Cautiously, you approach the wooden building. The sound of glasses clinking and voices floats out into the street, and you hesitate one final moment before you step up the short flight of stairs and enter the tavern. Spying an empty barstool, you shoot straight for the bar, glad to find a familiar object in a realm of strangeness.
"What'd'yawant?" the bartender growls at you.
You blink at the hostility in his tone, and say sarcastically, "Well, since this is a bar, I came for a drink. Is that okay?"
"Ye're not from around here, are ye?" the bartender asks more gently. He glances around cautiously, and leans forward over the bar, glancing down at your Levi jeans and looks surprisingly at the pockets. "Nay, from the way ye dress. It's common not to show ye purse, but to walk around in blue breeches? That custom isn't often used around here, and then only by the powerful. And if ye were powerful," the bartender added with a knowing smile, "Ye wouldn't have come in here peacefully. Ye would have come in, fireballs raging, or with ye're naked blade singing it's song through some unfortunate's skull. It's obvious to me ye aren't a warrior, though, for ye carry no weapon I can discern. A mage?" His eyes focus on yours, and you shift uncomfortably. "Nay, ye can't be, ye don't have the look for it." He turns away from the bar, and grabs something from underneath. You stand up a little, to see what he's doing, but his hands are blocked by the tarnished wood of the bar.
"So, what's ye're occupation? What do ye do?" the bartender asks cordially, bringing up a glass of water in his hand and sliding it across the bar to you.
You think a moment, stunned. You never expected to talk to a bartender you'd never met before, and, after rude treatment, then be asked so many questions. Now, you know what a warrior is, but what the heck is a mage? You think some more, back to the adventures you'd had, various characters you'd met along the way. Finally, you open your mouth, and instead of your everyday, mundane job you'd normally answer that question with, the truth tumbles out. "I'm a traveler!" you say loudly, much louder than you intend.
Stunned silence falls over the bar. The bartender stares a moment, then smiles. "Well, then, that changes things. Travelers of all kinds are welcome here. Many people respond with some ordinary job like grocery bagger, or computer programmer, or some other kind of normal job. It is rare that we are honored by a traveler. Come, tell us of yer travels. What stories do ye have? We love to hear strange, new stories of both the warriors and things which are not, yet may be. In fact, why don't ye leave a permanent record of yer story in my book of Traveler's Tales. Many stories must ye have heard in yer many travels. Ye can discuss these stories at The Bar. Perhaps ye prefer to talk to someone (almost) directly in the Chat Room. Unfortunately, due to the lack of patrons at the bar--We're still fairly small, ye see--sometimes there just isn't anyone else here."
He turns to grab his rag from the wine rack behind him. "Oh, and one more thing," he says abashedly. "I almost always forget to mention this. Ye see, I live here at the bar, upstairs, and my little ones love to listen in through the floorboards when we have a traveler in town. Try and keep yer stories to a level where their mother isn't going to bash me over the head with a frying pan," he pauses, and you could almost swear you heard him say Again, but you're not sure. "If ye don't, I'm afraid I'll have to ask ye to leave."
You look at him with disgust and turn to leave anyway--you know how to act in public--but he quickly says, "I know, ye probably aren't the type to tell stories like that, but there are a few people in the world who don't share yer appropriateness level, or need to be reminded of it. Besides, there are many in the world whose cultures and beliefs are different from our own. This is a place where all can gather--young and old, elven and dwarven, cyborgs and humans, as well a place for friends who have no qualms to sit and talk."
Intrigued, you sit back down, and sip the proffered water. "Well," you say after a moment, "What do I need to do to start?"
"Just sign up as a member of Writers Anonymous, and ye shall soon be well on yer way with becoming a better writer, reader, and, of course, a traveler. Ye begin to realize that we are all travelers, in our own way, be it through books and learning, or through the physical journey of many miles."
"What of the dark elven, or the gryphons, or dragons, or androids?" you ask suddenly. You've heard of the evil intents of many of these creatures, and you know some bars won't serve "droids."
"All are welcome. There's plenty of room, and who's to call something evil, or good for that matter? We all answer to our own personal beliefs in the end, and who can say what is right or wrong? One more thing though--no fighting. I can't stand to have the bar a mess. Besides, who wants to replace a broken window once a week? Accept that others will not think the same way as you, and deal with it."
"Well, is it okay if I just watch everyone else for awhile, to see if I'll fit in?"
"Aye, ye better believe it! Just make sure ye do speak up, else I may get ye for negligence!" He winks. "Ah, I was just joking. I just like to see it when someone who doesn't quite fit the mold give their opinions. If nothing else, it makes others stop and think." Slowly, he turns away. "All the stuff here is self serve. If ye want something, ye'll just have to go and check it out for yerself. I suggest ye check out everything, and see what ye like. Ye can check out past happenings in the book labeled The Patrons."
The bartender moves away, and begins cleaning the other end of the bar. You sit back, sipping your water. Another patron walks in the door, and the bartender looks up and growls, "What'd'yawant?"
Smiling, you turn around and see a book titled The Bar. Curious, you open it, and begin to read.
Liked this story? Vote up on Reddit or Tweet the URL!
Choose one of the stories below, or go to a random story