Uncle Hyena (unclehyena) wrote,
Uncle Hyena

Barter (A "Fiddler's Rose" digression)


The door opened, and a woman walked in. Hask looked up from the bar stool he was repairing and said, "Good afternoon. What can I do for you?"

The woman surveyed the taproom, which gave Hask time to regain his feet, take his station behind the bar, and get a better look at his guest. She was tall, thin, and red-haired. Her clothes were well made but well worn, and there were many, many miles behind her eyes. She met Hask's eyes and said, "What's the most expensive bottle in the house?"

Hask thought for a moment and said, "I have some good imported brandy."

"May I see it?" she asked. Hask nodded, located a bottle, and set it on the bar. "And what it would it cost me to buy the whole bottle?" the woman asked. Hask told her. The woman nodded and said, "I am looking for a meal, a bath, a room, and breakfast in the morning. And I'd like to sell you this," she said, pulling a bottle from a shoulder bag and placing it on the bar beside Hask's bottle.

"I can handle the room, the bath, and the food," Hask said, "but I sell liquor; I don't usually buy it in single bottles."

"Ah, well," said the woman. "You haven't tasted this, yet, have you? The sample is free."

"Is it magical? Or poisonous?" Hask asked.

"Not poisonous. A bit magical, but it won't harm you or make you stupid. Mostly, it is just very, very good."

Hask scowled, but said, "I'll take that sample, then." He reached under the bar and pulled out two small glasses. The woman opened the bottle, poured a very small amount into one glass, and indicated that Hask should drink. He did so, and his eyes went wide. "Divine fornication, that's good!" he said. "What is this stuff?"

The woman smiled. "If I told you that, you'd try to get more, and get yourself killed, and neither of us wants that. Would you like to buy it?"

Hask stared at the bottle and worried. Part of him knew that buying that bottle would bankrupt him. Most of him didn't care. "How much?" he asked.

The woman smiled again. She had a good smile. "A meal, a bath, a room, breakfast in the morning, and the price of THAT bottle," she indicated Hask's brandy, "in cash."

"Done!" Hask said with giddy relief. He could make a significant profit on this deal, if he could just avoid drinking his new stock himself. He reached into the till and started counting out coins. "If I may... What does my guest prefer to be called?"

The woman's mouth twitched. It wasn't quite a smle. "Rose," she said. "Rose Stonecrow."

Paul Haynie
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