A Night at the Tavern

“You’re late, Lawson! Where the hell have you been? I oughtta take my anger out on your hide, turn you into a lampshade!”

I glared back at my boss, not intimidated by his rocky face or diamond teeth. “Come on, Feldspar, I’m only a minute late,” I snapped back at him. “Listen, you spend the first five minutes of the shift huffing concrete dust anyway, so all I’m missing out on is a case of black lung.”

The troll growled at me, but he knew better than to try and win an argument against me, and instead turned back to the rest of the servers.

“So lissen, as I was saying, we got a bunch of vamps coming in tonight,” he announced. “If they ask, remember that all our blood was single source, tested against all the diseases.”

Luna raised a timid hand. “Was it really, boss?”

I groaned a little to myself as I tied my apron around my waist. Luna was a sweet kid, but even if she’d only been turned recently, she ought to have a good enough nose to smell when she should keep her mouth shut.

Fortunately, Feldspar just shrugged. “Label sez so, and that’s good enough for me,” he replied. “Now, remember that we got Granite and Mugsy hanging around if anyone starts making too much trouble. Don’t be afraid to throw someone out, ‘specially if they start threatening to break things.”

Granite didn’t even blink at the mention of his name, but Mugsy glanced up from the leather-bound book that he held delicately between two fingers the size of sausage links. I smiled and winked at him, and he gave me a very little smile in return.

To be honest, I didn’t know what Mugsy was, exactly. He seemed human enough, apart from his absolutely massive size. But although I’d initially written him off as a human-troll hybrid that couldn’t count while wearing mittens, I soon discovered that a scholar’s brain lurked behind his massive, calm features. I enjoyed whenever I got a quiet moment to listen to him converse on various exotic topics.

Feldspar turned to the cooks, and the other servers and I took this as our dismissal. We hurried out of the back room, pasting smiles across our faces as we met our customers.

After a few years of waiting tables in slum taverns like The Spigot (“It’s Where the Beer Comes Out”), I knew how to size up a room. Most of the servers and waitresses knew that it was always safest to start with our own kind, or the closest approximations. With this advice in mind, I angled towards a table of heavily armed mercenaries who all looked human.

“Evening, boys,” I greeted them with a big fake smile. “What can I get you all to drink?”

“Well, now, you’re the kind of tall drink I could use!” the leader fired back at me, getting the dutiful guffaw from his companions. He leered up at me, and I took a careful little step to one side so that he couldn’t reach around to grab my ass. I knew my strategy.

“So kind of you,” I tittered, taking another step back under the pretext of giving the men a glimpse of my tits. “Beers all around? Or do you want something a bit stronger?”

The leader kept grinning. “Stronger, aye! How about some Troll Rocks?”

For a second, my smile slipped a little before I pulled it back up. These guys were either supremely confident, suicidal, or both. Most idiots never learned their lesson about ordering a Troll Rocks in a bar with a troll anywhere within earshot. They didn’t learn their lesson, because they usually left the bar in half a dozen roughly ripped pieces.

“I’ll see what I can do,” I promised the men, and ducked away before they said something else and I got caught in the crossfire.

At the bar, Mugsy nodded at me as I poured some drinks for the mercenaries, making sure that none of the acid dripped on me. “Any trouble?” he murmured without looking over at me.

I shook my head. “Nah, just garden variety idiots. I’ll give them an extra hit of sulfur and see how they handle it.” I grinned over at Mugsy. “You might have to hold the door open for them if they can’t keep it down.”

“You realize that I don’t mop, right?” he groaned, but he gave me another one of those little one-corner-of-his-mouth smiles that made me forget for a moment about how I worked in this crappy tavern.

“You’re the best, Mugsy,” I told him, giving him a returning smile as I scooped up the drinks and headed back out to deliver them to the mercenaries.

The night went on, and I dealt easily with the drunken guests. At one point, a couple increasingly drunk mercenaries decided to try and pick fights with a couple dwarf businessmen who made disparaging comments about the quality of the mens’ weapons, but Mugsy and Granite easily dragged the fighters apart and threw them out into the street. I saw the vampire delegation stop by, but Sunny took care of them, and they didn’t raise a stink about our questionable “single source blood.”

Just one more night of work, I told myself. That was how I always made it through my shift. One more night, and then I’d get to go home and get away from the stink of spilled acid and stale beer.

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