Episode 4: Bar fight!

Without moving, the blond man sitting at the bar by the door quietly asked, "Who's on watch tonight?"

"The triplets," said the bartender. "You're not on for another week."

"Good." The blond turned to face the man in front of the door. "I'd go away if I were you; you won't find a man between fourteen and forty in this town."

Isabelle blinked and looked around. She had been so fixated on everyone's differences that she had failed to notice their one commonality: With the exception of a couple of children, everyone in the room was in the last third of their reasonable lifespan. A few of the older men were even past sixty if appearances were to be believed. Isabelle, at thirty-seven, was the third youngest person in the room. It was a new experience for her, and she wasn't sure that she liked it.

"You seem active enough for army life." The man's right hand moved towards a billy club at his waist. "Why don't you volunteer and save us the trouble of recruiting you?"

There was a loud slam as a huge warhammer dropped onto the bar. "Why don't you stop threatening my customers?"

Both Isabelle and the press-gang boss stared at the massive weapon. What, thought Isabelle, is this town full of ex-legionnaires or something? No, the Imperial Legions don't use warhammers. . . .

The scarred man raised his left hand, snapped, and pointed at the bartender. There was the snap of a crossbow and a thump outside one of the windows. The scarred man looked around, confused.

"Sounds like the triplets took out one of your men. You'd better not try that again," said the blond man.

"How about I break your neck instead?" The boss started forward.

The room momentarily filled with the sounds of wood and steel, and the scarred man stopped in his tracks less than an arm's reach from the blond. In the second it had taken him to take two steps, a dozen or more weapons had been produced about the room, the bartender had stepped up to the end of the bar with his warhammer, the knife-juggling man had leapt in front of the second man in the doorway, one of the two old men by the door had begun chanting something that sounded suspiciously like magic, and the other had stuck his staff between the scarred man's legs.

The blond glanced around before looking back at his attacker. "How about you go away? We're not going to make it easy for you to recruit us."

The press-gang boss growled as he straightened up and turned towards the door. He strode out of it quickly, forcing both the knife-wielding man and the other scarred man to the side as he went. A moment later the knife-man closed the door.

"He's going to be trouble."

"Kill him."

"He'll just get more troops and attack if he reports back."

The blond man looked around. "Any objections?"

"I wish we had the time to put this t' the town council, but I s'pose it can't be helped."

Someone grunted.

The bartender was now facing the room, and Isabelle saw that his warhammer was surrounded by a faint blue glow. "Well, that constitutes a quorum. Jack, if you would . . . ?"

The man with the knives nodded. "He'll be dead by midnight." He slipped out into the night.

Isabelle looked down at her drink and decided to order something stronger.