Gwydion stands before a heavy wooden door. Windows on both sides reveal eclectic groups of people sitting at tables, drinking, talking and some shouting, at times, within and across their groups. Looking up, he sees a heavily weathered sign, letters deeply grooved into the wood spelling “The Singing Cockroac”, the obvious last letter having broken off sometime in the past. Under the letters is a carved relief emanating from the wood – an insect holding what appears to be a microphone.
Opening the door, Dion steps in, quickly surveying the room. Anchoring the middle is an elongated bar with stools on both sides. Barmaids with bosoms spilling out of tight, low-cut tops pour ales and hard liquor to desperate male patrons, improving their tips either through shameless flirting or by increasing customer blood-alcohol levels. Old, heavy, varnished wooden tables line each side, two-thirds occupied, mostly with groups of two or three. At the doorway to his left an old man sits alone drinking green tea. Waitresses, garbed like barmaids, pass back and forth to the tables collecting monies and sometimes suffering unwanted advances or contact.
The noises, sounds and lighting quickly build a gestalt in his mind: dive bar. Interesting place Alma suggested, he muses.
Farthest up the bar a large man, probably considered muscular in the past, but slipping into obese with age, is propped on a stool. He leans on a manually geared cash register, the patterns of money flow, communication to the staff, and interaction with customers firmly identifying him as owner or boss. Dion minimizes his aura and moves his badge to his belt to best pass as a normal human and walks past the regulars at the bar, closing on the owner.
Clearing his throat as he approaches, Dion gains the attention of the owner. “Excuse me, sir. Would you be the owner of this establishment?”
The owner turns, facing Dion. “Yes. What do you want, Guardia?” he responds, looking the god over. “We didn’t call for cops here.”
Dion, immediately registering the arrogance aimed at his uniform, shifts to a diplomatic approach. “My apologies for the misunderstanding. I was informed that this establishment rents apartments upstairs.”
The owner looks at Gwydion and then begins to laugh. “To Guardia? I wouldn’t have your stinking kind around here! It’s bad enough when you blue-bellies come in here, busting my good paying customers and hauling them away without allowing them to pay their tabs. Now, you’re looking to reside here?! Get out!” he roars, pointing to the door with a meaty hand.
Dion, sensing a hush in the customers around him as they witness the exchange, decides an exit is the most prudent action to take. “My apologies again,” and bowing to the owner turns to leave. He passes two tables before his path becomes blocked at the third, as one of a party of four rises in front of him.
“Excuse me,” Dion says.
Slightly taller than Dion, and approximately one-third greater in mass, the dark-haired, bearded man, smelling of many ales, fills the aisle from the table to the nearest bar chair.
“There is no excuse for you, Guardia,” the man snarls. “Hey, Maul!” he yells to the occupant sitting in the chair next to him. “Was this the one that locked you up?”
“Nah, Bull,” the other man responds, rising from his chair, his size, weight and smell matching his partner, with looks indicating a sibling connection. “That one wasn’t such a pretty boy. But, they still cost me a week’s pay. Maybe we ask this boy to pony up.”
Dion, already anticipating a problem with the two over-served men, takes a step back to buy some room to move. The other two occupants of the table also rise, one a shorter, slightly built man, and a pretty, young lady, wearing black with eyes to match.
“Maybe that purdy jacket he got will do. Those buttons look like they’ll fetch some money,” Bull growls, reaching to grab the lapel of Dion’s jacket.
With practiced accuracy, Dion intercepts the man’s wrist. Quickly shifting his grip, Dion twists the hand, forcing the wrist into a most painful position and taking the larger man down to his knees. Dion’s hope that this swift action would discourage the rest of the party is quickly dashed as Maul, alcohol emboldened, flips his chair backwards and rushes at the god.
Releasing Bull, Dion intercepts the brother. Taking advantage of Maul’s momentum, Dion steps sideways and arm sweeps his attacker, forcing him to fly sideways into an unoccupied bar stool and slam into the bar. Feeling motion nearby, Dion spins to see Bull back on his feet and positioning to throw a punch. As Bull’s arm comes forward, Dion again steps sideways, capturing the wrist as the arm passes. Holding it straight, Dion palm hits the outside of the elbow, shattering it. Bull screams with pain, falling down while grabbing his arm.
Suddenly, Dion’s world inverts as Maul, rolling from the bar, hits the back of the god’s legs. Dion lands heavily on his shoulder, taking the rest of his momentum in a roll. Regaining his feet faster than the larger Maul, the god steps in, striking Maul in the groin with a side kick followed by a knee to the face, dropping the larger man to the floor next to his moaning brother.
At that moment, Dion senses magic being conjured nearby. Spinning in place, he witnesses the smaller male occupant in the midst of casting a spell. Amateur sorcerer, Dion quickly deduces, and reflexively raises an auric shield against the spell. Not having the time to analyze and counter, he flares the shield as the spell hits, burning the enchantment before it can manifest. The glaring light produced by spell hitting shield makes the room aware that they are not dealing with a Guardia Popula.
“Guardia Dei!” the young sorcerer cries, eyes wide with fear as he recognizes his opponent, and bolts from the table and races for the door. As he passes the last table, the old man strikes him with a cane and then smoothly reverses it, hooking the sorcerer with the curved end and slamming him to the table, unconscious.
As Dion takes a step towards the sorcerer, he feels a tug from his jacket. Spinning towards the tug, he spies the female member of the party, now standing aside the table, crouching low with a blade in each hand. The stance and wardrobe mark her as a kunoichi, a female practitioner of ninpo. Looking down, he spots a rent in his jacket where she had attacked and thankfully, only met fabric.
“And, I just fixed this,” Dion anguishes. No longer needing to conceal his divine status, he resorts to his well-practiced spells and quickly conjures and releases a focused love spell at the kunoichi. “Sorry about this, darling. But I can’t have you poking me with those.” As the spell hits, her pupils dilate. Dropping her blades, she falls to the floor on hands and feet, shaking her head and breathing hard.
Dion returns to the brothers, both now understanding and fearing their prior target. Grabbing Bull’s arm, he straightens the damaged limb, receiving a howl from the large man. Dion then casts a healing spell on the elbow. “I regret that I had to injure you. This will heal in a day or so. Do not exert any pressure on it until the pain subsides,” he warns him.
While still holding Bull’s arm, keeping his attention, Dion turns and levels a piercing stare at Maul, who returns a horrified look. Measuring his words, Dion states, “Gentlemen, I have no idea what complaint you have with the Guardia. Given the events here, I am willing to accept that the Guardia had reason to take umbrage with your actions. This was your one warning. Take action against my fellow Guardia again, and I will not halt at only a broken elbow.”
Rising and taking a few steps back to the table, Dion crouches down to the pretty kunoichi who still remains on hands and knees, her anguish over the spell’s effects causing tears to fall to the floor. Placing a finger under her chin, he lifts her face and meets her eyes. Leaning forward, he kisses her. She responds strongly as the spell-induced passion-hunger consumes her. Utilizing the contact, Dion invokes a counterspell, breaking the enchantment, and is somewhat surprised that although the forced passion vanishes, she does not immediately terminate the kiss.
“Darling, again my apology for the enchantment,” he says as he pulls away and lightly caresses her cheek. “Maybe we’ll have a chance to become better acquainted in the future without the need of these,” Dion states, picking up her blades and binding them to the table with a time-release spell.
Stepping towards the front table, Dion approaches the old man of oriental ancestry and the now-unconscious amateur sorcerer. Bowing slightly, he greets the old man. “My thanks to you for the assistance.”
The elder stands before the god, more than a head shorter than Dion. Leaning slightly on his cane, he studies the Guardia Dei intently. Finally speaking with an aged but strong voice, he states, “You handled yourself well there, Sergeant. I recognized some of the moves. Who was your instructor?”
Dion, taken slightly off-guard by the inquiry, takes a moment to rub his shoulder which pains him from his fall. He then responds, “I was trained in individual combat at the Academy by Master C. Lee. But,” still rubbing his shoulder, “it appears that I should have paid more attention.”
“Ah, Lee…” the elder muses. “A great instructor he is, as a great student of mine he was.”
Dion halts his shoulder rubbing and stares at the old man. “Are you Grand Master Pak?”
The old man laughs and looks back at the god. “So, Lee mentioned me. It is good that I am still in his thoughts.” Looking past the god at the bar owner, he continues. “I overheard that you were looking for lodging. It is unwise for you to hunt for a place this late. Come back with me to my dojo, and you will stay there until morning.” Looking down at the unconscious form laying on the floor, the Grand Master finishes, “I think this one will give you no more trouble.”
Lifting his cup and taking one last swallow of green tea, the old man leads the god out of the bar to the street. Dion follows him for a short block, until they reach a nondescript, black-painted cinderblock building. The Grand Master unlocks the door and they enter.
Turning back to the god, the elder says, “I could go around each sconce and light candles, but if you would?”
Dion nods to the Grand Master and then casts a basic spell, setting all the candles alight. The warm, yellow radiance provides a soothing effect to the open room. Although small in nature, Dion appreciates the detailed adornments of the dojo.
“You have an opinion to express?” the elder asks.
“Master Pak, I was just making note of what a fine dojo this is. The professionalism is evident.”
“Hmpf.” The elder grunts and leads the god to the end of the open space and into a small room containing a table and four chairs. “Take off your jacket and sit,” the Grand Master commands.
Dion complies, folding his jacket and setting it on a nearby chair, the pocket showing the damage from the Kunoichi’s blade exposed on top. The elder steps behind the god and begins moving his hands, rubbing them from elbow to past his opposing hand, each move accompanied with held and released breaths. Dion recognizes the pattern as the Grand Master concentrating his chi energy to his palms. Reaching out, the elder begins pressing on the god’s shoulder at different acupressure points and begins a reiki healing.
A short time later, the elder steps away from the chair. “Try your arm,” he commands.
Dion, flexes his shoulder and raises his arm upwards, noticing a marked reduction of the pain and discomfort. “A fine healing, Master. My gratitude to you.”
The elder looks at the god with concern. “The shoulder was a common injury and easily addressed. You have a second injury near where the Kunoichi attempted to slice you. There is no indication of blade penetration, and the wound seems somewhat older.” Now looking hard at the god, “It also has magical aspects to it. I did not wish to disturb it.”
Dion, understanding what the Grand Master was perceiving, responds carefully. “I had a little incident earlier today. It is of no importance.”
“Hmm…” the elder muses and then points to a hallway intersecting the room. “There is a guest room down and to the left. You will stay there tonight. Then, when you find a place tomorrow, you will return here twice a week. Before you have any more incidents, we will work on the parts of your training where your attention waned.”