Vol.5, Extra 1, P.1


Tall chairs of mahogany. Countertop lamps of ébène wood. Son Altesse, lovesome in all her oil-painted glory, smiling from her perch upon the wall.

Furnishings par excellence, each and every one, selected and assembled here in this établissement of mine. For not without méticulosité can a shop boast of being the very best, I’ll defend to the last. Well, what sort of shop, you ask? Why, a tavern, of course.

“Hm hm hm…”

Ah, excusez-moi. Of late, I can’t contain these little laughs of mine. For you see, I have done it. This dream of mine, this tavern, this château—at last is it alive afore my very eyes, all to be kept, all to be operated by yours truly. Looking now through its every nook and curated cranny, the lips can’t help but curl in utter satisfaction.

“Cramped”, some may call the place, but non non non, “cosy” is the mot juste here—cosy and soulful, like a cabin in the cold of winter, complete with crackling hearth and liqueur to swaddle the heart. And it may dismay you to find not one seated table here. Too bad; a counter is what we offer, and a counter you’ll be content with, for this little corner of the world is for connoisseurs, you must understand.

Oh, of course, a blasphème this might be to most. Cheek-by-jowl drinking, noisiness unending, smoke and merriment to strangle the air—all the hallmarks of the common tavern, for common tastes and common convenience, you would agree, of which you’ll find in no short supply, were you to survey the average streetfront in these parts. Mine, I’m proud to say, is of a different breed. In this bounty of brooding ambiance, you’ll hear not a note from a minstrel’s tonsils nor a pluck from his lute. Non non; there is only calm in this space. Calm, character, and contemplation.

A true unique en son genre, I doubt not, if only in Arbel. As it should be; only during my travels through the continent, browsing the very frontiers of tavernkeeping, have I ever come across another specimen of any similarity. In fact, that encounter has served the very inspiration for this place—one realised only after bucketfuls of sweat and toil, and to have on this evening, I am elated to announce, its grand opening.

“May I?”

Oh là là—a voice at the door. My first ever you-know-what!

“Oui!” I yelp, “welcome! Bienvenue!”

With that, the door opens, ushering in a young demoiselle. Ah, but first, I should mention the door itself: it, too, is a rare specimen, you must know, a carven marvel specially ordered from the atelier of Emmanuel Sinoon, the artisan extraordinaire himself. Never will you find so bold a barrier to welcome you into a tavern so éclectique and recherché in its décor, I’m very sure.

“Come,” I say to the cliente, “sit where you… please…”


Well, dear me. I wasn’t expecting this, nor so soon a disappointment, if even a small one. Ben, how best to put this…

My first cliente is, you see, a Nafíl.

Till recently was this free-burgh a holding of Londosius; a place founded by Men for Men. These days, however, you’ll instead find Nafílim banners fluttering high on its turrets, if you follow me. Oui, of course, kins of my kind sit on its parliament, true, and altogether is Arbel still a place of Men. But stroll along any avenue, and at any moment, you’re bound to brush shoulders with a Nafíl or three.

…Non non. No good. I mustn’t trouble about the churls. Already does this tavern of mine, this dream, occupy my every hour and every thought. Any distraction will prove a devil to me. Just stand, serve, and smile.

Still, I can’t help but feel a bit bothered by this concours de circonstances. Quite frankly, I might love a fly in my ointment more than I would a Nafíl at my table. You’ll understand my disappointment, then, in finding stepping through my door not an aficionado for whom this most special and authentique of places was built, but a daughter of so base a kind.

“Pour me what you like, tavernkeep,” the femme says, after settling down at the deepest end of the counter.

“…Right away,” I answer her flatly.

Well, what’s to be done? A cliente is a cliente, at the end of the day. If a drink she wants, then a drink she’ll have. Ah, but what drinks I have on offer! Oui! Ones not to be found anywhere else within the free-burgh walls! Indeed, let’s make the best of this, why not? And pour upon that dull tongue of hers a taste to astonish.



“Mm. A fine sip,” the Nafíl notes. A matter of course. It is liquid gold, after all, that flows now down her rainspout; not some cheap pipi to be found everywhere else, non non. “From rye, this? Or?” she ponders aloud. “It has a nose like another I had before.”

…Ça alors. She’s got the right of it. Impressive. Sure enough, that’s a delicate distillate of rye lapping now in her cup. Well, well, well, there might be more to these Nafílim than meets the eye.

Hein…? Étrange. I say, along with that thought, I felt just now something like a breath billowing in me. Or a fair wind, more like, warming my otherwise icy sentiments for the Nafílim.

But only by a smidgen, mind you.

“‘Allo. Calm an’ cosy-like place, this, innit.”

“Aye, looks it. T’night’s spot, then?”

At that moment: male voices conversing outside the établissement. And in the next: new clients strolling through the door. Two young and ruddy gus they are—and not of the Nafílim persuasion, I’m glad to report.

“Good evenin’, keep,” they greet me, before giving the menu a good up-and-down. But much to my annoyance, their stares turn soon to that of rotting fish. Snapping out of the stupor, one of them then manages to utter to me, “’Ow ’bout, ehm… ale t’start with, ’ey?”


“…As you please, monsieurs,” I answer with a twist in my stomach.

Ale. Why, of course. Fortunately, I do have some of the pipi in store, having predicted such a contingency. Not that I’m glad it came in handy so soon. Uncivilised gus, I tell you. Did they not take the hint right at the door? That this is a place for patrons of particular taste?

Well, no matter. Off to the sewer—pardon, the cellar, then.



“Oy me. Reight ’its th’spot, too, innit, this cheese.”

“’Ole place does, fer ’at matter. Fixin’s an’ furniture—all fancy-like, it feels, in a goodly sort o’ way.”

You’re very welcome, my good gus. The mahogany chairs, the ébène wood lamps, and Son Altesse smiling from on high—far and wide have I wandered to see them all assembled here. Indeed, words cannot express the sheer passion I’ve poured into this place. Why, I almost feel sorry for these gus. All that tavern-hopping under their belts, but never meeting till today a place as avant-garde as mine. Saddens the soul, just to ponder it.

“Done a grand job ’ere, ain’t ye, keep?” one of them compliments me. “Wouldn’t mind us nestin’ ’ere from now on?”

To that, I yield a reverent nod. “Not at all, monsieurs.”

Nest, he said. Nest. Rather nuanced for so ale-rotted a tongue. Perhaps the place was finally rubbing off on him. Good graces, I hope so.

…Non. Non non non. I mustn’t settle for scraps. O Deiva, pray let pass next through that door a palate more sophisticated than… than a seagull’s, at least. I beseech Thee.

“Lovesome,” I hear to the side. “A little water whisked in, and out blooms the bouquet.” Merde. It’s that femme of a Nafíl, musing sultrily at her drink. “Tavernkeep,” she says, turning to me, “this cup demands a dance partner.”

“Oh, ah,” I stammer. “O-oui. Toasted nuts, straightway.”

Speak of the devil, here’s one, after all: a connoisseur who knows her cups. Are the rest of her cousins as subtle as she, I wonder?

“Exquisite,” she later coos with a private giggle. Demurely, she munches away the toasted nuts, pairing every salty and savoury mouthful with a sip of rye. What refinement. What finesse. It sours the milk to admit that a Nafíl can seem so… well, “exquisite”, to borrow her words. But I grit the teeth and carry on.

“Good eve, good eve.”

Next, a drone of a greeting oozes from the entrance. Two more men’ve come in, but a look upon them, and I nearly retch. Uncouth and impish they appear, like street dogs stealing into a ham-laden larder. Zut alors, had I only installed a sign outside. “No beasts allowed—four-legged or man-shaped,” it would’ve read. But no matter. Clients are clients, even should they be rascailles. Oh yes, that’s precisely what they are, you would agree: lawless, rat-reared rascailles. And worst of all, my bête noire: the very sort to hobnob at cheap taverns, with cheap ale and cheap chatter.

“Ain’t seen ye ’round these parts ’fore, tav-keep,” one of them drawls at me whilst leaning over the counter with intent.

“Bare an’ boarded up this place were, last we saw it,” the other says, glancing thirstily all about. “Wot’s th’deal, ’ey?”

Putain de bordel de merde, these rascailles have not come for drink. Non non; they have come to collect. Protection money and all that absurdité. By the Deiva, I was merely jesting before, but they really are rascailles—by profession.

“…I can show you the papers, monsieurs,” I respond, “inked and stamped, right from parliament.”

I was hoping that it wouldn’t come to this. Arbel has been on the up-and-up of late, you remember. A lot less knifery, a lot less connivence. All thanks to good governance and whatnot. But how wrong I was. Hope, it seems, has failed. Oh, bother.

“Show us some coin ’stead, why don’t ye?” returns a rascaille. “Be a shame, elsewise, if nobody’s got yer back… when, eh, bus’ness goes bad an’ all, heh heh. Ye gets me meanin’, my man?”

My toes cringe. “O-oui…”

Aïe… what to do? Refuse, and I’ll soon have shards to collect, liquids to mop up, and bruises to nurse—an outcome suffered by too many a tavern before me, I must note, and oft to the point of closure, no less. But open the purse instead, and it would be sucked dry in a blink… and with it, the very blood of my business.

A gorilla’s rampage or a vampire’s fangs—not the choicest of choices, you would agree.

“Stan’ back, keep.”

“Don’t ye fret, now. This rabble’s good as gone.”

The two young gus that was. I turn to find them shifting out of their chairs. Cracking their knuckles with confidence, they’re soon aface the troublemakers, nostrils flaring, chests bulging.

“Eh? Well, well, wot’s this, then?” snarls one of the rascailles.

“Could ask ye th’same, mate,” growls one of the gus. “Ye ’eard, ain’t ye? Racketeerin’s been reight outlaw’d, it ’as. Parliament’s mandate. Ye gets wot that means, don’t ye?”

“Peh!” spits a rascaille. “The streets’ve long lay’d down its own laws, lad! Parliament be damn’d!”

“‘Laws’ lay’d jus’ t’let ye scamps lord it over us layfolk, more like!” the other gus quips.

Amidst this warm and brotherly conversation, I watch as both sides butt bosoms and breathe down each other’s noses. Nom de Déesse, one bad move here and I’ll have a wreck and a half on my hands. That won’t do. Non non non. Fearing an outbreak of fists and feet, I brace myself, wind about the counter, and step into the belly of the beast.

“P-pardon, good monsieurs,” I say to them—sheepishly, I confess. “How about a cool drink to calm those nerves?”

“All’s cool an’ calm as can be, keep,” a gus assures me. “Me mate an’ meself—we’s with th’civilian watch, see?”

“Hah!” squawks one rascaille to another. “Playin’ at coppers, ’em lads is!”

“Best cuff that tongue ’fore this copper does it fer ye, rascal!” the other gus exclaims.

Which, to my dismay, has served to be the “bad move” I so feared.

Screaming and shouting explode. I stand by, panicked and agape. But none pay me the slightest mind. Non; one of the rascailles even lurches forth, making a grab at a gus’ collars and howling at him, “Beggin’ fer a bruise, ’ey!? Li’l chit, you!”

“Off ’im, stink-face!” yells the other ungrabbed gus. Barging in, he elbows the restraining rascaille in the arm and frees his fellow. With a yelp, the latter bares his dark gums in pain and tears himself from the scene—or so I thought. Non non; he has merely made way for his own fellow, you see, whom I see now charging in with something swinging in his hands—

—that something being four-legged and mahogany-made.

“Gwoah!” cries the brave-elbowed gus, as I watch my dreams and toils disintegrate over his head in wooden fragments.


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(Language: French) “Damn”, “oh, dear”.



(Language: French) An artist’s studio or workshop.



(Language: French) “Well…”; “um…”.


Bête noire

(Language: French) “Anathema”; a “bane of one’s existence”.



(Language: French) “Welcome”.


Ça alors

(Language: French) “My word!”; “Well, I never!”



(Language: French) “Castle”.



(Language: French) “Customer”.


Concours de circonstances

(Language: French) A “turn of events”.



(Language: French) “Connivery”, “plotting/scheming”.



(Language: French) “Damsel”.



(Language: French) “Ebony”, a species of hardwood.



(Language: French) “Eclectic”.



(Language: French) A “guy/bloke”.



(Language: French) “Huh”.



(Language: French) A sweet and highly alcoholic beverage.



(Language: French) “Meticulousness”.


Mot juste

(Language: French) The best word/phrase for a situation.


Nom de Déesse

(Language: French) “Bloody hell”; “Deiva-damnit”.


Par Excellence

(Language: French) “Most excellent”.



(Language: French) “Urine”.



(Language: French) “Fucking hell”.


Putain de bordel de merde

(Language: French) “Holy fucking hell”.



(Language: Old French) “Rascal”.



(Language: French) Exquisite; choice; exotic.


Son Altesse

(Language: French) “Her Highness”.


Unique en son genre

(Language: French) “One-of-a-kind”.


Zut alors

(Language: French) “Damn it”.



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