Kiri glanced up from drying a mug as the old, heavy oak door banged open and a cold wind blew up her skirt.
“Shut the door”, she called.
It was one of her pet peeves, people just couldn’t seem to simply open the door slowly, slide in and shut the door quickly and quietly. They always had to throw it open with a grand gesture, banging it against the wall. As if they were announcing to the world that they have entered.
The man just stood there.
“Are you deaf? SHUT THE DOOR!” she yelled anger welling up inside of her as she set down the glass. Reaching for her rolling pin, she was beginning to entertain the thought of marching over there and using it on the stranger. He slowly reached out and shut the door. Disappointed, Kiri set down the rolling pin as the man approached the bar. “What can I get you?”
“A beer will do”, the man replied as he tossed a few coins on the table.
Kiri filled a mug and took the man’s money. She thought of how her life might be different if her father was still alive. It was his bar after all, she only ran it because of the promise she had made to him the last time she saw him. There were many times she wished she had never made that promise. She had always wanted more out of life, more than this little town could ever offer her. She missed the company of friends and the attention of men. She had begun to accept that she would most likely become an old maid, the men who came through here; she wanted nothing to do with. She also missed the friendship of other women. The only women that ever made it in here were the barflies who would find an unsuspecting man to latch onto for the evening whether it was just for companionship or for money.
Even though she felt trapped in this town, she had grown to at least accept it if not even love it a bit. It was the bar that she loved and cared for. Everywhere she looked, she could see her father, from carvings which hung on the wall to an old apron which smelled like him that still hung in the kitchen.
Kiri looked up and saw the old miller who was sitting at a table near the bar lift an empty glass at her. Kiri filled a mug and took it to him.
“Here you are miller Johnson”, she said.
“Thank you dear. Your father would be so proud.” he said
Kiri knew that it would be the last drink for him for the evening; she knew that when he began to reminisce about ‘the old days’ he was done for the evening, any more than that and it would be an embarrassing situation for everyone. She felt that this was her town and in some way it was her duty to protect it, even if it was only from people embarrassing themselves.
Her father felt a need to protect this small town, not just from embarrassments but from larger threats. He would always say that our bar is where plans are made and battles are lost through a simple slip of the drunken tongue. He tried to teach her that a lot could be learned if you only listened and used common sense. Her father also had a store of weapons under the bar in his storeroom, but that had rarely been touched.
The town isn’t anything special or at least that’s how it appeared to Kiri mostly because there was never anything to do here and nothing exciting ever happened. It is just a small little town on a trade route between the port and the capital city.
The man, who had left the door open, pushed his mug forward and laid a few more coins on the bar. Kiri filled his mug, put the coins in her pocket and wiped the bar clean of the spilled beer.
“Do you have any food?” he asked.
“The kitchen’s closed”, she replied as she really looked for the first time into his white face, “but I’ll see if I can fetch you some bread.” as she headed through the door behind the bar.
“Thank you miss”, he said as she placed a hunk of bread in front of him.
“Are you OK?” she asked.
He looked about, “I fear that …” a glass slammed on the table with a shout. The man jumped and looked about, seeing nothing; he shoves a piece of bread in his mouth and averts his eyes.
“WENCH, bring us more beer!” the disgusting man at the corner table bellowed as he slammed his mug on the table; his friends yelling in agreement.
Kiri filled several mugs and carried them to the table. She set them down between the empty mugs and swords lying across the table.
“Be quick about it next time, or I’ll have this dump burnt to the ground.” he warned.
Anger flared up in Kiri as her hand brushed the hilt of a sword on the table. She grasped the sword and pulled it to point it at the rude man who dared to threaten to burn her place down. Kiri was shocked at how heavy the sword was as she pulled it from the table and it dropped to the ground. She just stood there with her mouth hanging open and a look of shock across her face. She could see anger well up in the face of the stranger. He leaned closer towards her, “You think you are able to use Kroc’s sword against him?”
She could smell his rotting breath and see the broken teeth in his mouth.
“Ha! You can’t even lift his sword. Now fetch us more beers, wench”, he commanded as a hand slapped across her ass, “and be quick about it or you may end up among the burning rubble of this place when I am through with it.” She ran off and got the beers they wanted. Not wanting more trouble, the rest of the night she made sure they had their beer but other than that, stayed as clear of them as she could.
She went about taking care of the other patrons in the bar. She set a cup of coffee in front of miller Johnson as she walked past his table. She felt him grab her arm with a firm but strong grip, “Don’t let them get to you dear. They’ll get their due soon enough. The clouds of change are coming.”
Angered, she tried to pull away and found she couldn’t. She looked down into his soft but gentle eyes, “I can’t afford to lose this place. It’s all I’ve got.”
“I know dear, just keep your cool and steer clear of those ones.” he said, releasing his grip on her.
She left to clean an empty table. She gathered the half filled mugs and wiped the table with her bar rag.
“It’s an invasion I tell you,” she overheard someone saying, the old lessons her dad taught her still a part of who she was.
“They’re taking over quietly. Anyone who gets wind of it or starts to make noise is silenced. You know what I mean?”
“Yeah right,” said another voice, “this is just another one a yo stories.”
“I’m tellin’ ya,” said the first man, “they quietly take over the port towns and then they control the trade routes.”
“I ain’t seen nothin’ goin’ on”
“Of course not, they’re all quiet like. They try to make it business as usual and once everything is in place, they’ll shut everything down and take over the capital city.”
“Aw you’se just had too much to drink.” replied the second man.
Kiri shook her head and carried the dirty mugs back to the kitchen, setting them into the sink, she thought, “It’s getting close to closing time, I’ll get them later.” She glanced at the apron hanging by the door. Grabbing the edge of the apron, she sniffed; she could still faintly notice his smell on the apron. She collapsed against the wall and slid to the floor, weeping.
“Why did you leave me? I can’t keep this place running all by myself.”
Slowly she got up, wiping the tears from her eyes. She walked out to the bar, rang the bell that hung at the end of bar and cried out, “Last call!” A few of the patrons raised their mugs, asking for more, while others emptied theirs and wrapping their coats around themselves headed out the door.
“Another round.” the annoying man at the corner table called, motioning to himself and his friends. As Kiri was bringing the beers to the table, she noticed the two men she overheard, pull their cloaks around them and head out the door. They looked familiar but she couldn’t place their names. As she was about to ask their names, she heard the annoying man call out, “Here, give us our beers.” She set the beers on the table and by the time she looked up, the two men were gone.
As usual, miller Johnson was the last one out, he took it upon himself to see to it that all the riff raff left before he did, to make sure that Kiri was safe for the evening.
Kiri wished miller Johnson good night and shut and locked the door behind him. She looked around and thought, “It wasn’t much but it was all she had left and her Dad left it for her.” She slowly cleaned up the bar.