The only thing more pervasive than the smoke was the noise. The tavern was busy, and when it was busy, it was loud, so loud that you could barely hear your own thoughts.
But at least no one else can hear them either, thought the man in the corner. He stared down at his ale, and remembered just how often he had found himself staring down into his ale in this same tavern. Day in and day out, he had nothing to do but sleep and drink. And so he did.
A woman detached herself from the bar and sidled over to sit next to him. "Whatever's troubling you, I promise I can make you forget it," she whispered in his ear. He didn't react right away, and so she gave it another try. "You sure you don't wanna give it a try?" He turned to glare at her, and after a few seconds of looking into his eyes, the whore retreated to the bar.
He drained his ale and called for another. He still had a few hours of drinking left before he would sleep again. No use putting it off.
His next visitor was less pleasant. At a table near the center, a trio of men were boasting and laughing and drinking as fast as their mugs could be refilled. One of them suddenly grabbed his friend's shoulder and pointed to the corner where the man sat. The man looked up at them briefly, then returned his gaze to his cup. He paid no mind to the fact that one of the three had gotten up and started to his table.
"You're that scum who killed Duke Trevor, aren't you?"
The man in the corner didn't respond, just continued to drink his ale. The man in front of him looked back at his companions, who were smirking. Turning back to the face the man, he grabbed his wrist and growled, "Look at me when I'm talking to you!"
The man slowly looked up and stared at the big man in front of him. The big one repeated, "You're Maxell, the bastard that killed Duke Trevor."
Before he could say or do anything else, the seated man gave a yank with his arm. The man fell forward over the table to find a knife at his throat. His eyes went wide. Maxell freed his wrist from the man's grasp and dug the knife into his skin a bit further. He spat out every word: "Don't. Ever. Touch. Me." He threw the man aside to the ground and sheathed his knife. Draining his ale, he tossed some coins on the table and headed for the door. The downed man's two companions stepped forward to block his way. Slowly, Maxell's eyes found theirs. The two looked at each other uneasily, and then stepped aside. "Wise choice," muttered Maxell as he departed.
Retrieving his horse from the stables, he saddled it and mounted. With a kick he started it walking towards the horizon, and the castle of Eastergate.