The Undiscovered Country

Last Orders

Brond the Barman chucked the last of the stragglers out and locked the pub door. The old muscles maybe weren’t what they’d been, but these days his voice was usually enough to get them out at closing time.

He did his final round of clearing up, grabbing stray tankards and greasy plates. The same old routine, but he wasn’t complaining. It was a peaceful life now, and all the better for it. Why bother about who’s on the throne or who’s at war with who? His regulars didn’t. Oh, they’d hold court with their views and opinions, but it was all just talk. None of them did anything but drink. And that suited Brond just fine.

His glance caught the twin rapiers, hanging over the bar. Looking a bit dull. He couldn’t remember when he had got out of the habit of polishing them every day. One evening he’d just been a bit too tired, the bar had been a bit too busy, and ever since then he’d found himself taking them down less and less often.

He opened the trap door behind the bar and went down the wooden steps, a lantern in his hand. A quick inspection of the barrels in the cellar confirmed his suspicion – it was time to get started on a new batch of Brond’s Best. It was getting more and more popular, attracting drinkers from villages as much as three miles away. There was even an ogre who made sure to buy a small kegfull every time he was in town. Mustn’t disappoint the ogre.

Climbing back up the stairs, his head was no sooner out of the trap door than it was yanked back from behind, and a sharp blade pressed to his throat. “This is for my sister,” hissed a voice in his ear.

Before he could ask his assailant to be more specific, the blade sliced sideways and blood sprayed across the floor behind the bar. He felt his legs give way beneath him, and he fell back into the cellar, his lamp blowing out as he fell into darkness.

Lying on the floor, he could feel nothing, see nothing. As the gushing blood slowed to a trickle, his mouth widened into a smile.

I’m going to meet Asmodeus, he thought.

And this time I’m going to give that fucker what for.

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