Jean-Pierre looked around, and saw a free spot to sit with his mug of ale. The men already seated at the table nodded, indicating he could sit. It was loud in the tavern, both from the squall pattering on the awning over the entrance arches, and from the boistrous crowd. The youth felt the energy of the drinkers wash over him, that feeling one gets from men just off work when they get their first beer, before heading home. He enjoyed the way they simply accepted his presence.
“Jean-Pierre,” he said to the man next to him, and the man offered his mug as a salute. “Henning,” the man said, and they touched mugs, then to the table before drinking. Jean-Pierre noted the custom, and did the same. He seemed to be a local, so Jean-Pierre tried his luck.
“I saw the building, there, it has just burned down in the last two days, non?”
“Aye,” the man said sourly. “A terrible fire that was. The theatre’s completely fucked. It’s a right shame; I had tickets to Guinevere’s Follies next week.”
“Follies?” The young man gave the man a quizzical look. “Pardon, what are follies?”
“Ah, it’s a grand show, with musicians, funny jokes, and pretty tarts dancing! I like to go whenever I can get away from the wife and the wee ones!”
“Ah,” Jean-Pierre said, and took another drink from his mug. “A theatre, and a church.”
“I heard it was those Oldmarket bastards”, a man with short hair and a moustache muttered into his pint. “Somebody oughtta go settle their hash for good.”
The man next to him barked out a small laugh. “What, are you gonna do it? I’ve never seen you do anything more vigorous than fetch another pint!”
“Besides, how do we know who done it? You didn’t see nothing,” Henning added. The men muttered assent.
The mustachioed man thumped his mug on the table. “I was there, I saw it! Freakiest thing ever! One moment, all is calm, and then the next—a roaring inferno! I never seen a fire blaze up so fast!”
Jean-Pierre was about to ask him when the man’s neighbour snorted. “Bull! How would you have seen it? It burnt at two in the morning; I’ve never seen you out of bed before noon!”
The man with the mustache looked down. “Well, see, I was feeling a little tired when I left here, so I had a little nap outside before I went home…”
“Passed out drunk in the gutter, you mean!” his neighbour laughed, and the whole table laughed with him.
“I thought I saw someone in the ashes,” Jean-Pierre said, after he had taken another swig, noting that his pint was nearly empty. “I think it was a goblin, it was so small and quick as one, but black as night. Is this some creature native to Hadaton?”
“A little black what?" one of the men answered. "A goblin? Well, maybe. There aren’t a lot of greenies living here, but there are plenty who work on the ships.”
Jean-Pierre finished his mug, and stood to get another. He didn’t really want one, it seemed more sensible to keep his wits about him. But no one bothered the youth as he stood. He noted the corner where Heyu was sitting, doing her best to blend in the shadows, talking to a couple of men. “Waleed?" one said. "Who? Nah, I don’t have a lot to do with those Oldmarket folks.”
“Hang on,", the other interjected, "I think I know who she’s talking about. He’s a scholar or somesuch, trades in antiques sometimes. I think he sold some swords to Guillame a while ago.”
But rather than hang around, Jean-Pierre returned his mug to the barkeeper, and hurried through the rest of the rain, as it lessened, the squall passing. He made sure Heyu saw him leave, as he decided to head to his little room. The sun was setting, and he expected to hear the cathedral bells announce the sixth hour was passed. He wanted to be here again after midnight struck, rested and prepared to give chase to whoever was causing such misery!