A well-lit lavern; The Rusty Bell

Result 10 – Part 5

The new tavern

“The Rusty Bell”.

That is the name painted above the new tavern, with a sign on a hanging board depicting such a bell. From outside, you can already hear the muffled voices from within; it’s definitely a lot busier than Josey’s place.

You follow Ameronis inside, the sounds from within blasting into you as you pass through the doorway. The place is crowded, with talking, shouting, laughing, and the clinking of cups and cutlery filling the air, with the faint sound of music that struggles to be heard over everything else.

The air is warm and muggy, and filled with the smell of smoke, alcohol, and food.

Ameronis looks around a little, scanning the crowd and paying particular attention to the people at the tables, presumably looking for people playing cards. It barely takes a second to find the group though, on account of a sudden explosion of yelling and laughter from one of the tables across the room; you look over just in time to see a shower of playing cards fluttering down onto the table, and a man standing and yelling at his sitting companions who jeer and laugh at him. He sits down after a moment though, and their “game” soon resumes.

Ameronis smirks and marches over, and you follow at a steadier pace, taking in the room as you go. It’s crowded and cluttered, making it difficult to navigate around the benches and tables, which are covered in leftover cups and plates and an unpleasant amount of old spilled food and drink. You wonder if there are any staff working here at all considering the mess, especially when you nearly slip on some mystery liquid on the floor. There are several people working behind the bar though; apparently, all of the staff have been allocated to serving rather than cleaning. You notice a man with a very impressive handlebar moustache and a head of thick black hair and wonder if he is the owner of this place; you can imagine him being a rival to Josey.

Though there are a lot of people here, you know that at least a few of them will be paying attention to newcomers. There is an excitable jovial feeling in the bar, but also a slightly uneasy vibe that you can’t quite place. You shake it off but keep your wits about you; you still have your axe and are prepared for trouble.

You move closer to the table where Ameronis has managed to insert herself into the scene but decide to watch from nearby rather than get directly involved. You take a seat at an adjacent table.

The men seem quite delighted to have Ameronis among them and welcome her in, though they are more preoccupied with her looks and age than the prospect of her being a threat to their winnings. However, she plays the “respectable grandma” card and manages to wrangle at least three of the older men into treating her with a little bit more respect and taking her request to play seriously. Having scooped up the cards that had spilled everywhere during their previous outburst, they shuffle then deal again after Ameronis assures them that she knows how to play this particular game, called “3C Hold’em”.

Starting with a modest bet, and deciding the play rather than fold after seeing the dealer’s first card, a move which requires the player to double their initial bet, Ameronis ends up with a higher hand than the dealer and successfully scoops up her winnings. There are some congratulations and calls of beginner’s luck, and a new round begins. Once again, Ameronis opts to play, doubles her bet, then ends up winning again, along with another player. In the third round, she opts to fold instead, and when the cards are revealed she had managed to avoid playing with a losing hand and suffering a bigger loss. After playing a losing round himself that time, one of the men suggests that she tell him whether to play or fold, seeing as he can’t seem to catch a break, but she playfully rebukes his attempts at cheating. She skips a couple of rounds, but when she plays again, she challenges the dealer to draw a third card and manages to get an even better hand, winning her a bonus, and making up for her previous loss; by now, she’s sitting on a decent profit.

Inside The Rusty Bell

You watch them play for a while with Ameronis proving to be very lucky as she wins far more than she loses and only plays a losing hand a couple of times instead of folding early. You politely decline a few offers to play, and also, offers of drinks from passing barmaids. At the insistence of some of the others, Ameronis doesn’t play for one round but instead advises one of them; she encourages him to play that particular round instead of folding, and he wins, resulting in her immediately becoming his hero.

By the time she has done playing with them, her purse is quite heavy, and it’s as though she and the group have been friends forever. While there had been the occasional outburst of screaming and swearing (usually followed by hasty apologies to Ameronis), the men, whilst looking like a bunch of thugs and ne’er-do-wells, remain surprisingly friendly and playful, even more so when Ameronis offers to buy a round of drinks for them before she leaves (which makes her hero to several of the others too). They protest against her departing, but when she mentions she wants to go see The Pit, a couple of the men offer to escort her there, and also get her opinion on who they should bet on. She agrees.

She makes her way towards the door following behind her two guides, with the rest of the men them calling after her to come back and see them soon, which she assures them she will, and you get up and follow her out. The cooler, clearer air out here is quite shocking in comparison to the air inside.

You catch up with Ameronis, who is standing outside looking quite smug.

“Not a bad haul,” she says, having hidden away her winnings somewhere on her person. “I’m a little surprised I didn’t get accused of cheating and get stabbed!”

You ask if she was cheating. She gasps dramatically, placing a hand on her chest.

“I would never!” she says.

She has a big smile on her face though, so now it’s hard to tell. Before you can enquire any further, she points dramatically down the street in the direction of the two men.

“Onwards! We’ve got some fights to watch!”

She hurries after them. You sigh and follow along.

Being familiar with the layout of the place, the two men, Kuron and Rod, get you and Ameronis to The Pit with no trouble. As before, there is a small group of people waiting outside, and the four of you fall in line. It doesn’t take long to get to the front, where the entry fee is 12 cogs, and after paying that, you are given a programme and granted entry.

You can hear muffled yelling as you follow the corridor and head down a couple of flights of stairs, eventually reaching a set of double doors at the end of a long corridor that opens up into a huge room about 3 storeys high. It looks as though they scooped out the inside of the building and its basement to create this space, with terraced stands filled with spectators surrounding a large, circular arena on the lower floor. Above, the high ceiling is dotted with spotlights that shine down onto the sandy floor, where you can just about make out the two combatants who are currently fighting.

Being mindful of the crowd, you are wary of thieving hands as you follow Kuron, Rod, and Ameronis around the stands to find a space to get a better view; the crowd erupts into celebration and curses as one of the fighters manages to best the other, though you still can’t see what’s going on yet. By the time your group finds a spot, the arena has been cleared and an announcer is wandering about in there instead, congratulating the victor and those who won their bets, and pitying the many losers. He announces the incoming fighters; Seraphina the Swift, with her slender frame and long hair braided and wrapped in a tight bun. She wears a sleeveless tunic and fitted trousers over a leather bodysuit and a pair of fingerless gloves and sturdy boots. She slowly paces back and forth as she waits, exuding an air of confidence.
Opposing her is Magnus; taller and lithe, wearing an undershirt beneath a ragged vest, trousers, and rugged knee-length boots. He remains where he is, observing the crowd with a powerful gaze.

The announcer encourages the spectators to place their bets and choose wisely.

You now notice several bookmakers moving through the crowd, easily identifiable by their bright green tabards, impressively managing to collect and keep track of all the bets amongst the yelling and handfuls of money and paper being waved at them.

Kuron looks around for the nearest bar counter, of which there are several dotted around on the higher parts of the terrace, while Rod and Ameronis discuss the upcoming fight. Rod immediately puts in a bet for Seraphina to win, while Ameronis opts to just watch for now.

The spectators hurry to get their bets in as the combatants prepare themselves, and right at the scheduled time, a bell is rung and the announcer begins the match. The two combatants square off as the crowd goes wild in anticipation.

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