The Imposter Has Coffee


The breeze winds it’s way through the canals, cool, but not unpleasantly so. Early morning light washes over cobbles, not entirely succeeding in banishing lingering bits of the night still hiding in the cracks and under windowsills. The table I occupy sits just out front of a small cafe, mostly empty but filling up slowly with somewhat harried and bleary eyed people in smart suits and skirts. The waiter brings me my espresso, leaving it on the wrought iron tabletop, a vaguely baffled expression clouding his features as he struggles with the conundrum of why he’s serving no one. I don’t need to eat or drink but sometimes the mood strikes me and when I do so I always pay and tip well as I appreciate the effort it takes most to accommodate me. I appreciate good service.

I take a sip, roll the rich, dark coffee over my tongue. Say what you want about humans, they have found several excellent indulgences. I place the cup back upon it’s saucer, pull out a slim silver case and remove a cigarette. I inhale deeply, expelling a plume of blue-grey smoke, twisting it into strange shapes, tableaus of writhing forms that twist and dance around my head, amusing myself as I wait. Then, of a sudden, there is the delicate thunder of wings.

“Of all the habits you could pick up m’lord, must it have been one so noxious?” The chair beside me scrapes over stone and Skergaal sits, dressed today in seeming flesh and a rather sharp suit. Armani I think. “I don’t think I’ll ever understand your amusements sire.”

“Always so formal.” A slight smile crosses my lips. “Have a cup of coffee and enjoy yourself a little, it won’t hurt.” I wave at the waiter. He has no idea why his attention is diverted from walking back into the cafe but he sleepwalks over.

“A cappuccino, please” Skergaal turns his bird bright eyes to me, out of place in the narrow, predatory face. One myth is absolutely true, no one can ever hide the truth in their eyes, no matter how cunning a master of form. The waiter ambles off again, shaking his head to clear it. “After our last conversation my position seemed to be made very clear m’lord.” The tone is even, only knowing him so well can I detect the hint of reproach, the hurt. I wince a little, take a deep drag.

“I am sorry old friend, I was out of sorts already and I lost my composure. You know I value your council, cunning, and wisdom very much.” He preens just a bit, tugging on the cuffs of his shirt. “Our relationship is always a bit fraught, I being who I am but you are the closest thing I have to a true friend Skergaal, and that does mean a great deal.”

“I understand master.” There’s a look that wanders over his face for a moment then flees, perhaps sympathy, perhaps pity, but any such overt emotion is quickly replaced with the usual sternness. “I do try my best to advise, but in familiarity bounds can be overstepped.”

“Sometimes they should be. What worth is an advisor if he cannot speak the truth, even to ears that might not take pleasure in it?”

“Yes, well, the matter seems to have cleared itself up. There’s been no sign of The Outsider and his companions, the magician (this with not even remotely concealed contempt) and the warrior woman have been relatively quiet. I still think you should have been more direct.” As he speaks, the waiter brings Skergaal’s coffee, setting it down, sweat beading on his brow. Ignoring me is one thing, but Skergaal is something else. As he’d never stoop to actually transforming into a human, he simply clothes himself in a semblance of one. This means that ostensibly there is a well dressed man sitting at a table of a cafe while at the same time, inside, is a large, rather intimidating crow. Mortal minds are very, very good at convincing themselves that what they see isn’t, but limits can be tested. The look of relief on the waiters face is nearly pathetically comical.

“Anyway, to business. The Border has been relatively quiet for a while, so there’s something.”

“It is nice when things go as expected” I settle back into my chair, cup in one hand, cigarette in the other. “What if the new arrival?”

“The dragon has been settling in nicely, an absolute terror to the lands about. Several very brave but I am afraid terminally stupid knights have already met their end. The damsel it’s taken doesn’t seem to be minding her new circumstances much, in fact, I’ve report they’ve become rather good friends. Somewhat bucking tradition, but of no real concern.” Skergaal takes a slow sip, movements neat, precise.

“That’s good, and I’m not at all surprised, the beast seemed to have a deep affection for girls.”

“Other than that most recent little event, all else seems unusually stable.”

“Don’t sound so disappointed, it could be considerably more exciting”

“I know master, yet I feel this is but a prelude, I’ve a sense of storm shivering through me.”

“As is usual my friend, when does it not?” I notice some pinwheeling above, set aside my coffee, dip my hand into my pockets and scatter a fistful of seed. The air fills with green purple iridescence and liquid burbling as the pigeons settle.

“Bah, look at them, smug bastards” Skergaal bridles a bit, putting up a wall of scandalized affront. “They think they own the world, strutting about, believing themselves so clever just because the mortals stuff them silly. Gone to fat is what they’ve done, not a trace of The Navigators. Puffed out chest, putting on airs of civilization when they’re little better than flying vermin now.”

“Your people have been known to haunt the footsteps of armies in anticipation of feast, one might not put on so many airs.” I chuckle, knowing this will sting his pride a bit. “Harbingers of woe and wrack as they say old crow”

“Humph, waste not want not, they’re always going to slaughter themselves, I don’t see why good meat should go left to rot.” He glances over again, sharp eyes probing. “You know well their capacity for death, and it isn’t always influenced by the others, oft it’s their own hands turned to it.”

“I know.” There’s a new melancholy unlooked for.

“I worry for you at times Nevermore, your love for these mortals in particular, among all of your charges. The fascination may grow unhealthy.” I cast my gaze about us, watching the city springing to life, the faces of it milling about much the same as the birds at our feet. “They’ll break your heart master.”

“I know” the sigh wells up from somewhere deep, deep within the heart of me, of what I am, of memory and more than memory, what was an what is. “They always do.”

There is a long silence filled with city noise, cars, scooters, the white noise babble of voices punctuated here and there by rising shouts or exclamations. The morning is turning fine, the sky above glimpsed through a maze of ancient rooftops is robin’s egg blue. We sit, two of the strangest strangers, in an island admits so much burgeoning life. We both sip our drinks.

“Excellent coffee” Skergaal breaks silence first.

“Yes, some of the best I’ve found.”

“How are the pastries here?” I reach for another cigarette.

“Decadent, rich, and sinful” Skergaal perks up at that, settling back into his chair.

“Best call the waiter back then, I could murder one” we both have a chuckle at that. “Oh, pass one of those along, I’m gasping for it.” I pull a cigarette from my case, light it as he takes it from me and holds it to his lips, inhaling deeply. We both sit back, smoking, drinking coffee, surrounded by a cloud of smoke and disbelief. “Damn fine day master.”

“I think so too my friend, indeed, very fine.”

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