The Bells Brother's Pub was the cheapest bar Secrat and Brutus could find under the circumstances. Every other reasonable establishment was buried in visiting civilians, and even Bells was crowded.
With wooden tables scattered about and a sign behind the counter with the menu written in chicken scratch, The Pub resembled something more out of the neighboring cities of Maharris than it did Italina. Neither fancy nor well-kept. The counter was wooden as well and felt like a door that had been smoothed out and propped up beneath something. Copé couldn't say for certain that's what it was though, as it had a gray tablecloth draped over it, riddled with beer stains and rings left by the mugs.
That didn't concern Secrat very much though, and it certainly didn't bother Brutus Ess, who threw back alcohol like a regular beer glutton. The stuff was cheap, however, as Copé brought a glass of the liquid courage to his lips, he soon discovered the reason why. “Italina's finest, I see,” Secrat said aloud to Brutus.
They sat on two makeshift bar-stools that, like everything else, felt thrown together and home-made.
“I've had worse,” Brutus called back, having already finished two cups' worth.
“As have I,” Copé said, his memory thrown back to his time in the Whispey Deserts, and how everything was grotesquely expensive and delectably deplorable. “I figure we're ahead of everyone else in the Flux with the Statue,” Secrat said, looking around at the different men and women at the bar, most of them sitting at tables or roaming about away from the counter. The sound of laughter was abundant, the kind that sounded perverted by intoxication rather than by a joke that was very funny.
“I'd sure as hell say so!” Brutus exclaimed. “All Marc Sero has thrown in the wagon is a bunch of gimcracks and a full-set of Italina Knights armor.”
“Still have no idea how he left with that,” Secrat said, impressed.
“Sero's a crafty one, could kill a man before he even realizes he's dead.”
“That doesn't make any sense.”
“That's what I'm saying – Marc Sero's a crafty one!” Brutus quipped, finishing another glass of alcohol and slamming the glass onto the table.
The Bartender walked over to Brutus; a large man, exceeding Copé's height by a few good feet, his face scarred up, the man wore a stoic state of readiness. But the Bartender smiled, his teeth were large and jagged, like an exaggerated painting, and it made for a peculiar visual.
Brutus didn't have to ask the bartender. With the fifth glass done, there was no need. The Bartender brought out the large bottle out from under the table and filled his glass.
“My kind of man, this guy,” Ess said, striking against the wooden table with a loud and very drunken holler.
The large-man flinched at the sound, and soon after, Ess was holding his chest, remembering the ache from where he'd been stabbed.
“Glad you're enjoying yourselves,” The Bartender's voice sounded nothing like Copé had envisioned it in his head. The colossal man's tone seemed friendly and more feminine than imagined, not high-pitched, but something else to it that Copé couldn't find the word to describe.
Brutus smiled and chuckled at the sound of his voice but made no comment. The Bartender tensed up with a reddened face and added, “My brother and I are new to this business.”
“Well, if my vote means somethin', I'd say you're about made for this business.”
“Thank you so much for saying that! It really means a lot!” He offered back with more of that friendly, 'not high-pitched but something like it' tone.
The Bartender flashed a final smile and went over to some of the other customers, carrying the big bottle of alcohol with him. The bottle, dark-green with the words 'Brother's Beer' sketched on it in black ink, in the Bartender's hand reminded Secrat of how Father Toucan made his large-sword look between his fingers.
“Lukey-boy and Syi haven't done a whole lot of nothing either,” Ess said, a look of admiration in himself over his success, “Samuel's one of the finest thieves I've ever seen, but Lukey-boy's holding him down.”
“Maybe,” Copé stated, “It's all a little different than what I thought it'd be though, and maybe they really just haven't found the right angle to take.”
“Taison made it seem like the boy almost got them in-trouble. Said Samuel was pickpocketing some of the wealthier civilians and that Lukas damn-near blew everything for 'em. I'd be surprised if he doesn't bring a world's worth of hurt on us for his mistakes one of these days.” Secrat couldn't think of a time when Brutus Ess' loud voice didn't make him feel insecure.
The sound of two glass bottles clinking together could be heard by neighboring drinkers, a smaller, older man, with wrinkled, worn skin, (not an Italina-native) and a pale-fellow with long, wet black-hair (likely one). Copé found himself drawn to their presence out of paranoia, but his interest waned soon after.
“And you preaching to the heavens about it will surely bring us a world's worth of whores and coin,” Copé said in a shouting whisper.
“Everybody has their reason for being here, me shouting is like shouting in a room filled with others shouting, not a whole lot of give a damn out there. But you better be careful with those whispers, my friend. People will think you have secrets to hide.” Ess answered with a smile, twirling around his empty glass-bottle with his fingers, Secrat hadn't even noticed him finish it.
“But, maybe this time, when I ask for a glass of what you call Italina's finest wine, you give me a glass of that, and not shit!” A man sitting at one of the bar stools fired out directed at the large bartender.
The fellow was hefty and thick-set, but far from the type to be barking orders at The Bartender, whose muscular-frame would easily outmatch his heavy-set one.
“I am very sorry, sir!” The Bartender cried out and once more, Copé found it a struggle to describe his voice, not high-pitch, but … vibrantly flamboyant?
“I am very new to this business, my brother and I only recently arrived from Olzaric, and, we don't have a lot of,” before the Bartender could finish, however, the hefty-man slammed his fist against the counter. The loud sound of cracking wood could be heard beneath his large arm.
“Spare me your life story,” The man quipped fast, “And what is this shantytown made of, plywood?”
The Bartender fidgeted with his fingers like a child did when he was introuble, or like Secrat did when Father Toucan lectured him. At once, the pale skinned man with black hair left his chair and ran over toward the counter. The whole act happened fast, as the man leaped onto one of the bar-stools, as if it was a stepping stone, before jumping to the other-side of the counter beside the Bartender.
“Excuse me,” the pale-skinned man said, flashing a confident smirk, his face was handsome and without blemish, “But, for our table, I will have to ask you reimburse us in full, and I'll have you know, it's a very expensive table.”
His voice sounded arrogant and sarcastic but was unafraid of the angry man. “You can't expect me to believe anything in this damn hellhole's even worth the wood it's built with.” The man yelled back, his voice sounding aggravating as he let out a loud laugh.
“I can expect you to believe that, and you will, either that, or you will leave.” The pale skinned man informed, his small-demeanor and spineless tact was an antithesis to The Giant's tepidness.
“I could rip you in two,” the heavy man said.
“Many could, but I bet my bottom-dollar you're not going to try to fight my brother and I both.” The pale skinned man countered with a proud-ofhimself grin.
The Heavy Man looked at him with aggravation, almost certainly feeling disrespected. Copé thought the liquid courage might rile him enough to take The Little Brother up on his offer, but he didn't. The Heavy Man let out a sigh and rose from his bar-stool. Secrat heard a crackling sound on the chair, which had likely seen less exertive days. The burly fellow groaned at it before kicking it with all his might. So much might, in-fact, that it looked like he was about to lose balance and fall on his ass, but he managed to save himself after some stumbles. The chair flew forward and drove into the counter, the legs breaking off in the process.
The Bigger Brother jumped and grunted worriedly, although, it might have been closer to a squeal. The Smaller Brother's face held firm, watching the Heavy Man as he left. A small crowd of drinkers cowered in one corner of the bar, with eyes distraught and befuddled. The other side was Secrat Copé's indifference and Brutus' chuckling excitement.
The Pale Man, one of the Bells Brothers, it seemed, walked The Giant away from Secrat and Brutus, over to a very large portrait of a ship, withstanding the hurls and waves the Amisoic Sea pitted it against. “You need to stick up for yourself, little brother. This is a new time for us, a new life, a new opportunity, and you may not feel it, but against any man you're at a distinct advantage. They'll back off.” His voice was quiet, but Copé could hear it well, and found himself very taken by his reference to The Giant as “little” brother.
The “little” brother nodded, his face upset and reddened, the sibling patted him on the back with a half-smile. The Pale Man's glance went off at his brother over to the counter, rubbing his hands together from a situation handled, he approached Secrat and Brutus. “I must apologize to each of you, and to the whole bar,” he said, raising his voice once realizing he had the attention of everyone in the pub. “The Aer Festival should be a time of celebration, or something, I am really not certain, being from Olzaric, the only thing I ever knew was angry men like that, not really sure about what this whole 'celebration' word means.”
A light laugh came next, his eyes staring off to the ground. Some chuckles came from those outside the counter and he offered his best fake smile.
The crowd dispersed and lost interest soon after and returned back to their affairs. A piece of plywood hung from the ceiling on one side of the bar, pierced already with several knives, several of the drinkers throwing knives for sport.
The Pale Man walked over to Secrat with a small smirk. “Life of a bartender, I guess,” he said, shrugging it off. “Ezik Bell,” he said, putting his hand out over the counter in-front of Copé.
Secrat smirked, shaking the man's hand, “Secrat Copé,” he said. “Your brother said both of you were new to this? Why'd you decide to set-up shop in Italina?”
“Wasn't aware of the other towns to choose from.” Ezik said, pretending to be embarrassed, tugging at the neck-collar on his gray tunic.
“You're from Olzaric?”
Ezik shook his head. “And it's every bit as grim and miserable as they say. 'Least for anyone without a stick up their ass, right, Ricar?”
The Giant, who had his back leaned against the fall, still visibly bothered by the man, looked up at Ezik, making eye-contact. He flashed a smile, “The men in Olzaric make the guy that left look like an absolute saint.”
Ezik laughed. “And what brings you fine folk to Italina? Visiting for the
Aer Festival, I presume?”
“You caught us, we're suckers for the useless knickknacks,” Copé said, putting his hands up like he was being arrested.
“Are you, … ahem, … together?” The Pale Man, Ezik Bell asked.
“No, absolutely not,” Brutus fired back fast, seeming downright offended. Ezik smiled. “I don't judge, can't say the same for most of Italina though.”
“I could do much better than Brutus, anyways,” Secrat returned.
“No, absolutely not,” Brutus said, seeming even more offended than before. “If I ever did that, I'd be the absolute king of that.”
The Red Flux & the Wunderkind THief
Chapter One (1 - 2 - 3)