Title: The Tavern
Kas dwelled with ever greater frequency on the past. Those thread bare nightmares worn down by his moments of repentance were replaced with ease by the cue of horrors waiting their turn to torment the drunken soldier as he cowered in the poorly lit corner of the tavern.
"Shall I tell you a tale?" Kas looked closely at the Drunken shadow enjoying his company from the other side of the table and recieved no objection.
"I had at the instruction of my commander," Kas rolled his eating implement in the bowl of food, "been dispatched from the fortress not ten miles from here to a work camp to over-see labourers working on a section of the Barrier."
Gathering a single morsel to his mouth, Kas chewed, swallowed and continued with the tale.
"Several Days had passed when the well diggers penetrated through into an old structure," Kas dipped a steamed dumpling in the thick salt rich black sauce and held it aloft examining it as he spoke. "and deep beneath the earth, ancient chambers were revealed, their heavy timber beams carved by ancient hands." Kas chewed at the dumpling remembering the Taste.
"I remember the first of the well diggers being pulled out on a rope because he had fallen through a ceiling and dropped a hundred feet to his death." Kas dipped his dumpling in sauce and continued. "His name was Koji."
Kas swallowed the remains of his dumpling and reached for the bowl of steamed vegetable broth drinking the beverage before setting it aside.
"His brother Jin had ventured down to retrieve the body." Kas shook his head at the memory. "Jin spoke of a sea of newly forged weapons still in their racks as though he had discovered a secret imperial armoury." Kas returned to his meal.
"I made a mistake then." Kas reached for the bowl of duck meat and lifted the lid from it enough to retreive a piece of meat with his eating implement. "I told Jin to retrieve a weapon from the rack." The duck dipped gently in the black sauce.
"I did not see the thing that killed him," Kas looked at his quiet companion. "but we all heard his scream."
Kas paused to eat his duck, chewing it gently.
"Kuro was lowered in to retrieve Jin's body." It was becomming difficult to think about it. "Kuro found what was left of Jin in the darkness of that Armoury, eaten away by something that had poured on him from somewhere above, his hand still grasping the weapon in its rack."
"Kuro didnt make it back to the surface either." Again Kas sipped at the vegetable broth. "Kuro triggered another trap having noticed a box of some value and tied it to the end of the rope in his stead."
The broth emptied, Kas indicated to a servant the desire for another bowl.
"A red cloud of some poison sprayed from the box as he struggled to secure it," Kas fetched more duck from its bowl. "He was dead before he could finish."
The drunken companion reached out of the darkness across the table for a small bowl of wine, clearing his throat.
"The next was Toki." Kas accepted the arrival of a new vegetable broth with a silver coin. "He managed to send up the body of Kuro."
Kas cleared his throat of an oddly bitter taste and reached for the vegetable broth. The bitterness eased as Kas drank the warm vegetable Broth.
"Far too many had died that day." Kas flipped aside the earthenware lid covering the duck and retrieved a third piece. "I instructed Toki to send up the box and return to the surface."
Kas wiped the duck through the black sauce.
"The box revealed itself to be wood." The bitterness ate at his tongue. "but inside, a collection of delicate glass vials filled with a strange red liquid, one of which had shattered." Again the vegetable broth cleared the bitterness from his throat.
"Something leaking from the box had eaten into the rope as we retrieved Toki." Kas gave up on the duck. It was just going to get worse. "Almost at the opening in the ceiling, the rope gave and Toki fell."
"I gave an order to fetch a new rope," Kas examined a second dumpling and rolled it in the black sauce. "and this time I lowered myself down into the darkness."
The dumpling was perfection. The sweet mix of vegetable and meat. The source of bitterness was definatly the Duck.
"The chamber was huge." Kas held the duck aloft and a sevant scurried forward. "I noticed that every weapon carried a seal of imperial authority etched into the blade."
The servant bowed before Kas and took the duck from his hand.
"The Duck is bitter in taste." Kas looked at the servant with suspicion. "It tastes like Poison."
The servant shook his head.
"No." Kas collapsed face down on the table. "The poison was in the vegetable broth."