A Runaway Father's Odyssey by Xerolo44 | World Anvil Manuscripts | World Anvil

Chapter 3: Whispers of Dead Oak

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A tense silence hung in the air as both men locked eyes, acknowledging their mutual understanding to follow Benedikt's demands. "I am Vincent," he finally spoke, voice quivering with fear. "And my companion is Markus. We are merely travelers seeking adventure-" But before Vincent could finish his sentence, Benedikt pierced him with a cold, calculating gaze that revealed nothing but bloodlust. Fear crept into Vincent's veins as he struggled to find words under the weight of Benedikt's intense stare.

"How did you learn of this tavern?" Benedikt asked, his tone calm yet laced with a menacing undertone. "W-we heard about it from a mercenary," Vincent stuttered, beads of sweat forming on his brow. "He told us the ale here was worth trying. It's been a while since we saw him."

"What is his name?" Benedikt demanded, his voice low and dangerous. Markus hesitated before responding, "He didn't give us a name, sir." Benedikt's eyes narrowed in frustration as he leaned forward, clasping his hands together tightly. "We never had a name for him," Markus rushed to explain, "we only met him briefly on a mission to escort a merchant." The memories of that encounter flashed through Markus' mind, the fear and unease he felt around the mysterious man. "But he was younger than you, sir," he added nervously. Benedikt let out a string of curses under his breath before calmly leaning back in his chair, momentarily releasing the two men from their bloodlust-filled gaze. "This is how you handle bastards," he remarked with a cold laugh, glancing over at Kennedy who let out a nervous chuckle. Both men joined in, but their laughter was laced with fear knowing they had just narrowly escaped ruining Benedikt's mood.

After enduring Benedikt's intimidating presence and the eerie atmosphere in the tavern, the men hastily gulped down their ale, settled their bill with Loxias, and generously tipped him. Once they exited, Loxias secured the tavern's door, the lock emitting a reluctant creak. Turning to face Benedikt and Kennedy, he approached their table. "Loxias, what's plaguing this wretched place? Why does it reek and look like a shite? What the hell happened here?" Benedikt inquired, a mix of anticipation and skepticism in his tone, unsure if he would receive a satisfactory answer.

"I don't know much, but this place hasn't thrived in the past five years. It's not even enough to make ends meet, Sir Benedikt," Loxias confessed, his eyes fixed on the decaying floorboards.

"Well, shite. Who gave you this tavern, Loxias, and do you know its history?" Benedikt inquired cautiously, attempting not to reveal too much with his questions.

"As you see, I'm quite young, only a year or two older than your liegeman. Five years ago, I was still a beggar, stealing food in this hellhole of a city. Then, a woman came up to me, said I looked like a fine guy, and took me in. For two weeks, she showed me the tavern and the ins and outs of running it. I have to say, the appearance didn't change a bit until then; it already looked like this when she took me in. After those two weeks, she said she would travel for a month and come back. Well, that's been five years, so I assume she's dead, and this is now mine," Loxias explained, his demeanor void of sadness or happiness.

"Why don't you sell this house?" Benedikt probed, testing Loxias' response.

"The woman taught me the poem and said this is an important place for her. And if she isn't dead, it would be a shame if this place were sold off. Besides, I can live here for the rest of my life for free. Why sell it and pay rent to some bastard?" Loxias concluded, ending with heartfelt laughter.

"You're a good lad, not like that bastard who tried to kill me a few hours ago," Benedikt stated sternly, looking at Kennedy, who responded with a judgmental look. "Can you blame me, you old piece of bones?" Kennedy retorted.

"I can't, you bastard, and you know it," Benedikt chuckled. "I'm only a bastard because of you, you bastard," Kennedy shot back, eliciting laughter from both.

It's written all over Loxias's face that he wants to ask more, but he also senses it's not a barrel he should open. "What's your plan from now on, Sir Benedikt?" Loxias asked cautiously.

"Well, first of all, I can't leave this place to rot away. I will help you, and in turn, I want you to teach this bastard some things," Benedikt stated with a friendly tone, while rubbing Kennedy's hair.

"How will you help me, Sir Benedikt? And, for sure, I can't teach your liegeman some things," Loxias asked, stretching out his hand toward Kennedy. Kennedy took his hand and shook it firmly. "My name is Kennedy Loxias," Kennedy said, smiling at him.

"I will help you get some new floorboards, some new furniture, and some customers, Loxias. I should still have some people who owe me favors. Not all of them should have died yet. And if they did, then I'll help you earn some coin. Sadly, I had to give away my coin as... mhh, you could say donations to the city guard today because of some idiot," Benedikt sternly looked at Kennedy, silently judging him for his actions.

"Donations, huh?" Loxias said, letting out a giggle, and continued, "The day is still early. Will you go out today already or tomorrow morning?"

"I will excuse myself right now already, and please look after that bastard; he is greener than grass behind his ears," Benedikt said, worryingly. "No problem, Sir Benedikt. Good luck. I will see you in the evening."

With those words said, Benedikt went to the door and opened the lock. It screamed again, as if it was about to fall and give up on its life, but nothing happened. He opened the door that also screamed and made his way out of the tavern. As he looked up at the sign, he thought to himself, "Well, shite, even the goddamn sign is a piece of shite."

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