The Shadow Wolf Sagas are an ongoing serial, written raw (first pass, draft style) so I can improve certain aspect of my style
The Inn of the Willing Wench always seems to be the perfect temperature. Perhaps it is simply my love of the place. After my visit to the Pink Pearl and a series of violent encounters with some suspicious street thugs and a pair of novice assassins while investigating the origins of a peculiar poison, I was looking forward to lubricating my mind with the best bitters in the city. Brunor’s brews are rightfully famous even among the Nordan, traditional recipes passed down through the centuries. Tis one of the many reasons that the Wench is my favourite tavern in Myrrhn.
I was hungry for meat, a response to getting stuck by the would-be assassin I have no doubt. Whether the response was brought on by an actual physical need or a spiritual one, I cannot say. I devoured a delectable chunk of rare beef seasoned with cracked peppers, and then settled in to a pair of mutton shanks, a house specialty, finished with a succulent apple glaze. Normally, I prefer my meat plain and rare, but I made an exception for the Wench’s wondrous fare.
After wolfing down the second shank and my third tankard, I sat back and let out an appreciative belch. The place was busy, but not so packed that the staff was harried or the tables were over-crowded. Merchants rubbed elbows with mercenaries, and I would swear an oath in blood that at least one of the tables held a group of would-be adventurers planning their next ‘quest’; perhaps a search of the undercity caves for the lost treasures of the pirate lords who founded the city ages ago. One can make a fair bit of money swindling the gullible with ‘maps’ and ‘clues’ to these treasures I’m told. Myself, I have been on my fair share of strange expeditions, both here and in the North, and I have great respect for the adventurers of the world. I would hate to live in a world without them.
The decor of the inn is old wood and stone. This is what attracted me to the Wench in the first place. In Nordan Lands, timbre is plentiful of of exceptional quality, and thus most buildings are made with wood. Thus the inn felt closer to home for me in the early days of my exile.
The staff and clientele of Brunors ancient inn are a varied lot. Some have roots in the city as deep and wide as the ancient forests of the Verdant Court, but many are new to the city, looking for a welcoming place to work or to rest. It used to be that many of the women (and some of the men) who worked at the Inn of the Willing Wench were also whores on the side, but times change and while madam Glorianna’s girls are free to work their trade in the Wench, the staff is strictly off limits. It is a wise policy in my mind. It keeps the tavern out of guild politics, for one.
I was contemplating history, and perhaps signaling Sigi for another shank and a tankard to keep it company when my line of vision was eclipsed by three very large men.
“Greetings brothers,” I said, looking up at them. “Have you come to share Ragnar’s table?”
The largest and oldest of them, a mountain of a man with a shock of red hair, like Furis himself, snorted at me while the others glowered. They were all Nordan, probably sea wolves, and naturally enough all of them were giant-blooded. I guessed that these were relatives of Sapphires deceased lover.
“Pfffft, I would not willingly share an exiles table,” he said. “I am here about my son.”
“And what makes you think that Ragnar Grimfang knows anything about your son?” I asked, meeting his gaze.
“I am Harald Magnison, called Ironmast,” said the red haired giant. “My son Bjorn was found dead this day.”
The table creaked as Harald’s gripped the edge. After a moment he continued. “I know that you are seeking his killer exile. Do not play games with me Shadow Wolf. We seek justice for Bjorn’s death. We will not be denied!”
“Where do I fit into this?” I asked, as mildly as possible.
“You will find his killer and bring him to us,” said Harald. His companions, a brother and a nephew or another son, nodded vigorously.
“And what If I don’t?” I asked, less mildly.
Harald looked at me as if I had just handed him Magni’s hammer. “Exile–“
I cut him off. “If you want my help Harald Magnison, then you will cease to refer to me as exile. I have tasted death before Sea Wolf, and I am not afraid of any arms that you and yours can bring to bear against me. Save your threats. Now tell me, why should I help you?”
For a moment I thought Harald would swing. His companions certainly looked ready for a fight. Then he seemed to crumple, just a little, growing a little less fierce and a whole lot older as he did so.
“I have some influence in my Clan,” said Harald. “I would not expect you to hear of my deeds… Ragnar, for they came after your time in the North. However, my name carries weight, even here. See for yourself. If you help me, I will speak on your behalf and recommend you to my clansmen. I will also offer you payment as needed. I want justice for my son.”