The taproom had been busy all night, whisking customers through the door, spinning them between the bar and tables, and pushing them back out into the cool open air. A rushing eddy, the room seemed to steal men and women off the street and hold them for an exciting while. Folk laughed and danced and swirled around the room, holding their drinks and occasionally glancing at the door as if they weren’t entirely sure how to make it back out into the evening tide that would carry them safely home.
Rinna only recognized a few of them. She pulled glasses down off the shelves behind the bar, filled them, and passed them out with a smile that kept just enough edge to remind the drinkers that she could kick them out as well as welcome them. She hadn’t known it when she bought the building, but her corner was just close enough to the docks to keep her crowd changing from night to night.
Sailors came in for two or three nights in a row, then didn’t appear for months. The locals knew she kept the good stuff in her stores, but most of them avoided the room full of strangers in favor of the comfortable old places higher in the city where everyone knew their faces. Rinna might have cared once, but she had gotten used to the lose feeling of meeting people she might never see again, saying what she wished, and not caring so long as each person who appeared in front of her understood that she owned the ground they were stepping on.
The next woman to step up in line put her coins on the bar first, the clink catching Rinna’s attention faster than a drink order. Her hands were marked with long thin scars. Some of them were straight as a razor, others fish-tailed at the end, or just swept a long curve.
“What happened to you?” Rinna asked cheerfully. She picked up the coins and offered her usual smile.
The woman across the bar smiled back after a moment. “Nothing,” she said.
Rinna raised her eyebrows.
“Nothing,” the woman repeated. “My parents never ever warned me not to play with knives.” She nodded toward Rinna’s hands. “What happened to you?”
Rinna glanced down immediately, not sure what she would find. She couldn’t remember dirtying herself up or bruising anything. The woman had asked the question carefully enough, she didn’t hear the point in the question until she had reassured herself of her clean, unmarked skin. Then she blinked, and looked back up.
“I guess my parents warned me a lot,” she said.
The woman nodded and smiled. “It happens to the best of them.” She held up two fingers. “Two of your best beers?”