Mid-week Blues Buster, week 28

Prompt: http://thetsuruokafiles.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/mid-week-blues-buster-week-28-3/

Smoke hung heavy in the air, thick and acrid, and it surrounded me, creeping into every crevice of my cloak as I entered the room. Not for the first time, I cursed Malisa for abandoning me when I needed her. It wasn’t just that I was in this hellhole of a country by myself, but she would have cleared the air in the room with just a word, and damn the consequences. There was a singer on the stage, croaking out a song in that gibberish they called a language. I’d been here long enough to pick up a few words, but they popped out at me, jarring in their familiarity but entirely out of context.

Just like me.

No one was supposed to know I was here, but I was a foot and a half taller than anyone else in the room, and I wasn’t green. The crowd cheered at whatever the singer had just done, and I suppressed a shudder. If it was going to be one of those kind of nights, I hoped I could get this over quickly.

I pushed my way up to the bar and ordered a cup of gashink. It was one of the first words I’d learned when I came here, and while fermented onion juice was as repulsive as it sounded, it kept me from thinking about the kind of things that would only get me in trouble. My nights without Malisa. The duke’s nights with her. The blood on my sword, stains no one else could see but me, stains which mapped out the swath I’d carved out in my march across the continent. And my future, a distressingly tiny and whimpering thing, sitting on my shoulder and begging me to leave this place.

The gashink was stronger than usual, and it settled in my stomach with a welcome warmth. I did my best to tune out the singer and seek out that elusive calm that was my only hope in this place. Malisa knew the secret, but I’d only glimpsed it on occasion, unable to wrap my figurative fingers around it, and it slipped away from me, like an oily rat in a dungeon. I felt it fighting me, resisting my efforts, and I stepped back from the quest, signaling the barkeep for another drink. If I couldn’t have calm, I might as well be numb.

In the dark and haze of the room, I knew I’d never recognize him. Probably didn’t matter anyway. Half of the people here were his bodyguards, half were his whores, and half would try to kill me just because they wanted me dead. Any path that led me out the door involved everyone else in the room dying, and whether he was first, last, or anywhere in the middle, dead was dead. I tossed back the last of my gashink and wiped my mouth on my sleeve. I just hoped I’d get him before one of these little bastards got me.

I signaled for another drink, staring at the drops in the bottom of my cup. I knew I was just delaying the inevitable, but that disembodied voice on my shoulder was a hard one to resist. It would be years before they’d find me, if I was smart, and maybe I’d meet some forgiving woman who wouldn’t see the blood on my blade nor hear my cries in the night. We’d raise some kids, and some pigs, and live decades under a roof I’d build with my own hands.

Until they found me, and massacred her, and the kids, and the pigs, and roasted them in front of me before nailing me to a tree.

Stupid fantasies. Closing my eyes, I sought the calm again, and was stunned to find it slip into place with ease. Time slowed down and the stench in the air vanished, taking that horrible song with it. I slipped a hand to my sword hilt and prepared to do what I’d come here for. Before I could draw, however, I felt a hand on my shoulder, a touch I’d know anywhere.

Malisa smiled at me, silent apologies in her eyes, and I nodded. It was time.

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