CHAPTER 3: DEATH IS IN A PIPE;
Alexander D’Amore was the first to be chosen as a suitor of Princess Lilia. Leonardo de Price was the second suitor. The third likely candidate, according to Sir Richard’s speculation, was Father Graham. The heiresses of Silverflow traditionally choose one candidate from each faction in the council. In the church of the spirits, the deacon was the only person young enough to be a suitor.
A few hours after he departed from the Ruby Garden castle, the inventor and his myriad of thoughts wandered into Brown’s Boulder tavern. The second period of lunar daylight began while he drank away self-doubts and this lingering sensation of a silk string in his grasp.
“Brown, refill!” he ordered, sliding an empty mug to the bartender behind the bar counter.
“This is an obscene amount of ale ye drank tonight. Heard Rick called ye in, what happened?” the bartender asked.
“Don’t remind me. I want to forget all about it. I mean, he thinks I possess carnal desire rivaling that of Alex!”
The master of trade, the merchant, coughed and spilled white wine all over the counter upon hearing Leo’s answer. The bartender threw a piece of cloth at the spillage in front of the merchant and uttered.
“Yer drunk, Leo. He did not say that. Pay for the ale and go home.”
Wiping his glass and then the counter clean of spilled wine, the merchant pointed his thumb at the inventor and said.
“Put the wine on his tab.”
“I’m serious. He said the princess told him just how vulgar I was to her. I was as bad as Alex, if not worse, she said. Am I that vulgar?” Leo asked.
“Yer not. Sometimes, but not always…”
“Not always? When am I that vulgar?” he pressed.
“Errr…see, princess called ye “vulgar lowlife” the other moon, nay?”
“That doesn’t mean I lust after her!”
After a loud gasp, the young boy who was napping next to the merchant perked right up. He casted his drowsy eyes around, confused.
It appeared the inventor’s loud response had woken up the merchant’s son. The merchant hissed, putting a finger on his lips, “Quiet, let him rest,” he shushed.
“Yer not wrong. Saying yer as bad as Alex was a tad too much. Ain’t anybody could be as bad as Alex…” the bartender shrugged.
“I know right? Seriously…what is she thinking?” Leo grumbled.
“I used to ask myself the same question. In pursuit of my wife, I took great interests in learning what’s in her head. And, I can tell you the cavern of her psyche makes Copperfang cavern look like an eight-year-old secret base,” the merchant remarked, passing the bartender the cloth soaked in wine.
Thomas Jeremy Clevandi had a wife and a son in Ironheart. His son was always seen accompanying him to markets and taverns. His wife, however, was never seen. He loved to talk about his wife but he avoided questions in regards to her whereabouts and identity.
Unlike the father, the boy spoke no words of his mysterious mother. He was mute and if the fact that he always cried when someone asked about his mother was of any indication, the woman who had stolen the heart of Thomas Jeremy Clevandi must have long departed from this world.
“There was this time when I visited a faraway tribe in the rim of the world. I met the chieftain, the shrewdest man I have ever encountered. He taught me a trick to figure out exactly what’s on the mind of any women. His five wives stood testify to his trick. If anything, it worked on my wife too.”
“What is this trick?” Leo asked.
“Buy me a drink and I’ll tell you,” said the guy who drank nothing but expensive wines.
“Alright, you can have my ale,” Leo handed him the ale mug.
“Price, don’t be such a cheap bastard. You’ll never get a good deal by saving a few pris on the formalities. Get me at least cider then we’ll talk.”
True. It was a minor expense to learn a trick that useful from the rim of the world. And so, the inventor made the order and the bartender delivered. The volume was less than if it had been ale but the amount of money he had to pay for the glass was the same.
Thomas rotated the glass of dark red cider slowly in his hand as he shared: “My wife loves this drink. These little snowflakes remind me of that winter night in Silver Gallop peninsula. That night, I was playing cards with the first mate on the bridge of our flagship when an iceberg—”
“Excuse me. I didn’t buy you a drink to reminisce the time you camp on an iceberg. Tell me now, what is the trick the chieftain taught you,” the inventor interrupted.
“Ah yes, the trick,” the merchant took a sip of the cider, following a brief contemplation. “Talk to her. Ask her. Grow a pair and ask, or turn into a woman and ask your own sissy mind,” he said.
Leo was not amused.
“I’m glad you’re entertained, Clevandi. The cider is on you and so is the wine,” Leo hissed.
Thomas snickered. This man did not need anyone pay for his bill. With the wealth he had amassed in his career as a merchant to the world’s rim, he could buy the entire tavern, possibly the entire neighborhood if he felt like doing so.
He leaned towards the inventor and gave him a nudge.
“Now, now, I do mean it. The only sure way to find out what a woman was thinking is ask. They are mysterious creatures; confusing and deceptive to everyone including themselves. While this is true for some men too, you will find that men are more…purposeful and rational, hence guessable and negotiable. Guessing won’t do for women, asking will. Do you know why?”
“Because asking means respecting and you don’t get enough respect as a woman in these parts of the world.”
“Sorry,” Leo raised his hand to interrupt, “I think we have a misunderstanding here. The princess likes the idea that I lusted after her. She likes the idea that I was disrespectful to her.”
Thomas paused for a moment. He uttered a quiet “What?” under his breath, and then resigned to the inevitable reaction:
“You know what? You’re drunk. That can’t possibly be true.”
“I am telling the truth!” Leo protested.
“There are only two kinds of men known to Lilia Silverflow: the baron and me. And I thought you were more virtuous than this. Heck, I thought you were on Rick’s team.”
“Alex, you cockroach! Where have you been?”
Approaching them from behind was Alexander D’Amore. There, patting on the inventor’s back and chuckling to himself was the charming lad who made himself the enemies of all men in Ironheart.
“Greetings, Leo, Thomas. I’m here to welcome the poor sap behind me in the line, the line to the executioner’s axe that is. But enough chit chat for now, I’ll get to the point. Leo…”
“Get rid of the other guy or one of us will die. The baron told you whom she would pick. Get rid of him.”