in was rickety and shifting my weight, it completely collapsed, causing me to land hard on the floor. The men sitting at the table near the door, all took a break from their game to look up and over in our direction, but then focused back on themselves. The barkeeper looked at us over his shoulder, then turned his head away. Erik quickly got up, helping me from the ground. Erik asked as he waved away the dust caused by the chair hitting the dusty ground, and tried containing a small chuckle,

“ okay?”

“Yeah, thanks.” I replied.

“The chair was really old. Everything here is old.” Jonathan observed.

“ think?” as I dusted off the dirt, dust and webs off my pants.

Erik reached over grabbing another chair, giving me his seat next to Sarah.

“Thank you...again.” I gave a friendly smile which he returned.

The barkeeper grabbed two metal cups that were just rinsed out, one glass that held another drink he just poured out and two wooden cups that were dusty and unused. He turned to a pump on the wall behind the bar and poured yellow unfiltered cloudy water into the cups. Filled to the top almost over-flowing, he placed them on a metal tray then returned to our table; practically throwing the tray down on the table. His forceful actions caused the drinks to spill over the edge; onto our hands, table’s surface and dripping onto the floor.

“Hey, watch it!” I blurted out then immediately placed my hands over my mouth keeping myself from saying anything else but I did, “Oh, f*** me!” I mumbled beneath my hands.

The barkeeper glared down at me with a stern expression, saying nothing.

“And there she goes.” Erik whispered as he glanced at me.

“Are you sure you won’t have meal?” the barkeeper asked in broken words, “All we have is stew, I afraid. Freshly made. And are you sure you two aren’t hungry? You’re pale.” he referred to Erik and Jonathan’s pale skin.

“No, I’m good.” Jonathan replied.

Erik eyed the man up and down then added,

“Liquid diet for me.”

The man frowned.

“Thank you for the offer nonetheless.” Anthony replied, “We already ate.” as he laid five silver coins down on the table, “But do you have some bread,cheese and coffee? Can’t go wrong with that, eh?”

“No.” the barkeeper rudely answered as he grabbed the coins off the table.

He turned away looking at the coins, thinking to himself that they were really expensive coins, made from high quality silver.

“Of course you can go wrong with bread, cheese and coffee. Especially in this place. Let’s see. Molded. Molded. And probably pissed in.” Jonathan mocked as he leaned over the table, glaring at Anthony who growled but flashed an agreeing smile after.

But then, the bartender stopped in his tracks when he heard Sarah make a comment,

“I bet the stew is made of rats or something. It’s disgusting to even think about.And what’s that horrible smell?” as she quickly pinched her nose.

“Oh, no she didn’t.” Jonathan complained, placing his face in his hands.

“Sarah!” we all objected then we too, noticed the strange odor in the air.

The barkeeper turned abruptly, stomping back over to us and slammed his hands down hard on the table with such force, it caused our cups to jump. Up close, this man smelled horribly of body odor and sour breath. Five-foot-five in height with a burly stout build, receding hair line that was greasy and tied back in a messy ponytail.Scruff grew around his chin and mouth, which revealed yellowed rotten teeth.

As I mentioned before, he wore a stained apron over a dirty shirt and pants. Hands were filthy, covered with dirt and God only know what else under his finger nails. I felt sorry for his wife, if he had one,having to kiss that mouth everyday.He glanced back and forth at Sarah and I, and ordered in a rude tone with broken speech,

“Look...even though I against it, I allow the older man let you stay here until he return. We don’t get visitor here. And now this is what I get for letting you stay? Which you young ladies inthulthed my sthew! The meat for my stew is good quality. You don’t know what you missing.”

Anthony, Erik and Jonathan looked at Sarah and I, then all our heads turned toward the barkeeper, saying nothing at first. I of course couldn’t help myself as I commented in an innocent feminine tone and coming from a guy’s point of view, Erik, Jonathan and Anthony thought it was sweet and cute,

“We stepped…on your shoe?” and we all looked down at his feet seeing that he wore old shoes with worn soles; missing laces then back up at him as I continued, “We’re sorry.”

He repeated it a few more times thinking we didn’t hear him,

“You inthulthed my sthew!”

“I’m sorry. We didn’t mean to step on your shoe; even though you’re on the other side of the table.”

Erik, Jonathan, Anthony and Sarah all began laughing so hard that tears welled up in their eyes, causing them to lean their heads into the folds of their arms. They weren’t laughing at the man’s speech but at me and my reaction to this situation because I couldn’t understand this poor man.

I think we were all raised better than to make fun of someone’s disability. Whether it’s physical or verbal. The laughter was directed solely toward me. The barkeeper turned his back and walked away leaving us sitting there for a few minutes, as my friends all finally caught their breath. The barkeeper approached the table of the ten men and leaned in, saying as he looked over his shoulder in our direction,

“I think we going to have trouble with those youngsters over there.”

“Oh...and why’s that?” one of the men replied as he kept his eyes fixed on his cards.

“Because they rude and ungrateful little pipsqueaks. They inthulthed my sthew and boke my thair.”

“What? Speak English man.”

“They...” then he managed to correct his speech, continuing in long drawn out words, “insulted my stew and broke my chair. Just keep you eyes on them, yes? The fancy speech from that taller dark hair man show me he’s of pure breeding. And they all smell very pretty. Ladies more.”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Smell pretty, you say?” another questioned curiously.

The barkeeper nodded.

“Well, perhaps they’ll make good mates for our sons and daughters.” a third man bragged, watching as the barkeeper returned to our table.

“I know you all lying.” he argued as he grew closer to us, “Because I hear one of you thez it. And you have no manners! What right have you come and laugh at me!?”

“Sir...” Anthony stood up facing the barkeeper trying to lay on his Italian upbringing, “respectfully, please watch your tone with the young ones. We mean no harm here, really. I think we have over stayed our visit, so we’ll be on our way now. Come on guys, let’s wait outside for the others. They should be back soon.”

“Wherever the bloody hell they went.” Sarah muttered in complaint.

“It’s been a real joy.” Jonathan added.

Anthony turned to look at him, saying nothing more.

The men at the table heard the sound of our voices and conversation. Hearing we were going to leave, they decided we weren’t. Five of them stepped outside while the others stood by the door and they were tall, burly men.

After grabbing our bags, we walked around the barkeeper heading for the door. The barkeeper then shouted in a loud boisterous voice as he turned to us,

“Where you think you going, pwitty boys and young waydees?”

We all stopped as Jonathan, Erik and Anthony stood with OH NO THEY DIDNT expressions on their faces.

“Uh-oh...” I whispered as I quickly closed my eyes, “here comes trouble.”

“Did he just call us...pretty boys?” Anthony asked.

“Yes, he did.” Jonathan replied.

“I thought so.” Erik added.

We slowly turned glaring at the barkeeper. Erik was about to say something but I stopped him because things couldn’t possibly get any worse. But they did. The barkeeper later mocked something that made me want to punch out whatever teeth he had left in his mouth then set him on fire,

“What about pretty young waydees? Want weel men? You look good enough to eat and I’m hungry.” he grabbed his groin in a sexual manner.

I looked up and down at the man then replied sarcastically, stepping forward,

“You’ve got to be kidding me, right!? You actually think you’re real men!? Oh please, don’t make me sick. And I do know what you meant when you said that we look good enough to eat, you filthy pig!” and I studied the man seeing that he wanted to say something but I continued as I interrupted him, “Yeah, don’t even finish that sentence.” and I held my hands up, “Oh and by the way...we did insult your stew. I didn’t step on your shoe and I did break your chair. So, sue me! Send me a bill.”

Erik stood behind me placing his hands on my shoulders then whispered in my ear as he leaned in, seeing I began to steam

“What are you doing...pissant? Calm down, you little demon. You’re steaming! Ouch!” withdrawing his hands.

“Shut up, jackass.” I whispered back over my shoulder, seeing Erik shake his head.

“We’ll be on our way. We didn’t mean to cause any trouble. We’ll leave.” Anthony said again; hands in the air, “Let’s go wait outside, yes? And leave these...good folks alone shall we?”

We nodded our heads in agreement and started heading for the exit but didn’t quite make it. The five men standing by the door blocked our path keeping us from leaving. Anthony stood in front of the four of us keeping his word to protect us as promised. The barkeeper then signaled one of the men sitting at the bar to send for the elders.

“Tell them we have PREY in my tavern. They’ll be pleased. Go!” he bellowed out, then the man ran out causing the tavern doors to squeak as they swung on their rusty hinges.

Anthony turned his head looking back at us.We exchanged looks of fear that maybe we were in a town of Hunters and of course, we’re the prey?

The remaining men gathered in a circle closing in; intimidatingly.One by one, each of us commented.

“What does he mean, by prey?” I asked.

“I don’t know, but it doesn’t sound good.” Erik replied as he protectively stood in front of me.

“You’re right…we’re in deep shit.” Jonathan added as he stood in front of Sarah.

“No. I’m afraid it doesn’t, guys.” Anthony commented.

“Oh...” Sarah remarked.

I felt the heat beginning to boil at the surface, as I grew agitated and defensive.

Standing with these hypocrites, we heard four male voices say in unison with a somewhat robotic tone and strong Scottish accents,

“What’s the trouble here?”

Some of the men parted; as four men stood in the doorway of the tavern, with their hands behind their backs. Elders A and B had shaved heads; as for Elders C and D had their hair tied back. Without knowing their names, that’s what they’ll be known as. All had hefty builds, wearing brown worn and dirty steampunk military uniforms secured at the waist with a black leather belt and black military boots that looked as if they were never buffed. Hanging from their belts, were holsters carrying some kind of firearm. I couldn’t tell what the make was. There were dark wet spots on their shoulders due to the pouring rain. Elder C asked in a firm blunt tone,

“We won’t ask again. What’s the trouble here? What are you doing in our town?”

Elder A moved his head back and forth in a swerving motion, taking in the air around us, then suddenly shouted as he looked directly at all of our faces,

“My, my, my...we have lycanthropes among us. I know that scent anywhere.” and he walked around sniffing at each of us, until he came face-to-face with Anthony, “It’s coming from you.” he examined him up and down in a way Anthony disliked.

“See something interesting!?” Anthony asked sarcastically, “I don’t swing that way.”

“Oh, yes. Most definitely.” Elder A replied, “But not in the way you’re thinking…pretty boy who smells like a woman.”

“All of you will make delicious meals.” Elder B added, “We love animal meat.”

We had no idea what the hell these people were talking about, as we glanced at each other, thinking all sorts of unpleasant thoughts and the worse scenarios.

“Marxus what are you doing!?” Thomas raged as he shifted in his seat, turning to look out the rear window, “Are you crazy!? Why did you leave them there!?”

“Because I had to.” Marxus answered bluntly, “Stop questioning what I do, Thomas. Everything I do…I do for a reason.”

“But, Marxus…that’s my sister back there!” Nathan worried, “I might not be much in people’s eyes, but I mean something to her and she of course, means something to me! Now turn around!”

Marxus continued listening to the rants of his two passengers then blocked out their voices. He focused on the road ahead with his visibility beginning to blur due to the rain that splattered onto the windows. He heard as Zanz howled inside the craft automatically following behind them, and knew that keeping him separated from me, was a grave mistake.

“Marxus!” Thomas once again raged then reached for the wheel, trying to swerve it around in the opposite direction but to no avail as Marxus held his right hand out, pushing Thomas back against his seat with a magical energy that kept Thomas frozen in place.

What more could be said?

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