Take a moment, if you will, and let us go on an adventure.
Beyond the Forest of Steel and Oak lies a city encircled by walls of hardened lava and thick glass. You, the hero or heroine of this story, are walking through this city, following along its wide, suspended paths, gazing at its crystalline reflections. I could walk around for days and not see all it has to offer, you think, but you stop in front of a thick wooden door. You notice the sign out front—“The Three Muskrats”—painted in loud yellow. You push the door inward and are assaulted by smells and sounds. This must be the busiest tavern I have ever seen, you think. Off-key music intersperses with drunk laughter; stale beer and piss pervade your nostrils. You wade through a thick carpet of crowd and, in the center, see a lady orc locked in intense armwrestling with a giant cyclops, the table groaning beneath their combined massiveness, while patrons of all shapes, colors and sizes are betting loudly from the sides. “Benny Sleepyhead is unbeatable!” someone shouts to a disbelieving neighbor. “He won last year 50 to 0.”
All squinted eyes and dancing eyebrows, the neighbor replies, “I’m sure he did, ‘cause Queen Cassia wasn’t here last year. She was off saving the world from that dragon, Solovej!”
The soft afternoon sun lingers on the hard faces, the beards that frame squared jaws, and the wild curls.
You brave the madness, and walk further, further, until you reach the bar.
The tavern keeper, a man wide as a town house, turns towards you. Instinctively, you take a step back, but then he smiles at you—the sweetest, most serene smile, below his sable walrus mustache.
“What’ll it be?”, he says, remarking with a glint of the eye the freshness of your face. You reply, “Whatever’s best,” and he drops a mug of cold beer on the counter loudly enough to drown out all sound and the whole world becomes just you and him.
He lays his hands on the table. Thick, but otherwise beautiful hands. You notice a signet ring of solid gold. Engraved on it is a roaring lion. “Oh, this?,” he remarks wistfully, catching your eye. “Just a shabby old thing, this. Fragment of another life.” You gaze into his steamy eyes and see the universe stare back from them.
By now the final match is over and the winner has been decided. It is the lady orc, but you no longer care. The tavern keeper tells you his name; it’s foreign. Jonas.
It is getting dark. Upstairs, a candle’s flame flickers as he opens the door and motions you in. You smile, expectant.
The tavern’s cacophony dissolves in the one breath he takes before he plunges into you.
Andrei Sisman is a fiction author and memoirist from Bucharest, Romania. He is currently wading through a forest of banalities in search of the perfect Tweet. By trade a lawyer, his literary work has appeared or is forthcoming in Drunk Monkeys, Rune Bear, The Daily Drunk and other places. Andrei can be found on Twitter at @sisman_andrew.