Date Posted: 30th August 2019
The tavern was crowded when Taril stepped inside. The floor was muddy with from workboots and the air smelled of liquor and smoke from the fireplace. It was mostly men gathered around the tables with tankards in their hands, but there were a few women too. Some had the brawny arms and brassy laughs of the women who hauled nets and gutted fish alongside their men, while others batted their eyelashes coquettishly at whoever looked their way.
Vinalee had been both. Taril scowled as he made his way across the room and found a seat at the bar. His arm hurt and the noise of conversation felt too loud. He nodded at the bartender, Lephric, who nodded back and tapped the keg. He brought a full tankard of ale over to Taril and leaned his elbows on the long bar. “How’s your wife?”
“Well enough.” Taril reached for the tankard but didn’t drink. He wished again he was with Humari, watching over her as she slept. He wished that he had his son sleeping beside her. He was safer at his cothold, though, away from whatever was going on at Sunstone Seahold. “I sent two sailors this way tonight. Relar and Brison from the Markhauler, on shore leave.”
“Over there.” Lephric nodded to the corner by the hearth. “They said you’re buying. Should I erase their tab?”
Lephric nodded again and made to leave, then hesitated. “Mind my asking, but they said you got attacked by some crazy woman tonight. That true?”
Taril sighed. Lephric had probably heard it from the sailors from the Markhauler, but the news would be all over the dockyard by morning. Taril, attacked by a woman. Taril, who wasn’t as scary as he looked. He spent a lot of time cultivating a reputation as a man not to mess with, and getting rescued from a woman by a pair of sailors and the Hold guards wouldn’t help one bit. “It’s true. Vinalee jumped me with a knife.”
The bartender winced. “Did she stick you?”
The merchant shrugged. “Not bad enough to care about.” The wound on his arm flashed with pain. He ignored it. “Has Vinalee been acting funny? I barely know the woman, then she tries to knife me.”
Lephric thought for a moment, then shook his head. “She was in here two nights ago and seemed in a fine mood. She wasn’t in last night, though. Usually she’s here every night.”
“Hmm.” Taril scanned the tavern. “Who was she with?”
“Usual crowd, I think. Some of the net haulers and fish packers. Why?” Lephric asked.
“Does she have any enemies?”
Lephric gave Taril a speculative look. “You think someone put her up to this? She might have just gone nuts.”
Taril shrugged. The movement caused the wound in his arm to hurt again. “Maybe.”
“She complains, just like anyone, but the only one I hear her bring up a lot is you. Well, and that scum of a former husband of hers. That woman holds a grudge. You remember that business, right? The news was all over the docks a few Turns ago. He beat her up and she petitioned the Hold for a divorce. I think that was under Lord Morin,” Lephric said. “She also complains sometimes about some cousin-of-the-Blood she claims was interested in her at one point.” At this, he shook his head in disbelief. “And then there’s you. Vinalee drinks like a fish. Her tab’s longer than my arm. Maybe she thought that if she got rid of you, she’d get rid of her tab, too.”
That she had tried to get rid of Taril to get rid of her tab was a likely idea, save for the damning note in Taril’s pocket. “Remind me-- what was the husband’s name again?”
Lephric tapped his finger against his chin as he thought. “Dhravi? Darov? Something like that. Too bad-- he was a good craftsman. No formal training, but he had a good eye. He did that.” Lephric nodded at the carved oar he’d installed over the bar to give it a personal touch. The oar belonged to Lephric. The handle was smooth and plain, but the blade was carved into a delicate school of leaping fish. “My sister got that from him. Traded him… I can’t remember what, now. A quilt, I think.”
“Whatever became of him?” Taril asked. “Didn’t he spent some time locked up in the Hold?”
“Yeah, a sevenday or two, I think. I know that Lord Morin stripped him of his right to fish in the Coldwater Banks. He had a small boat but I think that it was awarded to Vinalee’s family in compensation for her injuries. I guess that with most of the Hold thinking he’s scum and no way to make his tithe to the Hold without a boat or the right to his usual fishing reef, he got out of here. Probably joined the crew of whatever ship would take him.” It was the usual way people left Sunstone Seahold.
A vague memory surfaced of a gaunt-faced man in his office, pleading for marks and offering a pitiful handful of carved trinkets in exchange. Taril had turned him down. Lord Morin had meted out an appropriate punishment but Sunstone Seahold itself ran on vicious rumors and reputations, and Vinalee’s husband had come out of that mess too rotten to touch. Taril hadn’t given him any marks since the chances of getting them back were so slim.
Still… Vinalee still carried a grudge. Perhaps her ex-husband did too. Taril grunted in thanks and pushed his full tankard back toward Lephric. “I’m good for tonight. Pass this along to someone else.”
“You got it, boss,” Lephric said. “You going to stick around for a while? We could get a card game going in the back. It’s been a while since we had one of those.”
Tempting. Taril shook his head. He’d made a promise to Humari and he was going to keep it. “Not tonight. Do me a favour-- keep your ears to the ground and see if you can find out what happened to Vinalee’s husband.”
Lephic nodded. “If he’s on the sea, he’ll pass through here some day.”
Taril nodded, then left the tavern. His steps made an uneven step-thump as he limped, providing a percussive beat to underscore his circling thoughts.
Last updated on the September 9th 2019