Luvian sighed and turned around. That was most odd. That was a bit of a Week End night, an evening, and a busy noon day all at once.
Fortunately, he’d baked more bread yesterday, more from sheer boredom than anything. At least he had a few more loaves left for tonight, but he’d be busy kneading for the rest of the evening, that was sure. And, now he thought, Donvan would be too.
He replayed the afternoon in his mind. All three tables in the corner were lively and hungry, burning through bread and stew, drinking down pitchers faster than Hasley could serve them.
The back two tables had been quiet but still hungry. Mags had switched to the next kettle of stew and started readying ingredients for a third. Hasley was up and down from the cellar with new pitchers.
Ruthie had called Mollie down to assist finally.
A juggler and his two mime friends were passing through on their way to their next event and so entertained the crowd. Entertainers ate and drank for half price, so long as they were worth their salt and the crowd was pleased.
Tank called him out of the kitchen to remove a common collared soldier, but the man left without argument. Which was also unusual – they never came alone, and were always arrogant morons.
Suddenly, Luvian realized there was hardly anyone left at all in the brewery. Just two regulars in the corner and two more who sat in the table in the sun up front. No one at the bar.
That was it. No one at the bar. Near everyone had emptied out, almost at once.
And he’d found two silvers sitting on the old bar. No matter if you bought everything on the menu and stayed a night, would you pay two silvers, Luvian thought, his eyes narrowed into slits, an eyebrow arched.
Something. Something. He knew it, but he didn’t know what.
“Ruthie! Get down here! An’ bring Mollie with you!” Luvian called loudly. He ducked his head into the kitchen. “Where’s Hasley? And Ellie? Hasley, girl, get up here now!” Luvian knew she was likely down in the cellar filling pitchers. That girl would be an excellent brew keeper one day, she knew exactly what to do and when….
Hasley immediately jumped into the kitchen with two pitchers, just as Luvian knew she would.
“Ellie! In here, now!” Luvian bellowed. Something was off. Mollie and Ruthie stepped behind the bar, breathless.
“Luvi, what –”
“Pappy?” asked Mollie.
Mags and Hasley stood to the other side of Luvian.
“Hey, Pappy?” Hasley set the pitchers down and Mags leaned sideways on the bar.
“Family meetin’, then, Luvi?”
Luvian clenched his jaw and breathed in and out slowly.
“I. Am. Missing. A daughter.”
“Oh, no, Luvi, I sent Ellie to the Market Place to get me some vegetables for the stew. She went to the Market Place is all,” Mags reached out a hand and patted his upper arm twice.
Luvian maintained his breathing at a slow and even pace, and then turned to look at Mags over Hasley’s head.
“Why. Would you do that? You went yesterday and bought vegetables at the Market yesterday.”
Mags suddenly paled. Her mouth dropped open as she tried to think through the last few hours’ events. “I – but – there aren’t any left. You can see for yourself, there are none left. None,” she said in a trembling voice.
“Pappy?” Mollie asked slowly.
Just then, two Crown soldiers in blue and red uniforms walked in with a parcel.
Luvian felt his strength draining.
The first asked him if he were Luvian, the proprietor of The Brew House and Tavern.
“I am,” he answered quietly.
“We have two things for you.” The speaker continued, after judging Luvian’s response. “A message.” The soldier removed a scroll, slid a blue satin ribbon from it, and unrolled it. Luvian saw painfully neat calligraphy written upon it through the parchment.
The soldier informed him, “We were told to read it exactly, in the exact manner, as follows:
This message is from a grateful man
Who has been at the…
Of all of your troubles
Since the start;
A grateful man
who can never hope to repay his debt
but will always look at the flower
sprouted from the
and know he made the right decision
The soldier said no more, but rolled the script up in silence and placed it on the bar for Luvian.
The second soldier opened a finely grained wooden box. He pulled out an enormous bottle of Romeny Palace whiskey and laid it quietly on the bar.
Then the two soldiers stepped backward silently, bowed deeply, and left The Brew House and Tavern.
Luvian stared at the bottle. It was all surreal, somehow. It wanted to wash over him, but stopped, just short, a moment frozen in time before him.
“I. Have lost. A Daughter.”
Luvian turned around and pushed the kitchen doors open blindly, headed toward the stable. “Pappy?” called the girls.
“Luvi?” asked Donvan.
Mags pulled at his arm from behind. “Luvi –”
A tear had already spilled from each eye.
Suddenly Luvian turned around. Back at his bar, he swiped the whiskey, then headed out to the stable.