The waiter-cultist reappeared shortly with their drinks orders, arranged on three trays carried deftly between their four hands. They placed down a series of oddly-shaped glasses with a certain degree of flourish, then started to pour drinks from a series of brass jugs and carafes balanced on the second tray. Red had picked an ink-black liquid, in which Alice could see the faint glimmer of distant stars. Nik and Aidra’s drinks were effervescent green-silver brews known as Smogland Mornings – the only difference between the brothers’ drinks was the tiny pink umbrella in Aidra’s. Surprisingly, Twelfth had been offered a specialised drinks menu, and had ordered something called ‘ghost wine’ – a fluid that didn’t actually look like a liquid, it looked like some kind of pale congealed mist that swirled gently in the glass. Somewhat off-puttingly, A Librarian had ordered something that looked very much like the brackish water from some ditch in the countryside, complete with muddy sediment slowly settling to the bottom after it had been poured.
Probably more palatable for a plant, she thought, then looked up as the cultist-server started to pour her own drinks order.
The first liquid was a deep purple in colour, with the faintest iridescent sheen on the surface as it swirled. Then, from a tiny, almost thimble-sized crucible that the hooded figure lifted extremely carefully with a pair of quite long tongs, they dripped a single drop of a liquid that blazed with a golden light, so brightly it left dark spots on Alice’s vision as it dropped into the dark purple liquid and sizzled. The light died down, and as she blinked the stars out of her eyes, she saw that the gold liquid had dimmed, and now sat like a jagged mineral vein through the purple liquid.
“Wyrmsblood liquor, with a drop of Ichor,” whispered the cultist. “Imbibe with care.” And, with that, they stepped away with a little incline of whatever head lay behind the darkness of their cowl.
“Ah,” said Red, raising his glass for the toast, “wyrmsblood liquor? You’re going for the revenge angle, I assume? Bookwyrms don’t really have blood, but that’s a decent substitution.”
She rolled her eyes, and took a tentative sip, which tasted strongly of fruit and distinctively of hubris, and the aftertaste strongly resembled the sensation of standing on a ruined portico in a crumbling empire, watching the sun set for a final time. What is there left of a city when the people are gone? Is it the same that is left of a body once the blood is drained?
“Hey, hey Alice,” said A Librarian, breaking through the haze, “you’re, er, crying? You okay?”
She sniffed, and wiped her arm on her sleeve. “Don’t think this is one of the dangerous side-effects.”
“The balance of the humours will take a bit of getting used to,” said Red, “so you probably got a big hit of the black bile – melancholia.”
“You realise the thing you’re drinking is, like, eighty percent blood by volume, right? It said on the wine list.”
[And Humorous Bile Is Not The Same Thing As Digestive Bile, I Believe.] Twelfth had somehow managed to half-empty her drink without either touching the glass or having any visible mouth.
“I mean, I’m not a…”
“The correct term,” Aidra supplied, “is ‘phlebotosomellier’.”
“I’m not one of those.”
Red snorted. “Clearly. But it should be a bit different every time – if it keeps being all wistful or whatever, call the server over and ask for some choleric or something to put in it, balance it out a bit.”
“Or phlegm!” Aidra added, entirely unhelpfully.
“You’re making this sound more appetising by the second, mate.”
If there was anything to say about Wyrmsblood-Ichor cocktails, the sensation of drinking it was grandiose. By the time the food arrived, Alice had briefly considered building a statue of herself, and had started to draw planning diagrams on a napkin before realising that the whole idea was rather silly, and that a fountain made of the blood of her enemies would definitely clog up pretty quickly, and that she’d need a lot more enemies to get enough blood for a fountain. From there, she got re-distracted, until the cultist-server gently cleared their throat, and she swept her half-complete blueprint of a self-declogging blood fountain to leave enough space for her plate, and the main course.
She’d played relatively safe, and ordered something called ‘Krakamari’ – Aidra insisted it was dreadfully toxic, but Red rolled his eyes and corrected him – and the artfully-arranged pile of battered and slightly rubberised things looked and smelled marvellous. The little pot of seasoning she’d asked for even worked with it, too – herbal in a way that didn’t actually resemble garlic mayo, but was close enough, and she was able to ignore the unappetising turquoise colour once she’d verified that it wasn’t toothpaste. The ensemble tasted very much like what she was used to, regarding calamari, although much more ‘grand’ in an abstract way. She caught the scent of the sea, as if from a distance, cold and deep and dark and melancholy. Did she catch glimpses of dark and unctuous things, beneath the skin of the world? Did the unknown deeps swirl within her thoughts? Either way, it was delicious, if somewhat existentially confusing.
“So,” said Aidra, once he’d finished his main course (something that involved rather too many arthropods, she reckoned), “I guess now it’s clear I wasn’t squidding about how good this place was!”
Alice tipped her head back and groaned. “You’ve retroactively ruined it all.”
“It’s been cala-marred?”
“C’mon, Alice, no need to be inkredulous!”
“Nik, I’m going to kill your brother.”
Nik dabbed at his mouth with a napkin. “Not if I kill him first.”
[I Am Not Sure If That Is The Right Utensil,] said Twelfth, pausing in the ‘drinking’ process, which seemed to be mostly consisting of staring at her wine until it vanished. After a pause, she added [Also, Murder Is Bad.]