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The warm Sosarian sun radiated its energy across the deck of the sloop as it planed effortlessly over the waves. Mist, aloft in the sweet salty air, gently caressed Avery's face as he reminisced of much more innocent times. Seagull paced his vessel, squawking in delight as they occasionally dove into the water; snatching one of the many sardine formed into a bait ball by the dolphin below. It had been so many years since the former Captain of the Guard could enjoy the perfection of a calm sea. The absolute paradise and freedom that came with it. It was out here that he could truly feel at peace. Away from the politicians, the militants, the wanting people. Away from his jailors …
His last thought panicked him. He jumped to his feet, unaware that he had even been laying down. The beautiful blue sky turned dark. The warmth from the sun fled and was replaced with a sudden chill. The squawks of the seagull became the murmurings of people. That glorious salty air now stale and musty.
It took several moments for his alcohol-soaked brain to catch up with what his senses had already made apparent. He was back in The Cat's Lair. His paradise nothing but a dream. Or perhaps a nightmare, taunting him with images of his simple adolescent existence he had enjoyed in what seemed a lifetime ago.
“Avery?” The feminine voice was distant in his head. “Are you okay?”
I feel sick, he thought to himself.
“Hey!” The same voice, louder now, pierced his brain like a sharp dagger. At that, Avery keeled over vomiting.
“Give him a moment, Marily.” This time a man was speaking, “That brandy them Seven Tears monks distill is potent enough to eat a hole in any man's gut.”
Looking up, wiping his mouth, Avery suddenly felt flush with embarrassment. The two speaking were the keepers of the tavern he had spent so many of his nights in. Marily and her husband, Slade. They had put up with him for what seemed months, though in his perpetual drunkenness he had lost track of the days. Patiently watching as he and his new-found drinking friends got into raucous behavior of all sorts. The pair was always undaunted by the mess that was left for them.
Clearing his throat he finally found his voice, “Marily. Slade. I'm sorry.”
An amused look flashed across Marily's face. “It's a tavern, Avery. I think we are accustomed to cleaning after a bit of illness.”
“No,” Avery shook his head, “I am sorry for bringing all my problems here. The drinking, the games,” he let out a sigh, “the fighting. It isn't the type of man I was brought up to be.”
“Drinker's remorse,” Slade thought the answer to simple, “does this to people. You'll feel better after having something to eat.”
Avery's stomach churned. “It isn't that. It isn't just the drinking.”
He again felt the gentle and reassuring hand of Marily on his shoulder. “What is it?”
“I cannot escape what I was,” Avery spoke so soft it was almost a whisper. “I held the office of the Captain of the Royal Guard. I fought many battles. To some I am a hero, to others I should be back in jail.”
Slade let go a laugh, much to Avery's surprise. “Everyone knows you. Knows what happened. You'll always be remembered, in the good ways.”
That's the problem, Avery thought. Everyone did know him, and there wasn't a place on land that he could go undisturbed. He desired the peace he had lost so long ago, before entering into service of the Crown.
Avery chewed on this for a moment before speaking, “One last drink with my friends. Then I need to go.” At that, Avery grabbed several bottles of drink from the counter, leaving more than enough gold to cover the charges he had amounted, and started for the door.
“Where've you got to go?” Slade called after him.
Without missing a step or turning his head as he opened the door, Avery left but a single word to hang in the air.