Episode 3: South Seas red

Getting drunk would have been easy, but Isabelle didn't want to. The merchants wouldn't be leaving until the day after next, but she didn't want her employers to see her either drunk or hung-over. In addition, getting drunk in a strange town, especially one as odd as this, was never a good idea. Still, she was cold, wet, and tired, and people might answer a few of her questions if she acted social. She sat on the nearest barstool and waited for the bartender to notice her.

The bartender, a huge aproned man with a shaved head and bulging muscles, arrived within seconds. "What'll you have?"

"What're you serving?"

"Name it," he challenged.

"South Seas red."

The bartender walked a bit to his left and bent down to reach underneath the bar. When he straightened up he was holding a bottle of wine. "On the house," he said, placing it in front of her.


The bartender put down a glass for the wine and pulled a small knife from his apron. "Why not?" He shrugged and used the knife to remove the bottle's cork.

Isabelle wasn't about to argue with free wine, so she changed the subject. "Quite an odd crowd you have here."

"In what way?"

"It's just that it's a little cosmopolitan for a small village in the middle of the woods."

"Well, we were founded by some immigrants looking for a quiet place to live out their lives, and word got around. There's very few native citizens here."

"I see," said Isabelle. "Well, then—"

"AHEM!" A new voice from the front door interrupted her. "If I may have you attention please? I represent Black Jong and his army, and we were thinking that anyone who has the spare time to be out drinking on a weeknight such as this would make a great soldier. Now we'd be happiest if you all volunteered, but there are other methods if we need them."

The room went silent as people considered the meaning of this pronouncement, and Isabelle leaned forward to get a clear view of the door. In front of it stood a large, scarred man, and visible in the doorway behind him was another of the same type. Well, thought Isabelle, this promises to be interesting.