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Rings and Fings: Episode 21
Rachael almost gasped when she and the traveler stepped inside the pub.
It was huge at least 60 meters long and 20 meters high. The sweet aroma of burning wood smoke filled the air. Electric lights and torches angled from the walls like a castle hall. It made the atmosphere inside the pub warm and morphic. The flickering lights made the shadows dance on the walls. The roof was supported by three wishbone supports taken directly from the hulls of old ships. Wood used to be very expensive and was often reused when the ship was scrapped, or wrecked on the treacherous Cornish coasts.
The place was split in two by the bar which extended from a side door and reached halfway into the room culminating in a round bar. It looked like a giant keyhole. People were sitting all along both sides of the long bar and the popular seats were around the round part where a tall man who looked to be in his late fifties was pulling the pints and laughing at jokes.
Rachael took interest in his thick jet black hair and thin handsome face. He could be a movie star Rachael thought. A younger woman with short black hair was zipping up and down the long bar pulling quick pints and laughing on the run.
The front half of the pub was filled with tables and booths that ran along both walls. The bar and the tables were made by a local craftsman from trees in the valley. They were irregular and gave the pub an organic feel. Beyond the bar there were no tables although the booths ran to the end of the room.
A two foot high stage lined the end of the pub. The two bearded musicians were a small oasis in the middle of the wide boards. They were playing a pleasant, albeit a little subdued sea shanty. Sitting on basic wooded chairs, they both had long grey beards and wore typical folk musicians’ gear. One was playing an old accordion and the other one, wearing an old Greek fisherman’s hat, was playing a worn-out guitar. Greek hat had flutes and whistles sticking out of his waistcoat pockets. A bodhran lay at the feet of the other
Rachael noticed that only a few people stopped and stared at her and the traveler. Apparently a girl in a leather jacket and Doc Martin boots walking in with a tall guy dressed like medieval highwayman was no big deal.
The Traveler stopped and pulled off his tri-cornered hat and without stopping flung it spinning at a hat stand by the door. It spun a couple of times then settled onto its hook.
Rachael was enveloped by the atmosphere, a lively crowd stood, sat and mingled around the huge space. It reminded her of the crowd town the night she was fired.
A few tables in the darker left hand corner seemed to hold the local farmers’ club. It was as if they had been relegated there in a place they once dominated. Rachael felt a chilly energy coming from the area. Strange, especially as the pub had a warm positive vibe to it.
A huge fireplace was set halfway along the right-hand wall opposite the circular bar. The wide stone mantle above it carried wooden models of old sailing ships and a huge dark painting, that reached all the way to the beams, of smugglers making their way up a stormy Cornish cliff
They walked around to the stage side of the bar and found some empty barstools close to the wall, away from the busy circle part of the bar where the tall Landlord eyed his new customers with a keen interest.
Rachael meets an old friend
“Lots of fine ales here,” said the Traveler, looking around happily, “What would you like?” One pump in particular had grabbed Rachael’s attention as soon as they had sat down. It had a little hobgoblin sitting on a tree stump, wearing his goblin hat and smiling at her mischievously. It reminded her of someone. Maybe it was the long nose.
Suddenly the landlord was in front of them. “Well, good evening,” he glanced at the tall traveler then returned his gaze to Rachael. He smiled, “Hello, Rachael.” She was dumfounded all a sudden, “Wh . . . What?”
“Excuse me, I did not mean to startle you, your parents used to come in here, and well, a long time ago when you were small they bought you in here, you probably don’t remember.”
“I definitely don’t,” she thought. “So, I have been to this place before.”
“Well My name is Jord,” he pushed out his arm, “Very pleased to meet your grown up self.”
Rachael shook his hand and felt as though he had wanted to say more about her appearing in the pub after a twenty plus year gap. “And who is this young man accompanying you tonight?” Jord queried. Of course before she could say anything the Traveler jumped out of his stool and bowed, “Pleased to meet you fine Landlord.” He recovered from his bow and pushed his arm towards the curved bar. Jord shook it with a tilt of his head. “I like how this place looks now,” remarked the Traveler looking around. “Used to be a lot shabbier.”
A Fine Evening
Jord the Landlord raised an eyebrow then asked, “So what can I get you two?”
“Well I think it will be two pints of the hobby goblin fine ale if you would, sir,” he smiled warmly, the landlord Jord gave the Traveler a blank stare, then ducked down to pick up two pint glasses. He pulled the pump and the little hobgoblin took a leaning trip backwards. He placed the two pints in front of them, even though it was a dark brown ale it was translucent enough that the flames from the fire and torches danced inside the glass.
“That will be six pounds and twenty . . .”
He stopped when all of a sudden, from a pocket the traveler produced a pile of huge coins which looked similar to the rent he had placed on the table weeks ago. Oh no, thought Rachael, we’ve only been in here five minutes and we’re going to chucked out for not having any dosh. To her surprise, Jord picked up one of the coins and scrutinized it with squinted eyes, “Well,” he said with a chuckle, “that will do nicely. That’s a lot of ale; let me know if you need any change.”
“Not at all,” said the Traveler with a flamboyant wave, “We are celebrating tonight.”
We are? thought Rachael.
“And a round for the house, and don’t forget the minstrels,” he gestured back at the stage with his thumb.
The crowd must have been paying more attention to them than Rachael had realised, especially from he dark tables.
A rousing cheer went up around the room, free ale news spreads very quickly.
“The house?” asked Rachael incredulously, “How much are those things worth? This place is packed.”
“Many cheers,” said the Traveler as he rubbed his hands excitedly and stared at the two pints, then at Rachael.
He gestured at the two pints with his usual flamboyance.
“Aren’t you going to drink?”
“Yes,” he replied nodding.
She suddenly realized what was happening. “What are you saying? You won’t touch your pint until I have touched mine?”
“Correct,” he answered with a slight bow of his head.
“Well let’s stop a really boring evening from starting,” with that she picked up her pint and downed the ale in just a few gulps. Then after wiping her lips with the sleeve of her leather jacket and plonking the empty pint back down on the bar said, “Landlord Jord, same again, please.”
This was going to be a fine evening.