The First Draught
You can smell The First Draught before see it. Situated at the end of trader’s lane it is often obscured by plumes of steam, smoke and arcane darkness. The reek of stale beer, boiled cabbage, with a hint of vomit wafted up the street until it met the aromas of the tanning pits. The rents were cheap where the two smells conjoined, with excellent reason.
This public house appeared to have grown from the premises around it, rather than been constructed. The architecture resembled tree roots growing through a rotting casket. Nature seemingly strangling a man-made creation. There was nothing really alive as such that bound the building together, rather some form of excrescence had formed over the years into the strange organic shapes that coated the building. The fairies preferred the hollows and crannies that appeared in the forms to make their sleeping place and no one wanted to annoy the fairies by shooing them out and cleaning the frontage.
For as long as anyone could remember the writers and artists of the city would come to this stran0ge place. The name had been changed when it became apparent that this was no fickle whim of the imaginative folk. They were here to stay. The previous name was now completely forgotten.
There were certainly inns with better accommodations in the town for this group. More suitable light and wine. The creative folk claimed that their imaginations were stirred in wild and unruly ways only in this one place. The trader folk of the lane wondered if there was something else put in the drink as they never felt anything but a feeling of the slightest, just a tiny touch, of melancholy. As working-people they liked to frequent places of song and merriment, brightness and warmth, so they preferred the Dancing Dog. Even if it was further from their places of work.
The First Draught had several long term tenants. The long haired man with round spectacles, who was tall but stooped from writing with only a lamp to light the page. The loud older man with the whispy white hair who claimed to have taken to painting after being a dancer in his youth. No one had ever seen his paintings, but she did sometimes wear a smock that was splattered with coloured pigments.
Then there was the silent woman.
She always wore black. That was not unusual, most of the artist types chose black as their colour. Her black spoke in deeper, secret-hiding, tones.
The secret the woman hid was she was sure that she controlled the future.
The day she started writing, was the day she took the reins of the future and drove it where she wanted it to go. Annoyingly she could not control all of the future, only what happened in the First Draught.
She had first come to the inn with a man. The man promised to teach her how to paint, help her find a patron, and set her on her course. The man was also an awful letch and had no real intention to speed the process of her learning along while he was sharing her bed.
It was while in bed with this man, while he snored after satisfying his lust, that she took up a pen and wrote on a scrap of paper “Tomorrow will be a good day”. It was a spontaneous act, no thought apart from that she was feeling a little sad and the act of writing something positive brightened her mood.
The next morning she woke up and found the bed empty beside her. Strangely, in the pillow dent where his head lay, was his bag of gold dust. He was gone, completely and utterly.
Today indeed, was a good day.
At the time she did not link her written word with the future. It did not even strike her as a coincidence. That scrap of paper had slipped completely from her mind. It was many weeks later that it finally dawned on her that she could make things happen.
Painting, it seemed, was not something she was well suited to. It wasn’t that she had no talent. It was that she was a woman and women were either for wedding, whipping or working. She contemplated whether to try and find another mentor, maybe an old man, who had lost some of the loin-fire. Or a young man who was not interested in her body at all, because women did not interest him.
She took permanent rooms in the First Draught, the man’s gold dust was more than enough for a whole year’s worth of lodgings with food. Every day she would sit in the dining room and watching for the right man.
After a while she became bored of fighting off the lecherous attentions of the mosquito-men and took to taking a quill, ink, and paper with her to the table. She would draw caricatures of the people around her and put small descriptions of the strange things they did. “Likes to pick his nose after 3 wines” “Only takes hand out of his pants to swap with other hand” “Makes eyes at the barman who does not even see him”. Artists would occasionally come along to take a look, would laugh appreciatively and then sit back down with their back to her so she could not catch them in their own unpleasant habits. It was not that she sketched to be malicious, but to catch these people being themselves. She did not judge them, this was after all, how they really were.
On this particular day there was no one in the room with her. It was early and the light that came through the grimy windows highlighted how decrepit the place really was. Again, she did not judge. This was the reality of the place. Taking up her quill she dipped it in the ink and started writing of another reality. Tomorrow’s reality.
Tomorrow I shall meet a mentor who will set me on my path.