The Witches Tongue filled with merry men talking, laughing, and requesting more ale. Ale became the equivalent of food. Everyone ran on ale. Luckily, I ran the establishment and as I stood behind the counter, wiping a cup, I watched my hired barmaids serve the rambunctious yet merry men.
My attention never wavered from the merry men. My eyes detailed their clothes, speech, mannerisms, and small quirks. Information in The Witches Tongue valued more than the drink and food served. A running establishment needed an outsourced income. I, the informant, always kept my mouth closed—with eyes and ears open—and waited for the right paying person to speak. Tonight—and all nights were no different.
I placed the rag on the counter, and held a pitcher to the nozzle of the ale dispenser. The smell flowed openly, and a smile tugged my lips. Fresh aromas of barley wheat and peaked grapes. My own hit recipe around town. I disliked complaints that the ale tasted like shit after their taste buds grew accustomed to bitterness day in and out. Now I’m—and the bar—are the most sought after spot in the land. The pitcher weighed in my hand. I released the dispenser and the sprout closed. I grabbed two of my finest cups then proceeded to the back of the room where the occupied table faced the window. A man sat at this particular table for the past two months. Today he wore a loose casual suit. He never ordered a drink, or food, and even turned away my bar maidens and other harlots that roamed around the establishment. He surely didn’t play for the other field. He wanted his thoughts to himself, shooing away the bothersome military men that tried picking conversations. I only managed gaining intel on his name. Most likely fake. Fake like the rest of us.
“Trenton?” I said, hopeful that would be correct. I placed the pitcher and the two fancy cups down, and sat. Didn’t give him a second to reject me. His head did perk up, as if I dragged him from his thoughts. He’s handsome. A round baby face, blonde layered hair, long sharp nose, plush lips, and clever brown eyes. I poured us drinks. Pushed his cup towards him, encouraging to consume the liquid.
“From Jersey?” I try again with a smile.
“Never from Jersey,” the man answered, playing along. He took a sip of the ale. Inside, I smiled.
“Then how did you get your name,” I asked, taking a drink too.
“I have a profession of trench digging.”
Lies. “The Royal Vanguard would do that for you,” I nonchalantly said. “And if so a trench digger, why are you currently not at the war?” I took another drink.
“I dig trenches too fast,” he replied, keeping a straight face while drink some ale. “And so, I stop here at The Witches Tongue…and think.”
“Mind if I ask about your thoughts,” I said, holding back the laughter. This man.
Trenton adjusted himself in the seat, leaning forward and looking me in the eye. “I have yet to ask your name. Who is the pretty woman that runs this famous establishment?”
I adjusted too, resting my chin on the upside of my hand. “Lydia Fox.”
“I thought you were a myth. Honest.” Trenton paused. “I never thought I’d sit here under your establishment.”
“Well, I thought I’d never get you to drink ale, let alone have a conversation with you,” I replied. “I happily and finally welcome you to The Witches Tongue.” I held up my cup, he gestured the same, and we cheered, lightly clinking the cups together.
“Remember, you were forceful with this occasion,” he took a quick drink to wet his lips, “but what took you so long for this introduction? Studying me as I have you?”
“Clever and perceptive. Tell me, what did you learn about me?” I eagerly wanted to hear his theories. After all, everyone has a story about me that has yet to be penned by the rightful owner. Rumors until proven fact.
“You aren’t as social as you should be. Smiling more wouldn’t hurt. We, well the perceptive ones, know you read others. Your eyes—although a nice green—betray you, and you wait for the right sucker with the highest coin to tell twisted intel. But that’s not with every sucker. Hell, even us, as we give false tidings, we play this game well. My dear Fox, I don’t study you as a underhanded tactic. I study everyone to know who to trust, who to betray, who to kill. And I don’t believe the false myths penned by attention whores. I rarely read the papers unless I’m featured.”
“As a trench digger,” I said.
“As a trench digger,” he reassured.
“Tell me, trench digger, how does one become so versed in intel when your one job is to dig trenches for troops?”
Trenton’s eyes widen. Then composed himself. “I apologize my dear Fox. I’ve upset you. I’ll take my leave for the day.” He reached into his pocket.
“You don’t need to pay,” I said, “it’s on the house.”
He ignored me, pulling a yellow fragmented jewel from his pocket. He laid it on the table. My eyes widen. To my surprise where did he find this? Despite the jewel being chipped, it gleamed with a power aura that gave me goosebumps. I felt the jewel’s heartbeat sync with my own. I had a collection of my own; personal agenda. “Tranquilo,” I whispered, touching the jewel. I collected the jewels to dissect and learn their powers. Simple alchemy to help win this war. My research isn’t extensive. My experiments barely harm. But at least I can protect myself with magical elements. By the time I looked up, he left. Most of the guests left. Time to clean up.
“You finally talked with him,” barmaid Brenda said. She collected the two cups and pitcher.
“Thanks,” I said, taking the jewel into my hand. “He’s still a mystery man.” I smiled at her. “He’ll visit us tomorrow.” I dug into my pocket and handed Brenda the keys. “Close out for me please. I’ll see you in the morning.” I walked out the back.
Trenton knew more than what he lead on. Tomorrow is another day. But tonight started with intel.