The bar was not all that different from pubs and taverns that Kael remembered. There was louder music, yes, the lights were different, but the drinks were much the same – just more variety. She bowed to Gemma’s expertise for the first drink and got a wink and a decidedly flirtatious smile in return.
“Are you encouraging me to get you drunk, Madam Kaelingrade?”
“As a matter of fact, I might enjoy that,” Kael agreed. “But I’d have to hope that you have better than an apprentice’s garret to take me back to, since that’s all that they give one for ‘room and board’. Well at least for the room portion. The board is quite nice.”
“Did she call you – did she call you Madam Kaelingrade?” The bartender, a handsome man who was a little younger than Kael’s apparent age, looked surprised. “Is there a new Kael in the tower, then? You look…” He studied her for a moment. “You look genuine.”
“All things considered, I am very likely the most genuine Kael that this tower has seen in a long time,” she told him, utterly straight-faced. “Which I am beginning to guess is not saying very much.”
He cleared his throat. “Well, ah. No. That’s not quite true. Two girls – women – before you was quite a clever woman. And she was, um. Well, that is to say…”
“I didn’t think bartenders were supposed to get tongue-tied,” Gemma teased. “And yet here you are.”
The bartender cleared his throat yet again. “She was as believable as you could get in the position for someone who clearly had not a drop of native blood in her system,” he offered, raising an eyebrow at Gemma in challenge.
“Are all…” She searched for the word, hoping her translation potion would come up with something. She found it interesting that it didn’t and went with the Hoijera word instead. “…Teyorkera quite so careful with the Hoijera? Which I am not,” she added.”
“I can tell. What’s a Teyorkera?” The bartender leaned forward. From the corner of her eye, Kael could see that Gemma was getting a wee bit irritated.
“It’s the Hoijera word for not-us, ah, from-far-away. So the people you are warring with over the canyon aren’t Teyorkera, but the people who show up to fight with them wearing colors and flying banners that you’ve never seen, they would be.”
“Foreigner, but with an added note of strangeness. Interesting.” Gemma looked like she wanted to be taking notes. “And, ah. Many in this city are, because we are so close to a Hoija camp and they are very active in the local politics. I’m sorry, I thought that’s why you’ve come here. It’s why a lot of… why a lot of natives come to this city. It’s always been the core of a lot of that sort of activity.”
“Interesting. I, ah. As I’ve said, I’ve been rather… cloistered.”
“I guess so! Well, that’s fine.” Gemma’s smile was broad and mischievous. “That just means I get to corrupt – ah – educate you. I think that could be a lot of fun, don’t you, Madam Kaelingrade?”
“I think it could certainly be very interesting,” she allowed. “I haven’t been educated in quite some time. Years, even.”
That wasn’t quite fair to Joaon, if she was counting only her time away. He had done quite a bit to teach her,maybe even as much as she’d done to educate him. But facts weren’t always the most important factor, especially when flirting and when one was a thousand-and-then-some-year-old potion-mistress brought forward from the past due to her own mistake.
There weren’t really rules for such things, as far as she knew, although she really ought – in all her copious spare time – to go looking for others of her kind. And for Joaon.
That train of thought was not going to do well with flirtation. She smiled at Gemma. “So tell me, just how would you begin to educate me, mmm?”
“Oh, well, let me see. I think I’d begin with the three Hoijera – they’re not Embassies, because, well, that would be admitting they were their own nation, but they’re official government holdings – downtown. And then we could spend some more time in my museum. There’s quite a bit of information for you to swear at there.”
“I can look at displays without swearing, you know.”
“In the spirit of fairness, I will accept that it might be a possibility. So there’s the museum, the embassies – I couldn’t take you to the settlements but you might be able to take me-”
“Don’t forget Jamhaier’s,” their bartender put in.
From the look on Gemma’s face, she was planning on forgetting exactly that. “I hadn’t,” she answered shortly. “But do you really think-”
“Look, if I wanted to know more about the Hoija and I wanted to really learn things, and I thought they’d let me in the door, I wouldn’t go to the settlements. I mean, a third of what’s there is just four tourists anyway. I’d go to Jamhaier’s and I’d drink a pint and I’d listen. And she wants to learn, you heard the lady.”
“I don’t think she wants-”
“Mmmm?” The bartender raised an eyebrow. Kael wondered at the subtext there, but she wasn’t adept enough in their language, even with the translation potion, to track all of the subtext yet.
Gemma coughed. “Well, maybe she does. Madame Kaelingrade, how do you feel about going to a dive bar where other Hoi… Where Hoijera and other native people hang out in the evenings?”
Dive bar came across easily enough with the translation potion, as did hang out, but there was something about the question that said say no say no.
Unfortunately for Gemma, however, Kael had her own agenda. “I have to admit that it sounds interesting.” She let her voice sound a little apologetic, and she felt slightly sorry.
On the other hand, Jamhaier had been one of the names her cook-and-chatelain had gone by, back before she’d fallen asleep.Want more?