It’s become pretty obvious that I’ve started to use flash fiction sized stories to experiment with writing stories that I wouldn’t normally consider. I would bet that is a massively obvious thing to anyone who’s reading this, but flash fiction just isn’t something that I’ve ever really considered before. If something felt big enough for a novel length story, I wrote it down, but it’s made me wonder if I lost many ideas because they never felt big enough to be worth saving. So, now I’ve got to figure out how to revamp so I can track all the smaller stuff too. I’m a bit oldschool here, so most of it is handwritten in journals.
Breena cleared the table and wiped it down with a damp cloth, grimacing at the filthy state the last patrons had left it in. But it was her job, and for the most part, she didn’t mind. Besides, the hearth fire crackled merrily, and the tavern was filled with patrons merrily drinking and having pleasant conversation. And that made Breena happy, knowing the tavern was bustling. It was the first busy day that they had since the roads had opened
Almost as if on cue, the door opened a new group wandered in, heading right for the table Breena had just cleared. They were obviously a group of adventurers, most in armor and wearing their weapons openly. There was an elf and a dwarf, uncommon in this region, with several humans too.
Breena took the orders of the adventuring party and gave them the last room available. It was a bit crowded for all of them, but the best that could be done. The kitchen was rather simple, usually having only two options in a day, but they were on a trade route, so it was high quality ingredients. They were stingy with their coin, but this was when they were out to strike it rich; the successful groups would be very generous with their payments on their way home.
As night wore on, the table next to the adventurers started to get rowdy as they continued to drink. They had the look of guards of some sort, although there must have been heading to a job, because there were no wagons at the Griffon’s Hill Inn tonight. The adventurers were for the most part ignoring them, although she knew that if provoked, they would not hesitate to finish the fight. And make a mess of the barroom while they were at it.
Eventually, the guards reached their breaking point, and they knocked over their chairs and brandished their weapons at the adventures. The adventurers rose from their seats, preparing to defend themselves. They stood on the brink but stopped just short of violence.
“Enough!” Breena yelled, rushing in between the groups. She glanced back to where the rest of the where, then to the wall above the bar, where a large axe and an exotic wooden staff were hanging, but they weren’t for her. “Put your weapons down and sit!”
One of the guards stubbornly took a halfhearted swing towards the dwarf in the adventurer group. Breena stepped inside the guard of the man and pulled a knife from her apron, pressing it gently against the man’s throat. It was easy enough, since he was more drunk than not.
“If you decide to start a fight in here, at best you’re going to find yourself sleeping outside. The worst, you’re going to sleep under the dirt.” Breena said with a steely gaze.
The guards stared dully for a second as reinforcements came from the kitchen, then they settled back into their seats, deciding drinking more was better than a fight. The rest of the tavern workers returned to the kitchen, but not before giving Breena a disapproving look that only parents could pull off, which she responded to with a wave and a smile.
Once the raucous had been avoided, the tavern turned back into a pleasant night. One of the adventurers even pulled out a lute and began to sing softly. She had an enchanting voice and almost instantly, the entire room focused in on her. She sang a ballad of love and loss. Everybody else’s eyes were on the minstrel as she sang, but Breena felt the weight of the minstrel’s gaze as she worked, pouring and delivering drinks. Eventually, she could only top and listen, and the two locked eyes. The minstrel’s eyes were brilliant gold, and just as captivating as her song.
Finally, the minstrel stopped singing, and silence filled the tavern. Nobody seemed interested in drinking afterward, and the room quickly emptied of all the patrons, so Breena began to clean up for the night.
As Breena was finishing up, she heard footsteps coming from the stairs, and then the minstrel returned to the taproom. She waited patiently for Breena to finish a table.
“Hi there. Is there something that you need?” Breena asked pleasantly.
“Forgive me if I’m being improper, but I find myself wondering something about you, miss…”
“Breena. And sure, I don’t think a question would hurt.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Breena. I’m Tala. I have to say, someone as quick with a knife as you were could easily find a place in a party if she so chose. I in know way wish to besmirch the profession, but nonetheless, many would say that too ‘just’ be a barmaid would be a waste of your talents. As it happens, our party would even be open to another member joining.”
“Oh, I’m not interested. I’m more than ‘just’ a barmaid here. This is my home, and one day, my parents will tire of running it, and it will become mine. It may not be the most exciting of lives, but tis mine.”
“Pray forgive me if I’ve offended you. I meant no disrespect”
“None taken! I don’t think that I could be mad at someone who sings so beautifully anyway. I daresay that you’ve put all others who have come through here to shame.”
“Thank you, my dear! I’m afraid that I’m vain enough that I adore hearing words of praise.”
“Is there anything else that you need?” Breena asked.
“Actually, I was wondering if I could perhaps sleep down here? One room for five is very crowded, and you have no idea how loudly Morfel snores.”
“I’m afraid not. I don’t expect you to be a problem, but we’ve had enough problems with people taking advantage of the situation.”
“Ah well. It was worth a try! Thank you for the conversation,” Tala said with a smile, then turned to go back up the stairs.
“Actually, if you’re willing to wait until I have finished cleaning, I think perhaps I can find somewhere else for you. I have a cabin just behind the tavern. It would be cold and cramped, but there’s probably enough room for you.”
As long as you don’t snore!” Tala said with a laugh.
Instead of just waiting, Tala assisted with cleaning up the taproom for the night. The routine work was far more pleasant with her help, especially because she hummed quietly as she worked, which was just as captivating as her singing.
Once all was done and they stepped outside, Breena gently took Tala by the hand. “Do be careful. The ground is rather uneven, and it wouldn’t do for you to fall and hurt yourself in the dark.
Tala just smiled at Breena as they walked into the cabin, still holding hands.