“Welcome, welcome, to the Fallen Sky. Home to the scum of society, rogues, thieves, lost royalty, lone wanderers, peasants, odd-jobs, maggots and even the occasional myth.” A roar went up from the assorted patrons as I pushed through the heavy door, a clamouring of tankards against tables and armour. “As you know, we’re a diverse bunch. For those less learned, we’re all different. Davey, that means urghhhh.” The big man standing on table gestured towards another patron, who responded with a grunt of his own. This, of course, drew much amusement from the assembly.
I picked my way across the various obstacles, corpses that hadn’t yet been disposed of, empty barrels, a passed out monkey; forging my way through to the bar. The barman, a weasel-faced gentleman with a single beady eye, stared at me as if I’d been recently passed through a dog’s digestive system and had ended up on his boot. “What do you want?” He asked, or at least that’s what I think he asked. It sounded much more along the lines of “Whadjewain”, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt.
“I’m looking for someone.” I replied, my voice shaking and cracking to betray my fear. “His name is…”
“Never heard of him.” Again, I might be wrong. Either way, he swiftly turned on his heel and oozed his way to the other end of the bar, shouting at the man on the table as he did so.
“We must remember,” the big man yelled, “that we are only able to gather here due to the kindest gestures of our host, Bravo. A toast to Bravo!” He took a swig of ale from his tankard then spat it out across the crowd. “Long may he piss in his beer!” A thunder rolled through the small room, clattering and clunking accompanied with fresh peals of laughter. “Now, to business…”
I stopped paying attention as a hand grabbed my shoulder and pulled me into a corner. “Who are you? What are you doing here?” My questioner was incredibly… Average. Average height, medium build, brown hair and blue eyes. He glared at me. “You do not belong here. You must leave. Now, quickly.” His mouth was firing the words like arrows from a trained archer’s bow, swift and deadly.
“Woah now. I need to find…”
“I know the man of whom you speak. You will not find him here. This is not your cosy little hometown. You must get out.”
“Look, I’m not from around here.” I told him, biting my lip as I considered how best to tell him my story.
“I know. You are from the Outworld. You smell wrong. Like I said, you don’t belong here. Go home. AT least go away. Before, well, you die.” He grimaced and drew a finger across his throat. “There is a back door from the cellar. Head west. Go quickly. I have already obtained the key from Bravo.” His eyes blinked, sideways, as he pushed the big brass key into my hands. “Now, go. I have work to do. Why are you still standing there? Go!” He shoved me towards the cellar door before I could ask any more questions.
I stood for a moment in the dark of the cellar, wondering what the hell was going on. At least my strange new friend had told the truth about the back door. I fumbled the key into the lock, straining my eyes against the darkness. The lock, clearly mistreated and unloved, took a lot of work before the key slowly turned. I stepped out into harsh winter sunlight, and took a deep breath, convincing myself that if I didn’t breath I would be safe.
Before me, scales glinting in rippling hues of bronze and aged copper; looking regal and majestic against the backdrop of freshly fallen snow, was the head of a dragon. The dragon’s eye, larger than my hand with my fingers spread wide, flashed open as I took a step away. It shook its head to clear the remnants of its dream, then his mouth opened, exposing me to a vast array of teeth and heat as though from a furnace. Words followed and my own jaw fell open in a much less awe-inspiring way.
I certainly wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
The Idiot in Tin Foil