As Jarron continued his personal tour of Terri’thas, it was becoming more and more apparent to him that his city had never quite recovered from the Great War. Many buildings lay in a state of disrepair, and more than a few seedy establishments had sprung up in his absence. He received more than one catcall from the shadows as he passed these buildings, requesting a coin for pleasure trade. Jarron only sighed and continued on, even Shadowbane snorting in displeasure as they passed the vagabonds and annoying tramps. There had always been a district or two where this activity had prevailed, Jarron knew, but it seemed a bit more widespread. Now houses of ill refute sandwiched damaged buildings that had been damaged in the final siege of the war, and Jarron felt more than a pang of guilt.
The graying warrior had hoped for better in his absence. He had dared to believe he would return to a rejuvenated homeland, fully recovered from the scars and pains of the war. Still, all was not lost. There did not seem to be any foreign occupiers, and since his trusted friend Aramathras still sat upon the throne, there was still hope. He spent a small moment reflecting on his absence, wishing there could have been another way to work out the deal he had made.
Sighing yet again, he roused himself from such thoughts and decided to grab a pint before making his way to the king’s estate. There was no better way to find out what was going on in a city than to spend an hour in a busy pub.
It did not take Jarron long to find his destination. He tethered Shadowbane just outsideTheLeather Bottle, promising the horse his own mug of ale later that night. He walked in casually, taking in the familiar smell of ale and wood shavings. Memories abounded for Jarron in this place. He had been in many a fight here, some he started in his youth, and some he was tasked to break up in years as a city guardsman. This place stood out amongst the changed city, the one place where the attitude did not seem to be altered by the passing of time. One thinghadchanged, Jarron noticed as he surveyed the young bartender filling mugs with ale dutifully. Old Mick was surely gone, having been quite an old man last time Jarron bought a drink at this place.
“A mug of your best ale,” He called as cheerfully as he could muster to the young bartender.
“That a matter of opinion now isn’t it, milord,” the sandy blond bartender answered through a smile. “You want the one I think is the best or the one these louts drink day in and day out?”
“I’ll take whichever. It’s been so long since I tasted a drink I’m not sure my tongue will tell much of a difference.” Jarron answered with a laugh.
“Fair enough, one tall glass of warm piss coming up,” the bartender said, still grinning. Jarron instantly liked the man, if he was old enough to be called such.
“What’s your name, barkeep?” Jarron asked as he received his ale gratefully, downing a large portion of it in one quaff.
“Jarron. How long has old Mick been gone?”
“Almost four years now. He hung on to this place till the end, he did. You knew him? I had not guessed you were from around these parts, that armor and sword and all.”
“It’s been about your lifetime since I was here last, I suppose,” Jarron replied. “You a relative of his?”
“Nay, old Mick didn’t have any of those. I was orphaned, and old Mick let me clean this place every morning and stay in a spare room. He figured I should take over more than anyone else, so here we are.”
“Fair enough.” Jarron opened his mouth to ask more questions, but a new presence had walked into the bar. Many people come and go in a pub, but when the whole place grows silent for a few seconds upon the arrival of one person, there is something amiss. As soon as this new figure strolled in, the other patrons grew quieter and averted their eyes. Strange, Jarron thought. They react almost as if a villain of legend has graced their presence.
The stranger wore a wide brimmed hat, shadowing his eyes and concealing his facial features in the dim light of the pub. He wore a long and oversized brown leather jacket, promising the possibility of hidden weapons. The calculated way the man walked also betrayed this information, Jarron knew. This man was a rogue, one with quite the dangerous reputation, Jarron surmised from the room’s reaction to his entrance.
The rogue arrived at the bar, and cast a lingering look at Jarron, likewise sizing him up it seemed. Then, perceiving little or no threat from the armored man, addressed Alec.
“Your payment is due, boy. I’ll have it now.” His tone was dangerous and brimming with threats, the kind he sounded he was sure to deliver on.
“I thought I made that payment last week, Strand.” Alec’s voice was not one of defiance but of disappointment. He was reaching for his money drawer even as he made his argument, obviously resigned to his loss.
“I’ll be collecting weekly from now on, barkeep.” The rogue leaned on his elbows and pushed himself even closer to Alec. “You don’t have a problem with that, now do ya boy?”
“What are you making those payments on, Alec?” Jarron butted in, feigning ignorance and innocence, a sheepish smile plastered on his face.
“Why protection of course,” the rogue answered for Alec in a mocking tone, leering at Jarron. “It’s a dangerous city these days, a man needs help to keep his business safe.”
“What an honorable thing to do, in times like these,” Jarron responded in an equally mocking tone, cocking his head to the side in pretended admiration. “The city guard must be glad to know there are people such as you around to help out with their tremendous load.”
“Aye.” The rogue responded, smirking. Then he leaned real close to Jarron’s ear, and whispered.
“I have a knife and a dark alleyway that says you won’t ever speak to me that way again.”
Jarron crinkled his nose as Strands hot, foul breath misted his face. He lightly shoved the rogue away with his right hand and gave the rogue a sidelong look. The two regarded each other for a moment, and for that moment not a soul in the barroom breathed. All conversation and glass clinking ceased as the patrons waited and watched with trepidation.
Strand was actually the one to turn and walk away first, to everyone’s surprise in the room but Jarron’s. He knew the rogue would not want to brawl here, in the lights, in the open room. He would try to wait in the streets, try to attack in the dark or in the midst of a busy crowd. No, Jarron decided, this has to be settled now. He was a bit regretful that he had provoked the rogue, for he certainly did not need any complications to his visit. His nature had simply not allowed it, though. What kind of city had he returned to? Could just any rogue rule a portion of his city with a band of lowlife thugs?
“I’ll tell you what Alec,” Jarron said loudly as the rogue continued to walk away. “I’ll personally protect this place for you for the coming week, free of charge.”
The rogue only laughed at this and continued walking, about to open his door on the way out. Alec looked at him, then back to Jarron and sighed.
“Deal,” Alec said, loud enough for Strand to hear.
That was enough to stop the rogues exit. He turned and walked briskly back to the bar, snarling. He reached out and grabbed Alec by his shirt collar, pulling him in close. But before he could speak, Jarron interrupted him.
“Actually, I have a better idea. You, Strand, give this good barkeep his money back or I’ll start protecting him today, as of this very moment.” Jarron remained relaxed at his seat, mug in hand. Strand gritted his teeth in rage, and shoved Alec back against the opposite wall from the bar. He looked about the room, noticing all of the eyes were upon him. He had been called out it seemed, and many of these folk had come to fear him over the last few years. The rogue could not have his abilities questioned, even by this grizzled outlander in strange armor.
With what seemed like lightning speed to the entire room, Strand drew three throwing knives and hurled them at Jarron in one fluid motion. Strand almost began to smirk, as he was accustomed to doing after dispatching a foe, but he found it was quite impossible to do so as an iron fist collides with your face. Teeth and blood spewed from the rogue’s mouth as Jarron landed an impossibly fast and powerful blow. Strand landed in a heap, dazed and humiliated. Jarron’s iron greaves rested heavily on the rogue’s neck as he lay upon the floor.
Jarron regarded the beaten man for a moment, thinking. Then he hauled the man up by his coat and pushed him out of the pub doors and into the street. “Consider yourself lucky that there are no city guards to be found in this godforsaken neighborhood. I would haul you to the jail myself had I the time.”
Strand stumbled to his feet, spitting blood and raising his finger to point at Jarron. “I will-”
“You had better leave and never come back, rogue, or I will do more than break your jaw when next we meet.” He raised his gleaming red sword and returned Strand’s gesture. He then turned and walked back into the bar. Although he did not desire the appreciation of the patrons, he was a bit surprised at their reaction. They finished their drinks quickly, and exited the premises, most glancing at Jarron in wonder on their way out. Jarron shook his head, and then sat back down at his seat. He pulled two of Strand’s throwing knives from the bar, and one from the meat of his shoulder. The third knife had bit through the leather padding connecting his armor plates, though it did not pierce his flesh more than a bit. Jarron doubted he would even have to stitch the wound. The throw had been impressively fast, he reflected, nearly all three blades launched at his throat. Had he not expected an attack then Strand’s knives may well have done their job.
“Well, I’m in a fine mess now,” Alec proclaimed, leaning heavily on his countertop. “He’ll be back with the rest of his crew soon enough.”
Jarron thought for a minute. He did not want to delay his visit to Aramathras much longer, but he could not let Alec pay for something he had started.
As if he could read Jarron’s mind, Alec spoke. “Don’t worry about it friend. I’ve tired of catering to these morons lately, and had been planning a vacation anyway. I’ll leave the pub shortly. Let them do what they will to it.”
“Fair enough… although mayhap we can change a few things around here. Just give me enough time.”
Alec smiled and clapped a hand on Jarron’s shoulder. He spoke jokingly. “A noble thought my friend. I hope you brought with you the power of legends to aid you in your battle.”