Felt like sharing a little more writing today, because of reasons.
It was Rye’s night to close the shop, meaning it was Sorrel’s turn to go do whatever shopping needed doing. There was never much to get, but Sorrel appreciated the chance to walk about and unwind from the day. With the few items she needed in a bag on her arm, she found her way to the tavern up the road from her shop. The place was a small building of brick, with a creaky wooden door that whined as she pushed it open. The sound was like a welcome to her, followed closely by the voice of the bartender. Sorrel was a regular at the place.
“How’s life, Sorrel?” The bartender tonight was a man named Flint. Flint wasn’t Sorrel’s favorite person in the place, but he was friendly enough. He was lanky and tall, with long blonde hair and a pair of glasses too small for his eyes. Sorrel took a seat at the bar, where Flint had already set down a beer for her. He was quiet and apologetic, but the man had a good memory for the preferences of his regulars.
“Life, Flint, is exactly as it usually is. Busy being lived.” Sorrel glanced around her idly as she took a drink. The tavern was nearly empty tonight, save for a couple tables of off-duty workers and a woman sitting a few stools away at the bar. As Sorrel glanced at her, she noticed the woman quickly avert her eyes.
“Good summary,” Flint said with a chuckle. “How’s the drought been treating you?” Sorrel rolled her eyes.
“Prices on everything have gone up. Farmers are panicking, storing more of what little they’ve grown just so they can survive. And you know the old man is hoarding worse than any of us. I’m getting sick of it, Flint.” Sorrel eyed the lines of large bottles on the wall behind Flint. Why couldn’t their mother have left them a bar instead of a market? She had asked herself this many times, despite knowing there was no answer.
“I hope it ends soon too,” Flint said with a sigh. “Every time you come in here you look a little more stressed.”
“Yeah, well,” Sorrel remarked, “you have to remember my base stress level is at least a seven out of ten.” They laughed. Sorrel took another swig of her drink, and glanced back at the woman down the bar. She was white-haired and pale, and Sorrel could just make out what looked like a mark of orange rimming her eye.
“How’s it going, dustwalker?” Sorrel called down the bar to the woman, who looked up suddenly. After getting a better look at her face, Sorrel realized the woman was around her age, or possibly younger. Her eyes were big and almond-shaped, and stared back at her incredulously. Sorrel made a motion, welcoming her to come closer. The girl smiled at Sorrel, stood, and strode over to sit next to her.
“Don’t see many of your kind around here,” Sorrel said, not bothering trying to hide her curiosity. “Just passing though?”
“Maybe,” the girl said, “maybe not. I’m looking for someone, but I’m not entirely sure I’ll find them here. It’s complicated.” Sorrel nodded. It always seemed to be too complicated to talk about with dustwalkers.
“Well, I hope you find them. Third Rim isn’t exactly brimming with places to look.” The girl chuckled, a high and fluttery sound.
“You say that, but you would be shocked how long it’s taken me to look. People around here can be pretty hard to find.” It was true, Sorrel knew. The outlying towns were cut off from the rest of the world, in communication, politics, and technology alike. Sorrel held a lot of disdain for Third Rim because of that, among a lot of other reasons. The old man on the hill didn’t exactly have the best track record with the town he was supposed to be governing.
“I only just arrived, though,” the stranger continued, “so I have all day tomorrow to look. I’m pretty exhausted, actually, so I think I’ll head up to my room…” she glanced over at Flint, who had been half-listening as he cleaned glasses. He reached under the counter methodically, pulling out a key and handing it to the girl.
“Up the stairs, third door on your left. Let me know if the peole next door are too loud, they’ve been nothing but rude since they rented the room and I’d love an excuse to kick them out.” The girl chuckled again, hopping off the barstool and swiping the key into her hand. She headed for the stairs next to the bar, turning at their base to look back at Sorrel.
“It was nice meeting you,” she said, gazing at Sorrel with what looked like thoughtfulness for a moment before blinking, shaking her head slightly, and ascending the stairs. Sorrel wasn’t sure what that look had meant, but decided it was time to finish her beer and head back to Rye.
“Nice girl,” Flint commented as Sorrel took a long drink, “but a bit strange. She’s done nothing but sit there since she rented a room. Didn’t order a drink or anything, didn’t talk much. Just sat there, looking like she was waiting for someone.” Flint gave Sorrel a pointed glance, as if asking a question. Sorrel set down the bottle and shrugged.
“Never met her.” She mumbled, now a bit self-conscious. She finished her drink hurriedly, put her two lapis coins down on the counter, and left the tavern feeling confused and cluttered in the head. It felt like she was forgetting something that she had been prompted to remember all day.