Undercity: the Bar

In the Undercity there is a bar that has a broken neon sign with only two letters still intact and glowing.  The rest of the letters have been long since removed, carried off by enterprising thieves during the daytime, but the “L” and the “R” remain, opaque hints to what the bar’s name might have once been.  The man who works behind the counter is the same one who has been there for twenty years, and his name is just as unknown; those who pass in and out simply call him “Bartender,” reassigning his title without second thought.  He is a tall thin man, bulked out by his heavy black coat, which he always wears even during the hottest days of summer.  His hair is red and shot through with thick streaks of gray, always pulled back in a low tail at the nape of his neck.  He wears an eyepatch over his left eye on Sundays, and over his right eye every other day of the week.

There are no other workers in the bar except the girl, whose name changes every night.  Sometimes she is Nightingale; sometimes she is Cherry; sometimes she is just Lady.  She is small with an interesting face, one might say; there is heavy scarring all along the right side of her face, to the point where the eye is lost in a knotted mass of old thick skin.  She wears her pale hair pulled over that in a front-facing braid, heavily pinned with paper and cloth flowers.  Her dress is sleeveless and low-cut but there is little cleavage to show off; one could easily mistake her for being a boy from a distance.  Like Bartender, she always wears thin white gloves that stretch all the way to her knobby elbows.  The girl doesn’t serve drinks to patrons, but sometimes she will pull out a battered deck of cards and challenge people to a friendly game.  If no one takes her up on the offer immediately, she will start a game of solitaire with herself, and sometimes she will make sly comments as she plays — insults that are designed to jab and prod the pride of inebriated men until they see her as a threat.

No one has ever beaten the girl.  No matter what the game, she never loses.  If she cheats, no one has yet caught her, and her reputation is powerful enough in the Undercity that there are those who deliberately attempt to trip her up.  There are those who come ready and primed to cheat, but even with a deck of fifty-two aces, the girl still pulls a victory without any apparent effort.

During the day, the bar is left open, but Bartender and the girl are nowhere to be found.  No money is in the til, and no one ever tries to ransack it, despite its unlocked doors.  As soon as night falls, though, the odd pair returns.  No one ever sees them leave, no one ever sees them return, but come nightfall, there they are.

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