“Please,” a shrill voice pierced the air at The Barnacle, “let him go!” The atmosphere in the Minoc tavern had grown tense, as an agitated old man held a fillet knife to another’s throat. Such things were not an uncommon sight in The Barnacle. The town was full of hard workers, and hard drinkers. Nevertheless, on this occasion everyone in the tavern was intently watching the scene unfolding in front of them. The old man was a fixture around here, and they knew he was crazy enough to make good on his threats.
“Grumby,” one of the waitresses called out, receiving no reply. “Jonas!”
The man finally took notice of her, “I be needin’ ya to stay out of this, Ellyn!” He tightened his grip on the knife. Only moments before the entire tavern had been drinking and eating in general merriment. But a slight of tongue, an insult aimed at his beloved, had the old sea dog worked into a furor.
“He is drunk, Jonas,” the waitress tried to suppress a smile as she spoke, “not everyone knows Emily as well as you do.”
Jonas wiped his cheek with his spare hand. “She is beautiful! Say she be a beauty, lad!”
“She’s -” the man stuttered as the blade was pressed harder against his throat, “She’s a beaut!”
This did not satisfy Jonas. “What do you like most about her?”
“Her-” Sweat was pouring from his brow, stinging his eyes. “Her-”
“What be the matter, boy? Ya ain’t scared now are ya?” At this Jonas let out a chuckle, “Speak up!”
“Her robust sides and sturdy frame. Ah, she’s sure a good one for you, Jonas.”
“Ha! Good lad.” He placed his knife back on his hip and handed the terrified man a stein of beer. “Drink up. But I hear ya sayin’ me Emily is an unseaworthy ol’ schooner again and I’ll slit ya throat! Never be speakin’ ill of a man or his ship.”
Jonas watched the man drink his entire beer without a breath before returning to his seat. Ellyn, the waitress, walked over and handed him a fresh ale. To Jonas she was always a sight for sore eyes. He had romanced her mother some time ago, and while Ellyn wasn’t his daughter he always treated her as such. She was a beautiful woman with short blonde hair, just like her mother, a pleasant sight and scene in this otherwise dank tavern of Minoc’s rotten refuse.
“Jonas,” the young waitress sighed. “You keep this up and we’ll have no patrons left. Why do you have to make fun of the younger ones?” Jonas choked on his beer as he tried to swallow too much at once.
He put his ale down, wiped his mouth, and gave her a lopsided grin. “Ah, the lad just needed a bit o’ fear ground into him. I be seein’ more and more of these lily-livered youngin’s in me town, and it makes ol’ Jonas’ heart sad. They be needin’ some toughenin’ up!”
She leaned closer to Jonas and spoke in a whisper, “What’s wrong?”
“Hrmm,” Jonas took a few more gulps of his drink as he considered her question before answering, “Marcus.” Referring to his old friend, and scout of the Royal Guard, Marcus Murphy.
“What of him?” She was becoming agitated, herself.
“Some months ago Mr. Murphy set sail for Nujel’m. Ain’t a soul heard from him since. Me bucko was headed there to do a bit o’ looky-loo at what me ol’ crew was up to. They had been stirrin’ a bit of trouble!”
Ellyn considered this for a moment. “Who’s leading them, now?”
Jonas spoke through a grin, “Nobody leads ’em. White Wash was calling the shots for a while, but now me thinks someone else is having a go at it. At the end they all do what they be wantin’ to do.” Jonas finished his drink and looked Ellyn in the eye before continuing, “If Marcus got close to ’em, he could already be gone. I be leavin’ for Nujel’m in the mornin’.”