Whatever she’d done to him, he was wound up tight. The grimace on his face gave him the appearance of someone determined to fight, though not against someone like me.
“She cheated me!” He took a step closer to me, but didn’t turn his back to her as she stood and dusted herself off.
“I did not!” She adjusted the hat back to being just a little catawampus, as it had been before her encounter with the table.
“See? A disagreement. Something we can resolve without violence,” I paused as the crowd groaned, “and while enjoying some fine ale. A round on me for everyone if you two agree to let me mediate rather than beat each other to a pulp.”
Cheers drowned out the groans.
“Fine,” the fisherman said and waved his fist at the woman.
“Fine,” she said in her gravelly voice.
“Barman?” I yelled.
A head popped up from behind the counter, followed by the rest of him. His eyes were wide when he looked at me.
You’d think he’d never seen a bar fight. “A round of ale for everyone, but start here.” I pointed to the corner table where I’d been sitting.
He nodded vigorously, dropping a cloth onto the counter and pulling out three glasses.
“Over here please,” I said to my two troublemakers, and gestured at two seats across from one another.
They dragged themselves over, grouchy and stiff.
When the three of of us were sitting, they looked at me. I remained silent.
Then they looked at each other, then back at me.
“Well?” the woman asked.
“We wait for the ale. Negotiations are always better with ale.”
Seconds later, three pints appeared on the table and the barman rushed off to refill everyone else’s glass.
Lifting my glass, I motioned for them to follow. “While in this mediation session, I agree to drink when instructed to.”
“Repeat! Say what I say. While in this mediation session, I agree to drink when instructed to.”
“While in this mediation sessions, I agree to drink when in instructed to.” They were out of sync, the fisherman’s voice slower and more uncertain.
She was pressing again. My prickles were starting to hurt.
I swung my cup in her direction. “You. Repeat after me. I will not attempt to persuade or manage anyone in this room from this second forward.”
“What? Is he—” the man spurted.
“Drink,” I ordered him.
The glass hovered in the air for a fraction of a second before he complied. My attention returned to the woman. “Do I need to say it again?”
Her eyes searched mine. I could almost see the wheels turning, gaging whether I only suspected she was using emani magic or if I actually knew.
She looked down at the table. “I will not attempt to persuade or manage anyone in this room from this second forward.”
My prickles went away. Chances were probably below zero she wouldn’t try again. But I took victory in the moment. “Good. Both of you repeat: I accept the outcome of this mediation as binding and will seek no further recompense after the terms are met.”
They did as they were told. Mediation was standard fare in the Magh kingdoms, though how each mediator worked varied widely. Of course, anyone could be a mediator, if the parties agreed to it. The only constant is that they are considered legally binding everywhere. Parties could back out at any time prior to the final agreement, though in my experience, that rarely happened. Then again, I have a way with people.
“Drink.” I took my first draft of what I had referred to as fine ale. I knew it wouldn’t be based on the one I had with dinner. This one, however, had a slightly sweet taste that reminded me of apples and was much closer to the standard of fine than my previous one. I side-eyed the Barman, who didn’t notice since he was delivering glasses at the far end of the room. Either he gave me the good stuff because he was afraid to make me mad after my display, or he was giving everyone the good stuff because I’d agreed to pay for it.
“Now, one more formality before we discuss the matter. What are your names? And remember, giving a false one doesn’t negate the agreement.” I stared at the woman over the rim of my glass. “I always close negotiations with a bintinn.”
Her face drained of color, which was impressive since she was wearing a fake one. Just another sign that her magic skills weren’t quite up to snuff. At least not when compared to someone like me.
- Episode 1: Chamber of Power
- Episode 2: Chamber of Power
- Episode 3: Chamber of Power
- Episode 4: Chamber of Power
- Episode 5: Chamber of Power
- Episode 6: Chamber of Power
- Episode 7: Chamber of Power
- Episode 8: Chamber of Power
- Episode 9: Chamber of Power
- Episode 10: Chamber of Power
- Episode 11: Chamber of Power
- Episode 12: Chamber of Power