Laughter filled the bar as another round of drinks was passed out. People were talking jovially with one another, and even the butcher and his son were getting along for once, telling jokes with amiable pleasure. The man responsible for the good mood was sitting tucked in a corner, watching people come and go with a keen eye, waiting for one man in particular. Every few minutes he would buy a round of drinks for everyone but himself, earning him a lot of friends among the patrons and many strange looks from the serving maids.

He was worth the odd looks, a handsome figure draped in black, as if hiding from something. He would have been eye-catching if he'd bothered to try, if he'd bothered to care. His black hair was thick but seemingly easy to control. His eyes were a breath-taking blue, and when he wasn't hunched he had the toned figure of a hard-worker with none of the calluses usually associated with it.

Finally the man he was waiting for walked in and scuttled to the back, as hunched over at the strange man already there. He certainly didn't want to be noticed in his rags and messed up hair. The dirt on his face had been painted on hastily before he'd come inside; a noble would have been very out of place in a tavern like this one.

He seated himself at the table across from the stranger and panted, trying to catch his breath. "So sorry I'm late," he said, then coughed to clear his throat. "I got caught up in some other business."

The stranger leaned his chin on one hand and ran a finger around the rim of the glass that had been sitting on the table in front of him for the last hour or so. "Business such as disguising yourself – poorly, I might add – as a peasant. What's the matter, Lord Jason? You don't want to be recognized here?" His voice was deep, adding to the mysterious allure lingering about him. There was a faint accent from some eastern part of Europe, but it wasn't something easily placed.

"N-n-no. I don't." He looked behind him suspiciously. "None of them noticed me. It can't be that bad."

The stranger cleared his throat and leaned back in his seat. "None of them recognized you because they're all in a drunken stupor. Let's take care of this, shall we? Do you have my money?"

The man – Lord Jason – slouched in his seat, cowering before the stranger. "I'm sorry sir. I couldn't get it in time. I can have it in a year or so. Honest!"

The stranger regarded him with cold eyes, sitting up again. "Perhaps you shouldn't gamble what you don't have then, Jason." He linked his fingers on the table in front of him and was quiet while he thought. "No," he said finally. "Don't bother. Keep your money for now. I shall come collect my due in eighteen years."

"Eighteen?" The man's voice squeaked with surprise. "I'm afraid I don't understand."

The stranger grinned an inhuman grin. "You will in time. Just remember to expect me in eighteen years." He ignored the man's protests and stood, setting a few gold coins on the counter on his way out the door to disappear into the night.