After another five days, Chester and Jonathan reached the town of Des. They had gotten stuck in a sandstorm and had to take shelter in a small crevice along the way.
The general store sold them a little bit of water. When they asked around, they were told to go to the East side for a bed and the saloon down the street if they wanted a meal.
The local saloon had been built of light colored, weathered timber. It was sandwiched between a religious looking building and the general store. A proud sign hung outside, but the red letters were illegible.
Chester and Jonathan tied their steeds outside and entered. The door didn’t make a sound, but the floorboards creaked slightly as they entered. They ignored the looks from the others in the establishment and headed for the counter.
Chester ordered first. Jonathan went after; he didn’t really want much, but made sure to get a biscuit for his mare.
They sat at the bar for a bit and waited for their meals.
Jonathan glanced around the room for a minute. There were several tables set up. Those towards the front were empty, while those further in the back had people who were talking, playing, or eating. Apparently being away from the windows was preferable. He elbowed Chester. “What’s that weapon?” He recognized it, but he didn’t expect to see it, nor was he sure whether it would work the same way.
“Oh, that’s a gun,” Chester replied. “They’re common in Maskiff, but not a lot of other places.”
“Everyone can use magic, what’s the point of having a gun?” Jonathan tilted his head in confusion. He wasn’t sure what sort of function guns would have in a fantasy world.
“Guns can be quicker than magic.”
Jonathan shook his head. Surely everyone wasn’t dumb enough to be caught unaware. “Couldn’t a mage just put up a shield of water or earth before a fight?”
The bartender sighed. She walked over and leaned against the counter, passing them their food. Her hair was tied up with a pretty black bow; aside from that, she looked rather stern. “Elemental magic isn’t the same as the actual element. That’s why anti-magic guns and anti-magic swords are so effective against mages. The empire has the patents for the guns and they used them in the last several wars. From what I’ve heard, they’re impossible to reverse-engineer.”
“I’ve always wondered why the Western countries haven’t produced anti-magic guns.”
“Yeah, well, it’s simple. They don’t know how.” The bartender shrugged. “On the other hand, only a few swordsmiths in Alita and Shibe know how to make anti-magic swords.”
Jonathan nodded. He could understand the rest; normal guns were an open secret and they’re still rather effective for those who don’t have money but still need to deal with magic. “You’re rather open about politics.”
“Name’s Paige, and everyone in Maskiff is. We don’t care. We’re one of the two countries that produce crystalized mana on a significant level. Our governor is senile and the mafias act more like a government than him. The mining companies don’t contract with the empire, but the mafias. There’s a few big ones in the area. One started in the slums and is quickly growing. They even started a kill list a few weeks ago that has a bunch of the green horns running scared.”
The door opened and another person entered. They wore a long black coat and their face was covered with a striped bandana. The newcomer sat down at an empty table, a shotgun propped against their chair.
Paige gestured for one of her waiters to take the person’s orders. “Any other questions I can answer for you? We pride ourselves on our drinks and our gossip.” The bartender cast a look down the bar to check if any of the other customers needed something, but didn’t see anything.
“What’s the name of the mafia you were talking about?” Chester questioned. He hadn’t been in Maskiff for a while.
“It’s the Moiety. There’s not a lot of them, but they seem to be getting their claws into everything in the country. Don’t provoke them if you can.”
Chester smiled. “Alright, alright. Any games of Clover running you know about, Miss? We’d like to join one once we finish.”
“Yeah, actually. You’re in luck. I think Old Henderson started doing Clover at his table.” Paige gestured over to the right of the room. “He’s the dealer over there.”
Jonathan rolled his eyes. He would tag along to the game, but he had a feeling he would lose everything to his friend if he wasn’t careful. “Thank you,” he said to the bartender. To show his appreciation of the local gossip, he passed her a gold coin, both payment for the meal and a tip.
The bartender looked rather satisfied. “You’re welcome. Have fun playing.”
The food was indeed good. Chester looked ready to eat more, but decided to move from the bar.
Jonathan stood up and followed after the bard. He still had some sort of malted beverage in his hand that he was sipping at.
Chester had already slid into a seat. “You must be Mr. Henderson, right?”
The dealer looked almost vampirish. He was old and pale, with sunken cheeks. Unlike the rest of him, his eyes were lively. “I am. I’m guessing the Missus sent you over to me.”
“That’s right.” Chester nodded. “We heard this table was doing Clover today.”
“There’s a player we’re waiting on,” Henderson informed. “She’s grabbing a drink right now.”
Jonathan sighed and accepted his fate, sitting down on Chester’s right.
There were two other players at the table. One was rather nervous, and introduced herself as Ciley. The other was quite confident and said his name was Augustine; his accent was strange. He was also dressed in light armor and had a sword across his lap.
Ciley tried to make small talk, but had a habit of talking more quietly the longer the conversation went on. She fiddled with her braided hair. The young woman seemed to not be able to look Jonathan in the eyes.
Jonathan tried. His efforts failed due to Ciley soon refusing to reply to him. He took the hint and let things be.
Chester and Augustine both did and didn’t seem to get along. Their personalities seemed a bit too similar and they argued with tense smiles.
A woman carrying two pistols at her sides walked over to the table and sat down, smacking her cup onto the table. She was the fifth player they had been waiting for. “Trigger,” she introduced with a sour look on her face.
Henderson picked up a deck of cards. “Let’s begin.”
I’m not feeling well, but I did promise a double update.
Introduction of Ciley, and some more world building. Enjoy.