Some of you have probably seen my various efforts to put together a query on this work. Now I'm curious as to how people react to the opening overall. Specific writing comments are welcome but what I'd really like to know is whether this makes you want to read on...
A moment before, the tall man had been furious. He had known how he and his companions had been betrayed, and by whom, although the why eluded him. A moment before, he had been ready to kill.
Now that was all gone. He stared puzzled at the mug of beer raised almost to his lips. Sunlight poured into the tavern from skylights and he felt the warmth of the place on his skin, but beneath that superficial sensation he felt neither warm nor cold nor anything else. He was distinct far below the shell of his body; the submerged core of him was like a wasteland within which nothing had moved or breathed for many years and all was dust.
He couldn’t remember who he was.
The man’s flat gaze swept across the tavern, measuring and calculating, seeking clues to the world about him.
The open first level had a bar along one wall. Tables and benches spread scattered across the slat floor. The first-floor walls and the bar were of dark polished wood, scarred and nicked through long use, with the occasional sharp gash testament to rough trade. Above, the dark paneling gave way to whitewashed stucco, yellowed from beer fumes and pipe smoke. A stairway led from the middle of the ground floor up to a balcony around the perimeter of the building. Numbered doors off the balcony were evenly spaced around the second level, suggesting rooms for let.
He studied the people around him unobtrusively, obeying an impulse that dwelt somewhere deeper in the cellar of his being than memory. Some two dozen or more customers made the count of people on the tavern floor. Their voices, the crackling of the fire, and the occasional calls from the staff joined in a river of noise. It was the sort of place you could be surrounded by people and still be assured of privacy in your conversation.
Nothing about the customers gave him any clues. Tension tightened the corners of the tall man’s mouth. Other than that he gave no sign that anything out of the ordinary had happened to him.
He turned his attention to the counter at the far end of the room. Tending bar was a heavily built, powerful-looking man with thick black eyebrows, mustache, and fringe of whiskers on his round chin. He waited with an impatient scowl for payment from a thin customer. The customer had a wicked scar running down his neck and was fumbling in his pocket. Over the pair of them on the wall behind the bar were a miscellany of hunting trophies, post-bills, and engravings, with a brazen medallion bearing the national colors of Pellias at the center of the collection.
The flat gaze of the afflicted man rested for a moment on the medallion. Progress.
He looked again at the other patrons. If the tavern was in Pellias, it wasn’t in any of the major ports of the southern coast: none of the men and women taking their lunches had the sun-browned, windblown look of seaside Pellians. They were generally lighter in complexion and many sported the thick dark hair of the north and east country. He now recognized their mode of dress, like his own, as being typical of that area as well. Variod, then, although he had no memory of how he had become familiar with the place.
A dumpy, round-faced woman with mousy brown hair met his gaze with a puzzlement that mirrored his own, but he looked away and turned his attention back to his beer. He had found something he did remember: a feeling that someone might be watching him for any hint of weakness.
He sipped his beer and slipped his hands into his pockets to check them, although he had little hope that anything there would tell him who he was.