It was called Olde Moribinu, and it was like no other establishment that Henry had ever seen. It wasn’t a tavern, and it certainly was not an inn. It had an atmosphere of sophistication not found in either—yet still it was dark and noisy and frayed about the edges. Nothing he would have expected to be found in clean, gleaming Waelyngar.
Admittedly, it hadn’t been easy to locate. Seymour must have been there before, or else they would have never found it. It was one of those places that one can only find if one is looking for it.
They were greeted at the door by a man with two thick, curling, ram-like horns growing out of the side of his head. “Well, well. If it isn’t Seymour de Winter.”
Aita waved the salutation aside and squinted suspiciously at Henry. “And what do we have here? A human?”
“Don’t worry, Aita. He’s a mage.”
The ram-horned man took Henry’s face in his hands and drew him uncomfortably close, peering into his eyes. “Ah. So he is. And a powerful one at that.” He released him and stepped aside. “The Carvil Valley is a lovely place, your lordship. I’m afraid I haven’t visited the area in a few centuries, but I must make time to see it again soon.”
Henry blinked at him stupidly until Seymour took him by the arm and pulled him inside.
The space was busy, but not crowded. Customers sat at tables or leaned against the bar; some milled about the room, making conversation with just about everybody, as one might at a more formal gathering. It wouldn’t have struck Henry as particularly unusual, but for the fact that none of them were human.
Well, that wasn’t precisely true. He saw one or two other mages in the mix, along with a fellow that was either a sorcerer or a jrashon, the product of a union of two mages—but these two or three cases were the exceptions to the rule.
Henry had never seen such an assortment of intelligent nonhumans all gathered in one place. Here, a male half-elf was sharing a plate of greasy, fried potatoes with a female goblin. There, a ragged Aechyed was playing cards against a vampire. In a corner, a group of grey-skinned, bat-winged creatures had congregated, shouting and laughing like a pack of hyenas.
Seymour, still dragging Henry along by the forearm, approached the bar and propped himself up against it. He ordered a drink (Henry did not catch what it was specifically), then struck up a conversation with the barmaid, a chubby girl whose knee-length skirt did a poor job of hiding the fact that her lower half was that of a donkey.
“Is Elnias here tonight?” he asked her.
“Yes,” she replied. “He’s around back. Do you know him?”
Seymour nodded. “I’ve met him a time or three. He’s helped me out of a rough patch on more than one occasion.”
“I see. Would you like me to fetch him?”
“Nah,” Seymour responded. “Finish fixing my drink first, m’ dear. I need that quite a bit more than I need Elnias.”
“You might say so.”
She mixed the contents of a metal mug with a wooden stick and placed it on the bar. “Anything for you?”
It took Henry a moment to realize that the question was directed at him. “Oh. Erm…mead, I guess.”
Seymour muttered something that sounded suspiciously like, “Well, aren’t you boring,” then looked innocently at the ceiling when Henry glared at him.
The barmaid set the tankard on the bar then leaned against it, her elbows on the wooden surface, apparently expecting payment. Seymour dug in his pocket for a moment before shrugging his shoulders and grinning somewhat sheepishly at Henry.
“Please,” Henry breathed, rolling his eyes. “Fine, but I’ll be deducting it from your reward.”
“Consider it a down-payment.”
The mage produced a handful of copper coins and pushed them across the strip of wood separating him from the barmaid. She shoveled them into a canvas bag, which she stowed away behind the bar. Henry heard the click of a key in a lock.
“Shall we sit down?”
Henry nodded, and they found a table near the wall.
“What is this place, exactly?”
Seymour closed his eyes and took a swig from whatever concoction he had in his mug. “A place for the misfits,” he replied. “A safe place.”