Written by Lancelot Schaubert.
The bells rang announcing a new customer.
“I would like sixteen ounces of your finest black tea,” Wreaker said. “And I would like you to weigh it in front of me.”
“We’re out of iced black tea,” the barista with the blonde wavy bangs said, still looking at her phone.
“Black liquid composed of an invigorating tincture; any kind shall do.”
“Yes, I will try your coffee now,” Wreaker said.
“Iced?” she still hadn’t looked up.
“As long as you weigh the ounces. I know little about the weights and measurement standards of your lands.”
She turned and ground the coffee by hand, poured it out onto the electronic kitchen scale, dashed a little more until it rounded off to whatever number suited her, then looked up to report the number.
Wreaker watched her face shift from horror to shock to curiosity to recognition to the sort of sarcastic sneer only an alleged non-nerd can make. “Convention?” she asked.
“Conventional coffee will suffice, yes.”
“Are you going to a convention?”
“I remain ignorant of both the meaning of your inquiry and as to whether I coming or going, but I assume that I am not,” Wreaker said.
“Dreads with rune beads, hardened leather breastplate, bands of furs around your… kinda… large biceps, double-edged ax that looks better for cleaving folk than trees set in some sort of wooden sheath or something, I don’t know the words for these things. Tribal tattoos like mazes. And feathers. Feathers everywhere: armbands, hair, d—” she remembered her place of employment, “Groin, boots. You’ve got to be going to Comicon or something, dude. And yeah, I’ll get your coffee started. Chemex?”
“I don’t require a chemist for my invigorating tinctures, just a household slave who makes a sufficient steeper, please. And no, I don’t get involved in common cons. I’m hired for much more dastardly tasks by kin of greater stature. How much say ye to have measured?”
“Two ounces,” she said.
“I summoned sixteen.”
“Fluid,” she said. “You gotta have the dry plus the water. That’s two ounces dry.”
“Shame on my mother’s grandfather for questioning the practitioner at her craft. I am not the expert, miss, you are. I leave you to your workmanship.”
She snorted and opened a filter and set it softly in the Chemex, poured in the grounds, started heating the water to 198°, then looked back up and said, “Let’s try to pretend you didn’t call me a household slave. I get paid, dude.”
Wreaker laughed. “Who on God’s green sod would withhold per diem from their slave?”
“Dude. Do you know anything about America?”
“Nevermind. So really, what’s with the gear?”
“This is Öfugr,” he said, hefting the axe and setting it on the sugar table. The table couldn’t bear the weight of it. The whole thing collapsed.
“Shit,” she said. “Really?”
Five different students looked up from their laptops to see a rather still and quiet barista and Wreaker who stared at the collapsed sugar-and-cream-and-napkin mess with a look of sheer delight. This was a man who clearly got a buzz from breaking. A couple stared at Wreaker. The others quickly returned to their work like frightened burrowing creatures. Rabbits. Salamanders. Or burrowing owls.
“Oh you’re going to have to clean that up,” she said. “And buy us a new table.”
“Would you prefer your payment in skins, beads, or gold?”
“I have no Latin lookout points to offer, but I could grant you a small forest. I doubt that table is worth a small forest.” He looked down, the wood beads on his dreads clanking. “I doubt that table is worth a small tree.”
“It’s fine,” she said. “I’ll just say it broke from too much oat milk.”
“Oat milk. Like oats.”
“How does one milk an oat? Do oats have nipples in your lands? What strange horticulture. Nippled oats…”
“It’s on the house, really.”
“What is that?” he asked, pointing at the brown circular thing with dark brown chunks.
“That is a cookie.”
“I see. That would make this a Dutch establishment. Hoe laat gaat u dicht?”
“I don’t speak Dutch, dude. A cookie’s like a dessert.”
“I know. It’s Dutch for little cake. I would like one of your cookies.”
“I think you’re too fat, man.”
“Pardon?” he asked, flexing.
“Fat. You don’t look like you need a cookie, man.”
He grumbled and shook his mane and looked around the room for backup troops.
The two students who’d still been staring at them — one with a syrupy drool escaping her mouth — returned to their work.
Wreaker turned back to the barista. “Do you know who I am?”
“Tog, Breaker of Tables?”
Wreaker growled. “No. I am Wreaker son of Wraith of the Eleventh Dynasty born—“
“Tog, Breaker of Tables has way better heroic meter. My MFA prof says that alliterative—”
“Reckon ye that I might yet hew ye in twain?”
“Sure,” she said, “but I have a sweet worker’s comp plan, so that’d make me set for life.”
“Give me the cookie.”
“I want the cookie.”
“No. What are you now, cookie monster?”
“Child. I have held my breath swimming down the bottom of oceanic abysses in order to root out and kill many leviathans. I have tamed behemoth and twister alike and called down flame whirls from the storehouse of brimstone. I once abstained from all sexual encounters for three years in the face of an abduction of harpies and a sheath of succubuses. I—“