(10-1) Behind courtesy's tepid glow

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Small rivulets of white clung on the stone walls of the Frosty Hearth, reflecting both sunlight and Spire light back into the street. The combination was a cacophonous showering of light shifted with every step Samuel took towards the building.

"It even looks like a hearth," Samuel reflected.

"It's aptly named," Angela agreed, shrugging her shoulders.

Samuel glanced back, feeling the need to count the four uniformed orderlies accompanying them on this arrest. Usually, the two of them along with Bertram would have sufficed, but Clovis was important enough that Captain Vaska had offered to send half the precinct.

Samuel had talked her down to four on the premise that a marching band would give Clovis enough warning to pack his entire bar before they arrived.

"How many entrances are there?" Samuel asked.

"Two. This one, and a service entrance at the back," Angela said.

"Easy enough," Samuel said, turning around. He faced the four orderlies and said, "Clovis Hannover is a middle-aged man, comes up to my nose in height. Slightly thin, reedy, beginning to bald."

"Sir, Clovis the bartender here, right?" one of the orderlies asked.

"That's right," Samuel nodded.

"We've all seen him before, sir. He won't slip through us."

"You have permission to be as rough as you need to. We have a patrol mustering point two minutes down the street. If he's giving you trouble, get him there and ring the bell. We'll tie him to a cart if we need to," Samuel instructed. "Two up front, two at the back."

"And try to avoid making a scene," Angela added. "Bars are like ammunition dumps. Hit it too hard, and the whole thing could blow up in our faces."

The orderlies rewarded her last comment with grins and chuckles, before they broke off and moved to their posts. Samuel marched to the entrance and took a deep breath.

"To live is to burn," Samuel muttered to himself, as he pushed the door open and stepped inside.

There were dozens of people sitting, all staring at a small stage near the bar. The bar was far from full, but also far from empty. The crowd was murmuring in hushed tones, a buzzing of whispers that would have sounded loud only at a funeral. For a bar, it was eerily quiet.

On the small stage beside the bar, a wisp of a woman with black hair cascading over her eyes sat and set her fingers on the strings of a guitar.

Samuel's eyes widened when he realised the guitar was made of wood.

"I don't see the bartender," Bertram muttered, just as the woman on the stage began to sing.

Hands shiver in the cold grip of duty
As twilight drowns 'neath grey night

"He'll show," Angela assured them. "For now, let's sit. You won't want to miss this.

A warrior reaches to the unearthly beauty
Of a courage warm and bright

Angela guided them to the nearest bench and urged them to sit. Samuel, listening to the woman sing, found he couldn't muster the thought to even wonder if he should argue. He sat down without knowing he was moving, his ears transfixed on the voice coming from the stage.

She laughed like songbirds in the sylvan
Wore wildflowers in her hair
Treasured trinkets given by children
And loved without a care

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