The bar’s regular patrons sat in their seats that they did each visit, chatting away about the same problems they did every other night. It was always the same. Brandon would ask if anyone has seen the price of salt lately, Nicholas would shake his head and complain about the merchants who tried to take advantage of the small town, Vincent would further complain about the farms, sometimes it would be the eggs, sometimes it would be the cows, occasionally, it would even be about the farmers themselves. And apart from it all stood Ánië Ancalimë, tending to the bar.
It’s been nearly a decade since she’s stumbled upon the bar. There wasn’t much of a story behind it, Ánië had simply needed to try something new. Growing up in an elven community, there was rarely any display of emotions, and even when there was, it was controlled. Only enough that others could interpret it as the simplest of feelings, oftentimes, Ánië had wondered if elves even had emotions. All Ánië knew was the peace and unity of the community but she had wanted to find the swirl of emotions she read about in books. The swirl of emotions that made adventures happen. The ones that made the prince climb a tower and brave the witch’s wrath for the princess. The ones that caused uncontrollable powers to go haywire and make things fly. Ánië had wanted to see the passion the authors wrote about that made art possible. Above all else, it was love that Ánië wanted to see. That one feeling that made people stupid, made them stop thinking, stop wondering, and simply do stuff. Just to make one person happy. That one emotion that made people fearless, simply because someone else existed. In her curiosity, Ánië had wandered off the first chance she got, in her 100th spring. While the other elves of her generation had decided to stay behind, to further their learning, to continue in the community, Ánië had taken up her pack and left the moment the ceremony had ended.
She had simply meant to pass the town in order to reach her next destination but the owner’s previous hire stormed out as Ánië was passing, cursing the owner to the heavens. Curiosity got the best of Ánië and she had went inside the bar, pushing past the creaking, rotting door and entered the equally worn out inside where she found the owner of the bar,, Lily, picking up various pieces of coloured glass that littered the floor. As an old woman, Lily was slow and shaky. For every three pieces of glass she picked up, two were dropped. When Ánië had offered assiance, Lily told her to get out, to leave, that they weren’t serving any customers that day, but Ánië was curious, so she placed her pack by the counter and had started helping Lily pick up the glass. Despite Lily’s constant refusal of her help throughout the hour that it took them to clean up, Ánië continued until the floor was clear of the sparkling shards.
In return as thanks, Lily had offered Ánië a drink and a meal. When Lily had lamented about the loss of her hire, Ánië had offered her aid once more and Lily had accepted gratefully. And so, for six long years, that was her life. The old bar would open early in the morning at first light and close only once the last customer had left, no matter the hour. Ale was brewed, pastries were baked, meals were cooked and stories were shared as Ánië worked alongside Lily.
It was the middle of winter when Lily had at last passed. Ánië wasn’t sure how it had happened but Lily was smiling, clutching a letter in her hand. And that was when, for the first time since infancy, Ánië had shed tears. Ánië had sat down beside the old woman’s corpse, taken her cold hand in her own, and cried for the loss of all that Lily was. There wasn’t any sobbing, there wasn’t a waterfall of tears as Ánië had read in books, there was simply silent tears that rolled slowly off her cheeks as Ánië wondered if she had known love of a kind and lost it.
When Ánië had finally remembered the letter, it was already noon. Carefully opening it up, Ánië realized there was a photograph folded within, of a young human girl, perhaps the age of five. Reading the letter accompanying it, Ánië learned that Lily had lost her young daughter while she was still young. A freak accident in which a horse had gone mad. Lily’s daughter, Vanessa, was living with Lily’s own mother at the time as Lily was in another town for work, attempting to save up enough money to live and provide for her daughter. While Ánië wanted to learn more, the letter simply ended with an urgent ‘Come home as soon as is convenient.’
With a heavy heart, that afternoon was spent digging Lily’s grave behind the bar, under a beautiful tree that would grow apples once spring came again. Alongside Lily’s body, Ánië placed the letter with which Lily had passed, the photograph of Vanessa, and a beautiful jewelry box in which Lily kept her treasures, locked by a secret which died alongside Lily. Long after the grave was completed and the tree was carved in commemoration, Ánië still sat beside the grave, thinking. In the end, without rest, Ánië opened up the bar at first light, as she had for the past six years, and carried on tending to the bar and serving the patrons. And from then on ale was brewed, pastries were baked, meals were cooked and stories were shared but only by Ánië alone.