“It’s not that hard of a plan guys.” That’s what Lord Vane uttered countless of times, but as I fidgeted in my seat I got the feeling that not only were we not on the same page, but I don’t even think we were reading the same book. Viktor, the mercenary, sat next to me but he seemed far more at ease in such a rowdy establishment. Maybe he grew up in taverns like this, but this was the first time I had ever stepped foot in such a place—let alone one with such surly company and with such a cryptic assignment at hand.
“So we are supposed to buy the sand?” Viktor asked, his thick accent dripping over his words in all too exaggerated fashion. Sometimes it almost sounds like he’s desperately trying to remind everyone that he’s foreign, but I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a certain exotic charm to it.
“Well we need to find their dealer, so I guess we have to at least ask for some. How we do that though I have no idea.” I said, drumming my index finger against the table.
“That is easy. We blend in, and when the time is right, we ask. All we need to do is play it subtle.” Easy for him to say. Maybe these are his kind of people, but I’ve never interacted with someone who wasn’t carrying a pitchfork before, and blending in was already difficult when your attire and gender stuck out like a sore thumb in a room full of raffish drunkards and brutish dockhands.
“What will you be having?” asked the waitress with a dull stare. I fumbled around words for a while before blurting out, “Give me something strong.” Both Viktor and the waitress responded with perked eyebrows, but well, I panicked. The waitress quickly left to grab the drinks, leaving me alone with Viktor’s confused glare. “I don’t know. I figured we’d blend in if we asked for a tough drink.”
“We cannot blend in if you are crying and vomiting in corner.” Was liquor that strong? By the time the waitress returned with a tankard of mead I was already having second thoughts, but it would seem even more suspicious to order a strong drink and then leave it sitting there untouched. I took a glance over to Viktor who responded with a solemn nod, and without much more hesitation I ingested the brew and awaited the inevitable stomach churning reaction. But after a moment passed, I felt nothing. In fact, I barely even noticed that I drank it at all. Was this what people were so cautious about? Yesh, people can be such babies.
“Another.” I said with a grin having momentarily forgotten that I was here for a mission. The thrill of the moment took over, and the moment the next tankard arrived at the table I was already chugging. After I slammed the empty mug into the table with an audible thud and wiped the foam from my lips I glanced back to the waitress. “I didn’t say stop.” With that comment I caught the attention of a few patrons eager to see the delicate new customer get her payback for such overzealous drinking, but to their bewilderment I easily downed the next glass as well, and the one after that. I was starting to become a spectacle for the locals and more and more they were turning their attention to our table. I even attracted the attention of the bartender, a grizzly old veteran who looked upon my performance with a laugh.
“Enjoying yourself lass?” He uttered with a chuckle.
“I am, but do you guys have anything stronger?”
“Stronger?!” the barkeep laughed as his customers joined in. “Lass, I got something stronger alright, but you don’t want any part of it.”
“Well I’ve been drinking the stuff you call strong all night, and so far nothing, so why don’t you try me?”
I saw the barkeep’s eyes turn from skepticism to amusement as he raised his hand up to his chin. He gave me a once over before turning his gaze to Viktor, and then back to me. All the while he seemed to be measuring us up and trying to place exactly who we were, but it seemed even he was at a loss for words. “Alright then lass, then who shall we toast this drink too?”
“Bosco.” Wait, what? Why the hell did I say Bosco? Viktor seemed to be thinking the same thing as I swore he mouthed a foreign expletive at me. I don’t know why I didn’t use my real name, or if I absolutely had to come up with a fake name why I didn’t come with something less bizarre than Bosco, but it was too late to take it back.
… I don’t even know a Bosco. Sometimes I have to question my own sanity if these are the first things popping into my head.
“Bosco, eh? Well alright boys, let’s see if ol’ Bosco here can take the Gut Buster!” The tavern erupted into cheers and laughter as the barkeep disappeared into his back room only to emerge with what I can only call the most fiendish concoction ever put in a mug. If it’s murky swamp-like coloring or overwhelming scent didn’t test your resolve, the bubbling foam and visible emission of steam certainly did. He slid the drink in front of me before he began to share the tale behind the Gut Buster. “Dwarven Gut Buster, the strongest ale you’re going to find outside of a Dwarven wedding! Lotta tough men ’ve tried to drink this before, and it didn’t turn out so well for them, ain’t that right boys!”
The tavern responded with a united “Aye!” before the barkeep continued. “The ol’ Concord whelp thought he was tough enough for this drink, and you want to know to know what happened? He took one sip and fell over! Didn’t wake up for a week!” The room filled with laughter as the barkeep raised his voice even louder to speak over his compatriots. “Oh, or what about Dreher!? He thought he could prove us wrong, but he took one gulp and now the poor fool can’t drink milk without retching!” Once again the bar was filled with uproarious laughter. The barkeep lowered his voice so that only I needed to hear his words, and told me to back down and that it wouldn’t be so shameful if a lady lost her nerve and ran away.
By this point I probably was feeling the effects of my earlier chugging, and suddenly my patience was reaching its end. I didn’t care much about the comments regarding my gender, but I didn’t appreciate their efforts to scare me off. Despite Viktor’s barely audible protests, I clutched the mug and began to guzzle the legendary brew. Instantly I felt the ale choking me as it tried to pass through my throat. Quite a few times I felt myself gagging at the taste, but I ignored my body’s warnings and finished the entire tankard, slamming it into the table with my face following shortly after. My senses turned into a blur, and what little I could perceive became muddled by the “Bosco” chants that drowned out the tavern. What happened to my body after that was a complete mystery. I remember standing up to celebrate, and then I remember singing a song about knobs and wizard’s staves, but the next thing I remember was stumbling outside in the street with the rest of the party and hearing Lord Vane berate Viktor and myself.
I don’t remember what they said very much, but Vane did order Viktor to take me to the inn as I would be no more help. They left shortly after, and Viktor proceeded to lead me back into the city despite my best efforts to pass out in the street. My stumbling must have become incredibly distracting because the next thing I know Viktor is carrying me in his arms. “You’re a nice guy Viktor.” I mumbled in much less coherent fashion.
“Yes, and you are very drunk.”
“Can I kiss you?”
“Aww…” It’s baffling what liquor can do to a person. I’m not quite sure why I would say those things or afterward rest my head against Viktor’s chestplate, but liquor makes you do the things you’d never do without influence right? It was just an out of character sort of moment I suppose, and I don’t think either of each put much stock into it. Well… I assume. I passed out shortly after.
From what I heard the next morning, it was a good thing I did. All I remember was Grae muttering “fucking Halfling” all the way to Ihestas.