Reflections and a Bottle of Gin Black Bard Journal #5
Setting: Very late at night in the Black Pistol Inn, Roger Black Bard is alone. His Ward, Claude de Bouchet is uncharacteristically absent tonight, almost certainly avoiding the intense glare of the Black Bard’s soul-piercing and judgmental eye.
In the dim candlelight of the inn, the Black Bard spots his reflection in the mirror as he reaches for a dusty bottle on the back shelf no one ever touches. “Genever”, it says on the label, “flavored with juniper berries”.
He talks to himself in Capacian.
“This looks like the drink for me tonight.”
He pours a shot, raising it and saying, “To my long dead brothers-in-arms, may they live forever young in my memory!”
He downs the shot, then pours another.
Addressing his reflection in the mirror he raises his glass again and says, “And to you, Roger, you should not have survived when better men died… and yet… here you are!”
He downs the shot, exhaling sharply.
As he pours another shot of the strong spirit he begins to have a conversation with himself out loud.
“You know, Roger? This feeling we are having, it is called ‘ennui’, no? I wonder, is there a Gothic word for this feeling? Maybe they just say ‘ennui’…”
He shrugs then downs another shot and grimaces.
Waving the empty glass at his reflection he says, “Roger, be honest with yourself, what good are you doing in Stragosa? What is your real purpose here? You’ve come here for coin and now you’re richer than you’ve ever been in your entire miserable life. You have enough money right now, you don’t need to work for years. No one hears your songs of rebuke anyway. If you’re looking for justice, you’ll not find it here! The poor will be fed without you. So why does the melancholy minstrel go back to that bloody butcher shop every day?”
The Black Bard ponders and groans.
“The dark spirits of this town have found you and told you you’re doing nothing good for young Claude. Do they lie? Indeed he seems to be in trouble right now and will not seek your guidance. Do you still care if he’s somewhere safe tonight…?”
He pours another shot, letting it sit on the bar as he continues to rant at his reflection.
“Your associations are empty, Black Bard. You have no one and nothing. Maybe you are cursed. Your family and comrades in war are all long dead. And it seems that anyone who comes close to you meets an unfortunate end. Perhaps Claude is wise to avoid you. Luca the Woodcutter became your friend at dinner one night and died the next day. You sing for Sybill, the little Inquisitor and she died that night. You sing for the famous Balthazar, he died that night too. Corvo has always been good to you, now he’s leaving town. Your bodyguards, they care more about pursuing their own sinful pleasures than learning your songs. Maybe your songs aren’t as good as you think. Lady Gale though, she sees your talent and she commissioned you to write a song about the dead mage Balthazar, of the power of true love, something you don’t even know anything about. You’re a fraud, no?”
The Black Bard picks up his glass, viewing the candlelight through it as he contemplates a moment. He sniffs the piney shot of gin, and again confronts his reflection in the bar mirror.
“Do not come to me for pity or empathy. Your mock gentility is as obvious as a missing limb and your gloomy nature is as prickly as a fretful porcupine. Oh yes, the good people here—Principessa, Guildmaster Borso, Molly the Cook– they care for you, but that is nothing special. They care for everyone. “
The Black Bard looks down into the glass, slowly swirling it without spilling a drop.
“Last Forum, when the angry Gothic man came into the tavern and interrupted the ‘Vendetta’ song, putting a sword right in your face, you forgave him and offered to set things aright. Where was your mighty wrath, your vengeful streak of youth? You stood there in confusion as the tavern goers rushed to your aid. Are you getting soft in your old age? Is that why you are buying up so much ammunition and firearms lately? Are you so afraid of a fair fight you’ll blast a man to smithereens rather than face him with a blade in your hand? Has courage totally abandoned you?”
The Black Bard puts down his glass with an angry clunk and pulls out a loaded pistol, looking dangerously long into the barrel. He pulls back the hammer to half-cock, then full.
“Would you survive a gun blast to the head, Black Bard?”
The Black Bard moves the pistol closer, peering long and hard down its deadly barrel.
He un-cocks the flintlock and sets it on the bar, picking up the resting shot of gin.
“So why do you live, then, out of stubbornness? Existing? Nothing but existing?”
He looks deeply into the shot glass, as if to glean some secret message.
“Yes, the tavern people sometimes dance and sing to your music. They offer good coin, but their troubles are still with them the next day. There is no true victory… is there some point to all of this?”
The Black Bard ponders that a moment, downs the bitter shot, and closes his eye for a moment.
“And what of the Dark Beauty…? The sight of her is so intoxicating. You cannot look at her, you cannot look away. You cannot tell her how she makes you feel, lest you risk sin. All you can do is sing her song and hope she never notices you.”
Then he opens his eye and looks intensely into it in the mirror.
“Is it really a sin to escape your pain?”
He reaches for the bottle then stops. He turns again to the mirror with resolve and says to himself, “No. You cannot sin if you contend to be the most virtuous man in town.”
The Black Bard sets down his empty glass, then picks up and looks at the bottle of spirits.
“I was going to take you with me, my little juniper berry friend.”
He smiles a wry smile and lovingly places the bottle back on the shelf. He cleans and dries the shot glass and puts it back with the others. The Black Bard holsters his pistol and takes another look at himself in the mirror.
“Be patient, you one-eyed bastard. You can take much more pain than this. You are a soldier, so you soldier on. Don’t worry, young Claude will return. He will,” said the Black Bard as he looked in vain out the front window.
“It’s not ennui. It’s only your 55th birthday and you miss your friends.“
The Black Bard licks his fingers and snuffs out the remaining candles. The late winter sun’s first rays are just peeking through the tavern windows. He trudges upstairs to bed, nodding to his reflection one last time in the bar mirror.
“Good night, sir. Thanks for the drink…”