- hello my name is zena and i am trash.
- set in future canon, post-imprisonment.
- content warning for binge drinking. everyone is over the ages of both 18 and 21 in this, though.
The man who was once Bastion Fanfarinet walked into a bar frequented by demons.
“What a surprise to see you out and about!” spoke one of them. “And in here, of all places.”
“Fair, I don't have much of a life,” he stood, almost defiant, as if he was a regular among a host of newcomers. Late thirties and greying hair, he was every inch the exhausted historian. “One gets sick of recording history, you know. I simply want to live history for a while.”
With a practised gesture, he pushed a slip of paper, along with cash, towards the barkeeper. “A drink.”
The barkeeper was one of the fae. With shimmery blue skin and a wistful countenance, it was clear they were an air sprite. “Right,” he said, frowning in disbelief at the paper, and poured the newcomer a clear liquid.
Bastion took it, and returned to addressing the gathered demons.
“How,” he said, words with a balanced calculated air, “about a wager?”
Roars of cheer went up. A typical reaction. He smiled. It was not the first wager he had offerer, and he silently hoped it would not be the last.
“If I outdrink you all here tonight, might I ask a favour?”
“Ah, I love a good deal,” spoke a demon sitting in the forefront. They eagerly rubbed their hands together. “What’s on the table?”
“I want Doktor Valerian back. Out of mirror prison, that is.” Knowing that these were demons he was dealing with, Bastion added more constraints, “mentally and physically well, too.”
“A tough request,” spoke another. “And if you so lose, what would you offer in return?”
“My soul? I believe that is the standard bet.”
“Blah! What is one man's soul when we can gain hundreds with lesser effort?”
He paused. His next suggestion came in a quieter, lower voice. “My life work. Everything I've collected over the years about those who served the Godfather Death destiny. Figures. Dates. Letters. Photos. Printed out Mirrorblog accounts. All of it.”
That seemed to pique their interest.
“You'll be the demons to claim that you destroyed a whole destiny: a destiny that, in its first paragraphs, shunned your leader himself. And more so, you destroyed it in a beautiful candid way, over drinks. How about that?”
“Poetry in motion. It's a deal.”
The demon, on behalf of all the rest of the demons, shook hands with the man.
“And so,” he said, “we begin.”
To drink in excess is gluttony, a sin so they say. Doubtless, demons praise themselves for the skill of binging and binging to little effect.
Bastion had asked for a generous estimate on the bar’s typical earnings, and paid thrice the amount to cover the costs of the wager.
“Rule of three,” he explained as he did so.
To which, the sprite shook his head. “Bars are not the place for literary convention,” he said, and charged Bastion quadruple.
(He did not hesitate in paying the heightened price. The value of freedom was countless, after all.)
Why was he here? Was it desperation, was it boredom?
He thought of Airmid Valerian, thought of constant striving, thought of those late nights they would return from the lab. The dark circles under their eyes were ever darker against the light in their eyes, which had illuminated with scientific ambition.
(“Even if I don’t make it,” they had said to him, once, “at least I’ve still discovered knowledge that could impact the world.”)
It was, perhaps, justice. How could one pour their life for humanity itself, and in the same turn, be failed by the people they served? The doctor had deserved better.
Bastion knew that he was in no way good, but he was willing to try.
With a wave of a hand, he brushed away ponderings and thoughts, and willed for the wager to start.
And so the crowd drank, spilling both wine and liquor, both secrets and gossip.
And they talked.
“It's Herr Valerian now, I'm sure you all understand,” Bastion explained himself, some point in the conversation, when the time arose.
He felt heavy inside.
“As in, Doktor and Herr Valerian,” he said. Despite the pang he felt in his chest, his voice remained steady.
It seemed now a remnant of a forgotten time. It was not brain-numbingly blissful -- not like that time he lived in the Swiss countryside, with nothing to bother him. It was not his time in the Fairytale Authorities, none of the sick satisfaction of destroying lives. His life had been built on running, and on hiding, on concealing himself to the world. Yet, then, he was content to have stayed put.
“I could have been happy living like that for the rest of my life,”
“Sharing your life story now? I believe you may be verging on tipsy, Monsieur Fanfarinet.”
“If you bring back the past and call me Monsieur Fanfarinet, I may have to do to you what had been done to me,” he said, lifting up the eyepatch that covered the scars left of his right eye.
“You married a doctor. You wouldn't do that.”
“I did not swear an oath of non-malevolence. It may be shocking, but I am not my husband.”
He was still standing, hardly shaking, hardly swaying. Though Bastion was not smiling -- he rarely did, you could see a shrewd glint in his eyes.
Witching hour had ticked by and only half the demons managed to make it to this point. The clock kept ticking, and that baker’s dozen amount had reduced to a quarter dozen.
One of the final three demons looked skeptical, unsure if they were willing to continue, slowly coming to realisation in the futility of their attempt. Had they been more sober, then perhaps they would have spoken out, but instead they too soon admitted defeat.
Bastion had noticed how that one particular demon lay slump on the table, and laughed. It was a low chuckle. The demons had heard such a laugh before: it came graced with the appearance of Godfather Death.
This man was truly Lanius Nightshade ’s son-in-law.
A few hours in, and another demon fell.
Another hour passed.
“I yield!” said the final demon, as they tumbled to the floor.
And without any flicker of surprise, Bastion calmly arched both eyebrows, and drank further. “I suppose this settles it?”
“It does indeed,” spoke a demon who had faltered earlier. “I hope I've sobered up enough to complete the deal properly.”
“I want it done ASAP and without getting the fairytale cops negatively involved,” he gingerly placed the glass down.
“So, deals with the devils, huh, Herr Valerian? What would the doctor say -- colluding with the ones who tempt men down the path of sin.”
“I've made deals with worse.”
“The Storybook of Legends, for one. The Fairytale Authorities themselves, for another,” he spoke of these with a candid calmness. “But what good is it to dwell on the past? I'm looking forward to the future, one where you live up to your promise in the wager.”
“Of course! Of course!” said the demon, rubbing his hands together. “And one final question! How did you do that? It must be an inhumane feat, besting a demon at holding liquor.”
The historian merely smiled in response.
One couldn't simply outdrink another person, if that person was drinking only water.