I’m a naturally suspicious chap, even of my own kind. So when I looked in the bar all my alarm bells went off. And yet, for some strange reason, I felt compelled to go inside.
The moment I passed through door though I felt completely at ease. The clientele smiled as I walked past and as I climbed a stool the bar, the bartender asked “Varin nar behommen?”
I stared blankly
“Was wird es sein?”
“Excuse me?” I asked.
“Oh, we’re back on Toril are we. I was asking, What will it be?”
“Ale, and if you don’t mind ME asking, what is this place.”
He placed a tankard of ale down on the bar and then gestured grandly, “THIS! is my bar. The Wicked Mage. The finest establishment your average laborer could ask for in all of old Netheril.”
“Old Netheril?” I sputtered.”What? How?”
“Well you see there’s the rub. I can tell you what happened, as for the How’s, you’d have to ask him.” He gestured to a lone drunk passed out at a table in the center of the room. One corner of his table was broken and splintered and there was a dark stain on the floor beneath it.
I turned around to ask a question but the barkeep cut me off.
“Targus, or so he claimed, and at this point I have every reason to believe him.” Reading my blank stare he elaborated. “I forget sometimes its been a millennia or two and even gods are forgotten. Targus the Netherese patron of War. A god made flesh.”
He let this sink in and refilled my ale.
“You’ve heard of the fall of Netheril right?” I nodded. “I assume the current story is still that it happened overnight?”
A non committal shrug was the best I could manage. What can I say, History isn’t my strong suit.
“Well it wasn’t overnight. It was three days. First came The Unraveling and magic stopped working. Magi were unable to cast spells and chaos erupted. And then came The Fall and the flying cities fell from the sky. Well by that point it was a celebration in here. There was no love lost between your average worker on the ground and the mighty Magi in their flying cities. To us it seemed like we had been freed. And then came The Firestorm. Do you know what a haboob is? A sandstorm that engulfs whole cities, whole regions. Well The Firestorm was that and so much more. It moved East to west across Netheril against the wind and it was as if the sand came from the plane of fire itself.”
“We had warning and there was chaos. I was determine to stay here with my wife giving wine and comfort to any who asked for it. But there were those who wanted the pleasure of taking and so they held me while they killed my patrons and raped and killed my wife. I was powerless to stop it and they were about to kill me when he walked in. An old man, wild looking, bloodied, tears streaming down his face. They attacked him immediately and he grabbed a sword blade swung at him and pushed it through the skull of another attacker. And so it was with each of them. They attacked and he killed them with no more thought or effort than you or I would give to killing a roach.”
” ‘Brandy’, he said it as a request but I felt it as a command. I wanted nothing more than to go to my Mina and hold her as the fire took us but I was compelled and I poured the man a brandy.” “I saw pain and loss in the bartenders face and the glint of a tear in his eye but he continued. The words flowing from being said a thousand times before. “By then the storm was close and the last few stragglers on the street found came in for shelter.”
“He was on his third drink when the sky outside became a dark red nightmare and the storm hit. Yet the building did not burn and the sands did not enter the bar and all of us inside stared at the man drinking brandy, oblivious to it all.”
“I kept filling his glass and eventually gathered the courage to ask his name he replied ‘No one.'”
“We had lit lamps but could not see more than a foot into the chaos. In time, I served the others food and wine. Hours passed and he drank nearly a months worth of brandy. All the while the storm raged outside. It was dark only a hint of a crimson glow indicating that somewhere the sun still existed. Occasionally burning debris would fly past and we could imagine what was happening and it terrified us.”
“After several hours he stood up, looked up at the heavens and shouted, ‘I am Targus, Master of War, and I demand passage.’ He waited like that a minute and then laid a coin purse on the counter and told me ‘You’re going to need more brandy.’ Walked to that table, sat, muttered, ‘I’m thinking someplace quiet.’ And the storm stopped, the sky was beautiful blue, and we were no longer in a Netheresse city but in a mountain valley outside of a vineyard.”
I raised my empty glass and was about to ask a question when he cut me off.
“I told you before, I do not know how. Wizards, scientists, philosophers, and priests have been through here and heard the tale and the closest thing I ever heard to an explanation from one of them was ‘He has chosen this place as his domain. Outside time flows and the gods of war still do battle, but within, nothing changes and War slumbers. You are passengers within the dreams of a god.’ – Kind of poetic isn’t it. The sort of thing Mina would have liked. I guess that’s why it stuck” He tapped his temple for emphasis.
“Now about your tab. No put your pouch away. I need an errand. Is there someplace close you can buy supplies? Good. Here’s a list. I’d get it myself but, one, I don’t know my way around, and two, I can’t pass the threshold of this place without two millennia catching up and turning me to dust.” He smiled a halfhearted smile. “Passengers, prisoners, pretty much the same thing until the journey is over.”
I looked around and wondered how long some of the bar patrons had been here and then returned my attention to matter at hand. I finished reading the list. It was long list. Two or three wagon loads at least. I looked up at the barkeep but he was already dumping a box onto the counter. Coins of every size, shape, and material were in the pile, as well as beads, chains, paper slips, and assorted other methods of barter. He handed me the box and said “Take what you need to buy the supplies and deliver them here as quickly as possible. You never know when we might be travelling. I started pulling platinum and gold out of the pile. Even if the mint’s weren’t familiar I would still get credit for the weight.
When I finished the Barkeep produced a similar box and swept what remained of the pile into it in a single motion. He looked satisfied and said, “Very Well, you may consider any remaining currency as a tip. If ,by chance, we have left here by the time you return, consider your tab paid and return the goods or feed the hungry or what ever you prefer. But know this, If you choose not to return, there are plenty of available lads here with enough ‘time’ to track you down.” He indicated the room and somehow the jovial smiles on monstrous faces seemed more concerning than if they all were growling or scowling at him.