Heledd comes up to the elves’ table and transfers two bread bowls from her tray down onto the surface. Then she sets down two cups and the beverage that Alric has picked out for them. “Alric wanted me to tell you that his uncle Damal should be in before too much longer. Enjoy your blaand and your bread bowls.” She starts to turn away to deliver her next order.
“Oh, excellent! Thank you,” Heppa says politely. “What is blaand? Is it a beer? Is it a wine?” She peers into the bottle.
Heledd pauses briefly. “It’s fermented like beers and wines. It’s alcoholic, if that’s what you mean.” Then the server continues on her way, leaving the elves to explore this new experience on their own.
Blaand is a thin, murky liquid, somewhere between off-white and yellow, at least by the lamp light in the tavern. They are unsure of whether this is a drink intended to be quaffed quickly in shots or savored over sips, so they decide to try both approaches. Heppa pours herself a full cup and hands the bottle to Tric, who only tips a shot-sized amount into his glass. He tosses back his blaand in one go and barely contains a retch in response. “Ugh, this is not for me. Here, why don’t you try some of this, Mate,” he says, putting another splash in his cup and pushing it towards the magpie. “Maybe you’ll like it better than I do.”
Hepalonia enjoys the taste of the novel beverage. She takes small sips, rolling it around in her mouth, trying to figure out the flavors and what they come from. It seems to be milk based, with no herbal accompaniments. “Fascinating!” she murmurs, taking a long draw from her cup. Elves do not consume much dairy, and she has certainly never had a fermented drink produced from milk. She finds she rather likes it, and over the course of dinner she ends up drinking more of it than she probably should. Although she eats plenty of stew, remarking on how good the garbage is, she still grows a little tipsy.
Conversation over dinner centers on the domestication of lactating creatures. As they crossed the countryside, the cousins observed cows and sheep out in pastures. Elves do not maintain herds of anything; horses are less livestock than they are valued partners for scouts and nobles. No one drinks horse milk as far as they know, though Tric wonders if maybe scouts do on the sly. “Watch out! Elvish riders are so terrifying that they feed off their mounts! Think about it. The scouts control the horses… and the horse milk. They don’t want anybody to know,” he says, dropping his voice low. Heppa, tipsy as she is, embraces the topic, running off on a thought experiment about the amount of nutrition contained in horse milk.
After some time, an older fellow enters the bar. He looks at Alric, who points to the elves’ table. The aged gentleman approaches the elves. He is darker skinned than Alric with black curly hair under a close-fitting cap. The hat is purple on the exterior, but where it is folded back upon itself, its interior shows red. This is unlike any head covering they have seen in town so far. His red shirt has puffy sleeves, and his pants are purple like his hat. Over this, he wears a long light brown vest covered in pockets and straps from which small bottles and pouches hang, as well as some scroll cases. He places a hand on the middle of his chest and gives a slight bow of the head. “I am Damal. You are needing to use the birds?”
Tric is surprised by how much this man has carried with him to a bar. “Yes, we want to send a message to our friend Kachen. I think he’s known to—”
Damal cuts him off. “I don’t need names. We can go to one of these… offices.” He waves a hand toward the wall lined with privacy booths.
“Oh! You can write the message! Perfect!” Hepalonia stands up and sways a little, catching herself on the table for balance. “Now I have to remember what I wanted to tell him!”