It didn't matter whether you were the lowliest pike-goblin or one of the Dim Lord's Spider Riders. Everyone came back from the battlefront thirsty.
Many tavern owners just threw together four log walls and started serving beer. Not so with Duggan, the owner of the Frothy Dog. The interior had been designed with a thorough knowledge of its clientele. New visitors entering the Dog were usually struck by its twenty-three convenient dark corners. Then by a stray mug.
Not every Dark Division denizen dared darken the Dog's door. Zombies, for example, had heard that the bar didn't serve their kind (in fact they did- with chips). Many stayed away when they heard what happened to the orc who asked a dark elf to line up some shots. Others whispered tales of Thursday nights, when the ogres came down from the mountains for karaoke.
Nevertheless, the Dog was usually filled to capacity. Tonight was no exception. The vampire brothers of Klinn were there, totally blotto on a cask of AB positive. If Rilbilter the Arch-Animator put away any more rum, the night would soon feature table dancing. A group of halfling thieves also worked the crowd, except for one who had been caught red handed. He was now a quarterling, with two red hands.
Duggan, a stocky troll, worked the bar. In spite of nearly four years in the business his envy of the customers had never abated. Like all trolls, Duggan's dead cells regenerated. He could regrow whole limbs, he didn't use a mirror to shave, and he could never get drunk.
He was filling an order for a full glass of whiskey (you never asked Duggan for three fingers) when the door burst open.
Framed in the doorway was the squat form of a goblin from the 23rd Fodder Division, quivering like a dragon's dentist.
"LORD EXCRUSIS APPROACHES!" it squeaked, and ran under a table.
The effect on the crowd was immediate. The orcs of the Screaming Runner clan screamed and ran. The drunk vampires turned into bats and attempted to hang from the table right side up. Several armoured codpieces among the patrons suddenly began to rust.
A breathless silence had settled on the Dog by the time the great figure appeared in the doorway.
He was almost as large as an ogre, but moved with the sure grace of one of the finer races. The horns adorning the full-face helmet had been sawn from a greater demon. He wore ornate robes of blood red, veined with glowing inscriptions of an evil sorcery. Where the robes opened at the chest one could see his dark armour, the breastplate of which was the headstone of a great elf king. The names of conquered heroes were etched in the silver of his gauntlets. He had a greatsword on his belt, a glowing purple axe at his back, and a whittling knife in his boot.
He stepped inside, into a rapidly growing area of empty floor. The helmet turned to left and right slowly, surveying the room. Each creature present palpably felt something passing over them like a cold fart.
He strode to the bar. The naked point of the greatsword trailed a line across the floor, which smoked as the wood was eaten away.
Duggan had nowhere to go. He could only stand there as the figure loomed over him. Two words boomed from the helmet as if from the bottom of a well, or a grave.
Duggan snatched up his best crystal mug and carefully drew a beer, hoping that both he and it would have a good head on top when he was finished. He placed it on the bar.
There was a pause.
A sudden movement, and one of the silver gauntlets grasped a straw from the little wooden holder. One end poked into the helmet, the other into the beer.
The tavern quietly watched the level of amber fluid dropping.
"A-another, sir?" stammered Duggan.
There was an involuntary spitting sound, and beer gushed from the chin of the helmet. The great gauntlets reached up and pulled it off. The human face beneath had eyes wide with terror.
"Are you mad? I'm not hanging around here. Haven't you heard? Lord Excrusis is coming!"
Copyright © 2005 Steven Cavanagh.
This page last updated 16th September 2008.