20 Mar

“People around here call me Ravs. This ‘ere is my pub, my pride and joy. We the weary look out for each other ‘ere, so you can make yourself at home.”

“Thank you, Ravs,” Aku said softly. 

“How long have you folk been around here?” Ravs asked, looking between us.

“...Not long,” Aku said hesitantly. 

Oh boy. This conversation was going to be like walking on eggshells. 

I sure hope Aku knows what he’s doing.

“So you’re travelers then. We get plenty of your kind coming through ‘ere,” he said jovially. “People from all over ‘ear tales of Ravs fine ales and flock ‘ere just to get a taste. You might say I’m world renowned.”

“Really?” Aku asked. 

It did seem a bizarre concept, coming from a sheltered underwater colony to here, in Rao, where people and things from all over seemed to wind up.

“No,” Ravs said, patting his barrel of a chest with a chuckle. “But I ‘ad you thinkin’ I was famous, aye?”

“You know we have no payment already, there’s no need for you to try and upsell yourself,” I told him again. He was starting to get on my nerves. 

I glanced over to the walkway. I could still see it from here, which was good. 

He laughed boisterously. 

“Young man, you ‘ave to learn to have fun where you can take it. Rao’s too serious of a place to get bogged down with a technicality like that.” He took a swig of something I could smell from here; like fermented sweat with just a tad of sweetness, like nectar or honey.

I shuddered at the stench. Aku gave me an amused look.  

“Aye Ravs, be nice to the travelers,” a woman said from one of the tables. 

“Eaaah, it's impolite to drink while your guests ain’t,” The man beside her chimed in, burping.

“I gave ‘im water, what more do you want from me?” Ravs protested. 

Aku sipped on his water again, watching the interaction cautiously. 

Another man behind us flicked a few of the dark pebbles onto the counter.

“‘Ere. Give the boys some real drinks, on me,” he said with a kind smile. Both Aku and I started to protest.

“It’s no trouble, really,” the man said. “Welcome to Rao!”

Before we knew it, two mugs of the sweet, sweat-smelling liquid were on the counter right in front of us. Aku looked at me with wide eyes - the situation had really gotten out of hand. 

This seemed like a bad idea.

Aku picked up the mug.


“Ura!” Ravs said, raising his mug into the air. 

“Ura?” Aku said, confused. 

“Ura!!” The rest joined in, tilting their heads back and drinking up. 

Nervously he followed suit, grimacing when he was done. 

I chuckled, inching the mug further from myself. 

“What about you?” Ravs turned to me.

“Oh, I don’t drink,” I said apologetically. Rather, I couldn’t risk showing my face to the gentlemen, but he didn’t need to know that. 

Ravs shrugged. “Eh, to each ‘is own.” He pushed my mug over in front of Aku. He looked at it with a nervous chuckle. 

“So how long have you been here, mister Ravs?” I asked, trying to change the subject. 

“All my life. I grew up in these streets. Didn’t used to be this bad though, or this big.”

“What happened?” Aku asked. 

“Goltri happened.”

The pub went quiet. 

“Rao used to be a small fishing tribe 'ere nestled along the river. The people ‘ere weren’t rich by any means, but we were off well enough. Then err, fifteen sun cycles ago, give ‘er take, ‘e comes in with big ideas. Brings in one of 'is guys to oversee it, and almost like magic all these boats from up north come in and build new buildings, roads, stairs, you name it. Us who lived ‘ere got roped into the labor part of it in the beginning, but then they started bringing in humans, free laborers treated as inferior, puppets they could be cruel to with no remorse.” 

Ravs shook his head. 

“Bad business is what it is. Us over on the old side of Rao 'ardly benefit from any of this, not the trade, goods, food, nothin. The only work our people know to do is fish, and the new side barely turns an eye to our fish, or any of our services. It’s all we can do to stay afloat, so we ‘ave to look after each other.”

I watched on in dismay as Aku gulped down more of the drink. 

“And there’s nothing you can do about it?” He questioned. 

“We’ve tried, believe me. Took it up with the big man Goltri put in charge. And how does ‘e respond?”

The pouli around the tables began to get riled up.

“E’ killed three of our people!”

“Started taxing the living daylights out of us! We’re starving because of ‘im!”

Ravs banged his fist on the bar counter. 

“Tokar,” he growled.

At least three of them individually brought snot into their mouths and spat it on the ground in disgrace. 

“Fuckin pig.”

I leaned back and looked out at the ship again. The guards were on the move, heading away from the ship and around a corner. I nudged Aku lightly. 

“Well I sure hope I run into that guy. I’d like to give him a piece of my mind,” Aku said loudly, his cheeks reddened. “Maybe a piece of my flaming fists too, while im at it.”


Ravs and a few of the Pouli joined in laughter at him. 

“Good luck with that, young man. Tokar is a mountain of a pouli with skin tougher than any stone. If you think I’m big, wait till you get a load of ‘im!”

I sighed wearily; at least they didn’t seem to be taking Aku’s words at face value. He reached for the second mug of ale, and I kicked him. 

“What,” he said, finally paying attention to me. 

“We need to go now,” I muttered in his ear. 

“Oh, okay-” He spoke up. “We’ll see about that! One he sees me in action I bet he’ll beg for my forgiveness. I’ll have him on his knees!”

I’d had just about enough of Aku and his loud mouth. I grabbed him by the arm and dragged him out of his seat and to his feet, and we walked out the door, the pouli rolling with laughter. 

Aku waved his goodbyes to them, saying thanks and assuring them that he’d fight for them. He seemed to think they were rooting for them with how much he was mouthing off. 

It was clear that they weren’t cheering for his success. They thought him a fool.

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