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Not a Soul Up Ahead #Brandy

Rachel Balla
 

Who: Brandy
With: Open!
Where: The Silver Tankard tavern, King's City
When: Sunset, Tuesday, March 11th, 872 RoK

The Silver Tankard had been packed - above and beyond capacity. With the demand for rooms, plenty of people had started inviting others into their beds, whether for money or pleasure. Over the last two days, though, the energy had surely shifted as those who had been stranded in the city moved on home and those who were excitedly awaiting the announcement of the new monarch made their way in instead. 
 
The new folks had fresh money on them, and the volume made it easier for Brandy to get her hands on the scarce fresh produce finally making its way into the city. But Brandy was a master of repurposing humble ingredients. Most locals would eat cold bread with a slice of cheese and be perfectly happy with it, but Brandy would stuff the cheese into the bread, crisp it up into what amounted to little more that a gourmet grilled cheese, but the people loved it. And potatoes, salted pork or fish, and toasted bread crumbs became - 
 
"Croquettas," Brandy explained as she presented a plate of six fried dumplings to a young woman who, after two glasses of wine, was chattering freely. She had been gossiping about the royal baby loudly enough to catch the barmaid's attention - it sounded like she was the handmaid of a lady and had been able to see the baby up close, but was disappointed to be on leave today as it meant she wouldn't have the same up-close access to see the Royal Scholar and General who, she claimed (tipsily) were rumored to be very handsome, even if they were easily both twice her age. 
 
Brandy leaned in, a delighted smile on her lips and interest lighting her eyes, and insisted. "Tell me everything about the baby!" 
 
"He was so small!" the handmaid cooed, in that voice women had to use when discussing babies, and Brandy answered it was an appropriate "aww!" "He was awake and squirming around, but not one cry! It's that royal blood. " 
 
"Like he was holding court already!" Brandy said with a laugh. "Did you see his face?" 
 
"Yes, yes, yes! He looks just like his father," the handmaid answered, although Brandy doubted how well acquainted the young woman had been with the late king's face. But that didn't matter! "Red hair and all. Those rumors are ridiculous." 
 
"What rumors?" Brandy pressed, hungry for the gossip she'd missed off freeing an infamous witch. She filled the nearly-empty glass to the brim.
 
"The ladies around the court were saying…" the handmaid leaned in closer, clearly knowing she needed to keep this tidbit confidential but totally lacking the ability to control the volume of her voice after drinking. "That the maidens in the Eastern Forest were all raped by those awful outlaws - you have heard of the Marauders?" When Brandy nodded, the young woman went on. "The rest were murdered, too, but the Consort survived because she came from a tribe of Southern warriors. Some even said that the child's real father was Marcus the Vile himself!" 
 
 

Vincent Gonzales
 

Who: Tristan

With: Brandy

Where: The Silver Tankard tavern, King's City

When: Sunset, Tuesday, March 11th, 872 RoK


The Silver Tankard was everything Tristan had ever dreamed of when he read old fantasy novels about medieval inns. From the barmaids shuffling around to the cranky patrons who’d just as soon cut you as buy you a drink. It was a wonderful sight to behold and, even though Tristan wasn’t much of a drinker even when he’d been in the military back on Earth, he still found himself with a tankard full of a mead, listening intently to stories from passersby.


One bit of conversation caught his ear, more than any other, though, as he sat and listened…


>“He was so small!" <...> "Like he was holding court already!" <...> "He looks just like his father," <...> “the maidens in the Eastern Forest were all raped by those awful outlaws” <...> “the child's real father was Marcus the Vile himself!"


Tristan felt a twist in his stomach as he caught bits here and there over the passersby and noises of the tavern. He’d heard of Marcus, of course. And the more he heard about the foul little man, the more he thought it’d be a good idea to find him and run him through with his sword…


The knight couldn’t help but insert himself in the conversation at that and found himself turning and speaking to the ladies of the rumor mill before he could stop himself. “If this Marcus is such a bastard, why hasn’t The Green Duke put that foul creature in the ground already?” he asked, biting back on the edge in his voice too late. He frowned in apology. “I mean...there’s got to be a hell of a bounty on his head, right? If he’s so dangerous…”


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Rachel Balla
 

Tristan: “If this Marcus is such a bastard, why hasn’t The Green Duke put that foul creature in the ground already?” “I mean...there’s got to be a hell of a bounty on his head, right? If he’s so dangerous…”


Brandy's eyes snapped in the direction of the young man who interjected into their conversation. Damn, he was hot. The dreads were short, so they somehow suggested both conservative neatness and also a reckless edginess. He was drinking; but his words were all chivalry. He was interesting. And with her usual bae back on his ship? Brandy would be lying if she told herself she wasn't looking for a new conquest.


"Oh, hell of a bounty," Brandy confirmed. It was embarrassingly high; there was a bounty that said 'I can't be bothered to catch this mofo on my own, so I'll pay you to help me out' and there was a bounty that said 'I can't catch this mofo at all, fucking help me right now' and the sum was smack between the two at present.


But before Brandy could go on, a teenage boy entered the bar with a conspicuous tray full of what looked like handpies. Hungry patrons immediately started gesturing at him, but Brandy felt rage burn through her and helped elevate her voice.


"No outside food or drink allowed!" she bellowed with all the characteristic aggression of a New Yorker, and although the boy seemed determined to make at least one sale with the nearest patron, he scurried out after because Brandy was taking off her apron like she intended to whip him with it. "Get the fuck out! I can feed my customers!"


Once he was gone, Brandy immediately settled down and got straight back into gossip mode. "The thing is? Marcus commands werewolves. Creatures. Literally. This is un-fucking-heard of. The Green Duke is scary in his own right, but no one thinks he secretly has a zombie army or, like, carniflower seeds or something. Marcus is on another level; they don't even have stories on his level."


Brandy leaned forward, planting an elbow on the bar between her and the inquisitive patron. "You hoping for that bounty?" She smiled flirtatiously and spoke quickly, almost as if her questions were more statements. "What's your name? I'm Brandy."


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Vincent Gonzales
 

Tristan almost immediately took note of how the bartender looked at him when he took it upon himself to join their conversation. Was that...? I mean, he was pretty sure that she just checked him out. It'd been...a little longer than he'd like to admit since the last time a woman had looked at him like that and the boost to his ego was more than a little appreciated. So much so that he found himself nodding along without really listening, right up until she started screaming at some kid with some meat pies. He let out a hearty chuckle, watching the kid scurry before Brandy's ire could follow him out the door.

Brandy: "The thing is? Marcus commands werewolves. Creatures. Literally. This is un-fucking-heard of. The Green Duke is scary in his own right, but no one thinks he secretly has a zombie army or, like, carniflower seeds or something. Marcus is on another level; they don't even have stories on his level."

Did she say werewolves?! Those were real?! Of course they were, Tristan, don't be an idiot. You're a knight in shining fucking armor, here. "It makes you wonder how much is fact or fiction," he noted with a nod. "Not that I doubt your knowledge, of course. Men like that, though? They're bound to spin up tales to boost their reputation and scare people off."

Brandy: "You hoping for that bounty?" She smiled flirtatiously and spoke quickly, almost as if her questions were more statements. "What's your name? I'm Brandy." 

"I could do with the extra coin, as much as the next guy, but I think I'll stick to dragons and vampires, for the time being," he said, grinning without realizing it as he leaned in as well. "I'm Tristan, ma'am."

"We've actually met before," the knight added after a moment's hesitation, unsure if it'd sour their interaction, which had been a very nice change of pace for him. Since when did he flirt with barmaids?! "The day of the storm, when the King..." he trailed off, knowing full well he didn't need to finish that sentence. "I'd met you briefly at your stand, as well as that nobleman. Sheriff...something or other." Tristan shrugged, not thinking it mattered much. What was one noble versus another, anyway. They were all pretentious pricks from his experience.

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