The table pinwheeled across the floor of the tavern, not stopping until it collided with a thump against the opposite wall. All around the room, patrons cringed, hastily trying to gulp down the rest of their drinks. They could sense the oncoming storm.
When a troll gets angry, smart adventurers make sure that they’re on the other side of a door, preferably in an entirely different building altogether.
Still, Mr. Loaf, the barkeep, came bustling out, his stained apron flapping about his stubby legs. “Ah, Mr. Slate,” he greeted the angry patron, his voice making a terminal attempt at cheerfulness. “Does something seem to be the problem?”
The troll, still crouching as though the table was in front of him instead of flipped against the far wall, nodded. “Yus, something wrong!” he rumbled, shaking so violently that small flakes peeled off of him and tumbled to the dirty straw covering the floor. “You poisoning me!”
At that accusation, a couple other heads lifted up cautiously from below their hastily erected shelters. Poisoning was a serious accusation.
“Poison?” Loaf repeated blankly, rubbing his hands on his apron and succeeding in dirtying them terribly. “What in the world makes you say that?”
In response, Slate thrust out his mug. The barkeep instinctively leaned back, although the gesture was more of a survival mechanism than due to anything untoward in the drink.
A moment later, however, he paused. Something wasn’t right.
Trolls, of course, enjoyed a molten concoction of blended lava and calcium, sometimes with floating pumice chunks and occasionally, if they were feeling especially fancy, with crushed silicon around the rim of the mug. These drinks came in a heavily reinforced steel-plated mug, and tended to leave smoldering rings on the tables if left to sit for too long.
The mug in Slate’s hand appeared to be full of a watery, amber colored liquid.
After recovering from leaning back, Mr. Loaf reached out and very cautiously dipped a finger in Slate’s drink. He lifted the wet finger to his nose, sniffed, and then assayed a taste.
“It’s beer,” he said after a moment.
“Yuh! Poison!” Slate reiterated. “You trying to corrode me!”
Perhaps because it was a simple mistake, Mr. Loaf relaxed prematurely. He chuckled, patted the angry troll on his rocky shoulder, and then made his big mistake.
He attempted to use logic and reason.
“Listen, Mr. Slate, obviously there’s just been a little mix-up,” he said reasonably. “Clearly, you’ve just gotten someone else’s drink. There’s no need to be upset-“
His words trailed off as the troll lifted up the heavy, reinforced mug to his mouth and, without changing expression, took a large bite out of the vessel. Metal crunched and shrieked in his mouth as his diamond teeth tore through the steel-covered hardwood.
Around the tavern, the other patrons hastily checked their weapons, either displayed or hidden. A fight was about to break out. Their keenly tuned senses of danger, trained from many years of adventuring, were quivering like taut bowstrings. A party of archers in the corner checked their taut bowstrings.
Mr. Loaf could sense the approaching fight, as well. He’d been a barkeeper for many years, and he knew when a little willful destruction of property (which he tolerated, considering how he overcharged for ale) was about to erupt into a full-fledged brawl (which he frowned upon, because no one ordered more drinks halfway through a brawl). Now, with no other options left, he resorted to the last arrow in his verbal quiver.
“Perhaps a credit is in order,” he suggested quickly.
Before he spoke, Slate had been rumbling, the deep grumble that a volcano emits just before violently erupting. At these words, however, the rumble stopped, and the troll frowned in puzzlement.
“Credit?” he repeated.
“Yes, exactly,” Loaf continued, following up quickly before the troll remembered where he’d parked his original train of thought. “How about I give you a credit for this and… let’s say, two… other drinks on tonight’s bill?”
Trolls were generally dense, but even creatures of anthropomorphic rock could sense when they had leverage in a deal. “Three,” Slade countered. “An’ one of them’s gonna be a River Rock Eruption. With real agates, I can taste bad ones.”
Mr. Loaf quickly weighed the costs of a brawl versus the cost of a drink with real agates.
“Done, but no more than three agates,” he compromised. “And you pick up my table.”
For a long time, the troll remained silent – although Loaf knew that he might just be still working through the problem. Finally, he shrugged his mountainous shoulders.
“Kay,” he announced, standing up and heading over to retrieve the table.
Mr. Loaf bustled off to the back to prepare the troll’s drink before allowing himself to let out a small sigh of relief.
Once back in the kitchen, out of sight of the drinkers in the front room, the barkeep rounded on the unfortunate server who’d brought out the troll’s most recent drink. “I told you that he has to be falling-down drunk before you try and slip him the beer!” he cursed her. “He’s stupid, but he’s not stupid enough to drink straight beer before we’ve put at least a couple loads of lava into him!”
The woman tried to defend herself, but Loaf just turned away, shaking his head. He never should have let that Assassin convince him to take this job, he grumbled to himself. This whole thing was turning into more of a hassle than he’d ever wanted.
Next time, the damn nob could just try and get his mark with a sledgehammer when Slate passed out in the alley.