The Night Before Wintertide
A Story by Kevin M. Gallagher, Jr
Three mugs of ale were suddenly slammed onto the table. Icarus and Jason, startled, looked to see a dwarf with curly red-brown hair that draped over his leather shoulder pads. He had a battle axe holstered to a strap on his back and looked like he would be ready for a brawl at a moment’s notice. Before anyone could speak, the dwarf downed his ale and signaled for another round.
“The ale is on me, lads,” the dwarf proclaimed.
“Why the generosity?” Icarus asked as Jason began drinking from his mug.
“I heard yer friend talking about an adventure, and I got one!” The dwarf beamed.
“And why would—”
“Please, give us the details,” Jason cut Icarus off.
“Aye, of course! You know of Wintertide?” The dwarf asked and continued after Icarus and Jason nodded, “There’s a rumor of an enchanted hat that offers the great gift of knowledge.”
“What does that have to do with Wintertide?” Jason asked.
“I know of this rumor,” Icarus answered before the dwarf could. “This hat is rumored to have belonged to Andekus.”
“Aye! The goddess of Wintertide. I been tracking this hat, the coxcomb of Andekus, fer decades—longer than you been alive, lad—and any true adventurer is willing to stick with the hunt, to whatever end.”
“And what’s in it for us?” Jason asked.
The next round arrived to the table before Jason and Icarus finished their mugs. The dwarf grasped his and finished the ale inside in what seemed like one gulp. He wiped away the sudsthat dripped from his red-brown beard before looking Jason in the eyes.
“A chance to wear that coxcomb, of course.”
Jason rolled his eyes and picked up his ale. After finishing his first mug, he looked the dwarf in the eyes before gulping down the second mug sitting in front of him. As he signaled for another round, Icarus sunk in his chair, aware of what was to come. “A chance to wear that coxcomb?” he mocked the dwarf. “Why, how could I resist? Who doesn’t want to wear the hat?”
“Now listen here lad—”
“The name is Jason—Prince Jason Dactyls—and you should watch your tone.”
Jason was standing, towering over the dwarf. Icarus looked around, and took a swig of ale, as many patrons of the tavern turned their attention to the prince. Icarus tried to signal Jason, but it was too late—the dwarf shoved Jason.
“You little man, you dare challenge the prince? I am a Dactyls, a descendant of the man who helped settle these lands. Who are you?”
“Perhaps we should take this outside?” Icarus interjected as more and more attention was being directed their way.
“Yer family wouldn’t exist without mine. Who am I? I am Robert Ipparius, descendant of Arthur—the man that ensured these lands could be settled.”
“And I’m Icarus, the one trying to save the two idiots announcing their famous lineage in a tavern full of criminals.”
Robert grabbed Icarus’ mug from the table and gulped it down before winding up and throwing a wild punch. Jason was quick enough to duck beneath that hook, and he grabbed one of the empty mugs from the table. He threw it toward the dwarf, who sidestepped the projectile, allowing it to hit an orc that was sitting behind him.
“Great,” Icarus sighed.
The orc stood up from his stool, brushing shards of glass off his shoulder. He looked at the group in front of him and growled. Jason’s heart pounded, as his sight settled on the burly patron. Orcs were not often found in Argos. Humans filled most of the city, especially the north side. Although people were staring, they clearly tolerated the orc’s company.
The orc lifted his mace and swung it toward Jason. The prince jumped out of the way, nearly falling into his mentor. Before anyone could react, the orc chopped that spiked club toward Robert, who rolled to the side, avoiding the damaging blow that destroyed a table.
“Hey! Calm down. It was an accident. I wasn’t trying to hit you—I was aiming for the other idiot over there,” Jason said, pointing in the direction of the dwarf.
The orc didn’t take too kindly to Jason’s words and charged toward the lad and his mentor. They leapt in opposite directions, avoiding that unexpected foe. A man dressed in the garb of the Saphron Brotherhood was not as lucky. The orc hit him squarely in his chest, launching the assassin across the room.
Every patron in the Falcon’s Nest erupted in a roar. Blows were exchanged, chairs were broken over backs, and mugs of ale were broken over heads. Jason took the opportunity to charge the dwarf, who was distracted by all the commotion. As he approached Robert, he leapt and drove his shoulder into the dwarf’s chest, taking him to the ground. As soon as they landed, Robert winced and Jason rolled to the side, gripping his shoulder that had collided with the dwarven armor.
Robert was able to climb to his feet before Jason, his armor taking the brunt of the hit and the fall. He grabbed the closest chair and swung it toward Jason, who had managed to climb to his knees. Before he could stand and defend himself, the chair cracked over the prince’s back, sending him back to the floor. The dwarf smiled and grabbed the closest mug of ale to celebrate
Before he could take a swig, Icarus was there and slapped him upside the head—causing the mug to drop. The dwarf grabbed his axe, ready to remove it from his back holster to continue the fight. When he saw the old elf, he dropped his hand to his side.
“Ye should never make a dwarf drop their ale.”
“Oh, I see. And inciting a bar fight is so elegant?” Icarus helped the prince to his feet. Once standing, Jason cocked his fist back, but Icarus caught those tightly bound digits before they could collide with their new acquaintance. “And you should know better, my liege.”
Before either Jason or Robert could utter a word, a large man approached them. The three patrons prepared for a fight, waiting for the stranger to make the first move. Physically imposing, standing about a foot over Jason, with arms the size of his head, the man wore simple black slacks with a white tunic. He stared at the group of three before looking at the chaos that was swirling within the tavern.
“Enough!” The large man bellowed.
The fighting instantly stopped. Every patron stared at the large man. The ones closest to him had turned white, their bodies shaking at the thought that they may be within his grasp. The only noise that squeaked into the tavern was that of broken furniture continuing to settle to the ground.
“Who?” The man’s voice was deep.
Everyone pointed in the direction of Jason, Icarus, and Robert. Icarus hung his head in disbelief while Jason pointed directly at Robert. The dwarf had grabbed his battle axe and seemed ready to take on the entire tavern.
“This is my tavern. Look at it,” the large man revealed.
“To be fair, the orc really was the one that turned this into a brawl,” Jason reasoned.
The owner’s eyes grew wide with anger. He reached out and grabbed the prince by his collar, lifting him off the ground with ease and pulling him in close. “I don’t care what family you come from, no one wrecks my bar.”
Once the owner threw Jason across the room, the entire tavern erupted back into a brawl. By the time Jason was back on his feet, the large man was upon him once more and tossed him through the window, onto the street. Icarus ran towards the exit to check on his pupil, but he was cut off by a member of the Saphron Brotherhood. The assassin had his dagger drawn, ready to slice into the elf. He began tossing the dagger in the air and from hand to hand—showing Icarus that he was skilled with his weapon.
Icarus pulled out a golden baton, with several emeralds adorned on each end, from under his cloak and held it at his side. The assassin chuckled at the sight of it, and took a step towards the elf. With a quick squeeze, the elf’s baton grew to a full sized wooden bo staff. The entire weapon was carved with elven scripture—it was a piece of art combined with the golden and jeweled center.
Caught off guard, the assassin wasn’t expecting the quick assault. Icarus swung the bo staff into his opponents chest, then his back, and finally an upswing to his chin, knocking him to the ground.
The elf had no time to celebrate as he heard charging footsteps. He turned just in time to see the orc from the earlier scuffle. He lowered his head to slam into Icarus, but the elf was ready for him and jumped over his adversary. Instead of ramming into another patron, the orc was able to stop himself. However, when he turned, his face met with the end of the elven bo staff. Icarus smirked at his good fortune.
The fortune would not last though; the owner of the Falcon’s Nest picked the elf up and tossed him toward the same window Jason had crashed through. Luckily for Icarus, there was no glass to smash through. That did not make landing on the hard ground outside any easier.