It was a bright new day in the coastal city of Safi, Morocco. The sky was crystal blue, the ocean deep azure, and the beautiful white buildings of the city shown like jewels in the midday sun. The streets were alive as the people of the city went about their business and children played. This ancient, yet still thriving, city was a magical place that draws in many thousands of travelers from around the world.
Today, one such traveler was relaxing in small bar that sat near the docks looking out on to the Atlantic. This traveler looked worn out and ragged with long black hair that dropped passed his shoulders, a beard that hadnâ€™t been shaved in almost two years, and a traveling cloak that looked like it had seen its fair share of dusty trails. Sitting alone in a relatively dim corner of the almost empty bar, the man had a half empty mug of beer on front of him, and a content look on his face.
â€œAh, nothing like drinking in a cozy bar with a beautiful view,â€ he said as he sighed lightly. â€œFeels like Ahâ€™m movinâ€™ up in the world.â€
â€You are drinking cheap beer in a grimy bar next to the wharf,â€ chided a voice in his mind. â€So tell me Conall, how is it that these cockroaches and smell of fish guts different from any of the other places you drink?â€
â€œAh, Aodh, ye ainâ€™t lookinâ€™ at the larger picture,â€ Conall replied to the voice. â€œThis is African cheap beer, African grime, anâ€™ African cockroaches. Nor can we well ferget thaâ€™ this smell oâ€™ fish guts comes from a Moroccan warf. This bar is different simply because it is, anâ€™ that is what makes this experience refreshing.â€
Back at the bar the bartender watched the crazy old man off in the corner talking to himself. The dark skinned man shook his head out of a sense of pity as he half listened to the solo discussion. â€œHey! The beer here not cheap, anâ€™ bar not grimy!â€ he called over in broken English after seemingly taking offense at the comments against his bar.
â€œWell oâ€™ course itâ€™ainâ€™t! Anâ€™ on thaâ€™ note, might ye get me another pint?â€ Conall called back in his own accented English as he finished off his previous mug.
â€œIt is not one in the afteâ€™noon, anâ€™ you have already had four pints in the past hour. Donâ€™ you have nowhere to be, old man?â€ the bartender responded as he poured more beer for Conall and brought it over. â€œYou even good for paying your bill?â€
â€œNah, nowhere needs me ta be there in a hurry,â€ Conall said playfully as he picked up the new mug. With a gesture of appreciation he then began to down the new mug. â€œAnâ€™ donâ€™tâ€™chu worry about me. I am more than capable of handlinâ€™ the tab.â€
Then with the mug finished, Conall made his way up to the bar with only a couple of stumbles in between. As he went about getting ready to pay he slipped his right hand into a pocket on his cloak and pulled out a rune, and then with a gentle lob he tossed the small stone towards one of the front windows of the bar. After a couple of moments the rune activated and sent a directional concussive blast into the glass pane, shattering it.
â€œChrist alive!â€ Conall shouted in mock surprise as both he and the bartender jumped and turned towards the now broken window.
â€œThe hell was that?!â€ the bartender shouted as he rushed towards the broken window.
â€œHell if Ah know, but Ah thought Ah saw some unruly lookinâ€™ kids walkinâ€™ past â€˜ere with a bat. Mighta been them, ya know?â€ Conall lied as he sought to misdirect the bartender. Then as the now flustered bar owner rushed out the front door, Conall took the opening and quickly left out the back where he was greeted by his companion Aodh the ram.
â€Now, I know I said I would stop getting on your case about you skipping out on your tabs, but was breaking the manâ€™s window really necessary?â€ Aodh said as the two began to nonchalantly make their way through Safiâ€™s back alleys.
â€œBah, Ah broke the smallest one Ah could find, anâ€™ Ah figured that it would be better than startinâ€™ a small fire,â€ Conall replied.
â€You ever considered, oh I donâ€™t know, actually paying your bar tabs?â€
â€œHey now, thaâ€™ one counts as gettingâ€™ on ma case about ma tabs.â€
â€Damn it, Conall, I am your Guide. If anything I shouldnâ€™t have stopped getting on your case. I could forgive evading tabs, but now you are using vandalism to get away.â€
â€œThe smoke screen wouldnâ€™tâ€™a worked since that woulda prompted him ta chase me, and ya know Ah hurt ma leg the other day. So runninâ€™ was outta the question.â€
â€Then, again, why not just pay the damn tab?â€
â€œAodh, ye know what money we â€˜ave left is fur food.â€
â€Then why start drinking at all today?â€
â€œAodh, this is the last time Ah am gonna say this, Ah ahm not getting inta this witâ€™ ya.â€
With that the two walked in silence as they put distance between them and the bar. After they have crossed a mile or two they stopped in a dim corner where they simply stood for a little while. Aodh sat himself down as he waited for Conall to decide on what to do next. The haggard man now had a sullen look on his face as he considered many things.
â€œAodh, Ahâ€™m gonna call home, Ah think,â€ Conall said at last in a quiet tone.
â€Are you sure? It has been a while,â€ Aodh responded.
â€œYeah, it has been a while. Gone fer nigh three years, anâ€™ ainâ€™t spoken to the kin fer nigh two. Ahâ€™m proâ€™ly overdue.â€
Conall now made his way out onto the street, Aodh staying in the alley, and walked over to a public phone. Aodh could sense his companionâ€™s anxiety as he called his estranged family. That anxiety began to shift as the call went through, and it gave way to mild anger and disappointment as time went on. Many strong feelings could be sensed as Conall spoke to his wife back home in Ireland. Then after about ten minutes Conall returned to the alleyway with the same downtrodden look about him.
â€Well, how did it go, Conall?â€ Aodh asked.
â€œâ€™Bout as well as yeâ€™d expect. Nora is still angry at me-,â€ Conall began.
â€And rightly so,â€ Aodh interjected, earning a glare from Conall.
â€œAnyway, the home is fine, anâ€™ Ruarc is takinâ€™ to his role as a Keeper well from what Ah heard,â€ Conall continued.
â€Ah, I was wondering how Ruarc and Laoise were doing.â€
â€œLikewise, just wish Ah coulda spoken to â€˜em in person, but apparently he received an assignment from the Order that took â€˜em all the way to Japan of all places.â€
â€Japan, huh? Well, Ruarc is a resourceful lad, and Laoise is a good Guide, so I am sure they will be fine.â€
That said, the two made their way out of the alley and took a walk along the wharf as Conall wanted to clear his head. After walking a ways Aodh looked up at Conall and noticed that the man had his contented grin back. All things considered, Aodh did like this city, and he was glad Conall was bouncing back.
â€œYa know what, Aodh?â€ Conall said suddenly.
â€What is it, Conall?â€ Aodh responded.
â€œAhâ€™ve always wanted to try sake,â€ the Irishman revealed.
â€Okayâ€¦what does that have to do withâ€¦oh, I get it,â€ followed the ram as he realized what his friend was getting at. â€To Japan it is then.â€