Chapter 16: Feathers and Drinking Don't Mix
People flooded in through the doors, steadily filling all the tables. Well, I suppose flooded was a bit of an over exaggeration. There were the people staying, they came down the stairs in their groups. And families out for the meal together, friends
they appeared in dribs and drabs, but the place certainly filled up.
Rhia and I and Ki'ayran, the other night waiter were kept busy gathering orders and serving drinks
and trying to keep the small children from playing in the fireplace. It wasn't lit yet, but it would be and Prett already had it set to his satisfaction.
Rhia's predictions were getting more accurate each day. She seemed to have a knack for knowing just what the night would be like.
"Leiri, I'm off now," Rhia said, untying her apron. "The guys I stay with we're going to see a play. You'll be ok?"
"Sure." I nodded easily. "Still got Ki, don't I?"
Ki'ayran looked up at the mention of his name and grinned, before darting past to get another order.
"Go and have fun can I help you?" I waved her off and turned to the customer leaning on the table.
"The usual." He pulled his cap off and ran a hand through thinning grey hair. "Just put it on the tab."
I frowned, trying to remember. So many people came in here saying that.
"Steroy Runmarine," Rhia hissed, before disappearing down into the kitchen.
Oh, of course. Captain Steroy, of the Winterbreaker. He came in about once a week, but I'd never served him before normally it was Rhia that stayed behind the bar.
"Right away, cap'n." I pulled a glass from under the counter and found the open bottle of Runmarine in the coolhatch.
Pouring it for him, I straightened up and added another tally to the strip of paper that was his tab, hanging with the others from the shelf above the bar. There were quite a few there already
did this guy not carry money or something?
He wandered off to sit at the other end of the bar with his drink and I joined Ki'ayran in serving out meals again.
And gradually it reached the turn around point, where more people were leaving than arriving. I lit the rest of the lamps and started the fire, since it was dark enough to merit it. And cold enough for the Z'karens to start worrying about it
weird people. It was plenty warm enough.
"That's the last of the kitchen staff gone," Prett said, looking around. "Everything's tided up in there no more meals being served."
I nodded, wiping a table clean as Ki'ayran took the plates away.
"I'll just clean this lot and be away, then." He paused, looking back. Are you sure you don't want me to stay and help, Leiri?" the same offer he made every night, right on time.
"I'll be fine." I shook my head. "Always am, hey?"
No one else needed to know I was a WereLeopard.
"If you're sure." He shrugged and disappeared into the kitchen.
"I will be away with him as well," Pretty said. "Have a good night, Leiri."
"You too." I nodded, slipping back behind the bar.
It would hopefully be quiet now, and I could just watch people leave.
And leave they did. Slowly, bit by bit, everyone got up and tottered through the door. People staying in the inn made their way up stairs, leaving coins chinking on the table. Five Reh in all, which took my tips of the night up to about ten Reh. Mostly in Zick. Darn them for that. I wondered fleetingly if there was a money changer or someone I could go to, all the small-change coins were getting heavy
though for Krinos' sake, I couldn't get Skí.
Soon only the captain was left, muttering into his drink. Fewer people than normal, but that was fine. Easier to close up. I cleared the last of the tables and paused to open a window, whistling our usual three notes.
Krinos fluttered in, landing on the nearest table. "Busy night?"
"Not really." I closed the window and returned to the bar.
Krinos flapped after me, careful not to hit anything before she landed next to the register-whatsit thing that had the money in it. Then she frowned and moved away slightly, pretending to groom herself.
"Yes, there is gold in there. Prett hasn't cleared it out yet."
Krinos wrinkled her nose well, beak in disgust. "Filthy substance. Weren't late, were you?"
"Nope." I shook my head. "Apparently the days are getting shorter."
Krinos ruffled her wings, started to say something and the door burst open.
"After you, Eumie!"
A wing held the door open. A green wing. And through it well, through the doorway, unimpeded by wing or door walked a person. Sort of what I'd been expecting, really. Though not what the wing led me to believe.
"Thank you, Tabhartas." The person female, wearing a long robe thing from what I could see looked around, pushing brown hair out of her face as the owl on her shoulder took off.
And Tabhartas stepped through after her, in half form as always.
"Are you sure this place will do? It seems a little
rich." The true human Eumie? looked around.
She had a curiously lilting accent, and paused before most words as if to think them through. This Kareth probably wasn't her first language. Definitely didn't have an accent like most I'd talked to here.
"We are nearing closing time," I called "Not much time left for anything."
The captain looked up, eyes widening at the sight of these two. "Lady Mage" he cut off as the owl landed in front of him.
"Captain. I had not assumed to see you here." The person a mage, then asked.
Sayin, then. That would explain the dodgy language.
"Expected'd probably work better there. What can I do you for?" I gestured to the drinks arrayed on the shelves.
"Ah, anything." Tabhartas sat down, dragging a second stool nearer for her friend.
Krinos leapt to the rows of bottles, peering closely at each one before tapping one. The Koehantir
well, if she had the money. I poured out a glass and passed it over.
"Thanks. Here, Eumie pour another glass for here?"
"Don't suppose I could see some money first?" I asked, holding another glass ready.
"Oh here." Tabhartas dug a handful a clawful? of coins from a bag strapped across her chest and scattered them across the bar.
Krinos leapt for them, chasing coins everywhere. Not that their shapes let them roll very far.
The mage took the glass I set down for her and sat down. Her owl hopped along the bar until Krinos hissed at it, and then it stopped still and stared at her, puffing its feathers out.
"Krinos," I warned her, counting out the coins.
"Oh, just keep the change." Tabhartas shook her head as I offered it back.
Krinos crouched and flared her tail out, still glaring at the owl. The owl screeched and puffed out even further.
"How've you been, since last time?" I asked of Tabhartas.
"Huh? We've met before?" she placed the glass back on the bar and gestured for another.
I frowned. The koehantir was a red wine, rich
definitely not meant for quick drinking. Maybe this had been a bad choice.
The captain finished his drink and left, pushing his glass slightly so it tipped over. I lunged for it, catching it just before it fell over the edge.
"Sure have." I nodded, placing the captain's glass on a tray and filling hers again.
Krinos flared her wings now, making herself look as big as she could. And the owl, in retaliation turned into a vampire. Not a literal vampire, pale faced and fanged. But it drew itself up, tall and thin, and glared. Fairly impressive.
"When? I don't frequent this bar that much."
"Shifty!" Eumie what the hell was that short for? tugged at the owl's tail and yammered something in what I assumed was Sayin's language. "My apologies."
Krinos clacked her beak and grinned. "Don't worry about it." She slid the rest of the coins to me and took off, gliding the distance to the low fire.
"Sorry about her." I gestured after Krinos and shook my head. "Blasted nomesach."
Tabhartas screeched and slammed her glass down again. I jumped, spilling coins.
"How 'bout I just leave the bottle here?" I suggested, examining the Werebudgie.
She didn't look quite as sleek as she had the last time not that I'd taken much notice, since I had been hanging from her claws. And it probably wasn't a good idea to offer her the whole bottle, but I'd already said it and she'd already taken it.
"That'd be good." She grabbed the bottle from where I'd placed it and poured, far more than I ever had.
I blinked and shrugged. Turned to the mage. Hopefully I could get her out the door when I needed to close up.
"What's up with her?" I asked, gesturing to Tabhartas. "And d'you mind if I steal your name?"
is losing her" the mage cut off, frowning and waving fingers at Tabhartas' head.
I supressed a laugh for a moment before letting it loose. "Losing her mind?"
The mage frowned no doubt having to work out what I'd meant and then laughed as well, joining in for the few seconds we had before Tabhartas shrieked, cutting us off.
"I am not losing my mind!" she stated it carefully, though slightly louder than needed. "It's my feathers. I'm moulting."
"Keep it quiet!" I hissed, wincing. I'd been changing to half form, and her screech had lanced straight through my head. "We have people upstairs trying to sleep. And it's near closing time."
"You you are magic? SkinChanger?" The mage again, seeing my change.
"WereCreature. Like her. Except I'm leopard. Leiri Kaithr, at your service." I performed a half bow, the best I could manage behind the bar.
oh, you're that one," Tabhartas sighed, putting down her glass. Empty again. "You found a name, then?"
"That one?" I asked, counting out the money.
She'd given quite a scattering zick, reh and kor. More than enough to pay for the koehantir.
"Eumenides," the mage said. "I my name is Eumenides. And the owl is Shifty."
"Nomesach Krinos." Krinos looked up from her spot by the fire. "You're from Sayin, right?"
"Of course." Eumenides nodded. "All mages were."
"Are," Tabhartas muttered. "All mages are."
"Sorry." Eumenides I could see why Tabhartas had shortened it! shook her head. "This it is difficult to learn."
I shrugged. "Makes no real difference, as long as you're understood. They were from Sayin, they are from Sayin
they will be from Sayin." I bit back the urge to start shortening everything I said, just to see how she could deal with that. Some other time.
Eumenides took an elegant sip at her glass and made a face, pushing it away. I laughed, took the glass back.
"Not to your taste, is it? Anything else catch your eye?"
Tabhartas grabbed the glass and downed it before pushing it back. "Couldn't let it go to waste."
I blinked at her. Really should've given her something less refined.
"Have you anything Sayin?" Eumenides peered at the racks behind me. "Something less
"Not a wine?" I suggested, trailing my hand over bottles. "How about the hell, I can't pronounce that. Sa-keth-en?"
Eumenides laughed. "Saierkethien. Yes, that would be nicely."
I picked out the bottle and grinned. "As long as y'can get out of here before closing time. So don't drink too much."
A dull thunk heralded the koehantir's bottle being slammed down on the bar. I winced. Tabhartas had actually finished the whole bottle? Damn.
"D'you have'nuther'un a'them?" She asked, slurring her words and nodding at it.
"Not for you to have," I replied, taking the bottle and stashing it next to the captain's empty glass.
"But you do have more?" She fixed me with a blurry trying-to-be-penetrating stare.
"What kind of inn would we be if we didn't?" I snorted, completing the change through to half form.
"You are not getting any more. It's time you left." I pointed to the door, not even trying to hide the snarl in my voice.
Eumenides blinked, stood up. "Come on, Shifty.
"No, wait." Tabhartas caught her sleeve. "If we just sit here nice'n'quiet like, you'd let us stay long'r?" She tilted her head, wavering slightly from side to side.
She was probably trying for endearing, for the puppy-eyes
it just made me laugh.
"Ok just until I've cleaned the place up. Krin don't let Tabh drink anymore."
Krinos looked up and fluttered to the bar. "I can try that."
"Thanks. Eumenides, take a seat. Drink that if you want." I nodded at the bottle of saierkethien in front of her. "Tabh's money paid for it."
"What kind'f name is Tabh?" the werebudge muttered as I ducked under the bar gate, picking up a cloth to wipe down tables.
"The same kind of name as Eumie," Krinos retorted, laughing.
Eumenides winced slightly and smiled weakly. Not a name of her choosing, then.
Krinos curled up on the bar and watched Tabhartas and Eumenides as they slowly started to talk. Well, as Tabhartas started to talk. Chat up Eumenides. I tuned out fairly quickly.
"So, you're a mage? I've been told
I turned to the tables, knowing that they didn't really need the cleaning but doing it anyway because I couldn't be bothered to kick them out quite yet.
There was a small explosion of colour from the bar, and I flinched around just in time to see stars fading from the roof and Krinos laughing.
"I I didn't mean it quite like that, babes."
"You asked for a duel," Eumenides replied.
"Try not to blow the place up," I called over, but turned back to the tables.
Language barriers. I couldn't help but wonder precisely what Tabhartas had said. I'd ask Krinos later, since I didn't want to interrupt anything they had going.
Even though the tables had been cleaned fairly regularly as people had left, there were always things that were missed. Coins dropped, stains not quite rubbed off. Chairs moved tables to talk to friends.
I shifted them all back into place, banked up the fire and flicked the cloth across tables.
beautiful. May I stroke you?" Tabhartas had a wing around Eumenides' shoulder and seemed to be playing with her hair.
"I have no feathers," Eumenides replied, stiffly.
I stepped back behind the bar and sorted the bottles back into place, listing down what needed refilled before locking up the display cases. Krinos laughed again, flaring her tail as I turned back around.
Tabhartas was crooning slightly, running claws through Eumenides' hair and partially across her face.
"I wouldn't be interrupting anything if I told you to leave now, would I?" I said, biting back the laugh and smile that wanted to greet this scene.
"No! No you would not!" Eumenides leapt from her seat, sending her and Tabhartas tumbling as they lost their balance.
"And now I have fallen for you," Tabhartas said, raising her head slightly to look Eumenides in the eye.
Eumenides flinched out of the way just in time to avoid Tabhartas' beak as she slammed beak first into the table and began to snore.
"Are you ok down there?" I asked, taking the bottle of saierkethien off the bar.
The mostly empty bottle of saierkethien. I glanced at the mage as she stood up, dusting off her deep purple robe. Her glass was still mostly full, and she didn't seem too out of it. But the werebudgie
well, she was flat out now.
I sighed. "Did she get at this as well?" I asked, waggling the bottle.
Eumenides blinked. "Only a little, I think."
"Krinos! You were supposed to stop Tabh drinking anymore!"
Krinos looked up, huddling into herself. "I"
"It is not her doing," Eumenides interrupted. "I believe that Shifty distracted her again."
I sighed, rolled my eyes. "Well we need to get her out of here. Do you know where she stays?"
"No, but she can use my rooms, for the night." Eumenides bent and attempted to tug Tabhartas upright. "I am sorry, could you?" she gestured at the comatose werebudgie, frowning.
"Help?" I suggested. "Share the weight, carry?" putting the bottle down again, I slid over the bar and landed beside the werebudgie. "Come on then."
We both managed to hook a wing over our shoulders and hauled Tabhartas to her feet. Staggering under her weight more than I'd expected, for someone who was half bird we slowly negotiated the tables and chairs 'til we got to the door.
"I'm sorry, I can't really leave here don't have a key for the outside," I said, pulling the door open.
"You could slip in through your window," Krinos called.
Eumenides smiled, shook her head. "It is fine. We will be not far away , and now I can do this."
Stepping out into the empty street leaving me to stagger slightly under the full weight of Tabhartas she spun and sketched a gesture that hung in glowing lines on the air until she pushed it at Tabhartas.
And then I was supporting nothing and almost staggered into the door frame as the imbalance caught me. Of Tabhartas, there was no sign but a small budgie floating in the air beside me.
Eumenides caught the bird and stepped away. "You have my gratitude."
"It's nothing. But what did you just do?"
"That was something, Leiri. You did not sit and not move. I forced her into her true bird form. She will hurt in the morning, but"
"It'll be nothing to the headache she'll have," I laughed. "Well thank you for stopping by Prett's Palace. We hope to see you again." I bowed, grinning as I realised what I'd just quoted.
Eumenides nodded and strode down the street, Shifty gliding after her.
I slipped back inside and slid the bolt home before running and vaulting the bar, grabbing the tray and running into the kitchen.
"Interesting night," Krinos commented, fluttering after me.
not one I want to repeat though. Tabh's a lightweight." I grinned, putting the saierkethien in the cool storage and the koehantir bottle and glasses beside the sink to swill and drain.
I barked a short laugh as I threw a sausage to Krinos and took one for myself. Returning to full human, I checked that the doors were locked and blew out the lanterns.
"If anyone wakes me tomorrow before I'm ready, I'm clawing faces off."
"I'll sleep on the roof then." Krinos glided ahead of me to the stairs, batting the door open.
Laughing again, I banked the fire and left it to die safely before padding to the stairs after her. Bed was shrieking a call.