The following is the beginning of a scene I wrote for a new fantasy novel, currently titled “Four Shades of a Twilight Kingdom.” Not a whole lot here yet, but this is just the beginning!
Arden sipped from the mug of lager. The bitterness traced its way from his tongue and down his throat; it was a strong, dark brew from the Morari Hills. His favorite brew, in fact, and the reason why he chose Feor as a place to settle down every winter. Only one place brewed it, only one place bought it from that brewery, and only one inn in that town served it.
The Bent Tree would always be his favorite inn, simply for that reason.
He took another sip and surveyed the crowded common room. It was early in the winter, yet, and there were still plenty of travelers on the roads. The first snows wouldn’t hit for another few weeks, this far south.
Loud laughter erupted from the far corner, and conversation dropped for a moment as people turned to look at the drunkard who’d just fallen from his chair. His drinking companions thought it was hysterical, apparently, and were in turn falling over themselves in their hilarity. The spectacle provided brief moments of entertainment for the rest of the patrons before conversations, gambling, and drinking resumed.
Arden was sitting by himself, of course. No one here knew who he was—but they knew he was a regular, and they knew to leave him alone.
They all knew, except for the man who stumbled by on his way to the bar and knocked over Arden’s beer.
He had the man bent over, face down, and arm twisted behind his back before the pitiful protest emerged from his mouth. Arden leaned in close and informed him that he would be purchasing another beer, to replace the one he so rudely upended.
The man hurried to agree, nodding his head as much as his current position allowed him. Arden let him go, pleased to see that he was, after all, an agreeable man.
His drinking companions were not. Arden felt a tap on his shoulder and turned slowly, his eyes automatically sizing up the three ruffians confronting him. He noticed that conversations seemed to have died throughout the room once again.
“What can I do for you fine gentlemen this evening?” he asked, mentally noting the knives hanging from their belts.
The one on the left answered in a gravelly voice. He did not slur his words, and Arden saw that he, at least, was not drunk. “You can apologize for attacking my brother.”
Arden glanced over his shoulder at the man who’d only moments earlier knocked over the beer. He was just now standing straight up, massaging his wrenched shoulder. “He’s your brother? Perhaps you should tell your brother to be more careful around other people’s drinks in the future.”
The second brother’s face darkened, and his eyebrows drew together over blue eyes. He scowled down at Arden, judging his shorter height and slender build. “I don’t think you should be talkin’ like that to me, buddy.”
Arden smiled up at him, maintaining his pleasant manner. “I actually think I rather should. You see, if I don’t scare you off like that then people might be hurt in unpleasant ways.”
The brother laughed, and his buddies joined in. “People like you, maybe.”
Arden showed a few more teeth as his smile broadened. This was going to be fun; he could do with some activity to shake the rust off. “Not quite. Do you, perhaps, know who I am?”
With a derisive laugh, the man shook his head. “Does it matter?”
Arden caught the eye of the innkeeper before answering. He gave a respectful nod, understanding Master Hoor’s concern. “It does, but I think it would be better if we discuss this outside. We wouldn’t want to disturb the peace for all of these kind people, would we?”
He saw the big man’s eyes light up, and his heart beat a little faster. Oh yes, he plans on beating me up.
Arden gestured to him to lead the way, and he obliged, with his cronies taking up the rear. Once outside in the crisp early winter night, he spun on Arden. “Now tell me why I should care who you are. You a Lord or something?”
“Not precisely, though I’ve had my share of dealings with them.”
The man snorted. “That supposed to impress me or something? You’re some big wig?”
“No, not that. You see, my name is Arden. Though you may know me better by a different name.”
“And wha’s that?”
The mood of the group changed immediately and palpably. The already-cool air dropped to near- freezing temperatures, by the way two of the men rubbed at their arms. The brothers’ eyes widened, reflecting the light escaping the windows of the inn.
After a moment, the bigger—and sober—brother shook his head and took a step forward. “You ain’t him.”
Arden shrugged. “Believe what you will. Just keep that in mind if you decide you need satisfaction for the way I treated your brother in there.”
He hesitated only a moment before leaping at Arden, knife jumping into his outstretched hand.
Arden stepped back inside The Bent Tree and rubbed his hands together, savoring the relative warmth of the common room. Silence covered the room at his appearance without the brothers and their friends.
Only Master Hoor and a few other regulars acted as if nothing was wrong. Everyone else was clearly wondering how he managed to get out of a lopsided fight.
Arden ignored them, and instead looked to Master Hoor. “Another Morari Dark?”
“Coming right up, Master Arden.”