Vignette #1

As usual, as soon as Argento walks into the room, he dominates it.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s not like he tries. He’s not a swaggering lout, loud and belligerent. He’s a presence. There’s a charisma and a commanding air about him. People can’t help but pay attention when he’s there, and damn it, the man is plain likeable.

Argento doesn’t seem to notice that the noise level drops as he walks in. Instead he walks up to the bar and flashes a brilliant smile at the tavern’s owner and his daughter, then flashes a half-sovereign before placing it on the bar.

“Two plates of whatever cooked food you can provide,” he says. Then he raps the coin with a finger, adding “and drinks for everyone in the room for the next hour.” He speaks softly, so the other patrons don’t notice. This is just the kind of thing Argento does.

The tavern owner raises his brows, but picks up the coin and inspects it. “Right you are,” he says. He gestures to the young woman by his side, who has been smiling nervously at Argento since he walked in, to fetch the food. “Who’ll you be eating with, sir?”

Argento’s not nobility, though I can forgive the man for making that assumption. He’s a son of the rising petit bourgeois, once a commissioned officer and bona fide war hero, now a free agent.

He gestures toward me, sat quietly at a small table in the corner of the room, my back toward a wall. He’s not looked at me once since walking in, but again, that’s Argento: he’s observant.

“My friend and I will be dining together. He could do with a refresh on his ale, and I’m parched. Could you…?”

“Of course, sir,” says the owner. The half-sovereign vanishes into the folds of his beer-stained, yeast-smelling clothes. Argento thanks him and turns away. He finally looks to me and nods with a smile, affecting not to notice the way that half the other people in the tavern are suddenly looking very closely at the drinks in front of them.

Yeah. Argento.

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