Tipsy Pelican Tavern Prequel Short #1

Elsa’s Story: Sweat, Scoundrels, and Taverns

The sun was starting its descent, but the same could not be said of the temperatures. The air felt like a boiling pool that Elsa had to wade through as she stumbled through the city streets.

She’d traveled north to escape the dang heat, yet here it was in Meritas, just as bad. To make matters worse, the dang Adentrians were a bunch of prissy prudes. Both men and women were expected to keep their bodies mostly covered. Dresses past the knees. Abdomens entirely hidden. How the hell did they do it in this heat?

The first day she arrived in Meritas, she stepped off the ship in the clothes she’d boarded with. Within minutes, she had nearly every person on the docks staring at her.

At first, she didn’t realize what the deal was. She knew she had an effect on people. But being attractive didn’t get you thisamount of attention.

It took her a couple of blocks of walking before she realized the problem. Her clothes were very different from everyone else’s—in its amount, specifically.

The first thing she did was to go to a clothing store, where the etiquettes were explained to her by the old woman who owned the place. This lady wasn’t surprised by her outfit. She had received many visitors from Belliganna with the same problem it seemed.

“Your, ah, pants would be considered undergarments to most Adentrians,” the old woman said. “And your blouse… if you, ah, can call it a blouse, is too high on the bottom and too low on the top. Some cleavage is acceptable in Meritas, but you’ll need to keep your hems past the stomach.”

Elsa didn’t mind dressing according to local fashions. She was a foreigner and not here to judge the customs. Plus, the weather had been bearable when she arrived. But as the weeks passed, that quickly changed. The temperatures took a swing upward, and she quickly dropped her previous philosophy of being respectful to local cultures.

This was just entirely unpractical. She was suffering because of those dang local cultures. And now, as she stumbled through the streets of a residential neighborhood, looking for shelter from the heat, she saw that everyone else was suffering too. Crowds of people sweating like ice on fire.

She felt practically burnt just by gazing at a city guard as he passed her in full plate armor. How did the man stand it?

She didn’t really know where she was going. The first inn she’d stayed at had kicked her out because she kept entering the wrong rooms while being mad drunk in the middle of the night. Most rooms were occupied by couples at that inn, and the occupants were not pleased to find her trying to crawl into their beds in the dead of night. Especially the wives. There was more than one misunderstanding there.

But was it really her fault? The dang rooms in inns looked all the same, and unlike classier hotels, they didn’t have room numbers on the doors. ‘Third one down the hall’ was her room.

Alright, it probably was her fault. She got a little bad at counting after a few bottles of brandy. She kept entering the “second” and “forth” room down the hall.

So she quickly found a second inn, and there, she was given the room ‘directly across from the stairs’—hard to get that wrong.

Unfortunately, that inn eventually kicked her out as well for a much more typical reason: she didn’t pay her bill for the third night straight.

Elsa knew the day she’d run out of funds would come. She just hadn’t planned for it. She figured best to deal with it later. And now later had arrived, but she still had no plan.

She’d need to get a job obviously, but what kind of job would she want? She’d never had a job in her life. She hadn’t needed one in her old life when she… well, there was no point in thinking about the past. In any case, a more realistic question was what kind of job would have her?

Whatever. That was a problem to figure out later. She still had a handful of copper burnishes, and she desperately needed to get out of the heat and find something to drink, or else certain death was on the horizon, or at the very least, certain exhibitionism.

She took the next turn and wandered onto a cobblestone road. The area was nice except for the blazing heat radiating from the stones on the ground. She could feel them cooking her just by walking across them.

But luckily the street was filled with restaurants and taverns, unlike the previous neighborhood she’d wandered through. She could hideout in one of these until nighttime and figure out her next steps once her brain had cooled.

She stopped in front of a tavern with tall white walls and golden trim. Bright reflective stones lined the walkway to the front door. The place looked excellently maintained as if the owners had spent hundreds of gold brilliances to polish every detail of the exterior to perfection.

From outside, she could hear the hushed tones of conversation. Not exactly the sound of a tavern, but Elsa figured it was still early, so she stepped forward and pushed open the smooth oak door.

Inside, she found several men sitting at marble tables, dressed in finery. There was a bar, though she had to look around to find it. It was also made of white marble, but it was short and looked more like a serving station than a real bar.

The men all turned to look at her as she entered, and she wondered if this was a private gentleman’s club and not a tavern.

A man in a full butler’s uniform came up to her. He seemed to hesitate for a moment, trying to decide if he’d welcome her in. But in the end, he chose to ignore her ragged and sweaty appearance and asked, “May I find you a table, Miss?”

“I’ll take a seat at the bar,” she said.

The man nodded and led her over, which was entirely unnecessary. Just as she sat down one of the men dressed in thick velvet came up to her.

The room was much cooler than outside, but Elsa still felt hot just looking at the man’s attire.

“I haven’t seen you around here,” the man said with a smooth, smug tone. “I’m Theodore Hallidon, a gemstone merchant. Perhaps you’ve heard of me.”

Elsa said nothing and waved at the bartender.

“Please, allow me to buy you a drink,” Theodore said.

Elsa could barely afford tomorrow night’s food, but she could tell that this was not the type of man to accept offers from.

So she said, “That’s alright. I’ll buy my own drink.”

“It’s no trouble. She’ll have a Spoolifa,” Theodore said to the barman. “On my tab.”

“A what?” Elsa said.

“A Spoolifa. You’ll like it,” the man said, grinning, and he slowly ran his eyes over her body, letting Elsa watch him as he did it.

That was the other thing about the Adentrians. As prudish as they were, they acted like they’d never seen a feminine figure before. Cover yourself up because if you don’t, we’ll lose our minds and transform into raging perverts.

The drink arrived in a tall glass filled with pink bubbling liquid. Elsa stared at it hesitantly, then took a sip and immediately spat it out. “Feh! What is this solvent?!”

“It’s a lady’s drink. Have more. You’ll enjoy it.”

“No thanks, tastes like boiled sugar,” Elsa said, setting down the drink and getting up to leave.

“Now wait a minute,” Theodore said. “I just bought you a drink. You’ve done nothing to repay me.”

“How typical of you,” Elsa said. “This is exactly why I didn’t want a drink from you.”

Theodore smiled widely. “But the drink was made and taken out of my tab. Unfair that I get nothing in return.”

“So cry about it,” Elsa said and turned to leave.

“Hey, I wasn’t done talking to you.”

Elsa ignored him right up to the point he put his hand on her arm, dragging her around to face him.

Elsa was shocked that the man would touch her. She looked around, but none of the other men seemed disturbed by the action. Was this the norm around here?

“Come on now,” the man said, pulling her closer. “I’ll take you to a nice dinner, then we could have some fun tog-“

The man’s sentence was cut off by the fist that Elsa sent into his nose.

He spun through the air, landing with a hard thump on the floor. He was knocked out cold.

“There’s your payment for the drink,” Elsa said. “You’ll enjoy it. When you wake up.”

The whole room went quiet, several of the men looked very disturbed now with wide eyes and gaping mouths, but none of them had anything to say as Elsa glared at them.

Then she stalked out of the tavern.

As she exited, she took note of the sign at the door. The place was called “The Grand Taphouse.”

She spat out the remnants of the Spoolifa on the stone steps. “What a farce.”

Then she headed further down the cobblestone road, the heat enveloping her again.

None of the other restaurants and taverns looked appealing to her. They just didn’t have the right feel. She was starting to think that she was in the wrong area of town, but then she spotted an old cottage with stone and brick walls and dark wood pillars and beams.

This place was definitely different from the other establishments on the street. It was larger than the others, with a second story, but also shabbier. Not exactly poorly maintained, just older, with dents and nicks in the wood and stone, a place that had stood the test of time.

But the plaque above the front door looked new. The words read ‘The Tipsy Pelican Tavern.’ A bird with a mug of ale and a satisfied smile was carved into the plaque below the name.

Elsa chuckled. It reminded her of her friend Dalton, who would often quip, ‘What are you? A dang pelican?’ as he watched her put down mugfuls of beer. But then she grew a little sad at the thought and pushed it away, moving to enter the tavern.

As she stepped closer, she did not hear anyone inside the tavern. The Grand Taphouse had quiet murmurs of conversation, but this place was entirely silent. A true tavern had sounds of laughter and drunken debates, and maybe even a fight or two if you were to consult Elsa’s opinion about it.

But the sun was setting, and the Tipsy Pelican Tavern was silent outside its walls. Was the place even open?

It was still hotter than hell outside, and she’d not seen anything else interesting, so she decided to give it a shot and entered.

The place was empty. There was a long bar at the far wall and several tables and chairs set about. The place looked much smaller on the inside, and she realized there was probably more space in the back.

She headed toward a doorway blocked by curtains. Was the main area through there?

“Hello?” She said.

As she stepped closer to the curtains, she could hear voices, a young man and a young woman’s.

“Master left Charm to prepare all by herself again,” said the female voice. The voice had a unique accent that Elsa couldn’t quite place.

“I was at the market buying honeydew melons!” The male voice replied.

“Master left at noon and now it’s nearly five. It does not take five hours to shop at the market.”

“I uh got lost on the way… then again on the way back.”

“Charm understands. Master got lost at a brothel, didn’t he?”

“A what?! Of course not! How could you think that?”

“Charm is not unaware of how Master peers at the young ladies on the streets.”

“What!? You notic—Er I mean, you must be mistaken. I’ve merely taken an interest in fashion lately. “

Elsa wasn’t sure how she was going to interrupt this conversation, but she was in desperate need of a cold drink. So she said, “Ahem… is anyone there?”

“Good gods, it’s a customer!” The male voice said as if shocked.

“But it’s so early,” the female voice said. “Perhaps it is someone who is lost and is in need of directions.”

“Don’t say that! We can have customers this early. We’ve been open for a few months now. We’re a growing enterprise with a successful future.”

“Master should stop talking and go see the potential customer before the person goes somewhere else for directions.”

“Uh, right.”

Then Elsa heard someone coming toward her, and the curtains parted as a young man stepped through.

He was of an average build and an average height. His hair was messy and dark. There was nothing particularly interesting in his appearance except for his eyes. They were green and bright and held a mysterious intensity.

“Welcome!” The young man said. “Sorry to keep you waiting. Please have a seat anywhere you like.”

Elsa nodded, slightly taken aback by the youthfulness of the young man. He had sounded young, but this boy barely looked eighteen, just old enough to be serving alcohol.

But Elsa was not one to judge, and so she looked around and decided to sit by the bar again, hoping this experience would be better than the last.

“Hot day, isn’t it?” The young man said as she sat.

“Oh yes,” Elsa said. “You have no idea. I thought it was going to die of dehydration. Please tell me you have something cold to drink.”

“Ah of course,” the young man said, though his tone seemed to sound a little disappointed.

He filled a mug with something behind the bar and put it in front of Elsa.

“Extra cold,” he smiled.

She took the mug gratefully and took a sip.

Then immediately spat it out.

“Feh! What is this solvent?”

“Um… it’s water…”

“What kind of tavern serves water?”

The young man looked taken aback.

Elsa pushed the mug away. “First that Spoolifa fluid, and now this? What does a girl have to do to get a real drink around here?”

“I thought you said you were dehydrated,” the young man said.

“If I wanted water, I would have gone to a well. Don’t tell me you don’t serve alcohol here.”

“Uh, no, I mean, of course, we do.” The young man suddenly smiled. “Perhaps I can recommend you our Honeydew Lager. It won second place in the Brewmaster’s Ale Competition recently.”

“That sounds more like it. I’ll have that.”

The disappointed look on the man’s face was gone, and he smiled animatedly and quickly darted back through the curtains. He came back a moment later and placed a new mug on the counter.

“From a fresh barrel.”

Elsa looked at it. “Is it cold?”

“Very.”

Elsa nodded and took a sip. The drink fizzled in her mouth with a crisp fruity bite and only the hint of sweetness, unlike that pink contraption she had at the Grand Taphouse. And it was indeed cold. Colder than any beer she’d had in recent memory. She could feel it moving down her esophagus and cooling her body.

“Wow,” she said. “This is great.”

“Glad you like it.”

Elsa downed the rest of the mug in three gulps and raised it for another.

The young barman blinked at her for a moment.

“I’m thirsty,” Elsa said. “Another.”

“Of course,” he said. “Right away.”

He darted off into the back room again and came back with another. Elsa devoured this mug just as quickly.

“That might be the fastest I’ve ever seen someone drink my beer,” the young barman said, taking the mug from her.

He looked up as they heard voices nearing the front door. New customers were finally arriving.

“Not this place again, Jad. It’s always dead.”

“But the beer is so very good.”

“Fine just one drink, then let’s go to Sword and Shield Hou-“

The door opened, and two young men entered, the taller one who was speaking, cut his sentence short as his gaze caught Elsa’s. She smiled and looked away.

“What can I get you fine gentlemen?” The young barman said.

“The usual please, Master Arch,” said the one called Jad.

Master Arch? So the young barman wasn’t a barman at all, but the owner of the place. It was the only reason a customer would call him ‘Master’. Once again, it was surprising for someone so young.

Arch nodded to the man with a friendly smile and disappeared into the back room.

Elsa realized she’d had two mugs now, which would likely cost a third of her remaining money. If she didn’t find come up with a plan, she’d likely spend the rest of her coin in the next hour.

But then an idea sprang into her head.

Arch returned and put two mugs in front of the two men. Then he came over to Elsa and peered into her empty mug.

“Another?” He said without any judgment in his voice. He was a perfect tavern keeper.

“Yes, please,” Elsa said with a smile.

He disappeared again. And the two men began drinking their drinks.

She noticed how they kept watching her. They were much more subtle than that Theodore fool had been. However, neither could summon the nerve to say something. She found it kind of cute.

“How long have you boys been coming here?” Elsa said.

“Who? Us?” Jad said. Then realizing there was no one in the room, he said, “Oh, um, only a few weeks.”

“It’s a wonderful tavern, isn’t it?”

“Oh yes, Master Arch runs a fine establishment,” the taller man said.

Elsa smiled. Wasn’t he the one who didn’t want to come only a minute earlier?

“The beer here is great,” Elsa said. “Unlike the last place I was at just earlier. Worst experience of my life.”

It was an exaggeration, but exaggerations made for great stories.

“Oh?” The men drew closer. Ready to hear her tale.

“Oh yes, a man came onto me. Forced me to drink this thing called a Spoolifa. It tasted like a cream cake. Then he tried to lay his hands on me.”

“No!” Jad said.

“What a heathen,” the other said. “Which place was this?”

“The Grand Taphouse,” Elsa said.

“Oh, I know that place,” the smaller man said. “Only nobles and rich merchants go there to feel like they’re in a tavern, but it’s nothing of the sort. Just a place for the wealthy to feel like the common man.”

The taller man nodded in agreement. “How did this altercation happen?”

“I tried to leave, but then his friends blocked the door.”

“They didn’t!”

“Oh, they did,” Elsa said. “Then he grabbed me by the arm and pulled me back to the bar. He said he was a merchant. I don’t know what kind, but it sounded like he wanted to kidnap me and sell me off.”

“My gods, then what happened?” Jad said. Both were on the edge of their seats now.

“I punched him in the face.”

“Y-ou… you what?” The taller man said.

Jad looked just as taken aback.

Someone laughed. Elsa turned and saw that it was Arch.

“Sounds like he deserved it,” Arch said.

“That he did. I think I knocked out a tooth too.”

“And what about his friends?” The taller man said.

“Oh, they backed away once they saw what I did to him.”

Jad nodded sagely. “Yes, of course they did. Too bad we weren’t there to help you.”

“That’s right,” his friend said. “Bastard. Serves him right. What kind of man lays his hands on a lady?”

Elsa smiled at that. “Why I wouldn’t call myself a lady, but thank you for the compliment.”

The taller man blushed a little. “Master Arch, another round, for the lady as well—oh uh… if you don’t mind.”

“Watch out,” Jad said. “She might knock you out!” Then he barked a laugh.

The taller man looked at him, annoyed, but Elsa laughed too. “Sure, you guys seem fun. I’ll drink with you.”

Master Arch smiled and quickly departed. He came back with an entire barrel over his shoulder and dropped it on the counter of the bar.

“Figured this would be easier,” he said.

Elsa was surprised at his strength. She knew how heavy a barrel of ale could be, but he carried it with complete ease.

He poured four mugs and took one himself. “Cheers,” he said to Elsa, raising his mug. “Welcome to the Tipsy Pelican Tavern.”

Four hours later, half the tavern was full and Elsa was surrounded by customers. Each trying to buy her a drink as she recounted stories of her time in Meritas, some true, and some made up.

One of the fellows caught her in a lie, and she admitted to the fabrication quickly. But no one was upset over it. They were there to have a good time. It was a tavern, and tall tales over strong drinks were all part of the fun.

A few of the men had tried to keep up with Elsa’s drinking, but none had been able to last. She outdrank them all. Eventually, they had to surrender and go home.

“Gods,” Arch said. “You can certainly throw down the brew.”

“Yes, I can.”

Arch looked out the window. “It’s quite late. Will you be okay walking home?”

Elsa frowned. This had often been used when men wanted to go home with her. Was he coming onto her? He had been the perfect tavern keeper the entire time. And though she did notice him staring at her from time to time, he hadn’t shown any ulterior motives.

“Were you going to offer to walk me home?” Elsa said, testing him.

“Uh… well, I guess I could if you wanted me to. Kerrytown’s pretty safe, but if you’ve got a long walk, I supposed it’d be better to go in a pair.”

Huh? Elsa was now confused. He replied in a tone that sounded like he hadn’t planned on offering to accompany her. So why did he bring it up in the first?

Arch seemed to catch this question off her look.

“Ah, I was going to say you could stay here if you’d like. This place used to be an inn. We’ve got several unused rooms.”

“Oh,” Elsa said. Was he not hitting on her after all. But she still wasn’t sure. Never can be. Sometimes men would put on a good front, but only turn out to be awful later on. She’d experienced it in the past.

“I thought I heard someone else earlier,” Elsa said. “Do you have other staff staying here?”

“Oh… uh… yeah, my cook. She’s got one of the rooms, but we have several spare and empty. It’s just her and me here.”

“I see…” Elsa said, thinking. She had come up with a plan earlier in the night, but now that idea was becoming a bigger one.

“What do I owe you?” Elsa said.

“Uhh well… I think your tab was paid by the other guests,” Arch said. “Except for your first two drinks. But don’t worry about those, you livened the bar up. It was the best night we’ve had. Consider those on the house.”

Elsa smiled. She had expected as much. “That’s true, isn’t it? I did liven things up.”

Arch nodded with his friendly tavern keeper smile. “Sure did.”

“So doesn’t that mean you owe me?” Elsa said.

The smile dropped.

“Sorry?”

“I brought you a lot of business. You said it yourself. This is the best night you’ve had. I bet you made more money tonight than any of your previous nights. Thanks to me.”

“Well… I don’t think I can start paying the customers.”

Elsa realized she was nearly pulling the same move as that idiot from the Grand Taphouse. She sighed to herself and changed her tactics.

“Sorry,” she said. “I’m not trying to rip you off. I’m just doing a really poor job of asking you for something.”

“Oh… what’s that?”

“A job.”

“A job? You mean you want to work here?”

“That’s right. I’ll be a barmaid. That’s what they’re called, right? Or a hostess, that might be a more accurate word.”

“Uhh… I don’t know…”

“You’ve seen what I can do. If I don’t boost your revenue, then you can fire me. But in return, you give me a room and a nightly wage. What do you say?”

Arch scratched his head and thought it over.

“Alright, I guess we can give it a try,” he said. “You’ll need to get along with my cook though, which might be difficult.”

“I’ll manage it,” Elsa said. “I’m pretty good with people.”

He smiled and nodded. “You do appear to be. Okay. You have a deal. We’ll decide your payment depending on how well you do.”

Elsa thought about it for a moment and figured that suited her better as well. She believed in her abilities. If she did well, that meant she’d get paid more.

“Sounds good to me, Heru,” Elsa said, smiling.

Master Arch’s eyebrows raised. “Heru? Now that’s a word I haven’t heard in some time. Are you from Belliganna?”

Damn. The word had just slipped out. She hadn’t meant to reveal that.

“No… I meant to say ‘hero.’ As in you’re my hero. I really needed this job.”

“Heru means ‘boss’ in Bellish.” Master Arch smiled. “You pronounced it perfectly, almost as well as your Vissish accent, which is nearly perfect. I didn’t even notice you weren’t a native speaker, though now that I’m aware of it, I can kind of hear it.”

Who was this man? He could hear her accent? Damn. She’d just gotten this job too. But she didn’t want anyone asking questions about where she was from, and she certainly didn’t want that information getting out.

“Bet the trek over the Primordian Sea was quite the journey, ey? Last time I did it, it took me a month.”

“You’ve been to Belliganna?” Elsa said, surprised.

Oh drat! She practically confirmed her origin to him by saying that.

“Yeah, a long time ago, when I was younger.”

Elsa blinked. “How old are you now?”

Master Arch blinked back. “Uh… I’m nearly nineteen. Well…” He cleared his throat. “It seems you’d prefer not to talk about Belliganna, so we can change the topic. Don’t worry, if you don’t want to share, I won’t pry.”

Now it totally seemed like he was the one that didn’t want to share! Elsa became more curious than ever about this man. But he was right that she didn’t want to reveal more of herself. So she just nodded.

“Deal.”

Arch pulled out two new mugs from the counter and filled them with the rest of the lager in the barrel that had been slowly devoured over the night. He placed one in front of Elsa and raised the other.

“Welcome to the Tipsy Pelican Tavern,” Arch said again with a smile. “As one of us this time.”


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