Thursday, August 21, 2008

5. The multi-race bar room.

Cliché? I think not. Whether it's a restaurant, bar, or coffee shop, the communal watering hole is a popular and effective story element. It's the symbolic center of community, often neutral territory, or one with a shared interest among its patrons.

The article's example of Star Wars' multi-specie bar is classic and not overdone. It's an introduction to a unique world where many species gather socially and for business. The short-lived TV series Firefly does the same. Jim Butcher's Dresden Files features the bar where magic makers meet and drink. Simon Greene's Nightside series has a similar bar. Anyone remember Cheers? The communal meeting place is a hot spot for good story telling. Talk about layering!

Knight's Curse features a coffee shop using the same principal, a communal watering hole where other worldly beings can gather with impunity. Here's an excerpt from a scene at Elmo's Coffee Shop:
I palmed the copper door handle and pushed. The heavy plank heaved on its hinges and a rush of voices and heat spilled out into the tunnel. The light was so bright that even with the protection of my contact lenses I had to shade my eyes. There were a lot of people here, if I could call them that. They were of varying sizes and colors, some with hair, some without, and a couple with so much hair that clothes would have been redundant. The hairy ones were chimeras. Not the literal kind from Greek mythology that had a lion's head, goat's body, and serpent's tail. The faces of these people were human. The bodies? Not so much.

"Hey, Elmo!" Aydin called over the din of happy coffee drinkers. And they were indeed happy. Lots of laughter to go with the music playing through speakers mounted high on the dirt walls. "Elmo, I've brought someone I'd like you to meet."

The festive atmosphere was more of what I'd expect inside a pub, but my senses detected no alcohol. I slipped one nose filter free and inhaled the aroma of coffee and honey. And yeast. Baked treats, too? My stomach rumbled, reminding me I hadn't eaten. Looking around, I recognized a variety of magical species that I'd always associated with those who had enslaved me. I wondered if these were spies.

I edged my way to the door, snagging Aydin's jacket sleeve as I went. "We have to get out here. These people are Vyantara. They must be spies or assassins, or both."

He laid a gentle hand on my arm and I jerked it away. His touch didn't hurt me, but it had the potential to, and I was taking no chances. Unfazed by my reaction, he said, "No, Chalice, they're not spies or assassins. These are my friends. And they can be your friends, too."

I didn't have any friends. Not sincere ones, anyway. Those who had been friendly to me were either paid or bribed to do so. Anything inhuman that reeked of the veil, or of magic, meant just one thing: Vyantara. "They're your friends, Aydin, because you report to the Fatherhouse. I can't associate with these people. It's bad enough I'm forced to serve them."

Aydin sighed. "That's why I brought you here, to show you that not all beings from beyond the veil serve the dark side. There's a light side, too."

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