(7-2) Is an enemy within

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The Frosty Hearth was considered the jewel of the Billows, the prize of the steelworkers, and the best bar outside of Lower Central. A wider variety of ale and scotch than the Unlicensed Pantry, easier to access than the Derelict Inspector, and the only bar in the City asides from the Maudlin Metallurgist that served chilled beer. Despite the long walk from the nearest train station, and perhaps because of the lengthy walk from the nearest precinct, the bar was full to bursting.

None of this deterred Angela in the least, as she sauntered with enviable comfort through the throngs of people, and guided Samuel to a bench at the end of the long serving table.

"Clovis!" Angela called, waving towards the solitary, beleaguered fellow busily pouring drinks.

Samuel idly rested his hand on the table, surprised to find it was a polished marble slab rather than a cheaper stone.

Marble was a rare sight outside of the core districts.

"Clovis, get your surly mug over here with a couple of pints, before I tip off the health department!" Angela called out, banging on the table with her fist for emphasis.

Samuel was surprised to see her threat worked. The bartender handed out the drink he had been pouring, took a pair of glass mugs off the rack, and poured something that looked like to molten gold into them.

The bartender sauntered over, grinning despite Angela's threats. The mugs he carried were topped with inches of froth, that spilt off the sides as he set each one down. The heavy glass made a satisfyingly deep clang as the bartender set the first in front of Angela.

"Is that Northwatch Hill mead?" Angela asked, her eyes widening as she hefted the mug. "I wasn't serious about having someone from public safety stop in here."

"I know," the bartender, Clovis, said as he set the other mug in front of Samuel. Samuel couldn't help but notice the long, silver scar that ran across the left side of his face, crossing both above and below his eye. "Your threats are as empty as your left sleeve."

Samuel baulked at the bartender's insult.

"And your in-house beer tastes like sewage," Angela bit back, but without any venom in her voice. She took a long sip from her mug and smiled at Clovis. "But this is magnificent."

"It had better be. The Quashed Redeemers only make a dozen barrels of the stuff a year," Clovis said. "Getting it out of Distribution's hands was, shall we say, difficult?"

"Nothing illegal, right?" Angela asked. "You're worse with ethics than I am at the piano."

"Not at all. Though not because I'm afraid of the long arm of the law," the bartender said, pointing at the shelves of ale behind him. Samuel half rose, hands in fists until he saw the grin on Angela's face.

Angela's smile only faded after she saw Samuel's expression.

"Okay Clovie, we should tone it down a little. This is my partner, Inspector Samuel Fraser. Probably the best orderly in the Billows," Angela said, introducing him to the bartender. "And Sam, this is Clovis Hanover, owner of the Frosty Hearth."

Clovis grinned and shrugged. "The Hearth really owns me. But it's nice to be able to have a place like this so far away from Central."

"You seem to be doing a roaring trade," Samuel said.

"Try the mead before it gets warm," Clovis advised.

Samuel lifted the glass mug and took a long, slow sip.

And for a brilliant, precious moment, there was nothing in the City besides the taste resting on his lips.

It tasted like honey spread on freshly baked bread, rolled across his tongue like cold water in a drought, and went down his throat like good news. Samuel closed his eyes and took another slow sip.

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